Published in our wallpaper pages.
The triumph of the individual over the hive mind
by Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, April 3, 2013
Drab, pietistic uniformity is the curse of the collectivist age. Today, with a fearful and unanimously acquiescent docility, the hive mind tediously hums the Party Line, now rebranded “consensus”. Imagination, initiative, inquiry, inspiration, intuition and invention are not merely discouraged but hated. Individuality in any form is not merely loathed but punished.
It is the solecism of modern government imprudently, expensively and too often cruelly to emphasize the collective at the expense of the individual. Yet, as John Stuart Mill wrote,
“The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it. A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be mere docile instruments in its hands, even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”
Man is at once an island and a universe, an anchorite and a socialite, a lone wolf and a member of the pack. The strength of the West lies in encouraging what Santayana called the “eccentricities, hobbies and humours” of each, not in hindering or punishing individual achievement in the name of all.
In feudal times, the State was everything. The individual, if noticed at all, was recognized solely by his status in the ordained pecking order.
“God blessed the squire and his relations,
And kept us in our proper stations.”
It was only when free-market contract replaced feudal status that the individual, be he never so humble, acquired the right freely to negotiate with his neighbours and, by so doing, to earn advancement by achievement. Social mobility is a feature not of collectivism but of contract and of the cheerful chaos of the free market that it enables. Continue reading
Sometimes the Christian life can seem to get a bit ho-hum, a bit the same, year-in, year-out. The cycle of the church’s seasons, after a few rounds, can get a bit predictable.
But when you stop and think about what it means, that someone who was dead, isn’t any more, it reclaims its sparkle! The Easter season is more than just one day where we say Alleluia a few times, and look at fresh flowers, and sing songs about Jesus being alive. It’s meant as a pattern for the rest of our life. It’s a time to train us in remembering why we call ourselves Christians.
And that reason is resurrection! What was dead, is now alive! Whenever we see new things growing we can remember Jesus’ resurrection. Whenever we see a seed sprouting, or a baby, or a little chick, it’s easy to think of new life. But how about whenever people who haven’t spoken to one another for years find a way through to reconnect? That’s resurrection. A couple who have been cold and distant with each other, starting to do little acts of kindness for one another. That’s resurrection.
There are many ways that the changed resurrection life can impact our lives. If we use resurrection eyes we can start to see, it, pray for it and rejoice in it.
I came across this wonderful Youtube clip today, and the singer – Arlene Auger, sings it with such joy! he is risen indeed,Alleluia!
Sylvia rethinks Lent.
Sylvia sat in church the week after Ash Wednesday. She was feeling a bit disconnected, not really able to get into the stories about ashes, and pancakes, that had been part of the week. She wondered, why make pancakes and eat up all the eggs and milk, when you just had to go to the supermarket and get some more. What a silly tradition. And what if her grandchildren asked her to make her special blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes for them when they stayed the night with her? She felt that giving things up like pancakes just seemed artificial and irrelevant.
Sylvia started to wonder about Lent. The words of the opening hymn were sticking in her mind – ‘forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting in the wild’. Well, fasting for forty days was obviously not going to work, not when she had to take her pills with food, and keep her carbohydrate intake even.
But the idea of being ‘in the wild’ for forty days, now that was appealing! Imagine a time of having none of the usual distractions, none of the shopping and the housework, or those phone calls where they said there was something wrong with the computer she didn’t have, or the noisy kids next door, none of the worry about the bills that kept coming through the letterbox, none of the doctor’s visits… Sylvia started to contemplate how she could find a wilderness to escape from her daily grind.
Well, she thought, I can get rid of the distractions. And the weather seems to be helping there – it’s getting darker in the mornings, it’s not so appealing to rush into the garden. Even the garden was winding down for autumn, flowers were finishing, leaves starting to turn..
Yes, thought Sylvia, that’s it! I’ll copy my garden! I’ll drop my leaves – get rid of what I don’t need in my life, like, like,… like chasing after friends who never call me back, and who seem content to go through their list of woes without once asking after mine. I’ll give up reading the junk mail from the shops where I never go, looking at things I don’t even want, and couldn’t afford if I did!
Yes, I’ll drop my leaves.
And then, she thought, maybe I’ll tend myself as I tend the garden – after taking away the dead and finished stems, I’ll mulch and compost.
How can I compost myself? She started to giggle as she thought about the last time she had turned the compost, and a shovelful had flung over her head. She remembered the worm that was still in her hair two hours later which had given her granddaughter such a fright.
