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Apeldoorn and Other Tragedies

Tonight I’ve been following the breaking news on Twitter about the tragedy that happened at Apeldoorn in Holland. A crazed motorist, apparently intending to crash into the royal coach, ploughed through the crowed at high speed, killing 4 people and severely injuring 17 others. According to the reports the attack on the Dutch royal family was intentional.

Among the posts of heartfelt sympathy for all those affected by the tragedy have been other posts of anger and outrage expressed against the perpetrator.

It reminded me of the aftermath of the bushfires here in Victoria in February, when it was found that some of the fires that killed hundreds and left thousands homeless were actually deliberately lit. Then too, anger and outrage were heaped on the arsonists – some folk saying they should be put to death, or even be burned alive.

And another memory – this time of the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania back in 1996, when Martin Bryant went on a shooting rampage that left 35 people dead and 21 others wounded. Bryant finally pleaded guilty and is serving 35 life sentences with no possibility of parole. Again, Bryant was vilified by many, who argued that he should be shot himself.

Along with heartfelt sympathy for the victims, the rest of us feel horror that such events can occur. And bewilderment that anyone could perpetrate such crimes against their fellow human beings – all of whom were innocent bystanders and had played no part in any original cause or motivation for the crime.

Horror, bewilderment – and anger against the perpetrators – are natural responses to such stories.

Tonight my heart is very much with all those in Apeldoorn and elsewhere who have been affected by the Queens Day horror. As it was with those so devastatingly affected by the Victoria fires or with the people who lost their loved ones at Port Arthur – two tragedies that have reverberated so powerfully in our Australian national psyche.

But each time I’ve found myself wondering ….

[Read more…]

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Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.

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My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.

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Beauty

As Joseph Addison, British poet and statesman, once said several hundred years ago:

There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty.

We can miss seeing true beauty because we are taught to ignore everything but its most superficial face.

Movies, advertisements, TV shows and magazines bombard us with ‘beautiful people’. They try to convince us that only the slimmest, sleekest, glossiest, purest or most perfect specimens can be truly beautiful.

Anything less is simply ordinary. Anything much less is a target for laughter, raised eyebrows and even scorn.

We may not accept these ‘rules’ intellectually. After all, this is simply prejudice, is it not? And of course we aren’t prejudiced, are we?

But the intellect can be a fickle thing, betrayed by gut reactions and fuelled by stereotypes. As many folk who are ‘much less’ than perfect – so ‘much less’ than beautiful – can no doubt attest.

Then sometimes there comes a wonderful watershed moment, a glorious battle cry to challenge our society out of its comfort zone of negative judgements.

One of those moments was when Susan Boyle sang on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

To sing is to love and affirm, to fly and soar, to coast into the hearts of the people who listen, to tell them that life is to live, that love is there, that nothing is a promise, but that beauty exists, and must be hunted for and found.

(Joan Baez)

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The Uncultured Project

Here’s an inspiring story to remind us there IS hope for the world. :-)

It’s one young man’s “journey to help the poorest of the poor“.  In his own words …

I’m Shawn – a 27 year old Canadian from Toronto. Before starting this project, I was a graduate student on scholarship at Notre Dame University. My life took a turn after I met Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (author of the book “The End of Poverty”) when he came to give a speech at Notre Dame. That speech inspired me to withdraw from grad school, liquidate my savings, and begin this journey to try and make the world a better place – one meaningful difference at a time.

The “Uncultured Project” is the funny name for my unemployed, unpaid, and inexperienced (or “uncultured”) journey to help the poorest of the poor.

You can learn much more about the project on the Uncultured Project website, where you can also find links to connect with Shawn and the project itself through Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

This story is not only a testament to Shawn’s passion, commitment and dream of a better world, but it has also been an inspiration to many other people as well  – as you’ll see if you visit  Uncultured TV on You Tube.  Here is one of the first videos Shawn made in 2006, which shows how his journey started: