Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I miss my dog

During most of my childhood, we had a small Jack Russell terrier. I used to walk her every day.

She died in 1997. I've not thought about it for years, but I miss her.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

the other side

Occasionally in life you get the opportunity to meet a remarkable person. The other day, I had the privilege to meet one. After laughing loudly about the latest trick she'd played on her family - which incidentally involved hiring a hot tub over Christmas (what a great idea) - Sue* told us about her life as a minister in one of the roughest estates in our community. An almost post-apocalyptic community where houses not only stand empty and blocked out, but are still black from recent arson attacks. Where whole blocks of flats are boarded up and where the shops have bars on the windows.

It is a community in flux. Some people work hard, and move away as quickly as possible. Others are institutionally dependant, having been many years living on government social security payments. Local government is rebuilding and rehousing in the community, so people are being moved from one part of the area to another. At the bottom are the asylum seekers, who move in because they have nowhere else to go.

This community has received millions in grants, various groups have internet centres, walk-in advice centres, after-school care centres, nurseries and women's projects. Yet an air of sadness hangs in the air, a community that hopes for a better future but can't quite believe that it will happen.

Sue has a brisk style and takes no prisoners, so managed to invite herself onto many of the management groups which run projects in the area. She is the only person who lives in the area. Professionals commute to sort out other peoples' problems and other peoples' lives.

From the standpoint of commuting from one area of middle-class intelligentsia to upper-working class suburbia, it is like observing life through the bottom of a milk bottle. Our lives become havens of irrelevance compared to the struggles others face. Yet it is hard to know how to break out of the boxes we live in and how we could assist those stuck in cycles of poverty, neglect and crime even if we did.

*not her real name

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On the Amish

Whilst seeing the difficulties and acknowledging the hardships inherent with being born into a sect, I can only stand and admire the Amish, and I was pleased to find this blog:

I have long thought that the enterprising Amish have much to teach the rest of us.

As I found out meeting members of Church Communities, which is the Anabaptist Mennonite group formerly known as Bruderhof (with some similarities to the Amish), they are wonderfully simple and open people.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Doing it.

The Onion is one of the silliest websites on the internet.

This report for example is extremely silly. Hilarious, but silly. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I bet you laughed at the last line.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Living Simpler

As a very random spur-of-the-moment idea, I've started a new blog here:

The idea is to try to work on replacing some of our normal consumer products with low-carbon alternatives, thinking through environmental changes in our lives, cutting through some of the crap which is bandied about, and generally treating climate change as a Real Issue rather than Somebody Else's Problem or something which only requires changing a few lightbulbs.

This blog is going to continue with the more random and philosophical stuff which you know (and probably hate). Please come over and get involved.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Righteous Men

I've never been very interested in Judaism, it being a belief system which encompasses most of what I dislike about religion: lots of rituals, funny clothing, long beards and so on.

The only thing I knew about the Jewish form of mysticism known as Kabbalah was regarding the 'popstar' Madonna. Which didn't really attract it to me.

Anyway, that said, I've just been reading a novel which contains an interesting idea. It describes mystical people known as Tzadikim Nistarim, Righteous men. The idea is that in every generation there are just 36 truly righteous people (36 being a very special number) who hold the world up. If they were all to die at once, the world would immediately end.

So far, so mumbo-jumbo.

For me, the interesting thing is the characteristics of these people. Whilst this is an ancient Jewish idea, some Jews believe that the 36 are hidden throughout the world - ie not necessarily amongst Jews. Second, the righteousness of these men is hidden. Third, their good deeds empower rather than degrade the receiver. So here, deep within this very well structured religion is the idea that what is most important is not the rituals, what you look like, what you say etc. The important thing is what you do to other people.

And there are a whole bunch of stories about these secret Righteous men, being found in surprising places. For example, the pimp from a brothel who when a desperate woman comes to him to sell herself to pay for an injustice, instead goes and sells his own possessions and gives her the money. The man who sets up a refugee camp, spending his own money, totally outwith of any outside help or notice.

People from all walks of life, who as a kind of hobby see a need and seek to do something about it. Without fanfare, without prizes, mostly without being noticed at all.

How about that for an idea?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The evolution of institution

It is 1 January 2008 and I'm alone at home with man-flu. It isn't great.

Anyway, I was thinking last night about how hard it is to get an accurate public perception of the past. For example, how many people know more than a couple of lines about Napoleon?

Then I was thinking about how quickly things change and evolve. For example, Baden-Powell only started the Scouting movement in 1907. Yet how much of his original advice is still relevant in scouting? He cannot have imagined what would happen with the organisation he started, how the official and unofficial parts of the scouting movement would evolve.

I wonder if that has happened with Jesus