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Flawed Humans

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 19 Apr 2024, 12:35

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There are people who think they know you. They can look through you with the penetrating eyes of an eagle. But they judge according to their own flaws, and assume everyone is like them.

However, they never realise the effort you put in to raise yourself above human imperfection. This deserves considerable self-acknowledgement, and it is before God we will stand or fall.

 

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans “14:4 (BSB).

 


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Unique Survival Technique

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In her book, Haiku Mind, Patricia Donegan explains that Robert Aitken was incarcerated in a Japanese prison camp in 1944. By chance he met a R.H Blyth, a translator of haiku. Robert began a study of this poetry form. I wonder, did having this purpose on in life pull him through? I once read about a man who survived  Auschwitz who when asked why he never gave up? He replied, "I began reading a book and I wanted to finish it."

I wonder what that book was?

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Oh, What a Tangled Web We have Made For Ourselves

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As we age, our priorities change. What were issues yesterday, such as Brexit, the economy, Covid, and the election of Donald Trump, will have little consequence in the life of future generations, albeit, we do not have complete freedom?

As Karl Marx wisely said,

‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.’

Yes, endeavours of past generations visit upon us now for good or bad. It is a sociological fact.

Take as an example The Enlightenment. Since that period, man has slowly endeavoured to bury God. Now in this 21st century, the Christian is the minority. But with what consequences? Our laws, and by extension, our conduct, was governed by the laws of Biblical morality.

We mostly agreed that it was wrong to commit adultery, to steal, to lie, to covet and to love your neighbour, and the greatest principle, to hold God in high esteem. However, we have slowly erased God out the picture like some subtle conjuring trick. With what consequences? Family life has eroded. Greed has caused companies to exploit. Man has become selfish to the point of ruining the planet. We have lost trust in each other. Narcissism is at an all-time high as the “I” stands up like a meercat. And humankind, rather than forming social bonds are drifting into lonesome cyber-hives as each child has a computer and tv in their bedrooms. Resulting in painful loneliness and depression.

We are a lost generation. As Nietzsche proclaimed, ‘We have killed God…How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of murderers.’

We are deep in a period of existential angst. We are on a planet that provides evidence of a loving God. Think of the beauty of our landscapes and how we can enjoy it in colour with eyes to see. And there is the variety of wildlife above and below. There are stars and a moon to light the night and a sun to illuminate the day.

We have rich inner lives by means of consciousness. We can enjoy music, the sounds of birds, the formation of words into poetry and a rich variety of food.

So, what do we tell future generations? We tell them about God and what he has done. 

‘When I consider your heavens,

The work of your finger

The moon and the stars,

Which you have set in place,

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you take care of them?

Psalm 8:3,4 (BSB).

 


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Shirin-yoku on a Scottish Island

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 12 Apr 2024, 15:25

Some days I wake in Bullerbyn, some days I wake in Narnia. To lift the latter there is nothing better than a morning of what the Japanese call Shirin-yoku or forest bathing.

Yesterday we had a full tank, so my wife said, “let’s go to Bute.” I needed no little persuasion. So off we went on the half-hour drive to the ferry terminal at Wemyss bay for a day trip round the island.

Our car took us out the town to a peaceful place encapsulated in some ancient trees where one is at one with nature. The spring day cast incredible images over the landscape that swept down to the sea. And to crown the moment, there was the welcoming curiosity of of new born lambs

I said to my wife, “When God and Christ Jesus bring about the Restoration and the promised paradise, I would feel eternally grateful to live here.”

Our next stop was Kilchattan Bay, where a flock of sheep chilled in the middle of the road. No worries: we just admired the view whilst these balls of wool in matchstick legs decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the road.

And there's the strangers we meet: farmers, fellow travellers and locals (All part of nature). Mary Wollstonecraft, one wrote about the strangers we meet on travel and the melancholic regret of not getting to know them fully. Alas, such is life.

Back home, we sat down to some sea bass and basmati rice . I then woke in the morning refreshed by the rhythms of nature and, and the spiritual dimensions captured in Runrig's Travellers,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XoHlVvFaSo&list=RD7XoHlVvFaSo&start_radio=1


Restoration: Acts 3: 21

https://biblehub.com/acts/3-21.htm



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A coffee, a poem, and a wonderful sight

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I live on Scotland's west coast, so It's the time of the year to watch migrating birds crossing over from Canada, Newfoundland and the Western Islands.

