"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 31 December 2010

Obsolete Beliefs and Aspirations

A month ago on this blog (23 November 2010) I posted a review of A New Renaissance – Transforming Science, Spirit and Society. This is a collection of 25 essays from acknowledged experts in their fields in response to a challenge from the Scientific and Medical Network to consider ways forward out of the socio-economic and ecological global crisis we find ourselves in.

The scene is set in the first chapter, written by Ervin Laszlo on The World’s Health Problem: an Integral Diagnosis. In his analysis, Laszlo concludes: “the world is (1) socially, economically and ecologically unsustainable, (2) saddled with irrational behaviours and (3) governed by obsolete beliefs and aspirations.” And over the next few weeks I want to consider one by one these irrational behavioural patterns and obsolete beliefs and aspirations, which he lists, before looking at possible solutions.

So here is the first obsolete belief: we think the Planet is inexhaustible, and this has guided our actions quite thoughtlessly for too long. We have carried on mining and extracting our fossil fuels without thinking that these have been laid down in the earth over hundreds of millions of years, and will take the same time scale to replenish. And we continue to fill our landfill sites to the brim with our waste, much of it toxic. We havn’t thought for a moment that the space available for rubbish is finite, or considered what happens as these massive rubbish piles degrade.

In his wonderful book Harmony, HRH Prince Charles tells us that “according to UN figures, the US alone buries 222 million tons of household waste a year” with China catching up with 148 million tons. The biggest immediate problem of these massive piles of waste is that they produce greenhouse gases that trap the earth’s heat and contribute significantly to the global warming and its effects that we now witness around us.

An early awareness of our violence against the natural environment probably came with James Lovelock’s invention in 1957 of the Electron Capture Detector, a device used for measuring chemical compounds in atmosphere and matter. This enabled the discovery of residual pesticides in the food we eat, the evidence for which Rachel Carson exposed to a general public in her book Silent Spring in 1963. In this she brought together the available research at that time on toxicology, ecology and epidemiology. She sought to put the world on alert as to the dangers ahead for humanity that she foresaw if we continued to use chemicals indiscriminately in our homes. She warned of the dangers of using such chemicals for agricultural and horticultural purposes, if we did not understand the possible long-term harm they may cause. She saw that the resultant build up of these substances in our food chain could be catastrophic to wild life environments and our own health. Most importantly, the book shattered our assumptions until then that the environment had an infinite capacity to absorb pollutants and maintain its own stability. Although much of what Carson wrote is now out of date, it shook our assumptions about chemicals, made us aware of chemical pollution for the first time, and kick started the ecological movement into action.

So why, Laszlo asks, do we behave so irrationally still? Why do we continue to run our global economy on polluting and finite fossil fuels when we have the technology to harvest energy from sun, wind, tide, geothermics and plants? Why indeed?
Einstein once said that we cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created our malady. Or in other words we cannot heal our planet and ourselves with the same kind of thinking that brought us to this current malady.
Laszlo tells us that we need a new kind of consciousness. Not only that, but there are signs around us that this is now emerging, a different kind of perception, of awareness, particularly in young people; a consciousness of connectedness and belonging, of oneness with nature. The evolution of this consciousness, Laszlo tells us, "is a precondition of healing our seriously damaged but not incurably sick planet."
I will look into this in more detail over the coming weeks as I consider some of the other irrational behavioural patterns and obsolete beliefs and aspirations listed by Laszlo that threaten our future.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Nine Hours to go

Nine Hours to go:

to view on BBC i player the most remarkable drama, The Nativity, based, the TV Guide rather coyly said, on "a story from the Bible." Not the most important story of all time, portraying the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, but just "a story." It was beautifully staged, with sensitive and splendid acting, and superb sets. I would love to know where it was filmed. And I would love to be able to watch it again - and again. And if you have not seen it, and you read this in time, dear readers, you have just 9 hours from me posting this to catch up with it. And if you miss the repeat, there is also a good blog with detailed reviews of each episode
that will surely whet your appetite.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Fish feel pain!

