Friday, 21 August 2009

The last Post...

A few days ago, on a night I couldn't sleep, I wrote a post. It was not my best work. In particular, I insulted people who had had the courage and vision to allow themselves to be nominated as bishop of our diocese. Of course, I didn't tell you which candidates I had in mind, but I knew and God knew, and that's enough. I was indulging in exactly the behaviour which was so painful to me last electoral synod. It was unnecessary and it was counter to the Gospel and I am sorry for it. So I have removed the post.

There's no excuses for bad behaviour but there are reasons and I had my reasons helpfully explained in a book by David Bohm, conversations with Shirley Brunton and Wes Sandle and an email from my sister Val. I am very grateful for all these benefactors, and if I can fit it into a blog post, I'll tell you about it sometime.

Friday, 14 August 2009


The China Study is a book with three parts. Part 1 describes the study upon which the book is based. Part 2 gives some outline advice on structuring a diet. Part 3 describes the encoounters the author, T Colin Campbell, has had with the American Medical system. This third part is quite chilling reading. It outlines in some detail the lengths to which people will go to ignore or even suppress knowledge they find unpalateable. People whose lives are based on the search for objective truth and the scientific method are capable of immense subjectivity when faced with information which counters deeply held preconceptions. I have been thinking a bit about the reasons for this, and particularly as my own church undergoes one of its periodic convulsions over the choosing of a new bishop, and displays its usual intractibility about change or adaption . It's all about systems, and I am indebted to David Bohm's Thought As A System for clarifying my thinking on this. Systems occur naturally and there are also systems which are the products of human ingenuity. All systems seem to have some common features

A system is a collection of interrelated parts which act together for some end or other. The parts draw their meaning from the system, and are usually useless unless incorporated into the system; as Paul says, what use is a hand or an eye apart from the body? Although some parts of a system are open to development and change and evolution, there are other parts which are linked together in quite fixed, and unchangeable ways. These components of the greater system are structures: they serve to give the system shape and continuity. Structures define much of the system's function and direction. It's when we run up against one of these structures: the inner "bones" of the system that we learn how unyielding a system can be, particular in the performance of the first task of any system which is ensuring the survival of the system.

Bohm says that artificial systems, like any product of human thought, all bear the patterns of thought; that is, they are made in the same way as thoughts and have all the characteristics of thoughts. They are sort of concretised or materialised thoughts. Because they are, in a sense "made of thought" they are not very amenable to being examined by thought: because our thoughts are flawed in precisely the same ways that the systems are flawed.

Systems are bigger than the sum of their components and often act to subsume the purposes of their componet parts into the purposes of the system. Which happens even when the component parts are people. Which is why an American doctor can publicly denounce a therapy based on lifestyle change rather than drugs and surgery even while he is choosing to send his own family for the very same therapy. Which is why submitting to ordination as a bishop in the Anglican church is a precarious and dangerous business.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A few days later...

I haven't written much on here lately because I have been busy with all the stuff life offers. I've read an interesting book about extinct species of humans, caught up with my parish, began to develop an idea of what the next decade holds for me and for St. John's, became immersed again in the life dramas of family and friends, and picked up the threads of involvement in my neighbourhood. The last week has been quietly, confidently good. Like a pianist struggling over a difficult new piece I wrestle with my attention every morning, and the wrestling is proving helpful in all sorts of unexpected ways. I haven't much to say today, except that I'm still here, still alive, still healthy and I've been thinking a bit about systems. I'll tell you more later.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


I saw the oncologist today. At least, I saw his 14 year old Chinese registrar, which was a good sign right from the start: the fact that he wasn't seeing me himself meant that there was obviously nothing complicated to convey and no hard news to give. The boy in the white coat peered at me through his rimless glasses. He asked how I was doing, and wanted to know if I had trouble with my waterworks or any unusual aches and pains. He smiled and nodded encouragingly at all my answers. He told me that my PSA levels have declined to barely above the detectable level, which means that the cancer has gone. I will go back to the hospital in 6 months just to make sure and after that my GP will keep an eye on developments, or more likely, the lack of them. I felt a bit stunned and I don't think I can have looked appropriately celebratory. I walked back to the car, texted my loved ones and drove home. On Pitt Street both my girls phoned and I pulled over to answer them, then burst into tears. The albatross has fallen from my neck. I have my life back. Not the same as it was, but in many ways better.