The Best and Worst of Times

It can be hard to make sense of the world at the best of times and even harder to make sense of it in the worst of times. Charles Dickens wrote that the best of times and the worst of times happened simultaneously, along with belief, incredulity, wisdom, foolishness, light, darkness, hope and despair. Perhaps he was right but it seems more likely to me that these things happen in different times in different measures in different places.  Continue reading

Throwing the Other Shoe

Politicians do not like to have eggs or tomatoes thrown at them but they ought to shrug off whatever they have had thrown at them, provided it did not hurt them. After all, it is always helpful to democracy when a politician loses some dignity. It may remind them that they are elected to serve the people and not rule over the people.

You may remember in December 2008 George Bush had shoes thrown at him while giving a press conference in Baghdad. One shoe was thrown, which missed Mr Bush and then the thrower threw the other shoe. Mr Bush was not touched by the shoes; he ducked and no harm was done except to his dignity. The shoe thrower, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, shouted that the shoes were a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people. Continue reading

I am a right proper Charlie

It is a feature of religions that when they first start their adherents are persecuted by the established religion of the day, but after the new religion gains sufficient adherents the persecuted become the persecutors. When Christianity started it was sport to have the Christians provide entertainment in the Coliseum in Rome by having them face lions and gladiators for the amusement of the populace. Later, when Christianity overturned the old pagan religion of Rome, the Christians were very keen to persecute those they thought might not adhere to their orthodoxy, and invented the Inquisition which tortured people into confessing imagined sins in ways as horrible as those practised in the Coliseum. Continue reading

If I were God

I am not a religious person. Religion is about belief. I do not know what I believe but sometimes I do believe what I do not know; my ignorance has no bounds. Continue reading

Don’t Panic…

…and keep your mind at peace. The terrible events in Woolwich do not require the convening of special committees of the government to plot a counter strategy to terrorism. We do not have to be suspicious of every idea that “deviates” from the norm, nor do we have to be frightened of every brow face or assault those whose only connection with the murderers of a young soldier is the colour of their skin or the single name they attribute t their separate religions.

The Old School Song

There was a tradition of a school song; I do not know how frequently that tradition is honoured in schools today. The tradition is singing a school song, usually one that no other school sings, on important school occasional  My old school, George Green’s in Poplar (well it was in Poplar when I went to it, had a school song that was very hard for me to sing,  and a difficult tune, but familiarity makes even a poor tune sound better.

“Now let us all with grateful hearts and gladsome voice acclaim our home of learning and the man you gave us name and fame”

These were not words that the good people of Poplar would use in their everyday speech. You have to imagine the words being sung in a cockney accent. However much some of us tried “our home” became “our ome” The man, of course, was the ship builder, George Green, who founded the school as an act of charity in 1828.

“Fidelter, Fideliter, we’ve blazoned on our shield, and we with hope and faith and trust will hold his foughten field”

We knew enough Latin to understand that Fideliter meant faith, which was our motto, notwithstanding that the school was originally founded to cater for children of all faiths. In 1828 there were serious divisions between the established church and the dissenting church, as well as divisions between Protestants and Catholics. That was an unusual founding principle, but one that still holds true today when George Green’s serves people of all religions, not just, as was the case in 1828, Christians and a few Jews.

“St George for Merrie England, Shout, a champion staunch and true”

The song digresses into Merrie England. I was written I think in the 1930s when Merrie England was a fashionable concept by a teacher who wrote the words. However, the digression is short and re-connects to the main theme.

“Our own good knight fought ignorance, St George for Poplar too!”

Today is St George’s day, and perhaps that set me thinking about the old school song and the act of charity of a man, nearly two hundred years ago, that helped me become less ignorant than I might have otherwise been.


They Call it Good Friday

Christians call today Good Friday. It is a Friday, without doubt, and they describe it as “good” because a man (who is also apparently not a man) was tortured and killed for political reasons that I understand but for religious reasons which I do not think anyone can  understand as a matter of logic but have to be felt or accepted, rather than understood. Continue reading

Imperfect expression of perfect thoughts

I try, in these essays, to formulate and develop ideas that cross my mind. It is a hard process because a thought may be perfect but the expression of it will almost inevitably be imperfect. “Ideas often flash across our minds more complete than we could make them after much labour.” Continue reading

On Making Women Bishops

The point of a faith is that you believe in the articles of the faith. Where a faith is based on writing then you have to believe in the writing if you adhere to the faith because the faith holds has the writing is divine. The Christian faith believes that the Gospels are the word of God. The Jewish faith believes that the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) was given to Moses by God. The Muslim faith holds that the Quran is the revealed word of Allah. If you are a believer you cannot edit or pick and mix from the writing and even translating the writing can cause problems of inaccuracies. This is the fundamental problem that the Church of England, a branch of Christianity, has to face when it recently considered whether should be permitted to become bishops. Continue reading

Cry Your Tears For Freedom While you Count Your Money

The Dalai Lama is a Tibetan religious leader. A Buddhist, the Dalai Lama was one of the few religious leaders to be a ruler of a nation. He was enthroned on 1951 as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet but a year later the communist Chinese toppled his government and China consumed the nation of Tibet and the Dalai Lama fled into exile where he has remained ever since, drawing attention to the oppression of Tibet. His exile has been longer that Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment or Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s house arrest. Continue reading