Skip to main content


The China Study is a book with three parts. Part 1 describes the study upon which the book is based. Part 2 gives some outline advice on structuring a diet. Part 3 describes the encoounters the author, T Colin Campbell, has had with the American Medical system. This third part is quite chilling reading. It outlines in some detail the lengths to which people will go to ignore or even suppress knowledge they find unpalateable. People whose lives are based on the search for objective truth and the scientific method are capable of immense subjectivity when faced with information which counters deeply held preconceptions. I have been thinking a bit about the reasons for this, and particularly as my own church undergoes one of its periodic convulsions over the choosing of a new bishop, and displays its usual intractibility about change or adaption . It's all about systems, and I am indebted to David Bohm's Thought As A System for clarifying my thinking on this. Systems occur naturally and there are also systems which are the products of human ingenuity. All systems seem to have some common features

A system is a collection of interrelated parts which act together for some end or other. The parts draw their meaning from the system, and are usually useless unless incorporated into the system; as Paul says, what use is a hand or an eye apart from the body? Although some parts of a system are open to development and change and evolution, there are other parts which are linked together in quite fixed, and unchangeable ways. These components of the greater system are structures: they serve to give the system shape and continuity. Structures define much of the system's function and direction. It's when we run up against one of these structures: the inner "bones" of the system that we learn how unyielding a system can be, particular in the performance of the first task of any system which is ensuring the survival of the system.

Bohm says that artificial systems, like any product of human thought, all bear the patterns of thought; that is, they are made in the same way as thoughts and have all the characteristics of thoughts. They are sort of concretised or materialised thoughts. Because they are, in a sense "made of thought" they are not very amenable to being examined by thought: because our thoughts are flawed in precisely the same ways that the systems are flawed.

Systems are bigger than the sum of their components and often act to subsume the purposes of their componet parts into the purposes of the system. Which happens even when the component parts are people. Which is why an American doctor can publicly denounce a therapy based on lifestyle change rather than drugs and surgery even while he is choosing to send his own family for the very same therapy. Which is why submitting to ordination as a bishop in the Anglican church is a precarious and dangerous business.


Anonymous said…
You wrote: "Structures define much of the system's function and direction. It's when we run up against one of these structures: the inner "bones" of the system that we learn how unyielding a system can be, particular in the performance of the first task of any system which is ensuring the survival of the system."

So if the structure of the church is unyielding,and the survival of a diocese is under threat (=cannot be ensured), what then? Is there another way?

These systems- and structures-set down by human thought can never be changed by more enlightened humans?

Should we remember it's easier to make changes in a small place like New Zealand?
Kelvin Wright said…
Change is difficult but obviously not impossible, or things would never develop and evolve. Bohm makes the point that an institution is a kind of thought. Humans made it up, and it has no reality apart from the reality we choose to give it. We can only ever consider this "objectified" thought using thought, so it is never really possible to be free ourselves from the flaws and faults we see in the structure. A little like trying to clean up a spilled mess of red paint using only a rag which is itself soaked in red paint. He does say though, that sometimes insight happens: an idea or perception which comes from somewhere outside of ourselves, and which will be initially non verbal and instinctual. It is these moments of insight which let us reform and change for the better.
Anonymous said…
What happened to the last post?
Anonymous said…
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Popular posts from this blog

Turn Sideways Into The Light

David Whyte speaks in his audio series What To Remember When Waking of the myth of the Tuatha De Danann. They were a mythical race from Ireland's past who were tall, magical, mystical people devoted to beauty and artistry. When another more brutal people, the Milesians invaded Ireland the Tuatha De Danann fought them off in two battles, but were faced with a third, decisive battle against overwhelming odds. So, lined up in battle formation and facing almost certain defeat, the Tuatha De Danann turned sideways into the light and disappeared. Whyte's retelling is, to put it mildly, a gloss, but I am quite taken with the phrase and with the phenomenon it describes. Turning sideways into the light is the realisation that there are some encounters that are damaging to all involved in them: no one wins a war. Faced with such an exchange, to turn sideways into the light is to seek another, more whole form of relationship. It is to reject the ground rules of the conversation as they

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

The Bell and the Blackbird

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, 1/400 f8, iso200 A couple of weeks ago Clemency and I drove to Queenstown to hear the poet David Whyte. I think that people resonate with writers when they articulate for us the doings of our soul, and David Whyte has done that for me several times, as I have mentioned here and here and here and here .  I had seen that he was in New Zealand to conduct one of his famous, week long walking tours, which I would dearly love to have joined, but my budget didn't stretch to the $US5,000 a head ticket price. But I saw  A Day With David Whyte advertised and decided that whatever the cost, I was going. Turns out it was only $95 a head, so Clemency, despite the fact that she was only vaguely aware of who he was,  came too. We left home in the dark and arrived in plenty of time for the 10.00 am start. The venue was a kind of back packer type place on the shore of Lake Wakatipu. About 60 or so people were there, mostly women, all of them looking l

Centering Prayer Retreat

    A 3 day taught retreat in the practice of Centering Prayer.   Saturday October 2 2021 - Monday October 4 2021 Centering Prayer is a form of Christian silent contemplative prayer. This retreat is suitable for beginners in silent prayer, or for more experienced practitioners wishing to refresh their practice.  The retreat will be held in the En Hakkore retreat centre in the hills above Waipiata in the Maniototo. There will be daily sessions of silent prayer, instruction and discussion. The venue is spacious and set in an expansive landscape. there will be some time for personal reflection.  The cost is $175 per person which includes 2 nights accommodation and all meals.   Since the beginning, following the example of Jesus, there has been a tradition of silent prayer in the Christian Church. Over the centuries this tradition faded from the popular view and became confined to monasteries. It was kept alive by a largely ignored, but never fading lineage of Christian contemplatives.  

Camino, by David Whyte

This poem captures it perfectly Camino. The way forward, the way between things, the way already walked before you, the path disappearing and re-appearing even as the ground gave way beneath you, the grief apparent only in the moment of forgetting, then the river, the mountain, the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting you over the rain filled pass when your legs had given up, and after, it would be dusk and the half-lit villages in evening light; other people's homes glimpsed through lighted windows and inside, other people's lives; your own home you had left crowding your memory as you looked to see a child playing or a mother moving from one side of a room to another, your eyes wet with the keen cold wind of Navarre. But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only, and to find the guise under which all loss can live; remember you were given that name every day along the way, remember you were greeted as such, and you neede