Michael Palin writes this entry in his diary (December 31, 1971) about differences in the Monty Python Team over their attitudes to work:
“The split between John [Cleese] and Eric [Idle] and the rest of us has grown a little recently. It doesn’t prevent us all from sharing—and enjoying sharing—most of out attitudes, except for attitudes to work. It’s the usual story—John and Eric see Monty Python as a means to an end—money to buy freedom from work. Terry J [Jones] is completely the opposite and feels that Python is an end in itself—i.e. work which he enjoys doing and which keeps him from the dangerous world of leisure. In between are Graham [Chapman] and myself.”
Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 65.
When Woody Allen was talking about his 11 year marriage with Mia Farrow he reflected on the challenge of seeking to manage their many differences:
“She doesn’t like the city and I adore the city. She loves the country and I don’t love the country. She doesn’t like sports at all and I love sports. She can’t sleep with the air-conditioner on. I can only sleep with the air-conditioner on. She loves pets and animals. I hate pets and animals. She would love to take a boat down the Amazon or go up to Mt Kilimanjaro. I never want to go near those places. She has an optimistic yeah feeling toward life and I have a totally pessimistic negative feeling. She has raised nine children now with no trauma and has never owned a thermometer. I take my temperature every two hours.”
No wonder they came to live in separate apartments that faced each other across Central Park in New York.
In ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ there is a Passover scene in which the mother and father gather all the children dressed in their best clothes. The table is set with everything in its rightful place then the children ask the question, “Why are we doing this?” Their eyes, especially those of the younger ones say, “I don’t understand. “Why do we go to all this trouble?”
The answer, in the parents’ eyes and in everything they are doing, is “because we are Jews.” They are Jews in Russia. They are in danger but they will never forget the fact that they are Jews. They do this, all this, to remember who they are. They do it because their fathers and mothers did it before them beginning at a time when they too were too young to understand it fully.
Michael Palin writes in his diary, Sunday February 28, 1971:
I had been feeling guilty for some weeks that I had made no effort to follow up my decision to have William [his son] christened at St. Martin’s, the local church standing amongst the rubble of the Gospel Oak rebuilding scheme.
And today I took the snap decision to go. I was literally summoned by the bells. It was a strange feeling going into a church I did not know for a service that I did not really believe in, but once inside I couldn’t help a feeling of warmth and security. Outside there were wars and road accidents and murders, striptease clubs and battered babies and frayed tempers and unhappy marriages and people contemplating suicide and bad jokes and The Golden Shot [a British television game show between 1967 and 1975], but once in St. Martin’s there was peace. Surely people go to church not to involve themselves in the world’s problems but to escape from them. And surprisingly also, here in the middle of devastated Kentish Town, was a large unusually designed stone building, with polished pews and shining brass and a vicar and faithful people gathered. Though rationally I would find it difficult to justify my participation, I nevertheless was glad I went. In a funny way, I was really moved by the faith of the fifteen old ladies, four men, a choir (black and white) who were there with me. But seeing the vicar afterwards I felt a fraud.
Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 55-56.
On December 17, 1903 at 10.35am Orville Wright secured his place in history by executing the first powered and sustained flight from ground level. For twelve gravity-defying seconds he flew 120 feet along the dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
In the field of aviation, this historic event represented a beginning. But for Orville and Wilbur Wright, it was the end of a long and tedious journey. A journey initiated by a dream common to every little boy. The desire to fly. But what most children abandon to the domain of fantasy, Orville and Wilbur Wright seized upon as a potential reality. They believed they would fly. More than that they believed they should fly.
Wilbur described the birth of their vision in this way:
“Our personal interest in it [aviation] dates from our childhood days. Late in the autumn of 1878, our father came into the house one evening with some object partly concealed in his hands, and before we could see what it was, he tossed it into the air.”
“Instead of falling to the ground, as we expected, it flew across the room until it struck the ceiling where it fluttered for a while and finally sank to the floor. It was a little toy, known to scientists as a ‘hélicoptère’ but which we with sublime disregard for science, at once dubbed a ‘bat’.”
“It was a light frame of cork and bamboo, covered with paper, which formed two screws, driven in opposite directions by rubber bands under torsion. A toy so delicate lasted only a short time in the hands of small boys, but its memory was abiding.”
