I sat out in my favourite pub garden today. It’s a walled garden, with the walls heavy with ivy and roses. Earlier this year it was a sea of daisies. And on sunny days like today, I sit out on one of its benches with a beer and a cigarette, and gaze into space. It’s very relaxing. And as I gaze into space I think about this and that, or maybe nothing at all.
It’s something I don’t seem to be able to do at home. I think maybe that’s because the gazing bit of it needs something fairly distant to gaze at. And at home there are walls a few feet away all around me, although there’s a view of a distant tree-lined hilltop out of one window.
Ten years back, when I used to buy myself a pint in the River in Devon, I’d always sit at an end table, gazing down the length of the pub. And when I sat outside, I’d gaze at the river as it flowed by.
I think maybe it’s just that when I relax my eyes, they automatically gaze into the distance. Unless there’s something right in front of them, like a computer screen or a book. In which case they focus on that. And it requires work to keep them in focus. Gazing is easy.
Church naves are good places to sit and gaze. Some of them are hundreds of feet long, and usually have something at the far end, like a crucifix or a stained glass window, on which to fix the eye. But the trouble with churches is that they don’t serve beer or cigarettes. So I don’t spend much time in churches.
I’ve said it before, but I often think that churches were once just like pubs. The word ‘mass’ comes from the Latin missa – meal -, and so I like to think of a lot of people sitting down to eat and drink and talk. It would have been a social occasion. But once the killjoys arrived, all that was stopped. No eating, no drinking, no talking, no smoking.
And so instead the missa moved to the pubs outside the churches. And in the pubs people carried on eating and drinking and talking and smoking and playing cards. Until, of course, the killjoys arrived there too.
The original missa was called the Last Supper. And as that has been described, and depicted in paintings, Jesus and his disciples were sitting around eating and drinking and talking. Maybe they were also laughing and smoking and playing cards and musical instruments. And maybe some of them were just gazing into space.
But of course it’s called the Last Supper because the very next day the killjoys totally nailed Jesus.
The killjoys always show up eventually. And they always want to regulate and control everything. They always want to stop everything. And whenever the killjoys take over something, all the fun goes out of it. They make lots of rules and regulations. Things have to be done in one approved manner. It’s called ‘improvement’ or ‘progress’.
You can’t just kick a ball around. You have to wear a uniform and proper football boots. And the pitch has to be so long and so wide with white lines round it, and a flag at each corner. And there has to be a referee. And the referee is a killjoy who hands out red and yellow cards, and sends players off the pitch. And the rules of the game get more and more complicated.
And eventually the game becomes no fun to play any more. It gets too serious. And that was the whole point, of course, from the killjoys’ point of view. They want to spoil the fun.
When I was at school I used to enjoy playing cricket. I was in the school’s 3rd XI team. We used to go and play other schools, and the other schools would always win. We’d score about fifteen runs, and they’d score about about two hundred. But I didn’t care. I just enjoyed playing.
And then one day a new games master arrived, and he called me over and he said that the team’s performance was totally dismal and it would have to improve. He said there would have to be a lot more practice to improve batting and bowling and fielding. He asked me if I’d like to be the captain of the team.
And I went away and thought about it, and thought that I didn’t want the team to improve. I liked it the way it was. And I definitely didn’t want to spend hours and hours practising. It wouldn’t be any fun. So the next day I went back and told him that I didn’t want to be the team captain. And not only did I not become the team captain, but he made sure that I never played for the team again. I had the wrong attitude, y’see. And he went on to become the headmaster of the school – although after I had left school, mercifully – because killjoys like him always work hard to get to the top. Which is why the killjoys always take over eventually.
That’s why David Cameron is a killjoy. And also Nick Clegg. And in fact, all politicians everywhere. In fact more or less everyone who gets to the top of any profession. Like Bill Gates. Or Henry Ford. Or Paul Getty. Or Michael Bloomberg. They’re not easygoing, fun people. They worked very hard to get to the top. And they were probably utterly ruthless. They wanted to win. And winning meant beating other people, triumphing over other people. And when they finally get to the top, they’re hardly going to buy everyone a drink, and hand round cigarettes. No, they’re going to screw everyone into the ground.
I like to think that Jesus was a fun kind of guy. A party guy. I like to think that he was a raconteur or comedian who hung out on the fun side of Jerusalem, far away from the killjoy pharisees. And that his natural place was some little bar, eating and drinking and talking with friends. And that when the food and the wine ran out (as they often did), he was adept at rustling up some more from somewhere.
And I like to think that Buddha was a fun guy too. I have a little wooden statue of Buddha that serves as a lampstand. It’s a laughing Buddha statue. So I think that Buddha laughed a lot.
And if you don’t ever see any pictures of Jesus laughing, it’s because the killjoys took over Christianity, and stopped all the eating and drinking and smoking and laughing, and wiped the smiles off everyone’s faces.
But the killjoys never win completely. They never succeed in wiping out all pleasure. Because there’s always a Jesus or a Buddha sitting in some little bar somewhere, swapping tall stories with friends, and drinking and smoking and laughing.