Thursday, 14 November 2019

Irony of Christmas ads

By any modern management and commercial standards, the following advertisement is late - way too late! And yes, liturgically we are still two weeks away from beginning the Advent season!  But with Halloween behind us, it is time to boost the Christmas sale!

Nonetheless this headline of a rather populist newspaper caught my attention.  The irony being, the ad speaks of a 'stress-free Christmas' and what actually causes stress is what the advert is peddling!  

Are you St Peter?

Fr Peter was assisting at the Year 3 retreat of a local school which was being held in the Church premises.  Of the 50 or so kids he said he recognised some who come to Church on Sundays.  One of these kids, at the end of the retreat, approached Fr Peter and asked him, "Are you St Peter?" 

When Fr Peter narrated this amusing event, I had a good laugh.  Children always come up with something totally unexpected and different.  Later was wondering what would have prompted the child to ask Fr Peter that question.  Perhaps it could have been a simple case of misunderstanding between 'Father' and 'Saint' - after all, both are abbreviated in common use.  But I think it was more to do with what the child had observed.  Fr Peter was the one who opened the Church and the various other places for them to use.  And what was the theme of the retreat?  Kingdom of God and heaven!  Most probably, there would have been some mention of St Peter having the keys to heaven.  And for the child, he must have put two and two together: Peter and keys.  Hence the natural question: "Are you St Peter?" 

Wonder what would have been the next question, if Fr Peter were to have said, "Yes!" 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Transplanted cabbages

Bl. Artimedes Zatti, a Salesian brother, whom we commemorate today was an interesting character.  A nurse or a medic by profession, he did much good to those around him, especially the poor, in Argentina.

What appeals to me most of about him, is the fact that in spite of his own person challenges and difficulties, physical, emotional and circumstantial, he did not let them pull him down.  Not only did he make the best of what he was left with - even if it was frail health, or a dilapidated place far from the town, or giving up his dream of becoming a priest and opting to be a brother - but also was constantly thinking about others.  His thoughts were mostly about how he could be of service to those in difficulties and pain.

Even when the hospital that he painstakingly built was usurped by the local authorities, he did not give up his passion to come to the aid of the sick.  That land grab certainly hit him hard.  He was very much affected by it.  Nonetheless he saw it as a transition period.  An opportunity to carry out his service in a different place, in a different style.  "Cabbages grow best, when transplanted," he said, when he had to give up the hospital and move!  

Service from the ambulance

Today is the death anniversary of Fr John Connelly, who died in 1991, aged 71.  He belonged to this Salesian Province of GBR. 

It is said that he was a diligent bursar.  On one occasion, when he was the bursar at Battersea, there was a meeting for which confreres were slowly arriving.  Unfortunately Fr John suffered a heart attack.  And as the ambulance was taking him to the hospital, Fr John noticed Fr John Gillhiney arrive.  Lying in the ambulance he looked out and told Fr Gillhiney, "Yours is room number 47!" 

Old habits die hard!  Even though his heart was struggling to beat, his brain was ticking sharp and focussed! 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Nothing called 'waste' or 'away'

Yesterday at Egham Hythe for the blood donation session, I carried with me the plastic cup I had picked up during the previous session, four months ago.  The plastic cup has been on my side table, used now and then for drinking water - when I decide to kill time leisurely!

When I arrived at the session to inform of my arrival, the young man there checked my form and then asked me to take a seat and have a drink.  And when he saw the plastic cup in my hand, he said, "Oh, I see you already picked up a drink." And I told him, "That's from the previous session! I didn't throw it away."  At first, he looked a bit puzzled, but when he understood, he beamed broadly and said, "Great!"

I still have the cup with me.  I think it's going to stay and be used for a while!  

Widening the divide with capitals!

A further reflection on the theme of intolerance and Christian unity, in the context of language - a topic that I'm brooding over! 

Disunity is brought about, in most cases, when an idea is held to be of greater importance than a human being. All cases of religious fundamentalism arise when the concept of religion takes precedence over humanity; when faith becomes greater than human life; when god - and I mean, the concept of God - needs to be protected, but not my neighbour. 

One easy way we fall into this trap of elevating a concept to a status higher than a living being, reducing the latter to such a minimal value so as to count for nothing, is when we capitalise a word!  When faith becomes Faith.  When god becomes God.  When church becomes Church.  These are tell-tale signs of where and what we feel are un-negotiable aspects of our living, at the altar of which everything else (not belonging to me), especially others, can be sacrificed.  Furthermore, with words like 'infidel', 'atheist', 'unbeliever', 'pro-abortionist', 'LGBTQ+', ... we can easily reduce persons, living beings with flesh and blood, families and feelings into despicable things that in their entirety ought to be made to disappear! 

That reminds me of a very stinging remark one of my former Rector's made on a report I put together after my supervision of a batch of third year students involved in the 'Immersion programme'.  Back then it struck me, as 'what's the big deal?' Why make a hue and cry about a regular use?  The phrase I used in the report was a description of a place: '...a place infested with naxalites...'  And the Rector had circled this phrase and written on the margins, "Even naxalites are people, not insects!" Looking back I clearly see.  I did not mind using the word 'infested' in the context of the naxalites, but I would never have used it in the context of seminarians or even a packed railway station!  My prejudices were laid bare.  

Christian unity and intolerance

One of the biggest scandal the Church offers to the world is that of the divisions within.  For a body which has unity as one of its primary tenets, to be so splintered, the value of witness is certainly diminished.  Add to that, the fact that some of these splinter groups are archenemies of one another.  And still we claim to be Christians! 

The saint we commemorate today, St Josaphat was martyred not by anti-Christians, but 'faithful' followers of Christ!  It is indeed a strange paradox we comfortably live with: boldly preach in Christ's name and at the same time have no hesitation in killing someone - all in His name.  If only we take a moment to think, leave alone pray, we should be able to see our own religious idiosyncrasies.  But I guess, the very faith we profess often blinds us to see anything beyond that what we hold most precious. 

So good to ask myself, what is it that I hold in such high esteem that I would not sacrifice it for anything else?  And as a Christian, I ask myself: Is it my love for Christ or love for Christ? 

Monday, 11 November 2019

Heaven and misconceived riches

Each of us has a different view of what heaven is.  Our basic catechism gives us an impression of it as a place, up above, where God lives.  Most often the idea is that is a place where all suffering ends and we enjoy unbounded peace.  Somehow as we imbibe the teachings of the Church, the 'carrot-stick' instructions of our parents and teachers, the fantasy of stories and movies, we come to think of heaven as a sort of magic land.  Once there, everything is possible and one need not slog anymore.  It is basically in total contrast to what we find around ourselves, here on earth. 

