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Showing posts from July, 2009

The China Study

Advice on diet and health is not hard to come by. The books flood the market places and the fads come and go: they come because we worry about these matters and they go because most of the advice on offer is utter bollocks. We get told to cut out carbs or sugars or fats or we get told to eat more carbs or sugars or fats. There are odd little snippets such as tomatoes preventing cancer or peanuts causing it that do the rounds, so that when everything is weighed up, especially us, it's hard to know what to do. Not that it matters, as the regimes in most of the health books are completely unsustainable in the long term and therefore, at best, will only make temporary changes in our ability to run up stairs or observe our private parts without a mirror. Below this cacophany of voices though, there is a constant quiet refrain of advice that all appears to be from people singing from the same song book: eat lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lay off the animal fat. I

How

A little more than a year ago I planned a study leave. With a completely open and free choice about what I might want to spend the time on, I planned to address one or two of those pesky little questions that have been bothering me for a while: what and who am I and why am I here ? There was also the side issue of what on earth the Anglican Church had to do with those questions. I had a plan of action: visit the Holy Land, make a tour of New Zealand Anglican churches and read some fairly heavy duty books by people like Emmanuel Levinas and Jaques Lacan. I suspected that the Medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart might be useful in providing a Christian framework in which to work out the philosophy of Being described by the French philosophers. Of course, as those of you who have read this blog for a while know, the best laid plans of mice and men etc etc. In the week after I had taken leave of my parish to do all this thinking, my doctor told me I had dry rot and it might be rather a

Why

I have been reading Antony Beevor's Berlin , a book about the fall of the German capital to the Red Army in April 1945. It is a harrowing tale of atrocity by the Red Army, performed at least in part as revenge for the horrors earlier inflicted on occupied Russia by the Germans. A question that continually surfaces for me in reading such a book is Why ? Why did decent law abiding fathers and sons and husbands on both sides of the conflict behave so appalingly? Why would a man be a hard working farmer in the Urals and a rapist, thief and murderer once he entered Germany? Why would reasonable, intelligent people become fanatical Nazis? We can say, of course that the people who acted in the way they did chose to act that way, and that therefore, they are responsible for their own actions, but that only begs the question: why did they choose so? More tellingly, I ask myself, if I had been a twenty year old Red Army soldier would I have acted any differently? If I had been thirteen in p

What

This is a post I have been putting off for some time. I want to write about the third dimension of my journey, the part which relates to the Spirit. I have balked at the line many times in the last couple of weeks because I find it so hard to gather the words; or at least the right words. I have no trouble coming up with an impressive and academical description of what I have learned, but that sort of stuff is no use to anybody, least of all me: I remember C. S. Lewis' advice that any fool can speak learned language, and that if you can't express something in the vernacular then you either don't understand it or you don't believe it. So perhaps I am writing this in an attempt to understand. I'll do it in two or three bite sized chunks, and begin by telling you how I started my day today. I got up at about 7, a bit later than usual, showered, fed the cat and set some oatmeal to soak in apple juice. Then I went to my study, lit a candle and turned on the heater. I t

The Road Goes Ever On and On

We got into Auckland early on Friday and were back in Dunedin by 9:15. It was cold. Unbelievably cold. Cold as in the there's absolutely nowhere in this house where I can feel warm and nothing I can put on that seems to make a blind bit of difference kind of cold. Our big brick house had stood empty for three months, leaching away the stores of heat it had piled into all those solid internal walls and gradually absorbing moisture. It has taken six days of heat pump and firewood for it to begin to feel cosy again, but we're getting there. On Friday night we both slept 13 hours, and both woke, independently in the wee small hours, thinking "where do we have to get to today, and where is the toilet in this place?" On Saturday we slept 12 hours and Sunday 10. There was a large box of mail, a couple of very full inboxes and a pile of old Listeners in their plastic bags. On Monday morning my computer died. It had been on the way out for a while, but sitting idle for a long

The Last Hoorah

We flew out of London on Sunday morning and after an hour or two in Munich flew across Greenland and Canada to San Francisco. I had booked a rental car but picking it up at about 7:30pm found a most pleasant error had occured. The car company was all out of the little piddling autos that I had booked and instead gave me a bigger one. It was a Chrysler Sebring convertible, a very handsome car, although one that was quite typically American in its handling and performance: great as long as you are going in a straight line and on a level surface. After the usual jitters occasioned by sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road, we had a very pleasant three days swanning about in the Californian sunshine. On Monday we crossed the Golden Gate into Marin county and visited my Alma Mater. The locals call the seminary complex Camelot , and a first glance would tell you why. San Francisco Theological Seminary is all stone and wood and copper towers, set amon

As You Like It

copyright The Observer , UK I saw As You Like It this afternoon at The Globe . There's lots of reviews on the site linked to above. They're all true. What else can I say? It was uproariously funny. It was witty and erudite and sexy. It had the most preposterous plot, but still managed the trick of suspension of disbelief, perhaps in part because the theatre itself and the audience were part of the make believe. It was utterly, utterly brilliant. The Globe is a modern reproduction of Shakespeare's original 16th Century theatre. People are seated in three tiers and the floor in front of the stage is filled with the groundlings: 700 people (today including Clemency and me) who have paid 5 pounds to stand there. We lean on the stage or on the surrounding woodwork. We shift out of the way when the action spills into the area around us. The actors make their exits and entrances by pushing through us or appearing suddenly in our midst. The largely voluntary staff move around,

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

Yesterday we rented a car and drove north to attend a family function for Clemency. I had my brain disengaged when booking a car online. I chose one from a depot at Victoria St. Station because it is easy to get to on the tube, completely overlooking the fact that I had to get the car from Central London to the comparative ease of the M1 during rush hour. It happened with not as much difficulty as I'd anticipated and now there's one more thing I can put on my CV. Getting it back again at 1 a.m. with no map was harder, London at 1 a.m. being about as busy as, say, Wellington at 11 a.m., only darker. There were some things about the trip I won't boast of, such as getting pinged by a speed camera in the Oxfordshire countryside, and getting hopelessly lost in Derby on the way home. Derby! Oh the humiliation! And there was Stratford. I mean the famous one, not the one in London where they are building an enormous white elephant to host the next Olympics, or Old , or Stony but

Anglican

The parish church of St. Gregory and St. Martin, Wye, Kent. About 5 years ago our diocese had an electoral synod in which I was a candidate. The events leading up to the synod and the synod itself were particularly grueling for me, and it took me fully two years to recover from them. One of the very unfortunate side effects, for me, of the events surrounding the synod was a sense of alientation from much of my own diocese and a sense of deep disillusionment with the national Anglican church. I remember one of the members of the synod using a metaphor which has stuck with me since that day. She said our diocese was on a roundabout, going round and round looking for the right street to exit into. I had a sense, on that day, and one which has grown every day since, that I got off on one street and the Diocese of Dunedin got off on another. Following the synod, I remained as Vicar General of the diocese, a position I deeply did not want to hold but which I could not quite find a way to