Saturday, 3 January 2009

How President Obama Can Win The Affection of His People and of The World

I decided to add my own voice to the many that have made a contribution to the Great Barack Obama debate. With his official term of office about to begin soon, now seemed an appropriate time. Some might argue, why bother to say anything? With all the billions of words that have been written about him, how can there be anything left worth saying? At least, until his government has properly begun to do whatever it is going to do.

Others might say, what right have you to say anything, as you are not even American. Well that's true. But being not entitled to say something has not stopped me from talking in the past. And the same could be said of many other people too. Besides, the things the US President does affect all of us, don't they? So I DO have a right to speak about him.

My first thought is, how absolutely splendid it is that a black person has been elected to the White House. I heard that Jesse Jackson had complained that he wasn't black enough, which seems a rather absurd thing to say, if he really did say it. I think Jackson must have meant that Obama's mother is white, so the president is of mixed race. Or he could have meant that Obama's father is from Kenya, and therefore is not a son of slavery; in this case, "not black enough" would mean he had no ancestral background in the struggle of blacks for recognition in the USA.

It certainly does seem that Obama has inherited a lot of problems to sort out, both at home and in the wider world. A lot of people are hoping that he will roll his sleeves up, and start dealing with these problems right away. Each one of these people of course assumes that the only right way to do this is to do exactly what they would do. Or anyway, what they dream they would do... But they all seem to be looking for Obama to take a strong and active line on many current issues. They want him to be filled with reforming zeal.

I'm actually hoping for something different. After all, the US president has many teams and committees of advisors and experts in every possible field. He has the greatest economists, political thinkers, federal bank officials, military strategists, police experts, lawyers and all the rest. These people are perfectly capable of sorting out the problems, as long as they are given some clearly defined guidelines and parameters to go by. So let them get on with the job. All the president really needs to do is oversee the whole thing, and make the occasional stirring speech, something that Obama has already proved himself to be very good at.

This kind of approach in a Head of State can be described as "masterly inactivity". In my opinion, it is by far the best way to govern a country. The people will love him if he does that. Despite what the theorists say, most people have an intense dislike of change. Ordinary people really are as conservative as cats. I don't mean they are political conservatives, I just mean they don't like change. They like things to carry on pretty much as they are, even if those things are not exactly perfect. They are reluctant to try repairing anything if it's working reasonably OK. They are happy to try making constant small improvements day by day. They just don't like the kind of root-and-branch reforms that we see all the time these days. There's a saying in Spain, The best day is when nothing new happens. If you scratch the surface, you will find that most people all over the world would agree with that.

Most of us have had it up to the ears with "strong government" in the past few decades. Politicians seem to feel it is their duty to change everything, to turn everything upside down, to introduce radical new measures, to interfere with everything, to make their mark.

What we really do need now is a president of the US who will set an example to other world leaders. Someone who will just run the country, and keep things ticking over. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, 12 October 2008

All Roads Lead To Home

It seems appropriate here to update my many fans with an itinerary of my recent travels.

I have decided to settle now for a while back in dear old Blighty, that beloved land of my forefathers. Regular readers will know that I refer to England, and I think I have already explained that its nickname of "Blighty" comes from a Hindi word, bilayati, meaning "foreign land." The name is occasionally used, in a jocular sense nowadays, by Brits to refer affectionately to their own country. It seems odd doesn't it, that they should use a word which means "foreign land", but that's only because most of them don't really know what it meant originally. Certainly to me, as I look across the rolling acres of the land in which generations of my fathers tilled the soil, I can never think of it as foreign, and sometimes, as I recall the "green and pleasant land" I have to wipe away a tear, wherever I happen to be, in the Brazilian rainforest, or the mighty steppes of central Asia, or the Australian bush, or the Sahara desert.

I left Normandy on a cold, wet, dreary day several weeks ago, and I shall probably never return there. The full story of the final farewell has yet to be told, but it WILL be told in the fulness of time. Of my travelling arrangements I say nothing. It will suffice to note only that I have been in Belarus, and found it delightful. After this, I then fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting downtown Ulan Bator, which regular readers will know is the location of the World International Headquarters of the Ex-Philosopher Fan Club (EPFC). I was made very welcome there during my all too brief stay.

The intention is to provide, over the coming weeks, more detail about the many adventures enjoyed by your correspondent, but for today the foregoing will have to suffice, as I must dash, having an urgent appointment for which I am already late. Please feel free, if you do not want to miss the excitement of future posts on this blog, to use the RSS subscription feeds, they are very easy to operate.

Bye for now!

