Tag Archives: God

Thinking isn’t Always the Answer

The old chap used to be a great reader of the small ads at the back of magazines, until the print got so small he couldn’t read them anymore.

One of them in a farming magazine caused him to whistle and read it out loud. “What a rip-off”, he exclaimed as he read out: “ Someone to look after our small farmlet for six weeks – three children, two dogs, three cats, a pig, five goats, two guinea pigs and eight hens. “ They’ll be lucky” he scoffed.

My response was “ Fancy getting a stranger to look after your children.”

Until that moment, I had thought we thought alike. But this was a eureka moment, when I realised that everyone looks at everything from their own perspective and experience. And we ‘re also influenced by the thoughts of others, and then they get another twist as they go through our lens of perception.

I had a discussion with a fundamental Christian the other day, who felt that only people who had a relationship with Jesus would be ‘saved’. I supposed this meant that they were the only people who were going to escape hell. Everyone else is doomed. I protested that if God was a loving God, why would he want to make most of his creation miserable, but I only got chapter and verse back from the Bible, (and the veracity of the Gospels, the first of which was written ninety years after Jesus’s death, is another story).

Dipak Chopra has discussed people’s perception of God, which goes through different stages as they change and deepen their spiritual life. The most basic beliefs  are those of a punishing judgemental father, he suggests, but as people  move deeper into their spiritual understandings, they do actually reach a point where God is indeed loving and inclusive, rather than excluding.

It’s always amazed me that though people believe in God all over the world, unless they use the same word for God as us, they are not OK. So Christians call the Creator God, Muslims call Him Allah, Jews call Him Jehovah, American Indians call Him Great Spirit. And according to some fundamental religious beliefs, if people don’t speak English, and therefore call God by a different name, they are heathen. Similarly many Muslims who call God Allah believe that people who speak another language and personify Him with the name of God, are infidels – unbelievers.

And then there are the divisions among Christians, Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, while the Muslims are split down the middle between Sunni’s and Shia’s and then sects within those groupings.

The same stuff goes on with politics – sometimes religion and politics are intertwined). One set of people have one set of beliefs and others think differently. That would be okay, but we judge people who think differently from us, and fear  and condemn them.

One of the basic differences between the East and the West according to Erich Fromm, philosopher and psychologist, is that the Christian ethic is based on what we think, while the eastern ethic is based on what we do. (I think he was thinking of Buddhism)

If we didn’t think the right way, in the past, it has meant burning, and torture and outlawry… it was very dangerous to think differently, no matter how virtuous your life. I don’t think there is a similar history in the east of being killed because of how you think. And yet we still have conflict between Muslims and Hindus and other religions.

Queen Elizabeth the First refused to go along with the hostility between Catholics, Protestants, Puritans and others, saying she didn’t want a window into men’s souls. She was right, our souls are our own business. Our actions are what matter, even if they are reduced to the lowest common denominator of the Golden Rule.

‘Do unto others as you would do unto yourself’, is a dictum which sounds a little like self interest. The other injunction,’ love your neighbour as yourself’, has  a deeper resonance… if it means what it says, it means we love ourselves, no ifs or buts, no inner jabs and put-downs: “ you shouldn’t have said that, you should do this, you ought to , you didn’t “…

I love the words from Rose Macaulay’s Towers of Trebizond: ‘One mustn’t lose sight of the hard core, which is do this, do that, love your friends and like your neighbours, be just, be extravagantly generous, be honest, be tolerant, have courage, have compassion, use your wits and your imagination, understand the world you live in and be on terms with it, don’t dramatize and dream and escape…’

Later she writes; ‘Life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and of love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at all times noble and at times very gay; and whatever ( if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again.’

Yes, life is to revel in – no ifs or buts or second thoughts!

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Needing something to cleanse the system after all the rich foods we’ve been eating over the holiday period, I went to this drink at the back of my recipe book. The blueberry has lots going for it, including a function of cleaning up damaged proteins which can reduce the brain’s efficiency by interfering with the sending of nerve signals. This amount is enough for six.

Tip into the blender, 125 gms of fresh blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries with 400ml of cranberry juice. Add two cups of de-seeded and cubed watermelon, blend until smooth, and drink at once. I sometimes use frozen fruit, and also vary the berries, blueberries being the constant.

