Forty Days

“Why did she give up wine for Lent? Polly was more sensible. She had given up strawberry jam. Cecilia had never seen Polly show more than a passing interest in strawberry jam, although now, of course, she was always catching her standing at the open fridge, staring at it longingly. The power of denial.”
Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret

Is it possible for forty days to transform your world.

Lent, the Christian tradition of fasting, prayer and good works starts Ash Wednesday March 6 and ends Holy Thursday April 18.

For me it means.

Goodbye to chocolate chip cookies.

Goodbye to chocolate chip, banana muffins

Goodbye to chocolate mint ice cream.

Goodbye to swearing at drivers.

Hello to increased prayer life and meditation.

Hello to being a kinder, more understanding person.

At this time of year I often reflect on forgiveness and reconciliation.

Society needs to rediscover the art of forgiveness, penance and reconciliation. Social media is deeply into shaming politicians, celebrities and others on perceived past misdeeds.

If a person has offended someone’s sensibilities, should they suffer for the rest of their lives or be forgiven after a suitable time and allowed to move forward with their lives.

Have we become such an unforgiving society.

Can forty days transform your world.

Why not give it a try.


Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #75
by Reena Saxena to write based on above images. This is my fictional contribution. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

I’ve always equated wearing eye glasses with intelligence. I think it started with Collette Heaney in grade 6. Her hand was always raised in triumph the instant a question was posed by Mr. Murphy. Her face, framed by wire rimmed eye glasses, pleading for the teachers attention. I was devoted to her single minded quest for intellectual respect. I tried to approach her a number of times, to bathe in her aura of intelligence, but her head was invariably stuck in a book and she never acknowledged my presence.

In high school it was Miss Kelly, my English studies teacher that captured my soul. Her face adorned with those sensible, oversized eye glasses sent a thrill through my body, which electrified my very being. When she quoted Shakespeare, especially Portia from the Merchant of Venice, my heart resounded with joy and I entered into Rapture.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

In university it was Ophelia from my psychology 101 class. She came to classes twice a week, each time wearing a different style of eye glasses. One day it would be pink, full rimmed, cat eye glasses and another it would be blue, semi-rimless oval eye glasses. She never spoke much, but would concentrate on the professors words with great intensity, tapping away on her laptop. I eventually mustered the courage to speak to her and asked her out for a cup of coffee. She accepted and we spent a pleasant hour in the coffee shop discussing the pros and cons of our psychology course. We made a habit of this for the rest of the semester, and at the courses conclusion she casually asked me up to her apartment. As we entered the elevator I could feel my heart pounding louder and louder, the surface of my skin alive with an electrical current waiting to find an outlet.

Upon entering her apartment she went to the kitchen cupboard, removed her eye glasses and placed them in a floral container. She then turned to me and asked if I wanted a drink. Who is this person, I no longer recognized her. Her face had changed in an instant from a vision of intellectual beauty to a rather plain, nondescript shade of her former self. My heart sank and I sat in misery for the next hour while she droned on about her family background. At the first opportunity I made my excuses and made for the exit, noting the disappointed look she gave me.

After graduation from university I was hired as a contributing columnist for an online start-up. Over time I noticed a marked deterioration in my eye sight and made an appointment with the local optometrist. She gave me a prescription for eye glasses and I headed off to the eye glass store. I entered intellectual Nirvana. There were about four women standing in front of a glass wall trying on various styles of eye glasses and my body shuddered with ecstasy. The sales lady came over, in her stunning fashionable eye glasses, gave a charming smile and asked if she could help. We were married a year later.

Sapio-Sexual is one who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature. Sapiosexual is a recently constructed word that has come into common usage, especially on social networking sites where some people are self-identifying as sapiosexual.

Think before you act

“ In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Letters and Papers from Prison

I have just finished watching on TV the Chicago Police Department responding to the Jussie Smollett case. According to evidence uncovered by the Chicago Police, Jussie Smollett a black actor and celebrity, staged a racial attack on himself, thinking it would help him in salary negotiations for his acting role. Social media, Main Street News and politicians aided him in his victimhood by trumpeting preconceived ideas and by using minimum critical thinking in their dissemination of news.

Their have been countless issues in 2019 where many people have jumped to conclusions based on their ideology instead of waiting for facts.

Peaceful street protests are usurped by violent parts of society with an agenda on both the left and right.

The middle class is eroding and the divide between have and have nots is increasing leading to greater anger and social pressures.

We have to get a grip, be more rational in our thoughts, be more responsible on social media and not follow the mob mentality.

The seven social sins were first formulated in a sermon given by an Anglican priest Frederick Lewis Donaldson in 1925.

I think the above seven social sins formulated by reverend Frederick Donaldson and adopted by Gandhi are just as relevant today as in 1925.

Politics with principles.

Commerce with morality.

Science with humanity.

This is my little rant in response to watching todays news.

