Saturday, September 15, 2007

Openness

On Not Making Judgments

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. (Luke 6:37)(New American Standard Bible)

The Bible is a rich source of wisdom and this quotation above has been good advice in Christian circles for roughly 2000 years. It probably did not originate either with Jesus to whom we attribute this saying. All of Jesus’ encounters are humanly and psychologically enriching, quite apart from their religious appeal. Teaching as I do in an all boys secondary school I find that they are very quick to judge one another, to cast aspersions freely, to bully a weaker member of the school community, to laugh together at another’s misfortune. I remember an older teacher, now long retired commenting on the nature of a rather ill-disciplined class as “hunting in packs to exploit the weak and if possible to break this weakest member.” He counted certain teachers, whom he freely and openly called weak, as being subject to this cruelty of the mob. He was probably correct in his assertion, but I always disagreed with his open dismissal of those whom he deemed “weak colleagues.” So much for the macho world of control and ego, and indeed for the world of insecurity that triumph by reducing those weaker than the self to a humbler position.

I have been rather creatively dipping into a pile of books beside my desk just by way of experiment. I’m dipping into R.D.Laing, Freud, Alice Miller, Anthony Storr, Richard Bentall, Joel and Michelle Levey, Richard P. Feynman, Rob Bevin and Tim Wright (from whom I got this idea – their book is called Unleash Your Creativity: Secrets of Creative Genius, The Infinite Ideas Company, 2005), Ben Dupré, Kay Redfield Jamison and Stephen Wilson to get some cross fertilization of ideas which might link with the drift of my posts for the last few months which have been related to mental health and personal development. In The Unquiet Mind (Picador, 1997) by Kay Jamison, I came across this thought which set me thinking about a non-judgmental attitude in life and its importance: “Now he made no judgments about my completely irrational purchases; or if he did, at least he did not make them to me… I was able to pay him back the money I owed him. I can never pay back the love, kindness and understanding.” (op. cit., p. 76) Dr Kay Jamison is a clinical psychologist and is Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins University School o0f Medicine. She is also a sufferer from Bipolar Disorder or what is traditionally called Manic Depression which varies in between periods of remission from the highs of mania where the person suffers from delusions, enthusiasms for way out ideas and feelings that they can save the world as well as themselves from all possible types of disasters by far-fetched ideas. I have known a Manic Depressive who sold off his business at a knock-down price during one such period of Mania.

Dr Kay Jamison is a wonderful writer and writes with a fluent and clear style. For example she describes one bout of mania thus: “My mind was beginning to have to scramble a bit to keep up with itself, as ideas were coming so fast that they intersected one another at every conceivable angle. There was a neuronal pileup on the highways of my brain, and the more I tried to slow down my thinking the more I became aware that I couldn’t. My enthusiasms were going into overdrive…” (ibid., p72)

However, in all of this we have a non-judgmental brother who is able to help Kay. There was also a similarly non-judging professor who, shortly after she was appointed an assistant professor of psychiatry, would notice when she was down and would often come into her office and place a coat over her sleeping depressed figure.

The other day the School Career Guidance Officer and Counsellor Mairéad Martin and I were talking about how effective one of our colleagues is as a Year Head. It was Mairéad’s opinion that his effectiveness was down to his main quality of never judging the pupils and his ability to accept them with all their foibles as they were. Tony is literally a “warts and all person!” I don’t think I ever heard the man denigrating another, or even commenting good, bad or indifferent about another. This person is very accepting of other human beings.

It seems that Dr Kay’s brother is a similarly gifted human being. In relating to others, then, we must try to develop an accepting approach to them, to be open and to be totally non-judgmental. Now this is indeed hard to do, but it is infinitely important and desirable that we do so. As a teacher I must teach all equally, the weak and the strong academically, the extravert and introvert, the loud and the quiet, the well-behaved and the bold, the heterosexual, the homosexual, the bisexual, the in-between, the white, the black, the brown, the yellow skinned etc., the mentally sound and the less mentally sound and I as a teacher must try my level best to be even handed in my treatment of them. All of humanity is arrayed before a teacher as all of humanity is arrayed before a Doctor or Dentist. No Doctor, Dentist or Teacher can choose who he treats or teaches – at least that’s the theory in general, and the practice in most cases. There is also the problem of the lack of trust of human beings in others when they are so afraid to tell us how they feel or to unburden themselves of whatever secret problem is eating away at them from the inside. They find it hard to trust because the world is so often cruel. They are simple afraid of being rejected which is similar to being crushed. However, good Doctors, Solicitors, Lawyers, Surgeons, Professors, Teachers, Counsellors and Psychotherapists are encouraging and affirming and trustworthy.

