Second day out of lockdown

And I stayed at home. It was rather damp and cold yesterday morning, but also perhaps I had just a little more Shiraz at Diggers than I should have the day before….

But I did not waste time too much, and I do have plenty of food here at home — except for bread which I must renew from the local shops today. One thing I accomplished was downloading my official vaccine status document form Medicare. This is the business end of it:

Me not having a smart phone, that only exists on my laptop. I have not yet printed a copy either as my printer really is useless as I have basically given up buying ink for it. I can no doubt contrive to get a printed copy later on. So for the moment any venue I try to enter must either 1) accept the Wollongong Medical Centre’s statement, which I carry with me at all times or 2) wait while I fire up the laptop. Not that it takes all that long.

Meanwhile quite a few have been marking the passing of a remarkable Australian, Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku who has died at age 101.

Inspiring.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 73 — finding something inspiring!

This is quite wonderful. You’d be a fool not to watch it right through! Your heart will be lifted up.

From the South China Morning Post

Tony Chung is working on his master’s degree in Biomedical Science and has long dreamed of going to medical school. But the Covid-19 pandemic has him considering an additional goal, working alongside his father running a Vietnamese restaurant, Pasteur Grill and Noodles, in New York’s Chinatown. “I started to help out because our restaurant was struggling,” the 24-year-old said, “It’s not even just about the business, it’s more about keeping the legacy alive.” Along with waiting on tables, Tony plans to update restaurant decorations and its menu to attract new customers as well as those who stayed away during the pandemic. He says the experience helped father and son find common ground, and a chance for him to understand the hard work his dad has done in the decades since he fled the communist regime in Vietnam to come to the US in about 1980.

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This too is inspiring:

From my posts on Afghanistan and more…

First there is the personal connection I describe here:

I don’t want to exaggerate the significance of this, but I have no doubt I was able to help a young man whose circumstances I could hardly imagine. This young man.

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Ahmad Shuja, Bamian November 2006

Go to his own blog from 24 December 2006:

I and my father, along with two other passengers, are driving through the streets of Kandahar, a “troubled” province in the South, on our way to Kabul. Suddenly, in its usual and unpredictable manner, pops a convoy of NATO armored personnel carriers (APCs).

A guy sitting on top of the first APC is signaling all cars to move right and clear the way. The two cars in front of us follow his orders. Now it’s our car which the person is signaling to move right. Our driver, who has had a quarrel with another driver some 20 minutes ago, is too deep in thoughts to notice his signals. I see every gesticulation from the NATO soldier and am expecting the driver to turn at any moment.

We get closer and closer to the convoy and the driver doesn’t show any sign of clearing the road. The NATO soldier grows increasingly desperate. His desperation reaches to a point where he fires four “warning” shots in an attempt to get the attention of our driver. I am watching all this; and at this point, everything seems like a Hollywood movie or perhaps a CNN video from a troubled zone. I feel no urgency to act and inform the driver to change course; perhaps because I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Bullets race overhead—shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot—that’s four of them whooshing in quick succession. And now, even after the warning shots, we have still not cleared the road for the APC. The NATO soldier at the top of the APC can’t take it anymore. He thinks that we are perhaps a gang of Al-Qaeda or Taliban suicide car bombers about to strike his vehicle. Instincts take over him and he lowers his gun barrel in a bid to take offense and exterminate the perceived threat. Maybe, in the meantime, he was thinking of the honor to have shot and foiled a terrorist plot in preemption.

So, as he brings his gun barrel down to shoot the driver first, our driver notices it and takes a desperate swerve to the right. The NATO soldier shoots his first bullet. Thanks to the turn we take, the bullet hits the side screen window and somehow misses all of us. Glass scatters everywhere. We’re all sitting there aghast, looking at the unfolding drama in disbelief. A second bullet comes in quick succession to the first one. Again, miraculously, it rips through the thin strip of plastic that holds the rearview mirror onto the car.

Because we have taken a turn and cleared the way, the NATO soldier realizes that we are no suicide car bombers and stops firing. At this point, we all start checking our limbs and bodies to make sure everything is intact. All seems okay. We have been able to escape death in the hands of NATO soldiers.