Take for instance the antiphon of today's prayers, on the occasion of memorial of St Martin of Tours:
Martin once poor and lowly, enters heaven with riches. 
It is as if Martin who had nothing, on reaching heaven gains everything that he lacked here on earth.  That somehow as he crossed the arch of heaven, all that he was denied here on earth, he is now blessed with.  Now that's quite an illusion.  Makes people live dual lives or be split in time - one totally different from the other; the latter making up all that we give up here on earth!  Martin gave up wealth here on earth.  Does that mean he had a thick purse or a fat bank account when he entered heaven?  Would he wanted that? Even if he did get it, would he have thought big about it? 

We don't enter heaven rich.  We are already rich.  Martin did not become rich when he reached heaven.  He was already rich in virtue of peace, joy and thanksgiving here on earth.  He had little but that he shared and what he did he did joyfully.  So he was happy here itself.  Heaven is not a place where one gains what one has given up; it is a state when one becomes conscious of and cherishes what one already is blessed with!  

Prayer for TODAY (John XXIII)

Rummaging through my mails for the password to a long abandoned blog, I came across the following prayer sent to me by Fr Lens, in 2009...

PRAYER FOR TODAY 
by Pope John XXIII 

Today I will just do my best 
to live this day itself 
without trying to solve 
all the problems of my life. 

Today I will try to go 
Where I would rather stay away’ 

Today I will avoid two things: 
Excessive haste, and indecision 

In spite of appearances to the contrary 
Today I will put my faith 
in God’s presence at my side. 

I will not let me get discouraged 
By the idea that I have to keep it up 
All the rest of my life.

Two immediate lessons or intercessions for my TODAY: 'avoid indecision' and 'faith in God's presence at my side'. 

Few words, but long sentences

Remember today a particular Salesian confrere who is known among our circles as a 'man of few words, and long sentences'!  He surely can go on and on about any topic, even the acknowledgement that he does not know anything about the topic!

I remember him once visiting the community where I was, with a very bad sore throat.  That morning, before breakfast he asked me if I could arrange for some hot tea with turmeric for him - just to soothe his aching throat.  And then when I did arrange that, he began to explain to me where, when and how his throat went bad!!  My subtle reminder that giving the mouth a bit of rest would do good to the aching throat was met with another explanation of the scientific reason behind it!! So much for the poor throat.

As I remember him, I recall the words of Fr Lens regarding the length of a sermon during Mass: "5 minutes," he would say!  "After that, the devil speaks!" Genuine listening, without interrupting or talking, is truly an art, a skill, a discipline.  Now that requires patience and leads to wisdom.  But to talk, I guess, even a sore throat would do! 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Resurrection and relationship

The question we hear in the Gospel of the day, "After resurrection, whose wife will she be?" is quite a human question.  We can judge it to be a very rude or arrogant question or one intended to put the listener into a catch-22 situation.  But if reviewed from a simple and ordinary perspective, it can be said to be a very common question. 

We human being are relational beings.  We tend to work our way through life, by the relations we make or break.  So for one to ask what would be her relation to the 7 husbands whom she married here on earth, is a very concrete and living question.  It makes the situation all more volatile when I hear this passage being used to describe God as the God of the living and not of the dead.  That interpretation of God actually puts God in contrast to the human life!!  The very fact that she had 7 husbands it because the previous one died!  So she did not have 7 husbands all at once.  She only had one husband all along!!  And now if we bring in the 'God of living' interpretation, all 7 are alive.  And then to ask is she married to all 7 is a bit ridiculous! 

The most sensible way I see this Gospel unfold for us the mystery of the resurrection is to challenge our understanding of relationship.  I believe relationship is a commitment.  Granted that every commitment includes boundaries and limitations; but if those boundaries and limitations over-ride commitment and the well being of those involved in the relationship, the connection is actually a strangulation, and all that exists is bondage!  In resurrection, we live our commitment to one another to its fullest - even to God.  Not as bonded labourers, who have no other go than to, but as free individuals who choose to.  

A blessing lost

Today during Mass - during Communion, to be precise - I witnessed a scene that made me feel sad.  It made me say those words that young John Bosco said of the priests who never replied to a simple greeting: "If I were a priest, I would not do that!" 

The scene was of a small boy (J), aged 6 or 7, approach the priest distributing communion, along with his mother.  I've seen and interacted with this boy and for him his small toy, Teddy, is the best thing in the world.  So every Sunday he brings it along with him to Mass.  Today he surprisingly brought in another toy - appeared like a tiger or a honey bee.  But what he does every time he approaches the priest for a blessing, instead of the Communion, is that he stands there holding his toy high up, for the priest to give it also a blessing!!  I guess his logic is, if I can be blessed, why not bless Teddy too! 

Unfortunately none of the priests so far have obliged him!  And every time his mother has to drag him off the line!  My simple question: What does one lose by giving that toy a gentle tap?  You don't even have to utter a blessing.  Just smile and tap the toy!  J does not want anything else!  He's not asking for his Teddy to be baptised as per the ritual.  Just a blessing!  And even if a priest did bless the toy, will the latter then become the body of Christ?  Or will his priestly power diminish? 

If blessing a toy is going to brighten the day of a little 6-year old, and with him that of his whole family, I'd gladly do it every day! In fact, it is not the boy who lost out on a blessing today, it is we grown ups, especially the clergy, and the Church as a whole, who've lost out on the blessing of a happy child!  

Documentation: Ayodhya issue as case

The article appearing on The Times of India online edition about the historical record of Ayodhya as a place of worship offers a reading which should be the basis on which any rational decision should be arrived at, with regard to issues whenever in dispute.  However, we often resort to every means other than checking records.  Primarily because we don't have records!! 

The article also makes interesting reading... how we come to know of Indian history from people who were not from India!  The article does well to explicitly state:
The British officials of the period demonstrated the opposite of the well-known Indian disregard for documentation. 
The article spells out how worship at Ayodhya was a joint-worship of Hindus and Muslims... peacefully and in perfect harmony... till 1857!  Besides the religious - or call it politicized religious - issue what makes interesting reading is the historical data provided.  And who recorded that data!

I think we Indians have a sort of allergy to put pen to paper!  We prefer the verbal testimony and that is how we think history should be recorded!  We really didn't learn very well from Valmiki, the first author, poet of the Ramayana.  If only we inherited his keen sense of recording history, in black and white, we would have had a better chance at being more 'educated'.  The same Valmiki is also credited with teaching the children of Rama and Sita the verbal song of the Ramayana.  Thus blessing us with both the verbal and written history record.  So later if there is any discrepancy between the two, the point of departure can well be traced and reasons for the same known - if people after Valmiki did what Valmiki did!  Even if they did not, at least we have the original document for further and future reference.  

Ayodhya: Historical record (reproduced article)

The following is the exact text of the article, as it appeared on the online edition of The Times of India on Nov. 10, 2019.  Just preserving it... before it disappears! Claim no credit to the content of it, but doing it purely for documentation... as the article rightly states we Indians "disregard (for) documentation." All merit of content is to The Times of India.  The original online article can be read here.