Manic Depression like Schizophrenia is judged to be a Psychosis while other less crippling mental illnesses belong to the neurotic or phobia categories. Dr. Kay subtitles her book, A Memoir of Moods and Madness, and the sheer honesty and precision of description is liberating not alone of the writer but of the readers whom she frees to be honest in their turn. How we meet and greet others is so important, especially the mentally ill. But as I pointed out in previous posts let’s remember that there is a continuum or line between what we judge as sane and insane or what we judge as mad and normal. Where the points of demarcation are none of us can be sure. We are all sane/insane, normal/mad to one extent or another. Like I mentioned before in these posts every family is dysfunctional to some extent – it’s just that some are more dysfunctional than others. Everyone is mad to some extent – it’s just that some are madder than other. It’s the more dysfunctional families and the madder individuals that need the most help.

Therefore, we should try to approach others as a possible friend, as a VIP or very important person in their own right, no matter what their religion, race, colour, and intellectual ability; no matter whether they are big, small, thin, fat, beautiful or ugly, normal or “mad.” This is our challenge. This is the only really good human challenge worth taking. In like manner, we should treat our enemies in the same way if at all possible. As the Dalai Lama points out, after all it’s from our enemies, not our friends, that we have most to learn.

School Group, 10 January 2004

Counteracting Violence. Is it possible at all?



The Importance of Little Acts of Kindness

One of the quotations that dwell in my mind since secondary school is the following which I instinctively loved: They are words penned by William Wordsworth a few miles above Tintern Abbey,

"That best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love."

I remember with joy reading this beautiful poem as a boy. Those words are indeed important, because oftentimes they may mean so much to the hearer. I remember a psychology lecturer at college recounting a personal story which had happened when he was a boy. He had been very hard-pressed and worried once at school because his mother was very ill and financially things had not been good at home and he was one of the carers for his mother. Even these days (this lecturer is still alive and still working) he remembers the kind words of the principal who happened to be standing at the entrance to the school saying, “Tony, things must be very hard for you?” This lecturer informed us that he would remember those kind words until his dying day. It’s the same in my own life, as I’m sure it is in the lives of very many others, such words and acts of kindness, long forgotten by their benefactors, were and are truly significant to our personal growth as human beings.

Today’s society is a frighteningly violent one. Last evening on The Late Late Show here in Ireland there was an item on wanton violence perpetrated on unsuspecting random victims. The randomness, cruelty and sheer violence of such attacks was both disturbing and terrifying. These acts are perpetrated in the broad day light against anyone in a random manner. I remember a friend of mine being assaulted after these words from his attacker, “Hey you, what are you lookin’ at?” There then followed a head butt and some kicks into his prone body, thankfully not his head. Then at school, there have been many pupils who have been randomly and viciously attacked for no apparent reason. Why all this violence?

In a previous post I was commenting on Alice Miller’s wonderful little thought-provoking book The Drama of Being a Child. Even in a family which is less dysfunctional than others the child will bring with him or her unconscious traumas and hurts, which he or she, if they are lucky, will manage to come to terms with over the course of their maturation as adults. If they are comfortably off they will have more supports than their poorer contemporaries. Now take children reared in more dysfunctional families of the less well off and obviously we have a recipe for future personal difficulties in adult life. Given that most of these people will have little access to psychotherapy and personal counselling which to a large extent remains a privilege of more middle class society. Of course, I’m not saying that middle class people are any less violent than their working class or unemployed counterparts given the right combination of circumstances. One of our sixth year students was murdered by a 17 year old boy from Dublin 4, both of whose parents are millionaires. Whatever the evidence from this court case may propose as the possible cause for this unprovoked attack, maybe psychiatric problems or even drug-induced stupor or whatever, there is no doubt that violence is not delimited to any one class of society. However, statistics from our Department of Justice and Prison Services would suggest that a greater percentage of such violence emanates from the poorer sectors of our society.