Moments later, I begin to think: Escaping Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other threats lurking around, we come under threat by the very force which claims to be “protecting” us. Although I acknowledge there’s an idiocy factor involved from our driver, I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives in such incidents that have been labeled “encounters with terrorists.”

From my observations it appears as if such incidents are quite common. In the three trips that I have made to Afghanistan in the last two years, I have had two encounters of this nature with international troops, the first one being a lot less dramatic. It now seems to me that the international peacekeeping forces are quite at ease in opening fire at almost anyone.

After completing his journalism education in the USA — how that happened his blog details — he had in recent times returned to Kabul. He was there just last week…

Here he is on 2 August from Kabul. Note what he says about the aid Taliban was getting.

And now we have the dégringolade. So utterly sad. The hope expressed above is dead. No doubt Ahmad is again a refugee, hoping at least that he and his family are still alive.

Looking at my own blog — the one of which this present blog is the successor — I see a number of entries come from a search for “Afghan” — here is one. Inspiring people: true Aussies both. The first person discussed is Young Australian of the Year 2013: Akram Azimi.

Then searching for that I found this from Holroyd High School, where the great Dorothy Hoddinott did such sterling service.

Finally, from December 2011: Better than a thousand pundits and all their learned articles.

That is my feeling about Khaled Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding—that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives—the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness—are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

I was irritated by this New York Times review.

In the end it is these glimpses of daily life in Afghanistan — a country known to most Americans only through news accounts of war and terrorism — that make this novel, like “The Kite Runner,” so stirring, and that distract attention from its myriad flaws.

My attention was so distracted that I am convinced the “myriad flaws” exist more in the reviewer’s mind than in Hosseini’s novel, which is not to say the book is perfect but it is pretty bloody good. If it had been published in Australia it would probably be up for the Miles Franklin or something. I think it has suffered from being the SECOND novel after the phenomenon that was, deservedly, The Kite Runner

Afghanistan. We weep for what has come to pass! Of the many stories I have seen so far, this one best shows what for women in particular is at stake: An Afghan woman in Kabul: ‘Now I have to burn everything I achieved’

I worked for so many days and nights to become the person I am today, and this morning when I reached home, the very first thing my sisters and I did was hide our IDs, diplomas and certificates. It was devastating. Why should we hide the things that we should be proud of? In Afghanistan now we are not allowed to be known as the people we are.

As a woman, I feel like I am the victim of this political war that men started. I felt like I can no longer laugh out loud, I can no longer listen to my favourite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favourite cafe, I can no longer wear my favourite yellow dress or pink lipstick. And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve.

Update 8am Australian Eastern Daylight Time

Just opened my Facebook and there is this post from Ahmad Shuja:

Thank you to all friends who inquired about my safety and wellbeing. Also, a special thanks to those who helped me over the last few days. Afghanistan and our compatriots are going through difficult times. There will be opportunities for studying the events of of last few years. I am still processing and contemplating. For now, I can confirm that I am all right and in a safe location, though concerned about friends and compatriots. I am trying to help them with whatever means and resources that I have.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 21 — FB thread led to some local music

On Monday night Michael Xu and I had a long exchange of views on the subject of refugees, why they exist and in such numbers, and where and why they became refugees, what might be done about the problem and so on. Obviously this is such deep water that one FB comment thread is highly unlikely to come up with answers — but can point to further thought. So I won’t rehearse all that was said. Michael was tending to deplore the “moral superiority complex” of the West, and pointed to issues related to the history of colonialism and capitalism — all obviously relevant matters. I was trying to present perhaps a less starkly black-and-white set of views.

For example, this is part of one of my comments: “I think we will agree that refugees/displaced people is a world problem far too big to settle in comments like these. Many causes — war, economic situations. political situations, natural disaster, climate change…. Australia used to be more generous. Feeling morally superior or not is not really the problem. But no country can take everybody, just not possible given the enormous numbers.” And I cited a couple of videos — first a very basic one of definition by UNHCR:

I also posted this statistical one, with the reservation that we really needed to look at those totals as a percentage of the populations of each country. But the countries, as you probably know already, that actually receive the greatest number are not those who really could and should do more — such as Australia,

Well, to cut a long comment thread short — we did not solve the world’s problems in one FB discussion! But I began to think of local stories. ” Not for a moment suggesting that this 78-year-old in Wollongong is at all special or knows very much, but I do try (for my own sake as much as anything else) to find those who are saying and/or doing something positive and listen to them.” And: “My neighbours here at the moment include a Syrian refugee, and a young Sudanese whose parents probably were, perhaps him too. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but the Syrian lady I have had long talks with.”

