Thursday, 29 September 2011

Al Fresco

Warm and bright again today, so I was able to enjoy lunch in the garden with my friend, R. Freshly baked bread and assorted savoury treats fuelled our lively conversation. I enjoy sunshine most from a vantage point in the shade, which is just as well given that chemo renders one more vulnerable than normal to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. At this time of year very little direct sunshine hits our garden as the house gets in the way, and so we were soared the necessity of moving furniture around. All too easy really…

When R and I get together, conversation invariably turns to books and the writing of them, not least because R is a published author. As well as discussing his ongoing and future projects (my lips are sealed) we also had some time to discuss my idea for a novel, in fact, novels. If I make self-affirming statements such as this often enough, I may just about come to believe that I have something to offer the reading public. In the course of this single conversation my plans advanced considerably and the identity and interests of my proposed central character are now much clearer.

We also talked about Robert Harris, whom R went to hear speaking about his new novel a few days ago. The book is called The Fear Index, a thriller that could not be more contemporary in that it concerns hedge funds and the bleeding edge of computer-automated market trading. My pious words yesterday about having conquered my book addiction are now so much froth and bubble, because in a matter of seconds I have just downloaded Mr Harris’s latest work to my Kindle, further proof that these sober little devices are like crack cocaine to those with a reading habit. Looks a great read, though (guilty shudder).

Talk of this book led us on to the amorality of modern trading and our enslavement to the market. Confession time: I am predominantly a right-brained person. Whatever the neurological theory, that is a term we can readily understand. Big picture creative thinking comes more easily to me than detailed analysis or strict logic. I am therefore biased when I say that we are in peril if we think of our minds as computers and of ourselves as cogs in a machine, particularly an economic mechanism. The pursuit of money for its own sake is trampling our humanity. Economists should be our servants not our masters. Should we study science and technology or the humanities? Both. I am compelled to go further and say that, without a spiritual sense, which is fundamentally an awareness of the collective, however much individual religions dress it up, we will destroy ourselves even as we acquire all the shiny new toys the world can offer. The reason I am a Christian is that the Gospel addresses fundamentally the problem of our self-centredness and pride. The battle goes on through life, sure enough, and many mistakes (and worse) are made, but the path of peace is marked out. The Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil”. How can these words possibly be regarded as irrelevant? Their author may not have known what to make of a computer screen, let alone the intricacies of the modern market, but he understood the human heart. We have learned so much in the intervening two millennia, but how far have we really travelled?

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