Certainties are out of place in abortion debate
Martina Evans charts a similar, although Protestant, milieu in her fine novel No Drinking, No Dancing, No Doctors. And as we now know, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit was more than fiction. Its setting was British but it resonated here for many gay people caught between flesh and pulpit.
Cruelties of the past perhaps, but you get similar nasty snatches from the arrogant liberal as well as from the religious zealot. The latter forget, as Leslie D Weatherhead said: “A statement is not true because it is in the Bible, let alone in the Prayer Book. It is not true because Paul says so, or the Pope says so, or because John Wesley says so.”
The former might benefit from the words of Ralph N Helverson: “The trouble with our world is that there are too many people who are too sure of too many things. Their world is too neat for the reality we face. And in this universe of possibilities it is easy to become too rigid. One needs to believe and doubt, to affirm and deny, to agree and to dissent.”
Both sides might mull over how they use language. There’s fun in the stereotype that the pro-abOrtion lobby puts the stress on the letter O while its opponents refer to abArtion. But when the sneering starts, when the placards move beyond the pithy and become ugly, it’s time for reflection.
Such was evident during the Seanad abortion debate, except of course that it wasn’t a real Seanad session. The articulate and the bright were predominantly outsiders, lobbyists or experts, whose performances highlighted the poverty of the usually embarrassing Upper House mishmash. They enticed us to listen and read, to perhaps deviate, to understand that, as Osho writes, “all beliefs are borrowed, others have given them to you, they are not your flowerings”.
This is why the free travel pass is such a boon. It allows space for rumination, to remind us, as the philosopher said, that we can never step into the same river twice. It affords time for us to tackle the perceived verities.
As the young ones tense for work, twiddle with smartphones, and apply their make-up, it facilitates us to consider our beliefs and word choices as we head to the next Leinster House protest. Should we really care about being called old, rather than older?