I don’t want to get all heavy today, but I kind of feel like I have to.
We live in strange, scary, uncertain times.
I always knew we’d see these days or days like them; standing at a trade union event about 15 years ago I told a group of Bright Young Things (I wasn’t a bright young thing even then) that every generation which was ever washed away on the tide of history grew up thinking “what’s now is forever.”
You didn’t have to be a genius to see that the paradigm had to shift.
Whether it was an economic catastrophe, a climate one, a global war, an act of terrorism or some other calamity either inflicted upon us or brought upon ourselves, the only certainty was that it would come, a defining moment which changed the world and the way we looked at it, forever.
Nobody but the greatest soothsayer could have predicted we’d be confronted with some combination of all of them, and that the backlash against the established order would be so swift or severe. We’re on a rollercoaster now.
Reasons for optimism are hard to find, but be comforted by one certainty that will outlast us and still be here when we’re dead and gone; Celtic.
It sounds ridiculous to be talking about our club in that fashion on a day like today, as a monument, as something with roots than can endure, but our club existed through darker days than these, and it will shine in the light again when these days pass us by, and recede into the rear view mirror of history.
Back when I was working on Celtic Quick News Magazine, I wrote an article on an old geezer named Jack Marshall, who was a Celtic season ticket holder in his 80’s who’d seen us in Lisbon, backed Fergus, once told Hugh Keevins to piss off from his breakfast table and who’s whole life had been defined by a love of our club.
He was a war veteran who’d been captured by the Germans and held in a POW camp. Through the ordeal, it was Celtic who kept him going, who kept him sane, and it never ceases to amaze me that the institution we all love was there the whole time, inspiring people like Jack even in the darkest hours mankind has ever faced.
Celtic was what they held onto.
Those who feel the walls closing in on them today would do well to consider that, and think of what Celtic represents.
My own political leanings undoubtedly owe everything to being a follower of this club; the romance, the mythology, the very founding principles we were created to fulfil, it all flows in to who I am and what I believe in, which is why I mourn today as America embraces an anti-immigration bigot who rode to power on the coat-tails of people he’ll now ignore and marginalise even further.
I wonder what we’ve learned as a species, whether we’re better than we were in the days when the Irish in Stranraer and New York Harbour were greeted with hostility and even hate, but who found in our club friends and help and something to gather round.
Those compassionate roots extend across the world even today.
I think about foodbanks and how a section of our supporters have taken to working tirelessly to help them and those who need them; a response to a crisis made right here, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, at a time when politics and its adherents have failed or forgotten or just ignored the plight of tens of thousands of people.
I look back at the Palestinian fund raiser, one of the greatest acts of kindness and compassion for others I’ve ever seen in my life, period, and not just in football terms.
I think about Martin Kane, whose life was enhanced and then, in a very real sense, saved by the kindness of strangers, ordinary people on a blog who never knew him in the proper sense but nevertheless raised money for him when he got sick.
I think of the foundation which bears his CQN nickname, and of the lives it has made better.
I remember Oscar Knox, the light that never goes out, who touched the lives of so many of our supporters and people in the wider world, who’s time on this Earth was all too fleeting, all too brief, but who nevertheless made it a brighter, better place, which it remains because of him, even now, so many years after he has gone.
I think of Jay Beatty and the way the world embraces him, and of how he teaches us a little something about ourselves, that we’re more tolerant and loving and capable of reaching for the grander emotions than we might at first have believed. He inspires us every single day, making us want to be better people, he makes us want to see the world as he sees it, as something filled with hope and where all we need to know is that Scott Brown and Brendan have us on the right path, and that through that everything else will fall into place. He and his family share so much of themselves with us; it’s heart-warming to think how much of ours we share with them.
I think of the Thai Tims, on the farthest edge of this Family, and of young Raemon Gormley who went over to help them, who shared his life and his spirit with them, a tremendous force of good whose spirit endures despite his own clash with evil and untimely death. He is remembered every day in the monument that bears his name.
Even amidst the darkness and uncertainty, there is love and there is kindness and there is a community greater than social status, class, geographical boundaries, religious persuasion, sexual orientation or any of the other dividing lines which unscrupulous people try to throw up to keep us apart.
And I remember the good that’s out there, that’s in here, that we hold to as part of Celtic, and as Celtic as part of us.
Because this club and everything that surrounds it reminds us that there are things which do endure, which stand up through the good times and the bad, that this institution that means so much to us does more than just join us together for the purpose of watching eleven men kicking a ball around. It is a source of pride to us, inspiration to us, an ideal which changes the way we look at the world and helps us make sense of the shadows enveloping it.
And it will be here, no matter what, and we will always be able to rely on it and the greater community that surrounds it.
Look at who you are today, what you believe in, and what this club made you.
Think of your friends at other clubs, and the ties which bind them, not just to you but to each other.
Football is often used to divide us, but let’s not forget its unifying potential as well … and in glimpsing those strands that join us there’s hope.
Celtic is at the centre of so much of my life, and yours.
Faithful through and through is a belief that things will get better, that trusting others is the right thing to do, that holding on to hope is better than giving in to despair.
That’s why I know better times will come, that we’ll stand up, that we’ll get through.
Or to put it another way, “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark.”
You’ll never walk alone, brothers and sisters.
Try to remember that, above all, if you’re feeling fed up or angry or just despairing about the state of the world.
Not everything is as bad as it seems.