Belfast Telegraph

Nuala McKeever: Some heroes dive into a river to save a life, others lift a pencil

By Nuala McKeever

In our everyday lives, we're rarely called upon to be brave in a dramatic way. Not many of us have ever faced the dilemma of whether to dive into a river to rescue another person, or not.

Few of us have been confronted with a burning building and a person trapped inside with only us to save them. Or not. And fewer still have faced men with machine-guns intent on killing us because we draw cartoons.

I salute people who are physically brave - who know that they might lose their lives, but who do the brave thing anyway. Especially those who do this day after day. It's one thing to react in the moment, fuelled by instinct and adrenaline. It's quite another to choose, calmly, every morning, to put yourself in danger for the sake of doing the "right thing".

Sadly, those who would seek to kill the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, also think they are doing the right thing. They believe they are brave.

So how do we know which right thing is actually the right right thing?

Simple test. Does the action lead to love and understanding, or fear? What the world needs is more love and understanding and less fear. Life tends towards life. Life wants to live. Life exists to create more life, to carry on and develop.

If it's right for life, then it's the right thing.

So, killing anyone who disagrees with you - where does that lead? Ultimately to a world filled with people who all think the same way. Uniformity.

But we know from experience that what life is, is diversity, interdependence of diverse things. The body cannot be all heart or all liver or all big blue eyes, much as each of these things is lovely and essential. The cartoonist-killers want a body that is all one organ. Good luck breathing with no lungs or walking without legs or being able to hold machine guns with no arms.

So logic doesn't come into it for these people. Their view is based on emotion then. So which emotion is it based on?

We call them haters, but they are actually fearers. And we are all fearers. At one end of the continuum of fear is that bloody awful scene in the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo. At the other end is us in our daily lives protecting ourselves from threats we see all around us - the person whose sexuality makes us uncomfortable, the greasy-haired man in the park muttering to himself with alcohol on his breath, the possibility of burglars in the night, muggers in the day, running out of cigarettes at any time.

Fear. When we indulge it we give it life. And then it grips us and takes over ours.

Of course, be wise but don't be fearful as a rule. Life has existed long before Crimewatch made quivering wrecks of us all. Life triumphs every time. We can't stop those people with guns necessarily, but we can stop the terrorists in our own heads, the voices that urge us to be suspicious and worried rather than open and relaxed.

There are brave people all around us. People choosing to dive into the river of life in the face of illness and loneliness and religious intolerance. Heroes who choose to lift a pencil or order a cake, even when life seems to be holding an AK47 or a conscience clause at their chest. People who meet a closed fist with an open smile.

The sound of fear is silence. The sound of love is laughter. Let's laugh. Let's make Charlies of ourselves today.

Taxing memories of late homework

Doing your taxes in January is like doing your homework on a Sunday night.

It's depressing enough facing into all those boring figures and bits of paper and receipts (why didn't I keep more receipts?) but doing it when the trees are dripping and bare reminds me of all those awful Sundays at home, sitting downstairs not enjoying watching TV cos I'm haunted by the knowledge of all the undone homework sitting in my schoolbag upstairs, just waiting.

Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck!

Classic flick that had me in a flap

Rod Taylor has died. He was most famous for The Time Machine and The Birds. Both huge films for anyone of my age. The Birds, especially, was so scary when we saw it as children. Now you can tell that the wings flapping on screen are not in the same place as the actual people but back then it was convincing and it put me off crows for a long time. And yet, if I had his time machine, I'd go back to those ridiculously over-coloured films and relive the thrill all over again. There's nothing quite like watching from behind a chair to let you know you're viewing a classic.

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