"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.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Flaws in our Economy - We cannot sustain our present financial systems

There is massive wastage in our consumer society, both from personal consumption and in our industrial processes. Alarming statistics can be found of physical waste:

Americans apparently waste or cause to be wasted nearly 1 million pounds of materials per person per year…[and] this does not account for wastes generated overseas on [their] behalf…the amount of waste generated to make a laptop computer is close to 4000 times its weight.*

There is a beautifully sustainable cycle within nature. Dead bodies provide food for living creatures, plants photosynthesize and produce oxygen from carbon dioxide and animals use that oxygen in their respiration of which the by-product is carbon dioxide. At school we learnt all about this and called it the Carbon Cycle, little suspecting that 50 years later this would have such a fundamental significance for the future of the world!
If we can see the Earth as a single living entity involving complex interrelationships and a finely tuned balance of all life, as envisioned for example by James Lovelock, should it not be logical for a sustainable economy to mimic that natural world, indeed be a part of that world, where everything is recycled, everything has a further use elsewhere. We would then be able to build a system that is totally cyclical and sustainable and environmentally sound.But we are very far from doing that at the moment.
Evolution biologist and futurist Elisabet Sahtouris once posed the question: doesn’t it seem crazy and so obviously illogical that our household finances and the study of how we make a living (or economy) should be so totally divorced from the study of how other species make a living (or ecology)?

This seems so simple and obvious but it also seems that we cannot see it!

*Paul Hawken and Amory and T. Hunter Lovins,1999, p. 52 cited in The Path to Living Economies – a collaborative Working Document of the Social Ventures Network

Monday, 28 March 2011

Flaws in our Economy - Humans are not Valued

I have been writing about money and our economy, and last Thursday I said that we had to start with our own spending patterns, and how these may be flawed.
Now I turn to flaws in our economy.

Number One - Humans are not valued
A very large number of people in our society are presently undervalued or not valued at all in monetary terms. These include the old and young, the infirm and disabled, the housewives and the many community and charity volunteers without whom many organizations would simply not survive. All of these people outside the conventional workforce often work very much harder and longer hours than many in full time employment. But they gain no financial independence or recognition within the economic framework from their toil.

I know of a wife who for two decades has selflessly cared full time for an increasingly and profoundly disabled husband. Or I think of the mother who takes a career break to raise her own children. These women both lead enormously valuable lives, but feel undervalued.

We measure a ‘healthy’ economy in terms of the material wealth or prosperity that is created by and for its working citizens, expressed in terms such as the gross domestic product (GDP), gross domestic income (GDI) or gross national product (GNP). Now in this current financial crisis the emphasis is on the need for growth in the economy. Whichever measure is used, they all put a zero valuation on the environment, on healthy citizens, on social cohesion and cultural values!

As Robert Kennedy once said:

…the (Gross National Product) does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans...

And these thoughts are relevant for us all, whatever our race or color or creed. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Reflections in Water

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Our flawed economy - our flawed behaviour

The other day I wrote about why we need money, and said I would return to look at the flaws in our economy. But first we need to look at our own flawed behavior.

Some while ago a series of bank advertisements on the management of wealth appeared in the glossy weekend media. One of these featured a lone and pretty girl cantering away on a lovely white stallion into the beautiful and totally unblemished distance. ‘What...[is wealth]…to you?’ the headline asked. ‘It’s being able to tell the world to get lost.’
That's so awful!
How can any single one of us afford to turn our back on the world in this way in any sense. How can any of us ride away to an unblemished horizon while so many basic human rights are not available to so many? That surely diminishes us as human beings. But someone, indeed a team of people, wrote that advertisement.

In our materially rich Western society it is too easy to be wooed by the power of marketing and advertising. Psychological insights developed to help us understand the healing needs of our souls are instead cynically used for marketing purposes. The advertisers play on our feelings of guilt or fear and our need for love and comfort, which often reflect in some of the worst aspects of human behavior, our insecurity, envy and discontent. These traits fuel our over-consumption and greed for material possessions.

If we would only understand such faults in our nature and allow them to be healed rather than exploited, there may yet be hope for the plight of our global brothers and sisters who through accident of birth are far less privileged than ourselves. Then we can hope to build an economy that is globally just and contributes to a healing world.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

There are so many beautiful spring flowers now all around us and today was a fantastically sunny day; I thought of the doggerel we were taught as kids:

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the birdies is
The little bird is on the wing
Ain't that absurd
The little wing is on the bird!

