They did their best

No time to write as hail falls on the ground and I worry for my youngest grandson, only three weeks into the world, and such a cold inhospitable world. His parents will keep him warm, but their house is cold, and heating is expensive.

I need to stop tormenting myself with worries such as these. The hail falls on the ground. It fell overnight. I saw it at the back of the garden when the dog went out for its first pee and poo.

I saw it in among the crushed autumn leaves signs of winter cold. Fresh bracing and invigorating cold, the stuff you rug up against. 

I write against the cold.

‘If we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven.’ St Augustine of Hippo. Words that troubled me when I first read them. St Augustine is not talking about a process of conversing with the one who has wronged us, seeking atonement from them and thereby granting absolution. He’s talking about an internal process of forgiveness whereby we reconcile ourselves to the forgiveness required, otherwise we too will be left hanging from the hook of scorn and condemnation for all our hurts of others. 

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. 

Better to turn the cheek.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the kingdom of Heaven…

The bible is full of injunctions about how best to conduct yourself in a contradictory world where right and wrong and nuanced, and yet we crave absolutes and certainty.

A list of ten commandments, including the one that says, ‘Honour thy mother and thy father’. Honour them no matter how badly they behave towards you. And if they behave badly and you are called on to forgive them, in the end you do so because the argument runs: they did their best, even if they did not. 

They did their best in the circumstances in which they found themselves. They did their best in the life they were handed, their response to that life, including any decision to have you.

If indeed there was ever a decision made to have you.

Which is never true. No one plans on the child to whom they give birth. They might plan on a child. They might seek intercourse with another to bring together egg and sperm in the hope of creating new life, but they cannot simply construct a child of their wishes, nor an exact replica of themselves, much as some might want.

Life is tricky and my time is running out at this keyboard.

Through the window to one side I see a golden glow, not of Jesus come to greet me in the morning as I once might have imagined when I was a small child and impressionable, but the morning sun filtered through the thick clouds of this cruel cold morning even before winter arrives.

A May Day in the southern continent where the seasons are opposite from the Europe I grew up with. The Europe in my head. Where May signalled spring and new growth and my mother’s happiness came shining through the clouds much as the light outside my window,.

But now we are geographically located at the other end of the earth where May heralds winter and with it fallen leaves and clashes high in the sky between the warm winds coming off the land and the cool torrents rushing in across the seas. 

I was never any good at understanding the elements, the way they mix together to create our climate, but I know about the consequences of storms and heat. Of the way the earth is changing too fast and heating too much to sustain life for too much longer, and the tiny baby, the newest in my family to enter this world, must tackle a hotter climate into future if the rest of us don’t learn to behave differently and find new ways of dealing with our waste.

2 thoughts on “They did their best”

  1. I have a poem running around my head at the moment so nothing new there. This one is about choosing the best word. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “Prose = words in their best order; — poetry = the best words in the best order” (the punctuation is his son-in-law’s who was in the habit off jotting down things Coleridge said) and I’ve often wondered about how one determines what these mythical best words are because “best” can mean different things. I choose words based on meaning, length, rhythm and rhyme. Trying to get a single word that hits every nail on the head is virtually impossible. So we do our… no, I’m not going to say it because if we did THE best it would tick every box. OUR best is a different beast. We find comfort calling what we do our best but the simple fact is, given a bit more time, we can usually do better. Most of the time best is too much anyway. Does water taste better drunk out of a Waterford Crystal glass? Sure the glass might be prettier and that’s worth a bob or two but, functionally, there’s no difference between an £85 glass and a 99p glass.

    “Be on your best behaviour,” we tell our kids. Do we ever sit down and explain what we mean by that? No, “best” is one of those words we assume kids get. Kids do what they can get away with. That’s they’re default. Best is a superlative reserved for memorable experiences: Best birthday ever! Best friends forever!

    1. I agree, words are tricky, Jim. I’m wary of the superlatives, too. But we use them for convenience sake, except when we’re trying to write our ‘best’. Ho hum. Thanks Jim.

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