Food for Thought

I don’t know where I found this, but it always makes me giggle… some twitchers-as birdwatchers are known – travel all over the world to complete the list of birds they want to see, and establish records for having seen the most birds…the most famous is in his nineties, with the longest list completed!

*Epitaph for a hurricane-chasing birder (not original):
Here he lies
A little wet
But he got
His lifelist met.

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Filed under cookery/recipes, great days, happiness, history, life and death, life/style, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

Return to the Joy of Blogging

Bloggers return – some of the balls I was juggling have now rolled down-hill metaphorically, others I’m still tossing in the air, and catching.

In spite of the wonderful messages received when I bowed out, I had begun to sink into a little pit of my own making in which it seemed arrogant to expect other bloggers to read my writings… in fact, I suddenly lost confidence in myself.

But as time has passed, to my amazement, people are still reading my blog, and clicking on likes and follows, and some blogger friends have sent messages of support and comfort, so I’ve taken the plunge again, and am returning to the joy of blogging.

I’ve comfortable now with the fact that this will only ever be a little boutique blog, as it were, and I will never again (I think) become hooked on the ups and downs of stats! So back to the joy of writing for its own sake and the fellowship of bloggers … who I’ve continued to read.

I’m sitting at my desk which is just by the French doors onto the veranda. When I look up, I see the turquoise sea framed by the red blossoms of the pohutakawa tree at this time of the year, and watch the fishing boats chug out to sea. The veranda itself is fringed with the fresh green leaves of white wisteria which grows around the outside. In spring the long white racemes perfume the veranda, and now, the scent of a datura at the bottom of the wilderness part of the garden, reaches my desk.

This long room stretches the width of the house, so that when I go to the other side of the house, and open the French doors at that end, the ravishing smell of the queen of the night pervades the front garden. Especially when it rains.

As I write, a shining cuckoo is singing its piercingly sweet song, and a thrush, now relieved of the cares of parenthood, and forsaking the empty nest in the honeysuckle by the garage door, is warbling joyfully somewhere near the oak tree. And the sound of water is the background to their song as waves break on the rocks below.

It’s that peaceful lull after all the hustle and business leading up to Christmas. The tail end of a cyclone has passed through, leaving us with drenched gardens – but clear bright skies and sparkling blue sea. The orcas I had seen came back and a pod of six, including two babies, took over the next bay, chasing a swimming dog, and going “ viral” as they say, all over the internet.

In the lead-up to Christmas, everyone gets their lawns mowed, the wide grass verges by the road trimmed, and their gardens manicured. Then the tents and canopies start going up, and families arrive from all over the country, and camp on front lawns for Christmas.

Christmas – time in this country is hedgerows festooned with billowing banks of climbing pink roses which I think must be Dorothy Perkins. They grow wherever settlers farmed over a hundred years ago, and have scrambled along dusty lanes and country roads ever since.

Christmas here is also blue and white agapanthus which too, have spread along road sides, and gracefully adorn banks and garden entrances, even though this spectacular flower is now condemned as a noxious weed! They bloom at the same time as the pink roses and the red and orange flax flowers, from which the turquoise and black tuis suck nectar with their long beaks.

The red blossom of the pohutukawa tree, the New Zealand Christmas tree, and flaming orange cannas spreading alongside the blue agapanthus, are also part of the brightness and exuberance that is part of an Antipodean Christmas. No spare leafless trees, pale skies and frosty hillsides here. Instead it’s the peak of summer before the flowers wilt and the hills go brown in the blazing sunshine which always seems to arrive with Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, I drove through pouring rain to our nearest big village in search of a half bottle of rum, to make a coffee and rum sauce for the walnut- coffee meringue gateau. Through the wind-screen wipers I saw a dead bird on the road ahead. I picked out the speckled wing feathers and coral- red head of the bird, and recognised a banded rail. These are rare flightless native birds which live on an island sanctuary out to sea.

I had found a baby corpse on the road some years ago, and put it in the deep freeze, before contacting the Department of Conservation. They were rapt, came rushing out and dashed off with the pathetic little frozen body to put it on their map. They knew the birds had reached a spot on the mainland quite a way from here, but had no idea they might have spread to the mangrove swamps where I had found it.