------

Accounts of European priest, travellers suggest both faiths worshipped at Ayodhya site pre-1857
by
Vaibhav Purandare


P Carnegy is not a name that will ring a bell in contemporary India. But this Britisher, an assistant commissioner of the Raj in Faizabad in the 1860s, is among those who played, unwittingly, a key role in providing champions of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement substantive material to make the case that Hindus had launched their struggle for the ‘janmasthan’ in Ayodhya much before the Ram Lalla idol was installed in 1949.

Writing a historical sketch of ‘Fyzabad’, as he spelt it, Carnegy wrote that until 1855, the year in which communal violence broke out in Ayodhya over possession of Hanuman Garhi and the ‘janmasthan’, “Hindus and Muslims alike used to worship in the mosque-temple."

But “since British rule (in 1858, that is) a railing has been put up to prevent disputes, within which in the mosque the Mahomedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings.”

Carnegy wasn’t the first to point to “joint worship” in the inner yard. That credit goes to Austrian Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler who visited Awadh circa 1770 and recorded that 12 “koti and kasauti” pillars supported the Babri Masjid’s interior arcades and that there stood a square box called the “bedi” or cradle at the entrance, “where Vishnu took incarnation as Ram”. Tieffenthaler’s theory was that it wasn’t Babar or Mir Baqi in 1528 but Aurangzeb in the 17th century who had destroyed the shrine “to deprive Hindus of their faith”. Yet, the Jesuit priest wrote, Hindus still came to the spot to do their circumambulation and prostrated.

The first to refer to an inscription inside the masjid which stated it was built in 1528 by Babar’s chieftain Mir Baqi was F C Buchanan, physician of Lord Wellesley, who visited Ayodhya between 1807 and 1814. And the first legal record came in 1822, when a superintendent in Faizabad court, Hafizullah, submitted his report in Persian saying “the mosque founded by emperor Babur is situated at the Janmasthana”, “adjacent to the kitchen of Sita”.

After that, records about the dispute and about the persistent Hindu claim to the disputed site piled up quickly, with other European travellers following in Tieffenthaler’s footsteps and British officials such as A F Millet taking the path trodden by Carnegy.

Millet, a land revenue officer of Faizabad district, stated in his report of 1880 that Hindus and Muslims had worshipped “alike” inside the structure, and the writer-traveller Edward B Eastwick recorded in his ‘Handbook of the Bengal Presidency’ in 1888 that before 1858, namaz and puja were both performed inside the shrine. The British officials of the period demonstrated the opposite of the well-known Indian disregard for documentation.

The gazetteers of 1854, 1881, 1892, 1905, the Archaeological Survey Report of 1891 and later archaeological and general survey reports of the 1930s reinforced the theory of the mosque having been constructed after demolishing a temple and of intermittent Hindu efforts to get the spot back.

The archaeological report of 1891 by A Fuhrer, who translated three inscriptions inside the mosque, corroborated Buchanan’s view that it was Mir Baqi who “by the order of Babar” had built the mosque circa 1520 “on the very spot where the old temple Janmasthanam of Ramchandra was standing”.

The old temple, Fuhrer said, “must have been a very fine one, for many of its columns have been used by the Musalmans in the construction of Babar’s masjid”. A police complaint launched by the muezzin of the Babri Masjid in November 1858 too became part of the ‘janmabhoomi’ docket for the protemple side. Syed Muhammad Khatib, who used to call the faithful to prayer in the mosque, had written to local cops a year after the 1857 revolt that a Nihang Sikh, a Bairagi (ascetic), was “on the rampage at the Janmasthan."

He had forcibly built a “chabutra in the middle of the Babri mosque” and had raised the platform and placed a flag, a picture and an idol, the muezzin complained, urging authorities to get the construction demolished and oust Hindus from the place, where, earlier, the “nishaan of Janmasthan lay for hundreds of years and Hindus used to do puja.” These documents were put forward by the Hindu side in the post-1985 VHP (and later BJP) agitation phase to buttress their case.

Friday, 1 November 2019

An alternative to the Golden Rule

During my year at Ramanthapur, on the day of my b'day, my family joined me and the community in the evening celebrations.  There was a grand cultural programme put up by the boys in the hall.  At one certain moment, my niece came over to me and sat on my lap.  I was sitting at the back of the whole group with my family.  One of the youngest boys, Ganesh (I still remember him well!) aged the same as my niece - 3 years - was sitting right in front of the whole group, closest to the stage.  He somehow noticed my niece on my lap.  There was a strange look on his face.  It was as if to say, if she can, why not I?  But that was also coupled with the knowledge (far ahead of his age) that he could not.  He turned back a couple of times to see if my niece was still sitting with me.  I very delicately led her back to a chair, beside me.

Later during the programme, when called upon the stage to cut the cake, my nephew and niece hopped along.  They are 'professional cake-cutters'! And they would never have missed this opportunity to cut the cake with me!  From the stage, I dared not look in Ganesh's direction.  And so I invited the whole batch of the youngest boys (Mamma Margaret home boys - we called them), all 21 or 22 of them, onto the stage to join me.  They didn't need a second invitation!

This incident flashed in my mind, the moment I read the article, offering an alternative to the Golden rule. The Golden Rule asks us to do unto others what I wish done to me!  The Chinese philosopher Mengzi, offers an alternative: Extend to the world, the love and reverence you already have for your parents and elders.  (How Mengzi came up with something better than the Golden Rule on Aeon).

The Golden Rule actually presumes an inherent self-love as primary to human nature, rather than love for others.  It basically asks one to transpose one's love for oneself, onto others.  Mengzi's alternative, rests on the basic premise that as human beings we naturally love others, especially our parents, relatives and elders in our immediate community.  While the goal of both the principles is the extended other, the starting point is distinct.  Mengzi's extension is based on the 'we' dimension rather than the 'I' perspective.  Two other distinctive characteristics, pointed out by the author Eric Schwitzgebel, of Mengzi's extension, also make great sense.  One, Mengzi's extension is a lesser/easier leap than the Golden Rule: from family-to-others rather than self-to-others.  Secondly, it in a way includes the starting point of the Golden Rule in as much as the extension can be applied to oneself.  If I want my dear ones to enjoy kindness and empowerment I can extend/apply it to myself too!
Care about me not because you can imagine what you would selfishly want if you were me. Care about me because you see how I am not really so different from others you already love.
Looking back at my interactive experiences with the boys at Ramanthapur, what guided me more than my love for myself, especially when it came to the younger ones, was my affection for Chris and Anet. After all, half of the boys were around the age of Chris.  

To be Christians/Saints

What does it take to be Christians?  What qualifies one to be a Christian...

Being poor, concerned, seeking after justice and peace, merciful, pure of heart, those willing to suffer for a just cause.  That's it!  For anyone looking for a roadmap to sanctity, the Beatitudes offer one summarized edition! These very virtues that bring us closer to God are also the very ones that help us become aware of our humanity. 

... and we're all called to be Saints! 

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Being Christians

What makes us Christian?  Very many think of being Christian as an identity that needs to be safeguarded.  It is something that we need to "protect" and "uphold" from all the rest of the peoples.  By being apart we preserve and show ourselves as Christians.  But that's the most unchristian thing to think and do! 

