business studies

church history (repeating itself), Lent and Occupy London

So I eventually finished the book on church history and my conclusion is pretty much summed up in these words by Robert Farrar Capon.
It’s long but it says it.

‘In spite of the fact that Jesus insisted that the Comforter would not speak of himself but would simply take what was Christ’s and show it to us, Christian’s have all too often decided that there was indeed one thing of Christ’s that the Spirit would not bother to show us – one whole set of things, in fact, that Jesus stressed but that the Comforter would not bring to our remembrance – namely, Christ’s insistence on using left-handed power.
The idea quickly got around in the early church – and has stayed with us to this day – that when the Spirit came to act, he would do so in plausible, right-handed way. Whether those acts were conceived of as involving a program of miraculous, healing interventions in the world, or as displaying various straight-line ‘spiritual’ phenomena such as speaking in tongues or guaranteeing the Papacy’s infallibility in matters of faith and morals, the church all too often gave the impression that the Spirit could be counted on to deliver in a way that Jesus never did. And thus the mischief was done.’

Robert Farrar Capon -Kingdom, Grace, Judgement

It’s those last lines in particular, those about the church trying to deliver in a way that Jesus never did that strikes me.

Much of the church history as told seems to recount the church mixed up with trying to rule in an earthly sort of way.

Maybe it strikes home particularly at Lent and reading how Jesus refuses the ways of the devil while being tempted in the wilderness. The devil tries to tempt Jesus into carrying out his mission in worldly, some would say very sensible ways and Jesus refuses.
Or in passages such as when Jesus washes the disciples feet or mentions that if you want to be great you must be a servant.
And of course the way that Jesus ultimately demonstrated his power and the way to do things was in dying alone on the cross as a criminal.

Christians simply aren’t supposed to demonstrate The Way by worldly shows of power or ruling like the kings of the world would and have. It’s about laying down our lives and turning the other cheek.

Watching the TV pictures of protesters at Occupy London being evicted from St Paul’s cathedral seems like another example of the church going about things in an unchristian manner.

Here you have people being forced of church property by bailiffs and riot police in a display of earthly power and force.
Meanwhile the occupiers are displaying power in a more much more Christlike manner. I was thinking particularly of the way that some people are puzzled by their lack of demands or clear vision about what they are up to, or how people can’t really figure them out easily.
That is a worldly way of power, having a sound-byte or two and a mission statement, clearly defined goals or targets to hit. Or the way people say that they’re just layabouts or hypocrites. In that you almost hear echos of the pharisees calling Jesus a glutton and drunkard.

I’m not sure God being on the side of the Occupy movement, but there are images and hints from it that seem much more in keeping with the spirit of Jesus than much of what goes on in our church life I reckon. Which seems more in keeping with the life of Christ? The description of Christians on their knees in prayer on the steps of St Paul’s being dragged away by police or the Archbishop of Canterbury vs Richard Dawkins in argument at Oxford University?


led us not into temptation (except when you lead us into temptation?)?)

There are two verses in the Bible that have been playing on my mind recently.
First up this verse from Matthew Chapter 4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil.

and then this familiar verse a few chapters on from The Lord’s Prayer

And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one

I’m not sure why that struck except it seems that even though Jesus tells us to pray that we will not be led into temptation Jesus himself is led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil.
In fact it sounds as if the Spirit has led Jesus into the wilderness where he will be tempted by the devil.

So I’m not really sure what to make of that.
That is all..

business studies, home economics

it can’t go on forever

‘Petroleum, perhaps the single most important input in modern food production (it serves both as a fuel for tractors and transportation and as the chemical base for fertilizers and pesticides), is gradually becoming so scarce and expensive that many of the assumptions underlying a global industrial food system are now in question. Nearly everything about the way our food system has developed over the last half century – from our ability to manufacture fertility to our capacity to move food to import-dependent nations – could not have occurred without cheap energy, and the degree to which that system can continue in a world of high energy prices is a frightening unknown.’
Paul Roberts, The End of Food


‘The emergency services were also present’ – In the News, 23rd February 1989 ‘

My parents did an attic clear out and came across some of my old primary school notebooks. It’s weird reading them, but fun as well. Especially when so much of our memory is lost and shattered by the fast pace of life.
‘Yesterday after severe gales a ship has sunk off the coast of Scotland. The Panamanian ship was carrying a cargo. All the seventeen crew are thought to be killed. The cargo was carrying salt to Iceland. Helicopters were sent to the scene but rescue was nearly impossible. The ship was called the Secil Angola.