I posted about my Syrian neighbour in 2016.

Her room is just three up from mine. She has been here for about a year but we hardly spoke until recently, when she wished me a Merry Christmas:

My Muslim neighbour kindly wished me “Merry Christmas” last week, not inappropriately given my “real” Christmas was in Surry Hills last Friday. This morning the lovely folk at the Yum Yum Cafe gave me this. So Christmas, eh! And not too hot here in The Gong this year…

We spoke again at some length a few days ago. It turns out she is from Syria and spoke no English when she arrived in Australia less than two years ago…

That post also tells of other people from similar backgrounds in Wollongong.

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Wollongong Market Day 2013

In that post also:

Yesterday at Diggers a somewhat cantankerous friend got on one of his hobby-horses – well, more like three: people who won’t work and live on welfare, refugees who go straight onto welfare and/or steal our jobs, Muslims with heaps of wives on welfare etc… You know, standard talkback radio and Daily Telegraph-fed stuff. And some of it just lately emanating from or magnified by (not really ex-) former/in waiting Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I see in today’s news.

Yesterday I fought back a bit, just on the “and how many really do that?” line leading towards the possibility that the majority in whatever group one is hating for the moment probably don’t do whatever it is – like have lots of wives. Pointed also to one of our best-known local pharmacists whose shop is much frequented by mothers in hijabs, Said pharmacist is of Lebanese background. Happened my adversary was a customer and admirer of that pharmacy.  Some half hour later my adversary shook my hand and said “I was wrong. You were right.”  Nice when that happens.

From an earlier generation is the great story of how the Wollongong Art Gallery’s collection began with the hobby of a post-WW2 refugee who worked at Port Kembla steelworks:

It was not until 1975 after a chance meeting with a very modest gentleman named Bronius (Bob) Sredersas. Bob wanted to donate his collection to the “Children of Wollongong”. This momentous gift was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery was built (Sredersas Gallery). The Illawarra County Council donated the property formally known as the Hughes Whetton Reilly Building (now Wollongong Youth Centre), including the land upon which it stood to Council on the proviso that the property be used for an Art Gallery. Through the persistence and hard work of the society, volunteers and donors, and with the assistance of Council and Government funding bodies, a Director and Board of Trustee was appointed and on the 2 June 1978 Wollongong City Gallery was officially opened by Mr Neville Wran, Premier of NSW at 85 Burelli Street, Wollongong attended by over 500 people. The first exhibition was titled Burghers of Calais, with works borrowed for the National Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW.     

I then recalled something from just last year. “Illawarra Grammar alumnus Ian Steven Muhayimana was awarded Wollongong’s Young Citizen of the Year 2020. Ian is a musican, producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performs under the name Stevan.”

ABC Illawarra ran a story on him in July 2020.

From Malawi to Wollongong to the world!

19 -year old multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Stevan has been getting played on triple j for a couple of years now, and is starting to make waves on NME and the BBC. He has finally released his long-awaited debut mixtape Just Kids, and he’s from Wollongong! Well, kind of.

Born in Malawi to parents from Burundi, Stevan arrived here when he was 3, went to school at TIGS, and is making music right here in his home studio that is getting talked about all around the world.

Here is one of his 2020 tracks, with a great video featuring some of our Illawarra bush and scenery too. I see he has resumed posting songs in the last week or so.

My mind goes back to an assignment I had for the South Sydney Herald: Launch of Refugee African Muslim Youth Project Book – 16 Jul 2010, Alexandria NSW.

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I went along to Alexandria Town Hall. 

On Wednesday this week Indigenous presenter Tony Armstrong did an excellent piece on Peter Bol on ABC News Breakfast’s coverage of the Olympic Games — it is very relevant to issues raised in this post and also in the FB discussion which triggered this post! That video does not appear to be useable, so I am substituting this July interview:

See also Peter Bol: ‘Get to know the person, instead of the assumptions’.

