Marxism, Opium and Morphine

It’s been an intense week.

Last Wednesday I was told of a tumour in my spine after experiencing some pain and immobility in my neck and right arm. I was operated on the following day (coincidentally the 66th anniversary of the 1949 Chinese Revolution) and have since been bed-bound and unable to do a great deal, this being the reason why I didn’t post last Friday. The bonus is the fact that the food in Leeds General Infirmary is actually quite good, and the downside is, well… cancer, but it can’t be helped; it’s the problem with having naturaly revolutionary cells.

Between now and last Wednesday I’ve worried about various things, but one thought that stands out is religion. Before I go into more depth, I’ll stress that I’m an atheist. Religion, the way I see it, is a reactionary and backward tendency that has stood alongside man throughout history, yet has always blinded communities and corrupted rational thought. As society has advanced, so has our depth of knowledge and understanding of the world and, as a result, religious influence has decreased in many ways, but that’s not to say it isn’t an issue. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the persisting cultural backwardness in the southern USA, and the political situation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Iran are all different manifestations of the same illness. Religion does to society what cancer is doing to my spine.

And then, of course, there is another side to this kind of faith, this being comfort, the reason it exists in the first place. I think it’s obvious that if it wasn’t for how deeply these spiritual teachings have already impacted upon our histories and cultures, we (in a much wiser era) would be far less easily convinced by the arguments they have to offer today, and the most important reason why mankind still clings to these outdated ideas is the sense of safety and security they continue to provide. Religion is an effective distraction and an inviting alternative to the harsh realities of day-to-day life, and this is why we swallow it today just like we’ve done for centuries. It is, in the language of Marx, opium for the masses, just like the oral morphine I’ve been taking to deal with post-operative pain (although unlike Islam, Christianity or Judaism, I’m still baffled as to why people develop addictions to this substance – I can’t say I’ve noticed it make more difference than paracetamol!)

Yet this is where God comes in to my story, because, just as I’ve swallowed the morphine, I’ve also been praying: my prayers tending to follow the lines of ‘Dear God, if you exist, I’d be so grateful if you would show mercy’. This isn’t to say I’m any more convinced of God’s existence than I was last month; I just took the view that it was worth it, in case I’m wrong. I know religious people who have prayed for me, too, and I welcome their thoughts and prayers as well, despite feeling slightly hypocritical given my own vehement atheism. If God does exist, I’d rather be spared than damned, and I see no wrong in telling him, even though rationality tells me there’s nobody on the other side of the void. And, after all, while mainstream Marxism rejects religious influence in societal matters, it doesn’t necessarily reject private beliefs. In the end, I suppose I’m only harming my pride.

As it happens, I have little reason to believe there’s a lot going on in heaven for me. On Wednesday I was told my that my cancer, on a I – IV grading system, fell into the most aggressive, Grade IV category. No one could commit to giving me a death date, but I’m left with the impressesion that, after chemotherapy, radiotherapy and physiotherapy (to regain movement), all of which should begin next week, I’ll have months to live. This was obviously terrible news, though it perhaps takes some of the pressure off as it makes me more assured in my godlessness, and I also can’t help but feel slightly proud that it’s my spinal cells which have done this. In revolutionary terms, they definitely quality as extremists. They’d dwarf the various coups in Argentina, which overthrew and replaced different governments in the region, or the revolutionary movements in the little communist countries like Vietnam or Afghanistan. My cells certainly take after the Bolsheviks here; if the February Revolution was my initial diagnosis, the October Revolution was my conversation two days ago. The shooting of the Romanov family is yet to come, but we sure these cells will take no prisoners there either. It’s also interesting to see that, due to their rapid growth and malignancy, they follow in the internationalist line, bent on spreading the revolution worldwide. Ideologically speaking, I can’t really complain.

But meanwhile, I’ll probably keep trying these things. It seems the logical option to utilise the means you have, in the hope that something may change. I certainly don’t feel any sensible reason why anything will, but our complete lack of evidence on the subject makes it just as possible as it does ridiculous, so it would be irrational to rule out ideas of God, heaven or the metaphysical world entirely. And, whilst still a card-carrying member of the physical one, I’ll hopefully keep reading, studying, and blogging.