However, statistics or any sociological appraisal is beyond my concern here. I’m more interested in the psychological and psychiatric factors rather than the sociological ones. My experience of teaching over the past 28 years in an inner city school in Dublin leads me to aver that there is much more anger in our youngsters today. Questions we must ask are where does this anger come from? What are the causes? What are the possible solutions? Youngsters answer back more aggressively than they ever did heretofore. Parents are very much in trouble – being unable to control their children. Many give into their every whim and even tantrum. We are trained to be Doctors, Teachers, Psychotherapists, Train Drivers, Lorry Drivers, Postmen etc., but we are never trained to be Parents. Arguably this is the most important role any adult can have in society – the passing on of values and standards and practices of good behaviour.

A poet friend and former teacher of mine, Fr. Pádraig Daly, O.S.A. argues that it is the stunting of a child’s natural creativity than leads to the phenomenon of random destructiveness. A child who cannot express him or herself creatively will do so by eventualky breaking things up and in extreme cases perhaps even harming animals and humans. I think there is a lot of truth is his contention. Creativity and the power of the imagination are singularly lacking in our educational system which is still very teacher and subject orientated at secondary level here in Ireland at any rate. The pupil-centeredness of the primary curriculum has not trickled through to the secondary sector really.

As I have only recently been asked to teach 1st and 2nd years after a fifteen year absence from junior cycle education I am more aware of how much I must work to build up the smaller kids, especially the weaker ones. Among our first years there are a good number of these latter with a host of different abilities and disabilities. However, a word of encouragement and affirmation never goes astray. One can almost physically notice a kid react to such positive words. There is an extraordinary power in positive discipline. Somehow, amidst the cares and strains and stresses of the curriculum as the years advance both teacher and pupil are sucked in as it were into the web of the exam system which can often be dehumanizing insofar as it emphasizes mounds of facts and information to be learned and forgets the personal development or indeed the needs of the child. Hence both teachers and pupils become tetchier and less patient with one another.

However, however my frayed nerves may be at the end of any school day I’m still convinced that it is of the utmost importance not to succumb to cynicism or sarcasm or to negative discipline. Sure there is anger in our students often created unconsciously by their own parents repeating the mistakes their own parents made many years previously. Also, for sure, there is anger often created by teachers unconsciously repeating the mistakes of their own parents and former teachers. Sure, this anger may be that which will light the fires of violence in our streets at the weekends. However, it is our duty both as parents and teachers to acquaint ourselves with the sources of the anger in our youngsters. It is also our duty to work for our own personal and professional development by making conscious our unconscious anger and bad management of our young people. We must question the ways we treat our pupils and children. Let us ask the hard questions of our own motives and behaviours. If we do so we will learn some profitable lessons and be more able to counter to some small extent at least the growing aggression in our young people. We will learn the importance of the wisdom accumulated by our forefathers over the years which are contained in the following quotes and in the one with which I opened this piece of writing. One thing we could do is ponder them as often as we can. Thus we will be able to play our little but significant part in combating random and unwarranted violence.

"It is very nice to be important, but, it’s even more important to be nice." Author: unknown

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." Author: Anonymous

"Society does not lose its values because of the activities of criminals; it loses its values because of the inactivities of the good people." - Swami Vivekananda." Author:Posted by Ganesh Aroor

"I believe that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong." Author:Unknown

"People will forget what you did. People will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Author:unknown

"Being kind is not your weakness. It is your best strength " Author:Kuppuswami Muralidharan

"Life is mostly froth and bubble; Two things stand like stone: - Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own." Author: Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70)

The above quotations I found on a wonderful site called www.actsofkindrness.org, a permanent link for which you will find among links on the right hand side of this blog.

The above is a picture I took of our Transition Year students in 2003. It's more important, indeed, to be nice!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Is There Anything There?



Some thoughts on the meaning or lack of meaning of Life

These few thoughts tonight are provoked by a momentary encounter, rather than a few words with the school secretary today. I say encounter because a chat or even a few words would reduce the significance of what could at first glance appear insignificant words to a bystander. Breda is our secretary and her brother, a priest, is dying rather painfully from cancer at 71 years of age – relatively young these days. He has been in much pain and it is only in very recent days that the medical team have managed to counter this with palliatives. As Breda was photocopying my few pages for class she mentioned her doubts about the afterlife in these words: “I wonder is there anything there at all?” I remember my father asking me the same question some years before he died. His first cousin, John who still lives in the U.S.A. was at home and they had been discussing the issue of the afterlife over a bottle of gin and John opined that a friend of his in the States believed that we were no more “eternal” than the plants which blossom and eventually go to seed and die out. I remember my father nodding in a somewhat less than sober agreement.

