Last week I did a wee job for a local school for which I was paid a two figure sum in the form of a cheque made out to T Quinn. I headed off to my bank where I was greeted by a charming young lady that I had never seen before and who smiled politely at me.
Let me say here that my account is under Brian Turlough Quinn; I am one of those people who are called by their middle name.
The young lady looked at the cheque, my account, me, and then said; “Who is T Quinn? The account is in the name of Brain T Quinn. I have to ask you under money laundering legislation.”
Here was I, almost sixty years of age, standing with a cheque for well under £100, in a branch of a bank whose parent company was fined £390,000,000 in February this year for illegally fixing interest rates, and I was being asked to justify lodging the few pounds into my account.
What is worse, you and I, the good tax payers of the land, paid £45 billion to save the bank in 2010, because the men earning millions couldn’t run the blooming thing!
“RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton said it was a "sad day" for the bank.
Chancellor George Osborne called the behaviour of traders "totally unacceptable" and said the bank, rather than taxpayers, would be paying the fines.” (BBC News, 6th Feb 2013.)
The same parent company was fined in the US for money laundering in 2012, broke everyone’s heart in Northern Ireland last year because they can’t afford a decent computer, but which assumes that my ‘widow’s mite’ is the proceeds of some shady shenanigans.
Let me let you into a little secret; I deal with a better class of drug user. When I sell drugs I insist on getting paid by cheque and I pay my suppliers by international bank draft!
In fairness, the young lady was more than pleasant and eventually did lodge the cheque, but what have we become when the assumption is that no one is to be trusted.
There is an old saying that we seldom hear nowadays; ‘evil sees as evil does.’
The banks, the politicians, the financial services, the doctors, (yes, the doctors) and almost all the professions, are in it for the money and being in it for the money they assume that everyone else has the same motive.
Thus when the government is drafting legislation concerning money they begin from the principle that everyone else is primarily driven by greed. The same goes for the banks.
Remember the old joke; “Why does a vampire never bite a banker?”
“Out of professional courtesy, my friend.”
However, things are on the up. David Cameron and a host of other ‘great and good’ landed in the New North last Friday to tell us all that things are going to improve and that we are going to have plenty of jobs.
Our beloved leader, Mr Cameron, arrived by plane, spoke for a while and left again. But he did say:
"Some people say it's a bit undignified for a prime minster to make a sales pitch, I say nonsense."
"I'm passionate about the power of business to create jobs and growth and I'm passionate about what Northern Ireland has to offer, and so I'm here today with a very simple message.
"Put your money in Northern Ireland and be part of this incredible success story because investing in Northern Ireland makes good business sense."
“Northern Ireland is open for business eight months of the year. They take four months off for the marching season. Oh, and don’t open a hotel. No one ever comes here.”
Well, I added the last sentence on just to make his speech sound realistic but David wouldn’t read it out as he thought it would give the wrong impression.
I also read last week that people are making up ‘bucket lists.’ A bucket list is a list of things that you want to do before you die.
I don’t have a bucket list but I certainly have a good idea of things that I thought I would never see. Something I thought I would never see, and which I could not even picture in my mind, was that Martin McGuinness would be standing in formal wear, complete with a bow-tie, talking in front of the British Prime Minister and the top business people of the world, telling yarns about sleeping in the Queen’s bed.
“Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness raised a few laughs - and perhaps just as many eyebrows - when he revealed he had slept in the Queen's bed at Hillsborough Castle.
‘But I had a snooze in her bed,’ smiled Mr. McGuinness, before adding: ‘She was not in it, so no scandal attached.’” (BBC News)
It is wonderful how the world changes—me a drug dealer (payment by cheque only) and Martin McGuinness part of the establishment.
On a serious note, the advent of the ‘bucket list’ tells us a lot about our society.
The ‘bucket list’ is the modern atheist’s idea of heaven. When you no longer believe in a God and an afterlife then you must believe that this life is all there is and that death is the end of everything.
Such a life can have no real meaning; such a life cannot be called ‘meaningful’ so the poor atheist has to make this life that we are living now as happy and fulfilling as possible.
But no matter how much he tries, the atheist cannot give this life meaning or make it meaningful.
But an atheist shall reply, “I am happy, I have a good life, I love my wife and children, my life is very full of good things.”
There are plenty of atheists who have good lives and are good husbands or wives and good parents. But it is still only this life that is good.
A wee old woman who believes in God can be lying in her bed sick and in pain, and still her life is ‘meaningful.’
For a life to be ‘full of meaning’ requires that the person living it must be able to account for all the vagaries of this world, the good and the bad.
