My little girl got my mind racing again this morning; she’s eight years old and is the type to philosophize from her bed as soon as she opens her eyes – do most kids do that? I suppose they do.
She’s presently working her way through a series of books going by the title ‘Dead Famous’ ; each ‘episode’ covers a character whom, were s/he around today, the young people would certainly define as a ‘celebrity’. Or maybe a ‘super celeb’? For achieving something worth remembering? Maybe ‘awesome celeb’?
Anyhow, riding to school in the wind and rain, my little girl was still encouraged enough to recount to me the Brontës’ wonders and woes, like she were tenderly reporting something that had happened at her school last week, that she’d only just remembered, the occasional turn of head whenever the traffic eased.
It was, again, another unexpected and moving journey. And I could but conclude that, in the great scheme of things, those happenings may just as well have been only last week.
Patrick Brontë, father of the six children, of which three of the five girls were famous authors, survived them all; the mother died while the children were still very young. My daughter mentioned a few of the ailments; typhus was one; malnutrition… though she had trouble pronouncing tuberculosis, particularly when bumping over the uneven road…
Imagine that. Surviving all your children. The 1800s, a time which, as we ourselves age as individuals, gets ever nearer, in that “great scheme of things”.
But we don’t even have to look that far back, to what was considered ordinary in the Western world. In fact, in Wood, Talc and Mr. J, Phillip flippantly describes his grandmother, who is based entirely on a grandmother of my own, as being:
the youngest of eight; four died young and, according to her, ‘that’s what it was like, then!’
Of course, Phillip is in his teens and so can afford to be flippant; for him, the thought of his ‘grom’ being young is akin to delving into prehistory.
The reality, however, is that penicillin was discovered less than a century ago, when my own inspirational grandmother was, herself, in her early teens, I believe. A pre-antibiotics world, it’s hard to consider; it doesn’t bear thinking about.
And yet maybe we should think about it.
David Cameron threw me somewhat only a few days ago by his concern with the fact that antibiotics are losing their potency with each passing day, due to new virus strains, mutations intent on overcoming our battles against Nature. Indeed, Nature’s intent. And that if advances are not made in medical research within the next ten years or so, then we, too, could find ourselves thrown back to Brontës’ days, to at least two young deaths per family. I say David Cameron “threw me” because his concern appeared to come out of nowhere – I thought he’d got enough on his plate still cleaning up the last government’s mess, and proceeding to create his own. But then he does have children. And he knows what it’s like to lose one.
The reason for this blog post – inspired by my daughter, I love to try and get an insight into her worldview thus far – is that whenever such a subject grips me, I’m forever led back to the above idea of “our battles against Nature”. And on each occasion I conclude that we’re on a loser, always have been, always will be.
And yet my conclusion should never deter us in that fight. We are survivors by birth, by our own nature, and so the importance is in the battle; the battle will never be a worthless one and we should never yield.
The trick, though, isn’t only to acknowledge that we are survivors, but to acknowledge that the world isn’t unjust; it just is. If Nature doesn’t care, it isn’t, by the same token, indifferent; it just is. And although, in its lack of discrimination, there exists today what most of us might conceive to be life’s colossal imbalance – i.e., a World Cup tournament in which footballers receive £80,000 or so per 90 minute-games while people just outside the stadia starve; while wars thunder around the globe, and while, for each caring person out there endeavouring to make the world inhabitable for our children’s children, there are a hundred intractable sorts to scorn those efforts – Nature will deal with that issue, too, but only because that is Nature’s reason for being.
Don’t get too excited, at the same time, I’m not for a moment claiming the meek will inherit the earth. For they won’t. But they will have already inherited it in the battle. They will have stopped, stood, and observed in wonderment…
Penicillin, by the way, was discovered in the 1920s, around ten years after the ‘War to end all wars’, or after Nature had decided to prune her garden somewhat – every garden needs regular pruning. Those heady days, she must now muse, before turning her attentions to antibiotics, heart bypasses, and more and more.
I guess the difference between the Brontës’ days and today is that, back then, Nature was able to do its pruning regardless of a person’s status. But like I said, it is working on it – IT is addressing the issue (you may by now have noted that, although I allow Nature to do the gardening, I refuse to bestow it with a soul; it is gender-free…).
And as I sit here and write, beneath a midday-dark sky and an almost deafeningly sober howl – a high-pitched whistle is the wind today; I think it’s the shape and geography of the street – I just can’t help but feel that, while we appear to have lost our way a tad, regarding our sense of equality and altruism, Nature’s progressions may come about sooner than we expect.
I’m only glad my little girl is also beginning to know the score sooner than I expected…
(still, between now and the bumpy rides awaiting, I do hope you’ll buy my book; it should be up on Amazon in the next few days…)
Chris (& Nathalie)