Tag Archives: hunger

November 29: Doctor Johnson and the Survival Tree.

The once lone rowan, dubbed The Survivor, near Moffat is now surrounded by emerging native woodland.
The Survivor Tree

More than 200 years ago Dr Johnson was visiting Scotland, and commented often on the desolation caused by the lack of trees. It’s taken the climate emergency for action to be taken but that action is paying off. First, Dr Johnson:
“It is natural, in traversing this gloom of desolation, to inquire, whether something may not be done to give nature a more cheerful face, and whether those hills and moors that afford heath cannot with a little care and labour bear something better?  The first thought that occurs is to cover them with trees, for that in many of these naked regions trees will grow, is evident, because stumps and roots are yet remaining; and the speculatist hastily proceeds to censure that negligence and laziness that has omitted for so long a time so easy an improvement. To drop seeds into the ground, and attend their growth, requires little labour and no skill.  He who remembers that all the woods, by which the wants of man have been supplied from the Deluge till now, were self-sown, will not easily be persuaded to think all the art and preparation necessary, which the Georgick writers prescribe to planters.  Trees certainly have covered the earth with very little culture.  They wave their tops among the rocks of Norway, and might thrive as well in the Highlands and Hebrides.

He that calculates the growth of trees, has the unwelcome remembrance of the shortness of life driven hard upon him.  He knows that he is doing what will never benefit himself; and when he rejoices to see the stem rise, is disposed to repine that another shall cut it down. Plantation is naturally the employment of a mind unburdened with care, and vacant to futurity, saturated with present good, and at leisure to derive gratification from the prospect of posterity.  He that pines with hunger, is in little care how others shall be fed.  The poor man is seldom studious to make his grandson rich.  It may be soon discovered, why in a place, which hardly supplies the cravings of necessity, there has been little attention to the delights of fancy, and why distant convenience is unregarded, where the thoughts are turned with incessant solicitude upon every possibility of immediate advantage.

from “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson)

And here is a hopeful story from Scotland; a video clip on a remarkable and inspiring tree being helped out of loneliness.

This is still a good time to plant trees in our neighbourhood.

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19 November: Unexpected Highland hospitality

The Glenelg inn today has a reputation for finie food but it was different in Doctor Johnson’s time. He and Boswell were on theway to Skye, but had to spend the night at a very poor inn, Their comfort was greatly increased by a random act of kindness.

At last we came to our inn weary and peevish, and began to inquire for meat and beds. Of the provisions the negative catalogue was very copious.  Here was no meat, no milk, no bread, no eggs, no wine.  We did not express much satisfaction.  Here however we were to stay. 

Whisky we might have, and I believe at last they caught a fowl and killed it.  We had some bread, and with that we prepared ourselves to be contented, when we had a very eminent proof of Highland hospitality. 

Along some miles of the way, in the evening, a gentleman’s servant had kept us company on foot with very little notice on our part.  He left us near Glenelg, and we thought on him no more till he came to us again, in about two hours, with a present from his master of rum and sugar.  The man had mentioned his company, and the gentleman, whose name, I think, is Gordon, well knowing the penury of the place, had this attention to two men, whose names perhaps he had not heard, by whom his kindness was not likely to be ever repaid, and who could be recommended to him only by their necessities.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson

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24 July: On Gluttony II.

Fish & chips by the sea: feast or gluttony?

This post is a response to Ignatius’ reflection of yesterday. WT.

Ignatius,

It’s always good to see your posts in my inbox. Once again, you’ve got me thinking. Thomas’s five ways to be a glutton would seem to encompass that other modern phenomenon, anorexia, if you count that as a form of ‘too daintily’.

We are not all called to be ascetic monks or nuns after the pattern of John Cassian but you have a point when you suggest that most people in the Western world are infected with gluttony.

‘With nourishment in mind’ I think is the key to discerning a right attitude to food and drink. But what are we aiming to nourish?

We speak of a feast for the eyes; it is good to present food handsomely, whether it be a birthday cake, a bowl of porridge, Sunday roast or Marmite on toast; that is to respect food and those who provide it, from the Creator of all to the checkout operator. So there should be nourishment for the senses: all of them. Sight we have mentioned; Smell and taste of course; touch, not just of finger food but the crunch of fresh batter giving way to soft, just cooked fish; hearing: the sound of cooking, of cutlery on plates, of grace said or sung.

Nourishment for the soul as well (by CD)

Yes, there’s nourishment for the soul as well. Grace before a meal is perhaps the formal start of feeding the soul, to be continued through conversation, but it happens all the way through from the purchase or growing of ingredients, choosing what looks and promises to taste good for those at our table: K likes that goat’s cheese, we’ll have some of that. We can enjoy blackberry ice cream at Christmas if we fill our baskets on a family walk in August.

We can feed body, soul, family and community if we join events which include a shared meal, street parties, parish picnics, even humbly contributing to cake sales.