There is plenty of reason to believe that fish feel pain - see for example the recent report by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. There was a study back in 2003 that was widely covered in the media at that time, but not much seems to have happened since - the media attention fizzled out very quickly, perhaps because the journalists found it hard to reconcile their conscience with the facts and preferred to let the story drop? In any case, the debates at that time revolved mainly around the ethics of angling, without seeming to think very much about the ethics of commercial fishing. But PETA also report that scientists estimate that fish endure up to 15 minutes of excruciating pain before they lose consciousness and this is the fate of hundreds of billions of fish caught for the commercial market each year. And lobsters and crabs also suffer. How can any right minded person with any compassion for sentient beings eat with any conscience something that has suffered so much on its way to the table?
That is why I do not eat fish.
Before dismissing this as fanciful, or imagined, or not proven, please take time to read the PETA reports through the links provided.

I also do not eat meat of any kind. In North America 3.2% of the population or 7.3 million are vegetarian and avoid eating meat, and/or fish, and/or dairy products. (There are various permutations and combinations of what constitute a vegetarian diet.)
In the UK 3 million are vegetarian, representing more than 5% of the population and this number has increased rapidly in the last 15 years and is still rising. More than 10% avoid red meat even though not vegetarian as such.
In Israel a whopping 8.5% are vegetarians.
Reasons for becoming a vegetarian can be ethical, cultural, religious or for health benefits. In India there are more vegetarians than in the rest of the world combined, at 40% of the population, and this of course is related to the strong influence of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism in that country.

What prompted this post? Today I received an invitation to attend a celebratory dinner. A menu was supplied and I am being asked to select my choice of meal. There are 3 different options of main course for those with no dietary restrictions. But as some sort of concession to those like me, I can tick the box called "vegetarian option - pot luck"!! What a choice.

There are any number of exciting dishes you could produce for the likes of me. I have several cookery books devoted to vegetarian cooking - and it doesn't all have to be pasta or pizza either! So come on all you chefs out there.

The photos are of the fish market in Funchal, Madeira.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Educating our Children

Following the reviews on Amazon.com of Prince Charles' wonderful book Harmony, I came upon one reviewer's comments that took me back to something I have written about elsewhere; What future do we have if we do not recognize the need for a holistic education for our children?

I visited Herm a year or so ago. It is a very small Channel Island ‘community’ off the coast of North France, where life of necessity is simple. I watched the children playing outside, gloriously free and dirty and happy, using what nature has given them, the trees and bushes and grass and flowers, and their own abilities to run and hide and shout and climb trees, to be themselves. There was not an adult in sight. And I recalled the vision held by Alastair McIntosh, in his wonderful book Soil and Soul,for a spiritually rich and holistic education. He imagines a life-long curriculum of organic food and biodiversity, energy alternatives and respect for all, healing skills incorporating not only the most advanced scientific advances but also the spiritual healing principles, of poetry and story. There would be the study of conflict resolution and how to eliminate the causes of war. And the kids would have fun and play in tree houses.
McIntosh’s wish list is long but the spiritual message is clear. Such an education is about ‘building of community as right relationship between soil, soul and society, powered by the passion of the heart, steered by the reason of the head, and then applied by the skilled technique of the hand.’
The Global Justice Movement describes the purpose of education as to ‘teach people how to become life-long learners and virtuous human beings, with the capacity to adapt to change, to become masters of technology and builders of civilization through their ‘leisure work,’ and to pursue the highest spiritual values.’
The Dalai Lama stresses that education ‘constitutes one of our most powerful weapons in our quest to bring about a better, more peaceful, world.’He emphasizes the need to open children’s eyes to the needs and rights of others, so that their actions have a universal dimension, and they develop their ‘natural feelings of empathy so that they come to have a sense of responsibility towards others.’ He reminds us that traditionally it has been assumed that ethical and human values would be taught through a child’s religious upbringing rather than in mainstream state education. With the declining influence of religion and faith in family life this vital part of a child’s education has become neglected. The Dalai Lama proffers three guidelines for the education of our children. First, he says, we need to awaken their consciousness to basic human values by showing them how these are relevant to their future survival, rather than presenting them as solely an ethical or faith issue. Then we must teach them how to discuss and debate, to understand the value of dialogue rather than violence for resolving conflict. Finally there is the urgent need to teach children that differences of race, faith, culture, while important to preserve, are nevertheless secondary to the equal rights of us all from whatever background to be happy. And of course this is best done in the security of a close loving family unit.
Regrettably the purpose of education as seen in most of our traditional schools is to train people for jobs, rather than to be the rounded and spiritually grounded citizens of tomorrow. As a result the system becomes shackled by the needs of exams and syllabuses and league tables. May it come to pass sooner rather than later that many more of our schools come to be judged not only on their position in academic league tables but on how successfully they turn out well rounded, happy, respectful, empathic and spiritual citizens.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Greetings to all my followers

I will be taking a few days break over Christmas resuming my posts in a few days time. Meanwhile I wish all my readers a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas and many blessings for 2011.

