Archive for July, 2011

The window and the mirror

July 28, 2011
window and the mirror

window and the mirror

A very rich young man went to see a Rabbi in order to ask his advice about what he should do with his life. The Rabbi led him over to the window and asked him:

‘What can you see through the glass?’

‘I can see men coming and going and a blind man begging for alms in the street.’

Then the Rabbi showed him a large mirror and said to him:

‘Look in this mirror and tell me what you see.’

‘I can see myself.’

‘And you can’t see the others. Notice that the window and the mirror are both made of the same basic material, glass.

‘You should compare yourself to these two kinds of glass. Poor, you saw other people and felt compassion for them.

‘Rich – covered in silver – you see yourself.

‘You will only be worth anything when you have the courage to tear away the coating of silver covering your eyes in order to be able to see again and love your fellow man.’

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell discusses Jesus being asked by a rich man how to get into heaven. He tells him to dispose of his wealth.

Strictly speaking the rich man asked Jesus what good he had to do to obtain eternal life.

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

It is not possesions per se that are wrong, it is what we do with them. Are they nouns to impress or verbs to do good? Wealth is not for vulgar display to show we are better than others, we must use it to benefit others.

I can use my spade to till the earth, to grow food to feed myself and others. I can use my camera and laptop to expose injustice.

Jesus also spoke of a rich man who ignored Lazarus outside his gate. They both died. Lazarus went to heaven, the rich man to hades. The rich man still did not get it. He asked that Lazarus bring him water to quench his thirst.

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Keystone Spirit – Eden People at The Keystone

July 27, 2011

Sometimes, certain of God’s blessings arrive by shattering all the windows. — Paulo Coelho

Half a dozen Eden People gathered in the corner in The Keystone, some still drying out from Guilfest the previous wet and soggy weekend. Interesting conversation.

Love Wins by Rob Bell. Highly recomended! Controversial? Would a loving God choose a select few to go the heaven and condemn the vast majority to all eternity in hell? Is that what Christianity is about, a select few are transferred somewhere else? Turn or burn, is that the story? Rob Bell says no! Old Testament prophets talked of an age to come, an age of plenty, of grapes, of wine, an age of peace, swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks. The onus is on us to bring it about, we must end injustice, inequality, poverty, environmental degradation. If Love Wins offends a few Christian fundamentalists and their distortion of Scripture, then no bad thing. Love Wins was on special offer in Triangle.

Read Love Wins, but read The Shack first.

Concern was raised that Triangle, a Christian bookshop cum tea shop in Farnborough, is in financial difficulty and could go under. A Christian bookshop in nearby Aldershot has recently closed (a New Age shop in the last week). To rely on donations, other than a special appeal, is not sustainable. What can be done? The food leaves much to be desired. Look at Iydea and Infinity Foods cafe in North Laine, Brighton, Food For Thought, Neal Street, Covent Garden in London. Overstocked and too much tat. Listen to readers not publishers. Not a very friendly atmosphere. What are the aims? Poor use made of social media, especially facebook. Encourage churches to post their events on the facebook wall, leave their flyers and posters in Triangle. Maybe it should be a religious or spiritual centre, but this could be unpopular and maybe alienate narrow-minded Christians who think they have a monopoly on faith. In the long-term needs to move as in a poor location.

Previous two weeks Catherine Ferguson had given her summer talks on King James Bible and George Abbot at St Nicolas (where George Abbot was baptised). Much appreciated, as was her summer talks last year on El Camino de Santiago.

At its peak, a million pilgrims a year walked El Camino de Santiago. By modern times this had dwindled to a few half dozen a year but it was still possible to follow the route using a medieval guide book. Paulo Coelho was obliged to walk the route as a penance (and many of his books are inspired by or set along the route). He wrote his account of walking El Camino de Santiago in The Pilgrimage. Following publication of The Pilgrimage in the mid-1980s saw an exponential rise in the number of pilgrims, peaking in Holy or Jubilee Years when St James Day falls on a Sunday, as it did last year.