I suppose we’ll just have to see how it goes from there…


73 thoughts on “Marxism, Opium and Morphine

  1. Dear Max
    I can’ think of anyone else in the world who would write that after the week you’ve just had. Amazing, thought provoking, honest and humbling.
    I love the revolutionary cancer cells. I’ve had lots of names for cancer cells; deviant, aggressive, mutated but revolutionary is the best.
    You’ve made us all think about religion this week. I don’t believe in God either but I’ve prayed for you and my Mum, who has got cancer too. I’m not really praying to God or a God, but something up there that possibly or possibly not decides our destiny. I do believe in destiny, but not whats happening to you. Something has gone very wrong and it makes me very angry and upset. I wish I could stop it.
    In the same way as us atheists are saying prayers at times like this and feel its hypocritical, I’m a scientist and I practice evidence based medicine and I like to quote the latest research or study, but when patients come and say ‘what do you feel about Chinese cupping or Ayudeveric medicine’ I always say do and try whatever makes you feel better….as long as you do the evidence based bit too. So if eating an excess of chocolate each day helps make you feel better, whatever, whenever.
    I hope your revolutionary spirit fights your cancer cells, they deserve to be slaughtered.

    Lots of love

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps there is all the difference in the world between religion and spirituality. Perhaps religions cause the wars and the deeply spiritual come along to end them. Can you think of any example where that wasn’t the case? Any great peacemakers without a deep, unshakeable spiritual core at their heart?
    From one who has been sliced, zapped and opiated more than you would think survivable, a quiet place in our heart starts to speak when you share the room with Survival. It’s your greatest friend, your most truthful critic, your lifting up and your strength. Call it God, call it your soul, call it hope, call it the drugs. It doesn’t matter what it is, it can sustain you and there’s nothing wrong with letting it.
    In those quiet ward nights, with the beeps and the ticks, you might find something you come to see as a great privilege.
    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Max, this is so amazing! You really are the bravest person I know. I am one of those people who have being saying prayers for you and I guess no one knows what lies ahead for any of us, but it gives me a sense of hope and calm and hope it does you too. Me, Rebekah, Will and Edmund are hoping to visit you as soon as it is convenient to you. Keep writing! Imogen x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear Max –

    I was so moved and impressed with your blog in many different ways. Your writing is very articulate,interesting and thought-provoking. I think you are really brave. I do pray sometimes even though I’m not sure what I believe. So I shall, of course, pray for you – I shall keep you in my thoughts and send you all my good wishes. I’ll also look forward to your next blog!

    Diana (from no. 15)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Max, All I can say is that I am impressed. Very thoughtful and well written. Your bravery and ability to stand by your beliefs is a testament to your character. I do think it is important to always separate organized religion from faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Max, putting aside any beliefs ideological or otherwise, the most important thing for you is to believe that you can survive. I was diagnosed with an incurable form of leukaemia 15 years ago and I am still here. The doctors are as impressed as I am. One fact I remember from the outset was that I was told that anyone who came out fighting from the start could expect to live 50% longer than someone who threw in the towel. I have been in remission for three years now since my last bout of chemo and feel very good. Come out fighting Max, don’t give in, best wishes, Brian

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Enjoying your eloquent blog though I wish you were writing/I was reading it in different circumstances! Wishing you very good luck as you start your new treatments this week, and looking forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Max,

    I read your blog with interest and the news of your cancer with great sadness. Your father sent me this link (I was at university with him and law school with both your parents and you came to my wedding when you were 3 days old).

    What I really liked in your post was the stoicism with which you write about your situation and the ironic humour shown about the revolutionary cancer cells maintaining ideological consistency with your Marxism. I also wanted to develop your point about religion. You write, as an materialist atheist, that religion has corrupted rational thought but nevertheless you have been praying just in case. The French philosopher Pascal called this strategy his wager, and he regarded it as entirely rational. Pascal’s wager is this: it is wise for an person to wager that God exists, since “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” Like you I am an atheist, but the fact that you are praying is, according to Pascal, the wise thing to do. So I don’t think it should harm your pride at all.

    I see from some of the other comments here that you are referred to as brave. My mother died young from cancer and people kept calling her brave, but she said to them ‘I have no choice in this situation and so that is not real bravery’. In your case your stoicism, humour, fighting spirit and (Pascalian) wisdom is, to me, what is impressive and admirable. I wanted to write and say this and tell you that you are in my thoughts (as are your parents).

    I look forward to your further posts and I wish you well.