I think that respect for food ‘from farm to fork’ would go a long way to combatting gluttony and obesity; grow what you can, even if it’s only windowsill herbs from the supermarket, so you have a connection with the land; buy fresh if you can; eat less fashionable parts of animals and generally eat less meat. Cook from scratch with your fellow diners in mind. Whether as cook or diner, be thankful for food and for all that goes with it. And bear in mind that many people go hungry all over the world.

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10 July: Foraging Season in Kent.

I think we can declare the foraging season open! There have been a few wild cherries that the birds have not eaten, not enough to make a mall jar of jam, but the first blackberry was picked today, 6th July, about 9 days earlier than expected. Like the cherries, it was a little tart, but early, like the first apricots – a revelation to 9 month old David!

Last week I was harvesting lime – linden – flowers by the river, when a man, who looked Mediterranean, saw me. He grabbed a handful of the flowering branch-tips and plunged his face into them, inhaling the scent deep into his lungs. What memories were quickening for him?

This evening I went to look at a tree I had marked as likely to be in full bloom today. So had someone else. Being taller than most people, there were still a few flowers within my reach. I went home along a path I rarely take, and soon reached another lime tree in flower, scenting the wind. Plenty for me and those who might come after me.

Our other discovery was two walnut trees in public thoroughfares, ripe for foraging the soft-shelled nuts for pickling. As our daughter said, the longest day is past, Christmas is coming!

Let us pray for good harvests throughout the world, an end to the locusts in East Africa, and freedom for those fighting famine to do their work in peace.

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22 June, Intergalactic Exploration XXXIV: What became of docility?

The Ossyrian virtues of docility and self-sufficiency had worn thin during the trio’s extended stay on earth. Self-sufficiency, Alfie the Chihuahua reflected, was always an illusion. Back home he had stayed in his pod like a good citizen, accepting without complaint the ten day week’s rota of meals as they arrived through the serving hatch, but with little enthusiasm except on Ninthdays when there was a dish he could actually taste. He was reminded of this flavour when he ate a bagful of cheese and onion crisps, but he very soon realised that the crisps had more taste than ‘Welpow Pie’, and furthermore, that Cheddar cheese was much nicer than the crisps, if bad for a dog’s digestion. A sore tummy once in a while was a price worth paying for getting away from endless grey mush. Alfie, despite being no more than 5% of his Ossyrian stature and weight, was happier living as an earthly dog, even with that annoying Ajax.

Neither of them showed much docility towards the other, T felt. Before the Ossyrian apocalypse he had hunted and eaten many a mongoose-like creature. In a bad light he could almost imagine that a chihuahua was … but he would not let his mind wander too far down that alley, if only because they would read his thoughts.

‘I’m hungry. What about a walk to Peter’s Fish Factory, T?’ projected Ajax. T shuddered; that was a close call! Next time he felt murderous one of them might read his thoughts more clearly. But a walk along the beach promised to be a positive distraction from snarling and knocking into the furniture. ‘I must buy Mature Doggy Megabytz next time’, he promised himself.

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8 April, Desert XXXVIII: Enforced exile.

Adam, the first exile.

In 1943, Archbishop Spellman, a former colleague of Pius XII at the Vatican Secretariat of State, visited Ethiopia, which with allied help had defeated the Italian invaders who had overrun the country some years before and planted the beginnings of a colony there. People were sent to create a new Roman Empire in this ‘open country’.

Spellman discovered that many colonists were unhappy with their part in Mussolini’s venture. He met a family who had been exiled from their own home when they were taken as colonisers to Africa.

‘The father of this family told me that the grief he suffered in being taken from his home was renewed and redoubled, when he watched the officers drive another family from their home, to make room for him in a strange land’. And now he and his family were returning to an uncertain future.1

Who knows what became of that family, returning to a famished Italy? Their story is not so far from those of so many displaced people today, exiled even if living in a land flowing with milk and honey and all good things. ‘If I forget you Jerusalem … let my right hand wither.’ Yet who can survive, consumed with bitterness?

1 Francis J. Spellman: Action This Day. Letters from the Fighting Fronts. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943. p169.

Image from West window, Canterbury, thanks to SJC.

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24 November: The King VIII, What I Have Written.

RoodEngMartyrsCamb2

On the feast of Christ the Universal King, we are privileged to being you the final part of Sister Johanna’s reflections on the dialogue between Pontius Pilate, representing the Power of this world and Jesus with his spiritual power.

Pilate’s final act in Jesus’ regard is as enigmatic and confusing as anything that has ever occurred in the gospels. He affixes a notice to Jesus’ cross reading ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.’ Why? Why can’t Pilate leave it alone now? Why doesn’t he retreat back into his palace after his sentencing of Jesus, away from all the turmoil? Why does Pilate watch Jesus’ final journey to Golgotha carrying his cross, and then turn up himself at Golgotha? The notice was nailed to the cross just before it was raised, or possibly afterwards – the text isn’t clear. Why was Pilate still there? Did he feel that he had unfinished business? Was he ambivalent about the sentence he had passed? Or did he simply want to have the last word, now that Jesus was nearly dead, and probably unable to say anything more?

