Saturday, 27 June 2009

There are bad times just around the corner

This afternoon I was at "A Marvelous Party" - a celebration of Noel Coward at the Florida Studio Theatre.

Coward's wit came through in his old chestnuts "Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington", "Mad Dogs and Englishman"; and "A Marvelous Party".

I was especially taken with "There are Bad Times Just Around The Corner", which apart from some topical references to Reds and Pinks, seemed very apposite to what I recently saw of today's Britain.

Verse 1 They're out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent,
They're dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull Is seething with discontent,
They're nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain,
They're filled with wrath On the firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury Plain,
In Dublin they're depressed, lads, Maybe because they're Celts
For Drake is going West, lads,
And so is everyone else. Hurray-hurray-hurray! Misery's here to stay.

Refrain There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it's no good whining About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won't roll by,
With a scowl and a frown We'll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We're going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.

Verse 2 From Portland Bill to Scarborough They're querulous and subdued
And Shropshire lads Have behaved like cads From Berwick-on-Tweed to Bude,
They're mad at Market Harborough And livid at Leigh-on-Sea,
In Tunbridge Wells You can hear the yells Of woe-begone bourgeoisie.
We all get bitched about, lads, Whoever our vote elects,
We know we're up the spout, lads.
And that's what England expects.
Hurray-hurray-hurray! Trouble is on the way.

Refrain 2


There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon's gloomy as can be,
There are black birds over The grayish cliffs of Dover
And the rats are preparing to leave the B.B.C.
We're an unhappy breed And very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said.
While the press and the politicians nag nag nag
We'll wait until we drop down dead.


Verse 3

From Colwyn Bay to Kettering They're sobbing themselves to sleep,
The shrieks and wails In the Yorkshire dales Have even depressed the sheep.
In rather vulgar lettering A very disgruntled group
Have posted bills On the Cotswold Hills To prove that we're in the soup. While begging Kipling's pardon There's one thing we know for sure
If England is a garden We ought to have more manure. Hurray-hurray-hurray! Suffering and dismay.

Refrain 3

There are bad times just around the corner
And the outlook's absolutely vile,
There are Home Fires smoking
From Windermere to Woking
And we're not going to tighten our belts and smile, smile, smile,
At the sound of a shot We'd just as soon as not
Take a hot water bottle and go to bed,
We're going to untense our muscles till they sag sag sag
And wait until we drop down dead.

Refrain 4

There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair,
It's as clear as crystal From Bridlington to Bristol
That we can't save democracy and we don't much care
If the Reds and the Pinks Believe that England stinks A
nd that world revolution is bound to spread,
We'd better all learn the lyrics of the old 'Red Flag'
And wait until we drop down dead.
A likely story
Land of Hope and Glory,
Wait until we drop down dead.


Friday, 26 June 2009

I write as a member of the “post Michael Jackson” generation. I never quite “got him”, though it was clear that he was a splendid entertainer.

I think that he was also a tragic figure. He seemed to live like a 13 year old boy who had “come into money”

Perhaps he believed his own propaganda. Perhaps he was manipulated by his handlers.

Nonetheless this old fart was shocked to read that “Google” and other sites were overwhelmed with hits when Jackson died. God help the people of Darfur!

May the God of mercy and justice be with Michael Jackson, and with the 1 billion humans who are underfed.

May human beings of mercy and justice do something about the 1 billion humans who are underfed.

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My cat Adelaide and I have frequent conversations. They arise because she wants to go outside, yet one more time.

Adelaide says “Meow”. I say “No”. And so it goes, for many minutes.

I completely understand the conversation. Adelaide understands not a word.

But I am the one who can open or shut the door.

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On the other hand, my dog Penne understands very well. She will lay down, wait, or stay when I tell her so. She will get besides herself with excitement when I jiggle her leash – signifying a walk.

She knows that when I put on my walking shorts and shoes a walk is in the offing.

But if I am getting ready for (say) a shopping expedition, and say “not now” - why -she will lay down and rest without a whimper.

She often looks up to me with what seems to be such great affection, and she presses her body into my legs when she is afraid.

(It is a truly deep bonding).

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Please read this first class article about “when Pastors are criticised/praised”.

http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=7156

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Sex, lies and power

The list goes on, the names quickly come to mind — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. David Vitter, R-La., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., one-time Democratic presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Gary Hart, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, current New York Gov. David Paterson, former President William Clinton.

It’s neither a Democratic list nor a Republican list. It’s a list of men who abused their authority by the use of power.

