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The car has killed more people in the twentieth century
than World War 1 and 11, as well as all the wars since.
Make a stand. Walk somewhere, preferably away from
How Do We Live?
In essence this is the 'Big One'. What do we do, what
can we do to makes our lives happy, contented, fulfilled,
purposeful. Are we hoping that it will all just come
to us one day; the pieces to fit all so snugly into
the puzzle of life? What strategies will we find to
make it all worthwhile? Do we need to find God? Become
rich? Thin down and pump out? Collect stamps? Fall in
love? Everyone will find different things that will
make it worth the trip.
In an edition of New Internationalist on this very
topic Vanessa Baird gives a few guidelines:
* Question everything. As Socrates said, a moral life
is one of continuous questioning.
* Value uncertainty. It's much better and braver to
live with the discomfort of uncertainty than to opt
for the certainties of totalitarianism or fundamentalism.
* Get stuck into ethics. Don't leave it up to religious
people and politicians to decide what's right and wrong.
Make sure you have your say.
* Obedience can be a deadly virtue. Be prepared to
disobey orders you don't agree with.
* Look at your circle of concern. Has it shrunk over
the years? Could you widen it?
* Ask ethical questions about things that aren't usually
connected with morality. They may well be before long.
Of course this is only one approach. Many may find
this doesn't suit them at all.
What happens when people believe in right and wrong,
black and white. When there are fixed truths and ways
of living? Eternal verities that have apparently always
been true and right.
Who is excluded in their righteous world?
The question of what is a human has taken another turn
in the last half of the twentieth century. James Watson
discovered DNA in 1952, the very blueprint of what makes
us - at least biologically.
We can clone sheep and now it is anticipated that in
the near future we will be able to have a whole range
of body parts that we will be able to buy when the other
ones go over their use-by date. Warranties and all.
Noah built his arc 300 cubits long, a small miracle
for the times especially for a 600 year old man and
it seemed big enough for every creature god had made.
Until one day men driven by the smell of spice and the
glint of gold re-mapped the world.
They all came back with tales: Columbus told of macaws,
manatees & iguanas, peccaries, hispaniola &
hutias. Pigafetta reported monkeys that looked like
lions only yellow and more beautiful and then there
were armadillos, toucans, sloths and vicunas. All who
had failed to make the original ark.
God it seemed had been far busier than anyone had thought.
Why are all the white boys so rich?
Jared Diamond in his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, examines
how Western European countries have become so powerful
over the last 600 years. Working as an anthropologist
in New Guinea in the 1970's he met a New Guinean named
Yali. From working with him he soon found that this
man was as intelligent, if not more, than himself or
other Whites. Yet Yali was aware that his people were
seen as primitive and lacking qualities admired by the
West. So he asked Diamond 'Why is it that you white
people developed so much cargo (material goods) and
brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little
cargo of our own?' By this he also implied 'Why are
they regarded as superior human beings to us.'
Diamond went off to find the answer and finished up
writing his book as a result.
In the past many cultures looked down on tribal cultures
as primitive and backward. In doing this they labelled
the people as inferior, as if there were stages of development
humans went through, and these races didn't have what
it took to progress. In doing so they often dehumanised
these people and made it easy for themselves to invade
their land, take their homes, deny them their languages
and beliefs, and often killed large proportions of the
population through outright war (though the term is
hardly ever used, especially in the case of Australia)
or through disease.
Diamond shows that it was not for any inherent or innate
trait belonging to a race that made them 'unsuccessful'
in regard to becoming powerful city-states such as those
in Europe. They adapted to their environments and most
worked intelligently with the land and its animals to
manage a livelihood.
However to those early Europeans who came with the
latest technology and the firearms to forcefully prove
their superiority these indigenous people appeared less
than human. The Europeans' material success was proof
of the others' lack of humanness as they did not have
the same things, didn't live in cities, or believed
in the same Gods.
Instead of these reasons - biological essentialism
which became racism - other people in different parts
of the world developed different cultures due to a range
of reasons. These included the availability of grasses
that could eventually be grown as crops (wheat, rice,),
the presence of animals that could be domesticated and
the availability of metals. It was partly these things
that made it possible for European cultures to emerge
from hunter-gatherer tribes to form larger societies
that became towns and cities, where farms allowed surplus
food so that all didn't have to work in primary industries.