On Tuesday a memorial service was held at St. Annes Cathedral for the injured and relations of the M.1. aircrash. The service was conducted by the Archbishop of Armagh and important leaders of the church. Mrs Thatcher and the Duke of Gloucester were present.
The emergency services were also present.

A dam which is being planned to be on the Amazon is being protested at by tribes whose land would be flooded, killing many types of wildlife. Wildlife supporters want British Banks not to lend money to the Brazilian Government to the build the dam. It is claimed that a piece of land the size of Wales would be flooded.

Preparations are continuing for Hirohito’s funeral in Japan was is to be held tomorrow. It is the most expensive funeral in history. Important people from all over the world are to attend including George Bush and Prince Phillip.


art, business studies

on being an artist (even though I’m not)

I’ve been pondering what it means to an artist this week.

First up, personally I don’t really like the term ‘artist’. When I got married I was about to put ‘B&Q Customer Adviser’ ‘ down on my marriage certificate and my minister said ‘Put down artist’.
Well I did put down artist because during those days of getting married I did as I was told. He could have said ‘Put down pole dancer‘ or ‘Put down King of Sweden‘ and I would have.

So that’s what my profession is according to my  marriage certificate. But clearly I’m not an artist artist. The last time I studied art was third year at Cookstown High School at which point (and thanks to not saying what I’d really like to do and being guided by my well meaning parents saying ‘Well there’s probably more jobs in science) I ended up going down the science route, biology, chemistry and physics for A-Level and a degree (just about) in Environmental Chemistry.

There is no point regretting my decision, you make your calls and roll with them. But sometimes I do I guess.
I regret my decision when I don’t have the skill to draw what I see or what’s in my head or don’t have the craft to carry out something with finesse.

Some people have said ‘Well why don’t you go back and study art?’ but it just seems like a daft thing to do. Thousands and thousands of pounds to study something that will most likely never allow me to make a living and debt for years to come?No thanks.

It is hard though because I feel the need to create and make stuff deep in my bones, because it’s often easier for me than using words. That doesn’t mean that it’s easier for other people to understand me of course, just I find words and speaking hard sometimes. It doesn’t allow me time to reflect or ponder, which is also why I like blogging I guess. I’m allowed the reflection time that quick fire conversation doesn’t allow me.

I guess I was thinking about this in relation to how much you should promote or ‘push’ the stuff you make.  There is a gift like aspect to art but if you push it too much you can turn it into a commodity or  something a bit lacking in relationship.

The Gift‘  is a book which I’ve tried to read a few times, but it just bores me into giving up a few chapters in.  But these words sort of get to heart of what I’ve been pondering.

‘every modern artist who has chosen to labor with a gift must sooner or later wonder how he or she is to survive in a society dominated by market exchange. And if the fruits of a gift are gifts themselves, how is the artist to nourish himself, spiritually as well as materially, in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities’

Lewis Hyde, The Gift

I guess it’s that idea of how you can demonstrate gift and grace in a society like ours which is dominated by competition or trying to win the race for survival against your competitors or neighbours. I find that idea of ompetition hard.
For me, art should have a unique, gift like dimension to it but it feels like most of our culture and society is trying to crush that ideal out, especially with the recession. With the recession people seem to be trying even harder to compete and make a living as they don’t (understandably) want to be the losers.

I’ve been trying to make cards this week, they’re not masterpieces of Western art by any stretch of the imagination (far, far from it) but they are hand made and I try to make them funny or a bit different. To give myself a fair price for making them I might have to charge a few pounds extra to something out of Clinton Cards.

