Category: belief


WALK WITH ME  directed by Max Pugh and Marc J Francis (USA, 2017)

walkwithmeThis movie shows the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns in the secluded monastery of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in the South West of France.

The key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment. The goal of the cinematic distribution campaign is “about turning movie theaters into meditation halls, and bringing communities together for a common goal”.

This message was lost on the woman sitting in front of me in the cinema who spent most of the time glued to her mobile phone!

The practice of mindfulness may have reached the mainstream but the number of people prepared to give up their daily distractions and possessions is still limited.  My impression is that most want a quick fix rather than a permanent lifestyle change. Continue reading

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new_skin_for_the_old_ceremony As a gift to a friend of mine who is retiring soon, a group of friends and colleagues have been asked to write articles about a poem or song.

These texts will be connected by the themes of one, or more, of the four elements – fire, earth, water and air.

I have chosen to write a piece on Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire which, as you may know or recall, goes like this:

And who by fire, who by water,
 who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
 who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
 who in your merry merry month of may,
 who by very slow decay,
 and who shall I say is calling? Continue reading 
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A strong leader stands in an un-drained swamp.

“It’s so easy to laugh,
It’s so easy to hate,
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”
Lyrics by Morrissey to ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths

A recent survey carried out by the newspaper La Repubblica  found that 80% of Italians think the country needs to be run by “un uomo forte” (a strong man). In 2006, only 55% of the populace subscribed to this view while 60% held this belief in 2010.

This rising trend is worrying and depressing on many counts. It indicates that more and more voters are willing to be represented by leaders solely on the basis that they adopt strong opinions and maintain a posture of decisiveness.

On the surface this may seem logical and uncontroversial. After all, who would want a leader to be weak and indecisive? The problem lies with what exactly is meant by the word ‘strong’. Continue reading

A good God is hard to find

A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)

flanneryMy favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.

I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.

As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa.  Continue reading

FORKS OVER KNIVES documentary film directed by Lee Fulkerson (USA, 2011)
forks_over_knives_movie_poster

There are three main reasons why I am a vegan :
1. I oppose the unnecessary and unjustifiable maltreatment and slaughter of animals.
2. I believe that the intense factory farming is slowly but surely destroying the planet.
3. I have personal experience of the health benefits which far outweigh the minor inconveniences and small sacrifices needed to maintain this diet.

I gain sustenance for my position from some excellent documentaries that make the case for veganism.

For the animal welfare issues, Earthlings (2005) sets out the arguments powerfully and compassionately.

The environmental effects are efficiently outlined in Cowspiracy (2014).

Forks Over Knives focuses on the health question centering primarily on the persuasive views of two eminent doctors – Caldwell Esselstyn and Colin Campbell. The former is a physician and heart surgeon while the latter is a nutritional biochemist. Both have spent a large part of their professional lives researching the links between diet and wellbeing. Continue reading

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