Shh! Glared the couple in front of her at church.
Well, let them, Sylvia thought. They’re listening to the sermon, but I can’t really concentrate.
Yes, compost , that was it. I’ll feed my soul. I’ll read things that make me grow, I’ll listen to music that will build my faith, I’ll stop and let my roots grow deep and let God feed me. And then, maybe I’ll be like my apple tree, looking barren and lifeless but knowing that deep inside life is there, gaining strength, waiting to bring beauty and fruit.
“Let us change our garment for sackcloth and ashes; Let us fast and come before the Lord. For our God is merciful to forgive us our sins.”
These are the words we sang at S. Michael and All Angels in Christchurch, where I grew up. It was a high Anglican church, and there I began my love of traditional plainchant.
But I’ve been pondering abut Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and wondering how it all fits into the modern context. I think the idea of a big feast on Shrove Tuesday is really just an excuse for a party. Not a bad idea in itself, but if we are to fast from modern things, like TV, or the internet, as was suggested in our service this evening, eating up all the eggs and milk by way of pancakes seems a little artificial, and in the Southern Hemisphere there is no agricultural connection with the leanness of early spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tonight’s service of the Imposition of Ashes took me straight back to the solemn liturgies I enjoyed in Christchurch. There is an intensity, a seriousness, a sense that it’s time to get real with God, about Lent. This is a time for raw honesty. I’ve often found it a disturbing time, a wilderness time even, when I’ve been forced to press deeper into finding God. Examining our hearts is a good thing to do, and part of the reason I love being an Anglican is that in this season of Lent we can concentrate on one thing. rather than taking on the whole Gospel message every week, which seemed to be what happened when we belonged to the Pentecostal church.
It is now the season for purple and ashes. It is a season for examining our hearts and our consciences, a season for calling for justice and righteousness. This is a good time to really think about issues of social justice. And please, I do not mean anything about planting trees, or hugging them, but I’m calling for a renewed focus of Christians everywhere to speak up where there is injustice, not to sit back and say, well, there’s nothing we can do about it.
When two of my kids came home from school today, they were both upset that a stand of toetoe has been bulldozed away. This area was home to skinks, and from the Department of Conservation pictures it seems that they were the rare ones. The kids both were hot under the collar and wanted to do somehting about it. They both went straight to their rooms and wrote letters and petitions to those concerned.
Did you have that fire for justice when you were young? Have you still got it? Do the embers need fanning into flame?
Perhaps for Lent, it’s time to give up apathy, fence-sitting, and being too busy to help others.
You may wonder why I’m writing about Valentine’s Day – after all it has been throughly taken over by the secular world of red rose sellers and card makers. But I’m interested in what love is, and why we love. It all goes back to God – He has loved us with an everlasting love! – this is the text on our new wallpaper – the text comes from the prophet Jeremiah, and goes back many centuries before St Valentine or Hallmark cards! The picture comes from my garden – Raspberry Ice roses on my front lawn.
When we think of what it is to love someone, and to let someone love us, we can take our pattern from God’s initial love for us. God made us to love us. God sent Jesus for us. So many reasons to let God’s love flow through us.
What has this all got to do with the romantic love that is celebrated on Valentine’s Day? I’m challenging us all to let our love go deeper – not just the chemistry clanging, bells ringing kind of love, but the deep, sacrificial love, that would lay down our life for another person.
Sermon for Longview Rest Home, Tawa, Wellington, 31 January 2013.
(Luk 4:14) Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.(Luk 4:15) He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.(Luk 4:16) When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,(Luk 4:17) and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:(Luk 4:18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,(Luk 4:19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Luk 4:20) And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.(Luk 4:21) Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In this reading we hear about Jesus returning to his home town, having been working miracles in the surrounding countryside. Continue reading
This summer I have been caring for my neighbour’s garden. He’s elderly and frail, and can’t manage the garden any more, so when he asked me for help with some shopping, I volunteered myself and the kids to tidy it for him. That was not entirely a selfless act – while we do try and do something community-based as a way of celebrating Christmas, I was also looking forward to getting to know his garden He had the house built himself, 60 years ago, did all the painting and the wiring, and made the garden. Every tree that was planted, my neighbour put in. He built every pergola, every fence, every gate, every step. He made all the concrete paths, the little walls, and even the bird bath. Now, the garden is mature, and grown up tall. It’s like the Secret Garden – a book I loved as a child. There are paths under overhanging trees, secret tunnels, hidden areas – it’s delightful!
