Other people’s flowers

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1. Avignon in photos

Isn’t that magnificent? And there is an Australian connection.

I wish I could paint – I only take photographs. Back in Avignon after six years in Australia I am rediscovering life in Provence and loving it. The region is an constant source of inspiration.

— Nathalie

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2. My Unwelcome Stranger

Jim Belshaw steered me to this wonderful blog.

My unwelcome stranger is an incurable brain tumour, but don’t let that put you off. Yes, I talk about it now and then, to tell you how I’m dealing with it. But most of it is life and fun, with episodes from my past, amusing and serious. You’ll find out how I came to this point in my life, where each day is a miracle. It’s also a place to reflect on life and an interactive area where we can share our experiences freely. Without you, this blog has no reason for existence. Carpe Diem!

Former historian in Asian studies, movie-maker and commentator on the world as we have changed it. I’m now dealing with a glioblastoma multiforme: the most aggressive form of brain tumour. It should have got me months ago, but we’ve fought it and I’m still here! I aim to use this experience to try to illuminate life as well as demystify the journey.

Having myself studied Asian History in 1962, but at Sydney University not New England, I am doubly drawn to what Denis Wright has to offer.

Our study, where I now sit contemplating the window, faces north. On these bright sunny winter mornings, the curtain shielding my eyes from the direct sunlight makes a screen for a shadow play that goes on throughout the morning. The apricot branches are bare but nature has arranged them perfectly, and their shadows play on the curtain. They’re still now, as if frozen by the frosty air. It’s that sort of day…

Lovely writing. I am reminded of Simon Leys as I read – and that is high praise indeed. But not unmerited.

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3. Shalom Rav A Blog by Rabbi Brant Rosen

From the USA.

This is a blog I came across some years ago but hadn’t visited for a few years. I am so glad it is still there. This is Judaism as it should be, and as I glimpsed it at times when I worked at Masada College in the late 1980s.

So much to say about Friday’s tragic massacre in Norway. Chief among them: the death (I hope) of our misguided assumptions that terrorism must necessarily = Islamism.

Much has been written about the immediate media speculation – most notably by the New York Times – that this attack was carried out by an Islamist terror group. As journalist Ahmed Moor correctly points out, these assumption reveal just how deeply this meme is ingrained in the American consciousness – one that cuts across right-left political lines.

I’m also in full agreement with Moor when he says the real “Clash of Civilizations” is not between the West and Islam, but between “normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God’s Will at every turn:”

Anders Behring Breivik, Mohammed Atta and Baruch Goldstein are all cut from the same rotten cloth. Anwar Al-Awlaki and Glenn Beck – the peddlers of the faith – all share the same core afflictions.

These men are insecure, violently inclined, and illiberal. The outside world scares them. They hate homosexuals and strong women. For them, difference is a source of insecurity. Their values are militarism, conformism, chauvinism and jingoism. Worst of all they seek to pressure us into compliance while they work frantically to destroy themselves – and the rest of us with them.

All indications are that the hate-mongers – who are on the same side of this war, irrespective of religion – are winning in America. The unreflective, superficial, wan editors of the NYT are an indication of just how successful the right wing has been at eviscerating the left.

Terror expert Robert Lambert actually warns that ultra-nationalists pose an even greater threat than al-Qaeda, citing a disturbing litany of European plots that were foiled before they were able to be carried out. (Of course, as the example of Timothy McVeigh tragically reminds us, we Americans should not be so blase as to assume ultra-nationalist terror is only a European problem.)

What should be our response?  I can think of none better than that of Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg. (Oh, would that we had heard these kinds of words from President Bush following 9/11):

This is a message from all of Norway: You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our quest for a better world. ..This night we will comfort each other, talk with each other and stand together. Tomorrow we will show the world that Norway’s democracy grows stronger when it is challenged…

We must never cease to stand up for our values. We have to show that our open society can pass this test too, and that the answer to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, but never naivete.  This is what we owe to the victims and to those they hold dear.

May the memory of the victims be for a blessing.

You may care to contemplate that alongside Gerard Henderson and last night’s Media Watch. See also Extremism, Terrorism, and the Attack in Norway in God’s Politics.

Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s leading newspapers, writes of Iran’s perspective, blaming Zionism, on the Norway attacks. Ha’aretz quotes a lead Iranian official: “The world should be on alert of the Zionist regime attempts to create deviation with Christianity and spread Christian Zionism.” I haven’t yet read, nor do I intend to, the more than thousand pages left behind by Anders Behring Breivik further outlining his motivations. I do not know if he is a Zionist. Could be*. More importantly, his actions, astoundingly horrific, sadly remind us that extremism exists on all fronts — regardless of Christian, Muslim, or whatever other belief system. May Christians discard our own superiority complex and embrace moderation as we seek peace with our brothers and sisters across religious divides.

* Not bloody likely! – Neil.

  • And the azaleas are from West Wollongong.
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