I watched vast flocks of geese  crossing over. Flock upon flock in the two hours. They had crossed over from Canada, braving the cold Atlantic performing their yearly migration. It’s one of creations great wonders.

There they were, huge efficient flying machines weighing anything up to ten kilos and flying in military formation, each one taking turns in the driving seat to reduce air turbulence for their fellow migrants.

It’s just under 6000 kilometres as the goose flies. It is an incredible feat of fuel efficiency; a plane would use any figure dancing around 50,000 kilograms of fuel. I believe in former centuries, day would turn to night due to the magnitude of the flock as they blocked the sun on their crossing.

I shed a tear for these creatures as I see the effort they make. It is poignantly captured in Violet Jacob's poem, The Wild Geese which I have translated into modern English:

"And far above the Angus valley I saw the wild geese fly

A long, long flock of beating wings with heads towards the sea

And yes they're crying voices trailed  behind the air

Oh wind have mercy, hold your force as I cannot listen more"

My wife read Jeremiah 8:7 to me. It reads,

…the stork in the heaven knows her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming. KJV.

I prayed a silent prayer in praise to the creator at his wonders of creation.


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All Books Have Happy Endings, Right?

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As a youth, I went on a scout camp to the Scottish Highlands. Brendon was our Akela and Sandra, an American, was the girls’ scout leader on the campsite we shared. Stuck in a valley with persistent rain, it was a washout. But one of the highlights was a daily reading from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was the first book that made me angry, made me cry, and made me question racial injustices. Why would anyone write a book with such an unhappy ending?

Life for the protagonist, Tom, was endurable. His master, Mr Shelby, was a kindly man, but a businessman who accumulated debt. The novelist, John Gardner, wrote that ‘Every novel is based on two plots. Someone goes on a journey, and someone comes to town.’ The stranger who came to town was a Mr Haley, a cruel slave owner who purchased Tom to clear the debt for Shelby. Young Shelby Junior promised Tom when he got the money, he would buy Tom back.

Tom’s journey of beatings, deprivations and cruelty rose to a deathly climax when he landed in the hands of Simon Legree, a savage slave owner. When Sandra, our reader, got to the chapter, where Legree beats Tom to within an inch of his life, her voice trembled and her eyes began to fill up, as did mine. Brendon, aware of Sandra’s emotional reaction, paused the reading by asking us what the main theme of the book was? No one answered. Sandra raised her hand and said, ‘Justice.’ I never understood that. No one explained. How can justice be at play? The black slaves were abused. One thing the book taught me was that others have had a worse life than me. My treatment from Mr Farley and tension at home was nothing compared to the cruelty of slavery fictionalised by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the writer.

A recent reading of the book took me to the part where Sandra got upset all those years before at the scout camp. When Tom is beaten and left for dead, Shelby Junior turns up to buy him back as promised:

George Shelby, the son of the owner finally retrieves Tom, but he is a kind of shell, not much left. ‘Oh Master George, it’s too late.’

‘You shan’t die, you mustn’t die, I’ve come to take you home,’ said George with impetuous vehemence.

‘Oh, Master George, you’re too late, the Lord’s bought me. Come to take me home and I long to go. Heaven’s better than Kentuck.’

And herein lies the justice that Sandra referred to all those years ago. Tom, the first genuine Christian I ever met, albeit in fiction, was faithful, kind, and loving. Justice was served as a means of hope with the immortal line, ‘Heaven’s better than Kentuck.’ Legree couldn’t punish Tom anymore. ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,’ Jesus said. Justice for Tom would be served in the afterlife.




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The Rabbi and the Tomb

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 5 Apr 2024, 13:43



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As I mentioned yesterday, a while back, I was visiting the Jewish quarters in a European country. I went to enter the ancient graveyard, but the rabbi came out and apologised and said it was ‘closed for the evening,’ but went on to say, ‘They will be coming out soon.’

I mentioned Ecclesiastes 9:5 and quoted it to him,

‘For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.’ (BSB)

I then went on to tell him a story about two little girls who were talking about Jesus,

            ‘Where did Jesus go when he died?’ One girl said.

            ‘He stayed in the tomb for three days,’ the Christian girl replied.

            ‘What is a tomb?’

            ‘It’s like a drawer where your mum keeps all her important things, but the tomb is a drawer only God can open.’

