Category Archives: history

Turn To Stone

via Daily Prompt: Encrusted

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The well known Augusta water wheel, originally timber, built in the 1800s to provide water for the town and the lighthouse, now encrusted in calcite. A metaphor. If we cease to engage realtionally with others, with nature, with what matters, we risk becoming encrusted with hardness, weariness, compassion fatigue, creative dryness, and we seize up, ever hardening, never moving or growing. A heart that hardens ceases to love, and becomes encrusted with oughts (commonly referred to as a hardening of the “oughteries”), don’ts, must nots, and the bargaining of a negative mindset. What starts as protection of the self, becomes a coffin of stone that constricts. When I see that wheel, I want to chip away the calcite, to release the wheel and let it turn once again. I want to do that for those whose hearts have calcified too, but most of all I want to ensure I’m freeing my own. Only love chips away the stone of a hard heart.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

 

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Filed under beach, bush walking, history, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, psychology, self-development

Compromise

via Daily Prompt: Compromise

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Com = with, promise = agreement, arrangement.

The art of working together towards and agreement. I’ve come across articles that suggest it is wrong to compromise, that you should stick to your guns and never give in. But I beg to differ. Without compromise we would never accomodate each other, there would be no opportunity for collaborative work or learning. Compromise is the art of finding a new way forward, trying to find points of agreement. Without compromise we would have rigidity, black and white scenarios, all forms of fundamentalism. I do agree that we should never compromise our own dignity and integrity, we should never compromise ourselves, as Janis Joplin once said: “Don’t compromise yourself, you’re all you’ve got.” While the Beatles sang ‘We Can Work It Out’ opining that life is too short for fussing and fighting.  Besides it’s not all about you/me. We can compromise our demands, ideals, desires, and wants. My observation is that relationships fail where compromise is absent.

I love this quote from St. Augustine of Hippo (oft times falsely attributed to St. Francis and a few others): “In the essentials let there be unity, in the non-essentials let there be liberty, and in all things let there be charity.” Not bad for a bloke in the fourth century. But then he had witnessed a fair bit of compromising in the the great ecumenical councils of that era.

Relationships flourish where issues and behaviours are compromised, all it takes is an “I message” and a listening ear combined with a willingness to let go fixed positions. Somewhere there is new ground.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

 

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Courage Under Fire

via Daily Prompt: Courage

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Photo: UK Department for International Development.

There are many stories of courage throughout history. Wartime in particular seems to courageous people to the fore. Those who fought in the resistance groups during WW2, and individuals like Maximilian Kolbe https://pvcann.com/2017/10/18/brave/ , Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nancy Wake, John Rabe, Oscar Schindler, and many, many more.

But more recently I have been moved by the courage of the young woman in the photo, Malala Yousafzai.

Most of you will know the story. Malala, born in Mingora in the Swat Valley in Pakistan in 1997, she became an advocate and an activist for womens education rights. She was inspired by her father’s humanitarian work, and Benazir Bhutto, as role models. She came up against the Taliban who were active in the Swat Valley, and who were banning girls from schools. She began writing a blog for teh BBC under a pseudonym and spoke out about her life under the Taliban. She came to prominence in the international media nad was interviewed by New York Times journalist Adam Ellick. And then Desmond Tutu nominated Malala for teh International Children’s Peace Prize.

Her prominence earned the anger of the Taliban who attempted to murder her. And she was shot on October 9, 2012 (yes it was that long ago) and survived, and with hopsital support in both Pakistan then England she made a full recovery. While being shot is never good, it did gain her international fame, which she immediately channelled into her activism for girls education in Pakistan. She set up a web site, continued to write and speak publicly, toured the world, did a TED talk (which is well worth taking the time to view), and set up a foundation called the Malala Fund where most of her award money is then distributed to education casuses across the world. she has shown a generosity in time, compassion and funding.

She has won over fifty international awards for her work for children’s education rights. And in October 2014 Malala was a joint recipient (with Kailash Satyarthi) of the Nobel Peace Prize (sad note here is that Malala is only the sixteenth female recipient, there are ninety male recipients).

