Monday, October 26, 2015

In the beginning . . .

You'll receive very few words from me this week because I've something to share with you . . . it's a remarkable TED talk.

That statement is a little misleading.  It isn't a talk in the usual understanding of the word, instead it's a five-minute film accompanied by natural sounds and background music.
The only words you'll encounter will be those of wonder and appreciation that will flood into your mind as you watch.

The concept of a talk without words might seem a contradiction in terms, but wait until you witness the eloquence of wildlife in motion.

Several years ago I was fortunate to be part of a team of translators.  What was brought home to all of us was the act that translation isn't a matter of accurately substituting the words of one language with those of another, it's far more than that.

As we came to realise, the translator needs to go beyond the word to the thoughts and emotions that inspired it.  The word comes by way of response.
Aren't there times when a warm hug is capable of expressing far more than words could possibly manage?

But, in the beginning, as Genesis tells us, it was a word that was needed.
All the limitless, nameless potential of creation may have been poised vibrating at the starting-line, but it took a word (we might prefer to call it The Big Bang!) to set it in motion.

Click here to watch the  outcome . . . enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy New Year!

I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself this week . . .  ashamed of my ignorance.
But I don't think I was alone.  I wonder, did you know that we've just embarked on a New Year?

I'd invited a good friend to tea on Wednesday and, to my surprise, she arrived with a gift in the form of a box of small cakes.
It was a very kind thought, but, as I pointed out, I was the hostess, she'd no need to bring the food.

It was, she told me, New Year's Day . . .  these were special Islamic New Year cakes.  My friend is a Muslim.

The small cakes were stuffed with dates and proved absolutely delicious.

 Whilst drinking tea and wishing each other a very happy New Year,  we much enjoyed them.

But, as I say, I felt ashamed of my ignorance . . . and asked her to tell me more.

I learned that the Islamic world had just moved into the year 1437, and that a Public Holiday was being celebrated in many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

However, there was much more to it than that.
Whereas the Christian year is governed by the movement of the Earth around the Sun, Islamic years, so she told me, follow the waxing and waning of the Moon.

The month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Year, had started with the current New Moon.  Each of the eleven subsequent months will follow the same pattern.

As the waxing and waning of the Moon takes a few days less than the standard length of the Christian month, this means that the Islamic year slides slowly backwards through the seasons.
The New Year that has just taken place in the autumn will, in a few years' time, move backwards into the summer.

Last Wednesday's New Year will have been recognised by the majority of refugees flooding across Europe.

True, they won't be expecting celebrations or New Year cakes.  But wouldn't it be good if, at the very least, we recognised the pattern that shapes their lives, if we knew of their calendar?

The Sun and the Moon have a harmonic relationship in the heavens.  Would that their two calendars could follow a similar pattern here on Earth.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Story of Stuff

"My house," said the comedian on the radio, "is a little pile of stuff with a cover on it . . .".
His audience chuckled appreciatively, everyone knew exactly what he meant.

Stuff . . . it's what we each of us have in abundance.  Not only that, we're encouraged to have it . . . our purchases, so politicians tell us, boost the economy.

But do we need so much . . . do we need even half of it?
Let's look at the things we rarely use.
Ladders, for instance, they occupy space and could easily be put at the disposal of our neighbours.  And what about the lawn-mower and the wheel-barrow . . . couldn't they be shared?

Caught up with this idea, I went online in search of support.
To my considerable surprise I stumbled upon a quiet revolution.
Did you know about it?  I certainly didn't.

To give you an example, the 'Streetbank' website enables neighbours to share within their community.  According to this site, there are currently nearly fifty thousand neighbours sharing over fifty thousand things . . . everything from tools and instruments, to sofa beds and skills.  Their stated aim is to build a sense of community through lending . . . and it's free to join.
If your home as cluttered as mine?  Then go to 'Streetbank'.

And what of the stylish hat you bought for a friend's wedding?  Perfect for the occasion, elegant and much admired at the time.
Is it fated to spend the remainder of its days abandoned in a hat-box in the cupboard?
Not if you click on the 'Vinted' website which claims 'to make secondhand clothing the best and easiest choice'.  'Vinted' takes a fee when items are sold, but users can swap items for free.

It's a sensitive subject, I know, but dare I suggest that cars, too, could be considered stuff?
Just think about it for a moment.  The large majority of cars we see thronging our city streets have only one occupant . . . the driver.  Surely such a large and powerful object isn't really necessary to convey one person from point A to point B?

Not only that, cars en masse cause congestion, not to mention the room they occupy when parked by the kerb.

Share a car and just think of the personal saving in taxation, insurance and petrol.  A saving that would more than pay for hiring your own car should it be needed for holidays or weekends.

Additional benefits for all of us would be a dramatic reduction in the mounting problem of air pollution . . . and the speeding up of the remaining traffic.

Did you know that all of this can be made possible by clicking on 'Bla Bla Car'?  Or, if parking is your problem, that 'Parkatmyhouse' will help you to share an off-road parking space?

Stuff . . .  it's everywhere.  But is it limited to material possessions?
I don't think so.
Have you noticed how our heads are stuffed full of stuff . . . stuff that takes the form of habitual ideas.

One such idea, and a very pernicious one, is that we should each of us own everything we need.

But we live in a world of finite resources, surely it's better to share than to be profligate?

A sharing that will simultaneously care for the earth, lose superfluous stuff and help us to make friends?  It sounds good to me.

'Not mine, not yours .  . but ours'.
The perfect thought to stuff into our minds and clear out all that clutter!