When the Beatles were communing with the Maharishi in India, I was changing nappies as I made my own contribution to the population explosion of the ’60s.
In the ’70s, I was working full-time–supporting those same progeny–and mantras weren’t even missed, just forgotten.
In the ’80s, as a PAYE worker during the state’s most punitive tax regime, I struggled like so many others to maintain a mortgage, to provide a home for my children.
In the ’90s I longed once again for a mantra, but after initial enquiries about a Transcendental Meditation course, I decided to go it alone.
Along the way, I did have mantras of my own, intermingled with daily life. My mother taught me the comfort of ejaculations, which made great sense to a child named for the Blessed Virgin Mary. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’; ‘O Mary, Mother of God, I lay my troubles at your feet’; ‘St Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases, please help me find my keys, cheque book, gloves, tax form, etc. etc. etc.’ As doubt dimmed my faith, so too did my reliance on Catholic mantras.
‘We shall overcome’, the mantra of the Civil Rights movement in America, still haunts me when I see old news footage of that seminal decade when so much seemed possible.
Then there were the trendy mantras among professional circles involved in special needs–normalisation, integration, age-appropriate, client-driven, community care, advocacy. Perhaps linguistically helpful to communication in service-provider speak, to parents the terms remained mostly meaningless. ‘Parent power’, a mantra of the 80s, had a hollow ring when echoed by service providers who held on to their power behind closed doors, refusing to relinquish any of it to advocates/parents for those with special needs.
A popular Irish mantra provoked palpitations in my chest–‘please God’ firmly attached to a future plan or arrangement: ‘We’ll see you next month, please God’, ‘Our place next time, please God,’, ‘We’re going back to the south of France next year, please God!’
For years I thought the supplicant had secret advance knowledge of some impending tragedy looming on the horizon which could intervene and prevent whatever plans were being arranged. Now, hearing the humble petition, ‘please God’, only raises a flutter in my heart.
‘Time, please, ladies and gents’ used to ring out in Dublin hostelries, painful to the ears of dedicated drinkers. As my alcohol tolerance levels send me home long before any barman-mantras, and extensions are common, this plea may have gone out of fashion.
‘Ooo, aah, Paul McGrath’ resounded on football terraces in Ireland’s glory days of the last century–hopefully to return in the 21st. Mary Kate was reduced to tears, hearing that football mantra, the great defender’s name echoing across the pitch at his testimonial game at Lansdowne Road in 1998. She has collected her own little mantras over the years. Whether she is going to the corner shop or to work, or on an overnight at her brother’s house, she reminds me on her way out the door: ‘Don’t I always come home to you?’–a fervent wish we share equally.
Over the summer, I taught her some songs for party pieces. She took a particular fancy to Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing, gonna be alright.’ In the evening, when we have both settled for the night, she will often chance another goodnight hug, if she sees my light on. Knowing she has a good excuse to prolong the bedtime routine, she perches sweetly at the side of my bed: ‘Don’t worry .…’
And I think to myself as a self-appointed worrier about all things trivial, monumental, and all the in-betweens, that in some transcendental way this cheery advice is the mantra for me!
After all these years, my maharishi, my little sage, was beside me all the time.