Being a Christian does not mean to be standing apart or worse, above others.  The yeast does not make any impact on the dough if it says to itself, "I'm not going to mingle with that un-yeast!  My identity is something higher than this dough and therefore I need to stand above the dough!"  Such a yeast is as good as absent!  For the yeast to leaven the dough, it needs to be mixed well with the latter.  Spread well, and because it mixes with it, the yeast by its mere presence does what it does best - transform the dough!  In the process the yeast is not too worried about safeguarding its identity.  The presence of the yeast is easily noticed by the everyone once the bread is baked and ready.  Once baked, there is neither yeast, nor dough! 

As Christians, we are called to be the yeast.  Our presence is meaningful and worth the name, only when we, being Christ-like, live for God and others.  If we are to live purely for ourselves, holding the placard of 'Christians' at a distance from others, we surely will survive but deprive ourselves of Christ. Imagine what Christians would be without Christ!  Not too hard to, just imagine what bread would be without yeast!  

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Generosity

Fr Sean narrated a story he heard from someone in Bootle sometime ago.  A small boy who loved cars once happened to see a large car roll up on the street he lived.  He ran out to admire it.  He saw a man get off it and excitedly asked, "Is that your car?" "Sure, it is," replied the man.  "It must be very costly!" stated the boy, to which the man replied, "I got it for free!"  The boy could not believe he ears.  "For free?  How come?" asked the boy. "My brother gave it to me," said the man.  The boy longingly looked at the car and said, "I wish..." 

Fr Sean paused at this point and asked us, "What would you have said if you were that little boy?"  At least my mind completed the boy's sentence thus: I wish I had a brother like that!  Fr Sean continued and said, the boy actually said, "I wish, I was that brother!" 

There is more joy in giving than in receiving.  

Monday, 28 October 2019

Encountering God

Zechariah when he entered the temple to offer incense-worship meets the angel Gabriel whose message marks the beginning of a totally different lifestyle not only for Zechariah but also for his whole family.  That morning as he entered the sanctuary, I'm sure he certainly did not expect to see the angel or get a vision.  

Most of us stroll through life totally oblivious of the numerous ways and means through which God calls on us.  We are either too busy after something we have set our minds to or are too lazy to hear and ultimately respond.  God constantly interacts with us in the little and big things of life.  The more we are attuned to this, the richer our life will be, constantly transforming and growing into a better image. Just like Zechariah whose life undergoes a major shift on encountering the angel and God's message, so too is our life bound to change when we become attentive to the encounters we have with God!  

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Being good

Being good by virtue of one's merit is one way of being good.  Another way, though not the best, is to ensure that one is better than the others.  That way one 'automatically' becomes good - when in comparison to others.  Another way: in order to appear good, make sure the others around appear bad! 

The Gospel of the day, wherein we read the prayer of the Pharisee and the Publican, we hear of another way of being good:  making our best effort and asking God to help us be good.  The Publican does that and is appreciated.  The Pharisee too is being good but at the cost of making others appear bad! The difference could as well be between appearance and being. 

However, cannot really blame the Pharisee.  He was actually keeping all the laws that he was taught and all the religious practices that he was indoctrinated with.  So in that sense taking pride in doing what is told and from centuries has been practiced and handed down cannot be negated outright.  The downfall however is in putting down the Publican.  Being good oneself does not require a quantitative measurement of the others goodness - unless one only wishes to appear good, among others.  

Friday, 25 October 2019

Mind, Cognition and Consciousness

Bibliography and resource tank for 'Mind and consciousness':

  • Interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn 'What is extended mind' (Aeon)
  • Andy Clark and David Chalmers (1998) 'The Extended mind'
  • Chalmers, 'The logical possibility of Zombies'
  • Chalmers, 'Consciousness and its place in nature'
  • Rorty, 'Incorrigibility as the mark of the mental' (self-knowledge, awareness, consciousness)
  • Jackson, 'What Mary didn't know' 
  • Crane, 'Intentionality as the mark of the mental' 
  • Searle, 'Minds, brains and programs'
  • Rorty, 'Mind-body identity, privacy and categories'
  • Smart, 'Sensations and brain processes' (materialism)
  • Sellars, Empiricism and the philosophy of mind XI-XVI 
  • Putnam, 'The nature of mental states' 





Clingfilm

I think I have a solution for preventing the "illegal" inflow of any and every species into this country - or for that matter any country: Clingfilm.  Yes, clingfilm.  Wrapping the whole country with clingfilm would certainly ensure that no one from outside the country, no non-native, whether human or insect, would gain entry.  I thought of bubble wrap, but I think clingfilm is better! 

We have this country right now dealing with the death of 39 Chinese immigrants and Inns (invasive non-native species).  So not only are human beings entering the country, even wasps, plants and insects too!  How dare they!  Back in India we have the NRC being brought into action to "weed out" illegal immigrants!  In South Africa, so far there was animosity against the white population who stayed on after the apartheid.  But now there is hatred against coloured fellow Africans too! (The Times, 25 October 2019).  Trump is praising his 'wall' built to keep away Mexicans and God-knows-who.  Not sure what is happening in China, because it already has a sort of clingfilm in place (at least on media).  Britain, a country which prides itself in being one of the world's leading brains, is entertaining the world - and itself - with this Brexit drama!  If leaving the EU was the most sensible things to do, come 3 years have come and gone and the country no better than when the result of the referendum was announced? 

I also understand that no country would like to be treated as a doormat, letting everyone walk-in and demand a better life.  That's the other extreme.  So is the fanatic fear of the non-native!  Letting in only those who can afford to pay or those who will benefit the local economy or toe the line of the ruling party is a very narrow and highly selfish access. 

So the most practical solution: clingfilm.  Security assured! Only problem is the same as with a fortress wall: Just like it prevents those outside from coming in, it also makes those within prisoners!  

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Amidst enthusiastic children

The interaction with Year 6 students of a local primary Catholic school to which I was invited along with a Priest, to share with them our vocation as priest and religious, was a very interesting experience.  These are just 10 or 11 year olds, grappling with huge words like commitment, consecration, ordination, vows, belief and most importantly seeking reasons and trying to explain these ideas to others.  These are concepts and values we discuss in our novitiate and novices fail to make head or tail of these things.  Here are 11-year olds, doing their best not just to make sense of them for themselves, but be able to explain it all to others!  That's a bold move. 

Loved every bit of it.  As we returned home, the other priest said, "Now I know why you love to teach!  You really were explaining to those kids, and not teaching philosophy!" Felt good being amidst young vibrant and enthusiastic children, quizzed about matters that take a lifetime to understand! 

Being human

A dog does not know itself as a 'dog'.  At the most, it knows the name that it is called by.  But the fact that the dog does not know its real self but only a designated name, does not affect the way a dog behaves.  It still is primarily a dog. 

