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Archive for August, 2010

hooked

This is certainly one way to catch someone’s attention! You’d be surprised to know how many plants use hooks and spikes to catch on to passers by…..or maybe you wouldn’t, if like me you walked through an area like this wearing sandals!

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What do you see here? Can you explain what it is you’re seeing?

water on plants

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pink vespa

Who’d have thought the King would prefer a pink vespa?
I like it. Isn’t it great when we see a juxtaposition of contexts which makes us think of each of the elements differently?

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man at work

11am, Saturday, third floor, new residences, just past the Rotonde, Aix en Provence

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sunlit leaves

sunlit leaves

I love the sight of sunlight through leaves.

Look at these three photos. I think they illustrate a really important lesson for all of us. They illustrate the paradox of difference and sameness. If you’re a botanist, you might look at these three photos and seek to classify them as three different trees. What “families” do they belong to? What are their “names”? But if you just look, you’ll see that whilst each tree has its own characteristics, each leaf is different.

We’re all different too. I think that’s something to celebrate. I despair at the kind of thinking which stops at the level of classification into types, diagnoses, statistics. We need to be able to think beyond that, to see beyond that, to be curious about, fascinated by difference, and to love uniqueness.

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The Other, by Ryszard Kapuciski (ISBN 978-1844674169) is a beautiful, thought provoking little book.

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite.

[Herodotus] understood that to know ourselves we have to know others, who act as the mirror in which we see ourselves reflected; he knew that to understand ourselves better we have to understand others, to compare ourselves with them, to measure ourselves against them.

Xenophobia, Herodotus implied, is a sickness of people who are scared suffering an inferiority complex terrified at the prospect of seeing themselves in the mirror of the culture of others.

Conquer, colonise, master, make dependent – this reaction to others recurs constantly throughout the history of the world. The idea of equality with the other only occurs to the human mind very late on, many thousands of years after man first left traces of his presence on Earth.

All this seems increasingly relevant in the growing xenophobia around the world. Yesterday I read Rachida Dati’s impassioned plea, in Le Monde, to stop setting French people against each other.

Cessons donc d’opposer les Fran├žais les uns aux autres, au profit d’un meilleur vivre ensemble !

Today, I read in the Guardian, Mya Guarnieri’s piece about islamophobia, where she talks about her feelings and memories aroused by the newspiece about a pastor from her hometown of Gainsesville, Florida, who is intending to burn copies of the Qur’an to commemorate September 9th.

When I was a child, some of my evangelical Christian classmates urged me to convert. Because I was Jewish and didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and saviour, they told me, I was going to hell…….In the past, there was antisemitism, roiling just below the surface. Now, there is Islamophobia. If Terry Jones burns copies of the Qur’an in Gainesville, he’ll leave a shameful scorch on us all.

We definitely need a more positive attitude to the Other – to whoever is different from us.

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forcalquier

What makes up our sense of a national identity? How about you? Do you have a national identity that means a lot to you? If not, what are the threads of identity which run through you?

And here’s another thing, can you get in touch with the feeling that people from other nations than your own are people you’d like to get to know and build links with? I hope so. I hope differences are exciting and interesting to you. I hope you enjoy feeling changed by your encounters with the Other.

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