(Airplane image from Sphere: Related Content

Friday, 3 October 2008

A Reply To The Arrogance of an (Anonymous) Critic

If you are able, or you have time to read the previous post on this blog, the post entitled "Was Jesus a Poor Man?", you may or may not find it interesting, and you may or may not disagree with the opinions expressed therein. I am happy either way, the opinions are mine, the speculations are mine, I happen to think they are reasonably sound, and I am happy to stand by them. But I am also happy to allow others to disagree with them if they wish. They are just opinions.

In order to provoke what I hope will be a lively and fruitful discussion, I posted the article on Qassia. I should say that I think Qassia is a very good site in its way, apart from one or two faults. The principal of these is the practice of screening. When an article is submitted by a member, it has to be "screened" by at least 12 other members before it can be published. This involves giving a grade fron 0 (awful) to 5 (outstanding) and then these grades are averaged out when the article is published. Thus the article for ever after has that grade on Qassia. The article that I mentioned ended up with a grade of 3.50 which I suppose is not bad, and seems to show that 6 voters went for a 3 (average) and 6 went for a 4(good job).

The reason I mention this in such detail is that it gives very ignorant and dogmatic people a chance to have an influence on events. Another feature of the screening system is that you are allowed to click on a statement that will give feedback to the author, supposedly designed to help the author of the article, but most often used by said ignorant, dogmatic people to try to show off their feeling of superiority. To cut a long story short, one reader flagged the article for, and I quote, "Some or all of the information is not true."

What information? The article doesn't give any information. It's pure speculation from beginning to end, it's a statement of OPINION. How can this be helpful feedback? Well, of course, it isn't designed to be helpful at all, but to be spiteful. What the critic is trying to say, is that they don't AGREE with the article, and if they had come right out and said so in a comment, they would have made themselves more worthy of respect. To say that someone whose opinion they do not agree with is, by definition, not telling the truth, shows a deep vein of arrogance, which, however, they are not prepared to back up by putting forward in public their own counter-opinion.

It's possible (and again, this is pure speculation LOL) that the person thought the article author was trying to undermine Christianity in some way. But, as was said in the footnote to the original article, nothing could be further from reality. The author of the article is actually trying to work to strengthen Christianity by moving away from fundamentalist dogma, and from useless myths perpetuated by careless reading of the text.

Another user, whose (very interesting) article I read last week, told us that her article had been flagged as having grammatical and/or spelling mistakes. This was preposterous. We all went throught the article carefully and could find nothing wrong. No errors of grammar. One word ("focussed") had a British spelling, which, given that the author herself was British, was hardly surprising. Our conclusion was that the person who did the flagging was self-important and a bit loopy.

So, all in all, Qassia is a good idea, but it suffers from its policy of allowing the idiot element to have too much power. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Was Jesus A Poor Man?

We tend to assume that Jesus was a poor man, but why do we do this? Well, it's really only on the evidence that we read in the Bible. But what does the Bible actually say about the poverty of Jesus the man? If we look closely at the key texts we will see that the whole question is a lot more uncertain than we think. It may be that the idea that Jesus was poor may be more the result of "reading between the lines" than in reading the actual words themselves.

Let's look at some examples.

Most people know the story of the birth of Jesus, how he was born in a stable in Bethlehem, and his mother had to lay him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. This is a very attractive story, and millions of people delight to hear it retold every year at Christmastime. Being born in a stable has surely got to be evidence of poverty, hasn't it? Well, yes and no. It could certainly mean that the family were sleeping in a stable because they could not afford a hotel room, but the text states quite clearly that they were there because there was no room in the inn, in other words, that the inn was full up. The implication here is that all the hotels in town were full, and that this one was the last they tried, where the kindly innkeeper, having regard to Mary's plight, let them use the stable to sleep in.

The holy family had journeyed to Bethlehem, along with a large number of other people, because it was Joseph's home town. The terms of the census required this to happen, and this would seem to be a logical requirement, although very inconvenient for the population. We read a quite detailed account of it in the Gospel of Luke, although it has been impossible so far to find independent evidence of this census in contemporary Roman records. It can be assumed though that Bethlehem, then as now quite a small town, was full to bursting with visitors, who filled all the available hotels. Possibly Mary and Joseph arrived later than many others. This would make sense, given the condition that Mary was in. Mary's pregnancy might also explain why they might accept any lodgings that were offered, to save having to search all over town, especially after a long journey.

Having to sleep in a barn when everywhere else was full could happen to anyone, not just a poor person. So it might have been because they were poor, but it also might be for a variety of other reasons.

