Friday, 23 September 2011

or not, as the case may be

Melvyn Bragg writes: Shinto, without a written doctrine, without an original sacred source, without a single revelatory leader, was always at the stage of recreating itself. And the hold or the grip that it had, and has, is that it deals with the origins of Japan; it deals with what is Japanese. There had been many stages along the way for Japan, where they thought that they came nowhere in the list of countries which had a proper past. People and ideas came in from Korea, from China, from the Pacific islands. Shinto did for Japan what Joshua, according to Martin Palmer, did for the Jews in the 11th century BC, i.e.: made of the different tribal accounts a single narrative story which was their story and one which they accepted, or pushed off (his phrase). So Shinto is about lineage every bit as much as religion.

Our Moffat Book Event on Oct 15 deals with lineage via our DNA (Alistair Moffat's talk at noon) and Moira Cox will help us dress to impress, making the most of ourselves. Carolyn Yates will lead the children's storytelling session on who am I? who are we? who are you? Identity was famously once said to be established by which side you cheered for at cricket (or football). Work defines us, too. It doesn't have to be paid work - although Dr Johnson said that only a fool writes but for money. More fool me then. But a book is definitely on the cards. It may be along the lines of Roger Lewis's gripping Suicide Notes,one of my favourite funny books. Or The Tap Dancer, a fictionalised story about a real family, brilliantly observed by Andrew Barrow, author also of Gossip which derives its power from selection and focus (it is compiled from items taken from the gossip columns of the newspapers in the 1950's). Look out today for wry comments on things that travel faster than light. My candidate: interest charges on tax demands I was never sent in the first place; time, when you're due at a meeting and still holding while a bank employee 'asks the technical department' for a way through the bank's new token system for online banking.

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