    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well Max-

    Your writing belies your young age. Your fortitude and courage are simply inspirational. Keep writing Max, I am very much looking forward to more posts. Most of your analogies make perfect sense to me. My hope is that the parallel you draw with your reactionary cells have will continue until some capitalist forces rise up and contain your Bolshevik cells. What we need now is a White Army to stem the tide… And buy some time for a Ronald Reagan and (dare I say) the Iron Lady herself. Funny what you root for, or turn to in a crisis.

    -Scott Sullivan
    PS. Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about the US South. We northerners call them ‘Crackers’.

    PPS. Communism doesn’t work, because people like to own stuff-Frank Zappa

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Max,

    Dear Max,
    Your lovely aunt, my friend Helen, sent me the link to your blog yesterday and I have been ‘inhabited’ by it ever since. You are an excellent writer. The images, the substance, the structure, the argument – it’s all there. It’s absolutely outstanding and it also touched me to the core.

    I have worked with a lot of writers and I can tell you that you are an astonishingly good one. You have mixed the personal, the political and as if that wasn’t enough – your piece shows your amazing sense of humour. I hope you are working on your next blog because I really want to read it. And I’m going off to brush up on Marxism and find out more because of it.

    I will be thinking about you and your family as you start your treatment and I will be sending you love and (get this hippy concept) sending you loads of good vibes! And as you don’t mind, I’ll be saying a prayer too.

    I look forward to your next blog too, Max.

    All my love, your aunty’s friend from journalism college, Claire xx


  11. A poem from my once upon a time pupil, Tony Osgood, for you. I ll send the printed copy by next visitor. Good to see you today. Zip that headache away. Much love Nana
    No Zip Wires on the Ward , please.
    (Sage Advice for Max)

    “So what does one do for fun around here?” You ask, waggishly.
    “Well. Zip wires sag over jungle rivers
    Not hospital beds. But you can have a balloon,” the medic says tolerantly.
    “As long as it doesn’t go bang”, her assistant adds.
    Not much point in having a balloon you cannot bang.
    There is a dusky risk assessment outlawing such delights.
    And a balloon? We’re talking life and death here, not Disney.
    Disney lacks tubes and subtlety.
    “And the empirical evidence for efficacy of balloons?” You ask.
    “Well, when we work with children….”
    “Let me stop you there. Are you familiar with categorical errors?”
    “The NHS doesn’t admit to any errors. Not even Krakatoan.”
    You pause. “Just give me the balloon.”

    And no uprisings. Not pets. No drones.
    There is sufficient droning.
    No rafting down the corridors on commodes,
    No guitar solos (it sends the monitors wild)
    No skateboards, ezy rollers, Derren Brown shinanegans.
    (They apparently don’t take to well to people hypnotising staff into performing
    Solution-focused brief therapy through the medium of modern dance.)
    And when you feel un encumbered by social mores,
    Going ‘Bing!’ loudly is frowned upon as it makes the nurses rush to your bedside.
    Asking for a free trip to Disneyland is apparently bad taste
    Even if it is to hand out copies of ‘No Logo’.
    When selecting meals, ask for an ethically sound prawn and avocado salad.
    Do not break dance in bed.
    When they ask “Can I get you something?” Ask for black nail varnish and wink.
    No pirate impersonations. It rattles the people next door.
    Stirring mum’s tea with a rectal thermometer is worth a go.
    Sleeping with a rose behind the left ear always gives pause to the night staff.
    Screeching ‘Spider!’ loudly whilst in theatre is risky.
    When time for chemo sigh coquettishly ‘Mmmm, the good shit”
    Because humour is a zen koan in all but name.
    Read aloud Ricardo Blaug’s ‘How Power Corrupts’ – that wonderful mix of politics
    And cognitive science and psychology – to the person delivering biscuits.
    It will help.
    when asked if you’re for a scan raise your eyes to heaven and camply cry
    “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille”.
    “can you just confirm your name” should be met with a serious “Dorothy Nipple”.
    Seek to insert into each exchange a smile and a Rolling Stone song title.
    ‘just a little prick with a needle’ jokes are compulsory.

    But thinking of a zip wire as a metaphor
    Be it made of steel or illogical belief(but never religion.
    Religion will dump you in the river at the behest of the powerful.
    But belief is something more grand and elusive,
    Being less about materialism and
    More about yearning to be rescued from the darkness)
    A zip wire over the hospital bed-dread might pass many happ hours.

