Archives for posts with tag: death

A few weeks ago, myself and some friends decided to go to the Joe Power show when he was in Cork. We were curious to know what went on at such events, so we purchased a cheapo voucher and headed along to his show in the Metropole Hotel last Friday night.

The audience was quite large: maybe as much as 200 people. It was a mixed bag of people, old, young, men and women. Certainly more women than men with more older people in attendance.

Joe started late. One of his first questions to the audience was whether any of them had been to a psychic show before. Very few people in the audience had been to one.

Joe got stuck in straight away, happening on one of the most serious of subjects imaginable: suicide. The manner and some circumstances to do with the death were discussed with family members. A troubling line of questioning, to say the least. When he was done with this, he asked the father if he had been to hospital or had some trouble down below? When the answer was negative, he told him he might need to go.

Joe then went to other members of the audience, some of whom were responsive to his questions, some less so. Here are some brief (low) highlights:

‘Anyone shot down? Planes?’ he asked, possibly forgetting that few enough Irish people were involved in WWII. (He counselled the audience member not to go on a plane).

He discussed divorce problems with another person and what their sex life was like.

A fire in the house? Yes – 40 years ago. ‘We can go back as long as you want’.

‘Why are there 3 people buried next to each other? A young boy or young man? ‘No, just two – mum and dad’ ‘You’ll probably find I’m right by the way. You might need to look back’.

‘Just to let you know he’s around and he can see what’s going on’.

Brought up some private family issue where a family member went to prison for a while.

Told one man he might be getting 18 months in prison in the future.

Told another man he should get tested, maybe for bowel problems. ‘Get the missus to check around’.

What also struck me was how much stuff he just got completely wrong. Lots and lots and lots of questions never hit their mark. If the questioning wasn’t going anywhere he would simply move on as if it didn’t happen. My top marks on the night went to the people who made his life difficult. One woman blanked him completely, so he quickly moved on – indicating that the reading wasn’t for her. There were a few others where his questions went nowhere.

He would leave his questions deliberately vague, so he’d ask if it was father, or father in law. Dates like 26 or 19 were converted into people’s ages if it suited. Wigs (he asked a lot about wigs) became hair extensions. Because many of the subjects were older, he touched on health issues such as cancer, diabetes and hospital visits, or lifestyle issues such as losing weight, pigeons and gardening. As if willing him to succeed, many of his respondents made his life easy. They would try to answer his vague questions on numbers and hair and accidents with something that happened to them, even though this often had nothing to do with the deceased relative. In this way they were able to connect to him despite the fact that the overall narrative was confused, mixing things happening today with something concerning the death.

Almost always, he would simply say vague things about the dead people, like “he’s looking after you” or ‘he misses you a lot and thinks of you’. I’ve written about this before, but grieving is a process which often involves letting go. I don’t think psychics help this process at all, because the underlying message is that they are still there, still watching. Such talk does not help people move on.

This is what passed as Friday night entertainment. Banality, sadness and voyeurism reigned. There were a lot of cheap laughs at the event, but they were often at the expense of the people involved. We are not entitled to be given this kind of window into their lives. People deserve more privacy than this. Professional counsellors, not public psychics, are a far better solution for such problems.

My advice? Next time there’s a psychic in town, save your money or go to the pub. It’s a better use of your time and money.

“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

– Roger Ebert
(via Pharyngula)

humanism.png

When you are admitted into hospital in Ireland, one of the first questions you are asked is your religion. The main reason, apparently, is because if you don’t manage to clock out when your stay is over, they want to be able to contact the right cleric to look after your affairs.

This bothers me. First of all, it is assumed that all residents of Ireland must have a religion. The mere idea of people walking around with no religious belief whatsoever seems to be anathema to our public services. It’s as if we ,who profess no religion, are somehow lying and that deep down we believe in a god, but that we are suppressing it. This is not a good assumption. We do not believe because there is no evidence, and plenty of contradictory evidence, despite what some people would have would have us believe. We liken belief in God with belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  Nobody would ever be accused of living their lives in secret denial of the Tooth Fairy, would they?

Second of all, for many non-religious people in Ireland, religion is something that we have struggled for many years to free ourselves from. Some people have painful memories from the past, others wish to undo the indoctrination of our early youth, and many of us shake our heads at the great reverence and respect shown in our society to what we see as gross irrationality. Why then are we expected to give in to religion when the final paragraphs of our lives are being written? Surely hypocrisy has no part to play in the most serious and honest moment in a person’s life?

Finally, it presents an unfortunate challenge at an unfortunate time for many non-religious people. A purely secular sending off is not open to us, as it is with people who subscribe to a particular creed. If we want to express our dissent from the consensus, then we are obliged to organize these affairs ourselves. Given the fact that there are so many of us nowadays, this is a situation that needs changing.

Organisations such as the Humanist Association of Ireland exist to provide assistance to people during major life occasions. They officiate at births and weddings and other secular ceremonies. They counsel people in their last moments and work with families and friends prior to, during and after death. However, humanist counsellors and chaplains are few and far between, particularly in the city where I live. The only non-religious funeral I have ever attended was a lonely, amateurish and sad affair that cannot have been easy on the spouse of the man who had passed away. Surely singing and poetry and prose; the hug, the handshake and the kind word, is not the sole preserve of the priest and pastor?

Irish society is growing up, so there should be more humanist options available to us to help us celebrate the major stages of our lives. It should be possible to celebrate the big moments properly – the joys, the hopes and the sadness – without the mumbo-jumbo. The non religious – the agnostics, the atheists, the secularists and free-thinkers amongst us – are as entitled to our public moments of elation, contemplation and bitter grief as anyone else. These moments should be facilitated by trained men or women who can ease the pain, organise the occasion and add to the memories.

It is something I would like to explore further.

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