And thank you for reading my blogs.

(The photo is of a nativity set seen in a shop window in Funchal Old Town in Madeira last year).

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Ancestors of Jesus 2

"Joshua fit de battle of Jericho... and the walls came tumbling down," we used to sing as children. But I don't remember being taught about the more colourful female characters involved in all of this.
Following my story on 19th December about Tamar, we now have another prostitute within the family tree of Jesus; this time it is Rahab.
"Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab...Matthew Chapter 1 v. 5)
We need to remember that in the Canaanite pagan society in which Rahab lived, a harlot or prostitute held a respected position in society. In fact Rahab was one of the few believers in God. (In the Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 11 v. 31: "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.)
What spies? What is the story?
The Canaanites were generally morally depraved, lawless, brutal, and their pagan religion was all about fertility and sex, child sacrifice and th worship of serpents. The society was ripe for conquest by the people of Israel, probably fed up with wandering homeless in the desert for over forty years!
I love the beginning of this story as told in Joshua ch. 2 v. 1. Joshua sent out two spies from Acacia Grove - doesn't that just sound like some smart suburbia somewhere?! In fact it was East of the Jordan river, opposite Jericho, also known as Shittim. And the spies came and lodged at Rahab's house, which was also a public house, so lots of people coming and going would not have raised any suspicions.
Now the King of Jericho heard about the spies in his land and sent men to Rahab to apprehend them, but Rahab told them the men had left the city, although she was in fact hiding the spies on her flat roof amongst the flax being dried up there for making cloth and candle wicks. When the coast was clear, Rahab struck a deal with the spies; Save me and my family from death when you conquer us, and I will let you go and not in any way betray you. They agreed, but so that the Israel army would know which house to save they asked her to tie a scarlet cord out of the window on the city wall where she let them down by rope to make their escape.

And the men returned to Joshua and told him that Canaan was weak and the time was ripe to invade. So they did. And the army brought out Rahab and all her family to safety before they razed Jericho to the ground with fire, saving only valuable silver and gold, bronze and iron.

These photos are nothing to do with Jericho - they are in Brittany, but the city walls were very thick! In Jericho the walls were think enough to include housing within. That is how Rahab could let the spies escape - she lived within the wall and her window would have looked to the outside of the city.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Walking Madonna, Salisbury Cathedral

This is the Walking Madonna, by Elisabeth Frink, in the precincts of Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest medieval cathedrals in the UK, in what must surely be one of the most beautiful settings for a cathedral.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This fourth Sunday in Advent we light the last of the four red candles on our Advent wreath, this time remembering Mary the Mother of Jesus - the candle represents Joy as we say Yes to God's challenge, accepting the pain and joy of an unknown future.
God as we wait for your promise, give light, give hope.

And we have built our nativity set under the altar and can see the shepherds with their sheep waiting for the Virgin Mary and Joseph who are completing their Posada journey around our parish. They will arrive on Christmas Eve in time for our special Children's Crib services.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


I have just found two items that are absolutely at the heart of what we need most for healing this Wounded Earth;

And that is Compassion!

My first find is the website for Charter for Compassion, calling upon all people to restore compassion to the very centre of morality and religion, for it to be a "luminous and dynamic force in our polarised world." In this selfish Me Millennium we need compassion more than anything else, to restore relationships, to be at the centre of a more just economy and for a more peaceful global community.

And behind Charter for Compassion is Karen Armstrong, whose latest book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate World, is just being published now. I have ordered a copy and will be reviewing it in the New Year, when I will also write more about that Charter for Compassion.

Ancestors of Jesus

As we approach the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the ancestors of Jesus. And some of them have a colourful story surrounding them!