I always wondered who wrote it but apparently we do not know - it is attributed to that wonderfully talented author Anon.

I gather one version is called The Budding Bronx and goes as follows:

Der spring is sprung
Der grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is?

Der little boids is on der wing,
Ain't dat absoid?
Der little wings is on de boid!

Anyone out there know anymore about this?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Fare dodger, turnstile jumper, fare beater, fare evader, fare fiddler

Fare dodger, turnstile jumper, fare beater, fare evader, fare fiddler, we all know what that means - the person guilty of fraudulent travel or just simply “travelling without a ticket.”
In New York City the legal term is apparently “theft of services”
The problem seems to be universal – but the bottom line is that the honest amongst us subsidize the dishonest.

Boris (Johnson – London Mayor) slams the fare-dodging ‘parasites’ who cost us £75million, the London Evening Standard headline shouted. And that’s just in one year, in London, £40million on the buses and the Tube £20million.

And I’m sure New York and other big cities are as bad.

On the next page of the same newspaper: 20,000 speed off with petrol without paying says the headline. Apparently motorists stole nearly £800,000 worth of petrol (gas) in “drive-offs” from petrol stations in London last year.

Again I’m sure London is in no way unique.

In our church there is a little wooden holder on the vestry wall, made many years ago to store the match-boxes and lighters for lighting our candles. It is inscribed: EX. XX. XV.
The text referred to? The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, specifically the Ten Commandments, and particularly number 8 – Thou Shalt Not Steal!

Someone in the distant past in our church must have got fed up with the matches disappearing!

Time to get back, I think, to a few good old fashioned moral codes and ancient wisdoms.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Winston Churchill's Swimming Pool

 Winston Churchill designed and built this outdoor heated swimming pool at his country home Chartwell, along with the lakes in the distance, on which swam his famous black swans. There are still two black swans there today, along with various ornamental ducks and a flock of geese(although I am not sure which sort).

The rubbishy looking debris in the foreground is in fact the remains of last year's Gunnera leaves protecting the root stocks from winter frosts. Soon new leaves will appear and the plant will grow up to 2 meters or so tall by the end of the summer, dying right back again in the winter! An incredible rate of growth!They are often called Giant Rhubarb because of the leaf shape but have nothing to do with that "fruit" found in all self respecting vegetable plots and allotments.
Many find it hard to believe that so much foliage grows to such a height each year only to die back in the winter!

Wikipedia tells us that "in nature, all Gunnera plants form a symbiosis (i.e. both parties benefit from the relationship, unlike a parasitic set up where one organism feeds off the other) with a nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria... The bacteria enter the plant via glands found at the base of each leaf stalk and initiate an intracellular symbiosis which is thought to provide the plant with fixed nitrogen in return for fixed carbon for the bacterium." That is an unusual symbiosis for a herbaceous flowering plant.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Why do we need money?

The Greek Philosopher and scientist Aristotle explained in his Politics in c 330BC why money had been invented. The art of acquisition, he said, for which a currency was required, arose out of the simpler barter of goods, and he saw this as quite natural and healthy. But when ‘The supply of men’s needs came to depend on more foreign sources, as men began to import for themselves what they lacked, and to export what they had in superabundance: …in this way the use of a money currency was inevitably instituted,’he wrote.
But Aristotle made the distinction, between essential and therefore laudable expenditure for the daily needs of food, shelter and clothing, and the acquisition of money for acquisition’s sake by profit associated with retail trade. The latter he censured,

"because the gain in which it results is not naturally made, but is made at the expense of other men. The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Currency came into existence merely as a means of exchange; usury tries to make it increase."

Aristotle did not trust money because he could see that it could feed an insatiable desire way beyond what was necessary for our needs and he saw this as unethical.

In addition to life’s basic survival necessities of warmth, clean air, medicine, clean water, food and housing, all human beings worldwide have a need and a human right to be free, to be respected as equals, able to choose their own destiny and to fulfill their full emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential. We are all entitled to the five basic human justices, of monetary and social justice, economic and environmental justice and of the right to peace.

I believe that to really achieve such justice in our world we need to allow the healing qualities of compassion and vulnerability and spirituality to infuse our lives and our actions in our financial housekeeping.