Well, I’ve enjoyed this garden a lot, but today when I was picking some feed at home for my bunny, I realised that my own vegetable garden was less-than well-cared-for! Where there had been nice healthy broccoli, now there are caterpillar-munched stalks, with convolvulus starting to twine upwards. Dandelions are sprouting among the carrots, and the whole thing looks decidedly unkempt!
I think God had a message for me and for others in this garden -I had been so taken with the pleasant and appreciated work of caring for my neighbour’s garden, that I had neglected my own thankless vegetable plot.
Often in a life of ministry we are called upon to care for others. But if we neglect our own environment, weeds creep in, things fall apart, and all of a sudden it’s a great mess!
We must attend to our own homes and families before taking on all the other pastoral needs of the community. They can be done together, but it’s very easy to take the more interesting tasks. But remember if we neglect the boring day-to-day weeding of the vegetable garden, before we know it we are in a huge mess.
May God bless your ministries richly this year, especially those at home.
Here in New Zealand it’s midsummer, and over the last week we have had really high temperatures (for us), and tropical humidity. Finally, the rain has come and it has cooled down. The kids have opened their presents, left the wrapping all over the floor, and constantly requested different-sized batteries. Yes, it’s post-Christmas.
But what is left over after Christmas? Our tree is starting to die – we always cut a branch of pine from the local school, so it smells fabulous for the first week or two. But inevitably we forget to top up the water, and nature takes its course, as it slowly starts to die, giving off a less-than-pleasant smell. Is Christmas like that for you? Has it left a bad smell in its wake, of having spent too much money, having eaten too much, drunk too much? Are you happy with your presents?
There’s another side to Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. When I get up in the morning, before the kids claim the TV for the cartoons, the early sun slants in the side window, catching the green tinsel on my admittedly elderly tree. The little shards of bright green light sparkle and dance in the bright sunshine, casting patterns in all sorts of places where the sun can’t yet reach. Is your Christmas like this? I hope mine is. Sparkles of light from the birth of Jesus reach into every dark corner of our lives, adding joy and hope. This is what Christmas can be, and long after the tree is on the compost heap, and the tinsel packed away for next year, the hope and joy of Christ’s birth remain.
1. Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas;
The snow is not falling and trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,
Warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.
2. Sing of the gold and the green and the sparkle,
Water and river and lure of the beach,
Sing in the happiness of open spaces,
Sing a nativity summer can reach!
3. Shepherds and musterers move over hillsides.
Finding not angels but sheep to be shorn;
Wise ones make journeys whatever the season.
Searching for signs of the truth to be born.
4. Right side up Christmas belongs to the universe,
Made in the moment a woman gives birth;
Hope is the Jesus gift, love is the offering,
Everywhere, anywhere, here on the earth.
5. Carol our Christmas, an upside down Christmas;
Snow is not falling and trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and welcome the Christ Child,
Warm in our sunshine and sweetness of air.
Music: Reversi Colin Gibson (20th C)
Words: Shirley Erena Murray (20th C)
We have posted two new wallpapers for you to enjoy over the Christmas season. One reflects a traditional northern-hemisphere Christmas – trees in the snow, with rays of light breaking through. I like this picture, because it shows how light can always break through, no matter how bleak or cold life may look, that there is always the resurrection power of Christ coming into the world. And we celebrate His first appearance as a tiny helpless baby – no ordinary babe, but one with an awe-inspiring destiny.
The other wallpaper reflects our Christmas and summer season here in New Zealand. It’s a pohutukawa tree, in full flower on a cliff overlooking the sea. This is its natural habitat, and I like what it says too – that life and joy and colour can flourish even in the stoniest, bleakest places,buffeted by wind and salt-spray, where nothing else will grow. And that the perseverance of this coastal tree will burst forth into glorious flowers – hundreds of fine red stamens, tipped with gold pollen.
If you look closely into this tree, it looks a bit like an Advent wreath I think. (Well, if the Hubble telescope can see Christmas ornaments in space..)
May God bless you this Christmas time, with people you love around you. May you reflect again on the great gift God has given us!
Here’s one of my favourite pieces, the Hallelujah Chorus, from Handel’s Messiah, performed by a flash-mob in Canada in 2010. This is how the angels would appear if they turned up in a food court! The singers all look so joyous as they announce the good news!