Sunday, 27 November 2011

With a little help from our imaginary friends

People have been praying for me.

I find that rather humbling, because I take it to be a genuine attempt to do something positive about my condition, even though I don’t for a second believe that asking your imaginary friend for help is really very practical when put beside, for instance, neurosurgery, chemo and radiation, all of which I can have, as required, from the definitely not imaginary NHS.

I don’t feel any self-pity and I don’t expect pity from others, but good wishes are more than welcome. Christopher Hitchens, in his moving yet witty announcement in Vanity Fair of his own much more serious cancer, wrote, “To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”, and he is, of course, completely correct. But I appreciate the well-wishes of the faithful, and accept them as just that.

I might equally ask “Why not Noel Edmonds?”, but even I can’t stretch my sense of humour into wishing cancer on another human being, even in jest; though there would be a certain irony in the whole thing after his mindless public vomiting about the nonsense that is cosmic ordering. Anyway, Edmonds is merely an annoying fool, which isn’t by any stretch a capital offence. Not like apostrophe abuse or multiple exclamation marks.

Besides, it would be an equally dumb question with the same not-even-shrugged answer.

As I have stated before and will keep stating, I am not going to die. Not any time soon, anyway. I’m 43, and people of my generation are already ten years younger than our parents were at the same age, if you see what I mean: barely middle-aged, just as our parents at around 70 are not the oldies that our grandparents were at that time of life. I’m youngish and fit and healthy... well, I'm youngish and healthy, anyway, apart from the obvious, and I plan to breeze through this whole thing. I'm going nowhere for the time being.

That, I’m truly sorry to say, probably can’t be said for Hitchens. But at least he seems to be spending his remaining time kicking and screaming as always and not hedging his bets in any way on any kind of afterlife. I’d like to think that I’d have the same resolve in his position, but I’m aware of the strength of what Richard Dawkins described as The Virus of Faith, and I’m hoping it’s not still lying dormant from that dose I had as a child.

I’ve described myself as an atheist for some years now, although for most of my adult life I used the more mealy-mouthed term agnostic. The shift was more for descriptive accuracy than anything else: while I don't know there is no deity insofar as I can't disprove one's existence, the utter absence of any evidence that there is one means that I feel that my position is more accurately described as without god than as not knowing about him/her/insert-appropriate-pronoun-here, m
uch in the same way I cheerfully knock on with things without Santa. But it did also reflect my increasing disturbance with the various horrors committed daily in the name of religions of all flavours, and a desire to be much more among the antis than the apathetics. This doesn’t mean I have any desire to attack well-meaning religious people, I just disagree with their beliefs (admittedly often bitterly when they are a shell for prejudice and persecution) and think it’s a shame they waste their short, precious lives on them.

I don’t mind offending them, though. I don’t seek to do it individually - well, maybe sometimes for a laugh - but collectively they're fair game, so if anyone knows any good blasphemous jokes, then bring ‘em on.

My personal favourite - Christ on the cross: “Peter, Peter, cut me down... feet first, you stupid bastard!”

Happy Sunday, folks.

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