Bol’s story is compelling – even beyond his journey from Sudan to Australia. As a teenager, he attended St Norbert College, a prestigious private school in Perth, on a basketball scholarship. Each year he was required to participate in school athletics. He kept winning races but, despite the urgings of his teachers, had no interest in swapping sports.

Eventually, when Bol was in year 11, a teacher promised to help find him a coach, a club and a mentor if he gave athletics a shot. He agreed. “That single decision to say yes has meant I’ve travelled the whole world,” he said. Within five years, Bol was competing on the grandest stage. In Rio and now Tokyo, Bol has represented his adopted homeland.

“I love my identity and my background,” Bol said last year. “My mum is Sudanese, my dad is South Sudanese. I take a lot of pride in both of those. But I’m also as equally thankful to be here.” Bol has spoken about the positives of increased awareness about race and racism, and of his support for the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the time of writing this (and revising it!) the outcome of the 800m Final was unknown. By the time you read it chances are you will have heard all about him!

So 10.15 and I saw the race. Great effort. Just missed a medal.

Soul-searching? #2

NOTE: I think this post will do you for two days at least, so there will be a short hiatus here.

Memory Lane has been in overdrive!

Back Row L-R: Terry Naughton, “Pip” Dryden, Clive Kessler.

Front Row L-R: Grahame Delaney, R W “Rockjaw” Smith (coach and English teacher), Alfie van der Poorten.

Extraordinarily ancient relic! And that is just me!

That is a more or less deliberately antiqued photo of the First Grade Debating Team at Sydney Boys High in 1959. I was not in the team, but some very impressive classmates were. One featured in my blog post of 16 May and another features in today’s.

Pip Dryden arrived from Shanghai — yes, Shanghai — and joined us late in the piece. Sadly he passed away at 19 from cancer. Terry Naughton became a QC and a Judge. Clive Kessler was the subject of Sunday’s blog post and is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at UNSW. Grahame Delaney sadly died young, I believe.

Alfie van der Poorten passed away in 2010. He was a famous mathematician. It is worth looking at his Wikipedia biography.

His childhood before Sydney High was very different from mine in quiet old Auburn and Vermont Streets in Sutherland!

An extract:

Van der Poorten was born into a Jewish family in Amsterdam in 1942, after the German occupation began. His parents, David and Marianne van der Poorten, gave him into foster care with the Teerink family in Amersfoort, under the name ‘Fritsje’; the senior van der Poortens went into hiding, were caught by the Nazis, survived the concentration camps, and were reunited with van der Poorten and his two sisters after the war. The family moved to Sydney in 1951, travelling there aboard the SS Himalaya.

Van der Poorten studied at Sydney Boys High School from 1955–59, and earned a high score in the Leaving Certificate Examination there. He spent a year in Israel and then studied mathematics at the University of New South Wales, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965, a doctorate in 1968 under the joint supervision of George Szekeres and Kurt Mahler, and a Master of Business Administration. While a student at UNSW, he led the student union council and was president of the University Union, as well as helping to lead several Jewish and Zionist student organisations. He also helped to manage the university’s cooperative bookstore, where he met and in 1972 married another bookstore manager, Joy FitzRoy….

Another of my childhood companions because of whom I have been historically sympathetic towards Israel, much as I despise Israel’s current government — if indeed they still have one? — but also have no time at all for Holocaust denial or any conspiracy theory that invokes Jews.

I think of two others: Herbert Huppert, Professor of Theoretical Geophysics and Foundation Director, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, at the University of Cambridge, since 1989 and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, since 1970. And Peter Deli.

I have posted on them before. First, Herbert:

Back in the late 50s the Head of Science was in fact an elderly chap much stained by tobacco whom we dubbed “Dodo” – as in the extinct bird.

Tracking Lenny Basser (a legendary Science teacher and Athletics coach who taught Lord May of Oxford among others) led me to a former classmate, in Science at one point but more memorably in the weird Mr Levy’s French class. I had wondered what became of this lad who had come to us from Cranbrook – a decided disadvantage – little realising that he was a leading geophysicist these days!