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is well known in Latin America, Europe (especially Eastern Europe), Russia, but little known in England. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find of the half a dozen present, two not only knew of Paulo Coelho but had read his books. It was thought an excellent idea were Paulo Coelho to be invited to the Guildford Book Festival in October, especially as he has a new book Aleph out in September.

I was in Istanbul on St Joseph’s Day for a party with Paulo Coelho and guests to celebrate St Joseph’s Day.

I noticed books in The Keystone. I chatted with the bar staff and suggested they registered the books on BookCrossing and became a BookCrossing Zone. They liked the idea.

I had never been in The Keystone before. I looked in earlier in the day at lunchtime. It is a very pleasant pub, nice atmosphere, seating outside. As it was a pleasant warm evening I wish we had sat outside. The only pub I have seen with a declared environment policy.

The Keystone is easy to find. Bottom of the High Street in Guildford, across the bridge over the River Wey, behind the back of St Nicolas Church.

Eden People are a free-ranging Christian collective.

Creative Arts @ Costa is taking a summer break for August and September. They will be back first Tuesday of October (same day as the farmers market in Guildford High Street).

Midsummer Feast with Eden people
Eden People at Costa
Eden People demonstrating use of Jesus Cards
An Evening with Eden People
Eden People – Mind Body Spirit – Holy Trinity

Aleph the video – finalists

July 26, 2011

In May 2011, when Paulo Coelho passed 5 million friends on Facebook, he asked everyone what we should do to celebrate.

One of the suggestions was to work together on a project. Out of this was born Aleph the video. The idea was to capture the essense of his latest book O Aleph in a short video.

O Aleph (or Elif in Turkey) is the story of a journey undertaken by Paulo Coelho on the trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok.

Aleph is a point in time and space.

Released in Brazil in August 2010, it will not be available in English until September 2011.

ALEPH: finalists
The Aleph Video

Slik har du aldri sett Oslo – se de unike blomsterbildene

July 26, 2011
Roses cast by mourners float in the lake near the island of Utoya, Norway, on July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Roses cast by mourners float in the lake near the island of Utoya, Norway, on July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Oslo today – a city covered in flowers. — Rune Thomas Ege

So grateful that Oslo is filled with flowers and quiet, not barricades and guns. — Fredrik Matheson

Tonight the streets are filled with love. — Crown Prince Haakon

Hele Oslo sentrum er pyntet i roser til minne for terrorofrene. Over 200.000 mennesker ble oppfordret til å spre blomster over hele byen under mandagens rosemarkering på rådhusplassen.

Yesterday evening the people of Oslo carried out a vigil for those who had died on Friday.

At the vigil a three-year-old girl asked the police: “Have you caught the bad guy?” Policeman: “Yes”. Little girl hands policeman a rose.

Slik har du aldri sett Oslo – se de unike blomsterbildene
My heart goes out to friends in Norway
Norway attacks: Mass rallies remember Breivik victims
Norway attacks: Flowers for the dead
Thousands mourn Norway attacks with ‘rose march’
Tragedy in Norway

Shifting seasons

July 25, 2011

Middle of July, if not earlier, wild blackberries were ripe and ready to eat. For the last few years I have found them along the River Wey flowing through Guildford end of July, early August, but never this early. The wild blackberries in my garden are also ready to eat and they are usually later than those along the River Wey. As a child we used to pick blackberries at Gibraltar Point on the Lincolnshire coast last two weeks of August.

Tomatoes in my garden variety Gardener’s Delight, planted out early May, have been turning red from mid-July, at least a week and a half ago. Yesterday evening I picked two for my tea. Delicious! I would not normally be picking until late August.

Discovery apples are ready for picking. These are the first season apples, light and crisp and juicy but have to be eaten within days of picking. The supermarkets prefer tasteless French Golden Delicious for long shelf life. According to growers, Discovery are weeks ahead of their usual picking times. [see The English apple ‘renaissance’]

I am looking forward to finding Discovery at the farmers market in Guildford next week, first Tuesday of the month.

