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Showing posts from June, 2008

A Different Light

The Universe seems to me to be a giant consciousness making machine. It throws up ever more complex organisations of matter and ever more complex and self aware ways of being. The Universe does this by evolution; the complex forms arise out of the less complex; they don't just appear. One place where this is seen is in the most complex single thing known to humankind: the human brain. This wonderful instrument of being didn't just arrive fully formed but developed from less complex brains, and they in turn from less. It seems that God doesn't go back to the drawing board and redesign from scratch. God develops by adding things on, and changing what is already there ('redemption', we call it, in Christian jargon). This growth is seen in the structure of the brain itself which has "layers". At the core, in the physical centre, is a brain stem which is similar to the brain of a reptile and is responsible for those functions we share with animals of about s

One Step At A Time

First the easy bit: How am I? Well, I'm home a day or two before anybody expected, and it's snowing. Thick, soft gentle snow settling on the roadway outside my window and on the leaves and on the window itself. I am making good progress, though my body constantly reminds me it's taken a fair old hammering lately. In fact, I am still in the middle of a fairly serious and complicated medical procedure, which will end on Friday week when Mr. Samalia removes the last of the temporary plumbing. The smallest task exhausts me, including some, for example eating breakfast, or having a shower, that I never really regarded as tasks before. I have learned that, disappointingly, bionic bladders are not as much fun as they are cracked up to be. I seem to get a whole lot better every day, although I'll have to be careful of overextending myself. One step at a time. I've learned, with a vengeance, that I am mortal. I've learned something else, too. Or at least relearned i

The Journey Goes On

Hello all, Catherine Wright here writing on behalf of one whom because of his current position, cannot make contact himself. After many weeks in a state of limbo, yesterday morning my father had the surgery which would remove his troublesome prostate and make sure we will have him round for a few years yet. My mother and I drove him to the hospital at around 9am where he was promptly fitted with an attractive gown and special leggings to prevent blood clots. All he was lacking was a pair of heels and he would have given Liza Minnelli a run for her money. At 10am he was given a pill to make him drowsy before he was given anaesthetic. He told us all that these sort of medications never work on his alert personality and was promptly snoring within five minutes. A little after 11 a team of very kind nurses wheeled him into theatre where he was nipped and tucked for about four and a half hours. During this time Mum and I had a quiet lunch at a lovely cafe by the beach then sat in the fam

I'll See You Around

I'm ready to go. I've seen the surgeon and the anaesthetist. I've had my drink of fleet (DON"T ask. But let me assure you it works very well indeed). I've packed my bag - all the important things: * Bible * Cellphone charger * Ipod charger * PDA charger * Bits of gear to attach to the above * Pajamas, Dressing gown and slippers * Toothbrush and shaver and all that stuff Now the tricky part. What books to take? It's only 4 days or so and I'm going to be unconscious for one of them and queasy for the rest, so let's not go overboard. * A couple of New Scientists (thanks Alan) * Playing God (a book of poems by Kapiti Coast doctor and poet Glenn Colquhoun.) * Love Poems From God. Twelve Sacred Voices From East and West (Spiritual poems from a variety of religious traditions) * All Shall Be Well. .. (a novel by Tod Wodicka) Poems you can give as much time to or not as you please. Let them make you think or just appreciate

Flying Cormorant

I have always been pleased with this shot, even though it's not your classic ornithological portrait of a shag. Today this guy left the following comment on it: "“The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.” – Kristnamurti. I want to add to that and say that the day you give the child a camera, the child might see the bird again." It's great when someone gets it.

Surrounded by so Great a Cloud of Witnesses

The day after tomorrow I have an appointment with a very sharp knife and tomorrow is sort of dress rehearsal day. I have to have a blood test: if the guy with the knife sneezes or I otherwise spring a leak, they want to know what to top up the sump with. I also have to meet the guy with the ether and the gauze cloth, exactly why, I'm not sure. It's been a long time coming and I'm almost glad it's finally here. I can honestly say I am not frightened or even particularly worried about the outcome; we'll face hurdles as we come to them, and I'm sure God has enough things left for me to fiddle around with to delay my departure for at least the medium term. Since I wrote this , I have had an amazing gift of time for reflection and thought. The undeniably tentative nature of my own existence has been a background to that, and perspectives have been considerably rearranged. While this inner stuff was chugging around things have been happening in a universe far far aw

Finding Authority

More important than the question of how Meister Eckhart used the scriptures is the question of how Jesus used them. This morning my set readings led me to continue to plough through Leviticus, and I suddenly saw something which has been right there under my nose these past thirty years but unnoticed; overshadowed by my own preconceptions about the meaning of scripture. Leviticus was written in the exile by the priests, and has a great concern for regulating priestly behaviour and for making sure that the priests get well provided for by the sacrificial system: a concern, which, as a priest, I heartily approve of. There, in the middle of chapters devoted to making sure that the holy blokes are pure enough to offer the peoples' sacrifices are some regulations about touching dead bodies. Corpses are ritually impure, and the priests are told, unless it's your immediate family, don't. And in ambiguous cases: what part of DON'T do you not understand? Scripture is just as un

The Zen of Photography II

A fine window dedicated to a former vicar dominates the interior of my church from it's position in the East wall, above the altar. If you were there on a clear morning with the sun shining through it this is what you would see: Raise your camera to your eye, carefully compose the shot and press the shutter button and this is what you'd get: The reason the top is skinny and the bottom is fat is because this is what it actually looks like. You don't see it that way because you brain has recognised the effect of things getting smaller the further they are away from you, done some very clever maths, and compensated for it without you even noticing. What you see in normal, everyday life is not the actual window, but an idea of what the window should look like; you're seeing an ideal version of the window, if you like. To make the camera take the picture you have in your brain requires one of two things: either a very expensive tilt and shift lens, or some jiggery p

