Friday, February 29, 2008

Eugene Peterson on James Joyce and the Magic of the Ordinary

In an interview at a Writer’s Symposium, Eugene Peterson spoke about his ‘imagination conversion’:

“I was a new pastor. I was trying to understand my congregation. They didn’t seem to be very interesting. I’d always thought that when I became a pastor I’d have all the stars in town come—the interesting people. Celebrities. They stayed away in their droves!

And as I was muddling through all this and feeling sorry for myself, wishing I had the kind of congregation that some of my friends always bragged that they had. I later found out they lied a lot!

I was reading Ulysses, James Joyce’s greatest work and it’s about one man, Leonard Bloom and he doesn’t do anything really interesting. It’s just an ordinary day in this Dubliner’s life. I began to see through Joyce’s storytelling how interesting this ordinary life is and I can still remember the page, I think I dog-eared the page—338. I realized this is my congregation—Leonard Bloom sits in my pew every Sunday and it was a conversion, an imagination conversion.”

Source: ‘A Conversation with Eugene Peterson, Author’, by Dean Nelson Point Loma, Nazarene University: The 12th Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, 23 February 2007. Seen on YouTube.

Image: Eugene Peterson; James Joyce and Ulysses.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Journaling Proves to be Valuable Says Cancer Patients

An article in the New York Times (26 February 2008) attests to the value of journaling for cancer patients. It begins:

“When my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, she did something she had never done before. She started to write down her feelings.

My mother had always been too busy for something she felt was as indulgent as keeping a journal, but in the early days of her cancer diagnosis, she found that writing down her thoughts helped her cope with the prospect of dying.

This month, a medical journal confirms what many cancer patients intuitively know. Expressive writing, which involves writing down your deepest thoughts and feelings, may improve the quality of life for cancer patients, according to a new report in The Oncologist.

Previous research conducted in controlled laboratory experiments has suggested that expressive writing helps physical and psychological well-being. However, the recent study was a real-world experiment, conducted in the waiting rooms of an oncology practice."

The entire article can be read at this link:
Tara Parker-Pope, ‘The Power of Words for Cancer Patients’, New York Times, 26 February 2008.

Image: “writing down your deepest thoughts and feelings…”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sequoyah: The Value of Mixing in Other Cultures

In his book, The Medici Effect, Frans Johansson, encourages people to spend time at the intersections of cultures and the disciplines of knowledge and thought. He tells how this practice was crucial for Cherokee Indian, Sequoyah:

In 1809 a mixed-blood Cherokee Indian named Sequoyah learned to sign his name on his silversmith work. That was his introduction to the written language. A few years later, while serving in the U.S. Army during the Creek War, he saw American soldiers write letters, read orders, and record historical events of the war. Sequoyah realized that his fellow men in Cherokee Nation could derive spectacular benefits from a written language. Sequoyah, whose mother was a member of the Paint Clan and whose father was a Virginia fur trader, spent the next twelve years developing a written Cherokee language. When he was done he had constructed a syllabary that consisted of eighty-five characters representing each syllable in the Cherokee language. The syllabary was so easy to learn that within weeks thousands of Cherokees could read, and it gave Cherokee Nation the ability to create the first Native American newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix.

Sequoyah is the only person in the world known to have created an entire written language on his own and is considered a genius to this day. Sequoyah got the idea for creating a written language after spending time in a culture very different from his own. This is … an example of the force of globalization. That force, as defined by the movement of people between cultures and countries, is regaining a strength it has not had for more than a hundred years.

Source: Frans Johansson, The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2006), 22.

Dr. Geoff Pound.

Image: “Sequoyah is the only person in the world known to have created an entire written language on his own and is considered a genius to this day.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Importance of Saying Sorry

Barrie Hibbert sent me this comment on the formal apology to Australia’s indigenous people and this powerful story:

[Australian] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the three little words slowly, deliberately and repeatedly.

It was a dramatic and powerful moment in the history of the parliament and the nation.

Yet there are many Australians who question the "wisdom" of such an apology or the need for it. Like the previous Prime Minister, they feel that it's just empty rhetoric which doesn't achieve anything and is also potentially dangerous...and could end up being very expensive.

But such a viewpoint, either wilfully or out of ignorance, ignores a fundamental reality of our human experience. In both our personal and our corporate life, there are situations where saying sorry is the only way we can begin to address a painful situation. And while those who have been aggrieved need to hear the words said to them, even more does the aggriever need to hear him/herself/themselves say those three little words.

In July 1998 at the memorial service in Westminster Abbey for Bishop Trevor Huddleston, Alan Webster, the former Dean of St. Paul's shared this story:

Following the end of the Apartheid era in South Africa, arrangements were made for the inauguration of the new President, Nelson Mandela.

One of the overseas guests of honour at the inauguration ceremony was Bishop Trevor Huddleston, the English Anglican priest who had fought tirelessly against the old regime, and whose book, “Naught for your comfort” had been so influential in awakening the wider world to the suffering and injustices endured by the oppressed non-white majority of the South African population.

