One Man's Web
I arrived at Booleroo at 8am, just in time for breakfast as the bakery opened. A farmer came in to get the paper and a Farmers Union Iced Coffee. He asked where I'd come from. "Melrose, this morning."
"You don't come from there."
"No. Rode up yesterday from Adelaide. Going to Burra today." (It's about 150 miles to Melrose from our place, and another hundred to Burra.)
"Jeez! What's wrong with you? You must hate yourself, or something!"... Read on >>>>
I'm trying to teach myself photo editing, which is proving slow, given I have about zero natural talent. I decided to take one of my photos and remove a couple or road signs. It's not that the signs spoiled the photos; the deep yellows worked quite well with the colours of the landscape. But each sign was a large block of colour that needed to be replaced with what I imagined might have been behind it; this was no mere removal of a dust speck on one of my father's old slides.
I spent half an hour trying to remove a sign which bisected a gum trunk and shrubbery. Intense concentration had been focussed upon this spot, but as I zoomed out I realised I had failed to see something mere pixels away. A political advertisement—vote for me!—was nailed to the tree. I was so focussed on the yellow diamond of the sign that I had been blind to it!
It's a metaphor for life. Where will we focus our attention? Will it blind us to what else is around us? What should we be looking for?
I have a friend who is a citizen of the world; a scholar who has contacts and clients across the globe; who meets with Presidents and other notables most of us never see except on TV. Her books are in libraries across the world. She writes
I had to comfort one of our servers in exile in the baptistery last week after we banned him from serving for being way over the drink-drive limit.... Read on >>>>
In Year 10, I was 15. I was solitary, lonely, and depressive—not that we knew that language then. Life was hard; I had little sense of who I was, what life was about, or where I was going. And then Mr. Fauser arrived.
He was my Year 10 class teacher, and my science teacher. He was larger than life; funny, loud, irreverent, and tuned in to kids. He coached the school hockey team. He introduced a group of us to bushwalking, and took us all over the state. Suddenly, I had a community, and a hero. Life began to come together.... Read on >>>>
There is a constant battle going on in our house; there are our cats and Jo’s cats. Each one wants to be Top Cat. They all think they are better than the dog, but most of them are a little bit scared of the dog.
The Dog knows it is better than the cats—it’s a person, after all—but is a little scared of a couple of the cats. So we have some battles royal, especially if a cat goes near the dog’s food bowl.... Read on >>>>
If anybody is going to join anybody, Henry, the Methodists are going to join us. Bishop Hever to Archdeacon Blunt, All Gas and Gaiters
If there is a fundamental experience in my life, it is that of being separated; of being alone. If there is a fundamental desire, it is the desire to be connected. Yet my greatest fear is to lose myself; to be subsumed. So if anybody joins anybody, Henry, you will join me.... Read on >>>>
When everything seems hopeless, keep hoping.
When it seems so bad that it could never be worse, and never get better, remember that God will still bring good.
When it is so bad that the only hope for the world is for it to be rebuilt—made again—then God will create a new heaven and a new earth, and you will not be forgotten.
That is the basic message of The Book of Revelation.... Read on >>>>
Only with the Greeks does there enter the notion of a formal divide between our species, our animal, and every other on earth....
In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin made the intriguing claim that among the naturalists he knew it was consistently the case that the better a researcher got to know a certain species, the more each individual animal’s actions appeared attributable to “reason and the less to unlearnt instinct.” The more you knew, the more you suspected that they were rational....
If we put aside the self-awareness standard—and really, how arbitrary and arrogant is that, to take the attribute of consciousness we happen to possess over all creatures and set it atop the hierarchy, proclaiming it the very definition of consciousness (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg wrote something wise in his notebooks, to the effect of: only a man can draw a self-portrait, but only a man wants to)—it becomes possible to say at least the following: the overwhelming tendency of all this scientific work, of its results, has been toward more consciousness. More species having it, and species having more of it than assumed....
From One of Us John Jeremiah Sullivan in Lapham's Quarterly Read on >>>>
I am a complex bundle of stuff. What you see is not what you get. My body is the least of things. The brain, completely invisible to you, is where I seem to live. Without the brain functioning, everything else begins to fail. I am not me. I am the living dead.
When I last saw my Nana, her body was struggling on. But, as we say so easily, no one was home. She wasn't there anymore. I had friend who would come and go as the Alzheimers slowly corroded her nerve endings. We may not be our brains, but we seem not to be all here without them. We're all mental as anything
It's surprising then, given how important the brain is to us, that more doesn't go wrong. How resilient it must be; so many people at the doctor's for arthritis and flu and dandruff, and so few for brain fade.
