Thursday, 22 June 2017

On the Fruits of the Earth

This morning’s conversation with the greengrocer was most enlightening. Current practice often associates government with business. We see whole nations given over to representatives of international wealth, led by those holding profit the highest morality. Where are you, Gore Vidal, when we need you now?
            The greengrocer sold the business to an entrepreneur; he works as an employee: competition with the large is becoming impossible. The land, growers, fruits of the land are increasingly owned by big business, who dispose of produce at every stage in the most efficient manner. He didn’t make clear whether the new owner was the agent of one of the great foreign merchant families, or simply someone who took opportunity to advance himself in new surroundings.
            This happens at a time when the government is performing like a travelling circus about a handful of asylum seekers. The prophets exhort us to protect the stranger within the gates, but as far as I know, say nothing about allowing the nations to possess the land.
            Galilee was run for the benefit of large landowners, too. The Kingdom of God, though, is not like this. The Kingdom of God is run for the weak. Blessed are the meek.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

On Seeing

Seeing is believing, if you’re easy to convince. Like Thomas, I begin to think touch more reliable. Some people see things that are not there; many see things that are placed there. Wars, invasions, propaganda may depend on seeing things, present or absent. Ask a migraine subject about the flashing lights. Don’t begin to contemplate the actions of certain drugs, legal or not.
            Photography is a language:  like English, Chinese or any tongue it can be used for truth or fiction. If the devil is the father of lies, photography must be the mother, or at least the sister of lies. Why the sister? Because like Wisdom, she sees deeper than others, but any deceit plays on thoughtless unsupported concepts of veracity: seeing is believing. Many believe wordy falsehoods: even more false pictures.
            ‘I saw you,’ said Jesus, of a man in whom there was no deceit. The quality of the eye is also important. What everyone hopes to see is the truth. Deep, deep in the understanding is a precondition for identifying what the truth might be. Is it a ruthless, punishing God? No God? A merciful, availing God? May you see grace to understand the last.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

On Magnitude

I read about the super-rich constantly building new yachts: massive, bigger than the Normandie. You need a new one, because your neighbour has a new one: bigger swimming pools, in-house submarines, helipads onboard. You need a new one with better features.
            Biggerness and betterness are often conflated. How big? How good? Is magnitude always relative? Do we know when things begin to be large?
            Big trouble is usually easy to find. But if one of the, say, top 100 wealthy feels suddenly poor as the neighbours increase, what does it say about the order of magnitude? Is smaller than the Normandie still big?
            Anselm says God is that which nothing greater can be imagined. We’ll have to define ‘God’, ‘great’, and ‘thought’. Mathematics isn’t my world, but it seems to me the numbers involved must be either very large or very small. So small they become great?
            Aquinas doesn’t buy this argument, because God is a mystery. What, then does magnitude say about the human condition? Comparison with those above (richer, smarter, happier) rather than those below (poorer, and so on) is natural, but unenlightening.
            John the Baptist understood magnitude. “He must increase; I must decrease,” he said.

Monday, 17 April 2017

On Rejection

Last night I dreamed I was new arrived again, and fell to weeping in my sleep. Those who welcomed me, rejected, accepted, attacked, tolerated or disapproved of me: I’ve forgiven you all. Some indeed have by now forgiven me.
     Why then do tears run down in sleep? Sleep, the alternative world, is peopled with the past, a treasure-store of memory:  prop-room, wardrobe, prompt-box, rehearsal space for life’s cautionary dramas.
     Proust says a cast of divinities inhabits memory: those people who have made us suffer. Recollection comes through the senses, an uneven paving-stone, for instance, and Venice appears. For me the question ‘How d’you like Australia?’— once a common expression — awakened memory to work again in sleep.
     All this was decades ago, many have died, and died heroic deaths, too. Yet in memory, in sleep, they live to perform their roles. As Proustian divinities, they’re only a metaphor: they point to the joy received when they embrace instead of doubting.
     Is life so personal? The rational mind would allow, explain, excuse, comprehend. In sleep, though, the mind recounts its private story. What I’ve learned is this: for the love of God, treat your immigrants well. The marks are indelible.

On Charlie

I miss Charlie. Sometimes I attend city hospitals for treatment, when I’ve seen Charlie, sitting on the pavement with her crossword puzzle, passing the day. I saw her tent once, pitched in St. Peter’s grounds, because homeless shelters are not felt safe for women.
     Charlie, a polite, well presented young woman, says the city is better for her than the country town. It keeps her away from bad company; she’s here to put her life together again.
     I haven’t seen her lately. Nor the man I greeted on Bourke Street, who has such terribly swollen, shoeless, blue-purple feet. The city is closing in. Some things happened. Boarding houses shut, for why? Did the land become too valuable, or were they just such unsound premises? Facilities fenced out at night, due to fights over limited resources. Flinders Street Station featured the police, who as in the times of the English Poor Law, moved people on. A better place to sleep, crowded, lighted, food and water nearby? Better than a dark lonely alley?

     I’d miss Charlie less if I knew she was in a warm, dry, safe place. I can’t forget her little fingerless gloves, her courteous conversation, her half-finished crossword puzzle.     

Sunday, 2 April 2017

On Superstition

Excess fear of the gods. I’ve experienced, and others do report, an absence or shunning (friends, colleagues, even family) in the presence of misfortune, especially death: more particularly sudden or violent death. Where some respond generously, others flee through superstition.
 ‘They need rest and quiet’ (assumption never plumbed); ‘I wouldn’t invade their privacy: so, so private’ (imposed, unrequested isolation); ‘I wouldn’t know what to say’ (unspoken words protecting self-esteem). Superstition is located low in the brain; I liken it to fear of contagion, following an epidemic. Death is the ultimate malady.
            Superstition is concerned with luck and the means of controlling fortuitous events. Where there’s no rational way of confronting chance, deflecting randomness, becoming safe, quite unconsciously I have no doubt, minds turn magical: feelings freeze.
            The gods that are feared, of fate, destiny, circumstance, attract these silencing prayers although one hopes for help from gods and not rejection. The Beatitudes say mourners will be comforted, but Beatitudes may be expressive of all the opposites. In the Kingdom of God, comfort will come.

            These gods of superstition are not the God of truth and justice, of living water that flows and is not still. That’s my personal observation.

Monday, 27 March 2017

On the Civilised Heart

The civilised mind is full of wisdom and past regard. But what is the civilised heart? A direct answer would be Bach. Why civilisation at all, with barbarity so entertaining?
            I attended a Choral Scholarship Appeal yesterday. The high arts have always needed patrons; benefactors have many calls on their resources. Why is the training of these young singers important? Why are sixteen voices more beneficial than eight? Could every cent given to music, painting, or literature better serve with the poor?
            In seeking the welfare of the city, attention (a form of therapy) must be given to the sense or significance of values. Barbarity in the form of greed heaps up riches while the soul may be required before nightfall. How to understand human fate or come to terms with divine matters?
            Civilisation refers to societies with highly developed arts, sciences, religion and government; not fundamentalism, despotism, denial (whether unscientific or unhistorical), illiteracy of language, arts, or music. It’s a privilege to be a civilised person, to act with civility.

            Where knowledge meets human feeling, the heart is civilised to consider other than self. So yes, it is important. The arts provide a civilised heart.