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22 September, 2017
  At last week's funeral service, I reflected how the great drama of Christianity had once dominated European, and my own, consciousness; how its exit has left an enormous gap in our self-understanding. This is how John Updike saw it in 1993:   'Modern fiction... thrives on showing what is not there: God is not there, nor damnation and redemption, nor solemn vows and the sense of one's life as a matter to be judged and refigured in a later accounting, a trial held on the brightest, farthest quasar. The sense of eternal scale is quite gone, and the empowerment possessed by Adam and Eve and their early descendants, to dispose of one's life by a single defiant decision. Of course, these old fabulations are there, as ghosts that bedevil our thinking,'   That&r - Read full bulletin

15 September, 2017
  I have just re-read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – Le Carre’s 1963 masterpiece; Graham Greene called it the best spy story he has ever read.  Here Alec Leamas reflects from a Stasi prison:               “He knew then what it was that Liz had given him; the thing that he would have to go back and find if ever he got home to England: it was the caring about little things – the faith in ordinary life; the simplicity that made you break up a bit of bread into a paper bag, walk down to the beach and throw it to the gulls.  It was this respect for triviality which he had never been allowed to possess; whether it was bread for the seagulls or love. Whatever it was he would go back and find it; he would make Liz find it for him.”   That&r - Read full bulletin

08 September, 2017
  Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor; his most influential book was 'Man's Search for Meaning' - from which there are more than 800 quotes online.   “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”    That&r - Read full bulletin

01 September, 2017
  Frankie Boyles’s humour is often too brutal for me – probably an age thing; his Observer piece, this week, about Trump was also thoughtful; this is how he ended it:                   “The US has always been balanced on uneasy contradictions.  Even the constitution promises both the right to freedom of speech and the freedom to have a gun to shoot people who annoy you.  Right at the heart of its contradictions are the twin ideas of liberty and enslavement, its founding principles of ‘freedom’ and ‘but not for everybody’.  If I had to guess what was at the forefront of the minds of the American right at the moment, I’d say voter suppression.  It doesn’t matter that the US has a rhetorical attachment to democracy.  Through its actions as a state it had long undermined any connection between its stated ideals and its actions.  I think the US will now face a long struggle to avoid a slide into totalitarianism, led of course by people calling themselves libertarians.”   That&r - Read full bulletin

25 August, 2017
  Swede Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical epic became a literary sensation.  He has now written a series of reflections on everyday objects and experiences – called Autumn.               “Togetherness is one of the good feelings in life – perhaps the best – yet I often do as my father did, close the door behind me to be alone.  It’s good to be alone, for a few hours to be exempt from all the complicated bonds, all the conflicts, great and small, all the demands and expectations, wills and desires that build up between people, and which after only a short time become so densely intertwined that the room for reflection and for action are both restricted.  If everything that stirs between people made a sound, it would be like a chorus, a great murmur of voices would rise from even the faintest glimmer in the eyes.  Surely he too must have felt this?  Perhaps more powerfully than I do?  For he started drinking - drinking muffles this chorus and makes it possible to be with other people without hearing it.”   That&r - Read full bulletin

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