(Orville and Wilbur Wright, “The Wright Brothers Aèroplane,” Century Magazine, September 1908.)
This childhood experience sparked in the boys an insatiable desire to fly. The only thing they lacked was the means. So they immediately went to work removing the obstacles that stood between them and their dream and they began building their own helicopters. In doing so they stumbled upon the principles of physics that could pave the way to their first successful manned flight. In short they began to engineer their vision. They took the necessary steps to ensure that what they believed could be, would be..
Andy Stanley, Visioneering (Sisters Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 7-8
David Halberstam, the Manhattan-based Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of books on many topics was killed yesterday in a car crash at the age of seventy-three.
In the recent interview, Mr. Halberstam summed up his approach to work by quoting a basketball player. “There’s a great quote by Julius Erving,” he said, “that went, ‘Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’ ”
Clyde Haberman, ‘David Halberstam, 73, Reporter and Author, Dies’, New York Times, April 24, 2007
Many people cannot walk through a forest to do bird watching but the Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments (CONE) Sutro Forest is a new bird watching project in which you can participate from your computer.
An ultra-high resolution telerobotic camera is mounted outside a home that overlooks San Francisco's Sutro Forest.
You can log on to observe birds, take photos, and identify the different species.
Michael Palin’s Diary entry, 23 May, 1976 after having lunch with Ian, [who collaborated on material for Barry Humphries’ stage show]:
“Ian tells a good Barry Humphries tale—apparently Barrie was in full swing as Edna in his show at the Apollo, when a man in the front row, ever so discreetly, left for a pee. But he couldn’t really escape Edna’s eye and Edna remarked in his absence and talked to his wife for a while about his waterworks. Having found out the man’s name, Edna and the audience plotted a little surprise for him. So when he duly reappeared from the gents and made for his seat, once again stealthily and soundlessly, without disturbing a soul, Edna gave a cue and as he was half-way down the gangway, the entire theatre chanted, ‘Hello Colin!’”
Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 317.
Residents of a dangerous district in Baghdad are accusing the United States of hardening sectarian divisions as US forces wall them in behind a five-kilometre security barrier.
The walls separating Palestinian and Israeli in Israel and now Sunni and Shia in Iraq, call to mind Robert Frost’s poem that begins with these haunting words, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall.’
Mending Walls by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: 'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!' We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him, But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me~ Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father's saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
"What I’ve always loved about fiction is its ability to be smart about people who aren’t themselves smart, or at least don’t necessarily have the resources to describe their own emotional states. That was the way Twain was smart, and Dickens; and that is surely one of the reasons why Roddy Doyle is adored by all sorts of people, many of whom are infrequent book-buyers. It seems to me to be a more remarkable gift than the ability to let extremely literate people say extremely literate things."
At the Press Conference, at which Brian Lara announced his retirement from all international cricket, he paid tribute to the strength that his parents had given him:
"I am also proud," Lara said. "I have been knocked down so many times, as a player and as a person, and I have had the strength, I suppose that has come from my parents, to be able to pick myself each and every single time and go out there in the face of adversity and try my best and perform. I didn't read it up in a book. It's deep down and it's part of my family trait."
In his report on the West Indies v Bangladesh game in the Cricket World Cup on 19 April, Sambit Bal writes about Brian Lara and the art of leaving:
“You could never accuse of Brian Lara of lacking in timing. And if his retirement announcement was made without customary flourish, it didn't lack drama. It was the most delectable of late cuts: perfectly conceived and deftly executed, it left those in its presence breathless.”
“There was no gasp, because it took time to register. He dropped it in casually, just after he had finished answering his last question and when notebooks were being put away. He leaned forward, almost as if he was preparing to leave, and whispered these words into the microphone: "I gave extensive consideration to this. I want everybody to know that on Saturday I'll be playing my last international match."
“Journalists turned around and looked enquiringly at each other. Did I hear it right? Did he say merely international or was there a one-day before it. Some rushed to the dais to confirm it with Imran Khan, the West Indies media manager, who nodded his head. Some shoved miniature bats and notebooks to be autographed. But Lara had made it clear that there would be no further questions, and none were asked.”