Matthew starts off this first gospel with the genealogy of Christ. He wants to show how Jesus is not only the Messiah but also the Son of David, to demonstrate Jesus' Royal lineage. He also wants to demonstrate a continuity between the Israel of the Old Testament and Jesus. This Matthew may or may not be the apostle - opinions seem divided on this point. The gospel is also written in a very legalistic way when compared with the more personable accounts given by Luke in the third of the four gospels. Matthew follows the legal Jewish system in his family tree, following the father's roots even though Joseph was father of Jesus only by adoption.

So in Chapter 1 vv. 2-3 of Matthew we learn that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, who begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar his daughter in law!!

So what is the story behind this?

Tamar originally married Er, the firstborn son of Judah and Shua. But Er was wicked, in ways we do not know, and as judgement from God he died prematurely before the couple had born any children. It was the custom in a Levirate marriage that the first born to a dead man's brother was considered to be the child of the deceased man. So Judah asked Er's brother Onan to marry Tamar to have a child, but Onan didn't want to consummate his marriage to Tamar so he too suffered a premature death at God's hand as revenge, because we are told the Lord was not well pleased!

Now we come to the really naughty bit! Tamar clearly wanted a child anyway, so she dressed up and masqueraded as a prostitute and waylaid Judah, her father in law, along the road where she knew he was travelling. Sure enough she enticed Judah and in due course gave birth to twins by him. And the first born was Perez and so the male line ran through from Perez to Joseph the adoptive father of Jesus.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Prince Charles too dangerous to be King?

Prince Charles too dangerous to be King?
I am dismayed today to read this headline in the Daily Mail, to an article written by Max Hastings. I have recently written two blogs around Prince Charles' new book Harmony, and its importance for our world and our survival within it. Now yet again here is someone who is totally misunderstanding what Prince Charles is saying.
I quote from my previous blog on this:
"Clearly his message is not getting through yet to many of the populace. Far from being old fashioned, His Royal Highness is very much up to speed with all that is going on in our world and more than happy to embrace new ideas - as long as they are sustainable and not harmful to our planet. He thinks and feels very deeply about these issues, is hugely knowledgeable about them and passionate to do all he can to promote a new sustainable way of living for us all in the interests of protecting our planet from any more harm. And if that means resurrecting many values which we have lost sight of in the profligate West, what is wrong with that? We must not confuse ancient wisdom with the derogatory implications of the term "old fashioned,"...."
And Prince Charles' views most certainly are NOT dangerous. the danger is when we ignore them.

Contrary to what Max Hastings says, Prince Charles is most certainly not woolly headed, and he is not rejecting all science - he is simply saying that there is far more to understand beyond reductionist and materialistic science - such science does not provide all the answers. There is an urgent need to be more in touch with nature and understand the fragile nature of the world's ecosystems, of which we are but a small part. We need to work WITH nature, not have dominion over it. Make no mistake, the earth can carry on very well without us when we become extinct through our own actions. I urge anyone to beg or borrow or buy and read this book and ignore Max Hastings.

The photos show a small part of the devastation wreaked to a sea level garden area of a hotel in La Gomera, damage caused by an abnormally rough sea and high tide a month or so ago.

Mobile phones-Cell phones - in cars

I was waiting at the lights for them to turn green. As I waited I watched the drivers coming across in the opposite stream of traffic. Easily 50 percent of them had a mobile phone glued to one ear. This was a built up area – a 20mph zone going into a 30mph stretch. A road with children, dogs, cyclists, elderly people from the nursing home – and all the cars were exceeding 30mph easily. And on the phone!! And it is illegal. But hey, many seem to think that any behaviour is OK if you can get away with it, not be caught. What happened to respect for our laws?

Is any conversation so important that it cannot wait until you can stop safely? If all other road users around us were our own families, loved ones, friends, would we drive so carelessly and negligently? I sincerely hope not, and I do not think we would. Except that I have seen mothers with people carriers full of children presumably not all their own, negotiating roundabouts with one hand holding the phone to the ear. I would have sacked any child minder (or friend) who took such chances with my children.

We should love all human beings. Just about every faith in the world has that at its centre. At the very least we should respect all other beings and their right to share the road safely with us. So come on out there. You all know who you are. Cast out that arrogance, selfishness, self-importance, thoughtlessness, whatever it is that makes you a different person as soon as you get behind that wheel and drive so dangerously.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Wounded Healer in the Community?

