I was reading the news today. Or as John Lennon said…"I read the news today, oh boy!"
It suddenly struck me that what matters to us has a lot to do with our youth. The power of a news item has to do with having lived long enough to see something through. Most news items announce the start of something. Occasionally they announce a completion.
What do I mean? Well, today I read that British troops are all but pulling out of Northern Ireland. The latest round of "the troubles" started in 1969. I was 17.
After the BBC the next thing I knew by its initials was the IRA.
It seemed endless. Years later after I had left school, moved in with my first girlfriend and then moved with her to London, I remember seeing body parts of both men and horses strewn across the road in Hyde Park. I worked for Benton & Bowles, a London ad agency in Knightsbridge, at the time of both the Hyde Park and the Harrods bombs. I heard them both and saw the aftermath of one.
All I learned at the time was that, like so many other wars, the troubles were religious in origin. A lesson that has a lot to do with why I follow no organized religion. The final toll was 763 British soldiers killed and countless Irish lives devastated - both Protestants and Catholics.
Around the same time the IRA entered my life or a little earlier, I began attending the Nottingham Film Theatre. It was a simple, undecorated theatre that showed the kind of films that couldn’t be seen anywhere else in Nottingham. It was also easy to get in to see films that technically we were too young to be seeing.
Our favorites – me and my friends, mainly the guys who played in the band I was in at the time plus a couple of risk-taking teachers who might have lost their jobs if their superiors knew exactly how they were "educating" us – included the films of Ingmar Bergman. He died yesterday aged 89.
British film director Ken Russell told the BBC: "He was probably the greatest film maker," describing him as a "very gloomy Swede. He could hardly bear to watch his own movies, apparently they made him so miserable," he said. "To have done 50 films with such a variety of misery is quite an achievement."
It was a kind of misery that appealed to us at that age.
So as I think on these two events it seems to me that I am happy for the youth of Ireland. Finally they can grow up without being surrounded by the mindless violence of men who had long ago forgotten what they were fighting for. But they'll grow up in a world without Ingmar Bergman or anyone quite like him to examine the other endless war - between the sexes. The war that many years later Leonard Cohen would describe as…
"The homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who should serve and who should eat"
I didn’t understand it all back when I was watching Bergman's movies but I knew it was important. And it helped me slowly to understand everything that would come along later.
And as for that character who plays a game of chess with death? There's nothing more to be said.
We should be thankful that a great mind like Bergman's has left movies behind that can be watched forever. Maybe even by some kids in Northern Ireland who already have a deeper understanding than most about taking sides.
The troubles and the troubled.
Eventually it all makes a warped kind of sense.