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.

Monday, 12 March 2018

On the Invisibility Problem


Are you really invisible? When, and where? And what was not seen? Many of us are invisible after the age of 50, but in our 20s and 30s, even earlier, more than one may feel unseen. Does being unseen mean I can get away with more? Am I undetected? Am I undervalued? Opaque? Unidentified? Invisibility happens still in the midst of active careers and accomplishments.
            A friend confessed surprise, finding old letters that showed people missing her, for herself, that is, personally, because of who she is. She’d thought she was invisible all those years, so full of achievement and event. That the closest people saw only her deeds.
            The slave Hagar fled into the wilderness from her master’s abusive household and met an angel she named: Thou God seest me. Seeing is everywhere in this mysterious story: looks of contempt, envy, triumph, suspicion, and grief. Hagar was astonished: Have I also here looked at him that seeth me? When her eyes were opened, she saw a well of water in the desert.
            I often feel invisible. It’s a gift to a photographer, seeing rather than seen. But in truth you are seen both by the known and the unknown.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

On Who Am I?


What do you say to someone you meet at party? How do you identify yourself? Probably from the outside in.
            Not by your religious condition. I’m a ‘miserable sinner’ (prayer book); I’m a ‘child of God’ (catechism); I’m an interrelationship with everything in the universe (Buddhist); I’m a compendium of chemicals strung together with electrical impulses (atheism): I am dust, and will return to dust.
            Nor with family: a good parent (I feed my children), or bad (I beat them); a filial child (heeding my parents), or neglectful (ignoring them). The wise avoid politics: gripping hard to the right or spinning out with the left. More approvable your football team or favourite band. No strong emotions: I’m in love, I’m pregnant; I’m gay; I’m inspired. Or I loathe, I hate, I despise.
            Even work shuns the personal. Who says: I’m a trustworthy employee (honest), or slipshod and lazy?  a sincere CEO (devoted to the good), or corrupt (follow the money)? Do the arts save us? I’m a pianist, an actor, a watercolourist? Am I first an artist or a teacher? Am I a ball of skills, personalities, impressions? All these? Or only dust, gold dust, maybe?