"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Time for a new era of responsibility?

In his Nobel Lecture, on December 11th 1964, Peace Prize Laureate Martin Luther King reminded us:

 Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’ Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority...

In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. 

The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers’ keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality”.
Three centuries earlier the Renaissance author and Anglican priest John Donne famously wrote in 1624:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. 

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. (1) 
The Apostle Paul, writing in his first epistle to the Corinthians, on human worth, likened the worldwide body of Christians with the human body. All parts of the body are essential for the complete welfare of the whole. In the same way we all need each other and the loss of any part weakens us all: there should be no discord between us. He taught his followers that the members of the church should ‘have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.’ (2) The ‘body’ in this biblical context is translated from the Greek Soma, related to Sozo meaning ‘to heal, preserve, be made whole.’ We are not whole: we are wounded or spiritually impoverished if we are not a part of the greater body of faith in our community. 

We all need to feel that connectedness, that relationship. We need to find unity within the wide diversity of all our individual gifts. We all need each other and we all are special in the eyes of God.

Followers of the Baha’i faith see Earth as one country of which we are all citizens. (3) One of their guiding principles is that ‘the oneness of humanity is the fundamental spiritual and social truth shaping our age.’

Whatever our faith, or none, we can all be guided by these truths.  

In this fraught age, isn’t this our personal responsibility

Adapted from "Healing This Wounded Earth: with Compassion.Spirit and the Power of Hope".


1. John Donne seventeenth century English poet died 1631. Famous words of prose taken from the final lines of his 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.
2. Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 1 Corinthians 12. 25, 26.
3. From Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, as he enjoins his followers to develop a sense of world citizenship and a commitment to stewardship of the earth. From Palmer, Martin with Victoria Finlay, Faith in Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment, The World Bank Washington DC 2003 p. 72.

Friday, 6 September 2013

It seems the World is short of compassion...

Imagine travelling in a vehicle crammed so full with other passengers that you have no space to sit down – OK, underground transit systems in rush hour tick that box. 

But then imagine that the journey is 18 hours long, over hundreds of miles, perhaps involving a sea crossing which could be bumpy and uncomfortable. It is stifling hot outside and within the vehicle and you are given no comfort stops, for loos and refreshments.

Then imagine that we are talking about sheep, or cattle. The stench within the soiled truck can be overwhelming, the pitiful bleating heartrending. By the end of the journey there are up to a hundred or more sickly, exhausted, and stressed animals, that may even on arrival at their destination be unloaded into overcrowded “fattening barns”, devoid of sunlight and green pastures, perhaps for up to a month or so before being taken for slaughter.
What a fate. No animal should be allowed to suffer like this.
Farm animals can experience pain and distress just like us, and they can also know contentment and well-being.
According to the website of Compassion in World Farming, over 40 billion animals worldwide are confined in factory farming systems which prevent them from doing what animals do naturally. How cruel is that?
If we insist on eating animals we really do owe it to them that they do not have to suffer so much in their lives. 
But this is what happens all the time when animals are forced to travel may miles before slaughter. In the UK live exports are a particular horror that is currently being addressed by Compassion in World Farming.  

It may seem almost irrelevant to be worried about animal suffering when we cannot even deal adequately with the immense suffering of fellow human beings, innocent children in Syria for example.

But both matter. A truly compassionate heart doesn’t differentiate – a compassionate heart must hold a deep concern for all sentient beings, human or otherwise.

It seems we are very short of compassion in our world.

For more information you can go to the websites of Compassion in World Farming and The Humane Society of the United States.

Please care about our animals. Please consider supporting organic farming if you must eat meat. Please consider eating less meat, even going vegetarian. Please find compassion in your heart for these creatures that do not have a voice, other than a pitiful bleat or bellow when life is not treating them well.

Oh God Come to my assistance O Lord make haste to help me

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.   Einstein

Our priest did a very brave thing in our church service last Sunday. He called for 5 minutes silence at the beginning of the sermon!

