Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Dog's Eye: The greatest sporting comeback ever

I develop an itch and a wild tic when the frequently abused adverb "ever" is tacked on to any statement (or question for that matter). I have a condition called HSD (Hyperbole Sensitivity Disorder). It is a companion affliction to HDS - be careful not to confuse them- which is Hug Deprivation Syndrome. The latter is treated easily with extravagant, prolonged and regular embraces. The former is not so easily dealt with. The best solution I have found is complaining. the other option is ignoring, but this is much less satisfying in my opinion.

Naturally, my hyperbole meter went berserk this week when I heard Tiger Woods' victory at the 2019 Masters described as the greatest sporting comeback ever. It was later referred to as "arguably the greatest ever" which was more palatable, but in either case it got me thinking. Was this a statement of fact, or yet another example of the gross exaggerations typical of sports journalists?

Woods came back from a double stress fracture of the tibia, numerous back injuries and surgeries, as well as the personal fall from grace which resulted from his public confession of infidelity. Until this year's Masters he had not won a major for five years. Countless athletes have come back from serious injuries - both life threatening and career threatening. Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 NFL season due to multiple neck surgeries, then changed clubs and continued his record breaking career for another three years. Niki Lauda was back behind the wheel of his Ferrari F1 six weeks after an horrific race accident left him comatose with severe burns to his head and damage to his lungs from inhaling toxic gases when he was trapped in the wreckage. Surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack, but jumped back on the board and kept surfing.

You want more? No problem. Monica Seles quit tennis for two years after being stabbed in the back on the court, by a deranged fan. Andre Agassi went right off the rails in 1996 as his marriage fell apart, and a drug habit blossomed as he struggled with a chronic wrist injury. Two years later aged 31, he burst back into the top 3. Aged 45, George Foreman came out of a ten year retirement to win the world heavyweight boxing championship by knocking out a man 18 years his junior. And one more from the only one of all those sports which holds absolutely no interest at all for me personally: golf. 

Ben Hogan was told he might never walk again, let alone play golf following a motor vehicle accident which left him with a double fracture of the pelvis, fractures to the collar bone and left ankle, and during his three month stay in hospital, a series of life threatening blood clots. The following year he began playing professional golf once more, and three years after his accident he won the Triple Crown.

Depending on which criteria you use (severity of injuries, length of time out of the game, degree of psychological stress) any one of the aforementioned champions, and numerous others could be awarded the title of greatest sporting comeback ever. Woods get the nod because he is the most recent, but his is definitely not the greatest comeback. Nor are any of the other amazing resurrections I've mentioned.

Here is, in my opinion, the greatest sporting comeback of all time. At the age of 46, an Australian man* from Dapto, ended a 30 year retirement from soccer by signing up to play for Dapto Anglican Church in the Illawarra church league. The first, and subsequent training sessions nearly killed him, and on game day he was competing mostly against men half his age. During the season he suffered a grade four hip flexor tear, and a broken rib. These injuries cost him 6 weeks on the sideline, but he pushed through the pain of rehab, and returned to play a minor role in his team's premiership victory.

Now that's a comeback!

*Following the glorious victory I retired and have been boasting of my achievement ever since.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Mirror: Folau Folly

Israel Folau has been sacked because he is anti gay...not because he is anti adultery (adultery is okay, right?), nor anti liars (because lying is acceptable as well) or because he is anti drunkenness (never mind the stats on alcohol related violence because abusing alcohol is also sweet). I can't hear anyone complaining about him condemning liars to Hell, or fornicators. The headlines don't say Israel Folau's career is in tatters after he posted anti thief comments. There is no mention in the stories, or any of the soundbites of concerned and outraged people, about Folau damning adulterers. Where's the outcry from those who are having sex with other people's husbands and wives?

Most people, even those who practice these things, accept that they are at wrong. The Bible does say that those who have sex outside of marriage ie fornicate, together with those who lie and steal will not inherit the Kingdom of God. When Folau says that his words are from the Bible, he's telling the truth. 

There is a list which includes generally agreed upon bad behaviours and homosexual practice is one of them. Call it what you want: homophobic opinion, puritanism, fundamentalism, or just call it offensive BS. The fact is Folau is simply stating what he believes to be true. The focus is on homosexuality/homophobia because he is likening homosexuality to all those other things* which are more or less acceptable depending on whatever you believe, or whatever suits your circumstances. He's saying that there is something wrong with homosexuality. That's what's wrong. I see. That must be the reason he's been sacked.

