Staying Active in Old Age

Sure, most crime is perpetrated by the young. It’s good to see they don’t have a total monopoly. Seniors need something to keep them active. From The Daily Telegraph:

Police are hunting an elderly lady who tried to hold up a Post Office in an attempted armed robbery.

The pensioner, described as a “little old lady” aged between 65 and 70 years old, pulled out a knife, threatened the cashier and demanded money in the shop in Northenden, Manchester.

But she shuffled off empty handed when staff activated the store’s alarm.

The suspect is described as being white and about 5ft 2inches tall.

She was of medium build, had dark hair and was wearing a purple jacket.

Lenten Guilt

All my Orthodox blogging friends are excited that Lent is almost here. We Orthodox really do Lent. None of that giving up chocolate or just going teetotal. That’s not to deny that chocolate is off the menu – thanks to dairy in the ingredients. Alcohol is reserved for weekends and all of the fifth week. We even give up meat for an extra week before Lent, before going totally vegan for the duration.

I say “we” in the sense of being a member of the Orthodox Church. I don’t do Lent very well. For most Orthodox it is a time of spiritual renewal and cleansing. For me it is mostly a time of guilt. I sometimes get through the first week without meat. Forget Cheesefare Week. I mean the first week starting on Clean Monday (the Orthodox version of Ash Wednesday). I am a carnivore. Not an omnivore. Okay, I eat the vegetables that take up a small area of my plate next to the meat. Left to my own devices – i.e., unless my wife cooks my meals – I’m perfectly happy to just eat meat.

The only mitigation is fruit. I do like fruit. But you can only eat so much of it. I don’t think I could be a fruitarian for six weeks. I’d eventually have to have it on top of a meringue, covered in cream. Neither are fasting foods.

I’m the second person St John Chrysostom was talking about in his Paschal Homily. “Ye sober and ye slothful, honor the day. Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not, be glad today.” And I am very glad when Pascha arrives. I love singing “Christ is Risen”. And at least for Bright Week the rest of the Church is fast-free like me.

Sharia Justice

A Saudi man was rendered impotent by a witch. We know this because the witch, Fawza Falih, admitted it. She was beaten before she confessed, but as any good CIA agent working in the war against terror knows, sometimes you have to use a little force to get the truth. Falih was beaten so badly that she had to be hospitalised.

And sometime it takes a while for criminals such as Falih to finally admit their crimes. She was held by the religious police for 35 days.

She didn’t exactly sign the confession, as she is illiterate. But there’s no denying her fingerprint is on it, and there’s no reason to believe that someone who has been beaten would have their finger forceably inked onto something they can’t read. Why should the religious police even read your confession to you before putting your fingerprint on it? They are the religious police after all. If you can’t trust them, who can you trust? And if you confess, why do you need to have your lawyers in the courtroom or present evidence of your innocence? Isn’t the claim of impotence by a man proof enough?

It’s a mere technicality that witchcraft isn’t a crime under Saudi law. She was sentenced to death anyway.

She managed to appeal and the appeals court overturned the verdict, saying she couldn’t be sentenced to death solely on the evidence of a retracted confession. Appellate decisions don’t carry a lot of weight in Saudi law. The trial court reversed the appeals court. It sentenced her to death on a “discretionary” basis, as this was in the “public interest”. There is no right of appeal from this second sentencing. Only the King can intervene and commute it.

There’s not a lot of international pressure on King Abdullah. It seems many countries used up their political capital last year when they persuaded the King to pardon a girl who was sentenced to lashes for getting herelf gang-raped. So Fawza Falih may die, but Saudi Arabia will remain a key ally of the West.

Forever Young

The difference between adults and children is that children want to grow up and adults wish they didn’t have to.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I might have further reflection on Peter Pan. Kids love Peter Pan because of all the adventures. They want to fly and fight pirates. Adults just wish they could stay forever young.

I think that’s part of the reason I like to listen to Taylor Swift. Her music, with themes of innocent love and summers past, is nostalgic. It’s a false nostalgia, but sentimental nonetheless. I never had those idealised relationships or breakups – just wished I had. It’s not that I now wish that I had, but rather that I wished it back then. So maybe I’m nostalgic about how I wish I could have been nostalgic. And then there’s the whole wishing I could have been as talented and successful at that age, when I was starting to write music and wanted to be a professional musician but had none of the talent or connections. That’s a lot of layers, but it still gets to the same place.

So part of it is the desire to re-live what was and what could have been, or even what never could have been but would have been really great. But Peter Pan is also about avoiding the consequences of mortality. It’s not just that he stays a boy – he never dies.

Regardless of how old I get or how old I feel, I never think I’m old. It doesn’t seem like I’m 26 years away from my three score and ten. When I dream, I’m not a fat one-legged almost 44-year-old. No, somehow in my mind I’m still in my 20s. I’m grown, but just. Until I remember the truth, I still feel like I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. When I think of the truth, and think of how little I’ve done with the time I’ve been here, it’s just a little depressing

I think about death constantly, but I don’t want to go there. I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to die. With every season of the year that passes, I think about how I have one less to experience ever again. And it’s not like 70 years is a guarantee. Northern Illinois University yesterday is evidence of that. Four years ago, my own brother died at 34.

Sadly, nostalgia is ethereal and mortality unavoidable. The only Neverland is eternity. There is only one way to be forever young, and that is to (hopefully grow old and) die. My favourite Psalm is the antithesis of Peter Pan, perhaps because my desire for a life like the latter brings into clear focus my need for the former. Moses, as recorded in Psalm 90 (in the LXX it is Psalm 89) says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”