Mortality is always the backdrop which throws the whole of the enterprise we call life into relief. In previous posts I have alluded to our mortality which is the very defining force of everything that goes to make up what humanity essentially is at base. One can only agree with the marvellously brilliant philosopher John Gray in his wonderfully argued book (Straw Dogs) debunking most of the myths constructed by both religions and cultures in general and by sciences in particular which peddle the rather “religious” substitute scientific myths of the perfectibility of humankind and the onward linear progress of culture with all its great scientific knowledge. Gray argues forcefully and credibly that science has merely replaced one notion of salvation with another. He would argue that humankind has been adept at constructing myths of grandiosity, of inflating out of all proportion the significance of his own species to the detriment of other species, and in the long run, of course, to the very detriment of himself. Such grandiosity in itself makes mortality all the harder for humankind which is wont to believe its own propaganda and swallow whole its own myths.

Indeed, mortality also makes humans dice with death - spurring men and women to climb ever higher mountain peaks, to sail singlehanded around the world, to fly ever higher and to go into space. Otherwise humans would probably never do any of these things. The thrill lies almost in the possibility of our extinction in the attempt to do these deeds. Humankind loves the thrills of danger which are challenges that essentially only our very own mortality can face us with.

Other memories and images come into my mind. Firstly, Gerard Smith, a teaching colleague all those years ago who asked me the question early one morning in the staffroom “What is it all about anyway?” I cannot remember what I mumbled in reply, but Gerard’s question remains a live issue for me still. I might point out that Gerard had suffered from a congenital heart condition from which he would die some three or four years later. None of the staff knew anything about Gerard’s medical condition at the time. I realised some years later when I was told these facts why this young man was pondering this deep question then. I was somewhere other in my life than was Gerard in his. I simply was not at his depth of experience. I was not living with death at my shoulders as was he.

Since then I have known many people who have died both young and old. I have stood at their deathbeds including that of my father. I have been three years in a Religious Order. I have taken a postgraduate degree in philosophical theology as well as other qualifications. I have also experienced a fairly serious nervous breakdown (or breakthrough) when I was forty and was hospitalized for same for a period of seven weeks. I have also had one book published on meditation called Still Point Meditations (Veritas, 2002) and have practised the art or science of meditation for some twenty years now and have read much in the area of Buddhist psychology, philosophy and practice. But more importantly than all of these has been my life experience. Against this background am I able to answer the questions posed in this post? In short the answer is "not really” or “maybe” or “somewhat” or “yes and no” or “very unclearly” or “things may be a little clearer but there are still many unanswered questions.” Or as a philosopher/theologian friend puts it “I have better questions, but no answers.” I can live with this. The answers are always ever before us. That’s why the likes of Dawkins and other scientists of his ilk annoy me with their certainty of position, with their sheer dismissal of the approaches of all other contrary beliefs and certainly with their highhanded priggishness which dismisses their opposition as stupid benighted dullards. Creationism and Scientism both annoy me as does any reductionism of the mystery of the whole enterprise of life about which none of us can be that sure or certain of its significance and relevance in the infinity of the universe in which we live as billions of insignificant specks on another bigger insignificant speck in an ever expanding infinity.

Whatever about the answers, there is a restlessness within us and that restlessness is shown in our questioning spirit. We do gradually get some answers, some points of illumination, but all the time we come up with further questions. That’s no harm. This whole restless seeking seems to be the “stuff we are made on” to quote Shakespeare and to repeat the quotation of which I spoke in the immediately previous post to this one. However, less the reader feel this post is somewhat negative, I aver here that it not negative. Rather, it is realistic and existential because it faces us with the questions all human beings ask when confronted with the void of our own extinction. It is not negative because I am not proposing that life is a meaningless journey. I subscribe to the imaginative and creative impulses within our human consciousness which can compose the raptures of symphonies to capture the elusive magic of the spheres; that can sing marvellous and wonderful songs which wring tears from sentient souls; that can compose poetry and write novels that explore the needs and wants of humankind; that can push ever forwards the frontiers of knowledge; that can explore the microscopic and macroscopic worlds; that can weave myths, both scientific and religious to lift the hearts and souls of those who might despair in a cold world untenanted by any meaning whether that be God or Science or Both. If nature abhors a vacuum, our very soul abhors the lack of meaning. To weave myths, whether scientific or religious, to give such meaning is in itself a meaningful exercise. That exercise in itself gives life meaning. Whether our myths are real or actual or merely imaginative is really immaterial. Indeed whether they exist or not is meaningless.

