Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Income Inequality

   I was really encouraged to see Brian Gaynor's Herald piece on the doubling of income inequality in New Zealand in the last twenty or so years. I was fascinated to see his lucid explanation of how rocketing salaries and bonuses for the top people have insidiously spread themselves around the global community.
   But, like a lot of sermons in which we clergy have castigated the congregation for some failing or other, I suppose, this interpretation left me wondering what I can do about it. I just am left with a feeling of helplessness.
   Having lived through a lot of tax changes over half a century, I recall the days when even clergy paid 48c on the top dollars of the stipend. So what about returning to a more progressive tax regime, so that the rich make a greater contribution to the public good?
   Brian’s answer is that shareholder vigilance will work better.  The problem is, as I see it, those who are the worst victims of income inequality have no voice for change. 
   They don’t vote at shareholders’ meetings.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fishers of all ...

      We snuck off for a couple of nights at Hihi Beach on Sunday afternoon. Our mini satellite dish couldn't pick up any TV for the trees so there was quite a lot of reading and walking.
     We watched our camp neighbours pull in a flapping stingray and get it safely back into the water - no skate steaks for them. I wasn't much interested in fishing; but at one point I did become aware that there was a tumult of seabirds over the beach.
     I stepped out from behind the hedge and saw the biggest and noisiest flock of white-fronted terns I'd ever observed. The water was steaming white with spray as the birds dived and splashed to the surface with sprats. But big fish were also throwing themselves all over the place competing for the same prey. Yellow-eyed mullet were the targets of both groups and they were so close inshore that the big kahawai were running aground and stirring the water into a muddy cloudy mess.
      At times the whole eruption was only two or three metres from the shore, totally undisturbed by our wonder and curiosity. A couple of much more experienced fishers than I said they had never seen anything like it so close to the beach. 
      From the shore, a young lad cast a lure through all this turmoil of feathers and scales and splashes and pulled in two or three very nice fish. By the time three or four boats were hastily launched and a few more surfcasters set up around the beach the big camp smoker would be filled to capacity.
      Home tonight, we dined on an excellent smoked kahawai and potato pie. The experience seemed a serenditpitous follow-up to Sunday's account of the calling of the fisher-disciples.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A snail for Christmas

Special friends Shirley and Joan sent me a very small book at Christmas: “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”.
It’s Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s reflections on a snail that came to share a year of her life as she lay completely bed-ridden.
Poetic insights into the meaning of life for this tiny creature beside her bed, and voluminous scientific and literary research on the family of gastropods have been distilled into a tiny book with a huge heart.
I read it slowly and pondered my own life. I marvelled at the incredible life of the common woodland snail. I absorbed something of the author's passion for the incidental, the almost invisible.
As I came to understand that if humans totally annihilate their species on this planet, snails may well outlive them, I felt my self-importance diminishing and shrinking.
Better reviewers than I have written about this wonderful little book.  Suffice it to say that I—increasingly discovering the limitations of ageing and medication—found it totally uplifting and inspiring. It’s given me a new perspective on my own existence.

What more could a Christmas gift bring?

Give a Goat?

It was Fran’s idea. She pointed out that there are gift cards for all kinds of overseas aid; you give your friends a gift card instead of a present and the money goes to buy a goat or feed a child or share in digging a well.
But, said Fran, “My family don’t need Christmas presents—I want to do something for our own country’s people who won’t get a decent Christmas.”
So we printed some special cards and mentioned them to the congregation one Sunday just before Christmas.
It wasn’t a project authorised by the Parish Council, just a low-key, informal suggestion. But others asked for cards and we eventually sent off around $600 to provide Christmas cheer for some needy Kiwis.
At Christmas, a dozen family and friends got our little red and green printed cards instead of the presents they hardly needed anyway.
And we were all reminded of a central reality of Christmas.

Windows 7?

I’ve joined the ranks of those who are struggling to convert their minds from to Windows 7 from XP. With the latter being about to lose the Maternalistic Microsoft’s support, and a dying computer, I've had the change forced on me. And, like many, I am having a lot of trouble with it.
I see one W-7 complainant was admonished to remember that a Model T did a great job for its day but we all have to move on. He was told to consider the advantages of, say, a Prius.
Well, I’m not impressed with that argument. My Model T will still do about a dozen different things that I need now and then. But after three weeks the Prius can still do only three of them.
I don’t need this new Prius; I just need a Model T—or perhaps, I concede, a Falcon—that works

There must be a moral for small churches in there some place…