Belfast Telegraph

Why neither the Pope nor anyone else should tell us how to live our lives

By Nuala McKeever

The Pope could do with buttoning it occasionally. His latest declaration - that choosing not to have children is selfish - is simply hogwash. Why is so much credence given to the opinions of one elderly man? He's entitled to say what he thinks, but what puzzles me is why so many people set so much store by what he says.

He's meant to be Jesus Christ's representative on Earth. So you'd think he would follow in the style of his inspiration and demonstrate some love and understanding.

In my experience, when a person spends time in reflection, in loving reflection, that person emerges with a sense of perspective, a sense of his, or her, own importance in the great scheme of things, a sense of humility and a realisation that the best thing he or she can do is to be the love-in-action that he, or she, wants to see in the world.

That person, if the period of reflection and self-development means anything at all, is unlikely to emerge with a checklist of opinions about everyone else's behaviour.

In my experience, when you get good with yourself, when you love yourself and accept your own humanity, it removes that urgent need we sometimes have to tell everyone else how to live their lives.

Sure, it's not always easy to button it. And sometimes we express opinions because we're being paid to, on a regular basis (hence this column), but surely we keep a sense of perspective and don't confuse spouting a mouthful of words that reflect our own prejudice, fear and self-loathing, with pearls of infallible wisdom that others must adhere to?

Love does not engender busybody behaviour. That's not love, that's a desire to control and control is not love. Sadly, with Fifty Shades of Dreck topping the popularity charts, the reality is that more and more people will be seduced by the disgusting notion that one person can show love to another by controlling them.

That notion may play into our desire for infantile fantasies, where we are powerless, just as we were as babies. It might stimulate a pleasure zone in the back of our brains that remembers how lovely it was once, to be wheeled around in a pram, incontinent, totally dependent on the love of mummy or daddy.

Fair enough. Just don't grow up and believe that that fantasy is anything other than a fantasy. Don't mistake feeling overwhelmed by having to be a responsible adult, which we all feel sometimes, with abdicating that responsibility and calling it love, or art, or a fulfilling way to live your life.

Of course, we all crave distraction. It's hard to sit, quietly, face-to-face with yourself. It's hard to accept that there is nothing wrong, there's nothing to do and nowhere to get to.

It runs so counter to all that our social life tells us. We live in a noisy clamour that sends us the message 24/7 that life is all about getting somewhere else. Where that somewhere else is, depends on your own particular personality and upbringing.

For some, it's about success, materially, creatively, spiritually. For others, it's hedonism, being looked after, taking no responsibility.

And for others, it's about getting to the place where you feel justified in telling other people what to do with their own genitalia and reproductive organs.

But, ultimately, it's all so much sideshow. It's all a distraction, variously dressed up in fifty shades of illusion. Let's have a laugh at our own silly self-importance, but let's not put it on a balcony in Rome and call it valid leadership.

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