This allowed for a division of labour and people no
longer had to get food for themselves, but diversified
into creating tools, weapons and art. This in turn led
to a leisured class (those who organised and managed
the transference of goods/food to others) with the wealth
to accumulate these goods which became markers of their
cultural superiority. Religion became more organised
and a priest class emerged with special privileges.
People who had physical power/intelligence/charisma,
with skills of managing/controlling people, usually
in conjunction with military power became rulers who
lived off the product of others. A class system evolved
with distinct hierarchical relationships. The society
became more powerful and then started to conquer others
who were less organised. States and eventually Empires
Those in isolated areas who didn't have these environmental
pre-requisites remained hunter-gatherers.
The question to ask is why was, and still is, progress
defined in terms that denote technological sophistication,
which has everything to do with accumulating more material
goods and little to do with spiritual growth though
many of the cultures responsible for the colonisation
and exploitation of indigenous peoples in Africa, Australia,
North and South America and Asia, had religions that
spoke of spirituality and good deeds as the cornerstone
of their beliefs.
When people have power they will use it.
By the time Darwin set out on The Beagle things had
changed, but not enough to disturb all those quietly
confident that God did the bidding and that these were
good times to live in. The archaeologists may have made
dents on Bishop Usher's proclamation that the earth
was created at 8 p.m, 22 October, 4004 B.C, but little
adding errors couldn't destroy the fact that someone
was definately in control and reality was as you saw
Intellectuals and free-thinkers could call everything
into question, like the radicals at Edinburgh University,
which Darwin attended as a medical student, but boatman
along the canals were still seen as heathen and treated
as such because they they worked seven days and could
not keep the sabbath.
Charles Darwin was no child prodigy and his father
had worried that he was not bright enough to be a Darwin.
As a young man he only thought of enjoying himself.
A man who liked to ride and hunt, kept a good collection
of pistols and enjoyed a thick cigar. Life was never
sweeter than those nights on the Patagonian plains when
after riding hard all day he could relax by the fire,
drinking mattee and eating roast game, feeling what
it was like to be a gaucho, blowing lassoes of cigar
smoke into the night sky.
When he set out he didn't know that, pistols in hand,
he would have a wild potshot at God. He had originally
intended to be a clergyman (the type that had a comfortable
parish where he could ride and shoot) and had gone with
Captain Fitzroy to prove the existence of the Flood.
On the edge of the Pacific (the small islands of Galapagos)
he had taken his wild potshot, but God's too big a target
to miss, and though the shot wasn't fatal, it made him
drag a leg on cold days, and who believes in a God with
The history of relationships
Sometimes lives entwine momentarily, strengthened by
the soft curve of touch. The knots come later.
Ideology can be seen, at a general level, as the set
of values and attitudes within a society. However, it
would be seriously misleading to see it as a passive
collective term encompassing these beliefs. The real
significance of ideology is its power to naturalise
values and beliefs; that is, to take specific values
which have been agreed upon to be desirable and make
them appear fixed, as though it is part of the natural
In some cases these values are enshrined within fixed
moral or even divine laws - made from some greater power
outside. These values, however, have been culturally
constructed. They have been made up by men over the
centuries to lessen conflict in society so that people
could live more securely, and they have also suited
the vested interests of the dominant social group in
society - the group of people who have benefitted by
having these values accepted as legitimate. By making
laws that privileged themselves certain groups have
been able to perpetuate their higher status throughout
the ages. The main problem, and this is where ideology
comes to the fore, is to make these arbitrary laws and
rules seem natural and right to everyone. Even those
who are directly disadvantaged by it (Usually non-whites,
women, working class). To accept your own inferiority
and believe that others have a right to control you
is an example of internalising the dominant ideology.
The television has been more influential in the twentieth
century than any other invention. It has created fashions
and ways of thinking, brought down governments and has
made stars. It has been the greatest form of propaganda,
albeit subtle at times, the world has known. It has
also spread American culture to the rest of the world
and all the little and big imperialisms that go with
In the first television debate Richard Nixon (the infamous
Tricky Dicky) went up against John.F. Kennedy. At this
early stage of his career Nixon didn't have bad policies
and probably outshone Kennedy but the country-wide audience
all went away on Kennedy's side. The reason was that
poor old Nixon didn't have the looks, personality and
charm of his opponent. Under those early television
lights Nixon looked dishevelled, sweaty, and unattractive
in his five o'clock shadow. All in all he looked sneaky
and certainly not the sort of person you would trust
as President. Kennedy looked just grand.
