Wednesday, 30 August 2017

You can count on me

(Sesame Street)

My favourite character from Sesame Street when I was a young man was The Count. I just loved the way he taught how to count and how his various sketches were so memorable.

One day I had a meeting at work with the accountant from the firm auditing our books for the Annual Reports and Accounts. Contrary to popular belief, he was not a dull man with no sense of humour whatsoever. Quite the contrary. This accountant was a pretty young lady starting her career with the organisation were she worked. After a long and gruelling meeting I decided to take her to lunch at a local restaurant and I took my assistant with me. He, being one with a warped sense of humour, and an eye for a challenge, bet me secretly £50 (which was a lot of money at the time) to my favourite charity if I were to impersonate my favourite Sesame Street character.

As the three of us sat down at our table, and the waiter approached to take our order I said, in a pronounced Count accent, "Ah ... my good man. Can we start with ONE bottle of wine ... ha ha ha ha ... ONE bottle of wine and we will also have TWO candles lit on the table please ... That is TWO candles ha ha ha ha ..."

Both the waiter and the lady accountant were surprised at this sudden transformation, but said nothing.

I continued, "We will need also THREE glasses ... ha ha ha ha ... THREE glasses for us THREE to drink the wine ... ha ha ha ha ...

"We will also have FOUR plates of antipasti to start with. That is FOUR plates ... ONE for the lady, ONE for my friend here, ONE for me ... and ONE for you if you wish to join us ... ha ha ha ha ...

"Then we will have spaghetti with meat balls. FIVE meat balls on each plates. FIVE for the lady, FIVE for my friend, FIVE for me and nothing for you ... because you will go away after your antipasti ... ha ha ha ha ...

"That is ONE bottle of wine ... TWO candles ... THREE glasses ... FOUR antipasti and FIVE meatballs with the spaghetti ... ha ha ha ha ... I am the Count and I can count up to FIVE."

At this point the lady accountant asked me if I was all right? I explained what had transpired with my assistant and I won £50 for my favourite charity ... ha ha ha ha ...
  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Anthropomorphism


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities such as animals or even objects. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with that. For example, Donald Duck is, strictly speaking, a duck; yet it has been dressed like a human, it talks and can do human things like drive a car or cook. It has been given the character of a human and behaves as such for the purpose of the cartoon story in which it, or he, appears.

By the way, have you noticed that normally Donald Duck wears a jacket and hat and nothing on his lower half; yet, when he comes out of the shower or bath he has a towel around his lower half. What's all that about? Certainly not a human characteristic. I certainly don't go around wearing nothing but a jacket!

Anyway, I digress.

As I was saying before I was interrupted by Donald Duck, certain people attribute human characteristics to non-human objects. For example, I was visiting a young couple the other day and as I was leaving them they said they were going to pick up their children from school with Sophie. I thought Sophie was their children's nanny. But they jumped in the car and as they were reversing out of their drive I asked, "Aren't you going to wait for Sophie?"

They laughed and said, "We are in Sophie! Sophie is John's car. My car over there (said the wife) is called Bernard. Our cars have a character of their own. Sophie is more gentle and welcoming!"

I smiled and said nothing.

How can a car be gentle and welcoming? Can it be temperamental and refuse to start on a cold morning because it wants to tease or upset you? Or is it perhaps because the battery is low and it will not start the engine?

I thought nothing of it until a few days ago when the subject arose again. I was in the pub with John, the young husband in this couple of which I speak, nursing a beer when I noticed he looked somewhat forlorn.

By the way, by nursing a beer I meant drinking slowly. I did not mean I was nursing it because it was ill and needed medical attention. It was just a figure of speech and I was in no way anthropomorphising the pint in my hand. I wish you would stop interrupting my train of thought.

I asked John what was the matter and he explained, "For a while now, after I wash up the dishes and dry them, I put them away in the cupboard in a stack on top of each other. If I have four plates in hand, and there are already two in the cupboard, I put the four plates underneath the two so that next time the two at the top would get a chance to be used. I don't want them to feel left out and unloved by not being used. So I raise them to the top of the pile so that they are used next. This also happens with saucers, cereal bowls, and cups. I move the old cups from the back of the shelf to the front, and put the newly cleaned ones at the back."