Life is Messy

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our ten month old daughter loved to paint with chocolate pudding. She scattered the chocolate like a frenzied artist, over her face, the high chair,her parents and everything she touched. She was our chocolate Midas and we attempted to avoid her touch. I wagged my finger at her, ” you are a very messy baby”

At two years of age she pushed over the canary cage. The cage door opened. The canary serenaded its first taste of freedom, bumping into walls around the room. My wife and I fetched the vacuum and the mop and bucket as we rushed to clean up the seedy mess.

At ten years of age our daughter would respond to our constant mantra of “Clean your room” by entering into a state of contemplative bliss, ignoring all worldly distractions.

At the age of fourteen things got really messy as she stormed home from school upset by male dominance. The boys out numbered the girls in their classroom group and instead of having a reasoned discussion the boys voted as a block against the girls. The topic under discussion “What are the two most important conditions for survival”. The girls suggested food and shelter, the boys countered with hockey and banning school.

After graduating from university our daughter went to teachers college. Then things really got messy. She decorated every room with magazine cut-outs, bristol board, glue, tape and crayons.

Now our daughter is a teacher, married with five children.  She constantly complains about the untidiness of her children. They leave their mess everywhere, homework all over the place, won’t clean their room. We just smile.

Life is messy.


Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #74
by Reena Saxena to write based on above images. This is my fictional contribution. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

It’s 8:00 p.m. and minus 16 degrees. I make my rounds through all the known haunts trying to entice the wraiths into the warm. The homeless, ghosts of their former selves, clinging to their meagre coverings, shivering on top of subway grates, in doorways and on park benches. I give a cheery smile, with words of allurement. It’s nice and warm at the shelter. Wouldn’t you rather be warm till this cold spell breaks. Try it, just for the night. My words are met with a grunt and they turn their face from me. Just like God has.

I return to the shelter at 10:00 p.m. just before closing. I give my report to the Director, give a cheery wave to the occupants drinking their hot chocolate and start for home. It’s Friday night, two days of oblivion to look forward to.

I arrive home, throw a chicken pot pie into the oven, reach for the whiskey bottle and pour a generous amount into the glass. I savour the flavour, the warmth, the relaxation of my body as it slumps into the chair. I awake an hour later to an empty glass and the smell of burning coming from the oven. A burnt chicken pot pie, three slices of bread and four glasses of whiskey later, I turn to Leonard Cohen for comfort.

Slipping my iPod into the dock, I lay back in the armchair, feet on the coffee table, whiskey in hand and zone into the music. I pause the iPod after listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Window” and replay it over and over. The middle verse touches my soul.

And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns

Where had I heard the Cloud of Unknowing before. Was it St. John of the Cross. Yes, one of his poems.

I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

My mind went round and round. Stanzas from The Ascent of Mount Carmel. “One dark night, filled with loves urgent longing, I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled”. How can love and darkness co-exist. Doesn’t the light of love drive out darkness, doesn’t darkness smother the light of love…………..

I awoke the next afternoon to a heavy head and acute indigestion. I drank three cups of water before I reached for the whiskey bottle. My next awareness was late Sunday afternoon. Groaning I staggered to the shower. I let the cleansing waters pour over me, invigorating me, trying to create tomorrows identity.

Later that night I began thinking of my council presentation tomorrow. I thought of Mahendra, a council member who was forever discussing religion with me. My Christian God to his Hindu Gods. I would tell him about the death and resurrection of Christ and he would talk about Shiva, the destroyer who creates. My mind drifted off to sleep with images of death and resurrection, destruction and creation.

The next afternoon I was sitting in the office at the homeless shelter ready to discuss the presentation to council on funding for non-profit housing.

The Director greeted me with a smile “How was your weekend”.

‘ Great “, I replied, returning his smile and then proceeded to discuss funding alternatives for non profits.

Knight Errand

“Defend the weak, protect both young and old, never desert your friends. Give justice to all, be fearless in battle and always ready to defend the right.”

—The law of Badger Lords”
Brian Jacques, Lord Brocktree

” George, George can you run an errand for me “.

It was Mrs. Billings yelling as I was about to exit the building. She lives on the ground floor, closest to the only opening that gives entrance and exit to the building, it was impossible to pass unnoticed.

I turned mid stride and said ” Sure Mrs. Billings, what would you like me to get for you”.

” Go to Tate’s and get me a loaf of bread, 2lb sugar, of Typhoo tea and a snow cake. Tell Mr. Tate that I won’t get my pension till next week so can he write it in his book till then”.

Mrs.Billings gave me her grocery bag and I took off for the fifteen minute walk to Tate’s. Upon arriving I gave him the order and her instructions, he duly recorded the transaction in his little book. Upon returning to Mrs. Billings apartment I knocked on the door and handed her the groceries.

“Thank you George” she said, ” You are my little knight errand” and gave me two digestive biscuits for my trouble. I nibbled at the biscuits as I puzzled over what she meant by knight errand.

From that day every Tuesday and Friday, without fail, she would corner me and send me on some errand to a store, and would always call me her little knight errand.

