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January 31, 2006


It is worth noting that Mark's gospel represents Jesus' first public ministry in the temple, with opposition coming from the religious people. At the other end of the gospel we find opposition coming from within the twelve - Judas. In the middle, immediately following the first proclamation of faith, we find Peter being told by Jesus to "get behind me, Satan". What are we to make of this?

The focus of preaching and proclamation in the church is invariably on the evils of the world, and rarely on the evils within. This is an age-old phenomenon, one which blinds us to many realities. In the Hebrew Bible it was a continuing problem for Israel, believing that their status as God's people and the evils of the surrounding peoples exempted them from such close self-examination.

When we read the gospels, we tend to read ourselves into the best roles. We see ourselves as the friends of Jesus, as those who understand his kingdom and his message. Such an approach continues to blind us to the realities that we are too often much more like the religious people in the text, opposing the work of God.

A counter to this tendency is often found in the many voices of faith... the different views which are often found within the faith community. But too often we either dismiss such voices as 'whingers' or ignore them for being way out. The strength of christian community comes from an ability to question each other, and particularly prevailing orthodoxy. It is a vital aspect of unity which needs to be nurtured and fostered.

And who provides that voice when we are the church dispersed? When we find ourselves in our workplaces and social settings, when we are often the only christian present? It strikes me that we need a level of christian community in which such questions and critique of our daily lives can take place.

But that's a more difficult question.

Posted by gary at 09:29 PM | Comments (6)

January 30, 2006

Create a text image from your pictures

Here's some creative fun - turn your pictures into colourful zeroes and ones.

An example:

Posted by gary at 06:45 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2006


This is Henri Nouwen’s phrase: “waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.” How does the idea of a journey into the desert appeal to you? If I were to suggest that there is a spiritual desert ahead of you, what would be your response? Deserts aren’t places that people think of productively. There may be the Aussie desire for the outback, but that too is within reason. We aren’t welcoming of the desert.
AND YET… the desert is a pivotal place in the work of God through history.

Mark’s gospel begins Jesus’ ministry with his baptism. Immediately following baptism, Jesus journeyed into the desert. It’s not the first time. The Christmas story ends with Jesus being taken into the desert – following the arrival of the Magi, the story has Jesus heading into exile into Egypt. It is interesting that the story which follows Christmas is that of Jesus entering the wilderness. It is similar to this part his adult life, when immediately following baptism he went into the desert for 40 days.

It is a journey in spirituality which is lost today.

There is a wonderful Christian tradition in the fourth century of the desert fathers, some of whom might be regarded with some suspicion today… these people chose the desert as a place for reflection – not on mere theology, but as a way of understanding life against the trend of society. They were looking for personal transformation, not mere information. And they realised that they were being transformed in society.

(We might also remember that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Some preachers have suggested that it took months to get the Israelites out of Egypt, and much longer to get Egypt out of the Israelites.)

That Jesus finds his way into the desert is no accident, and its reporting to us no mere matter of fact. The gospel writers are seeking to point something out to us which is essential for all those who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

I’d like to offer three simple thoughts, illustrated with insights from the desert fathers.

1. The desert is a place of new beginnings – Jesus started here. We are invited to start over again.

"Abba Poeman said regarding Abba Prin that every day he made a new beginning." "My God, do not abandon me. I have done nothing good before Thee, but grant me, in Thy compassion, the power to make a start" (Arsenios, 5th century).
In the desert, God shaped his people in new ways: Moses was called in the desert. God encountered Elijah in the “still small voice” in the desert. The prophet Hosea’s life becomes a living message of God’s grace, and in chapter 2 there is that wonderful passage where God declares of Israel, “therefore I will allure her… I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her… I will make the valley of Achor (struggle) a doorway of hope.
In the desert, God brings new things to be.

2. The desert is a place where all decisions must be carefully taken. Everything must be done with intention. With temperatures pushing well into the 40s on a number of occasions this summer, we have been reminded of the cost of working in the – if you were going to do something, you made sure it was essential.

In the desert we must wrestle with our desires – which often do not give much consideration to the resources available. Impulses in the desert can be lethal – where mirage can feign reality with much power.

“Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort" (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th century). Let us not live aimlessly, but with intention.

3. The desert was a place of prayer, particularly for Jesus in his time of temptation. There were few distractions, few things to devote energy towards. Moses encountered God in the desert. So did Elijah… So let us make the year one grounded in prayer… "Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to Him to arrange things as He knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought" (Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century). Abba Macarius said, "It is enough to say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer, say: 'Lord, help!'"

Mark’s gospel is succinct in expressing what happened in this desert time for Jesus. But he was waited upon by angels.

The desert places can be important for us in our spiritual journey. Dare we pray that God might lead us into the desert?

Posted by gary at 09:55 PM | Comments (1)

January 28, 2006

Only in Queensland?!

Can't verify the veracity of this one, but worthy of passing on anyway...
This story happened a while ago in Brisbane, and even though it sounds Like an Alfred Hitchcock tale, it's true.
John Bradford, a Sydney University student, was on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a storm. The night was rolling on and no car went by. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly he saw a car, slowly coming towards him and stopped. John, desperate for shelter and without thinking about it, got in the car and closed the door, just to realize there was nobody behind the wheel and the engine wasn't on! The car started moving slowly.
John looked at the road and saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started to pray, begging for his life. Then, just before he hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and turned the wheel. John, paralysed with terror, watched how the hand appeared every time they came to a curve.
John saw the lights of a pub down the road so, gathering strength, jumped out of the car and ran to it. Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and asked for two shots of tequila. He then started telling everybody about the horrible experience he went through.
A silence enveloped everybody when they realized he was crying and....wasn't drunk. About 15 minutes later, two guys walked into the same pub. They were also wet and out of breath. Looking around and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other, "Look, Bruce. Here's the idiot that got in the car while we were pushing it."

