Saturday, 1 September 2018

On Knowledge


Do we know more and more about less and less? St. Paul knew less and less about more and more; he liked it that way. Disaster equation: all knowledge plus all wisdom minus all love equals tragedy. We live in tragic times.
            I recall Brautigan’s poem on ‘cybernetic ecology’ All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. They’re here, not as foreseen. They know more and more and especially ever more about us. They know the truth and the false and dish out either impartially.
            We need real mothers, not machine mothers. Absent real mothers, we have the Mother of God, the Lady of Grace. To have real mothers, we need real lovers, not machine lovers. I recall Aquinas who knew everything in the 13th century. After a vision at the end of his life, he wrote nothing more: ‘After what has been revealed to me, all I have written seems to me as straw’. Yet Jesus also spoke to Thomas, saying “You have written well of me.’ This is the straw spun into gold by the lady in the tower who escaped by climbing down a rope made of her own golden hair. Seeing, sensing, hearing, knowing.

Friday, 31 August 2018

On Voting


On Voting
St. Paul identified himself, saying “I am … a citizen of no mean city” being Tarsus, of Cilicia (Asia Minor), now in modern Turkey. To be a citizen was, and still is, an honour, while being a stateless person is a complication at best: perhaps more likely a troubled status.
            Some find our Parliament too much like a circus, with acrobats doing flip-flops and hanging by their toes: confronted with politicians too hard to respect, they’re tempted not to vote. If both sides of politics (meaning the affairs of the city — polis in Greek — or matters for the whole body of citizens) lack creditable candidates, what to do?
            Idealists shudder at the thought of the essentially democratic process of compromise, confronted with uncompromising factions, cabals and ideologues. We long for benevolent, charismatic, successful politicians and discover left- and right-wing weaknesses. We are, however, citizens.
            We are citizens of no mean country. We must use thoughts and hearts to find those closest to our principles, even when choosing from the charmless, ignorant, divisive: we have an obligation to the affairs of the citizen body, matters before the nation. There is never perfection. But we can do the honourable thing, and vote.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

On Relationshhips


I sometimes think of Traleg Rinpoche, the incarnated guardian of a Tibetan tradition. I knew him peripherally, met briefly a few times, yet he was generous to a Christian looking in to his world from outside. This good man, highly educated in both Tibetan and Western ways, had a skill of relationship that appears to last beyond death.
I’ve heard it said that the body is the city of illusion, but to us it seems architectural in its solidity. Relationships are cities of illusion also, though to us full of pulsing traffic as in noon sun. What if they are empty, deserted streets of blinded walls? Sometimes we continue holding on to relationships that keep trying to almost not work. These are on the shaded side of life.
The relationships of living to living are not like those of living to dead. Relationships to saints, for example, are intercessory, delimited, mediatory. Relationships to ancestors: protective, intriguing, defining. To the lost and sought: cherishing, appealing, wounding. A thought may be the lightest touch, or an unending stream of emotion — a motion towards another reality — groping toward resolution of outraged love. Seek, then, harmonious, well-tempered relationships: we have only so much time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

On Taxing Times


The doers of good works are getting desperate. Every day mailbox, email, phones from charity appeals. Tax time: a chance to do more. We ought to pay more tax, of course; it could solve so much. Except that governments shift tax money into false imprisonment and colonial misadventures, such a waste. The truth is suffering, says Buddha. What to do? Who to trust?
Methods. Pressure: when I get dramatic invasive robocalls I block the number. Getting aggressive sales pitches saying I’d give more if I really cared I hang up. When I’m told I’m not caring I tune out. Bribery: when little packets arrive (pens, stationery, plastic logoed shopping bags) I run out of places to send stuff from people I know and those I don’t know. Manipulation: The gift economy implies a return. Then I hear from someone who wants me giving dead as well as alive.
Blame: whatever you’re doing it’s not enough. Taxes rightly directed could heal, educate, house, protect. Whose name and face on this coin? The times are taxing. Pay attention to the hungry, unclothed, imprisoned, mistreated, and sick. Struggling pieces of suffering everywhere. We do what we can, with such grace as we may.

Monday, 4 June 2018

On Tax

Follow the money, follow the goods. I confess my ignorance of economics. If a tariff is designed to prevent goods entering a country, what prevents goods leaving a country? An embargo. Tariff is basically a tax; both are trade barriers. Different from outright bans on, say, illegal drugs.
Locally, our Treasury decides to tax all overseas goods, including it seems items not subject to tax here: books, second-hand goods, and so forth. Overseas, although not a nation-state, Amazon embargoes all goods to Australia, (excepting limited local stores). The causes are not so interesting: what actually happens is an attempt to prevent goods entering the country or leaving the warehouse.
            Currently, the US taxes steel to prevent steel imports. During the US Civil War, the US embargoed cotton to prevent the South financing the war from its principal crop. Resulting shortages in the English textile industry led to Indian cottons taking over the trade.
            What results from tax? When the coin bears Caesar’s name, tax must be paid, and they say the inability to collect taxes brought the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Little things have big consequences. In the case of trade barriers, who profits? Someone else, it 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

On Pottery


Paul, my neighbor, died in his sleep one night, and his children held a garage sale. Among the tyre chains, tools, and ladders that filled our street with tradesmen’s vehicles were a number of shelves of pottery, for Paul practiced an art thousands of years old, the way of the potter.
     It put me in mind of Psalm 2: ‘Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’. Who shall be broken? The nations. A cursory glance at the news confirms this as just truth: the kings of the earth breaking and taking from one another.
The greatest of vessels is called Theotokos, the Mother of God, who carried the Lord Jesus. Like every mother who has ever lost a child to death, she is a broken vessel, yet the light that shines through her as a result of this breaking illumines the world. Blessed, broken, given. Can you ever separate a mother from her child? Are they not one flesh?
They say the church is our mother (broken in its own way), and we are thus one body. Paul, without meaning to, nonetheless preaches after his death. His vessels preach for him. What preaches for you, and me?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

On the One Lost Lamb


How did your one lost lamb come to go missing? Lambs are lost due to causes and conditions. While the other animals are comfortably controlled, bearing wool in a way to make you proud, the one lost lamb, through fright or frisk, has left the pasture for otherwhere.
            It might be one thoughtless word when under pressure, or one act parlous in consequence. Looking back, was the intention always clear? Is fear, greed, anger, an intention at all? Where is your lost lamb, loose somewhere in the world, to cause you so much regret?
            Forgiveness is foregoing of compensation or punishment by one who could rightly claim such. Who lost your lamb? Was it you? (Neglect.) Fate? (Ineffable.) Outside forces? (Incalculable.) Inside forces? (Inscrutable.)
            Try to find your one lost lamb in order to forgive its wayward progress. Blame is never useful. No lost lamb is ever retrieved that way. Find it first: what’s found is reprieved.
            Yes, this one lost lamb belongs to me. See the earmarks? I’m afraid so. How troublesome! The god in the pasture will have something to say to me. Come here, my darling. What a fine fleece you’ve grown.