The bird which I now wrapped in several plastic bags (thank you, maligned plastic bags!) was full grown, and heartbreakingly beautiful with its long pointed beak for digging into mud for food, delicate markings and elegant little legs and clawed feet. It spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the deep freeze, amongst frozen bread rolls and my husband’s emergency steak pies, and today I rang the department. Out they came again, and even remembered the last one I had delivered into their hands. Very satisfying to know that a rare breed seems to be multiplying nearby.

And now the New Year looms… I was rather sorry we survived the end of the world. I’d been looking forward to annihilation in a split second, and no more wars, no more cruelty to animals, children, women, men, or the planet! I had thought it would be great to have a fresh start somewhere down the track, and do it right next time – peace on earth – goodwill to all life, animal, vegetable and mineral, and all people whatever their colour, race, religion or sexual orientation.

It would also have been great in that distant future to acknowledge that there is only One Creator, whatever we choose to call him/her or it, Dieu, Yahweh, Allah, Lord Vishnu, Great Spirit, Gott, Divine Source, and therefore no need for religious wars, hostility, judgement or condemnation….  but it seems that we have to clean up our own act now, before we can have that peaceful future!

Maybe one way to start would be to take fourteen year old Minnie Haskin’s advice. George the Sixth, the Queen’s father, used these words to hearten the nation in his Christmas broadcast in 1940, when the islands of Britain stood alone against the terrifying brutality of Nazism.

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Our plum tree is bowed under the weight of a lavish harvest of dark purple plums which are only so-so for eating raw, but delicious when cooked. Every-one who receives a basket of these fruits also gets the recipe I use – borrowed from Nigella Lawson.

To a kilo of plums – more or less, use 300 ml of red wine – more rather than less! Nigella says stone them – I don’t bother, the stones come out quite easily when cooked.

Put the plums in an oven proof dish. In a saucepan boil the wine with two bay leaves, half a teasp of ground cinnamon, two cloves, one star anise, and 200g of honey. Pour over the plums, seal with foil or a lid, and bake for an hour or longer at 160 degrees, until they’re tender. You can keep them in the fridge for three days, and you can freeze them.

Serve with crème fraiche, ice-cream, or custard. I also think they’d be good with rice pudding on a cold day.

The aromatic scent while they are cooking is so delectable that I’d love to catch it in a bottle and spray it regularly around the kitchen.

Food for Thought

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

Mark Twain   1835 – 1910  Great American writer, humorist, publisher of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs, friend of Helen Keller. Abolitionist and anti- segregationist, anti- vivisectionist, anti- imperialist, pro women’s rights.

Born when Halley’s Comet was closest to the earth, and died the day after its return seventy five years later..

He also said; ‘Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.’

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Abortion is Hundreds of Shades of Grey

Abortion is not a cut and dried, black and white issue, which is how it seems to be being debated in the US. It’s hundreds of shades of grey. It’s about more than religion and women’s rights. It’s about a baby’s right to happiness.

When does an unwanted child become a happy child? Does a woman already worn out with childbearing, want another baby when she already has a houseful, courtesy of a husband? Does a thirteen year old, raped and pregnant, really want that child? Does she know how to be a mother? Does she or her family want a child who is bearing half the genes of the rapist?

Does a solo mother who made a mistake, and trying to make ends meet, really want to carry another child and bring it up, when she can’t afford the ones she already has? Does the college student, pregnant after an encounter in which the boy has disappeared in panic, really want a child who is going to blight her chances in college, and who she can’t afford?

Unwanted babies rarely become happy children. In Sweden where they’ve had a liberal policy for years, they carried out a study on the children whose mothers were refused abortion. They started the study with the children who had actually survived to their fifth birthday! The findings were heart-breaking. Most of these children did badly at school, had a range of emotional and physical problems, found it hard to make friends, and when it came to military service, most of them were rejected because they weren’t physically fit enough.

Which tells us about the lot of unwanted children. Worse still, the latest research has shown that if a mother is depressed in pregnancy – and carrying an unwanted child would surely make you depressed – it damages the development of the baby’s emotional centres of the brain, which in follow-up  studies showed that these babies were depressed for most of their lives, and prone to depressive illnesses.