What a powerful experience it was: just over one hundred people all united together in silent thought and prayer. The church was so quiet, save only for the occasional and delightful accompaniment of a young toddler gently burbling, experimenting with his own sounds and his own first words!

The spiritual connection between us all was palpable. And I’m sure God was listening.

Fresh from Greenbelt, and inspired by Fr Christopher Jamison, former abbot of the English Benedictine Worth Abbey, our priest told us of the prayer used by the Benedictines, and others, based on Psalm 69: “Oh God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me”.

He asked us to prepare for 5 minutes quiet time every morning starting with this prayer, as a life giving rule, not as a puritanical chore. Even attach it to a pleasure, to a nice cup of tea! Then, he said, listen and let God answer.

In the general ‘busyness’ of many church services there is simply no opportunity for such contemplative spiritual experience. And there is a very real need for more communal silent reflection, prayer and meditation in our services. Churches seem so very busy doing all they can to encourage young families into services, with child friendly music and liturgy, and that is a wonderful and essential thing. But they must also make time and space for the spiritual silences, to nurture our souls and enhance our relationship with God.. 

But I think there is much more to this. Carl Jung introduced the idea of the "collective unconscious," and in his Answer to Job, wrote of a God Consciousness, an awakening consciousness in the universe. This echoes the higher levels of consciousness recognized within various mystic and meditation practices.

Isn’t it possible that when we have our spiritual experiences we are all tapping into the same spirit, higher level of collective consciousness, transcendence, whatever we may choose to call it, even the Holy Spirit? This spirituality could be the common thread that binds and unites all religions in a true spiritual oneness of humanity, a global spiritual interdependence. Indeed this is available to everyone, whatever our belief or otherwise in God. Because, after all, this indefinable global consciousness, soul, spirit, empathy is presumably of the same character whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jains, atheists, agnostics, black, white, Scottish or Zulu or whatever our faith, color or culture. Perhaps we may find here the links we need to build a greater respect and understanding between all humanity, essential for the future healthy evolution of this planet and indeed for our own flourishing and survival.

What a dream! How do we achieve this? 

Having five minutes prayerful or meditational silence in our religious service every Sunday and in our homes every day is surely a good place to start!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Earth Overshoot Day

20th August was Earth Overshoot Day, and it passed by with barely a media comment. OK, there are some very pressing political affairs taking up much media time at the moment, mainly Syria and the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore the groans and pains of the earth itself which supports all of us.
This year on 20th August the world used up, in just under 8 months, the resources of the earth that it takes one year to renew. We have run out of the earth’s income for the year. We are in overdraft. The earth is not big enough, productive enough, for our greedy needs.

If the whole world lived like the greedy, high consuming Western world we would need far more than one earth to supply our needs unless we are to go into ever spiralling resources debt. But we only have one earth, and it is finite!

And we go on about the continual need for growth. Why must we grow? Because our capitalist economy demands it. Without growth we die, says the capitalist mantra. And so we continue to put more and more pressure on food and energy resources.
But there are other ways to run our economy, based on co-operation rather than competition, based on social justice and supplying the needs of all. We have to explore other ways of living, for the sake of the earth, and those who live and breathe on it.

When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money... Greenpeace message on one of their longest banners.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Are the rights of women and children a key to world peace?

My last post was about our violent behaviour and the link with our own wounds.

Riane Eisler author of The Chalice & The Blade and her award-winning The Power of Partnership has her own particular take on violence: "The link",she has said, "between intimate violence in the home and the international violence of terrorism and war is as tightly bound together as the fingers of a clenched fist."

Eisler is president of the Center for Partnership Studies and the founder with Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. "A central finding from Eisler’s research is a link between top-down, war-like regimes and the oppression of women. A pioneer in advancing women’s and children’s human rights, Eisler calls on us to recognize that what we call “women’s issues” and “children’s issues” are central to human rights, prosperity, and peace for everyone. Where the human rights of women and children are respected and protected, communities, nations, and Earth thrive."

Plenty of food for thought there.

silly money and social consequences

A friend’s gliding club premises were broken into the other night and well and truly trashed before the vandals made off with some expensive equipment.