Wonder if the same can be said of us human beings.  The whole process of naming a child and it growing up with additional identity markers in a way distances one from one's basic human nature and take on the 'added' identities as the primary characteristics of being human.  It is like the dog beginning to act as 'Ceasar' rather than as a dog - just because he is named Ceasar. 

Human beings are perhaps the creatures that have the best capacity to reflect on oneself and our own basic nature.  In such a situation, the added identities we acquire as we live our life in a family, in a society, in a particular culture, ... need basically to build on the basic human nature.  And in case the acquisition of an identity goes at a tangent with our basic humanness, then one has to make serious choice for what is basic rather than what is to be acquired.  Human life cannot be put at stake for a name tag, or a caste label or a bad word or scolding uttered by someone else.  

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Spider plant in a wine glass

My Spidey plant!  Planted a small twig in the end of May this year, when I returned from Farnborough after my retreat.  Have been taking care of it in my room all these days.  But will put it out in the dining room or hallway someday. Not sure though, how the others will feel about having things in cracked glasses!  I for sure don't, and neither does the plant!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Perseverance +

Persistence.

So often exalted as a virtue can also turn to be a death-trap.  Once we get into the rhythm and become so steadfast in something, there is a great danger to forget or sideline why did we chose to become persistent with something in the first instance. 

Perseverance is indeed a great virtue, demanding great discipline and patience.  Nonetheless, needs to be coupled with love (or atleast the noble motivation that prompted us to walk down this path of perseverance).  

Friday, 18 October 2019

Autumn in the Salesian Gardens

Autumn colours in the Salesian Garden...

Growing up

Came across a new children's book gathering attention.  It is by Charlie Mackesy who actually began to put up he sketches on instagram.  Liked the following picture... and the message:
Photo taken of The Times (Oct. 17, 2019).  Inset photo of Charlie Mackesy

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Holiness is grace

As I spent time in prayer this evening, and later talking to the confessor, it hit me hard that for quite sometime now, I've been thinking and trying to see what is it that I can do; that I need to do.  All this while, it never occured to me to think, what is it that the Lord wants me to do. 

I think what triggered this insight was what the preacher said about holiness.  He said, "We want to be holy.  We strive our best to be holy.  But we forget that it is God who makes us holy."  Though not very convinced of that one-sided affair of God making me holy while I sit there doing nothing. I also realised that doing things without Him, is equally empty.  Holiness is His grace and I have to respond.  Be aware.  Accept.  Be grateful for.  And build it up/share it around. 

So this evening's prayer: Lord, help me know what is it that you want me to do.  

Evening prayer in the car park

Our house is closest to the street and on side is the road leading into the cul-de-sac. So the Chapel is the one on that corner.  Usually we have all our windows closed and there is hardly any movement of the traffic heard.  But with any of the windows opened the traffic sound - luckily, none blare the horn - is quite audible.  However, this evening - thanks to our 'dial wars', wherein some raise the thermostat to high, while some others turn it the other way round to reduce the heat! - the Chapel windows were opened by Fr John. 

So we started our monthly recollection with the exposition of the Eucharist, then began our evening prayer, said the three psalms and the scripture reading and then paused for our silent reflection and time for confessions.  After a few minutes Fr John left the Chapel to make his confession in the adjoining meeting room.  As soon as he left, Fr Peter got up from his place and began closing the two open windows. Fr Sean, sharp as he is, loudly stated, "This is the first time I said evening prayer in a car park!"

I burst out laughing!  Am sure, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament too would have had a good laugh! 

Prophecy and spiritual direction

Two points reflecting on the life of St Margaret Mary Alacoque...

The first one is more a social aspect but nonetheless rooted in spirituality.  This aspect is true of most 'prophets' who are called for a particular purpose, specially to tell his or her fellow people that what they are up to is not the ideal - far from it.  The telling part may not be the most challenging part, but the living together, after that, certainly is.  So when God tells Mary Alacoque to go and tell the community members and the Church at large that they are to do penance and increase their fervour for the Sacred Heart, it is a challenge.  First of all, she certainly was not the eldest in the community.  Secondly, not the superior herself.  But she has to tell this 'revelation' to all, even those older to her, those who have lived their life in the convent, following the vows for donkeys years.  I guess the same must have been true for St Theresa of Child Jesus too.  The only exception where a 'prophet' is actually invited to share his wisdom is Daniel, when as a child he is called in to resolve the Susanna dispute.  For the rest, beginnings were/are never easy. 

The second point is the pivotal role of spiritual direction.  In moments of such intense or out of the ordinary experience, to have someone who can direct and help one discern what actually is happening around you, is such a blessing.  To be able to live one's daily life imbued by that divine experience, rather than be run over by it, to have someone help you make sense of what is happening to you rather than be totally overwhelmed and lost, is a great help.  

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

School education system

We had dining with us for the last week a couple of French teachers from France.  They were here with a group of French students on an exchange programme.  Tonight at table, they were sharing the experience of their students at our Salesian school here in Chertsey.  They (the students) always exited the classroom at the end of the day, eyes wide open and jaws hitting the floor!

That they attributed the ambiance and the whole attitude of the English school education system.  The French school education system is highly teacher-centric and regimented.  The system expects every student to fit in.  In contrast the English school education helps each child seeks and build on his or her own unique difference.  The pressure is not to blend in but bloom out!  So the emphasis is always on the child discovering his or her own potential and seeking ways to enhance it.

They made a very interesting observation regarding the school uniform. In France, school children mostly do not have a school uniform - but the education system is too formal and rigid.  In England, most schools insist on a precise school uniform - and that they found, furthers their growth in differentiating one another on the basis of their individuality. 

That confirms why most children here love going to school.  I've hardly seen any child cry or drag his or her feet on the way to school.  The only other place I've seen such joy on the faces of children going to school is in Shillong.  All the other places, the joy is only while returning from school!  

Monday, 14 October 2019

I am...

An interesting observation ... (found on Aeon):
The Western focus on internal change makes anthropological sense: people in the West fixate on the internal. Psychologists have demonstrated this with a simple experiment. When researchers at Lewis and Clark College and the University of Nevada in Portland, Oregon, asked people to finish the sentence ‘I am ______’, people from the Western world responded with phrases such as ‘happy’, ‘a fun person’, or ‘a health-nut’. Meanwhile, rural Kenyans or Pacific Islanders said things such as ‘a mother’ or ‘a member of the Makea family’. Whereas most people define themselves by their relationships, people in the West emphasise their interests and personalities.
I'm not sure how the notion of 'interests and personalities' is internal and relationship is not.  Interests and personalities are actually outward tending - only in their expression is their realisation.  I fail to see how relationship is different.  Only in its exercise is a relationship alive.  One way of viewing relationships is restrictive.  They bind us to individuals.  On the other hand, is the fact that being in a relationship does not 'limit' us.  Rather than see as restrictive, relationships can be seen as linking, bridging. 

Anyway, that's a digression!

Am still amused by...
most people (rural, non-educated, tribal...) define themselves by their relationships, people in the West (educated, urban...) emphasise their interests and personalities.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

'Parent' in Hindi?