Hollywood was able to shape reality through cinema
but never to the degree that television was able to;
relentlessly getting into the home for hours every night
of the week. Television showed the News in vivid images,
revealing what they deemed as news from their perspective.
It showed supposedly ordinary people in the suburbs
living ordinary lives, which most accepted as normal
when the reality, even in the US, revealed it was nothing
like this. Some of this might have been fantasy but
many viewers accepted it as the way it was.
The mother in Beverly Hills 90210 was constantly bombarded
with letters from around America asking her for advice
on raising children as she was such a perfect mother.
The CNN coverage of the war in Iraq, the famous Desert
Storm campaign, brought an actual war live to the homes
of the world. Of course, it only showed what it wanted
to. American heroes, nasty Arabs.
Out of all the Greek myths Ulysses or Odysseus is the
one that most people are familiar. Even if you don't
recognise the name it will register when you hear the
story of the guy who goes to fight in the Trojan War
and takes 10 years to get home (the obligatory wayward
nymphs and sirens on the way) to his ever faithful wife,
Penelope. When he finally arrives home in disguise only
his dog, Argus, recognises him.
Now here's a man whose got it all. The archetypal hero
with strength, courage, skill and cunning. Yet he always
strikes me as a bit of a nostalgic wimp who romanticises
how great things were and wants to return to the strong
woman at home.
If you ask me Calypso is the perfect woman who he should
have stayed with. On her island (how many women have
their own island!) he spent his days sitting on the
edge of cliffs, eyes wet with memories, mourning his
far-off wife but always returned each night to his lovely
Calypso. Always in love with his own idealised memory
Calypso sang as she wove gold on the loom, the smell
of cedar and sandalwood on the fire and around the entrance
to the hollow cave sea-crows and falcons perched in
alder and poplar and the scent of cypress longed into
air. Now here was a woman with a voice and a tasteful
back-to-nature home, yet Ulysses longed for distances,
groaning and grieving over a wine-dark sea(though he
kept this to the daylight hours), imagining his time-worn
Penelope fulfilling every dream, inventing her each
day anew, while all these things waited softly in the
Calypso could have given him a young body free from
death, but some (mostly tragic heroes)prefer the thrash
of waves, the rock-cliff edges, the sight of themselves
returning, to strip off their disguise and say I have
returned from beyond, and give up all for that moment
of recognition, like the wan adventureless Narcissus
finding himself in his reflection.
He finally gets together a raft of Cephalonian pine
tied with catgut and rawhide, letting Calypso send him
breezes so he could go home.
And finally getting home I bet he sat on cliffs and
romanticised his nights with Calypso. Over and over.
My grandmother didn't know she was born when the first
hinges were being unscrewed, albeit ever so slightly,
off the doors that had always opened into a nice, comfortable
room, fire aglow with the family sitting happily around
the lounge room. Certain of most of the things that
they had been told and never even thinking that the
fabric of reality could be different.
She was still only a child when Einstein had put forth
his Theory of Relativity and Picasso had painted Les
Mademoiselles des Avignon. Both had said in their own
ways that truth was no longer fixed, that it all depends
on the angle, the position of the observer in their
relationships to things. In essence, all things are
She had been born just before the new millenium. Two
years before Queen Victoria died. Her father may have
read in the papers the year before how Victoria had
sent a telegram to a General in the Boer War congratulating
him on his victory. The General had replied: 'Any hardships
and privations are a hundred times compensated for by
the sympathy and appreciation of our Queen.'
You can imagine the man weeping, keeping the telegram
to pass on down as a heirloom, sending out his men for
fresh victories as the Boers retreated in their wagons.
It was just that sort of age.
Then again not all doors led into comfortable drawing
rooms. In many there were no light or coal to start
a fire. Wives and children were being beaten. Then there
were all those lives that were simply sad, whether they
were eating off fine silver cutlery or not eating at
all. All the certain certainties didn't seem to make
them one bit happier.
My grandmother would have said that this was all their
own fault. 'If you want to be happy you have go and
look for it. Never just shows up on your door.' I heard
her say that many times during my youth, and it didn't
matter if the hinges were loose or not.
She use to tell us how she met Bertrand Russell after
the war. He was the most hated man in England, she said.