Brain research has also shown us that when a baby is loved, and his or her mother spends time cuddling, talking, singing, playing, making eye contact – feel-good hormones feed into the connections of the brain in which emotional development takes place. When a baby is deprived of these’ hormones of loving connection’, as they’re called, and left to cry, feeling unloved and alone, then cortisone builds up in the brain, damaging the emotional centres. Child psychologists are now sheeting back most childhood problems like AHD, depression, anti –social behaviour, anxiety, panic attacks, to the first months of the child’s life when she was deprived of the emotional food for the brain that makes a happy child.

Obviously not all unwanted children end up as delinquent, but there are many more child suicides than we hear of – of children as young as eight or ten – there are many unhappy depressed children who grow into unhappy miserable adults, who make unhappy miserable parents, and there are also children who overcome the handicaps of their parenting and past, and grow into decent kind, even enlightened adults who have much to give the world.

It’s easy to recognise an unwanted child. They often have bad posture, they often look anxiously sideways, as though ready for the harsh word or even blow. They are always gauging the atmosphere – are the adults ok, or is it a bad day? They find it hard to look you in the eye, because they have no trust.  They have lots of accidents, sometimes caused by the adults, sometimes because accident-prone children have emotional problems… and this is just a short list of how to recognise unhappy children..

So before trying to make hard and fast rules which control women’s sexuality, perhaps we should be looking with real insight and compassion into the needs of children.

If the people – usually men- who advocate that all women should bear all babies, are they also offering support, both emotional, material, and financial to help women to bring up these unwanted babies? But how do you make a woman want a baby, if she doesn’t want the child of her rapist? I can’t imagine what it must be like to carry a child you don’t want, it was tough enough being pregnant with children I did want.

And of course a mother carrying an unwanted child is going to feel hostile and resentful, unless the miracle of bonding occurs at birth. But as any farmer will tell you, that vital connection, which ensures the life of his lambs or calves, can easily be broken.

The magic hormones that flow through the body of a woman during pregnancy and afterwards, that ensure the safe and happy birth of a baby, don’t operate automatically in all circumstances – women’s emotions are also part of the equation – they are not  child bearing machines any more than an animal is.

So to impose on all women, regardless of their age or circumstances or beliefs, a one size fits all rule is not only an infringement of women’s rights and their ability to conduct their own life, but also complete insensitivity to the needs of a baby, and complete ignorance about the miracle of birth, life and the growth of the human spirit .

If the no- abortion rule is applied to women, I feel that a compulsory sterilisation or vasectomy programme should also apply to any man who begets an unwanted child. This would probably solve the problem satisfactorily. Women would know that they were not being unfairly discriminated against if men were also subject to the same draconian principles being  promised to women, and men would know that they had to be responsible for their actions too.

If this meant a shortage of children with so many men unable to have children, then the unwanted children could be adopted into homes where a child was really, truly, wanted. Imagine a world where all children were happy – now that’s a vision to aim for – both in the US and all over the world.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

I was desperate for some chocolate the other day, and only had dark chocolate in the house which doesn’t do it for me. So I decided to make a chocolate cake. By the time it was cooked and iced several hours later, the craving had left me, but we were also left with a lovely chocolate almond cake!

I melted four ounces of butter with four ounces of black chocolate and left it to cool. In a large bowl whisk four eggs with six ounces of castor sugar until thick and white – it does take a bit of time. When they’re ready, fold in the chocolate mixture in several batches, alternating with six ounces of ground almonds. Add a teasp of vanilla, and pour into a greased tin lined with greaseproof paper.

Bake for about three-quarters of an hour at 200 degrees or just under. The cake should be slightly undercooked, and should be left to cool and shrink a little in the pan.

When it’s ready to turn out, let it cool completely before icing it. I use three ounces of butter to about eight ounce of icing sugar, and a few teasp of water or freshly squeezed orange juice, and whisk them altogether, adding a bit more liquid if I need it. It’s an incredibly rich cake, and though it’s delicious the first day, I think it improves with keeping -if you can!

Food for Thought

It is harder for us today to feel near to God among the streets and houses of the city than it is for country folk. For them the harvested fields bathed in the autumn mists speak of God and his goodness far more vividly than any human lips.

Albert Schwietzer  1875 – 1965   Humanitarian, medical missionary,  Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Music, Nobel prize-winner and philosopher.

 

 

 

 

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