My Father was picking Runner Beans from the garden for dinner end of June. These would normally be picked end of August.

And there are those who say global warming, climate chaos, does not exist!

Spring Easter Monday April 2011
Beans

My heart goes out to friends in Norway

July 23, 2011

One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests. — Anders B Breivik

Our answer to violence is even more democracy more humanity, but not more naiveté. — Norway PM

Back in Oslo. City center almost totally deserted. Large areas closed off. Police everywhere. Never seen Oslo like this. — Rune Thomas Ege

Soldiers guarding “key objects, possible targets” according to police. Not a usual sight in Oslo. — Rune Thomas Ege

Catched a glimpse of the Govment bldgs again. Without the people, blood, sirens and media, damage looks even more frightening. — Rune Thomas Ege

At least two buses carrying soldiers from HM King’s Guard close to expl site. Will replace police officers working since the blast. — Rune Thomas Ege

05.22. Sunrise in Oslo. People slowly waking up to ubeleivable news of at least 87 dead. Another day, but a totally new world. — Rune Thomas Ege

The first I learnt of the tragedy in Norway, was a message from Paulo Coelho quoting the Norwegian Prime Minister. But it was only later, hearing the news, a bomb blast in Oslo city centre, shooting on an island, that I fully understood the context.

Last night the death toll stood at seven killed in the bomb blast, around ten killed in the shooting spree on the island.

I listened to the BBC World News until the early hours of the morning.

I heard first hand accounts of people jumping into the sea and trying to escape by swimming to the mainland, of youngsters hiding behind bushes, tweeting to their friends, begging them not to call them back as it would highlight where they were hiding.

This morning I was shocked to learn the death toll on the island had risen to at leat 80! Then the Norwegian police said the death toll had reached 84. Later they said they expected the death toll was expected to rise as not everyone was accounted for. They also said a suspect had been arrested, he was described as a Christian fundamentalist.

I heard more eyewitness accounts. People lay amongst the dead hoping that would save them. It did not. The killer went over and blasted them in the head with a shotgun. One group ran from the killer and locked themselves in a cabin. Eventually the killer gave up and went is search of easier prey. To their horror they then saw an open window, luckily the killer did not.

What has struck me is how measured those who have spoken have been, not only those who directly experienced the horror, but also the Norwegian Prime Minister. I heard sadness, but no rage, no calls for vengeance, but a steely determination that this would not effect Norway as an open democratic society.

I have quoted Rune Thomas Ege because he gives a good idea of how Norwegians were feeling.

If this was England or America it would be used as an excuse to clamp down on democracy, to bring in ever more Draconian anti-terror legislation. If it was America it would be an excuse to bomb yet another country back into the Stone Age.

We think of Sweden and Norway as open democratic liberal countries. That is what I found in Sweden. It comes as a shock reading Stieg Larssen and Jo Nesbo to learn that both have a dark neo-Fascist underside. [see The Redbreast]

During the German occupation of WWII, more Germans volunteered to fight with the Germans than joined the Resistance. After the war they were branded traitors. It is easy to see them as collaborators or Nazi sympathisers. Many were, but many were not. They voluntarily joined the Germans and fought the Russians on the Eastern front. They saw Stalinist Russia as a greater threat than Nazi Germany. And less we forget, the non-Agression Pact between Stalin and Hitler had a secret appendix which divided up Europe. Russia invaded Finland and the Baltic States. After the war many were sentenced to death, others imprisoned. Even nurses who served on the Eastern Front were sentenced (despite pleas from the Red Cross). It is only in recent years the nurses have received an apology.

For some time I have been speaking out against Christian fundamentalists. I see no difference between them and Muslim fundamentalists. The only difference between the two is the latter use bombs and slaughter innocent people. We now see what happens when Christian fundamentalists have access to weapons and bombs.

We quite rightly tell Muslim leaders they must speak out against fundamentalists. Is it not time Christian leaders did the same? These bigots, these preachers of hate, who pervert the message of Jesus, who claim some will go to heaven (it always includes themselves) and others will go to hell. Whatever they are they are not Christians. [see Love Wins]

It was depreressing, though of no surprise, to find Muslims and Islamist apologists hijacking the Oslo feed on twitter.

