Sunday, April 19, 2015

Communist Mural

Cape Town has some impressive murals, among them this one. I would estimate it to be a huge eight by six metres / yards in size. I took the photo on Salt River Road -- a part of town which houses various unions.  There are some obvious references here to the Communist Manifesto -- a document long banned in South Africa, yet now published here. The Communist Party wields much influence in South Africa. Nelson Mandela himself was a Communist Party member, and served on its Central Committee. You may click on the image to enlarge.

Access To Information

There is in South Africa an Act of Parliament called the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The purpose of the Act is "to foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public and private bodies". But in reality, the Act doesn't (really) work. According to the PAIA Civil Society Network, there is "a significant failure in the implementation of PAIA". The situation is "dismal", comments Independent Newspapers. One must be prepared to invest large sums of money to hold people to it if they should oppose an open society, which is essentially what they are doing when they don't comply. OBSERVATION: But even if an organisation clams up, if information should be refused, or if it should be provided with pages missing (all of which have happened to me), this in itself may "speak volumes".

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some Other People

Still with the previous post in mind, I stopped my car in the street in my old "parish" recently (pictured), for wife E. and a friend to jump out and buy some firewood. In the time that it took them to buy the wood, seven people stopped me and another two (that I noticed) stared at me: "We miss you!" "It's not the same!" and so on. OBSERVATION: The photo is in 3-D.  To see the 3D, lazily squint your eyes until the images overlap and snap together. Your eyes need to be in line horizontally for this. Click on the photo(s) to enlarge for enhanced 3D.

The Ragged People

The "ragged people" receive me with enthusiasm in my old ministry area (the Atlantic Area). I sometimes needed to be tough with them, so it is good to see that there is still much affection there. Yesterday I met a vagrant who now owns a dog. He said: "I woke up in the street one morning and it was lying asleep next to me. A dog puts love in your heart." OBSERVATION: The last time I heard (quite some time ago), there were about 700 vagrants in the area.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Two Essays On Mind

This week I had twin essays published on (click here) Aspects of Mind, in the sister publication of the Philosophical Society of England. The essays are on Mind and Matter, and Consciousness and Attention. While it seems unlikely that anyone will lay these subjects to rest any time soon, I believe I bring a fresh approach which could give the debate a fillip. OBSERVATION: I postponed a third essay in the series, on Reason and Contradiction.

Sputtering Xenophobia

I first posted this five years ago. It is a re-post: "I am so fed up with so-called xenophobia. In the most recent incident, a young congregant was ordered to get out of his room because the other tenants didn't want foreigners in this country. They seized his cell-phone, but he managed to save the rest of his property. However, a cellphone is a crucial tool for a refugee, and he lost half a month's rent, with no savings in reserve. OBSERVATION: If there were not extraordinary ministry pressures, I might seek a meeting with the offenders. As it is, I have asked for the name and number of his landlord. The Bible says: 'Love the alien as yourself' (Lev 19:34). I took the photo of displaced refugees at the height of the xenophobic violence in 2008."

POSTSCRIPT: I did in fact go to meet with the offenders, arriving just as they confronted some foreigners. What I witnessed was frightening, and I abandoned my mission.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fourfold Emphasis

Generally speaking, I have a fourfold emphasis in ministry. One finds it grouped together in various places in Scripture: who God is, what He does, His creation, and His people -- and all the various aspects of the same. An example of such fourfold emphasis is found in Psalm 150, which speaks of His surpassing greatness, His acts of power, His mighty heavens, and His sanctuary. OBSERVATION: The four points are not to be taken for granted. In some Churches, one or the other may not receive much attention at all.

A Philosophy Of Gestures

I had an article (re) published this morning (click here): A Philosophy of Gestures. It is one of my more whimsical pieces, yet a theme of some importance. I make special reference to a small gesture of economist Piero Sraffa, which changed the course of history -- and theology. The article explores the fact that much of the way in which we communicate values is gestural. A bouquet of flowers, for instance, or President Kennedy's visit to West Berlin. And the dying Kant made one final great gesture when he stood up to receive his doctor ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Congratulations to my niece A. (pictured) who just won gold at the New York Film Festival for an animated movie she did as part of a team of seven. OBSERVATION: Her mother (my sister) is a freelance artist who started out as a graphic designer. There have been other artists in the family. See Cartoon Book.

