The boy, or adolescent if you like, had been treating his mother with disrespect. It was suggested that he ask his parents for forgiveness before his sixteenth birthday. When he approached, not without fear and trembling, his very stern father the response was “go and sin no more” or more accurately “stop abusing your mother then we can talk about forgiveness.

The lad was duly taken aback and sloped off to lick his wounds in his room. A lesson, all be it rather harsh, was learned. Bad behavior has consequences, we do “reap what we sow!” The hapless fellow now a full-grown adult, still ponders the real meaning of forgiveness. He is now convinced, maybe it is genetic, that the simply solution to all wrong doing is the extension of forgiveness.

What may go some way, he thinks, towards the healing of a wound is genuine contrition on the part of the perpetrator and the victim’s fuller understanding of the said aberrant behavior. Possibly, forgiveness is not the goal but rather an acceptance of the imperfect nature of the human being. No one is perfect, “all have sinned”, all are wounded and from time to time act out their woundedness.

The above is the title of an address to be given at a Men’s Breakfast later this week. I can imagine what the content will be… The title is enough to get my mental alarm bell ringing. The inevitable contrast will be made between man’s wickedness and God’s goodness. How interesting the event would be if it was turned into an open debate on the nature of man and where the focus of man has led the world over the millennia. We could discuss the huge influence that personality, mental health, the availability of resources, culture, education, etc. have had in the shaping of the world.

Instead we will be treated to an exposition of one man’s understanding of the extraordinary nature of God. He has already lost me! Allowing for the possibility that there may be a God, how can man comment knowledgably on the nature of the wholly Other or the universal Spirit? Surely man can only comment on the basis of his understanding of the sacred scriptures of his particular faith community? Primitive man may still understand the workings of the world on the basis of natural phenomena! Consequently, when a religious man talks about God he should at the very least preface his remarks by indicating that his views are based solely on his reading of his sacred writings.

To talk about God being vitally active in his life and experience is a matter of faith at best and a matter of pure speculation at worst. He cannot provide any concrete evidence of such activity. It may as well be a train of thought in his head. Yet, time and again, men of faith will stand up and address other men about the wonders of God and about how they must submit to his perfect will. I just don’t get it! Advocate a sound set of universally acceptable values necessary for the smooth functioning of society, this will be really helpful. This material may include elements of a particular faith world view but it will definitely not include a clarion call for commitment to a God whom no one can really know.

 

I apologize for the use of the male gender, it was retained in this instance as being contextual

The fight is done, the battle won
Life’s been good under the sun
Learned much, had great fun
Time to quit, time to run

What good to fight again
Prove something, what to gain
I’ve raced in sun and rain
I’ve kept my head, I’ve stayed sane

Let me heed the writing on the wall
Continue walking tall
Not be afraid to fall
With courage face the final call

Its time to quit!

 

Thinking of a friend who received a bad diagnosis

Reflecting on our moods can be fun. It’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves. We can be so concerned about our changing moods, fretting about feeling down and concerned about moments of high anxiety, that we may even be tempted to analyse ourselves and come up with some important sounding label.

It may be useful to simply accept that our moods fluctuate and that this is quite normal. Feeling up or down, calm or anxious is part of being alive. On reflection, we are usually able to pin point the reason for our change of mood and can sometimes have a good chuckle!

This blog is obviously not trying to make light of mental illness, it is simply saying that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously. In fact, even when contemplating our eventual death we can become far too morbid because we focus on the demise of our “important” selves and forget that we are an integral part of the great mass of humanity.

He’s a stubborn old chap, well a time will come when stubborn doesn’t work anymore
She’s a control freak, controlling ways will have to stop at some point
There are many different ways of dealing with life, most work for a time but none work for ever
We have to give up the old ways and embrace the new
If we don’t, others will take over and we will have no say at all
So stop being an old fart, a young speed freak, a workaholic or whatever
And wise up to better ways of living and enjoy life to the full
Better by far to start adapting to change sooner than later
It will be less of a shock!

rudyardh

Yesterday I caught myself out praying for help with a plumbing crisis at our home. I reflected on this mental lapse and came to the conclusion that my “prayer” was in fact “an expression of hope” that the plumbers would find the cause of the obstruction. I think that is a good definition of prayer, “an expression of hope”. Spiritual maturity does not allow for “asking prayers”, God does not reach down and pull roots out of a sewage pipe! We have trained people who do that work. Praying for things or situations that we are perfectly capable of addressing, is pointless.