Another event that appears to imply the poverty of Jesus is when he had to ask someone for a coin so he could show the head of Caesar on the coin. This is the story containing the line, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." If he had to ask someone to bring him a coin, surely that is a sign that he was too poor to have even one coin in his pocket? Possibly, but such a thing is just as much a sign of, for example, royalty than of poverty. Monarchs are frequently fabulously wealthy, and so do not need to carry cash. The Queen of England is one of the richest women in the world, and she famously carries no cash. If she wanted to look at a coin, she would have to ask one of her courtiers to bring her one. Pretty much the same as Jesus did, isn't it?

Much is made of the story that Jesus was a carpenter by trade. Surely this shows him to be poor, or at least, of a solid working class background, making a workman's wages? Again, not necessarily. Jesus was accepted by all the people, even his opponents, as a bona fide rabbi, a teacher of religion. On the evidence of his deep scriptural knowledge and insight, added to the evidence of his masterly teaching techniques, we can infer that he was very likely a trained rabbi. Whether he was or not, it is a fact that is not often acknowledged that teachers at the time were encouraged to learn a practical trade as a second string, so that they might not be a burden to society during hard times. It is well known that St Paul was a tent maker by trade, and this is an example of the practice. There seems no reason why the same should not apply to the carpentry trade of Jesus.

Another story is of the man who said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Is this a complaint about Jesus' own personal financial situation and lack of a roof over his head? Given the type of man he was, it seems highly unlikely. I think it is more likely a poetic comment on his chosen mission as an itinerant preacher, and also an indication that he knows he will not be accepted by his own people.

It is true that the mission of travelling from town to town would have involved Jesus and his disciples in some austerities, but that does not imply that they were poor men, only that travelling, at any rate in those times, could be hard. However this may be, the mission of Jesus does not seem to have been lacking in financial support from wealthy benefactors.

The author believes that there are certain notions that have arisen from an over-interpretative reading of the Gospels in the past. This article is intended to suggest some preliminary ideas towards a reappraisal of them, and to point to other possible interpretations, which may help us in living our Christian life. The author is a practising Christian, who is not wishing to criticize or call into question the Gospel message - far from it. The intention is to try to work for a clearer understanding of that message, so that we may be better able to apply it. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Truth About Stonehenge?

There are thousands of speculative theories about the origin of Stonehenge, the ancient stone monument on Salisbury Plain in England. Some of them are interesting, some are downright stupid. Judge for yourself on this latest addition. But we know what we think about it!

I found this report very hard to believe. Do these people think we are really so credulous as to believe such twaddle? Where it's coming from I don't know, either it's in the reporting, or worse, in the research, but it is such an overblown speculation, I wonder they don't shrink in embarrassment from it.

Simply because people in the past may (or may not) have used a monument because they believed it to have healing qualities does not, most emphatically does not, mean that the monument was designed for that purpose.

You might just as well say that the Blarney Stone in Ireland was designed to give people the gift of the gab. Or the many statues of the Madonna, that people touch in the belief they will have good luck, but they certainly were not designed with that purpose in mind.

This theory for the origin of Stonehenge is quite simply preposterous - and deplorable. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Change Is The Only Thing That Never Changes

Bonjour, mes amis!

I have a lot to tell you. Indeed, I may not be able to relate all the facts and events of the last few days before I run out of time, and have to spill this post over into another day. Ah, the suspense!

Well, to begin. You may (or possibly may not) know that there are, and have been for several weeks now, no less than TWO versions of this blog. No, no, I hear you say, isn't one enough, or even more than enough. I do sympathise, dear reader, but que voulez-vous as the French say. This is how it all started.

The original blog was entitled "How I Became A Zen Catholic" and those of a perceptive disposition will still be able to discern the abbreviated username style version "zencath" in all kinds of dodgy, and even occasionally not-so-dodgy, places on the web. That blog was inaugurated on a snowy day in early 2008. Later the name was changed, for reasons which I actually can't remember, to "That Reminds Me."

That blog was on Wordpress. Anyway, after a while I decided that it would be better to move the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel, to Blogger. The main reason was, because in some ways Wordpress seems, you know, a little bit too serious? a bit earnest? or is it just me? Secondly, you can't use Java on Wordpress, and I had a deep yearning to paste on to my blog some of those jolly looking adverts that flash on and off. Also the ones that guess what your visitors would like to have, you know, AdSense? I love to see what they'll do next.

I should add that I didn't want the adverts in order to make any money from them. So if you see one on this blog, whatever you do, do NOT click on them, or else I will end up with far too much money that I will not have ANY idea what to do with it!