This story about calling a spade a spade, concerns Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the English author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and other children's books:
"In 1912, by which time Beatrix Potter, the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was a hugely successful forty-six-year-old writer and illustrator, she sent her publisher Harold Warne a new story, her darkest yet, called The Tale of Mr. Tod. The story is about an argument between a fox and a badger, and features the abduction and near death of a sackful of baby rabbits. The story had a particularly good opening sentence: 'I am quite tired of making goody goody books about nice people.'
But the candor and acerbity of that were too much for Warne, and he fussed until Potter agreed to change the opening to something inarguably less punchy: 'I have made many books about well-behaved people.' Before she succumbed to this bad editorial advice, Potter relieved herself of her feelings in a letter to Warne:
"'If it were not impertinent to lecture one's publisher, you are a great deal too much afraid of the public for whom I have never cared one tuppeny-button. I am sure that it is this attitude of mind which has enabled me to keep up the series. Most people, after one success, are so cringingly afraid of doing less well that they rub all the edge off their subsequent work.' "
"The world's most popular children's author had a low opinion of both books and children: 'I never have cared tuppence either for popularity or for the modern child; they are pampered & spoilt with too many toys & books.' ...
"Potter's work was always tinged with a bleak realism about death, right from the opening of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in which we learn that Peter's father has had 'an accident' and ended up in one of Mrs. McGregor's pies. ...
"Even in the lighter stories, such as Two Bad Mice, the main characters experience 'no end of rage and disappointment,' and that is before we encounter the outright evil of the fox in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, who encourages Jemima to pick the flavorings and seasonings in which she is to be cooked—a gesture of macabre cruelty which would give pause to Hannibal Lecter.
"This darkness and violence is a central reason to why children like Beatrix Potter. Her bright, brisk, no-nonsense sentences, her sharply observed and beautifully tinted images, and her strong feeling of coziness and domesticity are all underpinned and made real by underlying intimations of darkness, cruelty, and sudden death."
Source: John Lanchester, "The Heroine of Hill Top Farm," The New York Review of Books, March 15, 2007, p. 25.
This excerpt came (7/3/07) from the very good web site, Delancey Place.Com, which sends subscribers an article each day.
Image: “But Peter [Rabbit], who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!”
How do you go about resolving your differences when one person or party prefers one thing and the other prefers another?
The solution for has come from an unlikely quarter—the two champion male tennis players in the world.
Four-time Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer, is the world’s best player on grass courts while Rafael Nadal has won the last two French Open titles and has a 64 winning streak on clay. Which player is the best? It depends on what type of court they are playing.
A special exhibition match has been arranged for these two to settle their differences and decide who is the greatest. The game will be played on 2 May in Mallorca, Spain, where Nadal was born.
For the first time in history the court will be half grass and half clay. The characteristics of the match will be normal. That is, it will be played to the best of three sets with the usual changes of side, in uneven games.
Dubbed “the battle of the surfaces”, this initiative began with an idea by Pablo Del Campo, president of Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi.
The idea has already met with widespread support as this fun game is a sell out.
This proposal has far-reaching implications for any people who are wanting to resolve their surface differences.
Using humour, US President Bill Clinton conceded things in his speeches that he had never acknowledged anywhere else.
Clinton never called a press conference to concede that his administration got off to a rocky start, despite fiascos such as the issue of gays in the military, a rejected economic stimulus package and a $400 haircut.
But when his first appearance at the White House Correspondence coincided with his first one hundred days in office, the President joked to the White House press corps: "I don't think I'm doing that bad. On the 100th day after his inauguration, William Henry Harrison was already dead for 68 days."
Two leaders, in similar positions, can deal with conflict in very different ways. This is true in every conflict, whether the stakeholders are highly educated university officials or uneducated peasants.
The campesinos who live along the Carare River in the jungles of Colombia are ordinary people without academic degrees or training. Yet when they were ordered by a general in the army to take up weapons against the guerillas (i.e. to take one side against another), they refused to be forced against their will into a civil war and were determined to live in peace. Committed to nonviolence (their slogan: "We shall die before we kill!"), they beautifully articulated the power of an integral vision. Its principles included the following:
• Faced with silence and secrecy: do everything publicly. • Faced with fear: be sincere and dialogue. • Faced with violence: talk and negotiate with everyone. • Faced with exclusion: find support in others.