In Olso everyone has been asked to unlock their wi-fi.

I have friends in Norway. I hope they are OK. They should be as they will be busy with their sheep. I want to call them but I think best not to clog up the phone lines.

My heart goes out to all the people of Norway.

Cairn Energy gags Greenpeace

July 21, 2011
Cairn Energy's Stena Don oil rig

Cairn Energy's Stena Don oil rig

Greenpeace has been campaigning to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic by Cairn Energy.

To cover up the truth about its Arctic drilling, Cairn Energy has obtained an extraordinary, wide-ranging legal interdict (injunction) against Greenpeace, gagging them from posting Tweets and Facebook updates including even pictures of their actions.

But as Cairn are learning, you cannot gag users on the net.

BREAKING: Cairn obtains legal interdict: ‘Twitter ban’ and ‘gagging order’ for Greenpeace
Greenpeace Twitter injunction backfires for Cairn Energy

St Cuthbert’s Bible

July 20, 2011
Saint Cuthbert's Gospel

Saint Cuthbert's Gospel

St Cuthbert

St Cuthbert

The 7th Century St Cuthbert’s Bible is the oldest European book.

The manuscript, a copy of the Gospel of St John, was produced in the north of England in the late seventh-century and was buried alongside St Cuthbert, an early English Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland around 698AD.

The coffin was moved off the island to escape Viking raiders and taken to Durham, where the book was found when the coffin was opened at the cathedral in 1104.

St Cuthbert’s Bible can be seen at the British Library, but not for much longer. It is on loan from the Jesuits and the Jesuits want it back, but they have given the British Library the option of buying it. Price tag £9 million!

The British Library has launched an appeal to raise the £9 million.

Campaign to buy St Cuthbert’s Bible
The St Cuthbert Gospel
The Price of a Gospel: Saint Cuthbert’s Gospel
Whose Bible is it anyway?

George Abbot

July 20, 2011
George Abbot

George Abbot

George Abbot (1562-1633), Archbishop of Canterbury, founder of Abbot’s Hospital (an almshouse), translator of the King James Bible.

Little has been written of George Abbot: three books, a PhD theses and an article in a learned journal. He wrote more, than has been written about him.

Tudor Guildford c 1617 consisted of a High Street, houses lining the High Street, three churches and a medieval bridge crossing the river. [see George Abbot’s Guildford]

Summer of 1652 (or so the myth goes), Alice (who was carrying George) had a longing for pike. She also had a dream that if she ate pike her son would grow to become a great man.

The Abbot’s lived in a house by the river (a picture of which can be found in Abbot’s Hospital) adjacent to the medieval bridge.

The morning following her dream, Alice cast her pail into the River Wey to draw water. Into her pail lept a pike.

On hearing of the tale, people offered to be sponsors of the child at the baptismal which took place at St Nicolas Church. His God parents sponsored him through school and university.

George attended the Royal Grammar School at the top of the High Street, then Oxford.

Was it George? There were six sons of Alice and Maurice.

Robert Abbot went on to become Bishop of Salisbury.

Maurice Abbot (named after his father) was a founder of the East India Company, Alderman, then Sherrif and finally Lord Mayor of London.

The family grew up in a time of religious upheaval. Marice was a local clothier.

A memorial to Maurice and Alice can be found in Holy Trinity Church. Centrepiece of the memorial is a lectern with what is assumed to be a Bible.

This was strange time. During this period Guildford produced five bishops!

John Parkhurst studied the Coverdale Bible and Tyndale Bible, even though banned at the time. For a while he was exiled to Zurich. He was Bishop of Norwich. On his death, his library was bequethed to Guildford and housed at the Royal Grammar School. His library contained many radical books. These would have been seen and read by George Abbot as he was a pupil at the school at the time.

The labels we apply today did not apply at the time, but if we were to apply labels, then George Abbot was a Calvanist and a Puritan. He was never a parish priest but believed in Bishops. He was primarily an academic.