In later posts I shall reflect further on this and on where and why our present economy is flawed. Meanwhile Rediscovering Values, by Jim Wallis, is a good place to start reading. (also mentioned in a previous blog).

© 2010 Eleanor Stoneham

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Friday, 18 March 2011

Cell phone stupidity

Mobile phones or cell phones - whatever we call them, we are so unbelievably stupid with them. I have ranted on this before on other forums, but I think it was a survey by the insurance company esure that came up with the statistics that 45 percent of drivers - that's nearly half of us - send texts and make calls while at the wheel. Moreover, 9 percent - that's 9 out of every 100 drivers - apparently use mobile phone internet services while driving. Can you believe that? Unbelievably, someone posted on Twitter: "I'm driving with my knees and peeling an orange - probably not the safest thing to be doing." You bet!! Lucky he didn't kill someone. If  he wants to kill himself that's his choice, but leave me and my family and friends out of it.

Today someone nearly hit my car as I was waiting to let her through - guess what - she had one hand glued to a phone glued to her ear.

For goodness sake leave them switched off and put away - preferably where you cannot reach them - while driving.

Is there no one else out there astonished at such stupidity? I don't even have mine on in the car when I'm driving.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Wounded Healer - again

However we define and categorize our wounds, we now know that who we are and how we behave as adults is not only a combination of our inherited gene and possibly also our meme makeup. We are also affected by subsequent influences in our upbringing and our experiences as we develop through childhood and beyond. This is what is meant when we talk about ‘nature versus nurture’.  So as well as our inherited physical characteristics, we pick up mental wounds from the collective experiences of our ancestors. The unhealed wounds of mankind inflicted through millennia of evolution by strife and violence and disaster mean that hundreds of millions of people are psychologically, emotionally and physically scarred and wounded and in need of healing. It has even been suggested by some psychologists that ‘human culture as a whole has been saturated by unhealed wounding, which, if unchecked, will continue on a downward spiral toward inevitable disintegration.’* This is not a good thought. 
Books abound, both popular and academic, on the psychological study of why we behave as we do. But I think the bottom line is that we must understand how our wounds manifest themselves in many different and undesirable personality traits. We see greed and envy, craving for love and attention, consumerism, lust for power, superiority, violence, overspending, addictions to work and substances, depression, cynicism, despair. All these come from our unhealed wounds. What we need to cultivate instead is a compassionate trend, always sensitive to the pain of others. We are wired for empathy - we just shut it out a lot of the time! We need an instinctive urge to support the weak and the vulnerable. And we must combat violence, both against each other and against the planet. Violence is probably threatening our very future more than anything else. And the most obvious violence that we inflict upon this fragile planet is consumerism. That I have written of before, and will do again!
I have just found another good blog commenting on the Wounded Healer.
There the point is made that we can all be Wounded Healers. I cannot wholly agree.
Yes we certainly, most of us, have the capacity to become Wounded Healers, but along with many others, I believe that there are stages of healing along the path to the ultimate Wounded Healer when we can do more harm than good. See for example Conti-O’Hare’s excellent book The Nurse as Wounded Healer where she writes of the “Walking Wounded”, and also http://www.intuitive-connections.net/2004/book-beethoven.htm where Clayton Montez reviews Pearsall’s The Beethoven Factor, and writes on the Thriving Response. And there are other stages. The author of the said blog, writing clearly from a medical healing perspective, confesses to a lack of empathy by the bedside. Yes that is certainly true. There is much that needs to be done to reintroduce empathy and soul back to the sick bed, and I have written at some length on this myself elsewhere, re our health services, following in the footsteps of Larry Dossey, Dawson Church, et al. But I also believe that this archetype of the Wounded Healer has enormous social healing significance beyond the caring professions, for healing the world’s greater woes. I will come back to that in later posts.