Above I have pasted a photo I took of the Garravogue River, Sligo, Summer 2006. Meditative, no?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Childhood Revisited



The Stuff that Dreams are made on 1

Of Dreams and Nightmares

The complete quotation from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest (1611) runs:

“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep..."

Yes indeed we are the very stuff upon which our dreams for the future can be built. As I teach I constantly try to keep this to the forefront of my mind. I want the boys whom I teach to have dreams for the future, and to realize in their lives their true potential. Hence imagination, I believe, is the very cornerstone of education and creativity its expression in action. Here, I define imagination as getting the ideas and creativity as putting them together into action.

To a great extent, imagination and creativity are the hallmarks of a childlike approach to life. The famous artist Henri Matisse recommended that we “look at life with the eyes of a child.” I suppose here we could learn a lot from looking at children when they are at play – how they allow their imagination to run riot – how sticks can become guns, poles become transformed into horses, model cars the real thing, dolls transmuted into babies, barns into fortresses, tree houses into castles etc. Children are quite natural at role playing, too, because they learn by imitating adults they see in action. Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel Laureate for Physics, always retained a sense of childlike playfulness as a route to the discovery of new knowledge.

I remember when I was at college in the seventies of the last century my lecturers referring to the concept of “Homo Ludens” or “Playful Man.” This notion had been made popular by the eponymous book by the Dutch scholar, historian and cultural theorist, Professor Johan Huizinga. Huizinga emphasizes therein the play element of culture as distinct from simply the play element in culture. The preposition “of” is vitally important and much different in impact and meaning from the preposition “in.” The import of the “of” preposition means that playfulness lies at the very heart of the evolution of culture itself, while “in” would just refer to specific games within culture. Today the way we communicate through internet has given rise to a human being that almost constantly plays, learns and shares experiences in games, video and basically any other kind of information.

All of the above is marvellous in theory and absolutely wonderful if we can achieve it in practice. Undoubtedly, there were and are and always will be families where liberal, caring and loving parenting has occurred. However, from my own classroom experience since 1980 here in an inner city boys school in Dublin there is a growing percentage of children who have never experienced such an environment to stimulate their healthy growth physically, emotionally and intellectually. However, I must concur with the expertise of such leaders in the field of mental health and psychotherapy like Dr Alice Miller that “Apart from extreme cases, there are large numbers of people who enter therapy in the belief (with which they grew up) that their childhood was happy and protected.” (The Drama of Being a Child: The Search for the True Self, Virago, 1987, 2006, p. 5) They go on in the course of therapy to realize that while they may not have been systematically abused by parents or significant others they were in fact traumatized and victimized on occasions unconsciously by unthinking and unaware but otherwise caring parents. In other words here we have come face to face with the old dictum that there is no such thing as a perfect family, a perfect parent or indeed a perfect person. Many adults unthinkingly and unconsciously repeat the mistakes of their own parents and so on all the way back to antiquity.

I cannot move on in this small post without quoting the very famous opening sentence of this wee book, The Drama (op. cit. p. 1): “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.” In an appendix, which I consider to be almost a charter for the rights of the child, and consequently for the rights of adults, she goes on to advocate point by point how children should be treated to ensure the eventual sanity of the very race. She sees this as a revolution on a par with that of Copernican one in astronomy.

Point number 8 is brilliantly stated and cuts to the quick. I’ll finish this post with that point:

“Till now, society has protected the adult and blamed the victim. It has been abetted in its blindness by theories, still in keeping with pedagogical principles of our great-grandparents, according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack their innocent parents or desire them sexually. In reality children tend to blame themselves for their parents’ cruelty and to absolve their parents, whom they invariably love, of all responsibility.” (ibid., p. 154)

The above photo shows my brother Gerard and I with my Dad at our maternal grandmother's house in Crumlin, early 1960s

Monday, September 10, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti 1935 - 2007 R.I.P.



A Big Voice Falls Silent

In Memoriam Cantoris Magni – Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

As always in my writing, whether on real or on virtual pages, things come together and form connections and a greater whole takes shape. The death of the great and wonderful tenor Luciano Pavorotti has deprived us of the most wonderful and talented male voices of the twentieth century. In his own words: “ Penso che una vita per la musica sia una vita spesa bene ed è a questo che mi sono dedicato” which translates into English as “I think that a life spent in music is a life well spent and it is to this that I have dedicated myself.” We are the beneficiaries of Pavarotti’s wonderful and persistent dedication.