Out of the mouth of babes come incredible truths. And that brings us back to the discussion we had yesterday. We may have 70 – 80 years of life, but think about it, our cells renew every few days, months, and every ten years in the case of bone cells. We were meant to live forever. Well, that was until sin entered the world. Sin, like a disease brought humankind to its knees.

Jesus spoke about the tomb in John 5: 28,29,

‘Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming, in which all those who are in the tombs will here his voice and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live…’

There you go, the drawers will open.





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The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty if we are strong

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 5 Apr 2024, 13:46

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The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty if we are strong—. Psalm 90:10 (BSB).


I turned 68 today. Two to twelve years left according to the limits set on humankind. Sure, there are a few centenarians around, but I assume the Bible is speaking about averages.

I am grateful for the 68 years. A walk round the Glasgow Necropolis puts life in perspective when I see children entombed and cut short by cholera and other debilitating illnesses that silently scourged the population in the Victorian era.

I also think of the chances of having life at all. In the large genetic lottery, the chances of me being born is greater than winning any lottery. Firstly, my parents had to meet, fall in love, and procreate. Out of the millions of sperm cells, one had to fertilise the egg, combine the genetic information, and allow it all to grow and produce a baby two months later. The chances of all that occurring is like bouncing up and down blindfolded on a bouncy castle with a ton of sand and choosing the correct grain of sand. A miracle indeed.

I am grateful for the countries ice explored, the people I have met, the genuine friends I have made and the skills I have developed.

I love nature, hillwalking, meeting people, enjoying nice meals in good company and simple things like standing by an ocean or watching the stars. Life is good and I am grateful.

Some time ago, I was visiting the Jewish quarters in a European country. I went to enter the ancient graveyard, but the rabbi came out and apologised and said it was ‘closed for the evening,’ but went on to say, ‘They will be coming out soon.’

I mentioned Ecclesiastes 9:5 and quoted it to him,

‘For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. ‘(BSB).

I then went on to tell him a story. I will tell you the story tomorrow.


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Philia: the love among friends

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In 2009, I was returning home from Rome. On the way to the airport, I noticed the sign for Via Appia (The Appian Way). I was reminded of a Bible account where the Apostle Paul was being transferred from Jerusalem to Rome under armed guard to have his case heard in 58 A.D. As Paul walked along this ancient road, news of his journey came to the attention of his fellow Christians in the city. Luke reports Pauls words:

‘The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us.’

The Forum of Appius was a usual stopping place 64 km from Rome. The poet Horace described it as “festered with frogs, gnats, boatmen and stingy tavern-keepers”. The Three Taverns was a traveller’s inn 58 km from the capitol. What I find moving about this account is that the Christians of Paul’s day were prepared to walk all that way to support their spiritual brother. When Paul caught sight of them, he thanked God and took courage. The Greek word for courage (tharséō) from the source language of the New Testament, carries with it the warm-hearted thought of emboldening with inner strength.

I wonder, I just wonder, how many Christians would do the same for a fellow believer?



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"And the Sea Gave Up Their Dead"

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 5 Apr 2024, 13:46


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Having grown up in a maritime city, I was no stranger to stories of shipwrecks off the Scottish west coast. One that fascinated me was the story of HMY Iolaire. This was a vessel that was returning to the Island of Lewis on Scotland’s west coast on January 1, 1919.

On board were no ordinary group of passengers, but 283 men who were returning from WW1. As they anticipated returning to their families after much deprivation and discomfort of the war, they no doubt looked forward to catching up on the lost years of absence.

The waters were hostile that day and the captain struggled to negotiate a safe passage. Suddenly, the ship struck rocks and 201 of the 283 men perished.

When the bodies were recovered, in their pockets were toys. Yes, toys. Toys for their children whom they had dearly missed. Gifts that would re-establish the lost years with their relationship with their little ones.

I am comforted by the promise made in God's word at Revelation 20: 12,13 where we read the following:

'And there were open books, and one of them was the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds.'



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Dostoevsky and Universal Justice

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 29 Mar 2024, 09:25


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The Ark of the Universe... Bends Towards Justice--Martin Luther King Jnr


In 2010, I picked my copy of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov from my bookshelfI had made a few attempts at it, but with life’s interruptions, the eight hundred pages were daunting. I now felt guilty that I had not read a book that was influential to so many writers and readers. A quick read would take me, a slow reader, about 30 hours, but this was not a book to dart through. It contained depths of philosophical thought.

