Where’s the love?

The other day a friend said, “With all the horrible things happening in the world – all the horrible, hateful, violent things – where’s the love? Where’s the goodness gone?” I understand what he meant. We are bombarded constantly with news of another atrocity, another killing, another bombing, another starving country, another flood/fire/earthquake… It’s easy to think that the world’s going to heck in a hand-basket and we might as well all slash our wrists now and be done with it. It’s hard to believe in a rosy future for a world in which a group of teenage boys are slaughtered by a mob of murderous thugs (IS) because they were watching a soccer match on television. (I think they were probably watching Iraq’s team taking part in the Asian World Cup.) I guess soccer is an insult to Islam in some way or other. Although…the Taliban in Afghanistan allow soccer matches. They usually use the half time interval to conduct a stoning or two. It’s hard to keep up with the rules with these guys. Anyhoo…I get as overwhelmed as the next person…maybe more so than some. So I think it’s time to reassure my friend, and myself, that love and goodness are still at work in the world. A few days ago, I saw a picture of a dude who had dived into an icy river to save a duck. The little thing had got stuck in the ice. He got it free, warmed it up in a towel and then released it back into the wild. That’s a bit of love and goodness right there. Every day there are good-hearted people rescuing abused animals, feeding the homeless, helping their elderly neighbours, taking a stand against injustice, standing up to bullies and making an extra effort to be kind, even when people don’t deserve it. There was a guy in the USA, this past Christmas, who got his local police force to hand out $100 bills to people who looked as though they could use a blessing. Just one man, with a bit of extra cash, spreading a little surprising joy because he’s kind. That’s love and goodness right there. For all the murdering, scumbag extremists, who think they’re doing God a favour by torturing and killing people, there are others working in dreadful conditions at risk to their own lives, helping Ebola patients and AIDS victims. They don’t do it for money or political power, but because they have kind hearts and they dream of a better world. That’s goodness right there. Where’s the love? It’s in my heart and, hopefully, your heart. It’s spread one word, one gesture, one act of forgiveness, at a time. There are more of us (the kind, loving, thoughtful people) than there are of them (the cruel, vicious, haters). Don’t give up believing. Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop being kind. The next time you see an awful situation on the evening news, look for the person who is helping; there’s always at least one. Cheer them on, say, “Fight the good fight, buddy!”, and be...

Read More

Je suis Raif

Today’s blog is in honour of Raif Badawi. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of him, Raif is a Saudi. He is a blogger who tried to encourage discussion about religious and political matters. He was found guilty of insulting the clerics of Islam and therefore Islam itself. His sentence: 10 years imprisonment, a fine of about AU$330, 500 (give or take a dollar) and 1,000 lashes given 50 lashes at a time, every Friday for 20 weeks. He’s been held in jail since mid 2012 and had the first bout of lashes on Friday, January 9 this year. So far he’s still waiting for the next lot because the doctors have declared him unfit. They want him strong and healthy so they can beat him again. Nice. Thank God for Australia and western democracy. Here in the Great South Land I’m free to disagree, free to think for myself. I can say that I’m disgusted with my government’s asylum seeker policies, without fear of reprisal. I can question religious ideology, of whatever persuasion, without fear of torture or any physical harm. And, I have done so on more than one occasion. So far the worst that has happened is that a few of my Facebook friends have de-friended me. (I can live with that.) I find it extraordinary that the King of Saudi Arabia publicly voiced his condemnation of the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo and the right of free speech in France, even marching with other world leaders to show his solidarity with them on this matter. At the same time he is quite happy for one of his own citizens to be punished while trying to exercise that same right. The justification for Raif Badawi’s sentence is the same Sharia law that the terrorists used to excuse their actions. Does anyone else think there is a degree of hypocrisy happening here, a bit of double standards, or is it just me? When the planet finally gets its act together and switches to reliance on energy other than that derived from fossil fuels, then Saudi Arabia will find it no longer has the power to throw its weight around. Meanwhile, free thinkers like Mr Badawi will have to seriously consider emigrating. (Of course, if they want to come to a place like Australia, they’d better catch a plane. We all know what will happen to them if they try to seek asylum in a boat.) So, today, I’m declaring: Je suis Raif Badawi. Who’s standing with...

Read More

“Heaven is Real”.