One strange insight that hit me hard the other day, while talking in Hindi to one companion from India, at the university the other day: Hindi does not have a word for 'parent'!  We have a word for 'mother', a word for 'father' but not for 'parent'.  The closest word we use for parent in Hindi is माँ बाप or माता पिता ... that is 'mother-father'. 

Or perhaps nuanced Hindi has one, but it certainly is not in common use.  I wonder why is that so.  How come the English (Western?) language coined a common word to indicate both parents while the ancient Hindi never really thought it necessary to have a single word denoting both parents.  Parents were always specified as 'mother-father'.  

Why question the Samaritan?

In the gospel of the day, where Jesus heals the ten lepers and only one returns to thank him, Jesus asks the one - the Samaritan - 'where are the other nine?'
The cleansing of the lepers by Bicol Peryodiko
On first analysis it can be said that Jesus is expecting a 'thank you' from all those whom he cures.  However, the whole passage taken into account is to tell us a message to be grateful.  Not discounting that important and powerful message, how justified is Jesus in asking that question to the Samaritan who returns to thank him?  After all, he is the one who came back.  Jesus should have stopped at praising him for his sense of gratitude.  Why question him?  It is like giving a serious reprimand about coming late for Mass, during the introduction to the Mass -  but who are the recipients? Those who have come on time! 

However, I think there is one possible circumstance which justifies Jesus questioning the only one who returned about those who did not.  Just think of those ten lepers.  They were living outside the village.  Ostracised.  Not welcome into the village.  Surely the only people whom they could contact were the other nine lepers! They certainly were the only support for one another.  None else.  In such a circumstance their bond would surely have been strong.  And when ultimately they did receive the cure, to think that they forgot all about their only 'friends' and 'family' is unlikely.  Didn't or couldn't the one who thought of thanking Jesus spoken to the other nine and said, "Come let's thank him first!"

Or another scenario: Perhaps the other nine were fulfilling the one command of Jesus - Go, show yourselves to the priests.  And then returning to thank Jesus!  So it is actually the Samaritan, who broke ranks with the other nine and returned half way, without having met the priests.  Who knows, the other nine were on their way to thank Jesus!  

Faith

The gospel of the day, where Jesus heals the ten lepers and only one of them - a Samaritan, at that - returns to thank him for his cure, exudes of the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude.  However, what struck me most in the passage is the faith of the ten lepers. 
The cleansing of the lepers - Bicol Peryodiko
There are these ten men, lepers, outside the village.  Ostracized.  Marginalised.  Not having anyone to whom they can meet or contact with.  All that they ask Jesus as he passes is for the curse of leprosy to be take away.  "Lord, have mercy!" And in reply all that Jesus says or does is "Go show yourselves to the priests!" And they go!  Jesus did not offer them a long mantra for healing.  Nor did he dole out any treatment by way of ointment or medicine.  Just the instruction to show themselves to the priests.  And what faith must these men have to obey his instruction right away.  No one asks a question.  Or a clarification.  None asking him what will happen then.  Or when will they be cured.  Or even the basic doubt of 'will the priests see us in this leprous condition?'  They just go!

Looking at my own life, I see it riddled with so many questions and doubts and concerns.  That even after I receive answers, signs and solemn indicators, I've not moved much in the direction I'm asked to move!  

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Gratitude

Thinking about thankfulness and gratitude, the theme of the Gospel tomorrow, where Jesus cures the ten lepers and only one returns to thank him, I remembered reading an article recently about how gratitude adds value to life. 

However, even at the end of the article, I still did not see what different or 'scientific' was the whole argument about.  It was like stating what we already know - or is it?  The article (found on Aeon) basically argued for gratitude to be the simplest way to lead a life of well-being, primarily also because gratitude leads one to grow in other virtues. 
NJlifehacks

I think there is basically - more in India than here in the West - a sense of entitlement.  That one is entitled to what one receives;  and for what one is entitled to one need not go about being grateful to others, certainly not to the ones 'below' us! And for those we pay, they are not doing us a favour.  They are getting paid for it, so why 'thank' them?  But the whole notion of gratitude is not about justice or balance.  It is not as if to set right the equation, that one thanks.  Basically gratitude is an attitude, not a means we use to level off trade or equations.  And the best thing about gratitude: there are no adverse side-effects, only further advantages! 

Cicero did have a point when he stated:
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, it is the parent of all others.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Vocation promotion

Listening to a talk on vocation came across a very different image of the whole process of vocational discernment and guidance.  That of a person using a metal detector!

The idea is that in today's world, vocation (in particular, to religious or Salesian religious life) is not something that is apparent or evident.  Even for the concerned individual. Leave alone for the one helping others to make a choice for religious life.  It is like buried under several things/layers.  Exactly like one searching for something special or different, using a metal detector, the one searching has to cover a lot of area.  Often finding nothing.  Pay great attention to even the slightest indicator for he or she never knows where exactly is the object located.  Searching for those indicators which are not always very prominently visible.  Makes sense for someone involved in vocation promotion. 

However, the drawback of this imagery is that this gives the appearance of vocational guidance as a distant and technical task. Also as something of a detached task from the mission one is engaged in (as in a hobby) or that it is the only mission (much like vocation promoters in our Indian provinces - full timers).  Not something that as an offshoot of the mission, prolonged and communitarian.  Nevertheless, the analogy is worth further reflection. 

The Emmaus story

The Gospel event of the Emmaus experience consistently continues to amaze me.  Perhaps it is the one event narrated in the Bible that I've found myself reflecting on most recurrently.

This evening it occurred to me that Jesus while joining the two disciples was leading them in the opposite direction.  Rather than lead them back to Jerusalem, where the whole action was being unfolded, he walks with them, in the opposite direction.  Then the comedy of the fact, the disciples reach Emmaus only to run back to Jerusalem, the place where they started their journey! Back to square one! 

One way of looking at it is that God often leads us away from where we are and where we think we ought o be, only to lead us in the opposite direction.  Perhaps later in life we get back to where we initially wanted to be, but then we are not anymore the same person who started off.  The journey, the new place we've been to, and the whole experience of the while, transforms us and our view of the place we are so convinced we actually ought to be in. 

Another way of looking at it is that God joins us in our journey. He does not cause abrupt u-turns in our life, just because he wants to or because that's where we are supposed to be.  He basically accompanies us, even if we are in a totally different direction.  It is in our daily living that we encounter God.  In our everyday choices and decisions.  He accompanies us.  The decision to change or retain paths is always ours!  

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Holy Family at St Peter's Hospital

Found the following nice and simple sculpture of the holy Family, at St Peter's hospital multi-faith Chapel where I joined Fr Peter for the evening Mass...
Nice little place, the chapel itself.  Most importantly, a very devout and close-knit group of faithful, most of them Filipinos and the remaining Polish and Indian.  All of them working at the hospital and until recently missing out Sunday Mass because of the work shifts.  They are truly happy and immensely grateful to Fr Peter makes himself available for celebrating Mass for them on Saturday evenings. 

