Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chinglish by Renee Liang

Chinglish
Yesterday

a shop lady smiled at me
and said,
Your English is very good

her eyes crinkled
in a let's-be-nice-to-aliens way.

I wanted to say

of course it bloody is,
I was born here...

Renee Liang, New Zealand Poet.

Source
Doctor Poet, Ingenio: The University of Auckland Alumni Magazine, Spring 2010, 22-23 (Click on this link to download article about Renee Liang).

Geoff Pound

Image: Photo of Renee Liang, courtesy of Ingenio from the article cited above).

E M Forster on Keeping Proportion While Living and Dying

E M Forster in ‘Howards Way’ makes this intriguing comment about the death of one of the characters, Ruth Wilcox.

‘Some leave our life with tears, others with an insane frigidity; Mrs. Wilcox had taken the middle course, which only rarer natures can pursue. She had kept proportion. She had told a little of her grim secret to her friends, but not too much; she had shut up her heart—almost, but not entirely.”

“It is thus, if there is any rule, that we ought to die—neither as victim nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave.”

Source (via Barrie Hibbert)
E M Forster, Howards End, Chapter 12.

Geoff Pound

Image: “But as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave.” The Seafarer's Memorial, Nelson, New Zealand

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Blessings of Discomfort, Anger, Tears and Foolishness

This Franciscan prayer is down-to-earth, honest and counter-cultural:

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Source unknown but it comes via Michael Hyatt’s fine blog.

Geoff Pound

Monday, November 08, 2010

Anton Gaudi: ‘My Client is Not in a Hurry’

Pope Benedict XVI this last weekend dedicated the Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona in the presence of Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

Benedict praised Anton Gaudi, the original architect of this grand building, for bridging the division between human consciousness and spiritual reality, between life here and now and life eternal.

The church leader said: “Gaudi did this, not with words but with stones, lines, planes and points.”

The Sagrada Familia or ‘holy family’ church is still unfinished after more than 100 years but the completion of the interior space was the reason for this service of blessing.

Gaudi only lived to see one tower and most of one fa├žade finished by the time he died in 1926.

He planned the church to have 18 towers—12 for each apostle, four for the evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary and the tallest tower for Jesus.

Only 8 towers have been completed and the hope is to finish the entire building by 2026, the anniversary of the death of Anton Gaudi.

Asked why it was taking so long to finish the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi replied, “My client—meaning God—is not in a hurry.”

Source
Pope Urges Spain to Shun Secularism, CNN, 7 November 2010.

Geoff Pound

Image: “He planned the church to have 18 towers—12 for each apostle, four for the evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary and the tallest tower for Jesus.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bannister, Landy and Santee, Training for Self-Mastery

Neil Bascomb has written a wonderful book called The Perfect Mile.

In it he tells the story of Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee, three athletes who committed themselves to breaking the four-minute mile.

Bascomb writes:

All three runners endured thousands of hours of training to shape their bodies and minds. They ran more miles in a year than many of us walk in a lifetime. They spent a large part of their youth struggling for breath. They trained week after week to the point of collapse, all to shave off a second, maybe two, during a mile race—the time it takes to snap one's fingers and register the sound. There were sleepless nights and training sessions in rain, sleet, snow, and scorching heat. There were times when they wanted to go out for a beer or a date yet knew they couldn't. They understood that life was somehow different for them, that idle happiness eluded them. If they weren't training or racing or gathering the will required for these efforts, they were trying not to think about training or racing at all.

The term some have used to describe what these men were doing is self-mastery. Others prefer the word discipline. Some athletes would be happy with conditioning.

Each of them describes the attempt to push oneself beyond the ordinary and achieve something unique and extraordinarily satisfying.

Sources
Neal Bascomb, The Perfect Mile (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 129-130.

Geoff Pound

Image: Roger Bannister crossing the tape at the end of his record breaking mile run at Iffley Road, Oxford. He was the first person to run the mile in under four minutes, with a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. Original Publication: Aldus Disc - People & Personalities - 1353 - 12 (Photo by Norman Potter/Central Press/Getty Images)

“They trained week after week to the point of collapse, all to shave off a second, maybe two, during a mile race—the time it takes to snap one's fingers and register the sound.”

What Mandela Taught Us On Robben Island

Gordon MacDonald recounts:

A few years ago I had the privilege of having a personal introduction to Nelson Mandela.

It is one of the most memorable moments of my life. Not because I am a hero-worshiper, but because of the experience I had in his presence.

When he entered the room and joined one other person and myself, I felt as if I was being enveloped in a cloud of grace. The man simply projected a spiritual force that left me dumbfounded.

What Did Mandela Teach?
Years before meeting Mandela, I had interviewed a man who had been imprisoned with him on Robben Island for five years. “We had rooms [cells] next to each other,” he told me.

“What did he teach you?” I asked.

“He taught us to forgive,” came the answer. “I was a bitter young man, and Mandela picked it up immediately when we first met.