Herbert Huppert

I have found a fascinating interview with him telling me much that I had little insight into at the time. Since this is already out there, I hope Professor Huppert won’t mind my sharing.

Born in Sydney, Australia, 1943; my maternal grandfather was a shamus in a Viennese synagogue; both he and his wife were very religious; I got to know them when they came out to Australia in about 1947-8; the remarkable thing about my paternal grandparents is that I knew nothing about them; my sister and I both assumed that they perished in the Holocaust although we had not been told; my father died when I was thirteen; about seven or eight years ago my sister did some extensive research in the Viennese archives and found that both had died natural deaths in hospital in 1935 and 1937; my father rarely talked about his time in Vienna and neither did my mother; she would talk about St Stephen’s dome in Vienna and the giant wheel nearby; when I was eight I bought her a book on Vienna for her birthday with both illustrated on the cover; she was clearly upset by it and I never saw the book again; many years after when both were dead (my mother died when I was twenty-two) I heard that a few months before they left Vienna my father was told to queue up to get a visa to leave; the night before he was warned that the queue was to be bombed by Nazis; he decided not to join the queue and it was bombed; two weeks later he did get an exit visa; they left in 1938 and arrived in Australia on 26th January 1939…

…I first went to a Jewish kindergarten which I remember with both pleasure and terror; on one occasion the headmaster threatened to put me into a duplicating machine as I had been so naughty and that terrified me; generally I enjoyed the school and had lots of friends; I then went to an “institution” which my mother chose, which cost about £300 a term; it would have been better if my father had paid the money to charity and sent me to a state school; I hated this institution, Cranbrook, with a passion; I have recently come across two people who went there some ten years after me who thought it was wonderful; one is Richard Hunter who is Professor of Classics here and the other is the new Director of the Fitzwilliam…

Cranbrook was everything that I hated; I went there when I was just six; clear that I could add and on that basis put me up a class without ascertaining whether I knew anything else; I found myself a year and a half younger than everyone else and I was nowhere near mature enough; that had a bad influence on me; later it became better because when I went to a proper school I could run well, but Cranbrook was a terrible institution; I left when I had just reached twelve; I passed the exam to Sydney High and my mother gave me the choice of going there or staying at Cranbrook; if I had stayed in Cranbrook five more years I would not be here today; they taught badly; they hired a chemistry teacher who was a Nazi who told us how wonderful it had been flying over England and bombing it, and also about the problem of German Jews; it was just unbelievable; there was bullying, but don’t know whether it was anti-Semitic or just of younger people; we were forced to have a shower after P.T. after which we had to dress outside; there was a female music teacher who was constantly looking out at us; there were many things like that

21:33:13 Sydney High was much better and I can’t remember a day of unhappiness there; it was a fabulous school and has produced some brilliant people, including Bob May, President of the Royal Society, and John Cornforth, Nobel Laureate in chemistry; we had an inspiring chemistry teacher, Leonard Basser; he was also the athletics coach and I ran for the school, something what was inconceivable at Cranbrook…

And now Peter:

I told the story of another of my class of 1959 confreres in 50 years on – 1: a classmate’s story in 2009.

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Peter Deli

There I quoted from a biography:

Peter Francis Nicholas Deli was born on 26 March 1942 in Wellington, New Zealand. His parents, Lewis and Lily, were both Hungarian refugees who had fled Europe just before the beginning of the War. His father, an architect by training, had been a violinist in the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His mother, who was Jewish, had tried to emigrate to Britain and Australia before settling for New Zealand. They met in New Zealand and married in 1941. After the War the Deli family moved to Sydney, Australia and settled in the Eastern Suburbs at Bondi. Sydney had a much larger population of East European migrs than the whole of New Zealand and the Delis were soon absorbed into the Hungarian community’s protective embrace. Peter’s early school years at Double Bay Primary School were far from typical of the elementary educational experience of most Australian children at the time. The extraordinary mix of nationalities and class backgrounds in the school must have had a profound effect on his early development. In 1955 he won a place to the prestigious Sydney Boys’ High School, one of the best secondary schools in New South Wales. Peter excelled in his studies during these years and matriculated with honours to the University of Sydney in 1960. During his undergraduate years he read History and Philosophy, graduating Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in History in 1964….