A ‘full of meaning’ life is one that has a beginning, a middle and a definite end, an end which gives meaning to everything—and only God can do that.
An atheist’s life has a beginning, a middle and a full stop—and after the lights go out on this world; that’s it.
A million ‘bucket lists’ can never do away with this harsh fact.
In reality there are very few atheists just as there are very few Christians. Let me explain.
The great cry of the atheist is, “If I saw someone lives the Christian life then I would believe it.”
Few of us are real Christians in the sense that Our Lady or St Francis of Assisi were. But what is equally true is that few of us are real atheists just as Chairman Mao, Stalin or Hitler were.
These men killed and massacred anyone who stood in their way. Between them they were directly responsible for nearly 200 million deaths. These were real atheists; men who believed that they could do what they wanted to get their own way. They were answerable to no God; they would bow the knee to no deity.
Most of us are sort of ‘inbetweenzees:’ some days the pendulum swings towards the Francis of Assisi side and other days we head off towards that mass of people who want to do things their own way and ignore any god, if there is one.
This behaviour, which we all go through on a regular basis, does not make us hypocrites. It makes us human. We are all part of that beautiful thing created by God, the human race. We all have our failings and foibles and we are called to make some sort of choice either for or against God in the end.
I have a ‘bucket list’ and it is quite an extensive one.
I want to see how this planet earth was formed, how life evolved, what is in the middle of a ‘black hole,’ and how did man first move from being an animal to being human.
There are other things I want to do: I want to speak to an American called Bill W and ask him questions about a book he wrote. I want to talk to Thomas Aquinas about his great work and what certain things meant and I want to have a cup of tea with Peter because from any reading of the New Testament he sounds like quite a character and I feel that he and I share a lot in common: every time Peter speaks he says the wrong thing!
None of these things are possible in this life. If they are ever to happen they shall have to come sometime after I pass to the ‘great beyond.’
My life is meaningful. Even this humble life I lead, writing an odd article, doing the odd bit of book work, worrying about two 30 something’s and loving my new wife, all this has meaning.
It has meaning both in this life and the next life, seen and understood as part of an overall existence, a life that shall never end now that it has started.
Even getting older and facing into the pains and inadequacies of old age has meaning. It means that I am preparing for death that my body is saying ‘slow down and take it easy. The days of rushing around are coming to an end; we have more important things to be thinking about.’
You know, when I think of it I don’t really have a bucket list for this life. I have seen a fair part of the world, had my bits of excitement and don’t really have any desire to rush off to Australia or the South Pole.
Hopefully I shall get to Rome in March and spend a week looking at all the art and architecture. If I don’t get my holiday it shall not be the end of the world; I’ll just wait til the drugs trade improves and go some time before I die.
My Miller did a runner in 1986 leaving a wife and two children sitting wondering where he had gone. There was also the little matter of a substantial amount of debt. In 1994 Miller was declared dead, but lo and behold, something of a resurrection took place in 2005 when Miller tried to apply for a driving licence.
“A judge this week found death rulings cannot be overturned after three years.
Judge Allan Davis handed down the ruling in Hancock County, Ohio, probate court on Monday, calling it a ‘strange, strange situation’, according to media reports.
‘We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health,’ he said, finding that he was prevented by state law from declaring Mr Miller legally alive.
‘I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned.’”
The news report seemed to imply that Miller had run off because of debt and pressure. I don’t think that is true. I think Miller had a ‘bucket list’ and when he had done everything on his list he decided to come home.
The other thing is the fact that Mr Miller can tell us all what it is like to be dead since we have all heard the saying, ‘no one has ever come back from the dead to tell us what it is like.’
The world throws up some strange happenings. And that is what makes life so wonderful, all the event events that happen to us during our ‘three score years and ten.’
I pity the poor old atheist, I really do. In the final analysis his life can have no meaning and yet so many of our young people are choosing an atheist lifestyle. Why?
The atheist lifestyle gives you the illusion of being in control, of being your own master and of setting your own rules. In this lifestyle you don’t have to care about anyone else and you live only for what makes you happy.
Sounds great until you realize that it has one big failing; it has no real meaning, it all finishes when you close your eyes for the last time.
There is a great saying in the ‘Funeral Rite’ when they are about to take a corpse out of the chapel at a funeral: “For the Christian, life is not ended, it is changed.”
When the bucket list days are over we shall move into another world where the light shall be a lot brighter. It will take some of us a lot longer to adjust to the new light than it did to adjust to the light of this world.
But when we do, we shall see a whole new world where the bucket list never runs done and we understand that this life had real meaning and direction.
I don’t think I’ll become an atheist.
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