He said to me, “Son, you are of no use to our movement until you learn to forgive the white man. You can hate his cause, but you cannot hate him.”

When I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela, I felt that gracious power that accounted for his splendid resilience. To come from twenty-seven years of imprisonment (the majority of his adulthood) and walk into the light and challenge the South African people—white and black—to forgive was the single most important thing that saved a nation from catastrophic bloodshed.

Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 129-130.

Geoff Pound

Image: “He taught us to forgive.”

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Character in Motion

In his book Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus writes of a day when he was speaking at a Christian retreat in Florida.

His family had accompanied him on the trip. "My assignment," McManus relates, "was to call several thousand singles to a life of sacrifice as we basked in soothing tranquility."

During some free time, McManus and his ten-year-old son, Aaron, took a walk along the ocean. Suddenly he noted a disabled man on crutches, struggling to make his way to the water's edge to join other bathers. But because the sand was too unstable, the man fell and was unable to get up again. McManus admits that his instinct was to turn and walk in the opposite direction.

I know this instinct. It is the part of each of us that prefers not to get involved, not to face something that could be beyond our grasp. The temptation is to freeze, ignore it, hope that someone else will step up to the situation. Something in one's character goes into neutral, and self-interest threatens to trump self-sacrifice.
Not so with McManus's boy.
“My son stopped me;” McManus says.
"I have to go help that man," the boy said.
McManus: "I could only look at him and say, "Then go help him."'

When the fallen man proved too heavy for a small boy to help, others quickly gathered around and offered the necessary strength. At first the child was distressed that he could not do it himself, but McManus said, "I explained to Aaron that his strength carried the man. It was because of him that others came to his aid."

This is character in motion, best illustrated in the instincts of a ten-year-old.

Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 60-61.

Geoff Pound

Image: “Suddenly he noted a disabled man on crutches, struggling to make his way to the water's edge to join other bathers.”

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Down-to-Earth Truths in the Egyptian Desert

In his book Soul-Making, Allen Jones describes a visit to the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius in the Egyptian desert.

His host, Father Jeremiah, a bearded monk of indeterminate age, filled him full of stories of the desert fathers. Like this one.

One day, it is said, Saint Macarius, among the wisest of monks, was asked by a young man, “Abba, tell us about being a monk.”

Marcarius responded, “Ah! I'm not a monk myself, but I have seen them!”

Gordon MacDonald, who recounts this story, picks up on the monk’s humility and stresses the truth that life is less about titles, roles, positions, realizations and intentions and more about becoming and letting our lives match our words.

Source
Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life (Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 59-60).

Geoff Pound

Image: Monk from the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius in the Egyptian desert (Photo courtesy of J P Quinlan and licensed under Creative Commons).

Mid-Life Can Be a Time for Sober Thinking

John Dean of Watergate fame wrote:

My view [of my life] has been backward, not forward ... and I have been dwelling on the trivial, on the insignificant too much.

Time is running out and I must come to terms with my life. The days for fantasizing great achievements are gone. Ambitions and goals must be realistic if I want to avoid great disappointment at the end.

Sources
John Dean, Blind Ambition (Simon & Schuster, 1976).
Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 56.

Geoff Pound

Image: John Dean

Monday, November 01, 2010

This Extraordinary Quality of Growth

Going from "kid brother" to senior statesman was an extraordinary journey for Ted Kennedy, matching the similar journeys taken by his brothers John and Robert.

All three of the Kennedy brothers who entered our national public life — meaning the three who survived World War II — demonstrated this extraordinary quality of growth, particularly after they arrived in Washington.

Too many successful politicians stop growing once they reach there, certain that they already know it all and have completed their growth within the biblical standard of "wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and Man."

But not the Kennedys, and certainly not Edward Moore Kennedy.

Ted Sorensen, Sorensen on Kennedy: The ‘Kid Brother’ Who Grew Up, Time, 26 August 2009.

Geoff Pound

Image: Ted Kennedy.

‘Finding Out What Works and What Doesn’t, What Fits the Style’

There’s an interesting insight about learning how to make your speeches work by testing them out on people and evaluating.

It comes from a New York Article that pays tribute to the speech writer of J. F. Kennedy, Theodore C. Sorensen:

“It was only after we had crisscrossed the country and began to build support at the grass roots, largely unrecognized in Washington, where Kennedy was dismissed as being too young, too Catholic, too little known, too inexperienced,” Mr. Sorensen said in the interview.

In those travels, Mr. Sorensen found his own voice as well as Kennedy’s. “Everything evolved during those three-plus years that we were traveling the country together,” he said. “He became a much better speaker. I became much more equipped to write speeches for him. Day after day after day after day, he’s up there on the platform speaking, and I’m sitting in the audience listening, and I find out what works and what doesn’t, what fits his style.”

Source
Theodore C Sorensen, 82, Kennedy Counselor Dies, New York Times, 31 October 2010.

Geoff Pound

Image: JFK and Theodore C Sorensen: “I find out what works and what doesn’t, what fits his style.”