13 August 2023

May God bless you
and 7 million readers
with discomfort, anger,
tears and foolishness

Historians estimate that there were about 7 million people on the earth in 4000 BCE; now we are about 7 billion

Patrick Comerford

This blog has reached the monumental landmark of 7 million hits. The 7 million mark was passed earlier this morning (13 August 2023), and it has come as a delight.

After I began blogging, it took until July 2012 to reach 0.5 million hits. This figure rose to 1 million by September 2013; 1.5 million in June 2014; 2 million in June 2015; 2.5 million in November 2016; 3 million by October 2016; 3.5 million by September 2018; 4 million on 19 November 2019; 4.5 million on 18 June 2020; 5 million on 27 March 2021; 5.5 million on 28 October 2021; 6 million over a year on 1 July 2022; and 6.5 million earlier this year (6 February 2023).

This means that this blog continues to reach half a million readers in a seven-month period, somewhere above 71,000 a month, or up to 2,400 a day. In recent days these figures have been exceeded on occasions, with about 8,000 to 10,000 hits a day since the end of July.

With this latest landmark figure of 7 million hits, I found myself asking: what do 7 million people look like?

Historians estimate that there were about 7 million people on the earth in 4000 BCE; now we are about 7 billion.

NHS figures show about 7 million people are waiting for consultant-led NHS hospital treatment.

The combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution is associated with 7 million premature deaths a year.

WHO figures show more than 7 million people die each year as the result of direct tobacco use … and another 1.3 million people die as the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Over 7 million people have been internally displaced since the invasion of Ukraine.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, which was evacuated yesterday (12 August 2023) following a bomb threat, has about 7 million visitors a year.

This is the population of Serbia, Nicaragua, Libya and Paraguay. The population of Kula Lumpur and Hong King is about 7.5 million, but at least four cities in China have a population of 7 million or more each: Xi’an, Dongguan, Hangzhou and Foshan.

The visits of Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak to Northern Ireland earlier this year cost an extra £7 million in policing.

Sorrento, a six-bedroom Victorian house in Dalkey, Co Dublin, with views over Coliemore Harbour, was put on the market last year with an asking price of €7 million. The house was built ca 1860 and has been totally refurbished in recent years.

I have said so often before that this is not a ‘bells-and-whistles’ blog, and I still hope it is never going to be a commercial success. It was never designed to be so.

I decline advertising and commercial sponsorships, I accept no ‘freebies,’ and I endorse no products. Even when I am political, mainly about war and peace, racism, human rights and refugees, I refuse to declare my personal party preferences when it comes to voting.

I continue to resist commercial pressures, I have refused to receive books from publishers and I only review books I have bought myself. Without making too much a point of it, I value my independence so much that I refuse the offer of coffee when I return to a restaurant I mention … as journalists like to be reminded, there is no such thing as a free meal.

The half dozen most popular postings on this blog so far have been:

1, About me (1 May 2007), about 35,000 hits.

2, The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010), over 30,000 hits.

3, ‘When all that’s left of me is love, give me away’ … a poem before Kaddish has gone viral (15 January 2020), over 26,600 hits.

4, Readings in Spirituality: the novelist as a writer in spirituality and theology (26 November 2009), over 16,500 hits.

5, A visit to Howth Castle and Environs (19 March 2012), over 16,000 hits.

6, Raising money at the book stall and walking the beaches of Portrane (1 August 2011), over 12,000 hits.

When I think of 7 million hits, I think of 7 million people, and today I am humble of heart rather than having a swollen head.

But this blog should never be about success measured in the number of hits. A recent posting by my friend and colleague, the Revd David Messer, helped me to draw a comparison of blogging like this and some of my recent experiences in rural ministry.

‘I wish I had something worthwhile of my own to say, but at the moment, I haven’t the wherewithal ... because rural ministry means living in a permanent state of failure – which is exhausting. So instead, here’s a wonderful quote from Giles Fraser, which gives me heart:

‘In a world where we semaphore our successes to each other at every possible opportunity, churches cannot be blamed for failing to live up to this austere and wonderful message. The worst of them judge their success in entirely worldly terms, by counting their followers.

‘Their websites show images of happy, uncomplicated people doing good improving stuff in the big community. But if I am right about the meaning of Christ’s passion, then a church is at its best when it fails, when it gives up on all the ecclesiastical glitter, when the weeds start to break through the floor, and when it shows others that failure is absolutely nothing of the sort.

‘This is the site of real triumph, the moment of success.

‘Failure is redeemed.


Now that I am in my 70s, I find myself agreeing with the Swedish actor Ingrid Bergman when she once said: ‘Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!’

Moving from ideas such as these into prayer on this Sunday afternoon, I might pray in these words, although I do not know who wrote them:

‘May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live deep within your heart.

‘May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality and peace.

‘May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy.

‘And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.’

The Eiffel Tower in Paris attracts about 7 million visitors a year

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