All of us first

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As children we have a sense of fairness:
it’s not right that someone should get something while others go without

As young people we have real sense of justice
(despite “whatever!”)

But what happens when we “grow up”?
Do we abandon the sense that we are all equal?

 

As we prepare for the referendum in September, we are challenged to think again about what we want for our country.

Is it right that 1,000 people own 60 per cent of Scottish land? (1)

Is it right that we have record-breaking levels of child poverty?

Is it right that the average lifespan in parts of Glasgow is 57?
i.e. were I from there I could already be dead

Another possibility

logo of the Common Weal: All of us first“All of us first” is the motto for the Common Weal project, set up by the Jimmy Reid Foundation, named after a man who worked tirelessly for social justice. As opposed to the “me first” of neoliberalism, as exemplified by the first-past-the-post pseudo-democracy of Westminster politics, “all of us first” is exploring ways to put these matters right.

These include:

Real equality,
not just some slogan
(Liz Lochhead for Common Weal)

1. Riddoch, Lesley (2013-08-26). Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish (Viewpoints) (Kindle Locations 77-78). Luath Press Ltd. Kindle Edition

You can get it if you really want

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Read this motivating story about two ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

You Can Get It If You Really Want

Two inspiring men from completely different backgrounds who faced huge challenges. They persevered and made the most of their natural abilities to reach the top of the tree in their chosen careers.

We may not all aspire to being the leader of the free world or a world champion but if we truly want to we can achieve our goals.

We’re all capable of so much more.

But we need to dream…

…and then to do.

Thanks to Nick Oswald (Legends of Sports)

Love blooms bright

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Enjoying reading the posts at Love Blooms Bright, a blog for the Advent season.

Set up by wonderfulexchange, with guest writers, Love Blooms Bright offers words, images and quotations to help us enjoy and prepare for God’s coming among us.

The contributors are drawn mostly from among the clergy and laity of the Scottish Episcopal Church, with a few friends from further afield.

The blog’s title takes its cue from

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been full of reason
there’d have been no room for the child.

— Madeline L’Engle

I especially love the freshness of Now is the acceptable time – very encouraging for what is, at least in terms of the weather and annual cycle, a gloomy time of year.

And I love the idea of the angels getting back to singing “a tricky Sanctus that Jophiel had been teaching them”.

Do read it. And then continue throughout Advent.

Sic transit gloria funghi

Red cap mushroom set in a field of grass
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O tempora, O mores.

So there it was, a beautiful red-cap mushroom, both complementing and contrasting with the grass in which it sat.

The following day we saw it again, this time with a slightly flatter top, but still showing off its beauty for all to see.

And then, just a couple of days later, after heavy rain that was sending cascades of water down the nearby track, we saw the remains of this thing of beauty: only the stem was left.

Fortunately Elaine had taken a photo as a reminderRed cap mushroom set in a field of grass

Homo quasi herba dies eius sicut flos agri sic florebit
quia spiritus pertransiit eum et non subsistet et non cognoscet eum ultra locus eius…
Ps 102 (103):15-16

Where to start?

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“The End.”
“The End.”

So much opportunity. So many good things.
But it wasn’t to be.

Although in some ways it’s back where it was before, in other ways, it’s quite different.

We are changed. And that’s good. And some of the good things will continue, and develop further.

But it will take some time (in fact quite a long time) for issues to be resolved.

Part of one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation (Roman Rite) keeps flooding my mind:

In the midst of conflict and division,
we know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace.

Your Spirit changes our hearts:
enemies begin to speak to one another,
those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and nations seek the way of peace together.

Your Spirit is at work
when understanding puts an end to strife,
when hatred is quenched by mercy,
and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.

For this we should never cease to thank and praise you…

A story (or a parable) – whatever

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One upon a time there was a young musician – let’s call him Alex. As a teenager he became aware of another young musician – let’s call him Michael. Like Michael, Alex was a pianist and conductor, albeit a bit younger – unlike him, he was totally unknown and at an early stage of his career.

