I erred today.
I often do.
"To err is human; to forgive, divine".
The English poet Alexander Pope penned this line in his work, "An essay on criticism".
This is a very long-winded work which I have started a couple of times but have never finished.
I may some day.
Who am I kidding?
I will not.
In "An essay on criticism" Pope was expressing his thoughts on critics and other poets and writers of his time. From the little I have read of the piece - it is a rather bitter and unnecessarily lengthy piece of work.
Alexander wrote this more than 300 years ago.
Pope didn't actually coin the term, "To err is human" though. It is an English translation of a much older Latin proverb. "Errare humanum est".
Pope just added the "To forgive, divine" bit.
There are a couple of other fairly well known lines from Pope's "An essay on criticism". These are, "A little learning is dangerous" and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".
He was a bit of a legend.
It is not a bad word.
I like it.
The Latin "errare" meant to wander or go astray. It is also the verb form of the word 'error' which pretty much means the same thing. It is also an often and commonly used type of pausing word or a response when someone says something to you and you don't quite no how to respond.
You say 'Err".
This is how I erred today.
I was out in the mayhem of the Orchard Road shopping district today.
I was just sitting there watching the world go by and contemplating that I was back on this little island.
My holiday is over.
My friend Amin sent me a photo she took of a giant octopus yesterday that was sitting atop of a submarine in Sydney harbour. The octopus wasn’t real and Amin is not my friend’s real name. Amin is actually a crafty anagram to protect her innocence – although I suspect Amin’s innocence needs no protection.
She is a feisty little person who is clever and articulate and as a rule I like people who send me pictures of happy looking sea creatures sitting atop of weapons of mass destruction.
I don’t know why.
So I was sitting outside having a cool drink and a cigarette when a young Singaporean man approached me. He reached out to give me a plastic flower and he told me, "Jesus loves you"
I was sipping the last of my lime juice when he approached me and my initial verbal response was "Err".
Hence I erred.
My mental response was, "Argh" – and I had a vision of setting this pagan on fire.
I do not like being confronted by random Christians.
Organised religion of any sorts is not my cup of tea and given the madness and mayhem and all the atrocities performed in the name of alleged deities – I have no time at all for zealots of any kind.
Looking around I noticed that there were a cluster of young Singaporeans wandering around the area and all of them were clutching plastic flowers. They were handing them out to passers by and to people like me who were sitting down in the smoker’s area.
All of the evangelists were attired the same in plain black trousers, black shoes and bright orange tee-shirts upon which were emblazoned the words "JESUS LOVES YOU".
Front and back - and in black bold lettering.
They were all bespectacled and looked to be very clean-cut and blissfully happy Singaporeans. My best guess was that they were a fanatical Christian movement as they were all saying "Jesus loves you" as they were handing out their plastic flowers.
I had a cigarette in one hand and my near finished cup of lime juice in the other, so I couldn't really accept the flower from the chap who approached me.
I smiled a "Hello" though.
"Jesus loves you", the young man repeated and he again thrust the plastic flower towards me
“Really?” I enquired.
“What makes you think that?” I added.
“He loves you,” the young dweeb said again.
Without of course answering my question.
This is the Singaporean way.
"I am not sure that he does" I responded.
I refused to drop either my cigarette or my lime juice to accept the flower.
"He does lah,” the smiling Singaporean repeated.
"How do you know lah?" I enquired.
"He loves us all"
"All of us?" I asked.
"He loves us all" the bespectacled Singaporean beamed.
"He loves Kim Jong Un and Bashar Al-Assad?"
"All of us"
"And he loves evil people like pedophiles and rapists and murderers?" I persisted.
"Yes" the young fella asserted although he didn't sound so assured anymore.
"And he loves – or loved nasty fuckers like Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin. Pol Pot, Hosni Mubarak, John Cameron, Tony Abbott and George Bush?" I continued - reeling off the all the evil dictators that came to mind.
I was beginning to enjoy myself a bit now.
The poor young fellow withdrew the hand holding the flower now and he gave me a blank stare.
This is a fairly common response in Singapore that I am quite used to.
It is an acceptance of either non-comprehension or defeat.
"I met Jesus a couple of years ago you know" I told the stunned Singaporean Christian.
I wanted to add a little to his state of bewilderment.
I did actually meet a Mexican guy named Jesus during a thunderstorm at Starbucks. I wrote about this in a piece I titled, "Jesus and the Thunderbolts"
"You met Jesus?" the young fellow asked. His tone and expression was one of mixed wonderment and uncertainty.
"I most certainly did" I asserted.
"We had a coffee and a smoke at Starbucks in Novena and we watched a thunderstorm together. He told me that the correct pronunciation of his name was 'Yaysoos' but he didn't mention anything about loving me".
I repeat – this is all true.
I did meet a Hispanic guy whose name was Jesus. We talked a bit about lightning and thunderstorms in Singapore but he definitely did not mention anything that suggested that he loved me.
I would have remembered this.
The poor young pagan seemed a little baffled by my comments so he moved onto a rather gruff looking western fella who was also smoking a cigarette and was sitting a few meters down from me. He looked horribly English – with a giant beer belly, blood shot eyes, one of those noses streaked with red broken capillaries and a face that only a mother could love. All the tell tale signs were there of him being a heavy and hard drinker.
I watched the young Christian Singaporean endeavor to hand his plastic flower to this bloke. He said, "Jesus loves you" to him in much th same manner as he said it to me - and I nearly choked on the remainder of my lime juice when the man grabbed the plastic flower from the nice young man's hand and threw it to the ground.
He told the poor Christian boy to "Fook off" in a very loud voice. He said this in a broad cockney English accent and with a grumpy face.
I didn't think that this was called for.
I also doubted very much that Jesus would love him after such an act.
Neither the Jesus referred to in the Bible not the Mexican bloke that I shared a coffee and a cigarette with in Starbucks a couple of weeks ago.
I stubbed my cigarette out and as I walked past the rude Cockney bastard I paused and stooped and picked up the plastic flower and I flicked it on his lap.
"Jesus will never love you fat boy" I remarked as I walked away.
"You fook off an’ all" he replied.
I just laughed and continued on.