My mother used say to me, 'Oh Ciaran, you have a terrible temper'. At other times she would say, 'And did you bottle it all up?' referring to my childhood anger against my childhood bullies, a topic I have dealt with in my memoir A Runner Among Falling Leaves. 'Passive aggressive' is how some other people have labelled me.
Perhaps because I have (potentially) 'a terrible temper', but 'have bottled it all up', I am seen as 'passive aggressive'. I don't know: my wife's mother used to say 'Ciaran is a very quiet man'. I remember when I was seven hearing my aunt discussing a photo of me with a friend of hers and saying 'he looks sad', and the friend using the words 'highly strung', which I didn't understand.
Watching a match on television I generally tend to favour the underdog, unless the Munster Rugby team or the Kilkenny Hurling team are playing. Favouring the underdog in a thriller of a match between two 'neutral' teams would possibly involve me changing sides, for example in order to support the losing side, or the side which I perceive the ref is not treating fairly, or to go against the one I perceive to be more arrogant or fouling more.
I still take Christianity seriously, and tend to favour the meek over the ambitious. I can get quite apoplectic about people who display an unearned sense of entitlement, or whose sense of entitlement is aggressively pursued without regard for the effect it has on others.
During lockdown, we have watched a lot more TV than usual, and I find many Television ads distasteful because they are manic, maniacally competitive and encourage children to imitate them. That sanctimoniously fanatic ad for GAA games, the one which begins with the statement 'We are born. The sides are level' is a case in point. Other ads seem to be encouraging people to prepare for life in an approaching time when civilization has broken down. While there are many excellent, artistically talented and genuinely comic ads, I also feel that there are too many aggressive, disturbing and unfunny ones on today's goggle box.
All of this is a preamble for a new poem of mine, "Entitlement", which will feature in my forthcoming collection, Angel Hour, to be published later this year. This is a 'sneak preview' of 'Entitlement', because I feel that, as readers of my blog, you are entitled to it :–)
I’ve begun to notice recently that things
don’t stay in their places the way they used,
a cup falls to the floor, an office moves,
trees disappear, glaciers flow like rivers,
and I wonder has it anything to do
with the new feeling of entitlement?
I don’t mean to cavil with human rights,
the attitude I speak of is different:
one person’s entitlement, as sure as sin,
will diminish the entitlements of others.
And why are these self-told entitled ones
unable to calm down and take it easy
like normal human beings? I start to doubt
if there’s a normal human being left
at all, marvel how scarce a champion
of the ordinary has become, regret
there are so many can’t be satisfied
with a bite and sup, a roof, someone to love,
a seaside holiday, a book to read.
Death and taxes on it! Disappointment
is too tepid a word for what I feel
watching the striving battling contending
the jostling and the fighting till I want
to shout For God’s sake will you all relax?
You’re creating too much anxiety!
If you want freedom, lose the rivalry,
compete against competition itself.
Sit! as you’d tell a dog, sit for a long time,
try to imagine what it’s like to be
a lone bush in the middle of a field
encompassed by the murmur of the rain.
And after that, who knows? Maybe you'll twig
what life's about. (It's not entitlement.)
© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2021
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