“In and through community lies the salvation of the world.” M S Peck

This is an expansion of a blog on community I published not so long ago. It is such an important subject for today's world.
M. Scott Peck became well known in the 1970s and 1980s for his best selling books on personal spiritual growth. He is probably best remembered for The Road Less Traveled and Further Along the Road Less Traveled. He also made a study of community building and its role in achieving world peace, and he wrote this up for the popular market in his book The Different Drum. His books continue to sell well and are just as relevant in today’s world.
In his book Peck defined the basic community as “a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together, mourn together,’ and to ‘delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own.”This definition emphasizes the need for vulnerability amongst the members of a community. It sets up the conditions for healing and wholeness in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
A participant in one of M Scott Peck’s community building workshops observed that ‘the greatest gift we can give each other is our own woundedness.’ Only the wounded, says Peck, can heal community.This story is obviously quite old, but some ideas are timeless, hence we talk of the need in today's world for Ancient Wisdom.
Real honesty and openness, two of his community-making principles, require us to be vulnerable, to have a willingness to be wounded. In The Different Drum, he writes at length on vulnerability in community building. The danger of invulnerability, he warns, of acting as a ‘cool cat,’ is that psychological defences are put up between the two parties, and the relationship between them becomes nothing more than ‘ two empty tanks bumping against each other in the night.’ He talks of a ‘peace through weakness’ strategy to build community, at all levels. ‘For the reality is that …. there can be no community without vulnerability; and there can be no peace – ultimately no life – without community.’ And this involves taking the risk of showing our vulnerability.
Alastair McIntosh is a Scottish human ecologist, writer and campaigner. If “humankind is to have any hope of changing the world,” he writes in his wonderful book Soil and Soul, “we must constantly work to strengthen community.”We will achieve this only by “coming alive to community with one another, with the place where we live, and with soul.” This, he says, recognizes “a Celtic truth about identity, which is actually a deep human truth: a person belongs only inasmuch as they are willing to cherish and be cherished by a place and its peoples.”
A lovely thought.
The photo is of the Chestnut Festival in Nuns Valley in Madeira.It was raining, as we say, "cats and dogs" but the community spirit there was palpable - you could feel it in spite of the discomforts of the heaviest rain they had seen for years.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cats that love heights

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Chiron the Wounded Healer

Pain and loneliness are forms of energy that can be transformed if we turn them outward, using them to recognize and redeem someone else’s pain or loneliness.
This is quoted from Jonathan Sacks book: To Heal a Fractured World- the Ethics of Responsibility.

Many people outside the healing professions of pastoral care and medicine have not heard of the expression The Wounded Healer. So here is a brief story from Greek mythology, where there was a Centaur called Chiron. Centaurs are normally portrayed as clumsy and brutal beasts. Chiron was different. He was kind, gentle and well educated and tutored many of the Greek gods. Famous pupils included Jason, the leader of the fifty Argonauts, who sailed aboard the Argo to bring back the golden fleece to Pelias. Another was Achilles of the vulnerable heel legend, killed by an arrow from Apollo’s bow.

Much of Greek mythology is highly intricate and complex and the myth of Chiron varies in precise details depending on its source. The story goes that he was the love child of an affair between the Greek God Cronus and the Earth Nymph Philyra. Before making love to Philyra, Cronus changed her into a horse to allay the suspicions of his wife Rhea. And so the centaur Chiron was conceived. Abandoned by his parents at birth, Chiron was adopted and brought up by Apollo, The Divine Physician, who trained him to be a great and wise teacher, physician and healer.

Centaurs were known for their over indulgences and Chiron was probably no exception. One day there was a bloody fight between Centaurs over a carafe of wine and Chiron was accidentally shot in his knee by a stray poisoned arrow from the bow of Heracles (or Hercules). The wound would not heal and it gave him much pain. Centaurs also had the gift of immortality. Such was Chiron’s suffering, from both the mental wounds of his abandonment at birth and from this painful physical wounding, that he prayed to the gods to let him surrender his own immortality and die. He then spent the rest of his life trying to find a cure for his physical wound and became an expert in the healing power of plants, particularly the herbal remedies he developed for war wounds. But the healing abilities for which he was renowned came especially from the empathy he developed for the suffering of others, acquired from his struggle to overcome his own physical and mental wounds. Chiron allowed his own wounds to be a source of healing for others. He became a Wounded Healer.