Let me return momentarily to my favourite psychiatrist of all time the great late Dr Anthony Storr. This latter scholar wrote a wonderful wee book on the psychology of music – a ground-breaking and particularly singular and original work to my mind. On the frontispiece of this book he quotes John Logan to the effect that “Music is the Medicine of the Mind.”(Music and the Mind, Harper Collins, 1997) My last posts were about mental health and mental illness, and indeed about what personality is for me, and now I find this great connection with music, which as I’ve quoted, is believed to be healing. How could one ever doubt this marvellous contention when listening to the wonderful instrument of the human voice in the person of the late great Luciano Pavarotti? His very name is synonymous with a richness, a height, a depth and a breadth of talent in the operatic field. As I type these words, I am listening to his wonderful voice wringing a tear from my heart – he’s singing the wonderful Ave Maria by Schubert at this very moment that I type this full stop or period.

It is often said the music is the language of the soul. In other words, it is a medium that reaches to the very depths of our personhood, deep down into the recesses of our hearts and souls. Years ago when I had, what I now count as the singular fortune, to spend some seven weeks in a psychiatric hospital here in the centre of Dublin City, many of us patients spent hours listening to music. Music is indeed healing. It possesses a spiritual quality that moves us to the depths and heights of our being. And, wow, could Pavarotti play with the strings of our souls and allow our own hearts to fly with him on a mystical journey to some entranced and spiritual state beyond our quotidian concerns? Whence comes such a power? If some space travellers came from afar and witnessed us human creatures making the weird and wonderful sounds we call singing or music what would they conclude? Why sing at all? Why these strange and wonderful sounds? Therein lies the mystery. Why is there such a thing as music, and why is it so consoling and enjoyable and moving?

Anthony Storr maintains that there is a closer relation between hearing and emotional arousal than there is between seeing and emotional arousal. He continues to ask the rhetorical question: “Why else would the makers of moving pictures insist on using music? (opus citatum., p. 26) Hearing is a more emotional sense than is seeing. We can see a wounded animal and not be moved, but let us hear the poor brute cry in pain and we are moved to our depths. In short music arouses our emotions more effectively than does any other sensual experience. As I type I am listening now to Pavarotti sing the beautiful Nessun Dorma. Those of my age and older recall well the opening ceremony of Italia 90 – the Soccer World Cup hosted by Italy in 1990 - especially because it was a marvellous occasion for us Irish as Jack Charlton had brought our team there. However, we recall this opening ceremony for another reason and that is that it launched this famous operatic tenor into popular stardom after his performance of Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini on the world stage. Throughout that World Cup the TV and Radio stations kept playing this tune as the signature tune of the event and it literally seeped into our souls. Our hearts still almost miss a beat when Pavarotti sings these tear-wringing words:

“Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
Il nomemio nessun saprà, no, no,
Sulla tua bocca lo dirò
Quando la luce splenderà,
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
Che ti fa mia.”

“But my secret is hidden within me;
My name no one shall know, no, no,
On your mouth I will speak it
When the light shines,
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
That makes you mine.”

Pavarotti was also noted for being able to hit ever so naturally and with seeming ease the top C – some nine of them in Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment. Another of my favourites sung by Luciano is La Donna è Mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Still another of my preferred numbers is César Franck’s wonderful setting of the Panis Angelicus by St Thomas Aquinas.

It is said that shortly before he died Pavarotti wished to make a CD of religious and spiritual songs. Alas, this wonderful human being was not to get his wish fulfilled. However, he has left us a wonderful repertoire of work for our constant delight. Outside his official operatic appearances, Pavarotti did much for charity –he annually hosted the 'Pavarotti and Friends' charity concerts in his home town of Modena in Italy, joining with singers from all parts of the music industry to raise money for several worthy UN causes.

Also concerts were held for War Child, and victims of war and civil unrest in Bosnia, Guatemala, Kosovo and Iraq. After the war in Bosnia, he financed and established the Pavarotti Music Centre in the city of Mostar to offer Bosnia's artists the opportunity to develop their skills. For these contributions, the city of Sarajevo named him an honorary citizen in 2006.

So a great and wonderful voice is silent – Vox magna tacet. Resquiescat in Pace. The one and only way to honour this wonderfully gifted and kind human being is simply to listen to his music. Vox ad perpetuitatem vivet.