So, it turns out the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven book is fiction. The young lad has admitted to making it up for “some attention”. I would have thought that the horrific injuries he sustained in the car crash, that left him in need of full-time care, would have provided enough attention. I guess he meant the sort of attention that would make him feel “‘special”. He’s not the first person to make something up and then watch it spiral out of control. He’s also not the first person to write a book and get it published as “truth” when it wasn’t. There was that guy who was sponsored by Oprah: James Frey. He wrote a “memoir”- A Million Little Pieces – that proved to be full of falsehoods.  There was quite a bit of hoohah about it at the time, with lots of discussion re the publisher’s responsibility to make sure their non-fiction really is non-fiction. There was a young woman here in Oz in the 90s. (I think. It might have been the 80s. You get to my age and the decades start sliding into each other.) Helen Demidenko won a literary prize for her first work – the history of her family – The Hand that Signed the Paper. It was supposedly about her migrant Ukrainian family who had sided with Hitler and then after the war emigrated to Australia. Turned out her name is really Helen Darville and she’d made the whole thing up. She’s now employed by a Liberal senator. (Don’t say it, Wendy, don’t say it…) Back to the lad and his trips to Heaven. I guess that at the moment there will be a large number of people who are feeling slightly angry, a little foolish and very disappointed, because they believed the tale. They wanted it to be true. I feel sorry for them because disillusionment is a bitter pill to swallow. However, the person I most feel sorry for is the boy. He told an imaginative story to his parents, perhaps with the hope that not only would it make him feel special, but that it might give a positive spin to his condition. “Don’t feel bad, Mom and Dad. Yes I’m a quadriplegic now, but it’s all for a higher purpose. I got to visit heaven and then come back and tell you all about it.” So his dad thought, “This is great! We should share it with the world!” His mum wasn’t so convinced but, as everyone else seemed to think it kosher, she thought she’d run with it. As they claim that the lad didn’t benefit financially from the deal (perhaps they donated the proceeds to charity) I can only assume they chose to believe the story because they wanted to believe the story. The whole thing is very sad. It would be easy for non-believers to make some serious fun of the family, and the people who bought the books, and the publishers etc etc. I hope they don’t. I hope there is a spark of compassion for this family caught up in a tragedy, hoping to find a huge silver lining in it all. For the believers who have been duped: take it as a salutary warning that we all need to be far more discerning. As it is, there’s now more ammunition for those who think Christians leave their brains in the car-park before entering the church. The parents of the boy have now split up, so there’s another tragedy for the kid to deal with in his short, sad life. I hope someone is being supportive to him. I hope someone lets him know that there will be better days ahead. Maybe, like James Frey, he can eventually go on to write more fiction but be up front about it. After all, he seems to have a talent for it. Be nice to each other out there. We all have secrets. We all make mistakes. We’re all prone to embroidering our dull lives to make them seem more interesting and more meaningful....

Read More

A week of contrasts

It’s a week since the fires began in the gorgeous Adelaide Hills. The fire was officially declared “contained” a day or so ago. Since then we’ve had a constant downpour of rain. The meterologists have said it’s the “biggest rain event in 30 years”. Places further north are preparing for flooding, and the Hills’ folk have been warned that they too might experience flash flooding. Yep, it’s one big roller-coaster ride when you live in ‘Straya. I’m reminded of a poem I learned while in primary school: I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains; Of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons. I love her jewelled sea. Her beauty and her splendour, the wide brown land for me. (Dorothea McKellar) I live in a land of contrasts. And, it’s been a week of contrasts in human behaviour as well. We’ve seen hundreds of volunteers risk their lives to same homes, properties and live stock – and been stunned at how successful they were at their task. We’ve seen hundreds of volunteers provide food, drink and shelter to those fighting the fires, as well as food, clothing and toys for the kids, for those who had to leave their homes to the mercy of the fire. We’ve seen many, many people spend days searching for injured wildlife; vets who have freely spent hours, days (and it will stretch into months) caring for those animals, at great financial cost to their livelihood; farmers bringing hay and feed for the repatriated horses and sheep; businesses providing free goods, free services (even free laundering of dirty uniforms) and free accommodation. On the other hand we’ve heard of scumbags trying to scam people, pretending to be collecting money for the fire relief appeal. Other ratbags were telling people they had to evacuate (when they didn’t need to) so that they could burgle their houses when the owners were gone. In France, some gunmen felt their prophet needed defending, so they shot dead a dozen people. We Christians put up with criticism, name-calling, satirical digs and intellectual disdain on a regular basis. We also see far more Christians than any other religion being persecuted on a regular basis, especially in Islamic countries. Of course, we’re handicapped by the instruction of our God to “turn the other cheek”. Some might see this is a weakness – there are certainly times when the logic of it is challenged – but, I think, in the long run it is one of our greatest strengths. (Of course, I’m speaking of the genuine follower, who truly aspires to live by our founder’s ideals of love, faith, charity and peace. I don’t mean the religious nutters who like to dress up their hateful, insular, warped thinking in religious clothing.) Religions have certainly got a lot to answer for in regards to violence throughout history but, before you atheists start getting too smug, it isn’t always the religious who do bad things, or who start wars, or who create gulags, or who slaughter innocents indiscriminately. As a species, we humans have a serious leaning towards the dark side. Indeed, “the human heart is a wicked thing”. On the other hand, there are many more hearts that have the light of love and compassion shining in them. I choose to believe that one day Love will...

Read More

Hot, windy and scary.

I should be thinking about my blog this morning but I can’t settle to it. Serious fires are raging not that far away from me and many people I know have had to leave their homes to find safety. Last night, I drove to my daughter’s house (we were going out together to see The Hobbit) and it wasn’t that far from the fire front. I could see it ahead of me, like a giant red mushroom cloud. It looked like an atomic explosion. Since then it has gone berserk and is rapidly eating up the beautiful Adelaide Hills with its gorgeous little towns, beautiful farmland and its plethora of wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. The roos will probably get away but those little koalas can’t run any faster than me. (And I never run!) Some of the area under threat is where the Old Boy and I used to live only a few years ago. I can’t stop thinking of all the livestock in the area: horses, cattle, deer, sheep and alpacas. I hear that some of them have already perished. Many people can move their horses but what do you do if you’ve got a herd of cows, or goats, or alpacas, or sheep? I guess you do what many of us are already doing: pray. So, I’m praying for everyone and everything under threat. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose your home, your animals and possibly your family or friends. I’m thankful for the wonderful fire-fighters, mainly volunteers, and I hope they all stay safe. Let’s try to take better care of this planet – so far it’s the only one we’ve found that is inhabitable. It’s time the powers-that-be stop playing silly buggers with politics and do something pro-active and worthwhile about climate change. I’ll now step down off my soap box. Take care of the ones you...

Read More