I had once defended him, trying to explain that he only
wanted peace and was a great man who time had proved
right. I could have added that time made things slippery,
not in the sense Einstein had meant, but it still had
to do with standing in a particular position with a
focus skewed to a particular object. She had only said
that she had met him on one of those Saturday soirees
on the banks of the River Cam. 'I should know, I met
the man when you weren't even a glimmer in your mother's
eye. Your mother wasn't even a gleam in my eye, so don't
tell your old grandmother about philosophers. I met
him and thought him, insignificant.'
I didn't want to argue with a woman who met Bertrand
Russell, and by the time we talked those doors had been
blown wide open by others who had come ready to blow
up the whole town, never mind one door. And by the time
I did want to argue she was gone.
What can we do in the face of it all. This all can
be rather frightening at times. Intimidating and persuasive.
What strategies do we all develop to cope with existence?
In the beginning was the Goddess. For at least 25,000
years people worshipped the Mother of Creation. The
dominant religions of today, with their male Gods have
been going for only a tenth of the time.
Women were dominant in this former time as they were
the beings who were responsible for the mystery of life
and birth. It was not known for a long time that men
also had a part in this creation and it was believed
that women conceived through the intervention of other
forces. The Australian Aborigines believed spirit children
dwelt in pools and trees and when women entered these
places they became pregnant if the spirit children wished
The goddesses were displaced by male gods for a number
of reasons. The main stimulus to change was the discovery
that men had a significant role in making women pregnant.
There were also social reasons such as the integral
role women played in growing and collecting food waned
and after about 6,000 B.C an increase in population
led to a shift in more intensive agriculture. Farms
developed, cities grew. On a metaphoric level Nature
was being tamed (women had always been linked with Nature)
and men took on the major role of ploughing and sowing
the passive fields. Thus the word 'husbandry'. As cities
grew and the social organisations entailed with this
growth increased dramatically the military became important
and men were able to assert themselves through their
And male Gods have dominated ever since.
When the Lumiere Brothers showed their first film of
an oncoming train the audience ran out of the cinema,
scared witless and believing that they were in danger
of being crushed.
Why is that skirt you bought last year, which you wore
repeatedly with profound and lasting love, look so daggy
now? It might be a little faded but it is exactly the
same skirt, nothing has changed, it is the same piece
of clothing. Only your attitude towards it has changed
and all because of the new fashions of this year which
have the amazing power to label anything other than
now as something not to be seen in.
The Faces of Christ
The face we knew as we grew up was average-looking.
It was a kind face though, the sort of face you would
get into a car with. It was always Anglo-Saxon.
In a painting Da Vinci shared with Verrochio he is
an ugly man, hanging like a scarecrow against the sky,
but the calves and thighs are those of Carl Lewis.
In a chapel in Lagos he is a much darker man, and in
Mexico he is plumed with feathers like a dancer.
A recent bishop, without papal consent, said that Christ
probably looked a lot like Yasser Arafat.
A Short History
Once there was belief in the Church and its teachings.
This changed with the rise of Science and its rational
method of understanding the cosmos. This started during
the Enlightenment in the eighteen century. Early geologists
showed the world was much older than the Bible would
have us believe and then Darwin's theory of Evolution
or more specifically the Theory of Natural Selection
threw our ancestry into doubt. Nietzsche declared that
'God was Dead' as the old traditional values had lost
their power in the lives of individuals. Marx revealed
the old social hierarchies were a sham and that we had
been tricked by ideology into accepting inadequate lives
and the promise of heaven only kept us in chains. Freud's
theories of psychoanalysis took away the sovereignity
of the self.and in doing so questioned the very basis
of morality as how can you have morality if there is
no real choice.
In this turmoil Science offered us a better world.
If there was no afterlife at least new advances could
make this life healthier, safer and more comfortable.
There was a firm belief in Progress. The world was improving
and there was a firm belief that Science would deliver
us a better world to live in.
Then World War 1. The advances of Science gave us planes
to drop bombs, tanks, mustard gas, all improved means
of destruction. Never had the world been at total war
before and never had so many died for reasons that seemed
absurd in retrospect. The 1920's were an age of disillusionment.
Einstein questioned the fabric of reality as did Heisenberg
and others. World War 11. Science gave us the ultimate
weapon; a force that could literally destroy the world.
It had all led to this.
The world was absurd after all.