Though he was by this time an old man and confined to a wheelchair, Huddleston was determined to be part of the historic occasion. Arriving from the U.K., he was given a room in a top-security hotel: a necessary precaution in this time of disorderly transition when there was often chaos on the streets, and much talk of a violent backlash from the extreme right.

As he was being wheeled down to breakfast, a black bodyguard on each side, he saw standing at the end of the corridor, a white soldier with a Kalashnikov sub-machine gun. Everyone, including Huddleston, tensed.

As they came up to him, the soldier said: “I would like to touch the Bishop” whom he had seen on television the previous day.

He went on: “I am an Afrikaaner and I represent my people. I am also a Dutch Reformed minister, and I represent my church. I want to say on their behalf how deeply sorry I am for the terrible things we have done to the black people of this country.”

Trevor replied: “This is now the new South Africa and we must put the past firmly behind us and learn to forget.”

“That isn’t good enough,” said the soldier. “There is need for penitence.”

Then putting his gun down and kneeling on the floor, removing his cap, he asked Bishop Trevor to bless him. Trevor said afterwards that he was so near to tears that he could hardly speak.

Image: Bishop Trevor Huddleston and President Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eden Garden: Beauty Rising From the Rubbish Heap

When I was at secondary school in Auckland, New Zealand, I wrote a geography essay on the topic, “That Auckland is a city of volcanic cones joined together by a sewerage system. Discuss.” I have neither any recollection of what I wrote nor any idea of my argument but it was probably a mountain of crap, like its subject.

I happened to visit one of those volcanic cones recently on the flank of Mt. Eden, a few minutes drive from downtown Auckland.

Some photographs reveal what this area used to be—an abandoned quarry that had not only left an unsightly scar on the mountain but had been used as a rubbish heap.

Today it is called Eden Garden and it is certainly one of Auckland’s best-kept secrets. It has become a modern Garden of Eden containing waterfalls, trees, shrubs and flowers. Such is its horticultural richness (it contains one of the biggest collections of camellias in the southern hemisphere) that this garden is listed by the NZ Gardens Trust as a ‘Garden of Regional Significance’.

From a depressing, disused quarry that stood as tribute to humanity’s vandalism and waste, to a place of beauty, growth, tranquility and healing. No wonder people choose to bury the ashes of their loved ones in these gardens that witness to the amazing transformation of the dead. It is no surprise that people visit these gardens in their droves to drink a cappuccino while watching tuis (NZ native bird) feeding from the Taiwanese Prunus. People drop in after work to listen to musicians playing their violins and flutes against the backdrop of the rhododendrons. Counselors sometimes meet their clients in the outside or inside cafĂ©, surrounded by so much life, healing, change and promise.

The simple plaque on the gate belies the enormous work of an army of volunteers:

“In 1964 Sir Frank and Lady Mappin gave an abandoned quarry to the nation. Thanks to the vision of a small group of enthusiasts this quarry became today’s Eden Garden. They looked on a wilderness and dreamed of a garden.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front Gate to the Eden Garden.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chinese Say Listening Involves the Whole Person

Man Keung Ho, in Building a Successful Intermarriage, makes use of the Chinese word ting (listen) to explain the complexity.

Ting (pictured) is a composite of four vital parts: the ear, mind, eye and the heart.

The ear is necessary for hearing the words spoken;
The eye, for seeing the message conveyed by the body;
The mind, for interpreting the meaning of what has been seen and heard;
And the heart, for being able to feel what is wanted and needed from the relationship.

Man Keung Ho, Building a Successful Intermarriage between Religions, Social Classes, Ethnic Groups or Races (St. Meinrad, IN:St. Meinrad Archabbey, 1984), 98.

This commentary and retelling is found in:
Dugan Romano, Intercultural Marriage: promises and Pitfalls (London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2nd Edition, 2001), 132-133.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Ting (Listen).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Australia Says Sorry

The Australian government made an historic apology this week (13 February 2008), spoken in parliament by the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

He said the difficult but healing word ‘sorry’ that started the nation on a new journey toward the future. The Prime Minister continued:

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal
partners, with equal opportunities.

Source: ‘Reconcile’, where you can see and hear the speech of apology to the indigenous people of Australia and look at what it might mean to make another step.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd giving the speech of apology.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NZ’s Oldest Immigrant Gives Advice on Adventuring

A 102-year-old Briton, Eric King-Turner arrived on the Saga Rose cruise ship in Wellington today, to a media frenzy after spending the five-week trip out here being treated like a celebrity.

Mr King-Turner is New Zealand's oldest immigrant.

He left his home near Southampton to move across the world to be with his New Zealand-born wife Doris, 89, who has lived in Britain since the couple married over 12 years ago.

Mr King-Turner enjoys fishing and cricket, has a great interest in learning and fits in anywhere, his step-daughter said.

Before he left Britain Mr King-Turner told the Daily Mail newspaper: "I'm an Englishman through and through and there will be things I miss such as my friends but New Zealanders are very easy to get on with," he said.