    You may empirically prove the nursing minute
    Lasts forty-two
    And Douglas Adams was a Prophet
    As you discover forty-two nationalities
    All of whom think Farage is too Alice in Wonderland to believe
    Even though Theresa May be a clone.
    (On her blog why does she seem to be telling us a tale of the big fish that got
    But there remain no zip wires on the ward unless you construct them yourself.
    Or have comrades smuggle them in.
    There remain a host of other diversions.
    Wittgenstein may not be one.
    B.F.Skinner (in cahoots with Buddha) is worth a punt for positivists.
    But consider the following to do list:
    One: Insert your favourite musician into conversations.
    Two:Bribe a sibling to write Expectp Petroneum by Nurse Nipple-Twitch into the
    nursing notes to see if anyone notices.
    Three: Go to the toilet in an Australian accent.
    Four: When asked if you’re comfortable say ‘Not until this sordid Government is
    Five: learn one Italian obscenity a day. There are many tens of thousands. Aim to
    get to the end of the list. And when you do, invent more.
    Six: develop the ability to fart straight faced then blame it on your parents.
    Seven: see how many visitors know Trotsky is not a drummer.

    A final word on the use of zip wires.
    Once set, their path. Is immutable save for revolutionary redesign.
    If set in stone perhaps we are obliged to follow their course:
    If so, go feel the river on your toes, the wind in your hair,
    And go weeeeeeee as you fly.
    Who knows what adventures the other side of the river brings?

    Tony Osgood

    All typing errors are mine. We ll opt for the redesign. Nana xxx


  12. Challenging and thought-provoking. Thank you for your articulate and amazing use of analogies.
    As a Quaker I will be ‘holding you and your family in the light’ – not sure how that fits into your world view but it makes sense in mine.
    Thank you for your courage and inspiration but be warned there will be no holds barred on the complexity of the homework I will now be sending you!
    Kate Vernon-Rees English Teacher


  13. Loved this! The analogies cast cancer in a new light for me! Me and Lily (says she does youth council with you) were ‘fangirling’ over it this morning! Will come see you soon when your mum says its okay! x


  14. Max
    You are not only an inspirational writer, but an inspiration to us all. I felt compelled to seek a way to respond to your blog by turning to perhaps one of the most famous revolutionaries who still happens to live in our times…
    Fidel Castro said “Revolution is not a bed of roses. Revolution is a battle between the future and the past”
    Incredibly, it has been reported that over the years Castro has survived over 638 assassination attempts, yet in August this year he has just celebrated his 89th birthday!
    This certainly gives a great illustration of how someone can defy all the odds.
    We are all with you and behind you in the revolution for your future!
    Malcolm Tolladay

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Max – difficult to find the right words after reading this piece! Magnificent in all respects – certainly a challenge to read and digest – but definitely focused my mind on two particular elements you mention – the power and role of HOPE, and the wayward paths LIFE FORCES can lead us down. For you, I shall now focus my energies on a counter-revolution of equal character! Look forward to the next blog 🙂


  16. I have to second Caitlin… Your blog is a great read. Can’t quite believe you’re just 16 – you’ve put my vocabulary to shame. Your Aunt Georgina passed on the news and we’re all so impressed by how brave you are xxx Yasmine, Griff, LG and Sophia in Tooting Bec PS I think you’ve made me even more left-wing today so your aunt will be pleased!


  17. Max, I’m a friend of your Aunt Georgina who sent me your link. You write so beautifully and are truly inspirational. Your remarkable positive attitude, strength and courage is highly admirable. Get well soon.



  18. Hello again – the trials and tribulations of the older generation getting online – I am passing this on from my Mum! (from Caitlin)

    “Sorry I hit the wrong button..
    Lost the thread of what I was saying .
    Mostly I would like to wish you a good recovery and thanks for being in the universe ! God bless.”

    Catherine Jarrett


  19. Max, your aunt Gina sent details of your blog to us, she’s so incredibly proud of you. I almost felt I needed to reach for the dictionary to respond and I’m 37 not 16! A great reading and looking forward to reading your next blog.

    I’m amazed by the strength some people seem to innately have. Keep battling and keep writing.