Michael became a role-model for Alex, who started going to as many of his concerts as possible and started his LP collection with many of Michael’s recordings.

Alex even played truant from school one day; brazenly walking through the Royal Albert Hall’s Artist’s Entrance, he made his way behind the stage, where Michael was rehearsing a world-famous orchestra in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. He sat behind the timpanist to watch the rehearsal (Alex was also an orchestral percussionist), and observed Michael at work.

Some months later, Michael was giving a series of televised concerto concerts, and Alex attended one of the rehearsals.

After the rehearsal, when everybody else had gone, leaving Michael practising on his own, Alex went up to him, waited for him to finish and then politely but nervously asked Michael if he could help him with a section of a concerto he was learning. Michael responded angrily, “Go away! Can’t you see I’m practising?”
Alex left the building, devastated, and in deep shock that the one he had admired and emulated had treated him this way.

Many years later, Alex decided on how he would get his revenge. Being a law-abiding citizen, working in church music, and realising there was nothing realistic he could do to get at the now highly-regarded and successful musician, he got his own back in the privacy of his home, where his hi-fi and record collection had pride of place.

One quiet evening, Alex put on a record of piano and violin music, played by Michael and a friend and colleague, and listened intently to the sonata’s first movement.

Then, mid-way through the second movement, as the two master musicians were weaving magic with Brahms’ music, it happened, mid-phrase, mid-note: he deliberately lifted the stylus arm from the rotating turntable and disc. In a moment the music was gone… for ever. “Revenge is mine – at last”.

What a shallow victory. No-one knew of it, certainly not Michael. (Besides, this kind of thing happens millions of times every day when people turn off their radios and MP3 players mid-phrase.) But the difference is that Alex had caused a deliberate rupture; the music was cut off with savage intent (even if he had too much respect for his Linn LP12 turntable to wreak damage to that!). The music died in front of him, destroyed by his own hands.

Perhaps Michael had just been stressed that day. Perhaps he was fed up with seeing Alex in the background at his concerts. Perhaps, and more likely, even though he was everything to Alex, Alex was nothing to him, and he knew nothing and cared nothing about him. Why should he?

Perhaps Alex was just an impetuous youth: immature, if enthusiastic. Perhaps, like all young people it was important that he had a role model, one he could emulate – but not idolise. Perhaps he had been “a bit of a pain”.

These days, Michael is as highly-regarded as ever. His work for peace and reconciliation between opposing nations sharing common geo-political space is an example to us all.

Alex is still unknown! But he’s discovered that whilst revenge (apparently best served cold) is satisfying in that moment, ultimately, it’s pointless, fruitless, and a waste of energy that is better used in working for positive change. And that realisation, presumably, he shares with Michael.

Postscript

Brother Roger of Taizé spoke of the need for young people to be “violent for peace”: to use one’s anger at society’s injustices neither against another individual, nor against oneself, but instead to work tirelessly for justice, for change, for peace.

As I write this, and you read it, more lives are being savagely destroyed: in war, in gangland violence, in the drugs trade, in sex exploitation. The wish for vengeance is understandable; it’s natural – but utterly pointless.

“In the midst of conflict and division
it is you who who turn our minds to thoughts of peace.

“Your Spirit changes our hearts:
Enemies begin to speak to one another,
those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and nations seek the way of peace together.

“Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife,
and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.
For this we should never cease to thank and praise you.”

Roman Missal, Preface, 2nd Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Comments welcome, as always!

Welcome news about Trijicon removing bible verses on scopes

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BBC News reports that US firm are to remove Biblical references on gunsights

Apparently they have responded to the concern felt by many people.

In a statement, Trijicon say

“Trijicon has proudly served the US military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.”

The BBC reports

Gen Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, said: “Cultural and religious sensitivities are important considerations in the conduct of military operations.”

In a letter sent to the US president on Thursday, the head of the Interfaith Alliance said the gunsights “clearly violate” the rule.

“Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses,” Welton Gaddy said.

Earlier in the week, the Church of England told the UK’s Guardian newspaper: “People of all faiths and none are being killed and injured in these ­conflicts, on all sides, and any suggestion that this is being done in the name of the Bible would be deeply worrying to many ­Christians.”

Absolutely.

PS My scepticism yesterday proved to be ill-founded!

Disturbing news that Scripture references are used on military gunsights

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I have written today to Trijicon Inc. (http://www.trijicon.com/contact.cfm), regarding the disturbing news from the BBC that Scripture references are “inscribed on gunsights widely used by the US and British military in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Trijicom are “manufacturers of  sighting systems for use by Law Enforcement, Military and Individual customers”. While Trijicom claim “We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals”, I have a deep uneasiness with this position.

Dear Sirs

+ PAX

As a Christian I am shocked and appalled at the report (recorded by BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8468981.stm) that you inscribe Scripture references on your equipment.

Whilst I respect your own faith, and your consequent belief in the essential goodness of the US people, goodness is limited neither to your nation nor to Christians.

This practice is a totally unacceptable use of the Word of God, since “God is love” (not “hate”) cf. 1 John 4:9.

If this report is correct, then I respectfully request and urge you to stop this practice immediately, and as a matter of urgency to issue a statement expressing your regret and understanding of the severe problems that this same practice will be causing.

Yours sincerely
Alistair Warwick

The trouble of course is that comments such as this will almost certainly be ignored by those whose livelihoods depend on the arms industry. If I get a reply I will post it here.

Comments welcome, as always!

Playing for pantomimes: bad jokes, lead sheets… and beer

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This morning I heard Andrew Gold’s ‘Thank you for being a friend’. Now – as Obi-Wan Kenobi might have said – I haven’t heard that for a long, long time. It instantly brought up memories of playing in a 5-piece band for pantomimes when I was about 20; in one of these, the last song was the aforementioned ‘Thank you…’ (I can see them now “stand up and take a bow”).

With 19 performances in 15 days (three on Saturdays, at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm) at Erith Playhouse, Kent, each lasting well over 2 hours, it was a non-stop, wonderful feast of a range of music, combined with terrible jokes (I remember one of the principal protagonists was Patty O’Dors).

In between numbers the band would nip under the stage for a beer served from those 7-pint cans with the gas pump widget to keep it from going flat (little CAMRA influence in those days!). It was both good fun, and another important influence on my musical life.

As well as the beer and some welcome pocket money, these gigs brought a number of other benefits, including tight ensemble and the discipline (and thus inherent freedom) of playing from lead sheets with just guitar chords, e.g.

D | G | e A7 | b | f# e | Asus–A7 | Eb ||

only kidding 🙂

Good grounding for playing from guitar chords for “modern Catholic” music and from figured bass in continuo work later on.

So thanks to Terry Wogan for playing that disc. Hasn’t music got great power for memory?

By the way, Keith and Stella Jarman, are you out there?

Comments, as always, welcome. 🙂

Magic stories from Earthsea revisited

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Just re-reading the ‘Earthsea’ novels by Urula Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu). Fabulous, beautiful stories, even parables.

I first read the trilogy in the 70s and it is a delight to have come across them again. (The fourth story in this volume was added some 15 years later, following a shift in Le Guin’s philosophical outlook, and moves the focus away somewhat from the main character, Ged the Sparrowhawk.)

The storylines in these tales from Earthsea are quite excellent, but I think the real magic is in the poetry of Le Guin’s writing style, which almost demands to be read aloud.

For example, from the ending of ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’:

And he began to see the truth, that Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole : a man : who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any other power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark.

In the Creation of Ea which is the oldest song, it is said

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

Although the only response to this is silence, I can begin to feel a musical setting forming!

(I see from Amazon that Le Guin has also written stories called ‘Four Ways to Forgiveness’. Excellent reviews. That’s something for my birthday list!)

As usual, your comments are welcome!

Four Ways to Forgiveness: Stories