*see Judith Thompson and James O'Dea "Social Healing for a Fractured World."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Why I Love Orchids

Monday, 14 March 2011

Stop the Drop - litter is blighting our countryside

Do other countries have problems with litter despoiling the countryside? And do they care? Do you care? Please let me know if this is just me, but I am getting to feel really depressed by the amount of unsightly rubbish that I see all around me in my day to day travels.
Last weekend we had occasion to take a long car journey - yes OK we would have gone by train if we could, but the destination was too remote to make this a viable option. Anyway, we drove. And all along the motorways there was litter lining the verges - not just odd bits and pieces, but everywhere, without any let up. And it made me nearly cry for the shame of being British, if this is how my fellow citizens behave. Is this how we bring up our kids, to just chuck any litter out of the car window? Is this the example the adults set them? Does no one see this for what it is, a filthy habit?Do let me know if you notice this and whether you care.
One of our most treasured imports from America, Bill Bryson is the President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and is a passionate anti-litter campaigner and champion of the countryside. He is currently spearheading the Stop the Drop Campaign here. Do go and have a look and see what you can do for your country.
Why England Matters
And on Tuesday 15th March, "Bill will be joining Jonathan and David Dimbleby for a fascinating talk to discuss ‘Why England matters’. The event, which will raise money for Dimbleby Cancer Care and Marie Curie Cancer Care, will take place at Merchant Taylor’s Hall, London. Click here for more information." (quoted from Bill's website - I know he will not mind me spreading this word). Perhaps it just may not be too late to take part.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Eating Animals

There has to be a huge amount that is good about a book that is not only right up there in the top selling Amazon.com ranks but also has 169 5* reviews out of a total 245, or 202 combined 4 and 5* reviews out of 245. (The UK version has a little catching up to do in the "number of reviews" stakes).

Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, so says the blurb, "is the most original book on the subject of food written this century."

I have been a vegetarian now for many years. I simply could no longer accept that we can justify our factory farming methods, the huge amount of unnecessary cruelty involved in much of our animal husbandry, and even in our fishing industry - yes fish DO suffer pain! I've written so much on this in my blog before. Now I have an ally in Jonathan Safran Foer.  

Do please read this book - As the blurb says, "It will change the way you think, and change the way you eat.
For good."

And that can only be a good thing.

This also takes me back to Jean Hardy's book A Wiser Politics, that I have been blogging about recently.
Here is another proposal from the 14 listed truths that Hardy says we must live out if we are to survive the twenty first century. A bit draconian? In the light of Foer's research and enlightened book, I don’t think Hardy goes any way near far enough.

Proposal 3 Question modern farming practices, working towards the
minimum eating of meat and fish. No more cattle and sheep
kept for human consumption: we should not raise millions
of cows and pigs for the sole purpose of slaughtering them
to provide meat for our table.

Hear Hear!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Building, not Burning, Bridges between Faiths

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
This “Serenity Prayer” as it is popularly called, is generally attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, one of America’s most distinguished theologians. There is some doubt over the exact history of the prayer, when and where and why it first appeared. Reinhold himself wrote, in the January, 1950 copy of Grapevine, that the prayer "may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself."
In its Christian prayer form, quoted in The New York Times Book Review, for August 13, 1950, p. 19, it reads as follows:
“O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Now Niebuhr’s great nephew, Gustav Niebuhr, Associate Professor of Religion and the Media, has written an excellent book, Beyond Tolerance: How People across America are Building Bridges Between Faiths.

To quote from the back cover “blurb”: At a time when religious conflict seems to dominate the media, Gustav Niebuhr travelled across America to find people- Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Muslims, Episcopalians – who are all reaching out to find common ground between their faiths.”
And what he found gives us all hope, “a boost of much needed optimism.”

And this is not just about America. The issue is global and the message throughout the book, and the methods used through the different inter-religious organizations, (1000 across America in 2004 and rising), many of which he describes, are of interest and relevance to us all.

“This is such an interesting, well- researched and important book on such a vital topic; it always saddens me that gems such as this seem to command so little interest as compared with the mass of best selling trivia so widely available. We should all care more about the serious issues that are going to affect the future of our families and our world… This should be compulsory reading and on the book- shelf of all those who have an interest in furthering peaceful relationship between faiths, for the building of a healed and better world for us all.” 

This last paragraph is from my full review that can be read at Amazon.com as well as at Amazon.co.uk. Do read the book, whatever your faith or indeed if you have no faith. Despite the dreams of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others, denouncing religion is as futile as King Canute trying to stop the encroaching waves. Far better to forge understanding and respect, beyond mere tolerance.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Reasons to love Norfolk England

Views of Thornham, Norfolk

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Women's World Day of Prayer

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

Prayer and praise 24 hours a day somewhere in the world - the church never sleeping. What a wonderful image, what a truly beautiful hymn, sadly mostly sung now at funerals, since the demise of the Evensong service for many of us.

