Thursday, 8 March 2012


There are days when unclothed women seem to dominate the curious world that is Emailia. Alas, I have reached an age when my interest in so many acres of naked flesh is philosophical. Increasingly it is the comic aspect which dominates and the sad truth is that women look much better with their clothes on. I expect it was a dawning aesthetic sense which prompted the cave dwellers to rush from the hearth to do unequal battle with the bear and the wolf, so desperate were they to hide the more comic aspects of Creation.

I used to make fun of the Creator as designer. Now I am more indulgent. I believe after creating creatures as beautiful as the tiger, the humming bird or the antelope It felt entitled to a little light relief. The general outline of Homo Sapiens on which It decided is pleasing enough. It is the appendages that are so risible.

I have suggested that arms one could unscrew at night would be a blessing since I seem to devote a great deal of sleeping time to deciding on where to put my arms. Few will argue that waste disposal arrangements could have been better managed. My colostomy bag might have been copied to advantage,

Surprisingly, I have the support of the early Christian church which inveighed against the act of birth, which it unpleasantly described as occurring between the urine and the fundament. The Church used it as an argument against women; probably why there are no women bishops and in Catholicism no women in authority at all.

I am probably extreme in viewing all religions as fairy tales for grownups but in a limited way that view is shared by religions. Only other people’s religions, of course; always viewed as mythology. Nevertheless they share with Christians a distaste for the birthing process on which the Creator has settled.

In Greek mythology various gods have been born out of the head of Zeus; other religions chose the side. Less dramatically, the Christian view merely dispenses with a father and so ensures the pain without the pleasure, which is par for the course. Gore Vidal pointed out that Christianity is the only religion which has a corpse and an instrument of torture as its most sacred symbol.

I would never consciously offend a believer but I find it impossible to take religion seriously. Nevertheless, one of the most moving books I have read is Aldous Huxley’s anthology “The Perennial Philosophy”, a collection of the writings of the Great Mystics, East and West. The Perennial Philosophy, which is thousands of years old, demonstrates what they called the Divine Reality, the Highest Common Factor which is found in every one of the major religions.

I was delighted by an excerpt from a Hindu Apanished in which a father explains the invisible presence of God by dissolving salt in water. When the salt dissolved it was invisible but when he gave it to his son to drink the water tasted salty.

He says: “In this body of yours you do not perceive the True, but there in fact it is.”

As a Buddhist I don’t believe in death or gods. The Buddha was a man and I am part of him, as I am of all sensate creatures.

I have no difficulty, like the Hindu, in believing in an unknowable Creator. But if all religions are variants of the same belief and everyone is praying to the same God, then why is religion the basis of so many wars?


More gems from Michael Quinion’s must-read blog Worldwide Words:

Michael Hocken submitted a casting call spotted by an actor friend: “We are making a short 3 minute comedy/drama about God coming down to earth to enter into competitions and film festivals throughout the UK.”

Leo Boivin writes: “The lead sentence of an editorial in the Washington Post on 26 February read, “One day this month four murders occurred in the space of 72 hours in Prince George’s County.”

A report on the CBC News site startled James Helbig. “A woman has been found frozen to death at Apex Mountain Resort, confirm RCMP. ... Police believe cold weather was a factor in her death.”

On Oscar night, Grant Cribb tells us, the red-carpet correspondent for BBC TV news was speculating about Meryl Streep’s chances. He concluded: “You might think that she’s won a whole brace of Oscars over the years. In fact, she’s only won two.”

Michael Robertson e-mailed, “In the New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, the entry for Clark Gable concludes: ‘In The Misfits — his last film, made shortly after his death — he played a tough, aging cowboy.”


My favourite restaurant in the universe is Brown’s opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is a lofty-ceilinged room, French in a Belle Epoque way, noisy with lively conversation, friendly but respectful waiters and good traditional food. Lunching there with Chinese friends I admitted to the husband, retired from a Chair in Statistics, that I had followed all the debate by economists about the Crash without understanding a single word.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “the economists don’t understand what they are talking about either. It’s not a question of understanding them but translating. Quantative Easing, for example. That means the issue of worthless bank notes.”

“That’s forgery,“ I said.

“Exactly,“ he said. “There are lies, damned lies and economists.” We returned to our beef steak pie cooked in beer with quiet satisfaction.


Bailey, our gardener Hipkin’s Wonderdog who has reached 17 on a diet of sausages, beef burgers, chicken and a full Sunday luncheon, has caught a nasty cough. Naturally Hipkin doses him with child strength cough mixture. He went to replenish his supplies at Tesco’s.

“It were one o’ they till girls,” he told me. ‘How old’s the baby then?’ she says. Well, says I, it ain’t a baby, not at all. It’s a dog. ‘A dog,’ says she. ‘Well I ain’t a-gooin to sell you none. Not for a dog.’ So I went savage. You knows what you can do with your mixture, I says, and I walks out.”

Poor Hipkin’s troubles have come not as single spies but in battalions. “All the geraniums have died in my neighbour’s conservative,” he told me.