There is the adage, ‘It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.’ It was of no surprise that a Google search for images of Dostoevsky revealed a middle-aged man with an unkempt beard and receding hairline. A skeletal face. Serious, with an ailing complexion. A profile revealing the tell-tale face of a man who experienced considerable injustices.  Diagnosed with Grand Mal Epilepsy as a teenager, a last-minute reprieve from a firing squad, exiled to Siberia, death of his second wife whom he loved, death of his child from an epileptic convulsion and the distress of raising a troubled teenager.

However, if the Karamazov book is anything to go by, it was the existential angst that troubled Dostoevsky later years. Mourning the repeated inhumanity of Russian society, he inevitably turned to thoughts of Divine justice. A question that is as relevant today as it was two centuries ago.

When he was exiled to Siberia, an old widow supplied him and his fellow prisoner’s hospitality. She signalled out Dostoevsky and gifted him with a Bible. He later wrote, in his letters ‘I am a child of this age, the child of disbelief and doubt, until now and even to the grave. What a terrible torment this thirst for faith has taught me, and now cost me, which is stronger in my soul, the more in me the arguments to the contrary’ The Bible, she gave him, was still in his possession at his death.

Fascinating that The Brothers Karamazov was, despite careful reading, I never found that attributed phrase where Alisha said to his atheist brother, ‘If there is no God, then all things are permissible.’ The problem lies in the translation it seems. Nonetheless, the aphorism stands as a valuable argument for objective morality and the personal God. Why does something exist rather than not exist? Why are humans who are apparent chemicals that have come about in the big cosmic game of chance directed by this virtue called justice? Is all the goodness and wickedness carried out by humans all for nothing? Are the acts carried out by Pol Pot, Putin, Stalin, and others, permissible? Will there not be a great judgement? Are we alone in this dark universe where anything goes? No, we’re not alone.

We are governed by an invisible force that bends towards justice. We feel it in our lives daily. I say bends because we are free moral agents on a level playing field where goodness and wickedness meet. There’s too much wickedness for God to exist some might say. But isn’t the reverse also true? There’s considerable goodness. Why would any virtue exist in a universe that just happened? I see medical staff going to war-torn countries and risking life to provide care for those who are not their kin. What about Ignacio Echeverría, the 39-year-old Spanish lawyer who confronted the terrorists in the 2017 London Bridge attacks and sacrificing his athletic future and life in the process? There’s the stranger who sacrifices a kidney for the person he will never meet. The millions of charitable givers who make life more endurable for orphans in Brazil, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and other parts of the world. These acts defy the theory of reciprocity allogrooming. These acts describe altruism in the true sense. Just pure, unconditional love. And history is filled with such acts.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,

and His ears are inclined to their cry.

But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,

to wipe out all memory of them from the earth.

Psalm 35:115,16.

Bornean Standard Bible



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How Did We Get Here Despite the Odds?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 5 Apr 2024, 13:47

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Have you ever wondered why there is something rather than nothing? Think of the complexity of DNA, the complexity of genes, and chromosomes. Think of the chances of life on our planet. If the other planets like Mars and Jupiter were not present, life would be impossible. If the earth’s axes were not tilted, you would not be reading this. If the gravitation force were altered by one iota of a  degree, you would not be eating your next meal. If the earth never had a 24-hour rotation, life on this third planet from the sun would be impossible. What are the chances? None, unless the hand of God brought it all into being.

Many centuries ago, a wise man with acute critical thinking skills said the following in prayer to God,



When I behold Your heavens,

the work of Your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which You have set in place—

what is man that You are mindful of him,

or the son of man that You care for him?

Psalm 8:3,4 BSB


 

 


 

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What's it like to be a robin?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 23 Mar 2024, 12:30


What’s that robin thinking I wonder what it’s like to be a robin this is a cheeky little robin he’s hanging around listening to our conversation no wonder my mother would say a little bird told me maybe he’s hoping we have something for him I’m sure it was Nagel that wondered what it’s like to be a bat Michael Jackson sung Rocking Robin he was just a kid with a prepubescent voice I wonder how this photo will turn out I am sure there was a song about a robin bob bob bobbing along

*****

If you think I have lost my senses, I’ve not. It is a stream of consciousness above. Hence, no punctuation and a flipping from subject to subject with the robin being the neural connector. That is how consciousness works.

