Once upon a time, the Earth was cold. There were no books. In a twinkle of time, the multitudes grew hot with opinions, options, and paradigms. Nowadays, there are too many books for you, and there is global warming.
Books broke the back of the Word, scribes begat scribblers, illuminated manuscripts gave birth to maps, travellers told tales of other words and worlds, and now there are too many books born and buried, too many stories circulating.
Go into your local bookshop on O’Connell Street by the Shannon River. Indigestion guaranteed. The only medicine a microscope to browse the molecules of wisdom that revolve in a particle of your imagination.
You are sharing the heated earth with marks, words, phrases, lines, paragraphs, pages, chapters, volumes – numbers incalculable – like stars crying out for attention, as if minute lights might shine your path, as if the affection of your orbit was craved by mysteries of an expanding multiverse.
There are too many stars for you to follow, too many stories. You will burn yourself into a black hole if you consume all the particles in your local bookshop, all the wisdom crammed on shelves arranged for your salvation.
In the beginning was the Word. They procreated the earth, the world, the matter that matters, the sunlight that burns through fog, and longs to peter out before the books return to rest.
A face that comes by night to grant you love is strong enough to fool the flow of dreams. “Awake you sleeping passion, true Foxglove.” Disguised friend with magic eyes, it streams. Let me expose the trickery before more young, inattentive, beguiled sweethearts turn sour and lose the joy of what’s in store provided neither welcome taste of tarts. There is another way to lift the loss that absent satisfaction brings to bed. The scent of lover’s pillow, sweet as moss, will rouse the flow of memories instead. Resist temptation’s guile throughout your years, alive, alone, awake, and sigh no tears.
Dear 2021, I will write you out of my life. I’ll erase you. That’s what you’ve been good for – practicing the art of expunging, expelling, expressing – an excremental year.
I will forget you just as I have forgotten sins of omission, unsuccessful resurrections and heaven on earth.
You had the goodwill of surviving relatives to contend with, antibodies, antiChrists, antediluvians. You’re a year infested with anti-vaxxers, shadows remembered
January, grim god of beginnings, all you were good for were continuings. More infections than genuflections, some said. Others uttered “we talked about COVID more than we prayed to any god”.
Years ago, it was Occupy Wall Street, this year it was un-occupy offices, un-attend water coolers, empty canteens, beware public houses silence confession boxes, cashless commerce, “click & collect” your dose.
March, war god of misgivings, you plundered Cheltenham, St. Patrick’s Day, and Spring. Months blurred into labyrinths of advice, recommendations, regulations, legislations, conglomerations of congregations in conflagration. 2021, a confluence of administered vaccinations, a mess.
It was my brother’s birthday in March, my wife’s in April, what did we do together?
There was another “We”, without which you would have been too cruel to bear, drawn from the highways and byways, from landscapes and mindscapes, collaborating continents of voices that spoke volumes with respect for diversity of origin, accent and colour.
I remember golfers practicing their conversations.
I remember contests of conjunctives, alliterations of ailments, hyperbolic hyphens, all the grammar of generations grown on service to others.
I remember the election I lost and consoling myself with the conviction that it was well worth the risk of embarrassment.
I remember the summer of contentment, when three days in Lahinch was a feast for Founders Day. When the certificate arrived, it was placed between two showjumpers – because I’ve been living with leg on and leg off, tack to be cleaned, boots to be polished, numnahs and socks and not once did I hear the farrier fit shoes.
Oh yes, it’s been a year of desolation, un-attended funerals, cancelled operations and the Health Service Executive cajoling porters carrying the burden of woe-begotten branches of “test & trace” home visitors and the protocols.
We had a North-South traffic jam, an all-Ireland festival of futile hints that one day in our lifetime, the four green fields will be fertilised by similar slurry, sustainable signatories to one constitution celebrated in a land where the common cold didn’t sneeze.
Toastmasters thrived while others died. If it hadn’t been for Zoom, I’d have been a zombie, zestless, zigzagging from Netflix to the Premier League, paraOlympics to Prime or Disney aching for Bambi’s mother, Mother Jones or the Mothers of Invention.
It was a year for nostalgic initiatives, like “Let’s go play in the garden” “Let’s go pray for a visit” “Let’s find our way to forgive those who refuse to worship at the altar of compliance, the tabernacle of conformity the monstrance of hibernation.”
If it wasn’t for words, I’d have lost my capacity for breath.
If it wasn’t for commas, I’d have squandered the opportunity for chancing my arm.
If it wasn’t for sentences, I’d have lost my freedom to mix metaphors
How many operations were postponed? Marriages postponed? Lovers postponed? For goodness sake, how much sexual intercourse was postponed or sexted? A virtual year, a virtuous cheer, certainly queer.
And, as I quicken to your end, you morph Omni Cromnivirus Maximus, you token turd, you blind bigot, you sour-faced, singularly persistent, bastard of bad faith.
I plant spineless pions to punctuate your particles with Pi times your pronounciating pronouns, Gibberish, Gomorrah, Tomorrah.
May you perish, and reincarnate the bodies of the departed as whole paragraphs of poetry. May you accompany Dante from the wood, like a wandering proposal, pitched to posterity.
[specially for members of Toastmasters International in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales & beyond]
Come, adventure into the unknown, Elf on your shelf, advent friends.
A time for rejoicing: let us hold hands in harmony, let’s stand side-by-side in solidarity, let’s speak of Ralph C Smedley’s chesnut stuffing, his legacy for everyday connectivity.
There is a season … Turn, turn, turn and a time to every purpose in Toastmasters Time: a time to try, a time to try, a time to triumph, a timer by your side.
Listen: let there be Grammar, guttural, graceful grammar, linguistic tightrope walking past lazy language, unkempt utterances savage sentences. Let your inner Grammarian prod you from slovenly, sleepy mouthfuls. This is the season for rejoicing, rhyme and rhetoric.
Each to your way: E-commerce, E-cigarettes, E-valuations.
Make meaningful the content of your desire. You are a meaning-making-master Toastmaster distinguished, a lowercase distinguished Toastmaster, certainly. You deserve this advent, this good story, this Promise of Integrity for Inspiration, Respect for Resilience, Service for Solace, Excellence for Eccentricity.
May Ralph be Santa to your sleigh, crammed full of presents, and presence on your stage, your landscape, your speachathon, the speachathon of your mind.
May the love of leaders that lead with love fill up your heart this year to come.
Call out this Festival from COVID, unmask the pain within, ring out the joy we comrades sing, make merry when you can and serve humanity lashings of trifle.
Ring in this season of reindeers, ridiculous renditions of poetry and song,