Posted by gary at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2006

Haggis can be lethal

Nasty little animals, those haggis. And now it seems that eating them is hazardous to your health. According to this morning's paper:
Scotland's national dish has been ranked alongside junk food by health officials fighting childhood obesity. They recommend children eat haggis only once a week because of its fat and salt content.
From today's Odd Spot from The Age.

Posted by gary at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

Sex and Public Speaking

I'm not sure that this has a place in preaching courses... Seems to me it has been the cause of more problems than solutions through time... though there is a scientific basis.

Posted by gary at 09:10 PM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2006

It's as hot as...

The mercury pushed past 40 degrees again today. It is so hot that my body is melting into the seat. If perspiration could be tapped as a source for irrigation, we would solve the drought engulfing the Sahara! This is the third time in the past month we have experienced such heat. I've been trying to think of analogies for the heat:

It's as hot as.... (besides the obvious)
* iPods at a pre-Christmas sale
* the server of a spammer
* Roger Federer at the Australian Open (or any other tournament!)
* Shane Warne's SMS inbox
* the entrees at a Mexican party...

Or as an alternative: It's so hot that
* we have to put the roast in the oven to cool it down
* the cows are producing hot milk
* ice cubes turn to steam the moment we take them out of the freezer
* the birds were wearing sunscreen...

OK. I know these are weak. Anyone want to improve on them?

Posted by gary at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2006

One million people, one medical gamble

You might donate blood to help save someone's life. But would you donate your blood, your DNA, and your most intimate medical secrets on a promise that it may help save a life years from now?

Half a million UK citizens are expected to do just that in the coming months, with another half-million to follow in the US. The research aims to study, in unprecedented depth, how our genes and environment interact over the years to cause disease. But the studies raise fundamental questions over privacy, who should own our medical records, and worries over insurance premiums that could be at risk if data about participants' genetic fate leaked out...

Read more.

Posted by gary at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2006

Finding Solitude

Insight from Henri Nouwen:

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

Posted by gary at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2006

Study the Horse

Ancient wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However in organisations we often try many other strategies, including the following:
1. Changing riders
2. Buying a stronger whip
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse
4. Arranging a visit to other sites to see how they ride dead horses
5. Increasing the standards for riding dead horses
6. Creating training sessions to improve riding skills
7. Comparing the state of dead horses in today's environment
8. Changing the requirements so that the horse no longer meets the standards of death
9. Hiring an outside consultant to show how dead horses can be ridden
10. Increasing funding to improve the horses performance
11. Declaring that no horse is too dead to beat.
I classified this as humour, which only goes to further establish the point that the best humour is always grounded in truth!

Posted by gary at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2006

Lessons from subtitles

Watching movies with subtitles has become much more common with the advent of DVD. In bygone eras, movies were either dubbed, or one had to know the original language. Then with the appearance of SBS, we were given access to foreign movies with subtitles so that one could still enjoy the story, or practice the language.

My earliest memory of foreign movies was the television show “Samurai” in the 1960s. It was a source of some mirth when the mouth of the actor would move for some time for only a few English words to appear or, more often the case, a few words from the actor and something approaching a political speech in English coming through the speakers. It was not until I studied another language at some depth that I began to understand and appreciate what was happening.

Some words and phrases in foreign language convey some detail with succinctness. To translate with a few words is not possible because of the richness of the language. So a much longer translation and interpretation is used. We know this sometimes through the use of idiom. “Das is für de katz” in German literally means ‘that is for the cats’ but figuratively means ‘that is all for nothing.’ Anyone who has read assembly instructions which have been directly translated from one language into another has encountered this absurdity.

When we encounter some of the great words of faith, we realise that the single word is not capable of easy translation. The word “love” has four different Greek words. And who can adequately explain ‘agape’ love without something more lengthy than a word? We might add the words ‘faith’ and ‘grace’ to this complexity. Simple words with quite meaty definitions and complex meaning.

The challenge facing the creator of subtitles is that facing the preacher, and also the person of faith each day: to make comprehensible the meaning of a life of faith.

Posted by gary at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2006

The Lesson

I don't know the origins of this little piece...

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathering them around him, he taught them saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are the meek...
Blessed are they who mourn...
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are they who thirst for justice...
Blessed are you when persecuted...
Blessed are you when you suffer...
Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven...

Then Simon Peter said, 'Do we have to write this down?'
And Andrew said, 'Are we supposed to know this?'
And James said, 'Will we have a test on it?'
And Philip said, 'What if we don't know it?'
And Bartholomew said, 'Do we have to turn this in?'
And John said, 'The other disciples didn't have to learn this.'
And Matthew said, 'When do we get out of here?'
And Judas said, 'What does this have to do with real life?'
Then one of the Pharisees present asked to see Jesus' lesson plans and inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.
And Jesus wept...

Posted by gary at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2006


It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved the brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed - but they have not loved [humanity]; they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved "personally." It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking. Have you ever read Tolstoy's Resurrection? He tells of political prisoners in a long prison train, enduring chains and persecution for the love of their brothers, ignoring those same brothers on the long trek to Siberia. It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love - Dorothy Day

Posted by gary at 10:58 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2006

Home for three months

SSCN1458.JPGWell, here it is - the place which we will call home for three months later in the year as we explore Australia. (NB: this is the unpacked edition... when it travels it all packs up quite compact - in all the excitement we forgot to take the pre-opened photo!) The kids are rapt, all wanting to sleep in the van instead of their own bed. Bet that will change on the 50th night (or earlier).

It was a weird experience heading off with this humungous contraption looming in the rear window. It takes some getting used to: looking into the mirror and thinking there is a huge transporter about to open your boot. However, it is not too difficult to tow.

We've spent a night in it... the idea of sleeping in takes a battering - every noise outside is totally unmuffled. As is the sunshine. Don't think an alarm clock will be necessary.