But what is consciousness? Isn’t it an incredible gift? Think about this, we can look at the robin and be aware of looking at the robin.  We can think of incidents from our past and imagine ourselves in certain places in the future. we can love, hate, empathise, form complex mathematical equations in our head. Surely this ability to draw on abstract thoughts is nothing short of being miraculous.

If I ask you the capital of China, immediately you say Beijing. But, if I ask you about the last time, you had a meal with friends, a film will roll in your head. Where does this subjective quality come from? So far no one can account for it.

True, consciousness depends on neural connections. But that is as far as we go regarding present knowledge. Naturalists are at a loss as they attempt to fit this ability into an evolutionary context. Sure, they may say they will account for it in time, but, be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt.

 

The most obvious explanation is recorded at Psalm 139: 13,14,

For you formed my innermost being

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Praise You, for I am wonderfully made, and I know this very well. (BSB).

 

 


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Some Have Entertained Angels

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I’m a writer. I became a writer because I don’t like the world I’m living in. Therefore, I desire to write about the more positive qualities in humans. I like to create my own world.

Does your heart tremble like Areola Borealis when someone who is kind approaches you? We all know that feeling.

I recall being in Pisa, Italy, and a family of strangers invited my wife and I to join them. In Rome, a group of Filipinos offered me food.

One day I was walking on one of the Scottish islands and a man invited my wife and I to join him for a coffee. This happens often when I’m on Scotland’s Western islands.

My wife was in a baker’s shop in the UK. She ordered a coffee. She then realised her credit card did not work. The girl behind offered to pay for it.

There are two kinds of kindness. The random acts of kindness that is kind, but works on a pay-back paradigm, that of feeling happy that you have done so. However, there are people who are considerate and kind just because that’s the way they are, and that’s the way it should be.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews13:2 (Berean Standard Bible).


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Modern Slavery

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 16 Mar 2024, 19:56



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On a four-hour stopover at Middle Eastern Airport. I wake from a dream and enter a daze.

Before me, pass seven African men. Angelic looking. Slender in their long white robes. It’s like they’re going down to the river to pray.

Following at a safe distance are the seven wives with carefully balanced luggage on their heads. I ask about this custom and I’m told,

On a four-hour stopover at Middle Eastern Airport. I wake from a dream and enter a daze.

Before me, pass seven African men. Angelic looking. Slender in their long white robes. It’s like they’re going down to the river to pray.

Following at a safe distance are the seven wives with carefully balanced luggage on their heads. 




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What Henning Mankell Taught Me About Writing: Part One

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Thursday, 14 Mar 2024, 19:58




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I’m a bit of a Swedophile. Back in the mid nineties my family were invited to have a holiday with Swedish friends. Since then, I have travelled to Sweden several times. As a reader and writer, I keep my eye on Swedish authors that may deepen my understanding of the culture.

In 2014, I read Henning Mankell’s nonfiction work Quicksand: What it Means to be a Human Being. It was a watershed moment for me; I had a deep desire to write about my life, but I harboured mixed feelings about how interesting it would be. These essays planted in me ideas of a different way of writing memoir.

Quicksand, Mankell’s final work before he died, covered the months after a terminal cancer diagnosis. My first impression was the essay titles. Themes such as “The Raft of Death” and “Turning Time in a Different Direction” were captivating. He filled the 67 personal essays with fascinating facts, philosophy, environmental issues, and cavernous musings. The intimacy of his first-person, active sentence structure made me feel he granted me the honour of sitting beside him like a child as his wisdom and literary prowess unfolded.

In all his essays, there is conspicuous lucidity and efficient syntax as a stylistic default. The language is spare but riveting in its beauty. Like a seasoned poet, words are carefully selected. Adjectives and adverbs are minimal. Strong verbs are relegated to the rear of the sentence, and passive sentence structure is sparse. He has this ability to crystallise deep concepts. These factors were all important to me. As an academic essayist in Social Psychology and English literature, I failed to produce encouraging results due to a lack of clarity. “Too much verbosity,” a tutor kindly pointed out. Mankell was influential in giving me the confidence to enter creative writing with faith in my ability to overcome past error and write clear work, but at the same time, keep the reader captivated.