My First Proposal

My first ever proposal as a minister (in a leadership meeting) was that the Church should purchase a photocopier. It seemed a sure thing for a first proposal, and I had carefully rehearsed the reasons why we needed one: we had plenty of money, we needed the copier, we were outsourcing for copies -- and then I read out a passage by an eminent Church growth expert on the vital need for copied communications. But my proposal was turned down unanimously. It was unceremoniously dismissed. I was traumatised. What had happened? OBSERVATION: Perhaps my proposal wouldn't be accepted even if I repeated it today with hindsight.  However, I would do a few things differently now. Today, I wouldn't be so formal about it, but I would "argue" the matter in a personable way. Back then, I felt that a minister's dignity did not permit "bartering in the marketplace". I wouldn't feel today (as I did then) that the proposal was so important. There are many things a Church doesn't need to succeed -- and decision here or decision there, the Holy Spirit does His mighty work. I would also see more clearly, today, that a decision about a photocopier is dependent on deeper things, such as spiritual vision -- and it is those deeper things which need the work. And while I am not a fan of lobbying, I might have stirred people's minds a little with well-placed questions. Ultimately, in this case, someone else (not me) proposed that we purchase a photocopier, as if it was their very own idea. The proposal was accepted unanimously!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

South African Mindset

South Africans have been known for a long time for not having much mental agility or finesse. Their minds are fairly set. I experience it like this: a South African mind likes to work out in advance what will be discussed and what will be decided. Relatively speaking, there is little flexibility, and little sense of working things out in the process of them being worked out. OBSERVATION: These are of course broad generalisations (yet all of language generalises, more or less). There will of course also be benefits to the South African mindset.

Modern Art Moth

I took this photo in the country near Cape Town, of a moth, resting in the morning light. I am told that this is quite a common critter. The species pre-dates abstract art:  the Lord invented this before we did. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 220k.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Age And Focus

One of my first visits in ministry left a lasting impression on me. I went to visit a cheerful old man named Sam Sale. He said something like this: "Things look very different from where you are. You are a young man. I am an old man. Consider how it looks from here." OBSERVATION: My own experience is one of increasing focus -- and some development to accompany it. This does not mean that the scattered attentions of one's younger years are in vain. Mine were crucial. And I myself was fortunate to know my calling or callings as a young man.

Move Over Hillsong

I began a hobby back in 2012, to discover the loudest Church on the planet. I thought that Hillsong had stopped my hobby in its tracks with a "staggering" sound reading, effectively (for some of those present) 120 decibels plus -- about the noise of a 747 on take-off. Earlier this month, after attending a service of the Gospel Messengers, I asked the sound-man how loud the service was. It was equivalent (for some of those present) to 130 decibels plus. This is called "the threshold of pain", louder than the front rows of a rock concert, and about as loud as a gunshot or a direct lightning strike. My ears are still ringing a week later. The photo shows a Gospel Messengers lead singer.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Military Mind

It is interesting that there is no so-called "military mind" when it comes to military commanders. Instead one finds a wide range of qualities which could as well be you and me. But one thing above all sets them apart. They have had to take grave decisions on (more or less) partial and uncertain information -- under pressure, and in danger. In a word, they need robustness. They need to withstand the shocks of war. They don't have the normal breaking strain. The same is true of ministry -- in particular urban ministry. There are important differences, however. In my (Congregational) tradition, the minister is not a commander except to command that all believers should be regarded equally (the commander against commanders, as it were). Yet while the minister does not carry the authority of the commander, in "real life" he or she carries the responsibility of the commander. Which leads us to a second difference.  The minister's capacity for robustness typically has a different source to that of the military commander. It has its origin in God. This having been said, for those who might read this post without recognising such robustness in themselves, if God has called you, then not to worry, He will create it in you. The minister is not meant to be bullet-proof anyway -- in fact the opposite, if one goes by Biblical examples. (Perhaps I shall give one or two examples of "robustness" in a future post).