    Tamara x


  20. I found your words via Caitlin (above) and just wanted send a message of support – for both your writing and your battle to keep the revolutionaries at bay. I’ve only experienced cancer second hand – but it’s revolutionised my thinking about life. Live every moment, don’t save stuff until later and focus your time on things that really matter to you. I’m an agnostic yogini – so wish you the best karma possible. Looking forward to hearing more from you.
    Xx V (London)


  21. Hi max, I’m the other Marxist in your epq if you can remember me 🙂 I’m so so sorry to hear about your cancer, my thoughts are with you and I am hoping for your recovery! Your writing is exceptional and you are without a doubt the most politically thoughtful person I have come across of our age, I am inspired by your writing and think that you have a great gift. Your motivation and determination is amazing, keep it up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Hi Max,
    I came to know about your blog thanks to your uncle Adrian. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post as well as browsing through your past entries. As an atheist, I found the part about the prayer-conversation with God very similar to my experience (I have resorted to it a few times in much less dramatic circumstances), but indeed it is a perfectly logical and wise thing to do, as someone observed above. 🙂 I wish with all my heart that you make your very own miracle happen! I will be thinking of you while awaiting to read your next writings!


  23. I’m an atheist like you. You got to similar conclusion so much earlier in life, which is a real achievement! I believe in the statistical nature of the progression of illness, so, I hope you come out well above the norm. Just as you fight irrationality and harmful ideas, give this cancer a good beating!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Max, I was devastated to hear of your diagnosis and amazed at your post about it (and impressed as well as moved by it). I know how hard you worked over the last five years, so I’m hoping that putting the same effort into fighting the disease brings equal success. We’re all thinking of you at Millthorpe.
    Mr B

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Dear Max, I don’t know you (I know your uncle Adrian), but my thoughts are with you. I hope that if I got a diagnosis like yours I would respond with the same courage, realism and humour, but I somehow doubt I would manage it.

    I used to take the same view as you of religion, and it certainly has a lot to answer for, but I’ve grown more tolerant of it. Perhaps it is possible to understand religious stories, even if not as literally true, as metaphors, signposts that point to something – something about our common humanity, about holiness for want of a better word, that we don’t have a more direct language to express. For an atheist I’ve sat in a lot of church services – it comes with singing in choirs – and I’ve seen that for some people religion is a way of understanding our place in the world that inspires and helps them to appreciate good things, value and consider others, experience a sense of wonder, but also to deal with with bad or even terrible things.

    And besides, as you say, we never know for sure: perhaps we’re wrong and it’s all true. I’m a lefty like you, not that I think 1917 was a great advert for Marxism all told, but anyway, if your immune system is the Tsarist secret police and the doctors are the Allied powers, I’ll be praying that this time the Romanovs make it.


  26. Dear Max

    Your aunt Helen is a very dear friend of mine ( we met at the BBC some decades ago) and of course we were at her wedding. You and I didn’t meet , but I wish we had because my Dad was a bit of a Marxist ( that used to drive my Mum mad when he went on about it amongst friends) and I am a bit of a militant atheist and you and I could have had a good old chat about socialism and religion.

    I loved your blog – you are so strong ; not just in the face of disease but also you are bold in the candid and engaging expression of your thoughts and views. I think it takes courage to “come out” as an atheist. Lots of people are more comfortable hedging their bets and saying they are agnostic or “there must be something up there, but not maybe not an official god” . But not you , Max. I was so impressed how mature and confident you are in your reasoning ,- your blog is a refreshing pleasure to read.

    I really like the Marxist quotation your reminded me of ” Religion is the opium of the people ” I think there’s another bit ?? “… and the sigh of the oppressed . ” It’s an astute observation.
    ( By the way , I took liquid morphine for an agonising ear ache – I swear by it …. is that irresponsible advice ???)

    My Dad always believed we should have a money-less society where everyone works and receives
    the necessary services and goods to live. “From each according to their ability ; to each according to their need.” is how Marx put it , I think . What do you make of that ? Lots of flaws , I think ( that’s what irritated my Mum so much when he kept going on about it ) .

    I I am adding my heartfelt feelings to the wave of good wishes , support and profound love – you are receiving – you are much loved and cared for and this as much as anything will make you strong .

