Short & Sweet - week beginning 2 July, 2012

How simple life can be! No carbon emissions here, just wonderful photosynthesis.
I reckon Geoffrey Blainey, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Ross Gittins would make for marvellous companionship... I enjoy their writing, so I imagine their company would be much the same.

But beyond their profession, it's something of their character I like. They are men of a certain age whose bristles have been worn down with the passage of time; who wear sports coats and hats and scarves and slacks and glasses; who look adoringly upon their wives, children, grandchildren with the kind of affection that melts your heart; who have mental dexterity enough to debate you under the table but enough generosity and good humour to allow for your personal foibles; who still have a childlike curiosity about the world, enabled by their daily walks and well-travelled thoughts; the disposition is generally cheery, sometimes cheeky, sometimes curmudgeonly, but not for long. 

They are on pensions or semi-retired and hang out at men's sheds and golf clubs and buy the paper and say, 'Good morning, how are you today [sometimes "sweetie" or "darl"]?'. Some are married, others alone. Three of these older blokes, with whom I am very close, have taken ill of late. It's very disconcerting. They are mighty men to me, full of dignity though I know also their faults, so to see them rendered somewhat incapacitated is saddening. 

It takes you by surprise because everything is going along swimmingly and then, bam!, sickness, chronic pains, stroke... Perhaps you have a father or father-in-law just the same? The body, fallible ("bloody fallible," as one of them would say).

There is another bloke, by the name of Job, who had many afflictions – a righteous, upstanding citizen struck down with the most heinous of diseases who lost just about everything, and it wasn't his own fault. But his experience did serve to teach him one thing: the supremacy of God in all things.

Sometimes in life we cannot trace to a mistake of our own the sources of our physical discomforts – and nor can others. It's terribly annoying when people, like Job's friends, try to point out the beginnings of your plight – really, it is yours and God's, if you will, to own and to learn from. 

Everything makes sense in hindsight, does it not? I think this is why the Bible is quite explicit about, "Do not judge...". 

The older we get, hopefully the more we learn from our mistakes and know ourselves well enough to refrain from making the same ones over and over again... to give them a wide berth or choose an entirely different path more commensurate with our beliefs, values, relationships and wellbeing. 

But all the while we are humbled, hopefully, by our propensity to be very human, sometimes tripping over ourselves. I sent a text message to one of the aforementioned blokes recently complaining of a self-inflicted blister (wrong shoes, long walk). 

"My own folly never ceases to surprise me," said I.
"Join the club!" said he.

Isn't that wonderfully generous? The simple acknowledgement that we humans can be incredibly silly, even in our twilight years.

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom," said Marcel Proust, who also said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Age can give you new eyes; a broader perspective.

There is some rhetoric around the Carbon Tax about about letting people judge its impact "by the experience that they live". If you can judge the carbon tax by happy hip pockets, then, similarly, I think you can judge a man by the experience he's lived if there remains a twinkle in his eye when he's writhing in pain.

Took look upon the world (degenerate, ruinous, painful, calamitous) with sheer and utter delight, in hope that something even better is to come, is to be very much alive. But, more than that, to endure suffering to the benefit of mankind outside of your own experience? That's what creates Martin Luther King Jnrs. 

"We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full," said Proust, which is something akin to Paul ("we rejoice in our sufferings"). Turns of providence are not always what we might expect.

Often yielding control to a higher being is enough to assuage the pain; doing it through the stained-glass window of someone who has suffered more than ourselves is equally liberating. It gives us renewed strength, of body and will.

The Word for the Week: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1: 2
Quote for the Week: "It takes a person who has discovered something of the measure of his own weakness to be patient with the foibles of others." Gini Andrews word for the week: mumpsimus \MUHMP-suh-muhs\, noun:
1. Adherence to or persistence in an erroneous use of language, memorization, practice, belief, etc., out of habit or obstinacy.
2. A person who persists in a mistaken expression or practice.
"She had taken to pronouncing 'assuage' as if it were related to a sausage, when it is most definitely not of the barbecue word variety, but more related in linguistic interpretation to a sway in one's weekly wage. As in, "a-sway-ge'. Still, the mumpsimus was delightfully disarming. Speaking of which, the Gillard Government has made a small allowance in one's weekly wage to assuage voters angered by the carbon tax. How about that? Time will tell."

Girl With a Satchel