Does this mean I've reached middle age? Who cares?! We're going to have some great fun and see some fantastic places.

Posted by gary at 07:18 PM | Comments (3)

January 18, 2006

Ready to believe anything

There is an old G K Chesterton chestnut which goes along the lines of those who refuse to believe in God will believe in almost anything. Aside from the fact that the exact quote seems to be a conflation of other things he has written, Madeleine Bunting seems to have a go at renowned atheist Richard Dawkins for such a stance, partly due to the fact that there is a belief that rational atheism should have won by now.

But you are better off reading her article.

Posted by gary at 09:31 PM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

the hundred and first blow

Saw this a few days ago on maggi dawn's blog. It has walked with me for a little while, so thought I'd post it here:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at a rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I knew it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.”

God is a Sea: The Dynamics of Christian Living, by David Walker - p 63

Posted by gary at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2006


Today was supposed to be the day in which I turned into one of THOSE drivers we all hate on holiday roads. Yes, we are buying a caravan. Well, not exactly a caravan... it's a camper-trailer (does that excuse me at least a little?).

caravan.jpgThe story before the story: we are planning a LSL trip up through the centre of Australia to Darwin, returning via the West Coast and Nullarbor. Term 3 has been blocked out of the diary, kids are leaving school behind (...relucantly!!! NOT) as we will leave inner-urban Melbourne and head to places where the presence of our family will double the population density! I had proposed touring in a tent, to which my wife proposed divorce - or separate holidays - so we compromised on a camper trailer. We spent the last part of last year exploring all the options, made an order, then approached the bank.

Which brings us to today - the dedicated collection day for said camper-trailer. Having arranged all the documentation for the bank nearly a week ago, I headed to said bank to collect cheque for payment, after which I was to head off to collect trailer and have electric brakes installed on the car. After half an hour of dilly-dallying in the bank, I was left hanging. We did manage to arrange final inspection, installation of brakes, but not delivery of van. Seems the bank has lost some of the documents, delivered over a week ago.

And so we wait. A few phone calls, a long fax, and a promise later, and we should have it tomorrow. When it happens, I'll post a photo - and just for the right touch, include a bowls hat on the back window of the car.

I do have to admit that the idea of careening down a highway with an extra tonne of weight hanging on to the back of the car does not inspire me altogether! I am beginning to appreciate the caravan drivers a little! OR am I getting old?

Posted by gary at 05:23 PM | Comments (3)

January 15, 2006


Powerful thought:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p 13)

Posted by gary at 08:42 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2006

Church: Big and Small

Conversations in which the topic of mega church is raised usually polarise discussion. Whenever the impact of organisations such as Hillsong, Willow Creek and Saddleback is considered they are either regarded as a real blessing to the church or as distorting the gospel. It would be fair to say that there are few places which are not aware of the contribution and ministry of the above three, perhaps better known in the terms 'seeker-sensitive' and 'purpose-driven'. But are the only options available to leave them beyond criticism because of the nature of their success, or discard them as a distortion?

megachurch.jpgEssential to any ecclesiology is the notion of diversity. When Paul reflects on the nature of the church as the body of Christ, he articulates the varied aspects of its giftedness, its leadership, and/or its challenges. The New Testament as a whole reflects a diverse range of faith communities, each with its own challenges. If there is one church which is held out as the ideal its characteristics would be described for us in Acts 2, but that still leaves plenty of scope for the way in which a faith community unfolds its worship and ministry. Which leaves us to ponder the nature of diversity in the church today: is it mere diversity within the church community, or as communities of communities, or something more?

small church.jpg
At the very least we need to recognise that there will always be different expressions of church that reflect the different theologies expressed within the New Testament, as well as reflecting the different environments in which they emerge. We could no more expect that a church in a remote community would be an exact replica of one in a suburban area than we would expect a school or sporting club to be. They would exhibit similarities, but exact replication? Even based on the same presuppositions and principles of operation?

But that is not to say that one is right and the other wrong. Each aims to meet its community in a particular way, and unfold a certain practice. There is potential to learn from one another, but not all that is done is readily transferable.

When it comes to church, the same is true. There are many diverse and creative expressions of God's people at work. Not all receive or seek the same publicity, but that is not to deny the authenticity of their witness and ministry. It is not the strength of their publicity machine which measures their worth in God's kingdom (either way!)

In this age of communication we have ready access and opportunity to witness the work of many churches. And all of them bear the grace of God in their context. And all of them face challenges in regard to the extent to which we are all being moulded in the shape of Jesus and his mission.

We need to be careful of maligning churches of any size: mega, mini or anywhere in between: we may find ourselves opposing the work of God. BUT at the same time we need to be careful of promoting any one as THE way... lest we forget to listen to what God might be saying to us in our own locality. But that is not to say that we ought not critique what we see of the ministry of others - not in a public "we're better" forum, but in an effort to get inside the thinking and attitudes which generate and energise communities so that we might all be enriched - for me this is a key aspect of learning.

There are "easy targets" in the church today as far as public discussion often goes. However, the proper evaluation of ministry is never a popularity question... there weren't too many votes in favour of Jesus at the end, or of the prophets...

We ought to be thankful for the full expression of God's church, regardless of size and shape of mission. It reminds us that God is beyond our plans and paradigms, and that God will do all that is necessary to woo people into His kingdom. It is this diversity that we need to cherish.

Posted by gary at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2006

Your Ecological Footprint

The future of our planet has been in the news over recent days with discussions between key nations about climate control and greenhouse gas generation. Global production of greenhouse gases continues to climb. While the US and Australia contribute substantially to the problem, the economic development in India and China evidences the greatest growth in greenhouse gas production as they take up carbon-based power generation at an alarming rate.

But that's the global problem: what about you and I? When I checked out my own ecological footprint at the EarthDay Network, it determined that we would need 2.1 planets to sustain life if we all lived as I do, as I use about 3.8 global hectares to sustain it. That's an uncomfortable thought, particularly in light of the gospel call to be life-giving. I'm a taker, who needs to repent.

