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When Things Are Thus or Thus

Well might one ask, “What need’s truth? We already  have the truths we need; precisely put down, with proofs and principles, by prominent people. No more need for blind faith. With  practical application  and a measure of human ingenuity, we could construct fulcrums and would lift the world. No more fantasies about the man in the moon: now it’s only a body of craters and dunes waiting for someone to stomp on. What need of an invisible deity? We, on our own, are able to travel to Mars – even colonise distant galaxies!” It has been a long journey for the species to reach this assured consciousness. It has been so long, that we forget where we began; and the myriad stages in between. At so many stages we thought that we had reached the zenith of our creativity and achievements – but there has always been room for more progress. 

When we can make and do so many things, we also have the intellectual ability to decide what is good for us: what is right and what is wrong. We do not need axioms brought down from mountains, the entrails of caves, or churned up from the depths of the oceans. For a most of the time, elders believed and practised what they were told. There were  obvious exceptions, and at times very subtle changes, to designed for convenience.  Generations have decided their own parameters of social behaviour, each setting aside the “morality” of the predecessor. With the stroke of a pen years of tradition and ideologies have been relegated to the dustbin of the history. Like a new suit, morality has been consonant with the fashion of the day. Within living memory we have seen radical changes in social behaviour. Arguably, these changes have made us better, more sensitive, and more enlightened than ever before.

Do these attributes and attainments make us better than sheep or goats; two-legged things that strut and fret; drop off, and then just disappear? I think not. For then, roses and green fields would be only fodder. I think not, for  then empathy and sharing in another’s joys and sufferings would be no more than expressions of our gregariousness. Then, all sublime expressions would be just dabbling and babbling  in indolence. To me, these and other noble expressions of humanity, are connects with a transcendent state that’s the sum-total of human consciousness; the essence of all beauty and the perfect form of all perfection. Therefore, I can say, “I believe in the One I belong to – my model and all that I aspire to be.”     

 

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Jubilee?

Reclined in a deck chair

letting an evening breeze, touch,

sooth and refresh

the tired brain and assorted aches and pains

 

the Opera House’s sails majestically 

carry an argosy 

of culture trinkets and symphonies  

toward the harbour bridge

where rainbows 

cascade

into a sullen sea

children laugh and clap

at each sulphuric spark

that mushrooms and pops 

 in a sparkling display

 

tired

this brain wanders off 

the celebration

settling on 

the mute twinkle 

above the vanishing horizon

a constant sentinel at its post

 

What charts and instruments

weighed

measured mass

circumference

distance and composition?

what lightyears were travelled 

to tease

and confound intellects?

 

was a notional starting point 

vacated

by this travelling glow-piece

(product of a disintegration) 

millions of light years ago

presumably 

in another galaxy?

 

all will be answered

and the world will accept  

till

fresh intellect and instruments

prove void

the labour and hypothesis.

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Being Right Isn’t Always Right: A Moral Case

What good’s a liberty gained by depriving others the same right? Belligerent attitudes now dare weak politicians, to subvert the laws that give basic rights to simple folks, to live simple lives in the traditions of their ancestors. One battle after another has been won by the same modus operandi; with the growing certainty that one day the war will be won.

Religious groups have not done themselves any favours. The sins of leaders are to be worn by the unsuspecting followers. Most Faiths are easy targets, and their defences weakened by a loss of morale, and a feeling of hopelessness under the incessant pressure of “Secular” forces. The lifestyles and misuse of power, by a few, further weakens  the will of those confronting compelling empirical evidence posed in the fluid environment of commercialism and technology. Persistent arguments and the hammering of guilt, have led to self-doubts and a turn to other diversions for solace and personal dignity.

It is easy to pursue a campaign against religious thinking that is nebulous and cannot be proven in sensual terms. Just a manipulation of the meaning of “Secularism”, offers, virtually, unbridled liberty. The argument becomes, “ Faith against Science” – and such epic allusions. With insufficient “evidence” to prosecute an argument, the weak submit to stronger arguments; fearing associations being made with superstitions and mediaeval hangovers. In vain, traditionalists turned apologetics, quote chapters and verses from texts made obsolete to this new rationalism. A myriad set about dismantling the fabric of faith, hope and a living Love. 

The LGBTI movement began, legitimately, to empower males and females to assert their sexuality. It is a fact that people with sexual preferences outside the norm, had long suffered vilification, discriminations and were criminalised by all parts of society. It has been a long hard slog for them to gain acceptance and the respect of the community. So, increasingly people are “coming out” in the community. Institutions that have been building bridges of reconciliation must be congratulated.

Problem comes when one group tries to debunk and  overpower the other. Each group’s expressed freedom needs to be respected and acknowledged by all. Institutions should show flexibility and an enlightened approach in their interactions with twenty-first century sensitivities. It does not mean that they should surrender their entitled rights to flourish in freedom and to practice  their cherished beliefs. Whether or not (and how) these differences are accommodated, is a matter for individual consciences and the respective institutions. But, to compel a school to accept students and staff, holding opposing stands to the institution’s values and mission statement, would tantamount to bullying, and an unacceptable form of behaviour. Morally, those who say they stand for human rights, cannot demand rights over the rights of others. The armed forces have some exemptions under the discrimination acts. When I do not like a particular TV programme I am free to switch channels. So, I feel that to force an institution (against its moral code) to accept individual/individuals philosophically opposed to them, is ethically improper as it amounts to undermining the very grounds for their foundation.    

