Friday, June 09, 2006

Blog Break

Thanks for taking the time to read the postings on this blog.

I am having a break from blogging over the northern hemisphere summer.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Out of Pain Hope is Born

Joan Brown Campbell tells this story:

When my youngest son—a medical doctor named Jim—was an intern and doing his obstetrical training he was assigned to a wise old Roman Catholic doctor who had had many years of experience.

As my son, came to the day when he was to deliver his first baby, the mature physician was at his side. The mother, surrounded by her husband, her mother and random family members, began the journey toward birthing a child.

As the pain deepened, Jim was in and out of her room many times. Finally, the wise old doctor said, "Jim, you're making her very nervous. Just sit quietly and listen to her. She'll tell you when she is ready."

Minutes went by and suddenly she called out for her husband. Jim jumped up. The doctor sat him down saying, "She's far from ready." A bit later she called out in audible pain for her mother. Again, Jim got to his feet, but again the teacher said, "Not yet. She'll tell you when she's ready."

Sure enough, in a bit, amidst the groaning and pushing she cried out, "Jesus! Mother Mary!" and the wise man at Jim's side said, "Now, son. Now she's ready." He said, "When the pain becomes unbearable, they inevitably cry out for the Deity by whatever name."

And out of the groaning and the pain comes new life, new possibilities. Hope is born anew and in many a birthing room the unspoken prayer is, "Thank God."

Source: Joan Brown Campbell, ‘All Are the Children of God’ 30 Good Minutes, Program # 4302, 10 October, 1999

Internet Address:

Image: Birth

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


For many years an Arapahoe Indian woman wrote a weekly article for the local newspaper in America. Her English name was Molly Shepherd. Every week she wrote in broken English about her tribal customs, their songs, their funerals, the prizes for the one who came the farthest way to the funeral and the way they would give away everything that the deceased person owned. It was interesting. It was educational. Despite her broken English she had a gift for words.

One article, however, was very brief. It was the afternoon paper on the Friday following the death of President Kennedy. In that article, she said, “Molly has no words for you today. Molly has nothing to write today. Molly has no words today. Molly goes through the whole house saying, “Oooh….”

Did you hear that word? In that one word, ‘Oooh’, Molly has joined the travail of the whole world.

It means the same in most languages, ‘Oooh’.

It is onomatopoeic. ‘Oooh.’ By speaking that one word we are joining ourselves with people of every culture.

Geoff Pound

Image: Oooh

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Positive Thinking!

A conference speaker decided he needed a memorable framework for his speech.

He'd been trained at Yale University and he decided to use the word YALE as the acronym for his address.

He started with the letter Y and spoke about Youth and their present day issues and he went on for at least 30 minutes.

Moving to A he spoke about adversity and that took at least 25 minutes.

When after 40 minutes exploring L and the need for Leadership most people were looking at their watches.

He finally got to E for effectiveness and after 30 minutes the people were wilting and their stomachs were rumbling. When the overcooked dinner was served two and a half hours later the people were most grumpy and expressing their complaints quite vociferously around the meal tables.

As the whingeing went on there was one bloke who had obviously done a Positive Thinking course because he said:

“I guess we can be very thankful that he wasn't trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology!”

Geoff Pound

Image: Yale University

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dig Yourselves Some ‘Memory Holes’

Nathaniel Philbrick’s new book, Mayflower, is a fresh retelling of the voyage of the Pilgrims from Plymouth to New England and their initial contacts with the original American inhabitants of the Wampanoag tribe.

One of the insights Philbrick unearths is that when the Pilgrims visited the indigenous communities they noticed circular pits alongside the trails, which the natives told them were for storytelling. Each of these ‘memory holes’ had been dug at a place where a remarkable act had occurred so that every time the Indians passed by these spots, they recounted the deeds from their distant past.

The new settlers quickly came to see the importance of remembering and telling their story, which has come down these hundreds of years to us.

When that little band of Puritans arrived on the Mayflower from England they experienced a harsh winter and only 50 of the original 102 survived. They discussed whether they should go back to their home country but they decided to stay on and plant corn and barley.

When the time of their first anniversary rolled around they wondered how this should be observed. Some proposed a day of mourning, when attention should be focussed on all those who lay in unmarked graves.

The others said: “No, a day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate. After all, 50 of us have survived. We’re gathering in a good harvest. The Indians have been our friends.” In other words, let’s focus on what we have going for us, not on what we have going against us. And maybe that decision and that attitude of thanksgiving was the turning point in the founding of America. Had they chosen to mourn rather than give thanks, would they have found the courage to hold out as they did?

Every year when Americans get together for Thanksgiving, with their turkeys, corn and other rituals, there is the retelling of the story and on such a day Philbrick says, a new ‘memory hole’ is dug.

Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Viking, 2006.
Russell Shorto, ‘Pilgrims and Indians’, The New York Times, 4 June 2006.

Image: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbour.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Who's Winning?

A reporter in an English newspaper wrote of an episode he recalled. Back in the 1960s a handful of bowler-hatted Englishmen were strolling through London’s Hyde Park and they were stopped short by the sight of a Frisbee flying between an American father and his son. In the 1960s few Britons had seen this American toy.

After a few minutes, one of the men walked up to the father and said, “Sorry to bother you old chap, but we have been watching you for a quarter of an hour. Who’s winning?”

The reporter repeated with a laugh as he told this story several years later, “Who’s winning?” He said, “I wish I had asked him if he was married. If he’d have said 'yes', I would’ve asked 'Who’s winning?'”

Most of life (including marriage) isn’t meant to be a point scoring contest, a win or lose proposition or a competition.

Geoff Pound

Image: Frisbee flying.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Joyous Generosity

There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer that had two sons. As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields and he taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals. When he got too old to work, the two boys took over the chores of the farm and when the father died, they had found their working together so meaningful that they decided to keep their partnership. So each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had corporately produced. Across the years the elder brother never married, stayed an old bachelor. The younger brother did marry and had eight wonderful children. Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the old bachelor brother thought to himself one night, "My brother has ten mouths to feed. I only have one. He really needs more of his harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I'll take some of what I have put in my barn and I'll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children.

At the very time he was thinking down that line, the younger brother was thinking to himself, "God has given me these wonderful children. My brother hasn't been so fortunate. He really needs more of this harvest for his old age than I do, but I know him. He's much too fair. He'll never renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he's asleep, I'll take some of what I've put in my barn and slip it over into his barn." And so one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, those two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity. The old rabbi said that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, a gentle rain began to fall. You know what it was? God weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point. Two of his children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy and because we are made in God's image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well. Life is not fair, thank God! It's not fair because it's rooted in grace.

Source: John Claypool, 'Life Isn’t Fair, Thank God’, 30 Good Minutes, Program #4317, 30 January, 2000

Image: Harvest time.

The Gift of Pain

Dr Paul Brand became known for his skill in reconstructive surgery as he spent a lifetime repairing the gnarled hands and thickened faces of people plagued with leprosy.

In an address he said that one of the main problems was that people with leprosy feel no pain. He spoke of a man who spilled scalding water on his leg and to his great surprise he felt nothing and instead of leaping for joy because there was no pain, he was sad. He realised he had leprosy and with this loss of pain would go the loss of pleasure.

Paul Brand said that pain is part of a brilliantly designed system and is one of God's most amazing gifts.

The condition we really ought to fear the most in life, is not the possibility of pain, but the total loss of feeling when we become numb and insensitive to the hurt of people around us.

If you're in pain for someone today, then be grateful for that gift. Be thankful that you're sensitive enough to feel these hurts.

Geoff Pound

Source: Address by Paul Brand in New Zealand, circa 1986.

Image: Paul Brand

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life is Colour

In the opening scene of the Iranian film, Gabbeh, viewers are confronted with a riot of colour‑colourful costumes, bright scenery and a dazzling gabbeh (hand made rug), woven by Iranian nomads. Some viewers have wondered whether this is a colour overkill but there is an interesting story behind this.

Film maker and director Mohsen Makhmalbaf found through the 1980s that he was becoming more and more out of step with the Iranian fundamentalist regime. Film makers had to get permission from the government to make films, and, as Makhmalbaf was increasingly becoming a vocal critic of the government, all his requests were turned down.

An organization that made Iranian handcrafts approached him with the request that he might make a documentary that might boost sales of the gabbeh. Makhmalbaf submitted the proposal and the government thought this subject was innocuous and would mean he would not be annoying them if he was making a movie about nomadic carpet makers in the back blocks of Iran.

The film maker turns up the colour not for aesthetic reasons but to make a prophetic statement. The Iranian government had become prescriptive about the clothes Iranian women were to wear and required that they be clad in grey, brown or black. Makhmalbaf’s use of colourful costumes, and colourful rugs made from nature’s colourful dyes are his attempt to challenge the severity and oppression of the government.

The film maker is a prophet who will not be muzzled as he seeks a way to get his message across. Like tellers of parables Makhmalbaf presents a documentary about nomadic rug makers but within this story he weaves revolutionary threads to declare that life is colour. Regimes that are turning life into a narrow black and white existence are challenged to give people the freedom to weave the story of their lives out of the colourful threads of creation.

Geoff Pound

Sources: Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film, Gabbeh, 1996.
Godfrey Cheshire, Audio Commentary and article ‘A Carpet of light: Gabbeh’ (on the Special Features of the DVD)

Image: Picture from the film, Gabbeh.