Please go to my other site here to read about my favorite children’s books:
By ROSS GITTINS
It’s Easter, so let me ask you an odd question: have you noticed how arguments about governments’ intervention in the economy – should they, or shouldn’t they – often rely on an appeal to Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan?
No, me neither. Until I read a little book called, The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable, by Nick Spencer, of the British religion-and-society think tank, Theos.
This is my take on what I read.
Polling in 2015 by the British Bible Society found that 70 per cent of respondents claimed to have read or heard the parable, but in case you missed that day at Sunday school, I’ll summarise.
One day a lawyer trying to trap Jesus quoted the Old Testament law to “love your neighbour as yourself”, but asked, who is my neighbour?
Jesus replied with a story. A man was travelling down a road when he was attacked by robbers and left half-dead. A priest came down the road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. So did a religious functionary.
But next came a Samaritan who took pity on the man, bound his wounds and took him to an inn, where he looked after him. Next day the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to look after the man until he was well.
Then Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three was a neighbour to the man who’d been robbed. “The one who had mercy on him,” the lawyer replied. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”.
Politicians have been using this parable to support their arguments at least since British evangelicals were campaigning for the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Martin Luther King spoke about the parable at length in his last sermon before he was assassinated in 1968.
George W Bush spoke about it, as did Hillary Clinton. But it’s been a particular favourite of the British Labour Party.
Early in his establishment of New Labour, Tony Blair said: “I am worth no more than anyone else, I am my brother’s keeper [an allusion to Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis], I will not walk by on the other side. We are not simply people set in isolation from one another . . . but members of the same family, same community, same human race. This is my socialism.”
Blair’s successor as British prime minister, Gordon Brown, son of a Presbyterian minister, said “we are prepared to spend money to help the unemployed; we are not going to walk by on the other side, we are going to help them.’’
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Brown said: “In a crisis what the British people want to know is that their government will not pass by on the other side, but will be on their side.”
So, to politicians on the left, the Good Samaritan is the all-purpose justification for state intervention to help anyone anywhere with a problem. It’s about collective responsibility and collective action.
To a politician like Margaret Thatcher, however, it’s about precisely the opposite. The Good Samaritan was an individual; he saw someone with a problem and he acted to help them. He didn’t tell the government to do something about it.
People shouldn’t hand over to the state all their personal responsibility. Point one.
Point two: the Samaritan needed money to be able to help the half-dead man, and he had it. But the more we’re taxed, the less we have to discharge our personal responsibility to others.
So what was Jesus really saying? First, according to Spencer, he was reacting against the lawyer’s legalism.
Jesus was concerned with following the spirit of the law, not exploiting its letter. And he was saying the law of neighbourly love is the key commandment which, in cases of conflict, overrides other commandments.
The Samaritan was from an ethnic group the other people in the story despised. So neighbours aren’t just the people in our street, our friends, our fellow Australians, they’re everyone, including those we don’t know or don’t like. The parable is relevant to our treatment of other races and asylum seekers.
The world has changed a lot in the 2000 years since the parable was spoken, so I think we should be wary of assuming it speaks definitively about every modern practice. It doesn’t explicitly authorise compulsory state redistribution of income from rich to poor, nor is it condemned. It doesn’t even give the tick to organised charities.
Conservatives are right to emphasise that our personal responsibility for others is fundamental. But I think supporters of collective action may claim that it’s consistent with the spirit of the parable.
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor
- mitch of ACT
@sh5 & Bazza, Your skepticism about the actual existence of Jesus must be shared by those who espouse all that is good …
It wouldn’t matter what Jesus said. Some one with a clever accountant would be able to construe His words any way the…
View all comments
After browsing through a lot of articles on the internet, I ended up with the following blog about the Meaning in Life:
Derek Beres refers to Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed by Happiness, and says:
“We are obsessed with happiness, often believing it a birthright, yet as journalist We are obsessed with happiness, often believing it a birthright, yet as journalist Emily Esfahani Smith notes in her book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed by Happiness, all that searching is actually making us unhappy”
Beres further says the following:
“As with my recent conversationwith Robert Lustig, Smith cites Aristotle’s concept of eudaemonia as a force for “cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential.” Instead of chasing pleasure, we need to institute the search for meaning.
