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Sir Ath’s funeral

  • January 23rd, 2015

This afternoon I was among the throng at Athfield Architects’ sunwashed village layered as a maze between Amritsar St and Onslow Rd. We were expressing our thanks for the delight Sir Ian had added to our lives.

I’ll post a link to today’s drone video when it is available. Look at it just to see the village. For me an  inspiring thing about that village has always been the sense of freedom created by the absence of railings and other safety ninny construction. Though many kids grow up there, they can run around and practice courage over the risk of falling, as if we were still the country that created Ath.

He knew his time was limited, so he’s been stuffing it with action. Before Christmas Ath and I politely jockeyed for time in the saddle of our new jointly owned tractor. There was little pretence from either of us about necessity, or mere usefulness. His hours mowing, slashing gorse, opening pathways, excavating and and generally glorying in the combined power of diesel and hydraulics were because he remained a boy. Powerful machinery is  for joyful play.

A friend predicted funeral references to John Donne’s poetic description of our collective loss as each life is lost to our community – ‘no man is an island…’ (see at the foot). In the event no one did use that piece. Tom Scott as MC masterfully captured the irreverent commemorative tone Ath would have wanted.

But I’ve long wanted to dispute the Donne thesis. Maybe I’ve autistic symptoms,  but I’ve never heard it without wanting to argue the point, from my first exposure as a school pupil.

Ath’s death diminishes our community, and the life wealth of each of us. But Donne’s main point was different. He was asserting social relativism, claiming that everyone is valuable.

That I do not feel and it is patently untrue. There are many who make no net contribution and some whose departure is a gain for all. Saying that every death diminishes us is to derogate from the worth of those who are genuinely irreplaceable.

The world will no doubt somewhere see the like of Ath again but I do not expect to see that rarity. He is a promontory lost, not a totara falling in a remote forest.

“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

 John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), ‘Meditation’, XVII



my condolences

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