Or has that changed? They say that 1 in 5 of us will have a mental illness sometime in our lives. When I hear that, I feel like the social worker who was told 1 in 4 women will suffer violence or sexual assault during their lifetime. "Is that all?" she exclaimed.... Read on >>>>
The person who asks the question sets the tone of a discussion almost as much as the one being questioned. If the Prime Minister is at luncheon expanding upon social policy, and Alan Jones asks a question, we immediately begin to think differently about the conversation than if the exact same question had been asked by Malcolm Fraser. In the United States, we would change the names for this illustration; it would be Barak Obama being questioned by Ann Coulter, or Obama being asked the same question by Jimmy Carter.
And if we think it is most unlikely that the Prime Minister and President would invite either Alan Jones, or Ann Coulter to lunch, we are not alone. The thought that Judas Iscariot, of all people, would be recorded asking questions of Jesus at his farewell meal, during the expounding of his last will and testament, is somewhat challenging!
Some wonder if (not Iscariot) was the insertion of an early scribe who was offended by the very idea that the President would have Ann Coulter at table with him. But it could be that John very deliberately said the words (not Iscariot) himself, to make a point.... Read on >>>>
If you don’t do religion, you don’t get it. In the modern period, however, we have turned faith into a head-trip. Originally, the English word “belief”, like the Greek pistis and the Latin credo, meant “commitment”. When Jesus asked his followers to have “faith”, he was not asking them to accept him blindly as the Second Person of the Trinity (an idea he would have found puzzling). Instead, he was asking his disciples to give all they had to the poor, live rough and work selflessly for the coming of a kingdom in which rich and poor would sit together at the same table.
The writer is Karen Armstrong. This New Statesman artice also includes short comments from Richard Holloway, Alain de Botton, Francis Spufford and Jim Al Kahlili. Read on >>>>
In 1975 a friend at college asked me if I would accompany her sister to the Loreto College Formal. I had to hire a suit, and spent the evening acutely conscious that the pants were too tight, and likely to split at any moment! It is the first and last time I have ever worn a suit.
It's been accidental, really. I left Uni and went straight to a small desert settlement 300 miles from the nearest town. No real need for a suit. I met my wife there, but when you elope 300 hundred miles into Alice Springs to get married, a suit is not high on your priorities. Six years later we arrived back in Adelaide for theological college, with a new baby, a bookcase, and a swag; we needed a table and chairs, not a suit..... Read on >>>>
The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over, thank God. Richard Dawkins is now seen by many, even many non-believers, as a joke figure, shaking his fist at sky fairies. He’s the Mary Whitehouse of our day... Theo Hobson at The Spectator >>> Read on
When I first read a book promising to demolish my faith and rid me of my belief in God, I was rather disappointed by its naiveté and shallowness. I soon found plenty of Christian books which were similarly shallow and trivial.
We intuit something we call the Divine, or we don't. Most texts arguing about the existence or otherwise of such a 'being' really only clarify our intuition, rather than change it. Our real interest is in living out our intuitions. What does it mean to live in the presence of the Divine? Or, what does it mean to live in a world where the word "Divine" does not have any significant meaning?
If the crassness of Dawkins is fading in its prominence then perhaps the rest of us can do what is really important; working out how to live together.
"Only by knowing oneself, which is achieved by self-critical reflection and struggling against one's base and selfish desires, can a person know who or what one honestly and truly worships. A person might believe that he/she worships and has submitted to God, but through critical self-reflection and by engaging in persistent inner jihad such a person will come to realise that in reality he/she worships and has submitted to no one but himself/herself ... [T]he worst self-deception is for one to slip in the pitfall of self-idolatry while pretending, or while deceiving oneself into believing, that he/she has submitted to God. The ego (al-nafs), if not disciplined by critical introspection, can easily deceive human beings into believing that they worship God, while in truth their real god and genuine source of guidance are self-centered desires such as a sense of self-promotion, the love of material gain, the intoxications of power and dominance over others, or, in extreme cases, it is possible to become enslaved and submit oneself to the unadulterated epitome of evil and true source of ugliness and corruption on the earth, Satan himself."
This quotation from The Great Theft forms part of an interesting critique of the theological illiteracy of Richard Dawkins.... Read on >>>>
Far from being a suspicious or self-discrediting form of credulity, religious belief can be one of the most important ways resisting the nihilistic "cult of savviness" that predominates in journalism today. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I would even suggest that the more pressing question, pace Richard Dawkins, is not whether a religious believer can be a serious journalist, but whether it is possible to resist the suffocating cynicism and self-satisfied irony of modern journalism without some reference to the supernatural. Scott Stephens at the ABC Religion and Ethics website. Read on >>>>