Not exactly. Regular people can have divergent, even offensive opinions. Having such opinions and voicing them indiscriminately either results in calcification of prejudice among the bigot's peers, or their ostracization by people who are intolerant towards intolerance. On the other hand, people in positions of influence, people with a public profile like sport stars, can have divergent, even offensive opinions but they had better keep them to themselves or else they will be publicly criticized and perhaps lose their jobs. They can't state their opinion about anything unless it falls in line with what opinion those who pay them expect to them to have.This is essentially why Folau's outspokenness has landed him in hot water.

The sad truth is we facing some pretty serious threats against freedom of speech, religion and association. The hysteria about Israel Folau's tweet demonstrates the distinction between public speech and private sentiment is becoming a chasm of hypocrisy and melodrama.

I'm personally pretty disappointed that no one has stepped up to defend those who worship idols, idolaters in other words, from Israel Folau's cruel judgements. What? Nobody worships idols anymore? Really? That's a relief.

*I wanted to use the word "sin" but I didn't because that word offends some people.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Dog's Eye: No worries mate

Everyone strikes some sort of trouble at one time or another in their life. Even those who don't court disaster, sometimes find themselves buffeted and shaken by misfortune. Those who do like to flirt with problems tend to form solid relationships with them. They usually receive more than they bargained for and wind up blaming everyone else for what they brought on themselves.

There's a classic little saying employed by wiser heads when tragedies of varying degrees strike. "There's always someone worse off." It's a way of keeping things in perspective which enables someone who is suffering to endure with good grace. It is also used by less sagacious well wishers who, despite their insensitivity are typically well-intentioned. However, suffering is a really personal thing.

I've had my share of misfortune and disappointment, and I would classify my divorce as a tragedy; likewise the death of my father aged just 74, but now I find myself in such happy circumstances that all I can do is give thanks to God. I joke now when asked how I am. My problems are so trivial that I'm occasionally reticent to voice them.The person asking me may well be in the midst of a hammering from cruel and indifferent happenstance. Should I keep silent?

Is it okay if I, in the process of explaining how blessed I feel, share my troubles in heavy tones of irony? My deodorant doesn't last all day. I'm using a different brand, and by the end of the day, sometimes not even that late, I begin to offend myself. My regular brand -Rexona original roll on- works until the very end. Even after an hour in the gym, I can still smell Rexona, albeit mixed with a little whiff of me.

Long silver hairs sprout from my nostrils overnight while I sleep, and my personal trimmer is less effective than a pair of tweezers, or scissors. A crop of similar follicular offspring has sprouted on my chest. More and more hair grows on my body, but I still can't grow a beard.

Three nights' accommodation recently cost me a bottle of Vodka, and I'm going to have to buy petrol this week. I loved not having to spend that $50 last week. And work? Oh, don't get me started. I had to work fifteen minutes unpaid overtime last week. I'm nearing my wit's end with this stampede of woe.

I hope this makes you happy. I hope you will at least smile, even if your world is falling apart. I've been at the bottom. I've cried my self to sleep at night. I've felt pain in my body and my heart, but I am in a season of blessing, and I am soaking it up. Being a worry wort, means I have an ongoing wrestling match in my mind, but I keep on speaking God's truth out loud. Sometimes I have to ignore what I see and what I feel, and trust God: my strength and my song. My anchor. My prayer is that the hope with which God fills my spirit, overflows to encourage others.

And I will make it my aim to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Snake Oil: Maltesers best weekend

Image result for maltesersI was beginning to think I had this all wrong until I Googled the ad I'm going to talk about, and discovered it was the subject of an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau. In short there were a couple of interpretations of this ad which deemed it inappropriate. Then there was Mars Confectionary's official response. I suggest you read it, both for a laugh, and for an absolutely perfect example of snake oil.*

Some people, including myself, read a sexual inference in the Maltesers television ad. Naturally that says something about me, but I own that. Other people saw an obvious reference to drugs, as in pill popping. The company says it is simply about women sharing stories of fun weekends while enjoying chocolate during an office break. They're just bonding.

Everyone knows advertisers push the envelope. Many over the years have used blatantly inappropriate ads; unconcerned about being fined and having the ad pulled, because the short term impact from running a controversial ad is often worth it. Controversy equals publicity which usually works in the company's favour. Usually.

