(Peregrine Tours website image)

The last two days have been a blur. Sunday night I was packed ready to leave for a solo trip to India on Monday morning. Sue has a full time job and allowed me a leave pass. I was about to strike out on the sort of adventure that retirement makes possible. At least, that was the plan.

About 9pm Sue started to complain of abdominal pains and within an hour we were on our way to the Emergency Department of our local hospital. Acute appendicitis was the diagnosis and surgery indicated for Monday. To my shame I spent time trying to work out an angle where I could still fly out the next day. A better person would not have hesitated, and immediately embraced the obvious imperative of putting the loved one first. Not that I would ever have left Sue in the lurch. It was just that I was doing the mental permutations that might have allowed me to have my cake and eat it too. I’m so glad I stopped doing that and concentrated instead on her. That love is the stuff of life was, once again, made obvious to me. I need these reminders apparently.

So that my India plans are not all wasted I will take the opportunity to use the only two words of Hindi I managed to learn.

Google tells me ‘namaste’ is an everyday greeting meaning something like: “The spirit in me salutes the spirit in you”.
While I haven’t experienced its use in daily life, I like the imagery this word evokes. Just as I am special, so are you. Not one without the other. Both together.

Which gets me thinking. Since beginning retirement I have become a daily tragic when it comes to online opinion columns and the contest of ideas. Up in arms and full of indignation I fire off several killer missives most days. A warrior in the battle of ideas, I expose sloppy thinking and intolerance wherever they raise their heads. Well and good I suppose. There certainly is a battle going on out there for hearts and minds; a battle I fear my side is not winning. The language and spirit of the times works against those who value tradition and reference to authority. If you are not ‘progressive’ then what are you; ‘regressive’? For goodness sake!

But enough of that. Why I mention it at all is because I see an allied trend that worries me. While strong and vigorous public debate on values and ideas is a healthy thing, a tendency to label those with different ideas as bad, evil or barely human is not. Political debate in everyday life has become toxic. Not only are opinions polarised, but also there is a kind of group think with a temptation to seek out those who agree with us and shun those who see things differently. Neither progressives or conservatives are immune from this temptation, and we are all the poorer for it.

I find I have to stop myself sometimes. It is so easy to dismiss people who see the same things I do and yet interpret them diametrically oppositely to how I do. They must be simpletons, blind fools, or worse. I know I am not alone in this. A scan of any feedback column anywhere will confirm just how many idiots, scumbags, fools and lying subversives there are out there. I hope I am not alone in feeling sad about all that needless alienation.

Namaste: the spirit in me salutes the spirit in you. You may not believe as I do but that does not mean you are a fool, or insincere. You may very well be either or both those things, just as I may be from time to time, but I know in my heart that God made you just as beautifully and lovingly as God made me. That stops me short from time to time. And it should.

To my opponents, enemies though you may or may not be, deluded though you might or might not be, enlightened as you might possibly be, don’t think what I have written above gives you a free kick. It’s still game-on, but I say to you: ‘Namaste’.

The other Hindi word?

‘Shukriya’ (Thank you) for reading.


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