This is challenging during a time when you’re constantly instructed to do “what you love.” Smith counters this advice by invoking German philosopher Immanuel Kant. As with the mythologist Joseph Campbell, who, while famously remembered for saying “follow your bliss,” continued, “If your bliss is just your fun and your excitement, you’re on the wrong track.”
“To Kant, the question is not what makes you happy. The question is how to do your duty, how to best contribute—or, as the theologian Frederick Buechner put it, your vocation lies ‘where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’”
Smith’s beautifully researched homage to this hunger hinges on “four pillars of meaning.” By seeking, cultivating, and maintaining each of these, she argues, happiness arises from a deep sense of contentment rather than the incessant and unyielding grasping for pleasure. “
Then there are four interesting write-ups about
Transcendence: Here Beres points out that Smith grew up in a Sufi household.
Beres says: “Transcendence is at the heart of most spiritual traditions. It can be achieved through psychedelics, music, scripture, or meditation. A deep sense of connectedness carries adherents beyond the normal trappings of society. People are able to intimately connect with their environment and peers. Writing of volunteers in a 2015 study focused on the development of empathy through transcendence,”
“They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.”
Derek Beres is the author ofWhole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
Here is what I found in Amazon.com about the book:
The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness Paperback – September 5, 2017
by Emily Esfahani Smith (Author)
In a culture obsessed with happiness, this wise, stirring book points the way toward a richer, more satisfying life.
“Too many of us believe that the search for meaning is an esoteric pursuit—that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to discover life’s secrets. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us—right here, right now.
To explore how we can craft lives of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith synthesizes a kaleidoscopic array of sources—from psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists to figures in literature and history such as George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, and the Buddha. Drawing on this research, Smith shows us how cultivating connections to others, identifying and working toward a purpose, telling stories about our place in the world, and seeking out mystery can immeasurably deepen our lives.
To bring what she calls the four pillars of meaning to life, Smith visits a tight-knit fishing village in the Chesapeake Bay, stargazes in West Texas, attends a dinner where young people gather to share their experiences of profound loss, and more. She also introduces us to compelling seekers of meaning—from the drug kingpin who finds his purpose in helping people get fit to the artist who draws on her Hindu upbringing to create arresting photographs. And she explores how we might begin to build a culture that leaves space for introspection and awe, cultivates a sense of community, and imbues our lives with meaning.
Inspiring and story-driven, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking a life that matters.”
“THE RED COAST” is the title of a novel by DI MORRISSEY. I am now about half way through reading this book. Last night = just before going to sleep – I got stuck on pages 184/185. DI MORRISSEY tells the reader about a writers’ festival in Broome where some well known authors are present. During question time Wally, a 90+ old man from the audience asks one of the authors:
“So, tell me, how would you suggest getting a book together from a whole pile of notes and letters?”
“Are they yours? Or someone else’s? You mean like compiling a family history?” replied the young author.
Wally points out that it is not just a family history but “a ripping yarn, an adventure and a mystery” which is all true and “would be a bloody good movie. But sad though.”
The author’s advice is as follows: “Start at the beginning. Pretend you are writing a letter to a friend.” And then he asks Wally: “Can you use a computer?”
Here is Wally’s answer: “Bloody oath, I’m on Facebook. – Well, computers might be all the go these days, but I reckon we should all be writing down our family stories. And even if they don’t get published, someone will find and read them. Nobody inherits emails and tweets. My wife’s family history is an oral one, so unless the stories are told to the next generation, the history will be lost. You got to keep your family’s stories.”
So DI MORRISSEY writes: “There was a burst of applause when he said this, and Wally sat back down looking pleased with himself.”
Recently I’ve been reading a lot of novels about outback Australia, wriiten by Australian authors. I find it always very interesting to learn a bit more about outback Australia. What this over ninety year old bloke says in DI Morrissey’s novel I find most interesting. For instance he says, that nobody inherits emails and tweets. This is pretty sharp, wouldn’t you think so?
