Saturday, November 05, 2011

Snapshots of Human Spirit

Sometimes the poetry of human existence shouts out loud and is heard  over the clamour and clutter  of everyday life.

Part of the commute home from the day job usually involves an evening walk southwards over
London's Vauxhall Bridge - a cluttered place  with vast numbers of motor vehicles also clamouring to make their way southwards at the same time. One  particularly dark dismal evening  last week  whilst crossing the bridge coping with the chilly breeze  blowing northwards (naturally) just as I approached the new St George blocks of flats on the South side,  a lady appeared on a 4th floor balcony and commenced singing proudly  loudly and remarkably beautifully. She must have been an opera singer though personally not being especially poetic,  I recognised neither her nor the operatic aria that she was practising. However the effect of her singing against and overcoming,  the mundane greyness and noise  of Vauxhall Bridge rush hour traffic  was quite dramatic. Her  upbeat spirit positively affected all those there at the time -  a thank you to her.

Strangely another sprited encounter occurred  at almost the same time and place a day or two earlier. At the north end of Vauxhall Bridge, Transport for London in its infinite wisdom has placed a bus stop and bus shelter at the narrowest section of pavement so that only one person at a time can walk through the very small gap left on the pavement and even that is difficult if there is a queue at the bus stop. A man I'd guess in  his 50s was approaching the gap in his wheelchair at the same time as me. He berated the TfL engineers who had created this  unnecessary bottleneck which was even more difficult for him as  wheelchair user than myself to navigate. We then crossed the bridge together. He told me that as a baby of 6 months he had had polio  which had left him lame. His whole spirit was positive and his upbeat attitude was infectious. He thanked god for his sight which gave him pleasure as he traversed London's streets. He lived in Brixton and told me that he usually traveled some 15 miles daily by wheelchair. He explained too that  the benefits of exercising using his arms and hands for mobility meant that he was not at all tempted to upgrade to an electrified wheelchair. We shook hands  bade each other good luck and farewell and went our separate ways at the Tube entrance - that encounter too was in a strange way invigorating.

The Human spirit has  also been manifest in many ways over the past few days in  the crisis corridors of the G20 meeting at Cannes and in Athens in and out of the Greek Parliament building. As to the G20 one aspect which  reflected well  on the UK contingent was the Flanders poppyfield  mark of respect that most individuals displayed on their lapels. The fact that so many people from so many different ideologies  could enjoy if that is the right word  given the financial crises that led to the meeting in the first place, the freedom to meet together  in peace and debate possible ways forward owes so much to those who lost their lives all over the world  in WW1 and WWII. It was good to see this  so publicly   acknowledged at this international forum  by the  red poppy insignia despite  the comment that sometimes features in the media about displaying the poppy and political correctness.

A further spirited  example  I owe to Ian Pollard a lawyer who has retired to Greece and who I know only as a fellow investment bulletin board poster. A comment he made last week about the Greek prime minister showed some of the funny side of the  unfolding financial  tragedy in Greece and at the same time illustrates how the human spirit is of course so affected by the human body:

Fifthly he has ensured that the leadership of the armed forces is too weak to stand much of a chance of being able to organise a coup - which does not mean that there will not be one if government breaks down. And he has done that despite the military having to suffer various humiliation including that of being without toilet paper. Austerity has bit so deep that the army and the navy had no money to buy toilet rolls and soldiers and sailors had to supply their own.

Another area  of the human spirit which has caught attention over the past few days  is the tent encampment on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral near the   the City of London's financial heart . This I suppose represents an interface between god man and mammon. However the answer to the question posed on numerous banners; "What would Jesus do?" is not as simplistic as the protesters would have us believe. What Jesus actually said was; "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's". The silver lining of this cloud whatever  one's  political/economic  views are, must surely be the benefits that the camp is more by accident than design, now bestowing on London's homeless.

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