He wrote Briefe Description of the Whole Worlde. This has recently been republished with the Master of Abbot’s Hospital as editor.

He gave 30 lectures on the Book of Jonah, these were then published in 1600 as Expostion on the Prophet Jonah.

George Abbot became Master of an Oxford College, Dean of Westminster.

He had as patron Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset.

It was during this time that he engaged in a bitter feud with William Laud, who he tried to stop getting a Mastership of an Oxford College. It was a bitter feud that was to last a lifetime.

George Abbot believed in predestination, that is only the elect go to heaven, the rest go to hell.

He acquired a new patron George Home, Earl of Dunbar. Chancellor of the Exchequer and a man who had the ear of James I.

George Abbot and the Earl of Dunbar put the case for Bishops in Scotland.

1609 appointed as Bishop of Coventry.

1610 appointed as Bishop of London.

Lancelot Andrewes was expected to be appointed as the next Archsbishop of Canterbury, but to the surpise of everyone, James I (acting on the advice of Dunbar) appointed George Abbot.

It was not a popular choice. The Puritans suspected him, the Catholics (with good cause) hated him. The Bishops did not like it, neither did the clergy.

George Abbot was enthroned as Archbishop in 1611, the same year that saw the publication of the King James Bible.

Six companies, two in London, two in Cambridge, two in Cambridge were appointed by James 1 to produce a new Bible. George Abbot was a member of the Oxford company.

As Archbishop, George Abbot set up a network of spies and informers. He hunted down Catholics. Catholic priests were executed.

March 1612 the last burning of a priest for heresy.

George Abbot opposed marriages to Catholics. This angered the King and eventually led to a rift between George Abbot and James I.

He opposed the marriage of Prince Charles to a Catholic.

There was no warmth between George Abbot and Charles I.

George Abbot refused to licence a sermon that proposed more money should go to the King.

Ironically George Abbot was in touch with the mood in the country, but that did not help.

George Abbot was banished to the Manor of Ford in Kent. He was stripped of his authority. His duties were now exercised by William Laud, his lifelong enemy.

1621 George Abbot killed a gamekeeper. It was an accident. James I said no big deal. But he fell foul of Canon Law, thou shalt not kill. It cast a shadow over what was left of his life.

He spent the remainder of his life in Croydon, Archbishop in name only.

He died in Croydon, where his funeral took place. He lies entombed in Holy Trinity Church in Guildford.

The legacy of George Abbot was twofold.

Abbot’s Hospital (1619), an almshouse for 24 men and women of Guildford. Five farms were also gifted to provide an income. Adjacent was a Manufactuary to help the ailing wool trade. It had four farms to provide an income. [see George Abbot and Abbot’s Hospital]

George Abbot was one of the translators of the King James Bible. In that role he contributed to the English language memorable phrases.

Turn the world upside down
scales fall from your eyes
no small stir

Was he popular? No. But he would say he listened to his God and that was who he obeyed.

Based on an excellent talk given by Catherine Ferguson at St Nicolas Church in Guildford. Part of the King James Bible Celebrations 2011.

Celebration of Tagore at 150

July 19, 2011

This year celebrations are taking place to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Bengali playright, mystic, poet and musician Rabindranath Tagore. UNESCO has declared 2011 as the Year of Tagore.

One such celebration was at Dartington Hall in Devon where poets, singers and ecological activists got together to share their favourite Tagore verse.

I was pleased on Sunday to find that my good friend Satish Kumar was presenting a programme from this festival. Less pleased to find that BBC in their wisdom was only holding it on-line for 7 days. I do wonder why the BBC keeps shooting itself in the foot.

Tagore at 150

Satish Kumar edits the magazine Resurgence. When I am asked where does the idea for this blog come from, one of the inspirations has been Satish Kumar and Resurgence.

Something I did not know was that Dartington Hall was established by a follower of Tagore, at the suggestion of Tagore himself.

Tagore saw the divine in nature. Much of his work is poorly translated. Find a recent translation to really appreciate his work.