Freud is famous for tracing all human behaviour back
to sex. He is not very popular with feminists and like
Darwin enjoyed a good cigar.
Like only a few other men in the last hundred years
he shocked the human race into re-examining how much
control they really did have over what they once had
regarded as their 'knowable' self. He proposed that
we are really only products of our biology and the things
that happen to us in our early years of life. The way
people respond to these influences determine the way
they approached the world.
So much for Free Will and choice.
Disturbing the Universe
In the poem, 'The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock' by
T.S Eliot, the persona longs for a life where he can
fulfil his desires. He wants to be 'out there' asserting
himself, picking up women and generally feeling pretty
damn pleased with himself. Instead he is an alienated
anti-hero, too scared to say what he feels to a woman
for the fear of rejection: 'I have heard the mermaids
sing each to each/I do not think they will sing to me'.
He is pathetic as he imagines how others stare at his
baldspot as he descends the stairs and in the way he
procrastinates and puts off any decisive action.
But a reader cannot help empathising with him. Perhaps
there is a little bit of Prufrock in all of us. All
those safe little things that we surround ourselves
with so we do not have to put ourselves, emotionally
and physically, at risk. Believing in the things we
are told are right, never thinking for ourselves and
acting on our beliefs. Too safe in what society offers
us; too scared to disobey our 'betters'. In the end
living a 'small life'.
Prufrock wishes to 'disturb the universe', but he is
too timid to risk being seen as an outsider and drowns
in the inane routines that society prescribe as an normal
life. His life is the opposite to 'Letting Go'. (See
Entry for this)
What is memory and how does it alter our sense of the
past and shape time itself?
An example: get out of bed, eat breakfast, brush your
teeth, get in a car/bus/train to work/school. Work/study.
Go home. Eat dinner. Work/watch TV. Sleep. Get out of
This type of life will fly by. Time itself will shrink
and the brain will not record repetitive things you
do. It closes down on repetitive tasks and the memory
doesn't record them. This leaves you with a life that
appears almost blank. The brain only locks in new things.
That is why holidays are so memorable. You are doing
different things that the brain doesn't recognise and
records. It is remembered vividly and seems to have
lasted for ages.
So if there is an answer it is to do different things
every day, even if it means taking a different route
to work. Don't get trapped into routine as it will literally
kill you. Your life will pass you by in a very real
Perfection tucks in the bedsheets tight, nurses' corners
that won't ride up. Perfection measures the minutes,
never misses a bus, never late, and worries till she
arrives. Perfection has to know what is going to happen
tomorrow and takes out insurance just in case. And when
things go wrong as they inevitably do, she screams and
shatters like a mirror, complaining about the scars
which the glue has not healed.
The secret, the meaning to life, here it is, stand
back, take a breath:
one must let go.
Of course you must know what to let go of. See Letting
Once the world was a small place. This was because
humans assumed that what they knew equated with reality.
People feared that the world came to a sharp edge which
dropped away to nothing. Those first sailors were heroic
men who set out in boats in the knowledge that they
may never return.
When Columbus proved the earth was round by sailing
to its other end it did broaden our perspectives. When
those first astronomers looked to the skies with improved
telescopes it revealed the world as much larger than
was previously thought, and when the Earth was shown
to be just another planet revolving around the Sun,
and that our Sun was just one of millions of millions
of suns, it made our own little spot in the cosmos decidedly
From latest astronomical data we can draw an analogy
between the universe and our own home in the suburbs.
If we say the universe is our house then the galaxy
of which Earth is a small part, then this particular
galaxy which seems so unbelievably humongus is - when
set in the universe - just a small green pea that fell
from your plate and is resting peacefully on the kitchen
table in that very same house.
Inside this pea the galaxy is made up of 1,000,000,000
solar systems and suns, which is made up of trillions
of planets, of which Earth is one. Population 5 billion.
Living in Australia with 18 million. Of which we are
one small individual taking up a few years.
Are we feeling small?
Some may say this is hardly a philosophical issue but
it is one of those things under our very noses that
call into question the assumptions we are operating
from. The current trend is to see them as the killers
of native creatures and should be controlled, registered
or eliminated and a recent poll revealed 30% of people
are willing to let them be, while 70% dislike or hate
Cats are not obsequious, fawning 'please can I help
or lick your face' sort of animals. They are independent
and seem indifferent to our wishes. They have 'attitude'
and as we know a lot of people don't like others who
disregard the way the world is and who think they can
live as they like when the majority tow the line and
say 'three bags full'.