Many leaders are susceptible to this temptation.
There are businessmen who verbally abuse their employees.
There are Priests and Ministers who believe in themselves more than they believe in God.
There are Bishops who are tyrants.
There are husbands who are brutes.
And, of course, there are the political and national leaders.

Long before our time, many Kings were also sexual predators. Because they were Kings they “got away with it”.

The Biblical King David “got what he wanted” with Bathsheba, so this story is not only contemporary.


I make a few comments.


1. Leaders who abuse their power should resign. I thought and said this about President Clinton, and I believe it for the more recent transgressors. My reasoning is simple. If my leaders betray the trust of their spouses, then they are also quite likely to betray my trust.

2. Leaders need “court jesters” or truth tellers. In the case of King David he was well served in this respect by the prophet Nathan. They need followers who will “name it”. (Remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? That’s an old story which contains great wisdom.


3. Each time we read of the fall of a star we may not gloat. We must acknowledge that “this could be me”.

4. We must be careful about the things we condemn. It may well be that our words of condemnation arise from our own sense of struggle with that which we condemn. (c.f. Ted Haggard et al)


5. “Apologising” is not enough. “I am sorry” is no substitute for “I was wrong”.

6. For Christians, forgiveness is the only option for those who admit their wrong. The Lord ’s Prayer speaks to this.


7. Admissions of guilt and subsequent forgiveness are acts of grace, but they should not in and of themselves lead to an “automatic” reinstatement to power or authority. It may well be that the most “forgiving” thing which we may offer to an offender is to say “you are forgiven, but you may not be re-instated to your former position - for your own good”. Seek another, more humble place in life where the temptations to the abuse of power are minimal.


I add two more thoughts.


First, abuses of power are not just about sex. It’s just that we find sex to be juicier than, for example, financial shenanigans.

Second, of course women can also abuse power. But the fact is that there are far more men than women in power/authority in this world.

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Older folks such as I will remember the “John Profumo” scandal. In the end, John Profumo, M.P. was brought down not because of his dalliance with a prostitute, but because he lied to the British Parliament. (Therein is wisdom. Political lies may well be symptomatic of other lies).

But his story did not end in disgrace. The scandal changed him (repentance and amendment of life?)

That’s exactly what we hope for all the men named in my first paragraph.


For more on John Profumo, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Profumo

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Scandal. Abuse of Power. The Pope. Canon Ed. Rodman. Lord Acton.

Given the expenses scandals in the British parliament; the fiscal scandals in these United States (Madoff et al); the various sexual scandals of leaders both sides of the Atlantic etc, etc, I have been thinking about the corrupting nature of power.

Here are some quotations on the matter:
.
Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.~ Edward Abbey

Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.~ John Adams

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.~ David Brin

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.~ Lord Acton 10 January 183419 June 1902),


It’s the Lord Acton quotation which is best known.


Lord Acton was a Roman Catholic Peer in the United Kingdom. He was a Liberal (in the sense of the old fashioned British Liberal Party) and a friend, advisor and confidante of British Premier William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)

(see http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/gladstone_william_ewart.shtml )

Acton’s famous quotation comes from his writing in response to the First Vatican Council’s declaration re Papal Infallibility (1870).

He was appalled by this. A fuller excerpt of what he said is well worth reading:

( The quotation comes from a letter which Acton sent to William Creighton, (Anglican) Bishop of London).

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it”.


His last sentence is salient, and should be written on the heart of every President, Pope, Bishop, Member of Parliament, U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Church Minister et al.

There can be no special pleading by the holders of these high and/or influential offices.

They might all need to hear the wise words of Canon Ed Rodman of the Diocese of Massachusetts. To all leaders, or would be leaders Canon Rodman says “Do not believe your own propaganda”.

Monday, 22 June 2009

"Bloom where you are planted?" Not a chance

If there are some things which are universal in human experience, one of them must be to complain about the weather.

Here in the southern USA we have been socked into unusually high temperatures and humidity for this time of year. In Sarasota, FL the thermometer has rarely shown lower than 75 F at night, and has been in the high 90’s F during the day. It’s all been a bit much. (It’s 85 F even as I write, at 9:33 p.m.)

Meanwhile, up in Massachusetts and other northern States it has been wet, wet, wet, with “summer” temperatures in the 60’s F.

We’d like some of their cooler air and rain. They’d like some of our higher temperatures.

(Who ever said “bloom where you are planted” had no sense of the weather!)

Complaining does not change matters, but it does give opportunity for conversations, even with strangers. And air conditioning in homes and cars makes all the difference.

Penne still demands her “poop or pee” walks about five times each day, so I have sweated with the best, even at 6:00 a.m. today!

Ada and Adelaide are wise cats, and they have stayed inside.