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Once there was a way to get back home

December 2, 2020
Noon – Rest from Work (1890) by Vincent van Gogh (after Millet)

On the morning when the UK regulatory authorities announced their approval for the use of the Pfizer/BioNTtech coronavirus vaccine, I have something to say in the tiny window before the conspiracists, doubters and antivaxxers have the chance to flood us with streams of anxiety and scepticism.

Just for today, I’ve had it with opinions, even though I’m not slow in coming forward with a few myself.

A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Trump won. Boris is a liar. We’ve run out of money. Coronavirus kills people. The climate is changing. Pubs are bad for you. Wine is good for you. The police beat people up. Free speech hurts people. Heading a football causes dementia. Vaccines work.

Or maybe none of the above.

If you happen to be in my age group, perhaps you’ll remember a Beatles song from the Sergeant Pepper album called A Day the Life. It’s the one in which John, in his sneeriest voice, goes on about holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, and Paul sings about going to work and getting stoned. The song ends in a screeching climax which sounds like a chorus of harpies (or how I imagine harpies would sound). It suddenly stops. It’s followed by a brief silence and then a crashing chord on the piano.

I’m not going to pontificate about the cultural significance of the lyrics, because they’re not important, to me at least.

It’s just that sometimes, when I get up in the morning, read the paper or go online, I feel that brain-scrambling ending welling up in my mind as a chorus of high-pitched opinion colonises my conscious.

I long for the final chord to ring out. Followed by silence. At this point, I don’t want any more opinions. Nor do I wish to be mindful. Or dead, for that matter.

I just want an occasional day free of opinions.

Do you also remember when a number of companies determined that their employees should, for one day a week, be liberated from email? The idea was that they should be free of the bullshit work created by receiving, writing, processing and forwarding email. No need for arse-covering, generating information for information’s sake, running the hamster wheel and spending a vast amount of time that otherwise could be used for reflection, creativity, face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) communications, or perhaps not even bothering to work at all.

What if, again for one day a week, we all decided that we’d abandon opinions and focus on facts? And if we can’t do that, could we just keep our opinions to ourselves?

Unlikely, perhaps, but perhaps we could make a start by proclaiming World Fact Day. Not truth. Just facts. Indisputable, rock-solid facts.

No such thing, I hear you say. For every fact, there’s a counter-fact. Which means that everything, in someone’s eyes, is a matter of opinion. That would be okay, because bullshit masquerading as fact is easily passed over, so long as it’s not camouflaged by thickets of impenetrable opinion. Also as long as the fact being quoted is preceded with is or was, as opposed to might be, would be or should be, because there are no such things as future facts, unless you’re a theoretical physicist.

If the prospect of refraining from offering an opinion for one day a week is too much to bear, perhaps we could take another approach to lowering the blood pressure. How about an adjective-free day? Admittedly it would be tough on those who are bursting to say that something is good, wonderful and beautiful, but it would surely be a worthwhile sacrifice if we could be spared, for just one day a week, from being bombarded with horrible, disgraceful, tragic, treasonous, insufferable, frightening and evil.

You could argue that all you have to do is disengage for the day – stare at flowers, listen to music, contemplate your navel or become comfortably numb in some other way. But for those of us with busy lives, that’s difficult to do. And even if we’re religiously inclined, and believe in a day of rest, there’s still a risk that if we visit churches, mosques and synagogues we will end up being berated by opinions.

Perhaps the answer lies within ourselves. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember your childhood. Or, as the Fab Four once sang in the Abbey Road album:

Once, there was a way to get back homeward
Once, there was a way to get back home
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Lennon/McCartney: Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight

PS: the window I referred to in the opening paragraph lasted for about an hour. Oh well…

From → Media, Music, Religion, Social, UK

  1. Golden Slumbers is a lullaby that they borrowed, they didn’t invent it. Lovely.
    I want a whole week of NOT having to hear opinions. Not even yours (with which I usually agree). I say “hear” deliberately, as hearing isn’t necessarily listening to them, although it’s difficult to shut them out of one’s mind.
    So Please, Please, no opinions, mine included.

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