So anyway I decided to move to Blogger. After protracted negotiations with the Zencath International Fan Club (as it was then named before the change), working out of its World Headquarters in downtown Ulan Bator, the move was made, and I set up this blog where you now are, under the name Journal of an Ex-Philosopher. I put up a "WE HAVE MOVED" sign on the front door of the Wordpress version, and there I thought the matter would end.

However, I noticed that the people were still going to the old place to read my ancient articles from former times, notably it seems the article "Normandy - Some Interesting Facts" was still a consistent success. Considering it does not contain any interesting facts about Normandy or anywhere else, I found its popularity puzzling. The title was actually meant to be an ironic joke. Those who have followed my adventures will know that I occasionally sojourn in the fair land of Normandy, and that I have been inspired sometimes to write of my experiences there. These stories have included the strange antics of mon voisin francais and his girlfriend, that formidable woman, and his blasphemous budgerigar, Claude. There are one or two examples of them in THIS version of the blog. Anyway, "Normandy - Some Interesting Facts" was actually a rather insipid, vapid, and unspectacular episode in that long running saga. Why it continues to hog the popularity ratings is beyond me.

So the upshot is that I decided to re-open the Wordpress version, but I didn't have the heart to close up this one. So there are now, and probably ever shall be, not one but two versions of this blog. I hope you're keeping up with this. You know you really should pay attention; I shall be asking questions later!

Incidentally, I posted one of the Normandy experiences on the new Qassia website, which is a kind of social network/forum/search-engine/article-submission site. My post came in for some criticism from a couple of people who said that they hadn't a clue what it was trying to say, they couldn't make head nor tail of it, it was so coming out of left field, it should be given a complete overhaul etc etc. Fair comment. It was so rambling! It seemed, to start with, that it was to be about Spain, and my Spanish vacation, but really it was a rather lengthy account of the singularly dramatic events that followed the disappearance of Claude. Some of my other efforts that I contributed to Qassia have been a bit more successful at cracking the nut, cutting the mustard, putting the icing on the cake, and so on.

The Worpress version of this blog is now called Everything Is Radio for reasons which you will find out when you go there.

A bientot! Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Your Own Micro-Climate

news, extreme weather, normandy interesting facts, hurricanes, micro-climate, climate, english channel, people, life
As some of you may already know, I have two homes, separated from each other by only about a hundred miles or so. That hundred miles contains within it a rather wide and stormy stretch of water though, in fact it's the English Channel, or La Manche, as the people on the other side call it. This water, scene of rather more than its fair share of historic events over the years, takes a bit of negotiating, but I'm glad to say I have landed safely on dry land. Ah! it's great to back in the dear old country again.

However, I have to say that the ancient land where my forefathers tilled the soil is looking a trifle bedraggled and soggy these days. Where can all this rain be coming from, I wonder? I know that British weather is something of a standing joke, but this is getting ridiculous now. Mind you, the French have not been entirely free of awful weather this year, and I gather that it is currently none too pleasant for our esteemed cousins across the Big Water, that marvellous people with whom us Brits share so harmoniously a common language.

I will not digress. My intention today was to write a serious piece. I hoped this would in some small measure counter-balance the slightly frivolous tone that seems to have lately crept into the confines of this blog, entirely against my wishes, I assure you. This serious piece anyway was to have its inauguration today, but looking out of the window at the weather, I thought I just couldn't hack it. I mean, it's pouring down out there and I would be wrestling with serious concepts? Nah, I don't think so.

So I decided instead to say a little word about the weather and leave it at that. Anyway from all accounts there has been some pretty severe weather around - storms in most parts of England, accompanied by floods; and there have been hurricanes and tornados in America, I hear. But I'm glad to say that the place where I am staying is one example of those places that are rarely enough to be found on Earth - a micro-climate. Whatever is happening everywhere else, the weather in this town is always a milder version of it. Don't ask me why it is, perhaps it is the particular configuration of landscape features, or a powerful spell cast hundreds of years ago, but the chances of extreme weather in this town are about the same as for winning the lottery jackpot three weeks running. I'm serious.

I'm not saying we don't have some weather, of course we do, but it is never as bad here as it is elsewhere, even only ten miles away. Furthermore, when it rains the water drains away very quickly because the hills are composed of chalk. What's that you say? No I'm not going to tell you where it is. We have quite enough new people moving in as it is. I'm sorry but you'll just have to find your own micro-climate.

Do you live in a micro-climate? Or know someone else who does? Why not tell us all about it, in the comments section below. Sphere: Related Content