Their history is mixed. The Egyptians were the first
to domesticate them and they were regarded as sacred
animals. In the once wonderful Library of Alexandria
they were painted on the walls along with the mythic
journeys of Isis and Osiris. But things were not always
so good. In Europe during the Middle Ages they were
associated with the devil and were burned in the name
of the Church. Good old Pope Gregory in 1233 even made
a proclamation that heretics worshipped the anti-Christ
in the form of the black cat. The bad reputation of
the black cat still continues today and its a wonder
that natural selection (see Darwin) has not adapted
them to a less conspicuous colour.
The Church has a lot to answer for and they seem to
have had more than their quota of twisted minds who
dressed up in robes. They were never too keen on women:
those who didn't fulfil their roles as obedient wives
and mothers were evil temptresses, and the Church went
one further step and associated the female form with
cats. From the days of Eve women were constructed as
the ones who would lead men astray, who would lead them
off the path of righteousness. If we thought Freud was
the first to think everything came back to sex we are
sadly mistaken as the Church saw sex as the cause for
all the evils of the world. At least Freud didn't see
it as bad.
Under the influence of the Church cats became symbols
of fertility and promiscuity and cat imagery came to
describe women in pejorative ways. In the 1400's prostitiutes
were known as 'cats', the vagina was known as a 'pussy'
and women were described as 'slinky' if they moved in
a certain provative way and when acting bitchy were
told to 'put away their claws'.
This tells us a lot about society's attitude towards
women, but what I want to know is why cats have less
rights than birds? Why kill one animal to save another
if it is claimed in some humanitarian way and is environmentalism
just another form of discrimination, a holocaust of
cats to save the lebenscraum of native animals? Are
we saying we want all creatures to have a chance to
survive but if there are too many it is fine to kill
them. What exactly is the belief underlying this social
Since reading this book you are a hour closer to death.
It is the one inevitable.
Those people who think that analogy and metaphor are
useful in giving insights like to compare life and death
to a river running out to the sea.
Imagine the body is just a container, a plastic Evian
bottle (some might look more like Coke, Galliano) that
is there just as a temporary holder of your spirit or
soul. It does, of course, wear away with age, until
finally it dies.
Death is merely the death of the shell, the container,
a plastic Evian bottle, but what is intrinsically you
- the water that is inside - is still exactly the same.
And when death arrives it is like pouring the water
into a river, watching it become part of a greater whole,
still alive but part of the sea, part of everything.
We are Stardust
Everybody has within their bodies molecules of the
beginning, the ancestral stardust of the Big Bang.
She didn't like the idea that all her female friends
at the market were to get wiped from the earth by flood.
They were good women who knew how to get a laugh out
of life despite their husbands. The latter were nasty
layabouts who deserved what was coming to them but it
seemed that her husband's God didn't have a lot of compassion.
After hearing about him for years and years she would
go further than that. She didn't like his God. He was
always demanding something. Do this, do that, just like
her husband and her father before him.
Besides what did his God ever do for him? The old boy
was five hundred years old before they were able to
conceive their first child. Then there were Shem, Ham
and Japheth. It was his idea to call a son, Ham.
Now he always had God talking to him, giving him instructions,
and when she could get her husband to listen it was
always This is the Lord's Covenant, wife. She was sick
of being called wife and his God spoke in the same terms.
It was always Go forth, Noah or Take your sons, Shem,
Ham and Japheth. And the wives and daughters were tacked
on the end, nameless.
While the boys were out cutting down gopher wood and
collecting pairs of animals she had slipped back into
the town warning her friends that there might be a big
storm coming. She didn't want to believe it and she
was no doomsdayer like her husband, but she thought
that just in case she might make a few preparations.
Her husband would never admit it but she had an eye
for carpentry. Knew how to get a straight angle and
was better than him or his sons at getting a join to
fit watertight. But Noah had kept the Ark to himself
and his sons, telling her to keep to the kitchen. She
would have hungry workers coming home everyday.
The monstrosity was half-finished in the backyard.
Three hundred cubits in length, fifty in breadth and
a height of thirty cubits. She could tell it would never
The last thing she was going to do was go aboard if
the rains came. Not to mention the stench of all those
filthy animals messing everyday.