What became of Chiron? His prayer was eventually answered and after his death he was placed in the sky by the king of the Greek gods, Zeus (the Roman Jupiter and the only surviving son of Cronus and Rhea), where he can be seen in the night sky as the constellation Sagittarius (the archer), otherwise known as Centaur (the man/horse).
Greek mythology is of course a collection of fables, of the Greek gods, goddesses and heroes. But many of them encompass a deeper wisdom about human behavior even if few have any basis in fact.

One of the legacies left by the analytical psychologist Carl Jung was the idea that in our psyche we all share deep inherited and unconscious ideas and images together known as our “collective unconscious.” This collective unconscious, Jung said, is made up of different recognizable human models or archetypes. He saw in the Greek myth of Chiron a reflection of the archetypal Wounded Healer of the indigenous medicine man or shaman, first recorded in the earliest known hunting and fishing communities of Siberia and Sub Arctic North America. In fact it was probably from the language of a small group of hunters and reindeer herders from the Arctic Tungus that the name shaman comes, meaning “he who knows.”

The true shaman was both priest and healer and prophet. The essential prerequisite of the shaman was that he would have suffered a serious mental or physical illness or both, which would often be long and drawn out. As healing progressed, the shaman acquired the capacities for inspiration and healing and with recovery he came to understand the spirits and how to master them. He would also train and initiate assistants into the role of healer. Shamans can therefore be seen as people who have come through their own serious illness as a result of which they are stronger in themselves and more able to safeguard the souls of others, either into the next world or to heal them in this world. Michael Lerner has aptly called them “spiritual midwives.”

This then is the concept of the Wounded Healer. The idea is well researched, documented and understood within the traditional fields of medical and pastoral care. But I believe that the Wounded Healer holds a much wider significance for us all within the healing needs of the whole world.

So why the spring flowers photo? Simply to give some cheer on this gloomy foggy frosty winter morning, when the last remnant of our unseasonably early snow is still lying around on the grass and the roads. Oh for spring!

Copyright Eleanor Stoneham 2010

Monday, 13 December 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

Yesterday we lit the third Advent candle, the candle of love, to remember John the Baptist and all God's prophets, preparing the way for change, giving signs pointing to a new age to come with the birth of Christ.

The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, "to come to," and not only refers to our celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas; but also celebrates the coming of Christ into our lives through grace and the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and finally, to His Second Coming at the end of time. As we say in our Communion Service: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." So as we lit the candle we also prayed: "God as we wait for your promise, give light, give hope."

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Deep and Crisp and Even

Good King Wenceslas last went out
On the feast of Stephen (26th December)
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even...

A carol we used to sing nearly every year which seems very much out of fashion now, except amongst the noble bands of carol singers who go from house to house at this time of year.

Anyway this was the carol that first sprang to mind when i was sorting through the many snow photos I have taken over the last week or so. When will it ever all clear away?!

And has anyone seen snow like this before? I was walking across our local common when I noticed the snow flakes gently falling out of the sky were not flakes at all, but rather like little shards of glass, the size of short dressmaker's pins. Is this a rare phenomenon I wonder?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Truth and Tolerance - Pope Benedict XVI

The 7th century Irish robed Christ, wrought from Irish Turf, is taken from the 7th century bronze bookcover or plaque in the National Museum Dublin. Made by Owen Crafts Ireland.

You will note that I have been really busy reading books lately. Well for one thing there is very little one can do in the garden or at the allotment when they are both under a foot or more of snow, and there is a limit as to how much walking I can do in any one day. So here I am curled up in my warm study reading and writing.

Here is a scholarly book, quite a contrast to those I have read lately. But I persevered with it and have found it a most rewarding read. It is a compilation of lectures delivered mainly between 1992 and 2002 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on faith, religion, culture, truth and tolerance. He has brought them together in the context of exploring how religions can “relate to one another peacefully” and contribute to educating man towards peace, an urgent goal for the world today.

That is why I bought the book, as a contribution to my own current studies on how religions, mysticisms and spirituality can come together to find tolerance and peace in a world desperately seeking solutions for the mess we have made of it.

