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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Varietate Concordia

It means Unity in Diversity, and it is the motto for Indonesia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, India, South Africa and the European Union. Multiculturalism in Australia has, for decades now, focused on the same ideal without ever stating it so explicitly. We have sought in this country to allow people from all over the world, who come to make Australia their home, to continue their customs, culture and language while enjoying the benefits of living in a free and tolerant society.

Tomorrow is Australia Day. January 26. We commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet under the Command of Captain Arthur Phillip, and the establishment of a penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788 from which our nation was born. It is the official view of the government and the belief of the many people, that we find our real strength as a nation when we embrace the diversity which comes from our history of migration. Not everyone who arrived on the First Fleet was a convict. There were many free settlers who chose to come. Nothing has changed. Although we are no longer a penal colony, there are many who still arrive against their will. Refugees forced from their homes by war, persecution or famine. Others choose this country because of what it offers. Millions are born here and though they may travel, they never find a better place to live. We all call Australia home wherever we originally came from.

There are those who see multiculturalism as a weakness. The old trade union slogan, 'united we stand, divided we fall' is used to support calls for greater assimilation. Critics, usually racists, argue that we have become too tolerant, and as a result we are losing our identity.

The problem with both sides of the argument is that the concept of the nation-state, or country, is a modern construction. It is an invention of man designed to serve political purposes. Yugoslavia and the USSR are just two examples of how the devolution of nation states is almost inevitable. People find their identity first as a part of their family, then as members of a particular race or ethnic group, then, finally, with the country in which they live.

It would be unnatural for anyone to be more loyal to their country than their family, or even sometimes to their ethnic group. That is why nationalism falls short of its goal of unification. Nationalism purports to bring peace through allegiance to one's country, and the common ideals to which it subscribes.

However, only Christ can bring true peace and unity as he calls for not just allegiance but also submission to Him, The Lord of all creation. It is Christ who tears down the walls that divide us, and brings us together as one family. Beware of the false god called nationalism.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Thrill of the Mundane

It's not the most exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon but there I was yesterday, washing windows and removing spiderwebs. I also hosed down the front wall of our house even though said wall would certainly be considered a hard surface, and as such not allowed to be hosed down, according to the rules in New South Wales. (Maybe vertical hard surfaces don't count, I don't know.)

So this is already sounding like the most boring blog I've ever posted. I'm losing interest and I'm writing it!

The point is, for the majority of us human folk, most of our time is taken up by ordinary, everyday tasks. Those windows at our place had to be washed. In fact they should have been washed a long time ago, and they should be washed more frequently but I don't really like doing it. It's not exciting. I'd rather be watching an episode of ER. Or reading a book, or running, or dining with friends, or doing just about anything else. However, those windows won't wash themselves, nor will our resident arachnids deconstruct their miniature mansions. These jobs have to be done. I am the designated do-er of these chores. I console myself by seeking satisfaction in the successful completion of the task. The end result of my labour is that the windows and the front wall look much better. They won't stay that way. Everything gathers dirt,dust and spider webs. Everything deteriorates. Nothing maintains itself or improves by itself.

There was a guy at the local swimming pool the other day who had his very young son with him in the water. The boy was around a year old and clad in a protective flotation device, otherwise known as a life jacket. His father was thrusting him high into the air and allowing him to crash land into the water, and the little fella was absolutely loving it. I wonder if that child will be able to enjoy a simple swim when he grows up, or will he always want the thrill of flying through the air, and descending at a rapid rate from a great height. Did I witness the birth of a thrill seeker? A man who will never be able to enjoy the mundane? Who, when asked by his wife to clean the windows, will jump on his Harley Davidson and tear off to the nearest skydiving centre, and jump out of a plane? A guy who, while his wife is at home with their two young children trying to explain why daddy isn't with them again, and feeding them fishfingers, is swimming with piranhas in the Amazon River?

There is a great deal to be said for finding pleasure and satisfaction in simple things. Life is not about the pursuit of the next buzz, the next big adrenalin surge, the desperate search for greater excitement in increasingly risky adventures. My windows are clean so I can clearly see the trees outside. Every leaf, trembling slightly in the gentle breeze. I can feel that breeze blowing in through the open window. I am experiencing the thrill of the mundane, and it's good enough for me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ten Pin Living

Strikezone is a 24 lane bowling alley in Albion Park Rail. I was there recently with my family enjoying the action and excitement. I was thinking about all the bowling balls and pins, the music and amusement machines, the dodgy food, and the people: bowlers, employees and spectators. Where do you fit in at the bowling alley of life?

Propelled by incomprehensible forces, balls rumble along polished wooden lanes. They have no drive of their own, but they do have direction and momentum. They crash right into the pins of life's troubles, and send them flying. Pins have no choices: they don't move unless acted upon by an external force. At the bowling alley, they stand around in frightened little groups, trying to be inconspicuous, and hoping that when the big bowling balls of tribulation come thundering their way, they miss!

The bowling alley needs pins and balls, and workers. The latter group take your money and give you disturbingly unfashionable and ill fitting shoes, and over priced, under tasty food. Spectators are also good because they provide noisy encouragement for the bowlers, and atmosphere for the cavernous interior. While these things and people are all necessary, the bowling alley exists primarily for the bowlers.

They might start out not knowing that a bowling ball has holes, let alone which fingers are supposed to go into which holes, but they find the right ball - not too heavy, not too light - and they learn to bowl. It takes practice but eventually even the worst bowlers, the weakest, the least athletic, the most uncoordinated, can score the odd strike. And what about the massive celebration when they do? The glorious thrill of knocking over all ten pins. It's fun and exciting and it makes you want to keep bowling until your arm falls off or your back gives out. It makes you want to crash through the frustration of a gutter ball or split pins, and keep trying.

In the Strikezone of life, if you're not bowling then you're just ripping yourself off.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Mocker and a Brawler

Had a few drinks this festive season? Had a few more than you should have on occasion? Wished you didn't have that much? Wished you hadn't have done what you did, or said what you said because you drank more than you should have? Think that everyone does it, so it's okay? Tired of all these questions?

Lindeman's used to advertise their wine with the slogan, 'the one purpose of wine is to bring happiness'. According to the Bible 'wine is a mocker and beer a brawler, and whoever is led astray by them is not wise.'(Proverbs 20:1) From Noah, to the man passed out drunk in the gutter last night, the misuse of alcohol, the abuse of alcohol, has caused massive problems in society throughout the ages, by stealing the ability of individuals to control their words and actions.

One in five deaths in Australia, and 30% of road traffic deaths each year are alcohol related. One half of all assault hospitalisations and nearly 60% of victim reported crime are alcohol related.40% of people arrested by police blamed alcohol for their offences. Half the alcohol being consumed in Australia each year is being consumed at levels which exceed safe drinking guidelines, leading to thousands of deaths and injuries. 70% of the latter go unreported.

So wine, and alcohol of all varieties, brings happiness. Happiness is a worthy pursuit isn't it? Not if it's your only goal, and not if the use or especially the abuse of alcohol is the only way you can find it. Alcohol doesn't fix problems, in fact it often causes them, or makes them worse. If booze is your best medicine, then you are really sick. Alcohol is not a healer. Our heavy drinking culture is a festering sore which is infecting us all.

'Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Those who ,linger over wine, who go to samples of mixed bowls of wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. They hit me, you will say, but I am not hurt. They beat me but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?' (Proverbs 23:29-32, 35)