For a moment or two I said nothing as I caressed my beer glass pensively. Careful now, don't go interrupting me again!

I then asked, "What does your wife think of this?"

"That's the point," he said, "until recently she did not know anything about it. They say couples should not have any secrets from each other, but there I was, after three years of marriage hiding this from her!"

"It's not as if you were having an affair!" I said.

"The principle is the same," he replied, "until recently it was a secret I kept from her. Now she knows. But what is worse, is that apparently she has been doing the same all along. I caught her taking all the plates out of the cupboard and moving the ones at the top of the pile to the bottom. I asked her what she was doing and she confessed. She has been doing the same thing as me all along!"

I smiled inwardly and said nothing.

"Can you imagine?" he continued, "there is probably a poor plate or saucer which feels unloved because it has not been used for ages. I put it on top and she moved it to the bottom of the stack again!"

"But ... but ... it is only a plate," I stammered, "it does not have feelings and it does not think like you and I" (Certainly not like you and your wife; I thought silently).

"And what is worse," he said, "when I saw my wife moving the plates up and down she accidentally dropped one and it smashed into pieces. Dead in the prime of life. We'd only just bought that set."

As delicately as I could, I said, "Look John ... this is some kind of OCD that you both have ... you should discuss it with a doctor."

"OCD?" he asked.

"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's when people do something repeatedly, like over-cleaning or washing!" I explained.

"Tell me about it," he said, "she is so cleaning mad you'll not believe it. The other day we had an argument and in the heat of the moment she threw a cup at me from a distance. She did not want to pick up the broken pieces so she put the cup in a plastic bag first, tied it up, and threw it at me. That way all the pieces were in the bag! Then she cried over the death of a cup."

I was at a loss for words because I did not have my dictionary with me. I bought him another pint and made my way home.

I took a taxi because my shoes were too tired to walk all that way back.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

God's Invitation


Someone asked me whether God wants everyone to come to Him.

And, since He knows everything, if anyone refuses to follow God’s Word, then did this man really have a choice, or was it pre-determined that he would not follow God.

Pre-determination and free will have been debated by Christians and non-Christians for years. So I hope I am not adding to the confusion by sharing my views on it.

God's invitation is to everyone - without exception. When He invites us to love Him, He wants us to choose freely - without any pressure on His part to influence our decision. We choose to love Him and come to God through Jesus Christ: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6.

Of course, some choose not to accept the invitation. They decide to walk away from God. Not to believe in Him and in Jesus as His only Son. That is their free choice.

God in His infinite wisdom and in His loving kindness allows us to make that decision for ourselves. Of course, He knows our decision before we even make it - but He does not influence it in any way. He allows it to happen. If He were to force us in any way then He would have taken away our free will to decide. He might as well have created a race of robots pre-programmed with His every wish and command. But he didn't. He created us free to choose our own destiny. Our own will.

I believe that God has given each of us a mission in life. Some achieve this mission by being great preachers, church leaders, politicians, and so on. Whilst most of us can achieve our mission by the small things we do in life, our acts of kindness, love and caring for the rest of humanity.

Of course, some people choose to ignore their mission to "love one another as I have loved you"; and decide to go their own way. Not only to ignore their mission but also not to believe in the very existence of their Creator.

God allows this to happen.

There are times however when God does try to nudge us in the right direction. He encourages us to be aware of our mission and to attempt to achieve it.

Note that I say “encourage” and not force our decision.

Why He does that only in some cases we really don’t know.

A well known example is the way He “encouraged” Paul on the way to Damascus. I suppose Paul could still have walked away and not followed God’s Word; although I doubt many would have done so under the circumstances! God saw the good qualities in Paul and encouraged him to use them to good effect. Paul chose to accept God and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even today God does nudge some of us in the right direction.

How?

Perhaps through chance meetings with someone who might talk to us about God and encourage us to accept His Word and take up His invitation to love Him.

Maybe He allows certain things to happen in our lives which make us turn to Him.

But the fact is that God does talk to us today. He does encourage us to come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Perhaps some of us just aren't listening.

But here’s the important distinction to remember. God tries to encourage us, or nudge us, in the right direction. He invites us all to accept His Word.

But He never forces us.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Reality Check


What is reality? I asked myself the other day as I sat out in the garden. I had to ask myself, because there was no one else there.