She was courageous the moment she determined she wanted to persist in being educated, claiming that the terrorists did not want women to be educated because that would give them power. The moment she started to advocate and became a public activist in her own province and then started a blog, she was courageous, and on a collision course with the Taliban. And her fate was sealed when she gained international fame, and the Taliban decied to be rid of her. But she survived, and Malala continues to be courageous in her activism for the education of children, especially girls. She is doubly courageous, facing down the Taliban, but also the culture of patriarchy across the world that is still resistant to the rights of women, not least of all in education, in many parts of the world today (strange how far we haven’t come).

We need more Malalas, more courageous people to stand and turn the tide of injustice, but as she shows, it is simply sticking to what you beleive and setting out and doing it come what may (even the Taliban). One of Malala’s inspirations is Benazir Bhutto, mine is Malala.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, education, history, life, politics, self-development

Steam Punk Costume

via Daily Prompt: Costume

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(Photo: i.pinimg.com Maria Berseneva Photography)

Steam Punk is a sub-genre of science fantasy/science fiction, but is more commonly referred to as speculative fiction. It combines 19th century art and design forms, clothing in particular, with elements of steam powered machinery, and other mechanics of that era. It is, in short, a design aesthetic. Steam Punk proposes an alternative 19th century history, and is therefore anachronistic,  often set in Victorian England or the “Wild West”of America. Its philosophy is a combination of Victorian industrial progress and the hope of the 19th century art and literature. There’s a slogan that is used in Steam Punk circles – “This is what the past would have looked like if the future had happened sooner.”

It has been used in film, ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, ‘Wild, Wild West’, ‘Van Helsing’, ‘Hellboy.’ There are elements in the historical episodes of Dr. Who, and in the literature of Jules Verne

As with Cyber Punk and Cosplay, the costumes are a matter of personal taste and design.

I love the creativity of those engaged with the costumery, it fires the imagination, and I can see its appeal. I could look at this stuff for hours.

But my Steam Punk wouldn’t be Steam Punk, nor would it be a romanticised version of some era, though it would be a combination of eras and hopes, and therefore framed idealistically. My alternative history would be based around eschewing violence, all violence, from sexual, to gender, to poltical, playground (not sure if there’s a difference there), domestic, class, environmental, and well, violence. I want to see creative costumes of compassion, respect, care, inclusion and integrity. I want industrial strength love of all kinds. I want costumes that shout justice and mercy.

Johnny it's Rotten
punked, but not forgotten
the blossom weeps
©Paul

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under art, community, history, life, Philosophy/Theology

Mnemonia

via Daily Prompt: Mnemonic

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I was never a mnemoniac. They drove me mad, I’d glaze over, and inevitably never grasp the process. One of the few I could ever quote was “i before e except after c” or “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Probably because it was short. I had the attention span of a drugged monkey. I’m still hazy about which months have thirty days, the mnemonic never helped “Thirty days have (white noise) …” In reality I couldn’t be bothered. Even now, memorising lists results in “Just shoot me.”

Mnemonic ( comes from Koine Greek: μνημονενμα) which meant – a record of the past, and so we promote memorising for learning. But, mnemonic also means to be mindful.

And so there is another form of mnemonic I do relate to, and that is learning from someone’s life. A person’s life can be a mnemonic or pattern that inspires. The names that have inspired me include: Martin Luther King Jnr., Rosa Parks, Maximilian Kolbe, Sir Edmund Hilary, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Jimmy Carter, Simone Weil, John Muir, Dag Hammarskjold, the Dalai Lama, Parker Palmer, Aung San Suu Kyi, and so many others. I have taken something from each of them, something from their pattern of living, something that  inspires or makes sense. These people are living patterns, and through documentary, books, or watching them, I can see their way of being.

I’m not bothered how many days are in a month, but I am interested in mindfully attending to the wonderful examples of humanity around me, and learning from them.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, history, life, mindfulness, Spirituality

Everything Is Permitted?

via Daily Prompt: Permit

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A quote is a quote is a quote, or maybe not. Vladimir Bartol included the words “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” in his well known novel Alamut. Many would know this to be central to the video game series Assassin’s Creed” and the creators borrowed this phrase from Bartol.

William Burrows borrowed it from Bartol and included it in his novel “Naked Lunch.” Batol’s phrase echoes Dostoevsky’s phrase in his earlier novel “The Brothers Karamazov” where the character Ivan Karamazov states: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” And this in turn is an echo of St. Paul’s theological reflection in his first letter to the people in the church in Corinth where he says: “You have the right to do anything, you say, but not everything is beneficial.”

