Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why I was compelled to hug a horse

Let’s face it. Summer is over. That is to say, the idea of summer is over. We have arrived unclothed in flip-flops and shorts at the lugubrious shores of eternal winter. We are in a dark place right now and the dull, grey skies rain symphonies of sorrows upon our drooping heads. What now? Where now? Is there any reason for going on? Of course not, which is why we must be resourceful and invent one? Why should start by trying to be positive. There are many people in the world dying of heat, sweating and writhing under the sun’s inclement gaze, they starve, wither and shrivel to death. We could well say, then, that sub specie exterminates, or if you like, on a general level, we are lucky. We are a nation of daoine báistí, soggy sufferers, wet men and, no pun intended, wet women.

I shambled down Plunckett Street in Cork on a dank, wet day recently, when I was accosted by a Polish girl trying to convince me that I should sign up for an educational project in Africa. He chided me for looking so melancholy; reminding me of how lucky I was to be living here in wonderful old Eireann. I said that the substance of luck depended on one’s perspective. One is always relatively lucky, yet the fact that one exists is usually enough reason to be unhappy. She asked me why I carried a satchel around with me. I said it was because I liked to dip into the morose world of the Greek dramatist Sophocles, while running my health on cigarettes and coffee. Looking a tad puzzled by my uncompromising pessimism, she turned swiftly to the matter at hand: education for poor children in that part of the world which has been raped and plundered by the infinite decadence of Western man. I need not mention its name. I explained to her that, although I am very much in favour of universal access to education and sympathise profoundly with the plight of the world’s poor, my own bank account is heavily in deficit, and finding myself in such an impecunious state, I could not sign up. She, being Polish, had I need hardly mention, a university education in psychology. In a moment of emphatic warmth, she embraced me and told me to smile. I politely faked a wry grin before resuming my melancholy perambulations. Strangely enough, this bizarre and utterly pointless injection of absurd optimism reminded me of that famous anecdote told of the German philosopher Nietzsche one sultry evening in Turin. Overcome with emotion for the suffering of the world, the great thinker crossed the street and hugged a horse. It was the end of his career and his final eleven years would be spent in hopeless mental disintegration. “But what’s so mad about hugging horses” I thought to myself. “ Are they not animals like us, do they not suffer and sigh, carrying as they often do, the burden of our fatuous desires, gasping and panting in the wind and the rain in order to inflate the egos of punters, hunters and brainless millionaires? Yes, all those millionaires without whom the world would have enough resources to educate every child. Is there anything more touching, more uncannily melancholy than the long face of a horse?” “Nietzsche was right”, I pondered and I resolved forthwith to hug the next horse I came across. But as luck would have it, there were none. But how did I gallop from meteorological despair to matters equestrian? That’s it. I was going to suggest that we should be resolved to gallop in the rain. Let us embrace our rainy lives. Let us jump and frolic in our puddles of woe, sousing ourselves in its aqueous depths. Let us wallow in it defiantly or as Beckett put it, ‘face to the open sky the passing deluge’. And in the meantime, if you see a horse, hug it. For as Greek myth tells us, the light and warmth of Apollo is drawn by galloping horses

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