What I mean, and what I also meant when I asked myself the question, and got no answer. Albeit, I might add, the dog barked for no apparent reason. He always does that when I sit quietly talking to myself. I don't know why.

Anyway, what I meant by the question, if you can still remember that far, is that, what is reality to us, might not be so, or have been so to other people in the past. Something can be real to us, but not to others.

Let me explain.

Take my great great great grand-parents for instance. If you can find them. If you told them that you could be sitting at home, writing on your computer, and someone else many miles away could be receiving your e-mail within seconds and respond to it whilst you're enjoying your cappuccino coffee. They would not understand our reality of the internet, e-mails, texts, tweets, and so on and they would most probably reply, "What's a cappuccino?" Because they didn't have that in their time. It may be reality to us, but not to them.

Take another example, for instance. The other day my wife was looking through a ladies' magazine and she came across a lovely brown winter coat. She looked at me and said, "I'd like that!" So I cut the picture out and gave it to her. It was not reality to her ... but the consequences of my action were a reality to me.

So you see, reality is how you perceive it to be. It's like looking at a mirage which is not there. Which, when you think about it, in reality is not there. Because that's what a mirage means: a hallucination, a vision, an illusion. If it was there for real then it would not be a mirage, would it? For instance, is a marriage a mirage? Or is it real? If it is real then why does my predictive text type marriage when I mean mirage? Come to think of it, many couples lead a mirage type of marriage. They pretend to love each other but in reality they only stay married for many other reasons: the children, their religious beliefs, the cost and heart-ache of divorce, or just because they are plain lazy to do anything else.

And here's another example of reality not being real. The other day I met a friend I had not seen for ages. When he was young he was a boy. Then when he grew up he had a beard and he became an accountant. The last time I saw him at college he had no beard. Then two years later I saw him again and he had grown a beard and became an accountant. I'm not sure if the two incidents were related or not. So which one of these three instances is real? My friend being a young boy? Growing up and having a beard? Or being an accountant? Which leads to the question: can someone be an accountant and not have a beard?

Anyway, the other day I met him again after a period of six years or so of not seeing him. He was clean-shaven again and no longer an accountant. He became an undertaker. He was so popular that people are dying to meet him. They always signed letters to him; "Eventually yours ..."

I said to him, "If you had a moustache you'd look exactly like my mother-in-law!"

He replied, "I do not have a moustache!"

I said, "But my mother-in-law has."

The moustache was a reality, but it was on the wrong person.

This friend of mine is very rich now. Obviously either accounting or undertaking has suited him well as a career. He has a house with a cinema in it. The problem is that when there's a bad film on he has to leave his own home.

And that's what reality is. It is what it is perceived to be.

I am sitting here writing this Blog day in day out. But how do I know that you out there reading it are real? Are you a reality? Ordinary or extra-ordinary people in your own homes in far flung places reading my daily writings? Or not?
 
What if you are a figment of my imagination? What if I am a figment of your imagination? What if we are all a figment of each others' imagination and none of us really exist?

Who is writing this Blog then? And how do you know that it has been written and it is not a figment of your and my imagination?

Just because RenĂ© Descartes said, "Cogito ergo sum" does not mean that he is not a figment of his own imagination. He then translated it into "je pense, donc je suis" which as you know means, "I think, therefore I am!" But what does all that prove anyway? 

I started this whole Blog post with the thought, "What is reality?"

Does this prove that I am? Does it prove that I exist? Maybe I just thought or imagined that I thought what reality is? And maybe I don't really exist but the thought that I thought it does exist?

Hein? Have you thought about that? 

Share your views in the comments box below. That is if you truly exist.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Miracles


Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and said, “Hands up all those who have been to Lourdes!”

Quite a few hands went up.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”

A few more hands went up.

“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”

No hands went up.

The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.

“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?

“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.

“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!

“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”

He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.

“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.

“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.

“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.

“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.

“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?

“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?

“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?

“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”

He paused yet again.

“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.

“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.

“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.

“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.

“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.

“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’

“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.

“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”

Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.

“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!

“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?

“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’

“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”

The congregation laughed. The priest continued.

“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.

“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’

“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.

“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.

“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.

“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.

“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.

“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.

“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.

“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.

“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.

“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.

“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.

“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE
 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Saving the Planet - Sorted!