The person projected, or the persons that Mankell has chosen to project throughout the sixty-seven essays are those of whose tone John Burnside of The Guardian described as “serious” (Burnside, 2014). Mankell writes, “Your identity is formed when you decide your attitude towards serious questions. That is something known to everyone who has not forgotten all about their childhood” (2014, p.14). This earnest tone has merit, as it best portrays Mankel’s subject matter. However, seriousness is not to be confused with gloomy or depressing. Essays that deal with a fatal cancer diagnosis, nuclear waste disposal, premature death, and wider issues concerning man’s irrational choices could by all intents and purposes gravitate to the negative, but this work is by no means an author driven by a Cassandra Syndrome, rather, amidst a debilitating, or what would be for many, a debilitating diagnosis, Mankell maintains a positive, uplifting literary decorum.

“I’m in the middle of something” he writes (2014, p. 8). This suspended state that he finds himself in is crucial in the development as an organising principle in his book. Quicksand, the title essay sets the motif that structures the entire work. I recall a reflective question on my MA Creative Writing module posed to the reader to choose three essays and explain what makes them essayistic? Interesting. I looked at Quicksand’s title essay. I broke it down to its components and scenes:

The shrinking realisation that cancer encroaches on life.

The first realisation from a childhood memory that death is a serious business.

Another childhood memory of seeing a village girl falling and dying through ice.

The reaction of parents of the girl and the community at large.

The author’s worst fear, the fear of falling into quicksand.

The myth of quicksand challenged (2014, pp.14-17).

These essayistic digressive forays come at all angles as he appears to move in a seemingly discursive way, but masterly calculated as he brings them to a conclusion. Additionally, his choice of narrative framing and structure, including flashbacks and flash forwards to his childhood self and present self, work to create arcs and control pace and tension and ultimately surprises the reader.


Part Two Tomorrow.






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Hello Stranger!

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Edward Hirsch is a poet and teacher I have always enjoyed reading about and listening to. So, when I spent four days on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands, I took a copy of his book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. It’s not your average intro to poetry, he takes the reader into considerable depths.



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Edward Hirsch is a poet and teacher I have always enjoyed reading about and listening to. So, when I spent four days on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands, I took a copy of his book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. It’s not your average intro to poetry, he takes the reader into considerable depths.

However, among other things, I was caught up with his discussion of a few simple lines of William Whitman’s poem called “To You”. The poem addresses the stranger:

“Stranger, if you are passing, meet me and desire to speak to me,

Why should you not speak to me?

And why should I not speak to you?"

Here Whitman invites the reader to stop and pause.

It was interesting in that it transferred me into the moment as I sat reading in our campsite and observing strangers who would pass. Strangers from the Netherlands, France, Germany, England, and Scotland. With a nod, a hello, a hesitant good morning, these visitors from other lands hoped for an interchange. After all, they come, not just to view the landscape, but the culture. What better way other than absorb themselves in human contact?

Sadly, we have strangers at their best; they’re on holiday, they’re free from the stress, anxieties and challenges of life back home. We find each other at our best; we are peaked in human energy, emotion, and joy. We take delight in what each other has to offer.

On the way back from the Highlands, we stopped for a break at Glencoe. I saw a young lad on the grass reading.

“May I ask, what are you reading?” Suffice to say, he was glad I asked as he overflowed with admiration for the writer.

Two humans, four decades apart, but bonded in conversation.

One of the greatest conversations with apparent strangers took place in 24:14-35,

Luke 24 BSB (biblehub.com)



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Yiddish Proverb

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 8 Mar 2024, 15:36

"If God lived on the earth, people would break his windows."

                                                                                                           ------------ Sholem Aleichem

        

      Image by https://unsplash.com/@sixteenmilesout

There’s a story told about two birds toiling every day as they prepared their nest for their forthcoming chicks. 

On seeing this, the farmer came out and knocked the nest down. Looking puzzled at their return, the birds carried on in their rebuilding. But the next day, the farmer returned and knocked the nest down once more.

This process went on for some days until one person came out and scolded the farmer for his cruelty. It was then that the farmer explained that the tree was diseased and in the forthcoming storm, it would collapse, taking the chicks with it.

Sometimes we can judge a matter without knowing the motives of the person involved. As for God, we do not fully know why he permits suffering. However, there are hints in Geneses chapter 1, Job chapter 1 and the following verse.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Romans 8:20,21 (BSB).



