Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 200– a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
This is the ultimate podcast! But please, before ordering your troll farmers to attack me with digital flails, may I share with you the following instructive definitions from the internet dictionary.
Ultimate adj. 1.a. Being last in a series, process, or progression:
“As the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution, the Supreme Court occupies a central place in our scheme of government” (Richard A. Epstein) Mmm, worthy.
1.b. Eventual: as in They hoped for ultimate victory. Sure. That’s clear to me.
2. Fundamental; elemental: as in the phrase an ultimate truth. OK, I get that.
3.a. Of the greatest possible size or significance; maximum: for example, the ultimate act of courage. Many of these recently, I think.
3.b. Representing or exhibiting the greatest possible development or sophistication: the ultimate bicycle Look, this is the quirky example given by my internet dictionary, a bit of bathos at play here, perhaps…and finally,
3.c. Utmost; extreme: So then, how would you like to be the recipient of the ultimate insult. This meaning will feature towards the end of the letter.
Now, attracted as I am to all of these definitions, modesty prevents me from owning any but the first- that is, being the last in a series. I publish this ultimate post on Sunday, 8th May, which is Mother’s Day for Australians, as well as Russians, Ukrainians, Americans and citizens of several other countries this year. Which brings me to the first song of this last Letter. There are many, many, beautiful songs sung to, for and about mothers and motherhood. Additionally, this year, it is also, International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on 8th May every year, so you might think that it would be entirely serendipitous were I to find a song that also included all women for a harmonious rendition extolling their multifarious virtues and achievements over time.
Alas, my muse is a cruel mistress. And, although I trawled through list after list of songs about mothers and songs about women, reaching out for this one or that one- she kept yanking me back to one song in particular. Not that I dislike it, far from it- it is a great song by one of the greatest songwriters. It was written in 1964 and recorded in 1965. I first heard it from a friend’s LP at Trench House in 1968 in my first year as a student in residence there. But I’ve never sung it or recorded it- until now.
These snippets from Wikipedia help to define it, “a grim masterpiece.” The lyrics express… anger at the… hypocrisy, commercialism, consumerism, and war mentality in contemporary American culture… the song addresses “the possibility that the most important (and least articulated) political issue of our times is that we are all being fed a false picture of reality, and it’s coming at us from every direction.”
Good Lord! The song is as relevant today as when it was first written almost sixty years ago. There is no one, in my opinion, comparable to the writer of this song, who has released music of enduring quality and influence in each of the last seven decades! It is, of course, Bob Dylan, to whom I refer, and his song It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding) fits right in with the times we are living through now. And that must be the reason my muse kept me from all the other worthy candidates for this, the– and here comes that adjective again- ultimate song cover. [insert song]
So, OK, not your typical song involving a mother. But it has been observed that soldiers, in extremis, cry out for their mothers, as the dark ferryman Charon approaches to take them over the River Styx to Hades. Rudyard Kipling recognises this special bond between a mother and son in his poem, Mother O’ Mine. A short poem of eleven lines, the second and fourth line of quatrains one and two is, Mother O’ Mine, Oh, Mother O’ Mine Here are the other lines: If I were hanged on the highest hill,/ I know whose love would follow me still//If I were drowned in the deepest sea,/I know whose tears would come down to me//The final tercet is, If I were damned of body and soul/I know whose prayers would make me whole./ Mother O’ Mine, Oh Mother O’ Mine//
But the final poem about mothers must be from a woman’s perspective. Followers of the Letters will know the high regard I have for Sylvia Plath. Her poem, Morning Song, starts this way, Love set you going like a fat gold watch/. This brilliant opening line sets the standard for the rest of the poem about her confused feelings after the birth of her first child. I’m no more your mother/Than a cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow/Effacement at the wind’s hand// The penultimate stanza combines love and self-mockery, One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral/In my Victorian nightgown. The final lines of the poem combine a sense of foreboding with an apprehension of joy, The window square whitens// and swallows its dull stars. And now you try/ Your handful of notes;/ The clear vowels rise like balloons//.
I think we can agree that mothers are- to use yet another adjective- superlative. I am now floating on an icefloe towards Ultima Thule, that northernmost land of ancient storytellers. Or, am I, instead, encased within a space capsule hurtling and tumbling through an interstellar void towards the object known to science as 2014 MU69? One way or another, the Letters From Quotidia are a long way from their planned trajectory when I started to transform a series of online diary entries, written years before, into the podcasts of this name which commenced publication on January 11, 2021. I thought, like some dandy or dilettante, that I would wander effortlessly through an intellectual maze of my own construction, composed of poetry, song, art, history and- that Irish formulation that starts and ends each of the Letters- the crack!
But, just as manifestations in spacetime are bound by universal rules which determine that objects of lesser weight are subjugated by those of greater heft- so, too, my course sees me bending back to that place where I first began. Subject to the relentless force of geopolitics that is distorting the gossamer filaments of my flimsy fabrications, I need now, like the uroboros, to swallow my own tail- and like Shakespeare’s magnificent construction of Prospero and The Tempest– vanish like the remnants of a dream.
But before I do- and with your indulgence- may I summon yet another avatar of the adjective ultimate? I mean the noun, ultimatum! And in a thought-experiment, or dream like that mentioned by Bob Dylan in the final chorus of It’s Alright, Ma, might we demand that all of those who favour violence, discord, division, and mayhem, as ways of dealing with the problems of the world we live in- could we give them all an ultimatum: mend your ways or accept permanent banishment to Ultima Thule!
A nice thought, of course. And one that the cynical will disparage and reject. But maybe, just maybe, in this merry month of May, which is the month of Mary, after all, we could try channelling the upwellings of peace that spring from the hearts of good people everywhere to try to make a difference in a world that wants- and needs- peace. So, here we are, back at the start.
My name is Procrastis, and procrastination’s my game, I proudly boasted. But I’ll not do that now. The song I will reprise for this, the ultimate original song of the series, is Everybody’s Story which I wrote more than half a lifetime ago. But the sentiment expressed was true back then- and way before time immemorial as well! It’s true now and will be as long as humanity holds sway in our little bit of the universe. And the sentiment?- everybody’s story’s got a point. The fictional detective, Harry Bosch said, everybody’s important- or no one is. And I’m pretty sure a non-fictional guy in Palestine over 2000 years ago said something very similar. So, to end the Letters From Quotidia, here is, Everybody’s Story. [insert song]
Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.
For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.