    Much love and strength

    Sue ( Littlemore)


  27. Max,

    I realise that you may be more interested in the ideas (MarxISM) than the man (Marx), but knowing how fond you also are of your own little dog, thought you might be interested in this passage about him written by Marian Comyn:

    “Karl Marx was fond of dogs, and three small animals of no particular breed-of a mixture of many breeds indeed-formed important members of the household. One was called Toddy, another Whisky-the name of the third I forget, but I fancy that, too, was alcoholic. They were all three sociable little beasts, ever ready for a romp, and very affectionate. One day, after an absence of six weeks in Scotland, I went to see Eleanor and found her with her father in the drawing-room, playing with Whisky. Whisky at once transferred his attentions to me, greeting me with ebullient friendliness, but almost immediately he ran to the door and whined to have it opened for him.

    Eleanor said: ‘He has gone down to Toddy, who has just presented him with some puppies’.

    She had hardly finished speaking before there was a scratching scrambling in the tiled hall, and in bounded Whisky, shepherding Toddy. The little mother made straight for me, exchanged affabilities in friendly fashion, then hurried back to her family. Whisky meanwhile stood on the rug, wagging a proudly contented tail, and looking from one to the other, as if to say: ‘See how well I know how to do the right thing?’.

    Dr Marx was much impressed by this exhibition of canine intelligence. He observed that it was clear the dog had gone downstairs to tell hie little mate an old friend had arrived, and it was her bounden duty to come and pay her respects without delay. Toddy, like an exemplary wife, had torn herself away from her squealing babies, in order to do his bidding’. ”

    I feel bound to comment that unlike Marx’s dogs ‘of no particular breed’, Tiger’s breeding is rather bourgeois…though of course Marx himself was from a well-bred family…rather like your own revolutionary cells…and that clearly wouldn’t determine her politics. Jonathan Myerson of The Guardian (see his article dated 4 Aug 2014 – sorry I don’t know how to do links) regards dogs as ‘community-minded, socialist, eager to make the world a better place’ – who could disagree?

    We always knew that you were an extremely articulate child, Max, and your stunning essay on Marxism, Opium and Morphine is an A* piece of writing, not to mention humbling in terms of its content.

    Tiger sends her love, as do Peggy, Jim, Liz, Max, Grace and Wilf – and even grumpy old Cocoa raises an eyebrow in your direction xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Max, I have just re read the bit I wrote on your blog (above) and when I say “child”, I’m talking about when you were little…you’re anything but a child now – the maturity with which you are dealing with what’s happening is awesome, and the thoughtfulness of your blog belies your years…

    Liz x


  29. Hi Militant Max.
    Like you I’m not religious but have said my prayers earlier on this year when taken ill. i say these prayers for you too Militant Max. Never give up giving up. My heartfelt love is sent to you across the oceans and I pray you receive copious amounts of strength and love to see you through this tricky time.


  30. We’ve never met but share many ideals. I felt like you, politically, when u was your age and continue to do so (I’m almost 32). I just wanted to say that while it might be weird in here if you’d like someone who you don’t know (sometimes it can be useful) to talk to. I always wished there was someone I could talk to who was removed from the rest of my life, perhaps that’s why other people like God. He can’t tell your secrets (if he exists, as I said, atheist). Anyway. I just wanted to say your writing is wonderful and you are never alone. The atheist community is a supportive one. We’re all there for you, in a web around the world. And best wishes that you will beat the odds and recover, revolutionary cells excluded.


    • Dear Max , this very minute they are resisting your cells and you may be lightyears away from thinking about your career. Now, having read the blogs I’d like to remind you of an earlier conversation we had about that. The booklets illustrated. You wrote for Toby, the illustrated cards for birthdays, your poems which I treasure( up in bed- and bathrooms)convinced me that you d make a great writer for children, who need good books badly at any age. Philosophy is another field where they can benefit from your gifts.who’d have thought it when you told me on the bus, aged 3, “nana, I am pushed for time…”. All my love xx



  31. Pingback: A Marxist perspective on cancer - Atheist Boutique

  32. Max,

    I am ashamed to say that my google history would throw up things like:
    Who does the voice overs on Peppa Pig?
    How many calories in a Double Decker?
    And more recently Are Ugg boots really out of fashion?

    So much time is spent on mindless trivia
    It doesn’t make us feel informed or enlightened!
    And yet this week, I felt both those things and I have you to thank!

