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1st May, 2016

PEACE

My goodness, but hasn't the world become a noisy place! There seems to be no escaping it. I hate 'pop' music, but it is everywhere. To me it is simply noise. When I see a guitar, I run. Everyone seems to think he/she can sing and play a guitar! As I grow older it gets worse and more annoying. Where can an older person find peace today?

We all need a bit of peace and quiet to restore a sense of balance and harmony in our lives. Without it we become sour and crabid. I suppose we must look for it first and foremost in ourselves, in our own heart. From there it can radiate outwards.

I remember hearing a story about two artists who, in a contest, were asked to paint a picture on the theme of peace and contentment. One painted a rural scene of stillness, a dreamy, leafy landscape of rolling hills, a still lake and a beautiful sunset. Yet it was the other artist who won the prize. His work showed a thundering waterfall so realistic that one could almost hear the roar of the water as it crashed on the rocks below. If one looked closely, however, one could see among the rocks a small tree with a bird and her chicks in a nest. The scene conveyed the message that the important thing about peace is that it can be achieved even in the midst of turmoil.

Alas, I haven't reached that point yet myself. I must try harder.

30th Apr, 2016

MIND YOUR WALLET

My post yesterday spoke of living the simple life. People with big wallets beware.

The Mirror newspaper is warning us to be careful if we keep our wallet in our back pocket! If one's  wallet is jam-packed with bills of all kinds - even money - it suggests it might be a good idea to start using a handbag or something else! Not because the wallet might be stolen, but because it's putting one's back, hips, neck, pelvis and even one's bottom at risk!

A doctor explains how sitting on a wallet "creates an asymmetry or imbalance that distorts the pelvis and hips." Having one hip sat higher than the other causes the back and neck to compensate for the unevenness and can lead to problems in these areas.
He says that, over time, this could lead to serious problems for joints, muscles and discs, resulting in pain and maybe worse.

I must check if I can get a nice fashionable clutch to carry around with me!

29th Apr, 2016

EXPERIENCING FREEDOM

I was reading in Facebook the other day about a restaurant owner in Kerala who has installed a 24-hour running refrigerator outside his property which is open to those in need of a meal but can't afford it. His fb page asks his friends to help stock the fridge with any leftovers they can spare. I don't know what insurance companies in the area think of his initiative! We all, I suppose, tend to hold on to what we have, whether we need it or not. We are very slow to let go of things even though they may be of use or service to others.

It's nothing new of course. Remember the story of Savonarola who in 1497 encouraged his friends and followers in Florence to throw their unwanted and un-needed stuff into his great Bonfire of Vanities? He was directing his words especially at the Church with all its "gold and silver." I'm sure he would be greatly scandalized at how we ourselves hold on to useless things when so many go hungry? If I myself were to put a cardboard box in my room, would it take long, I wonder, to fill it with things I really could do without?

When I'm at it, maybe I could, metaphorically speaking, also strip myself bare of all my spiritual "vanities" in a mighty demonstration of  new-found freedom. Into it I could throw each of my vanities, my pretences, my pseudo-religious attitudes, my collection of accumulated masks, my false images of god . . .  and become spiritually bare like Matisse's dancing nudes.

28th Apr, 2016

HAS CHRISTIANITY A FUTURE?

1. Only if Christians develop a deeper appreciation of the nature and role of the Spirit in the Mystery we call God.

2. Only if Christians develop a deeper appreciation of the nature and role of the Natural World in the Mystery we call God.

3. Only if Christians develop a deeper appreciation of the nature and role of Christ in the Mystery we call God.

4. Only if Christians develop a deeper appreciation of the nature and role of Prayer in the Mystery we call God.

26th Apr, 2016

MYSTERY

God is Mystery. I am drawn into Mystery. I am called to profess, to attest, to affirm Mystery. I am called to engage with others as together we are drawn into Mystery in the day-to-day events of our lives.

I am not called to reason. I am not called to explain. I am not called to analyse.

Those who "know" will consider me a simpleton. So what!

22nd Apr, 2016

FAMINE MEMORIES

I have been invited to the official opening on Monday of a large extention to Midleton CBS College in County Cork of which I was Principal some years ago. I am looking forward to visiting the old place again although many of the staff I knew there have retired by now.