I've seen ads which I have been offended by, and as a result made a decision to not purchase that product. Although I like them, I don't buy Maltesers often. Now I don't want to buy them. Whether it's my fault for immediately connecting multiple Maltesers with multiple sex partners is a little beside the point. Accusations will follow, but, as Sam Smith sang so well, albeit in a different context, "I know I'm not the only one." Speaking of "not being the only one", Maltesers have produced a number of ads with even more obvious sexual references, so they have a track record here.

I watch ads with a critical eye. I sift them through my world view. I'm interested in what they say about people, in what emotions they appeal to, and what needs they are trying to meet.That's how I roll. Here's the ad if you haven't seen it. What do you think?

Bonus material: One young man's amusing commentary on some Maltesers ads. Language and sexual references warning, but pretty much on the money. 

*The term "snake oil" is being used slightly out of context here. I'm stretching the definition to cover all deceptive and/or offensive advertising.(according to me.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

relationDips: rules of engagement (culinary)

Anarchists feel that rules are like prison bars, so do rebellious teenagers. There is something of the rebel in all of us: it's human nature. However, most of us learn to accept rules and acknowledge that, paradoxically, although they do impose restrictions, they also provide freedom.

For example, I feel safe and free when I drive because of the road rules, and my faith that the majority of my fellow motorists know the rules and obey them. We all bend these rules to some extent, but generally we acquiesce to the order they impose.

Relationships require rules. They may seldom be called rules, and are often spoken negotiated agreements rather than codified laws, but they are invariably established within all relationships. Sometimes, they just happen as in one person's reaction to the other's breach of an unspoken rule which results in an apology and a promise to "never do that again". At other times, they are more purposefully constructed. A person entering a second marriage will want to discuss the issues which contributed to the demise of their first marriage in an effort to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

Image result for money, sex and parentingMy wife and I discussed big issues like money, sex and parenting before we married. It was the second time around for both of us and we each wanted to ensure that we understood the other's expectations. An early obstacle for us was religion. I'm a protestant Christian and she is a Roman Catholic Christian. Despite our mutual faith in Christ, we had to deal with the matter of church rules versus the teaching of the Bible. We agreed to be tolerant, and not to force each other. We agreed to disagree about somethings. For example, the Catholic rule which prevents my devoted wife from ever taking communion because she is a divorcee. I strongly disagree with this church rule, but I respect my wife's right to accept it. This has become a "rule" in our relationship which we both understand and adhere to, and within which we are free and feel safe. She knows I will not go on about it, nor criticize her or force her to do something about it.

Image result for abstaining from meat on FridayAnother catholic church rule which is not Biblical is abstaining from meat on Fridays. I understand this is a mark of respect for Christ who was crucified on a Friday. However, my understanding of the Bible is that we are free to eat whatever we want to, whenever we want to. Peter's vision is instructive, but Paul adds some words about food in relation to respecting other people which also need to be taken into consideration.

In the continued search for more common ground, I decided to not eat meat on Fridays. It makes very little difference to me. Even though I eat meat almost everyday, I considered it an inconsequential sacrifice. My wife was overjoyed at this simple gesture. It is now something we do together to demonstrate our mutual faith in Christ, and to show respect to our Saviour and to each other. By doing this, I am being respectful rather than just talking about being respectful.

I eat well and regularly. My example has influenced her to not skip meals. I used to eat sandwiches and drink Coke everyday. Under her gentle influence, I have reduced my Coke consumption by half and dropped one of my lunch time sandwiches for a hot meal. Some of these changes were negotiated and others have just happened as result of the time we have spent together, positively impacting on each other's lives.

My wife once told me that she didn't like rules. At the time, I challenged her about this, but have since accepted it is not true, not as a blanket statement anyway. I don't go on about it. This is another example of one of our rules, but we don't need to be explicit about its existence. A good set of rules should just operate in the background, underpinning the relationship.

To finish I return to Paul's words:

Romans 14:3 "The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not everything must not judge the one who does, for God accepts both."

I  think this is an excellent culinary rule for healthy relationships, and by extension an admirable goal for relationships in general. What say you?

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Dog's Eye: Quiet please!

This post could have been a Snake Oil post, but it didn't quite fit. Having not written a Snake Oil post for some time, I wanted to, but if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. You can't put a square peg into a round hole...apparently.

Have you ever noticed sound discrepancies? You listen to a radio program and the announcer's voice comes through your speakers loud and clear. On the other hand, guests on the program or callers to the program, are soft and occasionally indecipherable. The ads which interrupt the shows you watch on television (and pay for them, btw) are much louder than the show. The action scenes in a movie deafen you, but the soft conversation scenes sound like mumbled babbling. Sometimes what you want to be loud is soft, and vice verca. 