Yet to sell the cards to someone who doesn’t feel sorry for me I immediately feel like I have to compete on price with other people. Something of the gift idea is lost and is replaced by competing which I hate. I don’t want to compete with other people yet it’s so easy to do and there almost seems like no escape from it.

This gets me down. I’m not sure why.

english lit

Homage to Catalonia

I had set myself the challenge of reading 100 books between Christmas ’11 and Christmas ’12 but I can see that I’m going to fall well short of 100 books. Part of the problem is that I’m a magpie with a chapter here and a chapter there. Also there is a couple of books reading in a church history book.

So it’s testament to George Orwell as a writer that I am able to finish his books from beginning to end. There are few writers that I can say that about.

Having said that ‘Homage to Catalonia’ is probably my least favourite book of his, which isn’t to say it’s not a good book (because it is) but that it’s about something that I find hard to relate to. The Spanish Civil war doesn’t really grab my attention so the book doesn’t really grab my attention as much as ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ did or ‘Animal Farm’.

There is one bit though that did stand out, namely the part in which Orwell describes being shot in the neck. It is the only time I remember reading about what it’s like to be hit by a bullet, something  I hope I never have to experience.

The reason I like Orwell as a writer is that he is clear and concise but has a sense of humour. Because of that he can join my small (but slowly expanding) group of heroes. Not that hero is the word I’m after.

business studies, home economics

fuel poverty

This morning I went to wash my feet and ran the hot water in the bath. It was freezing. Come to think of it the house was a bit cold as well.|
This led to that feeling in your gut that you hope isn’t true, but alas it was true.
We had ran out of oil.

Heat had already been playing on my mind this week already. It had cropped up in a number of books. Henry David Thoreau mentioned it in Walden

‘The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us. What pains we accordingly take, not only with our Food, and our Clothing, and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our nightclothes, robbing the nests and breasts of birds to prepare this shelter within a shelter, as the mole has its bed of grass and leaves and the end of its burrow!’

The subject of keeping warm had also made an appearance in ‘A Homage to Catalonia’ where George Orwell describes the hardships of the front line.

‘In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles and the enemy. In winter on the Saragossa front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last’

and later

‘Meanwhile, firewood – always firewood. Throughout that period there is probably no entry in my diary that does not mention firewood, or rather the lack of it. We were between two and three thousand feet above sea-level, it was mid-winter and the cold was unspeakable’

Yesterday morning our electricity was cut as NIE carried out maintenance work. As I cooked my pancakes on a camping stove my mind pondered the amount of energy we require to keep warm, to keep our homes heated and comfortable.

Then this morning I discovered the oil tank empty.

I suppose that this reflecting about fuel and the like gets me down. We need to stay warm and staying warm means burning fuel, usually fossil fuels, expensive fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere. And it’s expensive and getting even more expensive. More and more of our income is  tied up in buying polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels to heat our  heat inefficient homes. The main reason we need oil is not even to stay warm, but to dry our clothes with there being no room to for a tumble drier.

There are few (if any) more important things (if any) than staying warm. You can imagine our ancestors huddled in a cave around a campfire thousands of years ago or cutting turf from the bogs of Ireland. This was vitally important work in the days before cheap fuel.

The way we keep warm presently is so unsustainable and there seems to be no serious efforts to make it sustainable. Those little wood burning stoves look the business but Ireland is a tree desert so is there enough wood to go around?

I wandered down around the new Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast last week and got to thinking if this was a wise use of money?

Part of me was wondering would it not have been a wiser investment for the future of Northern Ireland to use the money (90,000,000 pounds) for something like planting trees and making a forest, or investing in insulating homes or eco homes?

If there are about 700, 000 households that would have been about 125 pounds for each home to install better loft insulation or buy draught excluders etc.

Or to plant a mammoth forest, like acres and acres of forest. John Seymour recommends ash trees as being good for burning and relative quick growing. Plant trees everywhere, no more big buildings I reckon.