Monthly Archives: June 2012

Proverb for the Week

Ancient Wisdom-Modern Solutions

The Proverbs of Solomon, the gathered wisdom of a lifetime of study about God and man, are as timeless as humankind’s needs.  It is to us he speaks with clarity and sagacity.  Hardly anachronistic and certainly relevant, these sayings have stood the test of time and are barely, if at all, bettered by modern moral philosophers, any moral philosophers for that matter.

He, Solomon, being dead, yet speaks – loud and clear. 

Proverbs 1:2-3.  “Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline …  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives.”

Wisdom is to lead to discipline, which in turn is to lead to a successfully lived life.  In the simplest of terms Solomon is both promising and warning that a life with no reflection on wisdom and no self discipline is never going to be vaguely successful.

His definition of success isn’t merely or only fiscal by orientation.  It includes relationships, health, longevity, happiness and influence.  This is ‘Shalom’ – peace, completeness and soundness, the latter covering every domain of life.  But neither does his definition of success exclude, by sleight of theological hand, financial health.

Wisdom is all and well to reflect on, but discipline is ‘rubber hits the road’ material.  Wisdom of itself is theory until practiced.  Self-discipline is the only answer to getting ahead, to overcoming the ‘all to human’ tendency of ill or no discipline, to beating bad habits, to  … well, just about everything.

Discipline however is inconvenient, it makes us give up one thing in favor of another, and that is usually not an immediate purpose or fulfillment.  It requires self-denial for a season, something anathema to people addicted to pleasure and the immediate.  It argues against our wish for more sleep, more holidays, less pressure and less hard work.  But ignore it at your peril.  Many have and continue to do so.

If you want success you have to pay the price of discipline, both self-discipline and the disciplining process of others, but that is another story. Another proverb.


Bikes in London?

Bikes in London.


Politicians are likely to hold on to their seats if they can steer a bike agenda – bike lanes, bike stands, bikes for all.  And the jewel in the spoked crown – Boris bikes, nouveau tourist transport.

A word in favour of bikes lest you think I think they should be banned.  I love biking.  It is good for you, and good for pollution reduction.  My dad was a biking fanatic, into his late seventies.  To him biking was healthy, cheap, and a source of constant self-improvement.  He would time trial himself, constantly intent on either improving his time or, and as he got older, maintaining his time.  I spent many years riding bikes but in a much less crowded and emotionally ragged city than London.  Much less.

Bikes sound like the perfect solution to London transport overcrowding, although I doubt the cabbies are all in favour. Actually, I wonder if many drivers are sympathetic, especially those who are constantly in traffic for their employment.

On a recent car trip to St Pancras I witnessed four incidents.  Don’t you love that word, ‘incidents.’ In the aviation world it is used as distinct from ‘accidents.’  A runway incursion is an incident but it is an accident in the waiting. What we witnessed were accidents in the making.

The first.  On a one way and three lane section of the road, whilst we were travelling 35mph, from the left lane turning into far right King Canute raised his authoritative hand.  He forbade us from coming any closer.  The fact that we were driving at speed in lane meant nothing to him.  Our driver muttered something, quickly slowed down and avoided a heavy fine and manslaughter charge.

The second.  Travelling in inner city we had a cyclist on our right, right out of his right of way.  He should have been left and was almost left, left as a tangled mess on the road.  His precarious position could have been his precarious end.  He seemed both disinterested in our driver’s polite suggestion and his own safety, therefore the safety of others.

The third. A cabbie and a serious cyclist were engaged in a serious conversation at the conclusion of which the ‘man on bike’ spat on the ‘man in cab.’  He then quickly did a u-turn and high tailed it out of there.  That one would have ended in tears.

The fourth.  Yes a fourth and on the same day, and all in one hour.  Less an incident and more an observation.  As we were crossing the Thames going into the city an infestation of bikes took off at the scent of a green light straddled all over the road, in front if us.  No vehicle wider than six inches was going anywhere in a hurry.

Drivers can be short tempered.  Not all cyclists are, but too many tend towards distemper.  Most bikers are intelligent, educated, and inclined to ‘green.’  But I must protest it is often a green exterior with a red inner.  Not the red of socialism but a red of livid, of intolerance.  Green once meant peace – no longer, apparently.   They are as bad as the drivers they curse, every bit as much and maybe more so.

I’m not so sure bikes are the answer for our transport congestion woes.  They seem to create a woe all of their own making.  Perhaps walking is the answer.  Although it would have taken considerably longer to get to my train.

Let the Queen Be!

Let the Queen Be!

Being raised in two Commonwealth countries, New Zealand and Australia, I had a childlike fascination with the visits of the Queen – I couldn’t make much of the fuss but I thought the fuss worth being made.  She drove past in her gleaming-ly clean car, and we caught a glimpse of Her Majesty, and that was about it, but it seemed worth it.

We knew she was our Queen, still is for that matter.  But we weren’t sure what that really meant because we were far away from the palace, and grew up in an era in which Australia and New Zealand felt a sense of abandonment from the ‘Mother’ country. ‘She’ was turning into a garrulous auntie, and the Queen didn’t escape our censure.

(There was one occasion when we did find out about the power of the Queen – of her representative, the Governor-General of Australia.  He sacked the Australian government of the day much to the delight of the Conservatives and equally to the chagrin of the Labor Party.)

Enter my youth, boundless with reaction and opinion.  The Queen!  She represented the past and authority, both of which we thought pointless.

Get rid of her.  Get rid of everything that appears anachronistic.  Get rid of government, and then of course try to get rid of anarchy – much more difficult.

But I grew up and shifted down the road from the Queen -five miles according to Google Maps, 13 minutes by car.   She got closer and close up we are always different.  Was she waving to me?

In a shifting world, troubled by lack of constancy and filled with a growing anxiety, our Queen plots a steady path of calm, and don’t we love calm – Stay Calm is a national motto.

I also began to treat with due respect people who were due respect.  The Queen is due enormous respect in that she is the Queen, and in that she has fulfilled her role with conviction, compassion and grace.  Sixty years is a long time in which Prime Ministers and upstarts have come and gone.  She gathers bigger crowds than Pop-stars and Sports-stars (which may not be saying much).  She has lived through the hell of World War 2 and every other conflict that has since ravaged shores close by and far away.  She has advised heads of State, no doubt with wisdom, caution and the tempering of experience.

Not everyone likes her.  But many do, a disconcerting ‘many’ for those agitating for a Republic.  They believe the Monarchy should be dismantled; privilege stripped from them and given to all, or as the case normally is to those who do the dismantling.  People who despise privilege always revel in it when given it, the more so when they take it.

Queen Elizabeth has been a good Queen.  She hasn’t had everything handed to her, on the contrary she has gained much by hard work and a love of her people.  I hope she lives long and healthy.

Let the Queen be!!

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