Sweet Charity

 

Thank you.

Thanks for the pain-filled look to my pain.

Thanks for funds 

That flow into civilised streams that

Reconstruct

Places, people, possessions.

Such generous acts resound around the world;

People laud such generous acts.

Tax collectors too open granite vaults to reward them too.

Amid the celebrations and flow of gold and silver

A pious widow shuffles to the treasury chest,

A trembling hand drops

Two copper coins, moistened by her tears;

One for the spouse

One for her child, no more;

In two she feels the grief for three,

And whispers an “Amen”.

Child of the teacher who taught to love the poor, 

The message ever glows in you;

Reminder of whose face you see in one another:

Making receivers, givers too.

It is not enough to heal the pain,

Heal too the body, mind and soul.

Then, will the collective “Amen”Fully heal and replenish loss;

Enabling one to bear the burden of four more.

The Quality of Mercy is not Strained

Let me take courage from Pope Francis, and plunge into the torrent of self-righteousness, and swim against the current. 

Bishop Wilson, of Adelaide, stands a lonely figure, abandoned by brother bishops, priests and christians alike. A court has found him vicariously guilty of a crime that has been a blight on the twentieth century and the Church. In sentencing him, the court, while punishing the crime, also, provides healing balm and to the victims. But, the justice system also offers the right of appeal. Which, as a citizen he has chosen to avail of. Are we, as fellow Australians, willing to deny him that right? Do our protests verge on sabotaging due process? In this situation, were he to resign from his post, he would only weaken his case.

May I counsel patience and faith in our justice system to let the case run its course. At the end of it we may judge the bishop, and the moral and social implications of his errors and judgements. Till then let us play the peacemakers.

On Choosing Life

“Look to the prism”, he said “The pendulum, dangling over the window, capturing the sun’s rays and dispersing light all over the room. Each smooth surface casts its own refracted ray to tell some story and adding colour to the walls.” 

 I looked to  the colours on one side, the profusion of colour evoking strong images of heroes, princes and successful individuals that did once bestride the world stage. Limited only by their imagination and the strength of their endeavour, some created empires, some magnificent cities, while some built magnificent pleasure domes – grandeur  that captivated the world in wonder. Their stature was measured by the wealth in their vaults and the level of ostentation. Yet, when done, their time of pomp and pleasure slipped and passed away. For instance, one died of a common fever in a distant land. Another was felled by swords that once made him great, and could even have made him emperor. One passed his last days, in near blindness, his eyes turned towards the world’s most magnificent building that he had constructed. Recently, one who would be Fuhrer,  died underground in a hole, of self-inflicted injuries. The list is legion. Like commoners, they too were reduced to pinches of sand as they slipped through the maker’s hourglass, down on to an anonymous heap. They had chosen to be great.  

The opposite wall I found is bathed with lighter hues of blue – tranquility marks the mood. The protagonists are more at peace with their surrounds. The lion sleeps with the lamb. Man and woman move unhindered by outward trappings, fashions or ornamentation. Every plant, unblemished, yields proper fruit at the proper season. The streams are full of fish, and meander, irrigating rich fields on their way down to a sun-filled sea. Sounds of animals and birds fill the air with sweet harmony; not a discordant note, no cacophony. This is life as it was meant to be.

Again I hear the voice. It asks, “ What will you choose, splendour and power for the day, or do you choose life that gives joy for ever? I say to you choose Life. But the choice must be yours, for the Father so wills it.”  

On Synchronising With Scriptures

Sometimes a passage (like Matt 7:1-5 today) causes one to pause and consider. We have heard the call to prayer, and readings from the pulpit/lectern a thousand times. The preaching, with variations, has been, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged”. Today, it became an instruction for active discipleship, “ first take out the log from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.”How contrary it sounds in today’s static on the airwaves!

Everyone strives above the din to call a neighbour to be “accountable” for some perceived act of delinquency. In our smug self-righteousness, we want the other to take “responsibility”, when we ourselves are quick to disclaim responsibility for our own, attitudes and actions. When it comes to ourselves, it is always, “The serpent made me eat it”. Indeed it is part of that original sin. How we blame the government, establishments, even our DNA, for decisions and acts we commit of our own volitions. 

We begin to wonder at the relevance of the call for us to be perfect as the Father is perfect. We continue on chosen trajectories like wanton kids, absorbed with curiosity about the boundaries of ethics, social behaviour and our sexual affirmations. Does one have to wear pencil line trousers or flares; skinny shorts or frayed denims; or follow some fixed genre of music, to be mod and in step with “things”? Is it fashionable to hold particular social or political positions? How conformist do we need to be to be considered non-conformist? It does seem to be an overwhelming preoccupation with things trivial, while quickly pointing to people who love the simple old fashioned things like respect, congeniality, and faithfulness to an ethical code.

I feel like an anachronism, committed, and to some, very Boring. Unfortunately, I  too have meandered among loosely bound Christians. For instance, I considered it a cultural imperative to take my children for Baptism. Upon their reaching the age of reason the formalities of the sacraments of initiation too were duly completed. Christmas and Easter became great celebrations to honour consumerism, with little place for their religious significance. Thus, I missed the calls of the prophets and the psalmists, to teach my children about the faith and the law. By sending them to Catholic schools, I made those institutions “responsible” to teach and instruct – holding them “accountable”. Grudgingly, I now see the log in my own eye. I pray that discipleship will follow.