It will decide everything...

A quote of Pedro Arupe, as quoted by Fr Gerry in his September circular:
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything... It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Reputation and honour

Quote for the day:
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honour is what you know about yourself.  Guard your honour.  Let your reputation fall where it will. 
Lois McMaster Bujold, novelist, A Civil Campaign (1999).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

A full circle: Fr Lens

At last the autobiography of Fr Lens has seen the light of the day!  It has been rolling around offices and desks for the past 5 years!  I'm sure Fr Lens is smiling away from his place above - not at the former fact, but at the latter dynamics! 

I think it was Thathi's visit to Europe that really propelled the text to the printers desk.  Luckily Baly is now in-charge of publications and he got Salva to "redo" the design and layout.  Kalyan, while he was the Province Secretary, is the one who initially got it typed out (from the printed paper that was originally handed down by Fr Lens).  I proof-read and edited it a couple of times (always starting afresh from the original text) over the past 5 years.  Fr Pandi, I'm sure will know the text by-heart, for he has done the greatest amount of work on correcting it again and again for more than half a dozen times (Asked twice by me, by Fr Balaraju, Kalyan, then by Benny, and then by Ashok...and a couple of others in between!). 

Thathi informed me that the obituary too has been printed - though only a few copies.  That was another of my attempts to force out the publication of Fr Lens' autobiography.  I had individually asked some confreres to pen a few of their memories with Fr Lens.  Was a bit disappointed to see that not all those who sent in their precious testimonies have been included.  I guess that is what happens when things keep rolling from desk to desk - they get lost, especially if they are loose bits and not bound together! Those who sent in by e-mail, I surely would have it in my inbox.  But there were others who sent me hand-written notes.  Those I'm not sure where they are at present.  (I need to keep the rough drafts or get the rough drafts and digital copies of such kinds with me - no use blaming others for misplacing them years later!).

Of course, thanks to Fr Lens himself for having put down his life story.  But greater thanks to Fr Balaswamy who "ordered" him to write it!  I was the first to hear of the existence of this text from Fr Balaswamy a day after Fr Lens passed away in 2014.  Fr Lens had given the text (printed hard copy) to Fr Balaswamy, on condition that it would be made public only posthumously. So during the funeral Mass at Karunapuram, Fr Bala made the official announcement of its existence and handed it over to Fr Balaraju, the then Provincial.  That was in November 2014.  Now it is September 2019! 

There is a book release planned and being organised by the Belgium Salesian province on October 5 - the birthday of Fr Lens!  Thathi has carried with him copies of the printed work for the occasion. In one sense, am happy that Fr Lens is making it a full circle: he was born in Belgium and now one of his own testament (written) is returning to Belgium 98 years later!  I'm sure his sisters (know not how many of the 5 are still alive - but that some are!) would are thrilled and looking forward to this occasion.  While the book itself is a 'relic', his greatest legacies are all of us, those privileged to have known him and been inspired and touched by his life!  

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Holy bath!

Was really amused to read the following headline as I scoured the news yesterday...
Russian priests dump holy water on city from a plane
Another headline states it all. 
Priests pour 18 gallons of holy water over Russian city to stop 'Alcohol consumption, drugs and fornication'. 
Really? 
Then went on to read the whole news article on Newsweek.

At first I had a very good laugh.  Then I said to myself, cannot be so judgemental!  After all, they are doing something - something - to address the issue.  However, hope that that was not the only and best thing the priests (and the bishop) thought that they could do to address the issue of people drinking and taking drugs.  Wouldn't mind, if this was 'another' means of addressing the issues of the society.  But if this was the only means they resorted to or could think of, then there isn't a better joke for the week!  

Power and authority

Took Thathi to Cambridge yesterday.  It was amusing to see him take in that whole structure as his vision of "Cambridge" crumbled! 

Anyway, spent time at King's College Chapel.   In one of the small displays was the following text, written in the context of King Henry VI (or written by him??):
The king's power came from heaven, 
but on earth it depended on the loyalty of his people.  

His authority was threefold:
it came down from heaven
and up from the people
it carried along on earthy by natural succession, 
and political achievement.  

Though the latter part is very hierarchical, I found the opening sentence very insightful.  However great a king may claim his power to be, it actually lay in the loyalty of his people. 

In the first reading of today, there is the whole list of virtues an elder and a deacon is expected to have had, as per St Paul in the days of early Christianity. The last of the expected qualities of an elder:
He should be a man of respect even among the non-believers.  
Genuine power and authority are endowments from those around you, not exercised over them!  

Celebrating the past

Over the last weekend we had the centenary celebrations of the Salesian school at Chertsey. Personally, I found the 'celebrations' light years apart from the way we celebrate such occasions back in India.  Not commenting on those aspects, there was (only) one thing that appealed to me: the celebration offering a possibility for past pupils to interact with one another. 

If the two days were packed with a heavily planned programme wherein there is some activity or the other to keep busy everyone, especially present students, the visitors (mostly past pupils) would have hardly any time to interact with one another. I like the idea of creating an ambience where they could chat and share and recall old days in their own spontaneous groups.  An informal, unorganised walk down memory lane in smaller groups would have really been a great refreshment.  The visitors then are free to relive and make new memories, without being passive recipients of some historic narration. 

Power of words

Received the following text a few days ago:
I guess it is in light of the Brexit mess that UK finds itself entangled in...
Earlier we had empires and emperors who ruled over these empires.  Then we had kingdoms and kings ruled.  Now we have countries! 
Someone surely is quite pissed off!  Nonetheless, not counting the political tone or slant of that, the text is a very clever use of language to convey a very subtle, sharp and scathing remark!  Like Fr Maliekal saying, "saying without telling!" 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Waterproof... upto 2 hrs

As usual, had to come across something very amusing in the weekly market at Moreton-in-marsh. There was this lady selling cheap waterproof light jackets.  But was amused to see "... up to 2 hours" under 'Waterproof'!  When asked, she was honest in acknowledging that after two hours, you get wet!!
She could have very well titled it as 'waterproof' and left it at that. None would have questioned her!  But she was honest and sincere in putting up this deficiency of the jackets! Some business ethics there!

At Cotswolds

Visited Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-water in the Cotswolds today.  It was a lovely journey in the coach - my first time travel in a coach (bus!) in the UK.  The Cotswolds is a perfectly rural area and therefore everything was appealing.  In the former place we walked around the Tuesday market.  At Bourton-on-water we were surprised to see the number of tourists there!  The place is just a small street on either side of a small riverlet!  But very beautiful - just that natural beauty of the place attracts so many tourists there.

Had for company the elderly of Chertsey area.  All retired people filling in their time by visiting places and spending money!  Since there were not many takers for this trip, got a chance sponsored by one of the parishioners.  So hopped in!  But am happy to have met some of them and spend time chatting with them!  It was good!
At the entrance to the Motor museum




Bourton 'river': It was just ankle deep... but clear cool water!