My last post discussed, amongst other things, the question of re-cycling. I would certainly welcome your comments on that subject over there, or indeed about any other topic raised on that post. How about that for re-cycling? I have even given you two links to that previous post. Sorry ... three.

Now the reason for re-cycling is, I am told, to save the planet. What we are saving it from I still do not know. Some say we are saving it from global warming - we are burning too many things which are bad for the planet and cause its temperature to rise, and this is bad because the icebergs will melt and the seas will rise and only the strongest swimmers will survive. Others don't agree with this theory and believe temperatures rise and fall in a cyclical fashion and as in the past we had the ice-age we are only going through a phase and we will survive through it.

Personally, I am not clever enough to understand one argument from another. It's like the argument about the extinction of dinosaurs. Some say they all died because they could not withstand the cold temperatures of the ice-age; others say they died because they were killed by a meteorite, or asteroid which hit the earth. Although why they were all standing in the same place at the time is a mystery to me.

Now about this global warming thing. Many have argued about what exactly causes global warming, but I feel they have missed an obvious reason for the problem which is there staring them in the face.

Candles.

Can you imagine how many candles are lit at any one time in the world? In churches, in restaurants, at romantic dinner tables, in the bathroom - I mean; whoever thought of candles in the bathroom? Very dangerous if you happen to singe your hair. On birthday cakes too? Come on - admit it. How many candles are on your birthday cake each year? You and all these other candles are contributing to global warming.

That and cows breaking wind apparently. Cows break wind more than other creatures because they have two stomachs. It seems that all the gases coming out of cows float up to the sky and make a hole in the sky through which the warmth of the earth escapes and the sun rays get in through the hole in the sky and makes us warm again.

I have mentioned cows because, I understand, they contribute most to the problem. But apparently all kinds of gaseous substances from animals and humans contribute to the problem. So my advice to save the planet is don't break wind near a lit candle.

Another reason for global warming, I am told, is deforestation. This means that we are cutting down too many trees and not planting new ones fast enough.

The other day I was sitting at the library reading about global warming, and a man beside me said, "“Do you realize that all the time you've been sitting here 500 square miles of rain forest have been destroyed?”

So I got up and sat elsewhere. I don't want to be blamed for destroying a forest.

Whilst we are on the subject, yet another reason for global warming is books. Yes books. Books are made of paper which comes from wood from trees which have been cut down to make paper.

Do you realise that there are millions of books being printed in the world each year and most of them go unread? Including mine. Which is a pity because you're missing out on a good read. Just click the link to find out more.

Now if we printed fewer books, or we published them in Kindle or other electronic formats, like mine are, then we would save on a lot of paper and trees being cut down.

Yet another reason for global warming, it seems, is our voracious appetite for electricity. We are using more and more electricity every year.

We all need electricity to make our electric toothbrush work. As you know, the old fashioned way of brushing our teeth with a traditional brush is no longer effective. We all need an electric toothbrush to make sure our teeth are bright and clean and they attract a handsome and/or attractive partner in life.

This is why the consumption of world electricity is constantly increasing.

So another way to save the planet is by finding new ways of making electricity rather than burning fossil fuels to make the turbines which make electricity work. One way of making electricity cheaply, I am told by experts, is to harness the wind power and build wind-turbines. These in effect are big fans which go round and round and make the turbines which create electricity work. It's all very complicated but more effective than burning coal or oil to turn the turbines.

The problem with this method is that some people object to wind turbines because they spoil the natural scenery whether they are built in the countryside on hills and in fields, or out at sea. Also, I understand, the sound of the wind turbines as they go round and round upsets the birds' hearing as they fly by; and they have to cover their ears with their wings thus interrupting their flight causing them to fall to their death.

The answer to this problem is rather simple if only people use their imagination. Engineers should install these big wind turbines in caves or under-water out of harm's way and so as not to spoil the natural scenery. Either that or have them built on wheels and bring them out at night when everyone is asleep.

My main concerns with wind turbines, however, is much more serious. I am worried that if every nation builds more and more of these wind turbines everywhere, sooner or later they will make so much wind that the whole earth will take off like a plane and start flying away to another galaxy. Where would we be then?

In another solar system where they do not speak our language with no one to read my books.

So I think a better solution is to use less electricity by switching all our lights off and using candles instead!
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