To put their integral vision into action, the residents of this war-torn region formed the Association of Peasant Workers of Carare. For many years, they accomplished what others considered impossible. They created an organization that helped ordinary citizens protect themselves without aligning with either the guerillas or the army.'
Mark Gerzon, Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 68.
A few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with teenagers designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test.
Subsequently, each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the next to the longest line. The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised.
Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group. This remarkable conformity occurred in about 75% of the cases, and was true of small children and high-school students as well. Berenda concluded that, “Some people had rather be president than right,” which is certainly an accurate assessment.
Chuck Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, Thomas Nelson, 1990, 225.
Several years ago in the US state of Massachusetts, a number of people were running for the post of State Auditor. At a meeting the public were able to hear the speeches given by the various contenders.
Mr. Thomas Buckley was one of the candidates and his speech was said to have consisted of only seven words:
“I am an auditor not an orator.”
With this speech, Thomas Buckley won the election.
It is important that we know our gifts. It is equally important that we know our limitations.
In today’s Melbourne Age there is a story by Shelley Markham entitled, Australia’s Most Expensive Cup of Coffee? It is about the import to Australia of the rare and expensive Kopi Luwak coffee, produced in Indonesia from coffee beans that are eaten and discharged by the civet, or in Indonesian, Kopi Bubuk.
You might like to read the story I wrote last year about this coffee, entitled Crap Coffee. There are some good applications to this story.
Since writing this article I have visited Indonesia on two occasions. During my visit I was asked if I would like a drink and I jokingly said, “Yes, I’d like some civet coffee.” I was amazed when they poured out a cup of Kopi Luwak and then, after I said how delightful it was, they presented me with two packets of the prize coffee to bring home!
It is earthy, somewhat nutty, a little bitter and with a beautiful bouquet. But, it’s not worth AUS $50.00 a cup at the Townsville café, but why not go for the experience?
A grocery store in Edmonton, Canada is advertising this as coffee made from cat’s feces! [faeces in the UK] Doesn’t that sound attractive? The advertising says it is “Good to the last dropping.”
By the way when you are in Vietnam it is called ‘weasel coffee’ but it is still derived from the civet.
Image: Packet of Kopi Luwak with the picture of the Kopi Bubak at the top.
Rei Hamon is a New Zealander who had a job with the Ministry of Works. He suffered a back injury in a farming accident that left him almost paralyzed.
In 1965 as he sank hopelessly in debt, he and his wife prayed and they asked the questions: “Why the pain? Why the suffering?”
He said: “Why were we having the hardships piled on us when we as a family were trying to live and uphold our Christian ideals?
Looking back on that testing time Rei said that he was really going through a sort of probationary period.
“Unbeknown to me,” he said, “Because I was blinded by the lesser things we call worry and pain we had in fact climbed to that high pedestal of humility through overcoming temptations the suffering and hardships placed directly in our paths.”
One day, he and his wife Maia were praying together in their bedroom. They were telling God about Rei’s suffering and their financial hardships. Rei’s thoughts and vision slowly roamed around the room until they were arrested by a drawing book and a ballpoint pen belonging to his six year old daughter.
He crossed the room and grabbed them as if they were precious things he had lost for years. He began to sketch the first of his many pictures. Feeling a little embarrassed with his first works Rei cautiously hid them from his wife but Maia found them and showed them to a local photographer who took them to the director of a leading Art Gallery in Auckland.
The rest is history. Rei has developed the control and discipline to capture in superb detail the New Zealand bush in this unique Pointillism style or dot art.
Now in his eighties Rei Hamon has established himself as one of the foremost artists of the New Zealand bush and he receives the utmost joy in sharing this blessing with others.
Rei Hamon did not want the suffering, the unemployment and the debt yet he was given the insight and the grace to make something good out of his limitations.
Can you imagine going to a restaurant where there are no prices listed on the menu?
What about an eating establishment that has a sign that reads: “Pay what you can afford?”
A café of this variety has been operating by Libby and Brad Birky in Los Angeles, for the last six months. This is a SAME eatery meaning: So All May Eat.
Unlike a soup kitchen where the hungry are rounded up and publicly identified, this is a restaurant with tables open to all without distinction.
The No Price policy means those who have more wealth can pay for those who have little or none. Those who choose may go to the kitchen to dice onions or wash the dishes or volunteer to serve at the tables.