Plenty of low bridged across the river - the greatest tourist attraction of the place

All along the river, in the town, on either side are eateries - all bustling with customers!


St Lawrence's Church... nice small but beautiful Church. 
Liked the way the pews were arranged to face the sanctuary...

Monday, 9 September 2019

CAFOD and Peru

This evening I attended a CAFOD presentation in the Parish, after a 'creation' Mass - of course, did not know what was 'creative' about the Mass, or why was it qualified as a 'creation' Mass.  Anyway, the presentation after the Mass was quite appealing.  The main speaker was a CAFOD staff member overseeing its outreach programme in Peru.  Most of what she spoke about, in terms of the ground situation, the modes of intervention and the expected outcomes and accountability checks, was familiar to me.  In fact, one of the participants whom I know well, came up to me and said, "You could very well state the same of India as well." And I couldn't agree more.  However, he also added, "It could very well be the same here in UK! It is just that we most often do not accept that fact!"  I mentioned to him the scientific principle of physics: Matter can never be annihilated. It only changes form. 

A couple of things I learnt about Peru tonight. 

  • That after Bangladesh and Honduras, it is the third country in the world most susceptible to climate change and environmental factors.  I thought Philippines and some of the south-east Asian countries would make the 'top ten'.  
  • Lima, the capital of Peru, is the second largest desert capital cities of the world - after Cairo (Egypt). Well it was hard to digest that fact, given that Peru is in the heart of the Amazon region.  How can one expect to find a 'desert' there?  But in spite of 60% of Peru coming under the Amazon region, its capital city is a geographical 'desert'!  

Man with a withered hand!

The gospel of the day speaks about the man with a withered hand.  I could not contain my amusement when I was distracted at that very moment by our crucifix behind the altar.  Jesus there on had his finger clipped!  The same was the story with the child Jesus in Mother Mary's arms in the statue of Mary Help of Christians. 





After Mass just to confirm my crazy theory that all our 'Jesus' in the house had a withered hand, that too their left hand, I went around to check on the statues. True to my theory, all - each and every statue we have in the house of Jesus or even that of Mother Mary alone - have their fingers clipped!  The only exception was Jesus in our office - his right hand was withered!!  
  
 So much for the reflection on 'the man with a withered hand'! 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Sweet spice!

Besides tomatoes, the most vibrant growth in the garden this year has been of the scotch bonnet plant.

I planted the only seed I could gather from a pod given by a neighbour last year, this January, soon after I returned from home.  Let it sprout and grow for almost three months in my room itself.  Then once the summer heat began I transplanted it in a pot and it really shot up! It now has more than two dozen spicy pods!  Only problem is I know not what to do with them.  People here are so frightened of its spice that even to cut it they use thick plastic gloves.  (Most Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 80,000–400,000 Scoville units. For comparison, most jalapeño peppers have a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale!!) Whatever it be, seeing it grow has been a real joy! 

Shoeology

A new branch of study...

Found at a shoe shop in Farnborough! 

Saturday, 7 September 2019

People as treasures

Quote of the day!
Some people are such treasures that you just want to bury them! 
Thanks to Jules for this hilarious one! 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Women and economic prosperity

An interesting connection between women in society and economics...
Furthermore, because newly married couples set up independent homes, rather than a newly married woman being absorbed into the groom’s family, marriage responded to the motions of the economy. If fortunes took a turn for the worse, people postponed marriage and, with it, baby-making. They had to – until they could afford otherwise. This affected population dynamics in a way that helped to keep population growth in check, enabling the economy to support a higher wage. The relatively greater degree of women’s freedom in Europe meant that the economy entered its virtuous circle in which higher wages and productivity growth positively fed back on each other.
This particular extract is speaking specifically about women in Britain, especially since the Industrial revolution. I've most often looked at the social and cultural aspect of marriage and family life, never really thought about the economic implications these factors play. 

Perhaps never felt the need to look at the economic dimension of anything at all!

The full article on Aeon, is titled Sex and Prosperity. The article is also a good reflection on the politicization of woman's body. 

Raising quality

While driving to Slough this afternoon happened to notice this large truck ahead of me with this very creative ad for Invopak (a packaging firm, I guess).  Impressive ad!  The tagline itself was good.  But then the background pic, elevates those words to a totally different level!

Prayer for vocations... somewhere!

Every morning during morning prayers we pray for vocations - to and for all sorts; parenting, married life, jobs, religious life, Salesian religious life... Everyday one particular group.  Of course, of these intercessions, given the present shrinking number of Salesians in UK and in Europe, the one closest to our heart is for the Salesian religious life.  There's a small bookmark with set prayers for each group that we use for this purpose. 

This morning as Fr Sean was leading the prayers and towards the end, he announced the title of the intention: Prayer for vocations.  And then, flipping through his breviary to locate the prayer card and unable to do so, softly exclaimed, "somewhere".  

I almost burst out laughing.  The irony of 'Prayer for vocations... somewhere!' was too much for me to keep quiet.  While Fr Sean's expression was as an innocent sign of exasperation at not finding the prayer card, and I did recognise that, my mind took a leap ahead to think of actual vocations ... somewhere!  

While those of us from India - and other parts of the world, where there is a steady number of young people coming forward to join us Salesians - may take pride in this fact, it is still a cause of concern, at least for me.  Most of our vocations are not from Salesian settings.  They are youngsters who accidently heard of Don Bosco or literally strayed into the aspirantate!  Not that they are bad or shallow - far from it!  But my concern is about the youngsters in our own settings.  There are thousands of youngsters with whom we are in touch with for years - every day of their life, in schools, colleges and boardings.  Then there are those in our parishes and youth centres, whom we may not meet daily but do have a regular contact with.  If these youngsters who know us from close quarters are not willing to explore their Salesian vocation, then there is something wrong with those of us who are already professed as Salesians!  Vocations are the fruit of our youth ministry!  Not the other way round! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Nothing human is alien to me

While replying to someone regarding Human Rights and an approach based on it and their effort to see/show how that whole endeavour is not different from a genuine understanding of spirituality (for us, Gospel values), I was reminded of one of Fr Maliekal's "sayings": Nothing human is alien to Christianity.

Trying to see whose quote was that, I came across the fact that the original is slightly different one... and one with a powerful story as well.  The original quote is in Latin and attributed to Terence, a famous playwright who lived in 170 BC.

A Roman senator by name Terentius Lucanus once brought (bought?) Terence to Rome as a slave.  He educated him and on finding his amazing talents and capabilities, set him free.  Terence making the most of the progressive Roman civilization and enjoying his freedom, became a playwright.  The above Latin quote is one of his sayings.  It means
I am a man; I consider nothing that is human alien to me. 
Considering the fact that he was a slave and one who could have ended up in an iron collar all his life or on a lion's platter, could go on to make a life for himself and that too to take life in his stride.  No ill will, no inequality, no 'backlogs'.  To be able to see and appreciate humanity in and through the multitude of dividing factors of socio-politico-religious life.  
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