And if you think that this is wacky thinking, then go over to the New Scientist web site and read about efforts by the Norwegian government to establish a doomsday vault to avert world famine. Just 1000 km from the North Pole they will establish a concrete room to store around 2 million seeds, representing all known varieties of the world's crops in an effort to safeguard the world's food supply against nuclear war, climate change, terrorism, rising sea levels, earthquakes and the ensuing collapse of electricity supplies to name just a few of the problems we are constructing for ourselves.

So, my lifestyle is forcing such drastic measures. Sadly, these are remedial, and the pittance that is being thrown at the problems by our governments underscores the necessity of such action.

Plenty can be done, but each of us must begin (and not remain) inside our own walls.

Posted by gary at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)

The Quest for Peace and Justice

Martin Luther King's address in receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on 11 December 1964 has an enduring quality about it. His insights into the future, some 40+ years ago are prescient. I reproduce the whole speech here. You can also listen to a 2-minute audio clip... (requires Real Player). For a primer, read the third paragraph below.

The Quest for Peace and Justice

It is impossible to begin this lecture without again expressing my deep appreciation to the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament for bestowing upon me and the civil rights movement in the United States such a great honor. Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. Such is the moment I am presently experiencing. I experience this high and joyous moment not for myself alone but for those devotees of nonviolence who have moved so courageously against the ramparts of racial injustice and who in the process have acquired a new estimate of their own human worth. Many of them are young and cultured. Others are middle aged and middle class. The majority are poor and untutored. But they are all united in the quiet conviction that it is better to suffer in dignity than to accept segregation in humiliation. These are the real heroes of the freedom struggle: they are the noble people for whom I accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

This evening I would like to use this lofty and historic platform to discuss what appears to me to be the most pressing problem confronting mankind today. Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man's scientific and technological progress.

Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau1: "Improved means to an unimproved end". This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual "lag" must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the "without" of man's nature subjugates the "within", dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.

This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man's chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man's ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.

The first problem that I would like to mention is racial injustice. The struggle to eliminate the evil of racial injustice constitutes one of the major struggles of our time. The present upsurge of the Negro people of the United States grows out of a deep and passionate determination to make freedom and equality a reality "here" and "now". In one sense the civil rights movement in the United States is a special American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of American history and dealt with in terms of the American situation. But on another and more important level, what is happening in the United States today is a relatively small part of a world development.

We live in a day, says the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead2,"when civilization is shifting its basic outlook: a major turning point in history where the presuppositions on which society is structured are being analyzed, sharply challenged, and profoundly changed." What we are seeing now is a freedom explosion, the realization of "an idea whose time has come", to use Victor Hugo's phrase3. The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses, rising from dungeons of oppression to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising masses singing, in the words of our freedom song, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn us around."4 All over the world, like a fever, the freedom movement is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land. They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave. You can hear them rumbling in every village street, on the docks, in the houses, among the students, in the churches, and at political meetings. Historic movement was for several centuries that of the nations and societies of Western Europe out into the rest of the world in "conquest" of various sorts. That period, the era of colonialism, is at an end. East is meeting West. The earth is being redistributed. Yes, we are "shifting our basic outlooks".

These developments should not surprise any student of history. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh's court centuries ago and cried, "Let my people go."5 This is a kind of opening chapter in a continuing story. The present struggle in the United States is a later chapter in the same unfolding story. Something within has reminded the Negro of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice.

Fortunately, some significant strides have been made in the struggle to end the long night of racial injustice. We have seen the magnificent drama of independence unfold in Asia and Africa. Just thirty years ago there were only three independent nations in the whole of Africa. But today thirty-five African nations have risen from colonial bondage. In the United States we have witnessed the gradual demise of the system of racial segregation. The Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools gave a legal and constitutional deathblow to the whole doctrine of separate but equal6. The Court decreed that separate facilities are inherently unequal and that to segregate a child on the basis of race is to deny that child equal protection of the law. This decision came as a beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people. Then came that glowing day a few months ago when a strong Civil Rights Bill became the law of our land7. This bill, which was first recommended and promoted by President Kennedy, was passed because of the overwhelming support and perseverance of millions of Americans, Negro and white. It came as a bright interlude in the long and sometimes turbulent struggle for civil rights: the beginning of a second emancipation proclamation providing a comprehensive legal basis for equality of opportunity. Since the passage of this bill we have seen some encouraging and surprising signs of compliance. I am happy to report that, by and large, communities all over the southern part of the United States are obeying the Civil Rights Law and showing remarkable good sense in the process.

Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path.

Let me not leave you with a false impression. The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality for the Negro in the United States. To put it figuratively in biblical language, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt and crossed a Red Sea whose waters had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance. But before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on until every valley of despair is exalted to new peaks of hope, until every mountain of pride and irrationality is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of injustice are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of prejudice are transformed by the straightening process of bright-eyed wisdom.

What the main sections of the civil rights movement in the United States are saying is that the demand for dignity, equality, jobs, and citizenship will not be abandoned or diluted or postponed. If that means resistance and conflict we shall not flinch. We shall not be cowed. We are no longer afraid.

The word that symbolizes the spirit and the outward form of our encounter is nonviolence, and it is doubtless that factor which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to one identified with struggle. Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all.

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

In a real sense nonviolence seeks to redeem the spiritual and moral lag that I spoke of earlier as the chief dilemma of modern man. It seeks to secure moral ends through moral means. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.

I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community. It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.

This approach to the problem of racial injustice is not at all without successful precedent. It was used in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire and free his people from the political domination and economic exploitation inflicted upon them for centuries. He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury, and courage10.

