Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Character was the first casualty

A German, Jewish scientist who escaped to England during the war was amazed that Nazism could possibly have taken hold of his country. The pre-war years being a great era of advancement, education and learning. The university engineering graduates, were brilliant in innovation and understanding but whilst they could design and build death camps, and calculate the logistics of the final solution, they all lacked the character to know that it was wrong or to do anything about it.

There are of course many more modern examples of the worsening blindness of man as he becomes cleverer; abortion, cloning, weapons that can obliterate the earth.

The potential for good that learning and advancement bring is never fully realised; always offset by the opposite loss of integrity and greed that seems to accompany it. I think the key to much of this is the shift that occurred in our point of reference when it comes to our ‘way’ of life. 


The beginning of civilisation in Western Europe is usually credited to the efforts of Charlemagne, a visionary Emperor, who started to import learned men, usually monks, to spread knowledge in his empire, and through his Knights code brought order and a more benevolent society, a sharp contrast with the barbarism that had dominated for centuries. 

At the heart of this was Christianity, the faith, a new way of life and it was the focal point of all learning and conduct. It was within that framework that learning and discovery moved forward, guided by its teaching and values; held by grace.

Nowadays in the West, those values are disregarded as is the faith that brought them, the focal point now is man, no longer guided by an informed conscience but by his own fallen nature only, with only the shifting sands of opinion to guide decisions. So with every step of progress, things get worse. There is no real character in man without the presence of God’s grace operating in the soul.

This loss of faith, values and character may not be recoverable any more, perhaps western society will simply disintegrate now as did all the old empires , Egyptians, Greeks, Romans once they made an enemy of God. There is a time for everything, and an end to everything the old order giving way to the new. The Eurpoeans, once great evangelists to the world may have no further role to play and be merely a historical footnote in the future.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

No Parking

A few years ago in the Sta Cruz district of Manila, a couple of old men lived on a street corner, one in a wooden cart, the other on an old sofa. I think they were former inmates of Manila city jail, which is nearby and when they could no longer look after themselves, they were just dropped off outside. One could not walk at all and the other could just move himself around with a couple of chunks of wood he’d salvaged.

A grim future awaited them, but somehow they were able to survive. People from the neighbourhood looked after them. A loaf of bread here and there, a cooked meal etc, everyone chipped in, in a casual manner.

Once I dropped off a bit of lunch with ‘the man on the sofa’ and he asked me for water, he had ran out and it was the height of summer. I had not thought of that; and slightly irritated went off again to get some. A couple of days later he died and the sofa was gone.

The man who lived in the cart lasted longer, he was always trying to walk everyday, sometimes pushing his cart along, although his mind was gone by this stage. 

Many street dwellers are scavengers, collecting scrap and anything saleable or usable and over time pieces of his cart started to disappear. First one end, then a whole side. (even his crutches vanished) By the time he died there wasn’t much left of it and what was left of his cart was dismantled and someone made a ‘No Parking’ Sign out of it.

I found it quite a fitting memorial or reminder, we are just passing through. Generally we live like we are planning to stay.