Rant Number 402 30 June 2010
‘Frank, it was horrible! It really shook me up! Hope God doesn’t send me a dream like that again!’
My friend Ahmed was expostulating about a nightmare. He explained:
‘I was in Mecca Al Mukarrama, the Holy City. But something was wrong. I looked for the Kaaba, God’s House. I could not see it. How was that possible? Every Muslim can recognise it. And I am not a Hajji? Been on the pilgrimage three times. But the Kaaba was nowhere to be seen. Then I saw ruins. Stones and debris. Everything smashed and broken up. A booming voice cried: “The ruins of the Kaaba.’ Could not believe it. Also, the city, Mecca itself was a wreck. Gone were the Great Mosque, the minarets, the palaces, the houses...everything was wrecked, destroyed. It frightened me. How could God have allowed such thing to happen? Could the Israelis have dared? Then something else came into view. A huge encampment, by an oasis. I thought I recognised the city of Taif, not far from Mecca. The crowd was boundless, immense, like a human sea. All young people. Boys and girls. But they could not be Muslims. Some were almost naked. And they drank – not water but from beer bottles. Some injected themselves with drugs or smoked hash. Others danced about obscenely. To the tunes of some savage, bestial music. I saw things I would never want my daughters to see. Those kids did not behave like human beings. I saw filth, fornication, idolatry, disgusting things. And all taking place in the land of the Prophet! It was vile, unbearable...’
The priest is no dream interpreter but I immediately thought of the Glastonbury Festival. Bit loaded description, perhaps, but not too loaded. Upon inquiry, Ahmed admitted he had watched bits of it on TV the previous night – so, maybe it figures. Although, Pace Freud, hardly a wish fulfilment...
I could not perhaps happen in the heart of Islam but it has happened here, in pseudo-Christian Britain. The name of Glastonbury today conjures up images of trendy rock and pop bands, loud music and youthful ‘fun’. How many of the young revellers would bother to visit the ruined Abbey nearby? One of the most revered and magical amongst Christian sites. For centuries pilgrims journeyed there, yearning to pray by King Arthur’s grave. Where St Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ disciple and friend, came from the Holy Land to convert the pagan Britons. Bringing with him the Holy Grail. From Joseph’s staff sprang the famed hawthorn, still extant today near the melancholy remains of the ancient Abbey Church. All destroyed, wrecked and laid waste by the loathsome Henry VIII. For good measure that monster also had the Glastonbury monks hung, drawn and quartered on the Tor, the high hill which looks down, as if in muted judgment, on the carousing, intoxicated music addicts.
King Arthur’s origins seemed modest. A foundling ‘of no high blood born’, he was cared for by foster parents. When fourteen year old, he came across in a wood a sword quivering in a stone. Naturally, effortlessly, he pulled it out. Astonished, Arthur saw his father and brother kneeling before him. He then learned the truth about himself. He was of ancient, royal blood - within a year the boy was King of Britain, ‘by adventure and grace’. The exploits of the King’s adventurous knights and their mystical quest for the Holy Grail inspired the fascinating stories and poems of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Malory, Chretien de Troyes, Tennyson, T.H. White and a host of others. According to legend King Arthur sleeps on the island of Avalon, waiting for the time to return, riding to the rescue of the people of Britain.
Legend: is that the right word? A rich webs of stories and traditions has grown around Arthur’s name, sure, but archaeologist Leslie Alcock ‘s admirable Arthur’s Britain shows how Arthur was historical. A Dux Bellorum, the leader of Celtic Christian armies, Romanised Britons fighting against invading Anglo-Saxon hordes. The man must have been pretty remarkable, if his name has so endured through the ages. King Edward I and his Queen, Eleanor, prayed at Glastonbury and saw his remains. Edward III’s Order of the Garter aimed at rekindling the spirit of Arthur’s knights. Henry VII, a Welshman, believed his ancestry passed through Arthur and named his elder son after him. He made sure his birth took place at Winchester, allegedly the seat of Camelot, where the Round Table hung on the Cathedral Wall. Had a malignant fate not snatched away Prince Arthur at 16, England would have been blessed with another King Arthur. Methinks some demon must have been behind the poor boy’s demise. Considering that fiendish Henry VIII reigned instead – truly, one of the devil’s spawn. He who desecrated King Arthur’s grave and turned Glastonbury into a ruin.
‘Interesting, Frank’ comments Ahmed. ‘Did not know all that. May God not allow anything similar to happen to Arabia. But the music festival crowd...I wouldn’t want my children to go there, no...Still, do you think they are really so bad? Do they know any different way to be?’
You hit the nail on the head, friend. Those kids are not especially corrupt. In fact, I think young people are generally more generous, more idealistic than adults or the old. Don’t much care for the cacophony that passes for music there but I admit some festival goers, chicks like Emma Watson, Kate Moss and Pixie Geldof, are very attractive in their hot pants. You’d have to be made of stone not to be seduced by their looks. The problem is simple - they don’t know any other, different way to be happy. Our culture moulders have made sure too many of the young know only one way – sex, drugs n’alcohol - the shallowest, stupidest and ultimately self-destructive way. So, how can you blame them, if no one has ever shown them that it is not obligatory to go down that road? That there are alternatives to carnality, booze and drugs? Of course, the job to teach the young the better, higher way falls not to Rolling Stone or Channel Four but to the Church. But, if the Church is as dumb as a fish, what hope is there?
Only King Arthur. Great King, come back!
Reverend Frank Julian Gelli
Thursday, 1 July 2010
Rant Number 402 30 June 2010