Although feeding the body is an essential factor for Libby and Brad, the open table beams out the message that everyone is valuable, thus providing nurture for the person’s wellbeing.
Read more of Stephanie Simon’s interesting article to discover why this couple got into this caper and what draws customers to the tables of this little café.
This reflection is from the actor, Michael Palin, when he was starring in The Life of Brian which had just been launched in England and was being criticized by conservative groups and labeled blasphemous. He was preparing for an interview that evening with Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark on BBC2's Friday Night Saturday Morning Show. Michael wrote:
“As I work in the afternoon on committing to paper some of my morning thoughts, I find myself just about to close on the knotty question of whether or not I believe in God. In fact I am about to type, ‘I do not believe in God’, when the sky goes black as ink, there is a thunderclap and a huge crash of thunder of epic proportions. I never do complete the sentence.”
Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 594. A review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.
Image: “When the sky goes black as ink, there is a thunderclap and a huge crash of thunder of epic proportions.” Rolling thunderstorm (Cumulonimbus arcus) photographed on July 17, 2004 in Enschede, The Netherlands. Photo by John Kerstholt.
In 1985 Bob Greene, a journalist with the Chicago Tribune, wrote an article in an American newspaper about a 12 year old boy who received a card from his classmates which said, “The most unpopular student award.” Bob wrote about the tremendous emotional damage it caused the boy.
That article set off an avalanche of mail from adults who told of the lasting hurts they were carrying around as a result of childhood incidents in the home and at school. Most of these people said they were still troubled by low self-esteem. Greene entitled his column, “The Pain that Never Goes Away.”
Those who engage in counselling are familiar with the variety of damaging statements that parents make to children that put them down and make them despise themselves. Do any of these sound familiar?
If there is a wrong way to do it, you’ll find it? What makes you so clumsy? I can’t believe you would so such a thing? Why can’t you be more like your sister? What does God think about you when you do that? Don’t let anyone know what you are really like! Why couldn’t you have been a boy? You have been nothing but trouble since you were born! Can’t you do anything right? No wonder you don’t have any friends!
What hurtful lashings we can give with our tongues.
Happy the children who are valued and affirmed, whose parents, teachers and other carers take delight in them.
The writer Kurt Vonnegut died last night (April 11, 2007) in Manhattan at the age of eighty-four.
Dinitia Smith has written a tribute for the New York Times entitled, ‘Kurt Vonnegut, Counterculture’s Novelist, Dies’, April 12, 2007.
Dinitia writes: “Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s.”
“With his curly hair askew, deep pouches under his eyes and rumpled clothes, he often looked like an out-of-work philosophy professor, typically chain smoking, his conversation punctuated with coughs and wheezes.”
“Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well? He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism.”
“To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”
In an earlier article entitled, On Not Going Off the Boil, I wrote about the value of repetition in communication, so long as your talk is ‘born again’.
In this anecdote from the field of acting, the other side of the coin is presented, when renowned author and screenwriter William Goldman comments on the difficulty of performing on Broadway:
“It is always wisest to try and see a show as soon as possible after it opens (because) most shows go to hell, sometimes quickly.”
“You can't blame the actors for the deterioration. Doing the same precise thing eight times a week, 416 times a year, becomes numbing to the soul.”
Barry Nelson says, 'The longer you play the performance, the more your mind resents it. You're in the middle of a scene, and suddenly all you're thinking about is whether you should have Chinese food after the show.'
‘I don't think any actor really likes long runs. I don't think humans were meant to do them.’
William Goldman, The Season, Limelight, 1969, pp. 19-20
Source: Delanceyplace.com, 11 April 2007. This is a great source of stories and I recommend professional speakers and writers to sign up for the free daily excerpt.
If you write or speak frequently you know the vital difference between communicating when you have to say something and communicating when you have something to say.
Nick Hornby touches on this theme in his reading diary:
“But there comes a point in the writing process when a novelist—any novelist, even a great one—has to accept that what he is doing is keeping one end of a book away from the other, filling up pages, in the hope that these pages will move, provoke and entertain a reader.”
Source: Nick Hornby, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, London: Viking, 2006, 73.