Image result for heavy metal singer
Heavy metal music is better loud. Elevator music is better soft. Opera is better not heard at all. Cheering for your football team should be loud. Conversation is better soft. Verbal abuse better not heard at all. Singing praise and worship in God's house; loud. Comforting a heartbroken friend; soft. Inspiring words; loud. Romantic words: soft. Hateful words; better not spoken. 

Image result for romantic whispers
Whether loud or soft there are many things I enjoy listening to, like a good sermon for example, and many things I do not, like barking dogs and motorcycles. Soft rain is nice. Heavy rain is annoying. Laughter is usually a pleasing sound except when it boils over into obnoxious or is an expression of ridicule.

Are you listening? There is a voice which has been speaking loudly and softly since the beginning of time. There are voices in your head which mirror this: a voice of truth and another voice. Turn the latter voice right down low. Switch it off if you can. Turn off all the the noise which distracts you, medicates you, even confuses you. Life can be a noisy beast. Find the quiet. Enjoy the soft silence. Listen to the the voice of truth, speaking in a whisper.

                                     Image result for noise

Friday, March 1, 2019

A Dog's Eye: Pell Fell

Image result for George PellAustralia's highest ranking Roman Catholic, Cardinal George Pell has been convicted of historical sex crimes against children and is now in prison. Pell is appealing the verdict and maintaining his innocence which is making many people angry. I've heard Christians say that he should rot in hell. I've heard other Christians say that he has disqualified himself from Heaven. Some suggest that a person who commits such heinous crimes can not, in fact, be a Christian.

I'm reminded of Jesus' handling of the woman caught in adultery when he addressed the crowd who wanted to stone the woman for her sin. "Let the person among you who is without sin throw the first stone," said Jesus. (John 8:7) The crowd dispersed. Angry mobs don't always respond with such humility. It's easier to focus on another person's sins than our own. It's easy to justify, excuse, and categorize sin. In complete contrast to most human reactions to sin, Jesus showed mercy to the woman. James says this, in his epistle: "For judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."(James 2:13)

The Royal Commission into institutionalized responses to child sex abuse heard thousands of submissions from victims which resulted in 2575 referrals to authorities, including but not limited to police. The Royal Commission final report said this: "The perpetrators of child sexual abuse in religious institutions were in many cases people that children most trusted and least suspected." The findings of the Commission are particularly damning for the Roman Catholic Church. Priests and teachers in Roman Catholic schools make up the highest number, by far, of child sexual abuse offenders.

Most people are outraged, shocked, saddened even sickened by the very thought of sexually abusing children, even though more children are abused in other ways than sexually. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies  sexual abuse ranks only fourth in substantiated reports of harm to children. I'm not an expert, nor am I a victim, but I would suggest it's a mistake to consider any form of child abuse as worse than another. Australia wide substantiated reports of emotional abuse of  children in 2015/16 were three and half times higher than reports of sexual abuse.

Sex crimes get more attention, and if you took a poll, you would likely find that the sexual abuse of children is considered the worst of all crimes.

George Pell's case is incredible for many reasons. It literally defies belief that someone in his position, with his high profile and his power would do what he did. Why? Forgetting the fact that a particularly action is wrong, both morally and legally, why would such a person with so much to lose, risk everything?

Why do people abuse children? Why do people abuse other people, period? Why do people abuse substances? Why do  people do things they know are wrong? Why can't people understand there are fundamental flaws in human nature?

Returning to the issue of Roman Catholic Priests sexually abusing children: there is no way this is anything less than a disgusting and reprehensible abuse of power by deluded hypocrites. Enforced celibacy for priests is a likely part of the problem, but the church is saying it will continue to mandate celibacy. Celibacy is a gift according to the Bible. Celibacy is a choice for some people. Celibacy is certainly not something to be imposed. It is a denial of a major component of a person's humanity. It is a denial of reality. A delusion which has seen many men inside the church, not only the Roman Catholic Church, fall into sexual sin.

As for Cardinal Pell, I doubt he will burn or rot in hell, but I am not his judge. I am not qualified. I think his punishment has already been great: his opprobrium, his humiliation, his imprisonment. Pain for himself and his friends and family. Pain for the church. Pain for the community and pain for the victims of abuse who often become abuses of others, as well as drug and alcohol abusers. Some victims find these coping mechanisms ineffective, and simply chose to kill themselves rather than continue to deal with the pain.

Let's be honest, self aware and compassionate. Mercy triumphs over judgement.