The Zen of Photography

People sometimes ask for my advice on buying cameras. The camera they have now doesn't give them good shots, and they want something with mysterious dials and switches and buttons so they can take photographs they can be proud of. I usually tell them a little of what I know about cameras, but seldom what I am really thinking: that buying a new camera to improve your photography is like buying a new pen to improve your writing. If you are taking rubbish now, a new camera will only deliver you more sharply focused and better exposed rubbish. A good photographer will take stunning shots with a $199 point and shoot. Consider photographs like his or like his , or like hers ; Although all these were taken with fairly good camera gear, it's not the equipment that mattered - it's possessing a photographic eye. (and since writing this, I have stumbled on this blog which eloquently proves my point) Which is what? Well, hard to explain really, but you know it when you see it. It i

Looking Closer

One of the odd things about Meister Eckhart for a 21st Century reader is the way he uses the Bible. His quotations are , to be polite about it, imprecise and he treats the whole Bible as a sort of allegorical source from which to pluck illustrations. He uses the Church Fathers as often as he does the scriptures, and also makes heavy use of pagan philosophers, and these he seems to treat as reverently as he does the Bible. It is all very medieval, which is, of course, precisely what you might expect for someone living in the late 13th Century. His use of the Bible, his methods of scholarship and exposition, his understandings of people and the world are all limited by the culture and environment in which he grew. Nowadays we know better. Well, actually, no we don't. Nowadays we know differently. Somebody reading my sermons in 700 years time will no doubt say, "strange way that bloke uses the Bible. Strange way he thinks." If Meister Eckhart could be allowed to look f

Upon This Rock

I managed to see my older brother before I left Nelson. Alistair is a ship's engineer and he arrived home from a trip just as I was leaving. Despite pressure of time we did manage a good conversation on two topics. Firstly motorcycles. He showed me photos of the 1951 Ariel Square Four he's just acquired and a brochure for the brand new KTM he's about to acquire. He has, after all, only 5 bikes in his garage at the moment, so stocks are getting a bit low. There is no need to look up Wikipedia on the subject of motorbikes when Alistair is around. If it has two wheels he's probably ridden one, he's possibly owned one, he might even have pulled one to bits. I have been thinking of getting another bike myself, purely as a selfless ecological response to the issue of peak oil, you understand, and wanted his opinion. A classic BSA Lightning ( solid investment value, expect only 40,000km between overhauls, watch the crankcase bearings in the early ones, be prepared

Wiping the Window Clear

Earlier this week I had a most pleasant few hours sitting in the sunset at a table by a fishpond discussing life, the universe and everything with a couple of Buddhists. The Buddhists had the advantage of me because they had both once been Christian, but I have never been a Buddhist. We talked of many of the things discussed on this blog: the relationship of Buddhism and Christianity: the many similarities and the yawning, irreconcilable differences. It was a growing time for me, especially when one of them explained why she had changed faiths. "Buddhism produces enlightened people," she said. "Christianity doesn't." It was a statement that stung a little, and, as statements can only ever hurt us if they are, to some degree or other, true, I had to think a bit about what she said. In terms of the ordinary Buddhists I meet in daily life and the ordinary Christians, I don't think the statement is, in fact, true. Both faiths seem to be filled in similar prop

Solstice

I will have my operation on June 21 - the solstice. Not that the solstice means a lot to me; just because the earth has got to a certain point in it's annual journey round the sun doesn't mean that I have to go dancing naked around a dolmen. I am, after all a hemisphere away from the nearest dolmen. And it's June. And it's Dunedin. The solstice does mean, though, that the year is exactly half way through, and it's a bit staggering to think of what has happened in this year. In January my father died. For better and for worse he had a huge influence on the shaping of my life and so my family gathered in Motueka for his funeral and for a deeply significant time of talking and healing. Almost immediately I was a candidate in the election to choose a new Bishop of Christchurch. Episcopal elections are conducted in front of an employing committee of 150 each member of which feels obligated to comment at length on the candidates' belief system and pedigree. It's

A Wedding In The Anatoki

From Kaiteriteri, which is itself hardly the centre of civilisation, it's an hours drive over the Takaka hill into the Takaka valley. I once negotiated the last mile of the Motueka side of the hill in a VW Kombi with no brakes whatsoever, and my survival of that trip remains in my consciousness as one more irrefutable piece of evidence for the existence of God. On Sunday the journey was less eventful. Once we were safely in the valley we turned off beside the Anatoki river and followed the side road far past the point where the tarseal gives up in disgust. A rutted, scarred, one lane dirt road through a narrow valley gives out, after a while into a broad roughly circular basin in which are sited, side by side, two maturing communities: Happy Sam and Rainbow Valley. These both began life as hippie communes back in the early 70s. Rainbow Valley was the more organised and purposeful of the two. It now has a small collection of modest houses each built in varying versions of early 70&#

Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth

I woke this morning in my sisters house. The guest bedroom has two walls with large picture windows: each about 6' by 10' I'd guess. The curtains were pulled so I woke with the sun and through one window I could see the lights of Nelson still shining in the dawn light across Tasman Bay. Through the other, looking out towards the Abel Tasman National Park, the sun was rising, outrageously red because, apparently, of some eruption in Chile. I didn't raise my head from the pillow. I didn't dash to get my camera. I've taken just such sunrises from just this spot many many times before and I know now it will be completely different, though just as beautiful tomorrow morning. I have long since given up any hope of truly capturing it; I've only got a camera, after all. I tell people my sister owns the best view in New Zealand, and therefore, the best in the world, which of course is hyperbole. Comparing views is like comparing songs: it's all a matter of t