In the past ten years unarmed gallant men and women of the United States have given living testimony to the moral power and efficacy of nonviolence. By the thousands, faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white, have temporarily left the ivory towers of learning for the barricades of bias. Their courageous and disciplined activities have come as a refreshing oasis in a desert sweltering with the heat of injustice. They have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One day all of America will be proud of their achievements11.

I am only too well aware of the human weaknesses and failures which exist, the doubts about the efficacy of nonviolence, and the open advocacy of violence by some. But I am still convinced that nonviolence is both the most practically sound and morally excellent way to grapple with the age-old problem of racial injustice.

A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist. This problem of poverty is not only seen in the class division between the highly developed industrial nations and the so-called underdeveloped nations; it is seen in the great economic gaps within the rich nations themselves. Take my own country for example. We have developed the greatest system of production that history has ever known. We have become the richest nation in the world. Our national gross product this year will reach the astounding figure of almost 650 billion dollars. Yet, at least one-fifth of our fellow citizens - some ten million families, comprising about forty million individuals - are bound to a miserable culture of poverty. In a sense the poverty of the poor in America is more frustrating than the poverty of Africa and Asia. The misery of the poor in Africa and Asia is shared misery, a fact of life for the vast majority; they are all poor together as a result of years of exploitation and underdevelopment. In sad contrast, the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. Glistening towers of glass and steel easily seen from their slum dwellings spring up almost overnight. Jet liners speed over their ghettoes at 600 miles an hour; satellites streak through outer space and reveal details of the moon. President Johnson, in his State of the Union Message12, emphasized this contradiction when he heralded the United States' "highest standard of living in the world", and deplored that it was accompanied by "dislocation; loss of jobs, and the specter of poverty in the midst of plenty".

So it is obvious that if man is to redeem his spiritual and moral "lag", he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.

There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it. More than a century and a half ago people began to be disturbed about the twin problems of population and production. A thoughtful Englishman named Malthus wrote a book13 that set forth some rather frightening conclusions. He predicted that the human family was gradually moving toward global starvation because the world was producing people faster than it was producing food and material to support them. Later scientists, however, disproved the conclusion of Malthus, and revealed that he had vastly underestimated the resources of the world and the resourcefulness of man.

Not too many years ago, Dr. Kirtley Mather, a Harvard geologist, wrote a book entitled Enough and to Spare14. He set forth the basic theme that famine is wholly unnecessary in the modern world. Today, therefore, the question on the agenda must read: Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? Even deserts can be irrigated and top soil can be replaced. We cannot complain of a lack of land, for there are twenty-five million square miles of tillable land, of which we are using less than seven million. We have amazing knowledge of vitamins, nutrition, the chemistry of food, and the versatility of atoms. There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed - not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for "the least of these". Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority.

In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers' keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne interpreted this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed15:

No man is an Iland, intire of its selfe: every
man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the
maine: if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie
were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends
or of thine owne were: any mans death
diminishes me, because I am involved in
Mankinde: and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.

A third great evil confronting our world is that of war. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted, in spite of the Limited Test Ban Treaty16. On the contrary, the detonation of an atomic device by the first nonwhite, non- Western, and so-called underdeveloped power, namely the Chinese People's Republic17, opens new vistas of exposure of vast multitudes, the whole of humanity, to insidious terrorization by the ever-present threat of annihilation. The fact that most of the time human beings put the truth about the nature and risks of the nuclear war out of their minds because it is too painful and therefore not "acceptable", does not alter the nature and risks of such war. The device of "rejection" may temporarily cover up anxiety, but it does not bestow peace of mind and emotional security.

So man's proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war - God forbid! - will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

Therefore, I venture to suggest to all of you and all who hear and may eventually read these words, that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. It is, after all, nation-states which make war, which have produced the weapons which threaten the survival of mankind, and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character.

Here also we have ancient habits to deal with, vast structures of power, indescribably complicated problems to solve. But unless we abdicate our humanity altogether and succumb to fear and impotence in the presence of the weapons we have ourselves created, it is as imperative and urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to racial injustice. Equality with whites will hardly solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if it means equality in a society under the spell of terror and a world doomed to extinction.

I do not wish to minimize the complexity of the problems that need to be faced in achieving disarmament and peace. But I think it is a fact that we shall not have the will, the courage, and the insight to deal with such matters unless in this field we are prepared to undergo a mental and spiritual reevaluation - a change of focus which will enable us to see that the things which seem most real and powerful are indeed now unreal and have come under the sentence of death. We need to make a supreme effort to generate the readiness, indeed the eagerness, to enter into the new world which is now possible, "the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God"18.

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. There is a fascinating little story that is preserved for us in Greek literature about Ulysses and the Sirens. The Sirens had the ability to sing so sweetly that sailors could not resist steering toward their island. Many ships were lured upon the rocks, and men forgot home, duty, and honor as they flung themselves into the sea to be embraced by arms that drew them down to death. Ulysses, determined not to be lured by the Sirens, first decided to tie himself tightly to the mast of his boat, and his crew stuffed their ears with wax. But finally he and his crew learned a better way to save themselves: they took on board the beautiful singer Orpheus whose melodies were sweeter than the music of the Sirens. When Orpheus sang, who bothered to listen to the Sirens?

So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man's creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a "peace race". If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.

All that I have said boils down to the point of affirming that mankind's survival is dependent upon man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony. Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together." This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great "world house" in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.

This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John19:

Let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His
love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. As Arnold Toynbee20 says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.

Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of "some-bodiness" and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light."21 Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.

* Dr. King delivered this lecture in the Auditorium of the University of Oslo. This text is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1964. The text in the New York Times is excerpted. His speech of acceptance delivered the day before in the same place is reported fully both in Les Prix Nobel en 1964 and the New York Times.

1. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American poet and essayist.

2. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). British philosopher and mathematician, professor at the University of London and Harvard University.