This morning I awoke to the news of the horrific terror attack in Nice. How do spiritually mature people deal with these unspeakable acts of violence? We do not pray and ask God to intervene! We pray to “prepare our minds for action”. We ask ourselves “what can…

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Trudging ‘cross mindless sands us hominids
Catching glimpse of universes yet unnamed
Struggling with visions sometimes sordid
Trying to get why we’re often blamed

Countless pillars loom before us
Propping theories yet untamed
What is true and what is false evades us
Brains befuddled by ideas still unclaimed

Where’d we come from, where’re we  going
All these millions some still chained
Reason becomes a hostage sewing
Garments of false hope ongoing

Sometimes a certain person crosses your path unexpectedly or a certain event occurs unannounced and you begin to wonder…this can be dangerous or simply unwise. Imputing experiences with all kinds of meaning can result in some strange “explanations”.

Some of us have become rather tired of religious people claiming relentlessly that God is behind everything that happens to them. They will go further and find divine reasons for almost everything that happens in their community or in the world for that matter.

We may rightly mutter to ourselves, surely they understand that there is such a thing as chance, or random effect, or serendipity, or a simple coming together of events. Much of the time events cannot and should not be connected. Stuff happens and often in a very arbitrary manner. Everything is not connected by someone up there pulling the strings.

Hopefully most people reading this blog will be nodding in agreement…until now! Sometimes, probably not often, things intersect in an uncanny way and it leaves some of us very puzzled. Once again, we are aware that we love to impute events with special meaning, so we need to tread carefully! We find meaning in a particular experience and our heart beats a little faster.

But obviously that does not imply that there is some other worldly significance! In fact, it matters not one jot if there is something weird behind the event. The important thing is that the event or experience is significant to us.
Having said all of the above, from time to time there is this very strange feeling that a particular incident is not random, or chance but has some special significance. Well, of course, this can simply be a figment of the imagination but it is quite nice to occasionally feel the rush that comes from experiencing a totally unforeseen event! Enjoy them when they come!

I touch the old man dying in his bed
I cry

I see the dog on the street long dead
I cry

I hear the squeal of a pig being slaughtered in the shed
I cry

I smell the burning of a village wreathed in red
I cry

I taste blood and think of the thorn stuck in his head
I cry

I count the street people standing in line waiting to be fed
I cry

You say I am morbid, seeing darkness instead of light
I say, I cannot enjoy the light until I have met the darkness

The neighbours, a sincerely lovely family, never travel or even take a holiday as far as we can see. A question, are they in some way seriously deprived? Maybe they are quite happy and contented staying at home, enjoying the pool, the barbecue and the warmth of their togetherness.
Travelling, for those who can afford the financial ruin, is said to be enriching and mind broadening. The sense of history in the old cities of Europe, the spanking newness of the cities in the East and the grandeur of the natural wonders of the world do not leave the traveler unmoved.
Here is a word of caution, try not to become the willing victim of the camera ‘phone! Twenty first century travelers are frantically snapping every new scene with their latest ‘phone and selfies are all the rage. They simply must post their snap shots on Face book immediately so that family and friends can be suitably impressed with their travels.
We have amazing technology at our disposal, that does enhance our lives, but it can also enslave us to the point of becoming immune to the real wonder of our surroundings. Mindfulness is still in vogue and hopefully always will be! Be fully present, fully aware, fully receptive in the moment. Look, listen, learn… let’s practice soaking up everything around us and we will be truly enriched. When all the social media messages have dried up, we will be able to re-live our exciting travels in the comfort of our armchairs.