11 October 2016: Yes, I watched that “debate” yesterday. Couldn’t help thinking of Foghorn Leghorn…
Now to go back to October 2001. These entries via the Web Archive (my old Angelfire site). Some names have been edited to conform with my later practice.
10 Oct 2001
…Shanghai Bob’s Letter
Date: Tuesday, October 09, 2001 1:03 AM
Hi Mr W,
It has been a while since we last talked, I’ve been quite busy and believe that you are more busy than I am. However I’ve been reading your Ninglun Diary recently, first just wanted to have a glance but was attracted to your many insights on daily issues, and so read all your September and October diaries. (^_^)
On that terrorist issue, I totally agree with your views, especially on how we should not associate all Muslims to terrorists, just as we cannot call all Americans murderers by the act of Timothy McVeigh.. But sadly, many people (at least some of my friends) have adopted that thought, having very negative views on Muslims on the whole. And some of my atheist friends developed the idea that “if there wasn’t religion, the world would be at peace.” One very atheist friend even said, “religions are utterly stupid and evil, people should stop them.” Much of the world’s ill comes from a lack of empathy, understanding, compassion and respect for differences, and when this develops to a larger scale, it results in larger conflicts like violence and even war. But sadly, this ill is so rooted in every human being (ie. everyone, whether the person is Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc etc etc), that often we just turn out to hurt others without even realising it.
You also wrote that you are a religion seeker today. I remembered before that you told me you were a Buddhist, to what extent do you believe in Buddhism today? Recently, I too am very interested in the many religions of the world, and have searched the net to get to know some of them. My grandma is a Buddhist, so is my uncle and aunt, and so is Xiang. However their beliefs are quite different too. My grandma believes that chant the name of Buddha and scriptures can help bring peace, and good will be repayed for good. My uncle and aunt believe that only the actual practice of cultivation (by sit in meditation) will free people from the cycle of reincarnation, and open up the window of wisdom, and become Buddha after death. (a bit like Falun Gong, though they’re not Falun Gong.) Xiang believes in Tibetan Buddhism, and follows Dalai Lama as his living God. The religion of Buddhism has diverse denominations with its huge amount of scriptures and different doctrines. What is your personal belief in Buddhism? (^_^)
It’s also interesting to know that you were a Christian involved in an evangelical union when you were young. I guess I am likely to face similar problems in understanding the Bible. Many issues like homosexuality (I am not homosexual, but am far from homophobic), and the law of the Old Testament are the difficult areas. But I do trust the love of God, and the wisdom of life that the Bible teaches. I’ve also read articles about Christian Fundamentalism; it gives me the impression that it lacks humility, compassion, understanding and love, which are the essence of the Bible, for “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Many Fundamentalists also tend to read the Bible out of context, and also tend to take metaphors literally. So these are some areas I will take note.
On whether the Bible is inspired by God or just made up by people, I do not know much. But what amazes me is the Bible’s many accurate prophesies, such as the ones in Isaiah about Christ the Messiah, how he came, how he lived, how he died, everything so specific and so accurate. It’s so accurate that many think it must be written after Jesus but claimed itself written earlier, but last century the Dead Sea scroll was found, and it was a manuscript of the book of Isaiah carbon dated almost 200 B.C. The Bible’s many scientific knowledge is also extraordinary. The Old Testament says that the earth is round and is held in mid space, written many centuries B.C. where people had no idea of what the earth looks like, (it was thought to be flat until only around 300 years ago). But anyway, whether it is really revelation by God or not, it is still an extraordinary and valuable book I think.
It was by reading your Ninglun website that my interests in these subjects are aroused, indeed you’re making a brilliant site! Please do keep up the good work!
Take care, keep in touch.
Your student as always,
Letter published with Bob’s permission.
12 Oct 2001
All is well…or at least his carotid is, and his nephew’s family tree…
Checked my dizziness with a high-tech ultrasound. No nasties, but a very snaky/sneaky artery that may be the problem.
I visited the Museum of Sydney, where a performance for kiddies was taking over the place, but was very entertaining. I also went to the Matthew Flinders Exhibition at the State Library. Flinders was the first to circumnavigate Australia (which he named, by the way) about 200 years ago. He was accompanied by an Aborigine named Bungaree, from whose sister my nephew (on his mother’s side) is directly descended. I was thrilled to see a section devoted to Bungaree, with a picture of my nephew and his taped commentary on his now remembered ancestor. 🙂 My nephew had over the past few years done the research that demonstrated the link, and his commentary is very well presented.
Until my nephew’s research, no-one knew that any of Bungaree’s clan descendents had survived. (2016: no longer sure this is quite the case. See North-coastal Sydney Aboriginal history.)
This could be comment on world affairs today, but comes from the Tao Te Ching which is c.2500 years old:
Why are poor people hungry?
Because their poverty
is not the concern of rich people.
Why are simple people restless?
Because their peace
has been disturbed by complicated people.
Why do so many people care so little about dying?
Because a few people
care too much about living.
When there is little of value in life,
people are not afraid of death.
Even after a great conflict
has been resolved,
is the source of new trouble.
It is unwise
to provoke the loser,
To make demands
and assign guilt.
Those who forget grievances
And those who remember grievances
Because the Tao is impartial,
those who follow the Tao
Are also impartial.
Thus balance is restored
by those with balance.
Those who try to improve the world
will not succeed.
Those who try to control it
will ruin it.
And those who try to possess it
will lose it.
[The New Lao Tzu,
translated by Ray Grigg, Rutland VT, Charles E Tuttle, 1995.]
13 Oct 2001
No politics today
However, that does not mean I won’t get on my soap box at some stage in the future.