3. "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come." Translations differ; probable origin is Victor Hugo, Histoire d'un crime, "Conclusion-La Chute", chap. 10.

4. "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" is the title of an old Baptist spiritual.

5. Exodus 5:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:3.

6. "Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka", 347 U.S. 483, contains the decision of May 17, 1954, requiring desegregation of the public schools by the states. "Bolling vs. Sharpe", 347 U.S. 497, contains the decision of same date requiring desegregation of public schools by the federal government; i.e. in Washington, D.C. "Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka", Nos. 1-5. 349 U.S. 249, contains the opinion of May 31, 1955, on appeals from the decisions in the two cases cited above, ordering admission to "public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed".

7. Public Law 88-352, signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

8. Both Les Prix Nobel and the New York Times read "retrogress".

9. Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater by a popular vote of 43, 128, 956 to 27,177,873.

10. For a note on Gandhi, seep. 329, fn. 1.

11. For accounts of the civil rights activities by both whites and blacks in the decade from 1954 to 1964, see Alan F. Westin, Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Struggle in America (New York: Basic Books, 1964), especially Part IV, "The Techniques of the Civil Rights Struggle"; Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); Eugene V. Rostow, "The Freedom Riders and the Future", The Reporter (June 22, 1961); James Peck, Cracking the Color Line: Nonviolent Direct Action Methods of Eliminating Racial Discrimination (New York: CORE, 1960).

12. January 8, 1964.

13. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).

14. Kirtley F. Mather, Enough and to Spare: Mother Earth Can Nourish Every Man in Freedom (New York: Harper, 1944).

15. John Donne (1572?-1631), English poet, in the final lines of "Devotions" (1624).

16. Officially called "Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Underwater", and signed by Russia, England, and United States on July 25, 1963.

17. On October 16, 1964.

18. Hebrews II: 10.

19. I John 4:7-8, 12.

20. Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889- ), British historian whose monumental work is the 10-volume A Study of Story (1934-1954).

21. This quotation may be based on a phrase from Luke 1:79, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"; or one from Psalms 107:10, "Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"; or one from Mark Twain's To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901), "The people who sit in darkness have noticed it...".

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

original link

Posted by gary at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

Friday Morning Thought

"We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps - reading the Bible. When we do that, we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that not our way, but God's way must be done."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Posted by gary at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2006

Absolute Security

"We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security" - Dwight David Eisenhower (former U.S. President)

Amazing wisdom in past presidents which seems to be overlooked in the present...

Which gives me pause to ask whether anyone has seen the movie "Good Night and Good Luck"?

Posted by gary at 04:33 PM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2006

Two Types of Slackers

What do you do with the person in your workplace who always seems to be socialising? Whenever you turn around, they are on the phone, surfing the net, reading the paper... (I walked into the bank the other day, and while I was watching my information on the screen, I noticed the task bar was displaying an Explorer Window for stick cricket!)

According to a recent article from BusinessWeek online, there may be no problem.

According to the writer, there are two types of slackers: the physical slacker and the optical slacker. The physical slacker is the one who always holds you back in your work - they never have their part completed on time, and always have excuses (none of which were in their control) as to why they didn't perform on time. The optical slacker, on the other hand, seems to always have plenty of spare time on their hands but doesn't appear to hinder any aspect of the work. Like the sport champion who always seems to have plenty of time to do whatever they need to, the optical slacker appears the same way in the office.

So what do you do about them? The article contains some good advice, so I'll resist replicating it here. It's worth reading in its entirety anyway...

Posted by gary at 04:31 PM | Comments (2)

Testing your Autism Quotient

Another one of those quizzes. This one tests your "autism quotient", and while one doesn't put much store in pop-quizzes like this, it does raise some interesting questions for self-examination, which I find the value of a quiz like this.

Autism is a syndrome which results in aversion to social interaction. It is essentially a brain disorder that affects three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction, and creative or imaginative play. For some of us, withdrawing can be exacerbated by our work or home situations. We all need to make effort to maintain and develop our social skills. Different personality types adapt much more easily than others.

Because our youngest child was born at about 24 weeks' gestation, he was vulnerable to autism, which occurs more frequently in extremely premature infants. It needs to be remembered that autism is largely a social-interactive disorder, and is not directly related to intelligence in academic areas. Many people with autistm are quite brilliant in certain spheres. You may remember the film Rain Man, the story which revolves around Dustin Hoffman's character's autism.

I have always been somewhat shy and introverted (though I know a few people who would dispute that!), and have had to work hard from time to time in this area. Being in pastoral ministry has pushed me at different times and in different ways in this area. While I rated a 15 on the quiz, I would probably have rated much higher at earlier stages of my life. This might indicate that autism is within the control of the person, but nothing could be further from the truth - therein lies one of the problems with quizzes like this: you don't wake up one day, stick your head under a pillow and become autistic. It is much more about capability than level of present function.

We were lead to think in earlier days that our son might have been autistic, but there were other physiological aspects which impacted upon his social interaction. A more social being you'd be hard-pressed to find now!

If you want to practice your social skills, there are plenty of clubs (and churches) which welcome new members and provide a place for developing new friends and meeting new people. Life's too short to waste away on one's own.

Posted by gary at 03:45 PM | Comments (6)

After some creative images?

If you want to see some very creative photo quality images, head over to

Posted by gary at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

What is an AFDB?

afdbhead.jpgFrom the "you've got to be joking" category: paranoia at its height!

An Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie (AFDB) is a type of headwear that can shield your brain from most electromagnetic psychotronic mind control carriers. AFDBs are inexpensive (even free if you don't mind scrounging for thrown-out aluminium foil) and can be constructed by anyone with at least the dexterity of a chimp (maybe bonobo). This cheap and unobtrusive form of mind control protection offers real security to the masses. Not only do they protect against incoming signals, but they also block most forms of brain scanning and mind reading, keeping the secrets in your head truly secret. AFDBs are safe and operate automatically. All you do is make it and wear it and you're good to go! Plus, AFDBs are stylish and comfortable.

