Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Rachel’s tale

See this, and be renewed. See this, and live afresh.


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Lives renewed

It’s good news for a British couple who won over £40million on the lottery, but I wonder about how it will change their lives.  Will the change really be for the better (no pun intended)?

I have read, at various times, how big winners have vowed that their new riches shall not make them wasteful or greedy.  They promise that they will continue to live in their modest house, keep working as usual, take normal holidays and, at most, indulge themselves in a few of life’s little luxuries.  All very well and good, we might think.  But it does disturb me that a wealthy person should hold his old job, which he no longer needs to maintain himself and his family, rather than resign it and give another person the chance to earn an honest living.  Likewise, isn’t it a little selfish to keep the old terraced house, when they could so easily make it available to a young couple who really need it?

Thoughts like these were going through my mind as I read a charming book about a 19thC parson.  He was not a wealthy man ; but he did know that, one day, he would inherit £2700 – not a great fortune even in those days ; but certainly enough to remove any acute financial anxieties he otherwise might have had.

As a curate, he was keen to have his own parish ; to be his own boss, as it were.  But the parish he greatly wished for – and which he might have successfully applied for – was beyond his means.  He had noticed how the run-down vicarage was constantly being fixed by carpenters, masons, tilers and so forth.  And the poor parson must have been at his wit’s end to keep the place habitable.

So the curate gave up on that idea.  He resigned his curacy (as his time was up) and lived at his parents’ expense while awaiting a new opportunity.

Well, the question arises, “What should the child of wealthy parents do to occupy his time?”  He would not have thought of taking a job, and thereby deprive a poor man of the chance of making a living.  He would not go into trade, for the same reason.  He might applied for another curacy ; but that would have deprived a promising newcomer.

So, he did the decent thing.  He simply made himself useful to other parishes, as well as his old one.  He was greatly respected and had many friends among both rich and poor alike.  He had saved lives, he had helped farmers with their labours, he had dug the gardens of poor widows, and he had given hope to many.  And he never took a shilling.

Perhaps the curate had read some of William Cobbett, who was a farmer, “Money,” he said, “Is like muck – no good unless it be spread.”  So the wealthy have a duty to spread their money ; to spend it wisely and to invest it honestly.

We might add that time also is for spreading ; for giving in charity ; for receiving with gratitude.

I don’t know what the lucky couple, who won the jackpot, will do with the aid of their fortune.  But I hope they don’t do anything vain, like hang on to their old jobs, their old house and their old habits.

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In search of the Light

You steadfast sentinels who guard the heart
Of England fair, stand ready yet, amid
The fallen of your number ; ne’er to part
From sacred duty.  Loyalty unhid.
And yet, what life have you, our standing stones,
That turn their faces to the new-born sun?
As if to capture clouds of glory, tones
Of Heaven’s colour, counting all well-won.
Does blood run freely in the veins of rock?
In hearts of stone, does deity choose to dwell?
Is spirit content in granite to lock
The forces that all ills may sure dispel?
You played your part as vanguard of the quest
That found the light and kindled us, the West.

Jamie MacNab 2011

Standing guard


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Things that grow generally fascinate us ; there is a mystery to life that we cannot quite get our heads round.  Is life itself a material thing?  or is it a non-material thing that happens to be associated with material things?  I read once that some ingenious experiments were carried out which involved weighing a dying animal at intervals before its actual death and continuing those weighings after death.  The aim was to see if there was a larger decrement in weight at the moment of death, which would signify that life itself had mass – i.e. that life was a material thing.  The concerns of people are so interesting, aren’t they?

But planting a young rose in a patio pot can be interesting, too.  Just looking at it is interesting.  At the beginning of its life, it might appear to be very much like a dead twig protruding from the soil.  As we gaze, we can become aware that we have formed a percept of a dead-looking twig.  And we remember it.