While I was at the doctor’s surgery the other day I picked up a little book called Brief encounters: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Associated Therapies for General Practitioners by Alex Tahmindjis, and was interested having had a little experience in this area, directly as a client, and indirectly with others.
The book gave a good summary of depression, anxiety disorders, seretonin levels, and so on.
Improving one’s seretonin levels is one element in treating depression and anxiety. Tahmindjis discusses the role of such medication as Zoloft (which did not work well for me), exercise (which I should do more of), cognitive behaviour therapy (which I have had some experience of), setting achievable tasks (which I sometimes have problems with!) and touching.
“Holding hands boosts feelings of comfort and happiness. If you have a partner, start touching more… No partner? Well, how about friends…” True, isn’t it? Also, one can in such a situation hug in the mind, if you know what I mean; the book does not say so, but I suspect thinking about such a person probably affects seretonin levels too.
Now isn’t it nicer sometimes to think of things like this instead of politics, world problems and matters of intellect? It could be that such a grounding for oneself actually helps when it comes to dealing with other things. What do you think
Much nicer than politics or the state of the world.
14 Oct 2001
Sunday…and news so burdens the heart
The news is grim this morning. If indeed the recent cases of anthrax in the United States are part of the current terrorist program, let it be said at once that any God who tells someone to do such a thing cannot be God.
In a sweeping but in my view accurate generalisation referring to Old Testament prophets, fundamentalist Christians and the likes of Osama Bin Laden, Karen Armstrong in A History of God ascribes a clear link between belief in a highly personal God and attributing one’s own hatred, anger, resentment and other dark forces to the Almighty, thus legitimising them. One’s own welling resentments (or, in a somewhat more positive light, one’s sense of injustice) are projected heavenwards, so that they are no longer your feelings but the will of God. If you are charismatic enough to persuade other people that your anthropomorphic deity really feels as you do, you can then unleash very powerful forces onto the world. I really think there is something to this thesis.
Recently Mr R told me he was reading the Old Testament for the first time, but was finding himself bogged down in the detailed laws of the Torah, the five books traditionally (and wrongly) ascribed to Moses. (The detailed arguments on the origins of the five books of the Torah are well known and accepted by most Christian historians and scholars, and very many Jewish ones. The introductory matter to the Catholic Jerusalem Bible gives a moderately conservative but fair summary of the scholarly position: that the books reach back through oral tradition to the beginnings of Israel, but in the form we know them date from a time some 500 to 800 years after the Exodus. Only the most Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians deny this.
The books are important, however. There are gems within, and the Exodus has, as myth, inspired many an oppressed people, including African Americans in their struggle. Among the gems are laws which still govern our sense of what is just: “Do not deny justice to any poor man of yours in his lawsuit. Keep away from lies. Do not slay the innocent or the just, for I will not forgive the wicked. And do not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eye of the clearsighted and perverts the sentence of the just. Do not oppress a stranger; you know what it is to be a stranger, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt.” (“Stranger” could well be translated as “refugee”.) —Exodus 23: 6-9 [Unless otherwise stated, I am using the rather good Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition, 2 ed, Claretian Publications, Quezon City (Philippines) 1988.]
There are of course laws that are blissfully ignored today: “If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a moneylender and do not charge him interest.” Exodus 22: 24
Others, probably most, are ignored–thank God: “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she profanes her father and shall be burned in the fire.” Leviticus 21: 9
“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20: 27 [1611 King James Version]
And in the same chapter, verse 13, “If a man lieth with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” [KJV]
The last one has had a somewhat more enduring influence than the one just before it…
Here endeth the lesson.
Except to note V S Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature–some very apt reflections could be made on this, but more on that later, maybe. Also, The Economist this week sums up rather well why I am not voting for John Howard 😉 (Story only available to subscribers on the Internet, but see Oct 13-19 edition, page 15.)
Also, check the items in The New Yorker. A number of writers reflect on September 11, including the (to some) infamous/provocative article by Susan Sontag. See what you think. (The print edition, with its striking black cover, is on sale now in Sydney newsagents.)
30 Oct 2001
…twenty years ago
This is from an article published by the Poets’ Union of NSW, and tells about a venture I was involved in twenty years back. The article was written by Roger Mackell, proprietor of Gleebooks (with information provided by Richard Allen). It’s correct enough, except I was not working at Sydney University at the time–that was 1977-1978. It was Fort Street High, then Harkers Bookshop in Glebe, and then at the end my current place of work. One name has been changed to protect the “guilty” 😉
In the eighties we added to the small press clutter when for a while we published a poetry magazine of our own, Neos, intended to showcase poetry of the young. NW from Education at Sydney was the driving force, we provided the cash and the distribution. Neos was unique at the time, in that primarily young writers edited it – a team that included over time – John Hawke, Adam Aitken, Rob Burton, Richard James Allen, Lyneve Rappell, Gavin Murrell and Hung Nguyen. There were ten issues of Neos between September 1981 and April 1985 providing the first publication for many young poets who have now gone on to establish themselves. Issues also included artwork and graphics, essays on poetry and poetics, and an “advice to young poets” series with contributions from leading practitioners at the time including Les Murray, Dennis Haskell, Anna Couani, Bruce Beaver, Frank Moorhouse and Bill Turner. Perhaps Neos will be best remembered for Max Harris’s salvo in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1983 – “Neos produces the most mature poetry to be found in Australian journal publication.”
I have thought of putting the contents of Neos 1 on my web page. It is still entertaining. [I did: Remembering Neos.]
That’s Gavin Murrell and Richard Allen and ? around 1982-3. Source.
Poetry is something I can share again as part of a great friendship, and find much happiness doing so 🙂