If you want to know how to make one, click here.

Posted by gary at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

Detoxify the Mental Environment

Adbusters latest issue focusses (in part) on the way in which communication has been mixed with commercialism, and challenges readers to think again about the way in which our mental environment shapes our personal and planetary health. Here's the intro to the section, which makes thought-provoking reading...

adbusters.jpg"Let's convince ourselves and family, our neighbours and our classmates that the mental environment is as precious, and as vulnerable, as the lushest stretch of rainforest. Let's get people thinking about their mental health in the same way that they think about their physical health - two sides of the same tarnished coin. Get households banishing TV pollution at the same time they banish toxic detergents. Get parents watching their children's commercial intake as closely as they watch their sugar intake. Challenge students to say no to corporate curricula with the same fervour they say no to oil spills. Let's train people with mood disorders to reduce their mental burden, in the same way that people with allergies reduce their chemical burdens. Let's turn psychologists into mental ecologists, pioneers of a new and vital social science. In other words, let's detox before there's no turning back."

When one compares this call with the attitude of the desert fathers, who chose to withdraw into the desert to understand themselves and God away from the cultural stream that dragged them along, one can recognise that it is not altogether dissimilar.

It is now widely recognised that what we call 'news' is largely propaganda - an ideology being pushed at us. Less so, but to an increasing degree, we realise that all media does this to a greater or lesser degree. We are constantly bombarded with images and messages (is this why there is an increase in ADHD?) Is 'detox' a call for a modern form of asceticism?

Posted by gary at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

Be kind to vermin

Does this belong in the 'only in America' section? From the BBC web site

mouse.gifA US man threw a mouse he had found in his home onto a pile of burning leaves - only to see it run away and burn his house down.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found a mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it.

"I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house," he said.

Though no one was injured, the house and everything in it was destroyed.

"I've seen numerous house fires, but nothing as unique as this one," Fire Department Captain Jim Lyssy said.

New Mexico has seen several major blazes after unseasonably dry and windy conditions which have destroyed 10 homes and devastated more than 53,000 acres (21,200 hectares) of land.

Posted by gary at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

The CD Collection

itunes.gif Late last year I downloaded iTunes, but left the program uninstalled for a month or so, partly because of the size of the program, and partly because of suspicions related to malware and adware. I overcame these one last Christmas evening, and then began the process of transferring my CD collection onto the computer. I marvel at the convenience of having one's CDs available at the click of a mouse button (left OR right - I am not a Mac user :^0). And the quality is amazing. Unfortunately my car stereo plays mp3 files only and not mp4 files which iTunes converts them all to. So the transfer has been a dual process, converting these CDs to both formats. Why two? Well, mp4 compression means it uses less disk space, so I back up the mp3s once I have converted them...

I don't have a large CD collection, but the length of time it would take to play them all through - so iTunes informs me - is over 4 days! I don't have an iPod either, which I believe holds 5GB of files, but that isn't enough to hold all the music either. I wonder how others with substantial collections get on?!

At least now I don't fret when lending CDs to my children. They have often been returned scratched. Now they can't damage the files... hahahahahahaha... I'm a happy man!

Posted by gary at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2006

Eat Local

Eating locally grown foods is one of the best things you can do for your own health and for the health of the planet, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

They record the difference between eating locally grown tomatoes and imported, in A Tale of Two Tomatoes

Picked while green, Tom is gassed to redness. In order to better survive the long journey to market, many tomatoes are picked while hard and green, then sprayed with a hormone to help them ripen. This is just one of the eye-opening practices that has become commonplace in our industrial food system.

The peak ripeness of fruits and vegetables once determined the timing of harvest festivals throughout the growing season. Ripeness—not the kind that comes from a hormone gas—is still a passion among local farmers. While it may be hard to forego the convenience of long-distance fruits and vegetables throughout the winter, it's only natural that we leap at the opportunity for honest food—local food—when prime season arrives.

Their web site has plenty of practical information on eating local.

Posted by gary at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2006

The Desert Places

I've been reflecting in the new year on the place of the desert in our spiritual journey. It struck me that the Christmas story ends with Jesus being driven into the desert (and on to Egypt) to escape Herod. His ministry begins in the same pattern: driven into the desert following baptism. That two significant events bring the same outcome is worthy of thought and reflection. But when you add in the place of the desert in God's dealing with His people in the Old Testament, you begin to realise that the desert places must have significance.

When I think of "going through the desert" in a spiritual sense, it carries negative connotations. Yet the desert remains a place of beginnings: for Jesus and for us. The message through the prophet Hosea, after God had announced His divorce of Israel, is expressed through the delightful words, "And now I will allure her... I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her... I will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a doorway of hope... A desert becomes a place of new beginning, a centre of hope and renewal.

Surely things are stripped back to essentials in the desert. You only carry what is essential, you must decide what must be done and what can be let go, and you realise what is truly valuable. And maybe it is that in these places we are prepared to let God be whatever God desires to be, allowing God to escape our preconceived notions.

The desert fathers found God in the dry place - they sought God intentionally in the desert. In our land and time of abundance, can we get to such a place?

Posted by gary at 08:25 PM | Comments (1)

January 06, 2006


We enjoyed New Year's Eve together as a family at the home of some friends. The view was spectacular - fireworks over the harbour. I've reproduced some of the images here just to give you a taste.

New Year1.jpg New Year2.jpg

I thought I'd save them for the last day of Christmas! Epiphany, which marks the journey of the magi to Bethlehem, is the twelfth day of Christmas, and a reminder to us that we are all on a journey. The magi set out on nothing more than rumour and a star... and with Herod's words echoing through their brain.

New Year3.jpg New Year4.jpg

When they arrived at Bethlehem, they realised that their journey brought them into the presence of God, and ultimately put them at odds with Herod's desires. And don't most spiritual journeys place us in tension with the political desires of our world?