An important contemporary thinker of huge experience, this is a scholarly book but it is written in a lucid style and logical order that makes it also accessible for the intelligent reader who wishes to explore these vitally important religious, philosophical and theological issues in some depth. I found this an extremely useful contribution to this debate and have written a full review for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Friday, 10 December 2010

Broken boughs

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
I was rocked to sleep with this old lullaby when I was little - and it quickly came to mind when I was collecting photos to show the disastrous effect the current heavy snow falls have had on our trees and shrubs.
When I grew beyond the baby stage and went to school and started my love affair with all plant matters, we were told that deciduous trees lost their leaves in winter to protect them from breaking with the weight of snow on the boughs. We have a problem this year around our way anyway, because the leaves had simply not fallen before the snow came, and we now see the extraordinary sight of fallen leaves on top of the snow!
Sadly it seems that many trees have succumbed to breaking, particularly the mighty Oaks, and there will be much clearing up to do come Spring time.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Sacred Activist - an agent of profound change

By the side of my bed and in my study I have so many piles of books - books waiting to be read, books to finish reading, books I must have thought were a good idea when I bought them but which languish forgotten at the bottom of one of those piles. But this book by Andrew Harvey, the inspired visionary and mystic, is so good - I could hardly bear to put it down and I read it in just a few sittings.
Those who read these blogs regularly will know my passion for any books that try to find a happier and more peaceable way forward through and beyond the mess we have made of this world, particularly when the proposals are spiritually based and give us all the chance to change words into deeds.
But as a Christian I always approach books that seem to be of a "new age" or mystical nature with some caution.

However I warmed to Harvey’s theme as I saw the respect he holds for the faiths and religious beliefs held by others, for the wisdom of the elders both past and living today, and his love for Jesus Christ, the Wounded Healer, the greatest love of his heart throughout his life, he claims. But this is the Jesus Christ of the Gospel of Thomas, and many may be unable to reconcile the Gnostic teachings of Christ with their own faith.

Nonetheless after many years of study and immersing himself in different mystical traditions and their sacred texts, which he uses generously throughout this book, he is well qualified to write of these things and to form a vision of a new mystic spirituality. It is hard to disagree with the aims of any mysticism that calls for love and compassion in all we do, for unconditional forgiveness, and that understands our innate need to live in joy and peace, with total respect and love for all sentient beings. “Hope for our survival lies in massive spiritual transformation and radical action,” he writes, and I cannot disagree with that.

He therefore urges us to become Sacred Activists and envisions what he calls Networks of Grace, small groups at community level spread across the globe where his ideas can be put into practice. He has even formed an Institute and a Global Curriculum for Sacred Activities. I have to say that the practices he proposes to nourish us spiritually and the Networks he outlines bear remarkable similarity to many of the activities of my own church and doubtless of others across the land. And I do therefore question whether a newly defined mysticism or faith is necessary. But I really recommend you read this book, whether of faith or none, if you are receptive at all to the idea of spirituality and its importance in our lives. At the very least everyone could profitably read and act upon the "Ten Things you can do Right Now," (plus one added for good measure and because, he says, 11 is a sacred number) with which the book opens.

(Some of this is taken from my full review that has been posted on Amazon.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

When Icicles hang by the wall - again

In these freezing conditions I caught sight of these icicles and William Shakespeare came to mind - I learnt this at school! Do kids still learn poetry at school? I do hope so! Poetry can be very healing - it can touch our souls and speak to the spirit within us and help to heal our wounds.

WHEN icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipt, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all around the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl—
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

What does "keeling the pot" mean? Will someone let me know?

I put this poem on my blog a year ago but with new photos I thought it warranted a second airing.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Last Sunday in the morning parish Eucharist we lit the second of the four advent candles on our wreath. This candle is the Candle of Peace, standing for the Old Testament prophets and the peace we look forward to in the light of the Jesus Christ whose birth we eagerly await.

And we had that lovely reading from the prophet Isaiah 11 vv. 1-10 foretelling the coming of Christ, the shoot coming out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch growing out of its roots, "righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins," and

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

For a detailed commentary follow this link, supplied by Anathea Portier-Young for the Luther Seminary: "The visions of 11:1-10 are characterized by a remarkable dynamism that is at the same time the mark and guarantee of stability and peace. In the visions, the order of nature, political and social life, and the common life of humans and animals are organically linked and woven together."