But what do we mean by a percept?  And what do we mean by remember?  Let us leave psychology to one side and think instead of neurology.  Neurologists tell us that we process the visual information of the rose by modifying our brain cells.  Thus the image of the dead-looking twig is stored in our brains as a modification of some cells.  The image causes some of our cells to grow in highly particular ways.  Thus the physical structure of the twig is re-presented to us as a physical structure in the brain – and it was the twig that caused it.

If we were to leave the rose unseen for a month or so, and then return to it, a similar remarkable event occurs.  As we gaze at it, we notice that the twig has formed  a small bud ; we form a percept of this changed form ; the brain cells modify themselves again by growing a little more, in proportion to the new growth on the twig.  And we remember this, too.

Now that we have more than one percept of the rose, we can say that we are forming, or growing, a concept of it.  We can say that we are forming the concept of its growth.  We can do this because we remember both percepts and the temporal order in which they were formed – and we compare them.

If we repeat this experiment over a number of months, we assemble many percepts of the rose as it changes its form – leaves appear ; flower buds appear ; the flowers open ; new colours appear ; the rose becomes taller and also spreads out.  Thus we form a more complete concept of the growing plant.

And we note that, as the rose grows, so does our brain.  The physical growth of the rose causes a corresponding physical growth in the brain.  It is as if the rose enjoyed two lives – one in the pot and the other in our head.

So the rose lives within us.  And its life within us is physical, for it is neurological.  A real growth of the plant produces a real corresponding growth in the brain.

What would a poet make of all this?

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Civilizations are built upon habits ; and it is has been traditionally agreed that the earlier those habits are taught, the better it is for the general good.  And those habits really do have to be taught, because men and women are not naturally inclined to act for the general good ; they are naturally inclined to be self-serving (observe the behaviour of babies).

So, the question arises, Which are the habits that are to be taught?  And what is the fundamental principle that underpins them?  Observation suggests that one principle which all seem agreed upon is the goodness of life ; or the goodness of living, in itself.  We abhor death.

But, of course, an abhorrence of death might be a purely selfish attitude ; so we must also abhor the deaths of others.  But it would be fruitless to begin the moral education of a child with this fact, for what does a toddler know of death?  Is it a good idea to risk encouraging morbidity of thought?

So, to avoid getting too analytical on this point, we might consider that the starting point of a moral education is to instil a respect for the well-being of other people ; and a respect for their dignity.  But here, the teacher must (sooner or later) face some uncomfortable questions.  Given that there are some pretty obnoxious people around, we might ask, Who is worthy of respect?  Are there some people whose well-being and dignity we ought to ignore?  Are there some civilizations (social habits) which rank lower than our own?  and in what way ought we to respect them, if at all?  Are we morally entitled to show disrespect to certain classes of people?

Where does the teaching of respect begin?  and does it have an end?

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It’s commonly believed that nothing ceases to exist, but that things change their form.

It’s generally believed that, when a thing changes its form, its function also changes.

It’s generally believed that, to observe change objectively, the observer must be unchanging.

It’s tacitly believed that there is some function of consciousness that is unchanging ; for, without that condition, all our observations of change are suspect.

An interesting question arises : is that stable function of consciousness a ‘thing’? If it is a ‘thing’, is it in a category of its own? It would seem so ; for, if not, then we are hard put to justify any of what we call our ‘knowledge’.

If it is in a category of its own, is there any reason to suppose that it perishes?  Opinion has been divided.

Reason alone might yield an answer ; but reason plus experience is better. What recorded experiences do we have for, and against, the proposition that something lives on after the body has died?

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The Rainbow’s  easy stretch, from wood to vale,
Sends out its borrowed colours, and the eyes
Remember the promise in legend old.

Green are the clothes of the Trees
And green the raiment of Earth ;
As fresh the promise grows.

Lively flow the Rivers of Life
That change in tune with Time.
And all is borne in Hope.

Far travels the Sun, what way He will ;
And fair the Moon that follows.
Gold and silver the promise lightens.

The image and likeness sees all these
And names them to existence.
And makes them known and real.

Jamie MacNab


Other ideas on rainbows.

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