Still curious over the meaning of knight errand, I questioned Miss Kelly, my teacher. She laughed and said I think she meant knight errant. Knight errant was a knight who wandered the land in search of adventure and to right the wrongs of the land. He usually performed all his deeds for a lady. She then went on to tell me about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Gawain, Lancelot, Galahad and Percival.

I was enthralled at this idea and from then on imagined myself as a knight wandering the land doing all kinds of good deeds.

Tuesday came around, I passed Mrs. Billings house expecting to be sent on my usual knights errand journey to the store. To my surprise she was not outside waiting for me. I wondered if she was sick and so knocked hesitantly at the door. After a few minutes a man came to the door and when I enquired about Mrs. Billings he said she was taking a nap. I thought this was unusual, but nodded my head and walked away. For the next two weeks Mrs. Billings was not to be seen and I always received the same answer when enquiring about her.

There came a time when I saw the man exit Mrs. Billings apartment and when he rounded the corner, out of sight, I tapped on her door. No answer. I knocked louder. Still no answer. I turned the door handle and pushed forward. To my surprise the door opened. I stepped hesitantly inside, searching.

Mrs. Billings voice cried out, ” Is someone there”

“It’s me, George” I replied. “Your knight errand”.

” You are a saviour” she sniffed, ” You have to go and get me help”.

I asked her what was wrong.

“It’s my son Alfie, he needed somewhere to stay as he lost his job and couldn’t pay his rent. So even though he’s given me trouble in the past I reluctantly allowed him to stay. But he’s taken my pension book and locks me in the bedroom every time he leaves the house”.

She cried softly as she pleaded, ” You have to help me get out of here”.

” Don’t worry Mrs. Billings, I’ll rescue you, it may take a little while, but I will free you ” I said as I hurried back out the door.

Mrs. Billings was locked in the dungeon by her dragon of a son and I knew exactly how to rescue her. I ran all the way to Lemon Street Police Station and breathlessly blurted out Mrs. Billings dilemma to the policeman behind the counter.

“Hold your horses lad, slow down a bit, I can’t understand a word you’re saying”. The policeman’s calm tone steadied my nerves, I tried to relax my breathing.

” Mrs. Billings, my neighbour, is being held prisoner by her son Alfie, and he’s stolen her pension book, ” I gasped.

” So that would be Alfie Billings,” the policeman intoned ” We’ve been looking for him for burglary and assaulting a police officer. He escaped from us when we went to question him at his apartment.”

Two hours later I was sitting in Mrs. Billings parlour enjoying a cup of tea and chocolate digestive biscuits. She was thanking me for the hundredth time and calling me her little knight errand for the hundredth time. Shame to say I was basking in her adoration and feeling pretty good about myself. Sir George, Knight Errand Errant, saving damsels from dragons and rescuing fair maidens from imprisonment.

“George,we’ve run out of biscuits, be a good lad and run an errand for me.”

I jumped on my steed to roam the land once again in search of adventure.

The Doomsday Clock

Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #73
by Reena Saxena. The idea was to explore time and in particular one minute of time. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

I was born in 1947, the year the Doomsday Clock was instituted.

The Clock represents how close the world is to a global catastrophe. The global catastrophe is set as Midnight, and the current perception of catastrophe as the number of minutes to Midnight. In 1947 the clock was initially set at seven minutes to Midnight. The setting was last changed in January 2018 to two minutes to Midnight, because of the threats of nuclear weapons, climate change and the use of informational warfare to undermine democracies.

I was always resetting my Doomsday Clock growing up in the slums of East London in the 1950’s. Constantly weighing the risk factors of people you met and the streets you walked. Some streets I would stop, take a breath for a minute, count to ten and then run as fast as I could till I reached the end. East London streets in the 1950’s were very territorial. Play time, on occasions, were pitched stone battles between youths. Leading up to Guy Fawkes, November 5th, streets would collect “bonfire wood”, usually from the bombed houses, and stack the wood in a nearby ruin. Every street had its ruin. Rival streets would then raid each other and try to steal the wood. This would lead to pitched battles with stones or catapults as the weapons of choice. Catapults were V shaped pieces of metal taken from bed springs, ammunition U shaped nails. We never understood that we were one minute from Midnight.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts On Common Things

Call me an optimist, but I believe in the power and the resilience of the human race to adapt, learn and go forward. It’s only been about a 100 years since industrial/technological revolution has taken us all by storm. We are adapting, we make mistakes but we are learning. This is where we need free speech and free expression of ideas to reason with each other and reach a consensus. We do not need a great divide or dualistic thinking. We need empathy and understanding, mixed in with a great deal of common sense. When we use our democratic powers we should vote for politicians who reason and have worthwhile ideas. We should not give in to following a cult of personality, the charismatic charmer.

Luke 12:48. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

My hope and my dream is that we become more aware of our responsibilities to each other and to our planet. Can we take a minute to pray, reflect and ask ourselves.