I am also looking forward to seeing a sculpture which was erected close to the college two years ago. It is a sculpture of nine giant, stainless steel eagle feathers to thank the Choctaw Indians for their kindness and support during the infamous Great Irish Famine. It is by Cork sculptor, Alex Pentek, who said he wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they showed.

Despite the oppression faced by the Choctaws themselves in the years preceding our famine, on hearing of the plight and hunger of the Irish people in 1847, they raised $170 to send to the Irish people to ease their suffering. This figure is equivalent to  tens of thousands of dollars in today’s currency.

Just 16 years prior to this, the Choctaws were one of the so-called “civilized tribes”, who were forced off their land by President Andrew Jackson and forced to complete a 500-mile trek to Oklahoma that would become known as the Trail of Tears, and is still remembered today. It is this terrible journey that inspired Pentak for his creation. “To see members of your family drop to the side of the road and to be powerless to change that course of history. That stirred my imagination.”

20th Apr, 2016

SCHOOL UNIFORMS

I usually take a walk in the afternoons and pass several schools. All students - junior and senior - must wear their school's uniform. Have not students the right to dress as they wish? Left to themselves I'm sure they would not choose to wear uniforms. As soon as they get out of sight of the school some of them discard at least some part of the uniform and put it into their satchel. What purpose does a uniform serve?

In today's society students should learn to make informed decisions about the clothes they wear... teens should be able to develop self-expression and their own personal identity. Uniforms suppress their right to express themselves through clothes.

Uniforms encourage them to be followers not leaders. They discourage independent thinking and deny students their right to freedom of expression and individuality, stifling creativity and encouraging conformity.

I'm sure most parents too would be glad to be shut of school uniforms and all the hassle involved!

17th Apr, 2016

FAMILY BREAKDOWN

As a society we appear to be overwhelmed by a number of apparently irremediably social problems, whether it be homelessness, addictions, children at risk, provision of affordable health care. Many of these escalating problems share a common contributing factor, the fragility of family life today. Family breakdown seems to be a common element, though not the only one, in any analysis of the root causes of serious social problems.

There has been a dramatic rise in marital breakdown here in Ireland - up 500% since 1986 - and yet there is an alarming refusal to acknowledge the problem. Since 1990 we've also seen a huge rise in single parent families and cohabiting couples and this has meant a huge increase in the number of children being raised outside marriage.

Behind these figures is an awful lot of human pain and social unrest. What it highlights is that the changing Irish family means in many cases an ever growing number of children growing up with either a semi-involved or uninvolved father, and a growing number of mothers having to raise their children on their own or with the help of relatives and friends to compensate for the absent father.

Traditionally, and in every known society, permanent marriage has met this problem. Marriage connects children to their fathers and mothers and society more reliably than anything else we know. As marriage weakens in Ireland, so does the connection between father and child, mother and child, and society and child.

16th Apr, 2016

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

Has the age of personal responsibility gone by the boards? There have been so many claims for personal injuries before the courts recently one would think so.

Yesterday a woman who had sued the Irish National Parks & Wildlife Service following a fall on a boardwalk section of the Wicklow Way was awarded €40,000 in damages for her injuries - a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches - she had been looking for €60,000!

This judgment will have serious repercussions for all national parks. Surely all hillwalking, climbing and rambling are activities that everyone knows can be dangerous and may result in personal injury or death. Should not all participants be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement?

We often hear these days about ‘who is to blame’ for something going wrong or someone being hurt. I'm glad to see that this particular award is being appealed.

14th Apr, 2016

MUSING ABOUT LOVE

Pope Francis has recently published an Exhortation on familial love called Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). Is he not wasting his time? Surely the word 'love' has become such a trite and bandied word in our vocabulary that it no longer means anything.

Wikipedia tries to come to grips with the problem this way: "Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection ("I love my mother") to pleasure ("I loved that meal"). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection—"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.
Non-Western traditions have also distinguished variants or symbioses of these states. This diversity of uses and meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.
Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts."


To me, to LOVE always means to GIVE of oneself for the good of another, what Wikipedia above calls —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". I think St. Paul sums it up well in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

"Making love". Even in sexual intercourse it is concern for the 'other' that is important, otherwise one is merely using another person for one's own pleasure.

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