On Friday we celebrated Women's World Day of Prayer across our local parishes. It was a wonderful happy service, the theme: "How Many Loaves Have You?" We were all called to reflect on our personal gifts and talents that we can offer and share in the service of God.
Every year the service focuses on a different country, and is written by women of that country. This year it was the turn of Chile, bread being an appropriate theme as this is eaten at every meal, being very much a part of everyday life for them.
And we closed the service with this my favorite hymn of all time. Just imagine women throughout the world focusing on the same prayer and praise throughout the day, starting "as dawn breaks over the islands of Tonga in the Pacific and continuing across each continent until the last services of this very special day are held back in the Pacific,on the islands of Samoa, circling the world in prayer for 36 hours."

Monday, 7 March 2011

Step Two towards a wiser politics

March 3rd was World Book Day.  Let's all of us give our politicians a book - but a rather special one with a serious message that has profound implications for our own futures.

Here is number 2 of 14 proposals for the framework of A Wiser Politics, taken from the book of that name by Jean Hardy. (see my blogs 3rd and 5th March). Here is a list of truths that Hardy says we must live out if we are to survive the twenty first century:

Proposal 2.

"Outgrow wars and the making of armaments, particularly
land-mines. Stop trying to solve problems in the mode of
three-year-old children and become truly adult. Abolish the
arms trade and minimize the military. This would save a lot
of money."

Yes indeed - it sounds so easy - but how, oh how, do we even begin to move towards this ideal? 
A good first start would be to read the book and all do our bit, however small that may be, to influence the way our politicians think, support the politicians who share our views, talk whenever we can to any one who will listen to us about a new vision for a wiser politics.  

So get politicians themselves to read the book!! Give a copy to your own politicians, perhaps just before they are going away on holiday!! 

What do you think?

Let's all start our own Ripples of Hope for a better world.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tony Blair and Rick Warren at Saddleback

A reminder that later today at Saddleback Church , Rick Warren and Tony Blair will be discussing amongst other things the “five global giants” of Warren’s own PEACE Plan; pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, self-centered leaders and spiritual emptiness. There is so much to follow up on these sites between them:
The US arm of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and The Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Also have a look at Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan website, where he seeks to mobilize millions of Christians around the world to “Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.”

And listen today to the dialogue – all follow up comments welcome - 6pm (pst)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Tony Blair and Rick Warren at Saddleback Church California not to be missed

Watch This!

On Sunday evening 6th March there is the opportunity to watch Tony Blair at Saddleback Church, in a live conversation with Rick Warren, founding pastor of this Orange County, California, mega church and author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

At this Civil Forum on Peace in A Globalized Economy, they will be addressing some of the big questions of the moment. The agenda includes faith, globalization, peace, reconciliation and education from the Middle East to the United States.

Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister, founded The Tony Blair Faith Foundation,an organization "to promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world."

You can watch the event free and  LIVE at at 6:00 pm (PDT) and be part of the conversation. There is more about this at The Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

This promises to be a candid conversation regarding Blair's work in the Middle East peace process, and his role as the founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. It should not be missed.

Step One towards a wiser politics

The other day I introduced Jean Hardy’s upcoming book A Wiser Politics. Here is number 1 of 14 proposals for the framework of a wiser politics, a list of truths that Hardy says we must live out if we are to survive the twenty first century:

"Proposal 1

If we had a more whole view of the person, as female as well
as male, as child, as ensouled when born, as containing all
the opposites found in nature, as needing meaning as well
as food and shelter, we would be socially obliged to:

a: ensure that all babies and children were physically and
emotionally cared for and time given to adults to fulfil this
primary function of love;

b: provide an education that enabled children and adults to
find their own individual potential though life;

c: have an education based on the awareness of the whole
universe, the earth and the human space within this sacred environment."

This is good stuff. This book is essential reading for all who are concerned for the future of the planet earth, and want to do what they can to ensure that we continue to be a part of it for generations to come. Do buy and read this book and share it around amongst friends. Nothing short of a massive global shift of heart, mind and soul is called for. May it be!

The sculptures are by members of the Surrey Sculpture Society, taken at one of their garden exhibitions. If any one knows the names of the sculptors I will happily give them credit here.

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

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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