Our local allotments are regularly broken into, sheds and green houses damaged and stuff stolen.

One can only assume that the people who do these things feel that in some way society owes them something that they don’t have, cannot get, other than through dishonest means. And they presumably feel angry as well, which is where the trashing comes in.

We hear this weekend that the Welsh football star Gareth Bale is to transfer from Tottenham to Real Madrid for a transfer fee of $130 million and a weekly pay for 6 years of $465,000. That’s very roughly $66,000 per day or $2700 per hour or $46 per minute. We can argue over exact amounts due to conversion rate and rounding differences but at those values who cares? The point is that this sort of money for a single man who happens to be quite good at kicking a ball around a field is obscene in any currency!

There’s a TV ad at the moment that shouts at us from the screen the virtues of taking part in a lottery – we can get lots of stuff, lots of money, we are told. Stuff, stuff, money, money… As if that is all that’s important in life and this will be the route to happiness. But it isn't and it won't be!

The divide between the materially wealthy and the hungry poor in the world is massive and the gap is apparently widening. Around half the world’s population live on less than $2 per person per day, a massive testament to human suffering, and this figure includes something like 1.4 million American households. Statistics such as these are an affront to our humanity when at the same time we have the ‘super rich’, to be found among the celebrities of sport, television and movie, the top bankers, investment fund managers, lawyers and doctors, including a footballer who will earn $46 per minute! It is true that many on the ‘rich-list’ are extremely generous in giving their time, talent and wealth for the global good, using their celebrity status or wealth or both to for social justice worldwide; people such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Bono, the Irish lead singer of U2, best known perhaps for his key involvement with the Make Poverty History campaign.

But silly salaries and lavish life-styles breed an envy and greed, particularly it would seem among the young who are being taught by example that material wealth and celebrity status are the measure of ‘success’. And in the developing world others are attracted to our consumer life style and aspire to similar ‘wealth’. 

Meanwhile the poor of the world continue to struggle for survival and allotments and gliding clubs will still be broken into and trashed.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A world in urgent need of more compassion...

In a week when the crisis in Syria escalates, and when retiring Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is quoted as saying that mankind has "lost the plot", it is sobering to reflect on the fact that man’s place in nature is unique. He is not only conscious of his own evolution, but he can shape his evolutionary future by how he behaves. And we surely behave badly!

Sure, we commit acts of violence against each other and against ourselves, of a physical and brutal nature, that is widely seen across our media. But this violence can be more subtle, such as verbal abuse and childhood bullying. There is aggression and violence in our homes, on our streets, and between communities as well as between nations.

And that is not all. We also commit acts of violence against the environment, manifested in pollution, soil erosion, species extinctions and perhaps in some of the effects of climate change we are now experiencing. We are all guilty of thoughtless and selfish patterns of behavior that can so often directly or indirectly contribute to the suffering of others.

The real problem is that on its own no amount of any rule and regulation, law or leadership, will change the way we behave. Rather than having regulation thrust upon us, we need to understand why we behave as we do and really commit our hearts and our minds to the need for change. Perhaps that means tracing our behavior back to the healing needs of our own wounds. This does not mean our physical wounds, but the wounds we have inherited and those from our own suffering, from the way we react to personal experiences that life has thrown at us: our insecurities and fears, our feelings of hopelessness and despair, that can be reflected in greed and envy, in over-consumption, violence and addictions to work or harmful substances.

Our unhealed wounds are potentially dangerous not only for our own personal well being but for the future of the world. We are in grave danger of being driven by our present behavior to spiritual bankruptcy and physical destruction. Action is urgent.

To find healing and wholeness we need to reconnect with our roots, with our souls, rediscovering our spirituality and our faith, and healing those wounds. And once we have found healing for our wounds, we may even discover that we are uniquely equipped to understand the wounds of others, to walk alongside them and assist them in their own healing process. We will feel a profound and healing compassion towards all sentient beings. This is what it means to be a Wounded Healer.  And this is surely our future. Is it too much to hope for?

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