Grassroot Records and Divers Tavern present a special Corrugation Lines, Broome writer’s Festival opening event. Shane Howard in Concert. The Tavern will be transformed into a seated theatre for this rare chance to see one of Australia’s treasured artists in an intimate concert. Marking 20 years since he produced the widely loved Pigram Brothers album “Saltwater Country”, Broome welcomes back the writer and poet in all his heartfelt storytelling magic. Do not miss!
The above was a Broome Writers’ Festival Event in August 2017.
” . . . .
Philippines-born Bobis, who lives in Canberra, came to Australia as a student 25 years ago, taught creative writing at Wollongong University for 20 years, and is the author of novels, stories, poetry and radio dramas in English, Filipino and her native language, Bikol.
Locust Girl grew out of her concern for the people and nature in both her countries, which has led her to work with the International Water Project, leading a community in the Philippines to tell stories about the dying river that supplies their water.
“We think there is a border between us and the non-human world,” she says. “We think of water only as a resource, but we’re looking at how to teach people to care for water, and how to help students reimagine water.”
Thinking about climate change, poverty, terrorism, globalisation, she says, “I wondered how I could write about all this and make a big issue come alive in a small story, so that even a child could understand.”
. . . . .
The State Library of New South Wales is a large reference and research library open to the public. It is the oldest library in Australia, being the first library established in New South Wales.
Following is a write-up by the State Library about the Christina Stead Prize:
About the Prize
The Christina Stead Prize ($40,000) is offered for a book of fiction.
The award may be made for a novel or a collection of stories.
A collection of stories may contain some previously published work. In such a case the judges will determine whether the new work is sufficient, in quantity and quality, to merit an award. It is the nominator’s responsibility to clearly identify previously published material.
Works of creative non-fiction, including fictionalised memoirs, are eligible for consideration under this category, but not under the Douglas Stewart Prize. Works of multiple authorship, including anthologies, are not eligible for nomination.
About Christina Stead
The award commemorates Christina Ellen Stead (1902-1983), Australian novelist and short-story writer. Stead was born in Rockdale, New South Wales. She published fifteen novels beginning with The Salzburg Tales and Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934). Her most well-known novel The Man Who Loved Children (1940) was based on her childhood in Sydney. Stead lived most of her life overseas, in Europe and the U.S., but retained a strong sense of national identity, reviewing Australian novels for the New York Times Book Review and keeping up with news from Australia through family correspondence. Her work, including several volumes of short stories, is acclaimed for her satirical wit. Stead’s literary popularity in Australia increased significantly after her return in 1974. The same year she received the inaugural Patrick White Literary Award to recognise her lifetime achievement.
I love to read books by Australian Author Liane Moriarty.
“Liane Moriarty is the author of seven international best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and the number one bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty”
On Saturday, the 9th, it was Caroline’s, our youngest daughter’s, birthday. She and her partner gave us a special treat when they came to visit. They presented very fresh Steak Tartar. Everybody liked this:
For Sunday, Peter had baked a hazelnut cake. It had been our daughter Monika’s birthday a few days earlier. So she and some of her family came to see us on Sunday afternoon for coffee and cake.
Two of our great-grandsons, Lucas and Alexander, were among the guests. The boys are three and five now. It was a pleasure to have them around, and I think they liked to spend a few hours at our place. Even though they had not been to visit for a while they could still remember a lot of things, for instance boxes with games and some children’s books. I think their favourite book right now is PUMUCKL, who is a ‘naughty’ goblin (kobold). They went through every page of the book to see where PUMUCKL was and what he was up to.
They also went with their Dad and later with their Mum into our backyard, where they looked at a lot of the plants and also did some running around from one end to the other. I had great fun watching them! I showed them some ripe black berries which they were allowed to pick.There were many, many green tomatoes in all different sizes. One very nice firm tomato had already turned a lovely red and could be harvested.
In two weeks on Sunday the whole extended family is going to come to our place for some Christmas Eve celebrations. We are all looking forward to this.