It was at this point that she decided that she would
arrange the women from the basket-weaving group to get
together a smaller boat. No grand title of Ark, but
a well-made skiff with a good sail. And they would take
When the clouds came in from the north she had a premonition
that this was going to be a big storm, the one that
hit once every century. They had happened before and
people survived and gone on living.
It was when the lightning struck that she had gathered
up the women and they had gone to the boat, climbing
aboard with a few supplies and their cats, Zillah bringing
a nice eggplant casserole for the first night, and found
themselves a cosy spot.
She could hear her husband yelling in the distance
that they were set, Do you hear me, wife? She luxuriated
in a smile, thinking that she would never have to hear
him and his homilies again.
Sitting around the table they felt the bottom rise.
The boat was afloat and they could feel its slow rock,
settling down in a steady rhythm and knew it would be
safe. They had looked at each other, feeling free for
the first time, their smiles breaking open like parting
She had said, 'Wives', waiting for a moment of suspense,
'No longer. We shall now choose a name. A name that
will be our own for forever after.' They had thought
briefly, selecting names that rung of freedom. Each
woman announcing it as they went around, one by one,
around the table.
It was only when they got to the last two seats at
the table that they realised that these two with large
shawls and scarves over their heads were not women at
all. Asked to take off their disguises they found two
young men, handsome boys who had just come into town.
It seemed that Zillah had brought more than her moussaka.
And all the women saw what was brought aboard, and
behold, it was very good.
Civilisation has always been about ridding the world
of barbarism. It has been the avowed duty of nations
who believe they have progressed beyond their neighbours
to make the Earth a civilised and safe place where everyone
obeyed and believed in the same rules.
The so-called barbarians have certainly notched up
their atrocities over time, yet it has been the twentieth
century that has seen the most inhuman acts committed.
They say the Commandants of many of the concentration
camps were highly civilised men who finished their brutal
day by drinking a nice wine, listening to Mozart and
reading Goethe. The acclaimed intellectual of the holocaust,
Hannah Arendt, commented after going to the trial of
the Nazi Adolph Eichmann that he was not a monster or
psychopath, but appeared 'terrifyingly normal'. Just
a man who was 'unable to tell right from wrong'.
Say technology and most people will think of computers,
however technology has been around for a long time and
it is simply creating tools to cope with the environment
in a more efficient way. Those first humans who picked
up a flat stone and thought 'Gee, this would be handy
if it was a bit sharper' and then devised a way of making
a sharpened flint were the predecessors to rockets and
The question that has plagued us in the last century
has been whether all innovation is necessarily beneficial.
They might do the job better, but are there dire consequences?
Nuclear energy is the obvious example. It might be a
good source of energy in a world that is depleting its
resources, but who is going to stop nations from pointing
them at each other. Just like those pointy sticks.
There is also the problem of accidents.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is the social
consequences of progress and technology. Making things
faster and more efficient is all very good but what
happens to those people whose jobs it was to make them
in the beginning. Do we have a responsibility to safeguard
people's livelihoods. Or is it tough luck? Adapt or
perish. It has a familiar sound to it. Survival of the
fittest? See Darwin 2
What I Learnt in 12 Years of Religious Education at
In Year 9 we had Brother Clancy who would come in for
one period a day and taught RE. He was about six foot
six and loved talking about football as well as God.
He was a nice bloke and I remember thinking at the time
that he should have skipped the god-thing and got married
and had his own kids who he could teach footy. He always
had interesting ideas why certain footy teams won and
loss on the weekend, and you could see he was more interested
in this than going through the Catechism.
One day he told us about a missionary who went and
lived with lepers on the island of Molokai, which is
one of the smaller islands of Hawaii. He drew the map
of the islands on the board, colouring the land green
and ocean blue and told us how dangerous it was just
to get there because of the gigantic waves that broke
all the way around the islands. The missionary had to
sit in the ship for three days at sea waiting for the
swell to drop so they could make a dash for it between
sets. You could see he was interested in the adventure
of it all so I put up my hand and asked whether lepers
could still surf. The class waited for me to get bailed
out or told not to be smart or blasphemous, but Clancy
took it as a serious question and said he didn't know
for sure, but he didn't think so. Lepers were pretty
tired most of the time.
When they made a film about the missionary on Molokai
twenty years later I remembered Brother Clancy.
Most politicians are about as useful as handing out
condoms to endangered species.
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