Posted by gary at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2006

Quiet time

A time of quietude brings things into proportion and gives us strength. We all need to take time from the busyness of living, even if it be ten minutes to watch the sun go down or the city lights blossom against a canyoned sky

Posted by gary at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

A Deck of Cards

You might have seen the story which explains the symbolism of that ubiquitous carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas"... Here is an interesting take on giving symbolism to a deck of cards. Given that it is attributed to a soldier, it becomes an interesting catechetical tool in time of war, when cards were a simple distraction easily kept for times when the activity of war was low...

Deck of Cards

This is a story about a soldier in the North Africa Campaign in World War II. After heavy fighting the men returned to camp. The next day being Sunday, the Chaplain had set up church service. The men were asked to take out their Bibles or prayer book. The Chaplain noticed one soldier looking at a deck of cards. After the service he was taken by the Chaplain to see the Major. The Chaplain explained to the Major of what he had seen.

The Major told the young soldier how he would have to be punished if he could not explain himself. The young soldier told the Major that during the battle he had neither a Bible or prayer book so he would use his deck of cards and explained...

* "You see Sir, when I look at the Ace, it tells me that there is one God and no other.
* When I see the 2 , it reminds me there is two parts of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments.
* The 3 tells me of the Trinity, of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
* The 4 reminds me of the four Gospels, There was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
* When I see the 5, it tells me of the five unwise virgins who were lost and five were saved.
* The 6 makes me mindful that God created the earth in just six days, and God said that it was good so He rested on the 7th day.
* As I look at the 8, God destroyed all life by water except eight people. There was Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives.
* When I see the 9, I think of the nine lepers that God healed. There were ten in all but only one stopped to Thank Him.
* The 10 tells me of the "Ten Commandments" carved in stone by the hand of God.
* The Jack makes me remember the prince of darkness. Like a roaring lion that devours those he can.
* When I look at the Queen, I see blessed Mary, Mother of Jesus.
* As I look at the last card I see the KING, this reminds me Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings!
* There are 365 spots on the cards, the number of days in a year.
* There are 52 cards to a deck, the number of weeks in a year.
* There are 12 picture cards, the number of months in a year.
* There are 4 suits, the number of seasons of the year.
* There are 13 cards to a suit, the total number of apostles (including Matthias)."
And so the young soldier then said to the Major, "You see Sir that my intentions were honorable. My deck of cards serves as my Bible, Prayer book and Almanac."
A deck of cards should most importantly remind us that we need Jesus 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months a year and that we should PRAY "4" others.

Will you ever look at a deck of cards the same way?

Posted by gary at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2006

The Rules for Being Human

You might have seen these "rules for being human" before. I cam across them today as I was sorting through some old materials.

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive there are lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better than "here." When your "there" has become a "here" you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."
7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie inside you. The answer to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. This will often be forgotten, only to be remembered again.

Posted by gary at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2006

25 Most Interesting Web Cams

You can see live piranha at work, the Koala exhibit in a South Carolina zoo, wildlife web cams, pandas, and views from the Eiffel Tower, alongside pyramids in Egypt, Valencia in Spain, the picturesque Swedish city of Skelleftea, a unique and expansive view of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, historic Alcatraz Island and the Pier from the heart of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, or watch images of the polar cap from a British Antarctic vessel, after which you might like to repair to Tahiti for some warmth. And if you are an Elvis fan, there's a live link to Graceland. These are just a few of those available.

To see all 25, click here. Then let me know your favourite.

Posted by gary at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Jesus and Christmas

In Rob Smigel's "Fun With Real Audio", Jesus struggles to find a modern-day example of good will during Christmas.

Posted by gary at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

Top 10 Stories of 2005

Satirical Magazine The Onion has released its top 10 stories from 2005:

1. Bush Elected President of Iraq
2. Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Kashmir Earthquake Battle For Natural Disasty Award
3. Pope Died As He Lived: Propped Up For Public Viewing
4. North Korea Nukes Self In Desparate Plea For Attention
5. Brain-Dead Americans Defend Brain-Dead Florida Woman
6. Prince Charles Weds Longtime Horse
7. Losing SuperBowl Team Gets Locker-Room Condolence Call From John Kerry
8. Theory Of Intelligent School-Board Design Disproven
9. White House Celebrates Fifth Straight Year Without Oral Sex
10. Pitt, Aniston To Quietly Separate

Posted by gary at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

New Year's Panoramas

Interesting collection of panoramic photographs from around the world as people celebrated the arrival of 2006. Aside from the images available, the technology allows you to view through 360 degrees (in all directions!)

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Posted by gary at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2006

Narnia Movie

Anyone been to see the Narnia movie? What did you think?

Posted by gary at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2006

Happy (cool!) new year

The last day of 2005 brought a maximum temperature of 42.9 in Melbourne. It was the hottest December on record, and the hottest last day. The Weather Bureau had forecast 42, but one news site published the following report yesterday. I reproduce it here for its irony....

But before you read that, let me pray that 2006 is a year in which the purposes of God bear fruit in your life, and in the international relations of our world.


Last Update: Saturday, December 31, 2005. 3:00pm (AEDT)
Melbourne gets cool relief (clicking this link will take you to a later update)

Southerly winds have seen temperatures drop in parts of Melbourne.

The mercury has struggled to hit 30 degrees in the CBD.

At Tullamarine the temperature peaked at 37 degrees just after 11:00am AEDT.

It is now unlikely the scorcher forecast for Melbourne will happen, although it will be hot in the northern parts of the state.

The Weather Bureau's Ward Rooney says the weather will remain fine for New Year's Eve celebrations.

"It will be a balmy night," he said.

"In fact, northerlies will re-establish over Melbourne overnight, so a mild to warm night is the prospect."

Posted by gary at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

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