    This week I googled The Collected Works of Lenin
    The life and works of Leon Trotsky
    And….Faux Fur Gillets (sorry….you can take the girl out of Liverpool…I’m working on that)

    I am quite fascinated by the principles and ideas behind communism in it’s truest sense….sure I had to look up half your references but finally a google history to be proud of!

    Max, you are a great thinker, a brilliant writer and above all you have the quality of all great revolutionaries…the ability to inspire!

    In the words of my new Google Buddy Leon Trotsky:

    “The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves.
    People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life,
    for only then do they fall back on their reserves”

    Max you couldn’t be further from the customary conditions of your life and the depth and strength of your character could not be shining more brightly.

    Thank you for inspiring us all

    We are all waiting with eager anticipation for your next blog….

    Your Very proud Auntie



  33. I don’t know you Max but I’m a friend of your Auntie Mel who passed me the link to your blog. You have left me speechless, your strength and bravery is something we should all aspire to. You write with such clarity and your thinking is illuminating. We are all rooting for you here in Bournemouth. xxx


  34. Hi Max,

    Yet another message from someone you don’t know! My son Matt was at Millthorpe with you and is now doing the same A-levels as you at All Saints and he sent me the link to your blog. I read your latest post yesterday morning and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since; it’s a very impressive piece of writing although not an easy read. I’m totally gobsmacked both by your philosophical acceptance of your illness, and by your impressive knowledge of Marxism!

    My thoughts are with you and your family (no prayers – I’m another atheist). Get well, the revolution needs you! 🙂

    Sophie (Matthew Wilson’s mum)

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Hi Max,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. It was very thought provoking. It is a very, very long time since I read your work and it is very, very different from Year 3!😊 We are all thinking of you at Scarcroft. You are so brave and we have put you on our ‘inspirational’ wall in the staffroom. Keep writing.
    Jenny Holton

    Liked by 1 person

  36. (third attempt) My texts seems to disappear:
    Dear Max,

    This is my second attempt, I wrote once this morning but the text disappeared.
    I send you some pictures on a text Loreto Adrian’s friend.

    Wow! your have such a revolutionary blood running through your vain!!! and an inspiring writer.

    Your writings reminded me of my youth, back in Santiago, Chile in the 80’s when we were under the horrible regime, dictatorship. Although I was no near your braveness, inspiring, elocutionary and articulated as you are now. I found myself reading Lenin’s Manifesto which some would say the cousin of Marx but it is more really like his son. More than with his writings (Lenin’s) I was more concerned with the colours of those day which were certainly mainly on the grey scale and somehow the manifesto helped to some of us to have a breath of an alternative and hope.
    Like your writings, which a refreshing breeze of bravery and persistence. There you also reminded me of a book (which I’m afraid I have not read) but I watched the movie, The Martians (a novel) by Andy Weil. Your persistence is like the persistence and passion of the protagonist Mark Watney. He kept going, this was the only way, I guess that is the best you can do! and gosh you do well. If you have not read it let me know and I send it to you.

    Your God thoughts touched me totally too, as there are many times that I have toyed with what I think is one of these paradoxes, self referential in this case: If it does, then it does not! and if it does not, then does! you get the idea I hope.

    With revolutionary hopes and how they say: Keep writing Comrade!


  37. Hi Max, I am Nana’s friend and she told me about your blog. What mature thinking and writing. Your optimism and determination is an example to us all.. You are very much in my thoughts. You know what they say Max mind over matter. Lots of love, Rene


  38. Hey max this is max withyman. I have given ur blog a read I found it witty and really cool I didn’t know much about communism and now I feel pretty well informed. Also I’ve been told that you enjoy Eminem my favourite music artist of all time, so if you want me to send you a few of his lesser known (but still brilliant) songs then I’d be glad to. All thinking of you sending u r best . Max W.


  39. Hi Max,

    I’m sorry to hear this is happening to you just at the (possible) dawning of the new socialist utopia. Socialism now exists as a political force in the UK and Europe once again having been all but invisible for 30 years. A whole generation has grown up with the belief that neo-liberalism is the only viable system. It is heartwarming to see so many younger people now waking up to the possibility of a socialist alternative, and the the realisation that voting can change things. Whilst there is a still a long road to travel, it is an exciting novelty to be part of a broader political debate.

    On the God question, I have cycled through belief and atheism to settle, at least for the moment as an agnostic. Since God, if he/she/it is exists is all-knowing, all-seeing and everlasting, it knows our struggles on the matter of belief and our thoughts even before we think them.