The Holy Bible, Berean Standard Bible, BSB is produced in cooperation with Bible HubDiscovery BibleOpenBible.com, and the Berean Bible Translation Committee. This text of God's Word has been dedicated to the public domain.

 



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Doživljaj and a Stroll through a Scottish Graveyard

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My wife and I had a short break in the Scottish West Highlands at the weekend. We took a walk through a little village that eventually led to a graveyard. We enjoy walking through such places; it draws attention to the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 7:2, where we read that “It is better to go to the house of mourning,” KJV.


There’s a reason the verse imparts this advice. A walk through a graveyard reminds us we are mortal creatures and one day the garment that we wear will wear out.

I observed individuals embedded in their plots. Men, women, children who were the heroes of their own journey in life. Who had deep inner lives that were cut short? I say, cut short because you may think in what way is an 86-year-old cut short?

We are built to last with no sell-by date. God created man to live forever. Philosophically speaking, we do not need to look far to realise it. Think of our minds, I’m in my sixties and yet, I’m still a youth in my inner world. My brain has the potential to take in knowledge eternal. That we have a “mind” is one of science’s great puzzles.

However, what about you and I? John 3:16 shows that faith and life connect inexorably. It’s good to take a moment and read that verse and ask, “What does this mean for me?”

The Slovenian language has a word, an untranslatable word doživljaj, which embraces a rich encounter with someone or something. A walk through a graveyard embraces both the encounter with the graves that remind us of the short breath we take on this earth and also that by turning to God in our solitary walk and experiencing the rich encounter that leads to life.


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The Transience of Joy

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Image by Image by https://unsplash.com/@ellladee

One weekend, I drove to Wemyss Bay and boarded a ferry to the Island of Bute. I walked from the town, up the Serpentine, stopping to take a picture of the iconic ‘VR’ post-box, a relic of bygone days. I passed Eastland Farm and arrived at Canada Hill.

I settled in a secluded spot; a place where, in my youth, I often sought solace on lonely evenings. I frequently grappled with a deep sense of loneliness that overwhelmed me. At times, preferring solitude rather than being with unkind humans — a choice I felt compelled to make. The familiarity of the place caused me to wander back into a special moment in those days.

It was the seventies, and I must have been thirteen. Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival was in the charts. Seated there with the majestic Firth of Clyde to the left and Loch Ascog on my right and the celestial firmament above. I witnessed a shooting star streak across the skyline, and I felt it was meant for me. I became spiritually aware as I was enveloped by some sort of celestial wonder. An extreme sense of contentment, of joy, of happiness overwhelmed me. I no longer felt alone.

C.S. Lewis described these spiritual moments using the German word Sehnsucht — a deep, intense longing linked to joy that passes momentarily like the particles in a snow globe but leaves one with an insatiable longing. I had a glimpse of joy in the full sense of what the creator meant it to be for the human family.

I’m convinced it was a longing that can only be satisfied in a future life. In other words, the momentary joy is a snapshot of a future perfect and indefinite joy that can only be fulfilled in the future paradise Jesus spoke of in Luke 13:43. No other experience can deliver the full impact of what Sehnsucht gives us a glimpse of.


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'We know that God does not listen to sinners'

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Consider,

For Nathanael, it all began with those fashion magazines his sisters would leave around the house. The female body held mysteries for an adolescent boy. Soon, this gravitated to internet pornography to the point of becoming a firmly embedded addiction. He never felt good about himself afterwards. He would pray for forgiveness, but felt God was not there.

 *****

Ann goes into the supermarket. When no one is looking, she slips a bar of chocolate into her back pocket of her jeans. That evening, she prays to God to help her win the lottery.

*****

Sharon, was an evangelical ‘Christian.’ She would spend her days making sacrifices by going out preaching. However, at night, she would call her friends and relate the latest gossip — Gossip that often gravitated to slander.

There were considerable moments of doubt she often felt about her relationship with God, but that soon diminished when she had another day of preaching. After all, God would overlook the bad for the good, she reasoned.

*****

Sin will always put distance between God and us. When Jesus cured the young blind man in John chapter 9, in conversation with the pharisees, the man replied, ‘We know that God does not listen to sinners.’

How true, at Isaiah 59:2, we read, It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.’

We find in 1 John 3:9 that John writes, ‘No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.’

We will always find a listening ear with God so long as we put away sin and practice what is right.