For St. Paul and Dostoevsky the question is – do we need God/a god for ethical living? Which the two resolve in the affirmative. For Bartol (who sets his novel in 11th century Persia, and is a thinly veiled criticism of fascism and Mussolini), it is a statement that there is no ultimate truth (and perhaps, albeit, no god). Burrows follows a similar line in Naked Lunch in which totaltitarian forces are jostling for control. It is a disjointed book, presenting a disjointed world in which ethics is a moot point, and nothing can be trusted.

For me the question resolves easily. Nothing is true is unsustainable, it fails in that some things can be true (laws of nature, physics, law of gravity etc.). It is true for me at the level that there is no political utopia. There is no ultimate truth, because life is experienced as relational not as principle, so truth is variously understood through experience. God may be a question more than an ultimate truth for many, but as Dostoevsky makes clear, for some God/a god is one way of creating an ethical community.

For me St. Paul nails it by saying everything is permitted, but not everything is beneficial. This is the personal side of it, the ethical relational issue up front. The self must be considerd in the context of ethically living in community, where there are responsibilities as well as rights. In short it can be summed up as the non-harming principle, or as loving your neighbour.

So, nothing is true, but my neighbour is true, so not everything is permitted, or, not everything is beneficial. My neighbour, sister, brother, all living things, are true, and I must account for my behaviour towards them. Not everything is beneficial, but love is beneficial for all.

Paul,

pvcann.com

20 Comments

Filed under history, life, Philosophy/Theology, politics

You Can’t Say That!

via Daily Prompt: Stifle

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Photo: huffingtonpost.com

I wonder that we’ve ever really had true free speech. George Orwell’s experience in Spain (1936) was such that he portrayed both left and right as having stifled free speech in his novel, Animal Farm. Every form of totalitarian government has stifled free speech, but in recent times even liberal democracies have resorted to enacting laws that limit free speech.

In an interview in 2012 (The Telelgraph, October 18, 2012), Rowan Atkinson (aka Blackadder, Mr. Bean) tilted at the law in England – The Public Order Act. Atkinson criticised the “Creeping culture of censoriousness” and went on to point out that we have entered a time when it has become dangerous to protest. In other words we are losing our basic rights to speak out. He was not speaking in favour (as some tend to confuse free speech with the right to vilify and slander) of the right to say anything, especialy hate speech, but that we have gone too far, curtailing even basic free speech.

Atkinson claims that in trying to outlaw insult, because insult is difficult to define, we end up prosecuting one the basis of insult, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, or even stating an alternative view to the status quo (the subversive, Orwell speaks directly to this in his novel 1984). In reality, in stifling free speech we end up with repression.

Many have paid for speaking out, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who criticised Joseph Stalin, was sent to labour camps by Stalin. Umberto Eco wrote in the ‘Name of the Rose’ (later a movie starring Sean Connery) how the Vatican maintained a list of books to be destroyed, how the church didn’t like criticism of the institution. The leaders of the French Revolution brutally repressed criticism. Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Castro, Pinochet, Mao, Idi Armin, Robert Mugabe, all loathed and tried to regulate criticism. In recent times Donald Trump has complained about free speech (which is ironic). Kim Jong-un carries on a tradition of repressing poitical criticism in North korea.

The English philosopher John Stuart Mill commented (‘On Liberty’ 1859, Penguin, pp 83 -84)  that we should not employ censorship because this would prevent people from making up their own minds (horror of horrors). Interesting thought, Mill clearly wasn’t frightened of public free speech, and he believed free speech wouldn’t cause the collapse of society nor descend to harm or hate. But there are worrying signs that liberal democracies are moving towards control of free speech by creating laws where criticism of government becomes an offence!

No one likes criticism, but surely that is no reason to be petulant and defensive and hide behind laws? Sometimes we need to push back, sometimes others need to push back against us. Criticism can sharpen us,  it can energise us, help us to refine our view, and help us to grow. Let’s not fear each other, but instead let’s embrace the idea that society, and in particular, people’s views, are not homogenous, and we won’t all agree, and we won’t like all that we hear and read about ourselves. Instead, let’s embrace the difference, let’s hold to the value of free speech.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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