"It's a wonderful new adventure and I would say to anyone that if you want to do something you should do it straight away while you can. What's important is that when I'm 105 I don't want to be thinking `I wish I had moved to the other side of the world when I was 102'."

He advised people never to say, ‘I’m too old for that.’ If you do that, it will be the end of you.

Source: ‘New Zealand’s Oldest immigrant Arrives in Wellington’, New Zealand Herald, 13 February 2008 and CNN International News, 13 February 2008.

Image: “Eric King-Turner arrived on the Saga Rose cruise ship…”

Mahatma Gandhi: the Most Creative Experiences of His Life

Once when Mahatma Gandhi was twenty-four years old he was working as an attorney in South Africa. He boarded an overnight train with a first-class ticket. At Maritzburg a white man got on, looked at Gandhi, and went to get two railroad officers. When they tried to get him to leave the first-class compartment, he showed them his ticket and refused to move. Gandhi was thrown off the train onto the station platform at the next stop.

Years later Dr. John R. Mott, an American missionary in India, asked Mahatma Gandhi what had been the most creative experiences in his life. And Gandhi told him about the experience at Maritzburg. For here it was that the mild little Indian’s life was redirected to fight the ugliness of color prejudice with the most unusual weapons in his history: love and non-violent resistance.

Source: Louis Fischer (paraphrased), Gandhi, His Life and Message for the World (Mentor: New York, 1954, 1982).

Image: Mahatma Gandhi.

Sir Edmund Hillary on ‘The Most Rewarding Moments’

Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), who recently died in New Zealand, wrote these thoughts about the great moments of his life:

“For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?”

Source: New Zealand Herald, Section C, p1, 12 January 2008 and originally found in Edmund Hillary, Nothing Venture, Nothing Win, 1975.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Edmund Hillary.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Martin: Weeping for the Lost Years

In a recent posting from Delancey Place.Com this compelling excerpt appears in which Steve Martin writes of his strained relationship with his father:

"My father died in 1997 at age eighty-three, and afterwards his friends told me how much they loved him. They told me how enjoyable he was, how outgoing he was, how funny and caring he was. I was surprised by these descriptions, because the number of funny or caring words that had passed between my father and me was few. ... When I was seven or eight years old, he suggested we play catch in the front yard. This offer to spend time together was so rare that I was confused about what I was supposed to do. We tossed the ball back and forth with cheerless formality....

"My father was not impressed [with my comedy act]. After my first appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wrote a bad review of me in his newsletter for the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, of which he was president: 'His performance did nothing to further his career.' ... I believe my father didn't like what I was doing in my work and was embarrassed by it. Perhaps he thought his friends were embarrassed by it, too, and the review was to indicate that he was not sanctioning this new comedy.

Later, he gave an interview in a newspaper in which he said, 'I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.'... As my career progressed ... I did [something that] still makes sense to me: I never discussed my work with him again…

"[Years later, just before my father's death] I was alone with him in his bedroom; his mind was alert but his body was failing. He said, almost buoyantly, 'I'm ready now.' I sat on the edge of the bed, and a silence fell over us. Then he said, 'I wish I could cry, I wish I could cry.'

"At first I took this as a comment on his condition but am forever thankful that I pushed on. 'What do you want to cry about?' I said.

"'For all the love I received but couldn't return.'

"I felt a chill of familiarity.

"There was another lengthy silence as we looked into each other's eyes. At last he said, 'You did everything I wanted to do.'

"'I did it for you,' I said. Then we wept for the lost years. I was glad I didn't say the more complicated truth: 'I did it because of you.'"

Source: Steve Martin, Born Standing Up, Scribner, Copyright 2007 by 40 Share Productions, Inc., pp. 19, 171, 197.

Image: Steve Martin.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blind Singers of Nagpur: Truth in Music

In his memoir of his time running a free medical clinic in one of India’s largest slums, Gregory Roberts recalls the time he first heard the Blind Singers of Nagpur. Stumbling upon a late-closing nightspot on the outskirts of Bombay, he heard a choir of angelic voices singing in Urdu. He describes it this way:

"A gradual silence settled in the room, and then all of a sudden three men began
to sing in powerful, thrilling voices. It was a luscious sound—a layered
gorgeous music of passionate intensity. The men weren’t just singing, they
were crying and wailing in song. Real tears ran from their closed eyes and
dripped onto the chests. I was elated listening to it; and yet somehow I
felt ashamed. It was as if the singers had taken me into their deepest and
most intimate love and sorrow.”

Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Melbourne: Scribe Publishing, 2003).

Roberts then retells their sad story. While performing in a remote village, the traveling singers were caught up in a tribal battle and captured by marauding bandits. Along with twenty members of the village, they were captured, tortured, and had their eyes put out with bamboo rods.

Now they travel around India singing Urdu worship songs in nightclubs and cafes. Their effect is mesmerizing. While listening to their breathtaking performances Roberts remembers a local philosopher leaning out and whispering in his ear, “The truth is found more often in music than it is in books of philosophy.”

Source: Michael Frost, Exiles (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 22-23.

Dr. Geoff Pound.