I was visiting Thailand recently and was reminded not only of the fact that the elephant is their national symbol but the way this animal is loved. My visit coincided with National Elephant Day in Thailand and as a mark of appreciation the elephants were paraded and served a special ‘buffet’ of fruit and vegetables.
Throughout the world elephants are almost universally admired for their unique appearance, their intelligence and their amazing memory. Some reports of the 2004-2005 tsunami in Thailandnoted the super sensitivity of elephants who, “went crazy as they bellowed, broke their tethers and headed upland,” a long time before the waves struck the coast. The number of proverbs relating to elephants is a sign of the qualities humans attribute to them. Writer and preacher, F W Boreham has an interesting essay on the way the term, ‘white elephant’ has come into our language.
An office I used to visit regularly had a sign on the window with these words:
“Getting things done around here is like mating elephants. It’s done at a very high level. It’s accomplished with a great deal of bellowing and it takes two years for anything to be produced."
Some recent research into the plight of elephants has highlighted the stress and grief facing these social animals when their relatives have been killed by poachers.
One of the innovative campaigns intended to raise public consciousness about the evil done to elephants is the [golden!] award winning ‘Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company’. Elephant dung is collected and processed into odorless paper. One turd, they state, can be transformed into 25 large sheets of gift paper which they sell with other paper products through their online ‘Pootique’. The news of the award and this poo-to-gift paper business caused comedian, Jay Leno to get to the bottom line and remark, “I hope they provide self-sealing envelopes!”
Here is one fascinating glimpse into elephant behavior that is used to illustrate the cross cultural insensitivity of some human beings:
A person talking about her experiences of living in East Africa told a group of people what happens when a herd of elephants approach a water hole that is surrounded by another herd. She said the lead elephant of the second group turns around and backs down toward the water hole. As soon as its backside is felt by the elephants around the water, they step aside and make room for it and this is the signal to the others that the first herd is ready to make room and invite them to the water.
And then the person talked of how she and her colleagues had gone to work among a tribe in Eastern Africa and she confessed, “Unlike the approaching elephants we did not back in.”
In any field of endeavor (science, music, religion), it can be a trap to go back and revere their performance with nostalgia and a big dose of unreality.
John Marchese notes this propensity, in his New York Times article, ‘Second Fiddle to an Old Master’. He records that $2.7 million was paid on 2 April 2007 for a 268 year old Stradivari violin. Music author, John Marchese admits that some of these expensive instruments don’t quite add up to their billing and many expert players cannot tell the difference between a Stradivari and a new model.
He calls the violin a ‘tool’ to be played not a relic to lie in display cases for people to fawn over. The article makes this point well when it concludes with an anecdote about Sam Zygmuntowicz. This violin maker carves away each day in Brooklyn, [and] likes to remind his customers of a fact so obvious it is often overlooked. He’s even made it into a pin and stuck it over his workbench. It reads, “Strad Made New Fiddles.”
Ever been told after you have given a speech or an address, “I have heard you tell that story or give that talk before!” The criticism implies that people are not getting their money’s worth, or you, the speaker are being lazy. Stories seem to be remembered more than the structure of a talk.
I have found great liberation in the encouragement expressed (many times!) by F W Boreham to repeat material, in order that hearers really get the message. The only rider he gave was this: “It’s alright to preach a sermon a second time, so long as it is born again!”
It is interesting to note that F W Boreham’s retirement from local church ministry in 1928 marked the increase of his extensive recycling of editorials and sermons and, in the case of the former, the practice of long-term (up to a year) stockpiling.
It is not the view of everyone (and I have been criticised for saying this in a public address—‘Touch not the Lord’s anointed’ and all that)—these two practices produced staleness and further detachment from the context. Even when editorials were recast, there were few signs of fresh insights, up-to-date illustrations or new applications.
Dr Boreham had succumbed unknowingly to a touch of the condition to which George Orwell courageously confessed, when he said, “I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”
The moral of the story? Stay involved with people and life. Otherwise, like F W Boreham, you’ll start to go off the boil.
Image: “so long as it is born again!”
 George Orwell, ‘Why I write’, George Orwell: Essays (London: Penguin Classics, 2000), 7.
The only public evidence yesterday that it was Easter in Fujairah, UAE, was the sign, 'Easter Greetings' in a local supermarket.