I continued:

After a very interesting career, including being in Paris in 1968, Peter succumbed to leukemia and died at home in Hong Kong on 12 February 2001.

The point made there about the cosmopolitan mix at Double Bay and SBHS at the time certainly struck me when I “migrated” from Sutherland (with Ross Mackay, Arno Eglitis, Robert Burnie and Laurence Napier) to SBHS in 1955. On the other hand, much to the surprise of one of my coachees who is now at SBHS, of  206 of us starting out in 1955 only one was Chinese (ABC) and one was Indian – Ashok Hegde, who became a close friend until he went to London in 1958. Ashok’s father was in 1958 the Assistant Indian Trade Commissioner in Sydney, if I recall correctly – but thus not a permanent resident in Australia.

Such are few of the experiences of my schoolboy self that took this Shire lad into worlds previously unknown to him, and which shape his reaction to such things as politics and the events in the Middle East to this day!

More relevant to yesterday’s post, it was the consideration of such friends as those named in this post and what the theology that prevailed in the mid 1960s at Sutherland Presbyterian Church about “election” — God’s inscrutable thing of saving some and not others for reasons we poor mortals could not hope to understand — logically had in store for them gave me the uncomfortable feeling that God was some sort of petulant idiot!

Robbie Burns in “Holy Willie’s Prayer” offers a parody of that doctrine of election which, however, is not all that wide of the mark:

O Thou, that in the heavens does dwell,
As it pleases best Thysel’,
Sends ane to Heaven an’ ten to Hell,
For Thy glory,
And no for onie guid or ill
They’ve done afore Thee!

There was more to it of course, but such a thought eventually became too much even tacitly to assent to. From there over time it became clear that some of the fundamentals were really off — this took a long time.

First, the idea that there is a systematic theology recoverable from the many and varied texts of the Bible became less and less viable.

Second, the idea that the Bible, wonderful as much in it is, was in any literal sense the word of God rather than the product of centuries of human beings thinking about God also seemed less and less likely — and hence the pointlessness of the first exercise. Which is not to say that the Bible is not worth reading; it certainly is, but not as I had conceived it.

Finally — well not quite! — the idea that God ever has had or is likely to have had a Chosen People is actually ridiculous, and possibly even blasphemous as it smacks of the Supreme Being picking favourites — hardly a moral position worthy of the All Knowing.

Back in 2012 I posted Searchings — 1, one of quite a few such posts in my blogs over the past 10-15 years:-

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. But to begin.

God’s Politics asked Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events…

The older I get the more unsatisfactory the theologians seem to me, and the more “fundamentalist” they are, even less satisfactory are they then likely to be – unless you are better at believing a thousand impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, than I am these days.

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Unfortunately the impression one is left with after much fundamentalist apologetics/theology is that God indeed could very well be a Cosmic Jerk!

This especially plagues the bibliolatrists who constitute the more conservative wings of Judaism and Christianity and, alas, far too much of Islam. The unfortunate tradition of Divine Mouthpieces and Pens is as much a curse as a blessing, indeed I suspect more a curse than a blessing. Infallibility and certainty are among the most dangerous and foolish of human constructs.

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Take Monday’s poem from Three Quarks Daily.

For insulting the Quran, “’Thousands of people
dragged a Pakistani man … from a police station …
(and) beat him to death,’ police said Wednesday.”

Insulting Books

Is it even possible
to insult a book?

Has it a soul within its leaves
a heart that beats
an eye that winks
a cord running through its spine
descending from a thing that thinks?

Is a book of inky lines
(of characters not themselves sublime)
capable of being hurt or ridiculed
or cheapened by critiques
either of the wise, or fools?

Has it veins between its covers
salty with the blood of lovers?

Is there something in its pages
(even if put there by sages)
that warrants death to critics?

Is it a thing so lame that priestly brothers
(arrogant, imperious, parasitic)
who worship sheaves of ink on paper
must, for its sake, snuff the holy breath
of others?

by Jim Culleny

11/6/12

Go and read the comments that follow it. An excellent series, those daily poems from Three Quarks Daily. Jim is the editor of this feature and most wide-ranging in his selection and very knowledgeable. Even Aussie poets score there at times.