Monday, 6 December 2010

Autumn one day, winter the next!

The snow came down heavily overnight and drifted onto our porch! The squash have now been roasted in olive oil with parmesan cheese - delicious! The marrows are destined to be stuffed with minced meat or a veggie alternative with a delicious tomato jam I made with the glut of greenhouse tomatoes in the summer.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Wounded Healer

There is quite a bit of misunderstanding around as to the real nature of a Wounded Healer, and indeed many are not familiar with the term at all. I have been interested for a while in the whole concept, and in the social significance of the healing process to this world of ours that seems to be in such a mess.
I am prompted to publish this short article by a comment I saw recently on another blog: “We often hear about wounded healers in the healing arena. These wounded healers can sometimes offer a bad reputation to the healing community because they are trying to heal their wounds through their clients.”*
Of course someone who is using their clients to heal their own wounds is surely not a wounded healer at all and it is unfortunate that such people give the real “Wounded Healer” a bad name. Analytical psychologists are required to undergo personal analysis in order that they may understand their own wounds and the compensations they make for them in their own behavior. This ensures that those wounds do not interfere in the therapeutic process with their clients.
Professor of Psychology Charles Carver has identified several stages along the road to the true Wounded Healer.
Firstly, if we fail to recognize wounds in ourselves there is a danger that we allow them to crush us. We turn them in upon ourselves, and then we harbor thoughts of anger, resentment, envy, lust, greed, and all the worst character traits of mankind. They cause us to be unhappy or discontent. This impacts on our relationships with other people, in everything we do, in our work, in our creativity. Without intentionally setting out to do harm, we allow those wounds to hurt those around us, as Simone Weil explained: “A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.”
Then there is the “survivor” response, seen in the desensitization we can experience if we are continually bombarded with the wounding images of horror, either real or in the relentless gratuitous violence of screen or computer game. This is so relevant in the context of our responsible and healing use of creativity.
There are other stages of healing that we may recognize in us or in others. For example there are the “martyrs” and the “thrivers.” We all know the “martyr;” he could also be called the moaner or whinger and hardly needs further explanation.
The thriving response to our wounds is complex and the subject of much research. In simple terms the “thriver” may be defined as the “person who experiences the traumatic or stressful event and benefits or gains in some way from the experience and can apply that gain to new experiences, leading to more effective subsequent functioning.” An example would be Beethoven who overcame his deafness to find joy in his music making. But this response type may not always be what it seems. I believe it may sometimes be similar to what I think of as the “self-help response.”
Next is the “inspirational” phase. Here we use an understanding of our own wounds to work for the benefit of others with the same afflictions. Superman Christopher Reeve was a fine example – he fought paralysis after a stunt accident whilst filming and fought for more research to help others suffering from the same disablement. Such people campaign, they set up charities, they march for a cause, they fund-raise. This is praiseworthy but it does not make a Wounded Healer.
Mental health nursing expert Marion Conti-O’Hare describes one more stage along the road to Wounded Healer. These are the people, she explains, who have experienced trauma and are using it to help others but without understanding how they themselves are affected. O’Hare describes Diana Princess of Wales as an example of what she calls the “walking wounded.” Diana died tragically before she could transcend much of her suffering. She did however devote much of her later years to causes such as the victims of HIV infection and AIDS, almost certainly reflecting her own advanced stage along the road to Wounded Healer.
The person who has taken his wounds into his soul, fully comprehended them, and has transformed and transcended them achieves the ultimate healing goal. From those transcended wounds we have the insight to fully understand and care about the sufferings and wounds of others. We can be with them in true empathy and compassion. Compassion literally means; “to suffer with” and means much the same in this context as empathy. We identify with you in your suffering. We can bare our own souls and walk in your shoes to share your suffering; that is true empathy. And that is the Wounded Healer.

It seems appropriate to be writing this now, as we enter the Christian season of Advent and await the birth of Jesus Christ, as he is of course the greatest Wounded Healer of all time.

Of course this subject is vast and I have only scratched the surface here – do let me know of any experiences you have of the Wounded Healer in your own lives.

*See http://serenitynowwellness.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/the-sweetness-of-doing-nothing/#comment-6

** see http://www.intuitive-connections.net/2004/book-beethoven.htm

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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