A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man

The day was dull, rather misty, and wet under foot, but neither too warm nor too cold for walking. I began to think (without being especially aware that I was thinking) about the place of blood in Christian iconography, about the chapel in which I was raised, which seemed mildly obsessed with it; about those hymnists from the golden age of Nonconformism who described, in lumpish and ornery verse and a time when the gothic novel was rising in popularity, the seas of blood, streams of blood, lakes of blood, rivers of blood, fountains of blood, flumes of blood, wellsprings of blood, and oceans of blood which alone could wash their sins clean: evangelicals wear clogs to the ballet dance of the metaphors. I remembered reading that crucifixion causes minimal blood loss, so that — if the gore of the immortals is of salvific value — one is better off with a nice, quick beheading, and a bucket placed nearby; and reading (in Géza Vermes, I think) that Jesus’ own comments about his blood, shortly before his arrest, come not originally from the Gospels but from Paul, who was not present at the last supper but claimed that God had told him what was said there. I remembered the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ blood taboo, derived from pre-Christian Judaism; the son of Jehovah’s Witnesses with whom I was in school, who accepted a blood transfusion to save his life after an accident, and saw his parents once before they disowned him; and I remembered that this memory was in my mind when, as a student in Cardiff, I was helping a former Jehovah’s Witness pack her things and move, and found and offered to destroy her ‘No Blood’ card. Then I remembered those Jewish teachers who claim that the idea of one person being punished in the place of another is not compatible with the the Old Testament or with Judaism, that Jesus’ Jewish disciples would have found the invitation to ‘drink his blood’ deeply offensive, and would very likely have punched him… I remembered the Lutheran minister somewhere in Germany, who used a good wine for the eucharist, and afterwards invited me to dinner with wurst and cabbage and fried potato; and the chapel in Wales where — the Calvinist mood being suspicious of alcohol — they served the blackcurrant juice that symbolised the wine that symbolised the blood that symbolised salvation: until the service when they ran out of blackcurrant juice, and what was served after much confustication and flapdoodle was mud-coloured and fizzed in the goblets, more like the ichor in the veins of Old Nick than like the blood of Our Saviour —

And it was at this point that I came to, alone and up to my ankles in mud, in the middle of an empty field, muttering.


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A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man

The day was dull, rather misty, and wet under foot, but neither too warm nor too cold for walking. I began to think (without being especially aware that I was thinking) about the place of blood in Christian iconography, about the chapel in which I was raised, which seemed mildly obsessed with it...

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