The sign wasn't in the chocolate section because there were no Easter eggs for sale.
It wasn't in the fish area to recognize the Good Friday tradition of eating the harvest of the sea and Peter's 'I am going fishing'.
It wasn't in the section of detergents and bleaches to symbolize Easter's message of cleansing and forgiveness.
The sign, 'Easter Greetings' was in the bread section of the supermarket.
I wondered whether it was strategically placed there to proclaim, 'He is Risen'! But then, looking around at the piles of flat Arabic bread, it may just be that, tucked away in the bread section the shop assistant found a convenient space.
HERE IS A PROVEN LIST OF THINGS TO SAY IF YOU GET CAUGHT SLEEPING AT YOUR DESK:
No. 5. "They told me at the Blood Bank this might happen."
No. 4. "This is just a 15 minute power nap they raved about in the Time management course you sent me to." No. 3. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the Whiteout. You probably got here just in time." No. 2. "Did you ever notice sound coming out of these keyboards when you put your ear down real close?"
AND THE NUMBER ONE THING TO SAY IF YOU GET CAUGHT SLEEPING AT YOUR DESK:
No. 1. Raise your head very slowly and say: "Amen."
Frank Luntz argues that a single word choice can make a profound difference in perception-such as the word 'spirits' replacing 'liquor' or the word 'gaming' replacing 'gambling':
"One of the best examples of an industry tackling its greatest image weakness and turning it into its most beneficial strength just by changing a single solitary word is the 'gaming' industry--formerly known as the 'gambling' industry. ... Turning gambling into gaming wasn't [industry association president] Frank Fahrenkopf's idea ... [but he] intensified the effort. ...
"What's important to understand is that the underlying products and services changed not a whit. Same slot machines. Same deck of cards. Same dice. Same casino advantage. But the switch from 'gambling' to 'gaming' in describing one's behavior contributed to a fundamental change in how Americans see the gambling industry. ...
"All the old, unsavory associations (e.g., organized crime, pawnshops, addiction, foolishly losing one's fortune) gave way to a lighter, brighter image of good, clean fun. 'Gambling' looks like what an old man with a crumpled racing form does at a track, or sounds like the pleas of a desperate degenerate trying to talk a pawnshop punter into paying a little more for his wedding ring, or feels like the services provided by some seedy back-alley bookie in some smoke-filled room. 'Gaming' is what families do together at the Hollywood-themed MGM Grand, New York, New York, or one of the other 'family-friendly resorts' in Las Vegas. 'Gambling' is a vice. 'Gaming' is a choice. 'Gambling' is taking a chance, engaging in a risky behavior. 'Gaming' is as simple as playing a game with cards or dice or a little ball that goes round and round and round."
Dr. Frank Luntz, Words That Work, Hyperion, 2007, p. pp. 129-130.
Source: Used with permission. Check out this good web site at: Delanceyplace.com
Image: In Easter 2001 the churches of the inner city of Melbourne conducted a Stations of the Cross, which is a regular happening each Good Friday. The two Stations of the Cross outside St. Paul’s Cathedral were designed by Anna Meszaros (pictured). This one, by the Swanston Street steps, shows Jesus' death on the Cross. For more information see the St. Paul’s Virtual Tour.
It said, “Conniving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bragged to the world that he ordered their release as an Easter gift to the British people. Then he insisted on taunting the group one by one in a sickening line-up at his palace in Tehran, for which they were kitted out in brand new suits — with no ties.”
Continuing the Easter gift-giving theme, The Sun front cover read: ‘I went to Iran and all I got was this lousy suit.”
The Independent newspaper had an interesting slant on the release of the British hostages in Iran today.
For the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was ‘Victory’ as he basked in the diplomatic triumph while announcing that the 15 British sailors and marines captured in disputed waters of the Persian Gulf two weeks ago would be freed.
For English Prime Minister, Tony Blair, the families and the hostages themselves, as they received the news and were putting the champagne on ice, the message was ‘Rejoice’.
The Independent was discussing, “Who came out on top at the end of the hostage crisis?”
It all depends which way you look at it.
For every event, even Easter, there are more than two sides to the story.
Source: Angus McDowall in Tehran and Colin Brown, ‘Both sides claim victory as Iran frees hostages’, The Independent, 05 April 2007.