In light of our reflections, it is not possible to interpret Pilate’s notice as a sincere gesture of sorrow, nor would it represent an awareness, coming too late, of Jesus’ true kingship in a religious sense. None of Pilate’s actions at any point in Jesus’ trial or crucifixion suggest that Pilate ever grasps the true meaning of Jesus’ words and person. Nor does it seem to me to be one last attempt by Pilate to make Jesus’ enemies see the incongruity between their vision of Jesus as a political usurper and the actual appearance of Jesus in all his brokenness on the cross, undergoing a criminal’s death. By now, Pilate is fed up with the Jewish chief priests (see John 19:21-22).

But I do think that the notice nailed to the cross represents a confession of sorts on Pilate’s part. Although Pilate sees that Jesus was no threat to his position as governor, Jesus was very much a threat to Pilate as a man and human being. Where Pilate was a shallow human being, Jesus in every word and action was a man of depth. Where Pilate would change his ideological position according to his assessment of its usefulness in gaining the right friends, Jesus was a man whose actions were always consistent with his public teaching and his deepest aspirations, his sense of identity and his mission. Where Pilate was confused, Jesus was clear-headed and calm. Where Pilate tried to win support from the crowd to bolster his position and reinforce his sense of self, Jesus was completely autonomous with reference to public opinion. Jesus was able to express who he was and what he stood for in brilliantly concise terms. Pilate had spent his entire life trying to play one side against the other, lying, flattering, bragging, unable to imagine his existence without the trappings of power. And yes, Pilate was power-hungry and insecure. He could never get enough power, never enough to feel whole and at peace. Jesus also had a kind of hunger. Pilate sensed it. But Jesus was not hungry for power. He was hungry for souls, he hungered to awaken our hunger for him. Pilate was out for all he could get. Jesus was there to give us everything he had, his very life, for our salvation. He longed for us to turn to him, but he never forced it.

I believe that some of this dawned on Pilate as Jesus was led away to be crucified. The sniffer-dog in Pilate began to find a kind of power in Jesus that Pilate had not imagined even existed. He realised that Jesus, because of the integrity of his being, did not have power as other men have it – because other men’s power was the kind of power that could be lost. Jesus would never lose his power because he was power. And he was power because he was truth. There was no disorder in Jesus, no ‘parts’ of Jesus that did not spontaneously cleave to and express truth. This was a human power that was much greater than any power Pilate himself had ever encountered in anyone, or would ever be able to possess himself, and he knew it.

In the end, Pilate was thoroughly frightened by this, but he recognized Jesus’ power for what it was, and knew that Jesus’ force in the world would transcend every power structure that had ever existed or ever would exist. Pilate found that this Jesus, this Nazarene, was indeed a king. He was king of the Jews, and king of much more. He was, in every sense, a threat to Pilate’s person and personality. Jesus was king as Pilate would never be. As no man would ever be. Pilate is clear now. Jesus must be crushed. This Nazarene, this king of the Jews, must die.

 

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July 28: Fair Trade and Climate Change

COFFEE - a young coffee plant in Maray - Peru - banner

Ebrottié, a cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire

link to video

 

The Fairtrade Foundation invited readers of their website to share the next three stories from their farming partners; given in their own words.

“Climate change is a global issue. We, the farmers, have to deal with its consequences every day. For instance, this year we lacked food because of the heat. The production decreased this year too, so this affects the economy. People harvested less and received less money. So we all suffer from the negative consequences of the climate: it impacts the environment and our economy.

“There will be a food shortage because of the heat whereas, before, there were a lot of forests, the rains were regular and the seasons were well divided. It was easier. There were four seasons, now we don’t know anymore when we should plant and when we should stop.

“Climate change has an impact on crops which results in less money and food available. There is also a lack of workforce, because the cocoa farming is not profitable anymore. Young people who used to work with us do not come anymore. The farmer is left with his family, struggling to keep the production because of the negative effects of climate. These are the difficulties we currently face.”

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20 June, Corpus Christi: Temptation lingers.

 

Our friend Christina Chase recently wrote that ‘Temptation lingers in desert spots‘ – which is perfectly true. It’s so easy to get things out of proportion.

But what did the children of Israel  wish for, out there in the desert? The fleshpots of Egypt, not a closer walk with God.

The children of Israel said, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ (Exodus 16:3)

And when they were in Egypt, they were oppressed so hard they could not stand – yet they’d rather go back to slavery than walk as free men and women with God. Of course spiritual slavery is more subtle than that. Who are the false gods we are tempted to put before the true One?

God heard his people, but did not answer their despair with thunderbolts to fulfil their death wish. No, he sent mercy, like the gentle rain from heaven, in the form of manna. He sustained them on their travels.

As we will be sustained:

[They said], Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:31-33)

It’s a scandal that Christians are not united at the Lord’s table.

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24 December: Edward Thomas at the inn.

A change of voice, a change of pace. Edward Thomas is always worth listening to. This, like all his poetry, was written in the months before his death at the front in 1917. 

THE OWL

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry
Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.
And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.”

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