 

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.


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Kreng Jai and the feelings of others

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Thursday, 25 Jan 2024, 10:51


 Image by https://unsplash.com/@timwildsmith

Trying to get to the bottom of this Thai word is like herding frogs. There are so many angles of understanding linked to it. My wife and I have friends, the wife being Thai, so, the next time we see her, I will discuss this paradoxical word.

It’s a word that’s close to my heart. Like most of us, I don’t cope too well with tension in all its forms, including passive aggressiveness, toxic language, harsh words, and the like. I usually excuse myself. As I get older, that feeling has become more intense.

Empathy is a quality that is deeply lacking in society as narcissism, self-interest and selfishness have made inroads into this broken society.

My wife and I were reading the Bible this morning and afterwards, she asked, ‘What is your favourite Bible verse?’ This is our joy—the wandering musings of the mind.

‘Psalm15,’ I said. We read it. It’s all about being human. To be more specific, it is God’s message to humans regarding moral values towards God and our fellow man.

It speaks about being blameless. Speaking truth from the heart. Words that utter no slander. Who does no wrong to their neighbour. Who keeps promises. Who cannot be bribed, and so on.

This brings me back to that Thai word. Deeply embedded in Thai society’s consciousness is empathy for neighbour. I like that, it’s the way we all should live.

You can read more about Psalm 15 in the following link:

Psalm 15 (biblehub.com)


Have a good day.

Image by https://unsplash.com/@timwildsmith

 

 


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Eternal wisdom made all things in love,

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"Eternal wisdom made all things in love,

By love are all bewildered.

Intoxicated by the wine of love."


The quote above is by the 7th century poet Farridudden Attar. He compares love with wine; intoxication and pleasurable. However, he attributes God as the maker of love (Eternal wisdom). And so be it because there are no other explanations why we, as humans, love. It’s another aspect of the moral human. It may be argued that love is an evolutionary provision to bring tribes and villages together. But there is a major flaw in the theory. Not only do some humans love their neighbour, but some humans love those they have never met.

Consider the billions of pounds that are donated to charities that minister to orphans, cancer research, developing nations, homeless, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and many others. Take a short bite out your day and watch the work of the Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships: The Next Chapter | TBN UK - YouTube


Image by https://unsplash.com/@neonbrand


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I was thinking of this Japanese word, Omotenashi

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024, 12:11


Now, I was thinking of this Japanese word, Omotenashi and I’d like your opinion. I was in the Philippines some years ago and one day, a tricycle driver rode us to town. When we reached the destination, he invited us to his home that Saturday. Now that was a first for me. Can you imagine the Western taxi driver doing that? I'm sure some would, but I haven't experienced it.

Anyway, we went to his home which was no more than a corrugated metal shack with a few farm animals. Chicken was on the menu. I was moved by this hospitality and then overwhelmed when I discovered the family killed their only chicken to give us the meal that Saturday.

But you know this? Hospitality is not the correct word for this. I think what they did ran much deeper, because I invited them to a restaurant a few days later, but they were not having it. None of this quid-pro-quo on their part. It was entirely unconditional love. And I think we should get a hold of this omotenashi word. It's a good word for we Westerners who have slipped far behind our Asian neighbours on this matter of omotenashi. What do you think?



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The Simple Cost of Happiness

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Sunday, 8 Oct 2023, 12:59

I was talking to a stranger while hill walking. He was complaining about how stressful his job was and how it was impinging on his health.

“Can’t you find a less stressful job?” I asked.

“Too many bills, “he replied.

He also mentioned a recent trip to Disneyland that cost him and his family £6000 in all.

“What makes you happy?” this stranger asked me.

What I’m doing now; walking in nature, stopping with my lunchbox in some isolated place and communicating with the Divine. Being grateful that I can be here. Grateful I have the health to do so. Grateful that I will return home tired, but feeling I have accomplished something.

He looked at me as if I’d lost my marbles.

Conspicuous consumerism is as old as the Silk Road itself. The idea of purchasing of goods or services for the sole purpose of displaying one’s wealth is losing ground as minimalism gains power in the West. Happiness is not achieved through materialism. We only need to look at the West to see that depression, and other emotional and mental illnesses caused by debt and reaching out beyond our means, is robbing society of happiness. Happiness comes from the simple things in life that cost nothing.

© 2023 Writer's Notebook: On Being Human






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