    Since humans tend to anthromphasise everything there is a tendancy to think of God in human terms. Since we now know that time is not an absolute and the universe exists in multiple dimensions I think it is entirely possible that God exists but simply in a form that we are incapable of comprehending. I hope that death will be a passage of sublimation into some higher consciousness at which point all these issues with which we grapple will become clear.

    I recently spent a weekend in a convent with a group of cloistered nuns, one of whom made a comment which touched me deeply,

    “We really have very little control over what happens to us.” Which for someone like me who tends to feel responsible for everything, came as a glorious relief.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Morning Sir. We nearly met once. I am the opposite neighbour of Gina & Ed (do you call her Aunty Gina?). Your clan were having a party in their garden in the summer, my wife, Jane came over but we had just got a puppy so I had to stay with her. Jane came back to swap with me but when I came over you were all being so loud no one heard me knocking on the door or the side gate, so after shouting didn’t work I gave up and came home with my beer. Alternatively Ed knew it was me and turned the music up. That’s a long way of saying you have no idea who I am. I’m Nick.
    Nice blog. Whilst I don’t buy into your politics I do like your take on religion. In fact I can’t disagree with a single thing you say. Have you ever heard of Christopher Hitchens? In case you haven’t Chris was probably the most articulate and outspoken atheists ever. If you want to see examples of someone who as far as I’m aware was never beaten in a debate on religion, do a search on YouTube, the guy was awesome.
    I’ve sent a link for your blog to my revolutionary nephew Ben. He’s just finished a degree in South American Politics (or at least that was his dissertation but not in those words) and he does buy into your politics. The fuse is lit now comrade.
    I look forward to your next installment but until then, avoid day time TV at all costs.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. No matter what belief or creed a person has, calmness and fortitude in extreme crisis have always been considered the noblest of behaviours. Your blog is a stellar example of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Hi Max,

    I’m an old school friend of your auntie Carmel who shared the link to your amazing blog. I’ll be back to read more, but just want to commend you for such intelligent, informed and interesting writing!

    Reading this entry, it tells of a very brave young man. I have an auto-immune disease (MS) and know that it is because I have Stubborn, opinionated Scouse cells running through me that I fight my own immune system, just like you have your revolutionary cells (and there has to be a bit of Scouser in there too)… Well I am hoping with all the hope I have, that your revolutionary cells kick your cancer into touch and keep your spirit high.
    My very best wishes, Sarah xx


  43. Hi Max,

    I don’t know you or your family at all, but a friend drew my attention to your blog. I too am a socialist atheist. I started questioning religion in a serious way when one of my friends died in a motorcycle accident in my teens. He was completely innocent and it seemed so unfair. I imagine your loved ones will feel the same way about your predicament. This was before Dawkins had turned full islamophobe so I took great comfort in his words, from the opening of Unweaving the Rainbow:

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

    I think this captures my attitude to life and death fairly well. The fact that we die is what makes life precious. We must make the most of our time because it is a limited resource.

    I hope you have a long and comfortable life, Max. I hope if there is a God then it is listening to you and allows you to live longer, and if there isn’t, I hope your cancer goes into remission or that you are otherwise able to be cured.

    But if that doesn’t happen, I think you should take comfort in 3 things:

    1. You have some time left, and you should make the most of it. Whether you live for 12 months or 120 years, decide on a few things you want to do and try your darndest to do them.

    2. You have had a positive effect on the people around you. It’s pretty clear from the comments on this blog that lots of people love you, and that you have touched a lot of people. I think you can take pride and comfort in that.

    3. You will not be forgotten. I certainly won’t be forgetting your bravery and from the looks of things many others won’t either. You have left a lasting impact on people’s lives.

    I’ll be thinking of you

    Liked by 1 person

  44. I’m so pleased I discovered your blog. I can’t agree with all that you say but you have succeeded in challenging my thinking and have inspired me to read more and look up some of the sources mentioned in the blog and comments. Keep up the good work, keep fighing and keep believing. X


  45. Dear Max, i was really impressed by your blog. I think you may also like to read some of Carl Sagan’s thoughts. ‘It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring’. He is one of my heroes from being a child and since I am not blessed with the ability to express my thoughts (unlike yourself) I thought you may like to add him to your ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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