May 09 2014

Newsletter May 2014

Published by under Newsletters

091011.SOFimageSea of Faith – Dunedin
Exploring Meaning in Life
Newsletter MAY 2014

Next Meeting

Spiritual Odysseys

Chaired by

Margaret Feist

Thursday, 22nd MAY

Highgate Church buildings,

Maori Hill

Tea and Coffee will be available
between 5.00 and 5.40 pm
Food will be available
$7 for as much as you want to eat plus rent
$4 if you come for the meeting only
The programme will start at 6 pm


We Start With…

A two minute period of silence.


From the Chair

You will see from Alan’s report that we had a small turnout on 24th April for what was an excellent and very interesting presentation. There were a number of reasons why individuals weren’t able to attend, but most were to do with the closeness of Easter and Anzac Day, with attendant holidays and school holidays. Last year we cancelled our April meeting because it fell on Anzac Day. In future I suggest we have an internal presenter or activity for April. This will ensure our invited speakers get the opportunity to speak to a good number of our members.

Our Next Meeting

Three members will each share their ‘spiritual odyssey’ with the group. In similar contexts this has also been called a ‘religious odyssey’, ‘faith journey’, ‘spiritual autobiography’, or ‘personal journey’. Each odyssey will take approximately ten minutes, followed by up to another ten minutes for reflection and response. We are very pleased that Margaret Feist has agreed to chair this evening of odysseys.

Our Last Meeting

The clash with Anzac weekend prompts us to think about our April programme. Only 10 folk turned up to listen to Dr Taneli Kukkonen talk about aspects of Islam. The more we learn, the more we realise how little we know and that is true for me and Islam. Whilst Christianity has developed over several centuries, Islam appeared much more quickly and became a way of life for millions. Unlike the compilation of the Bible, the Qur’an is regarded as God’s direct word to humanity and is less open to argument and interpretation than the Bible. The West doesn’t have a good track record when dealing with Muslims and so even moderate Muslims are wary when dealing with Westerners. Islam and modern science are happy bedfellows, and Islam is comfortable with the theory of evolution, although the Christian fundamentalist creation theory, disseminated via the internet, has influenced the thinking of some Muslims who have taken a similar attitude to creation theory.
In another context, I learned that the writings of Galen, the ‘doctor to the gladiators’ in Rome, were translated by Arabs and those that did the translating were amongst the most highly paid civil servants of the day. That speaks volumes of the high importance they placed on scientific knowledge.

Nature vs Nurture

During Summer School at University, there was a series of discussions around the topic of Perceptions of Reality. One discussion which I found particularly stimulating dealt with the question ‘Are humans inherently aggressive?’

Prof Charles Higham (Archaeology) made the point that our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, are quite vicious, especially in territorial disputes, but also when dealing with transgressions within their group. In early times man certainly was aggressive, the analysis of many skeletons at numerous sites worldwide show wounds delivered by clubs or swords, the evidence of ritual sacrifice and the graves often contain weapons, presumably to assist the dead person in the journey in the life thereafter. There is plenty of evidence in the early record to show that whole groups were wiped out at different times.

Prof Robert Patman (Politics) wondered if there was something that leads man to war, as there have been many wars and they result in huge numbers of deaths. He remarked that man is the only animal to enjoy cruelty, and we all know there are many examples of that, historically and currently. If society is strongly patriarchal and authoritarian there is a much greater chance of war, maybe the gender imbalance has a lot to do with it. Over time, there have been moves to peace treaties and now with a move away from unfettered sovereignty, issues facing the whole world can be tackled by co-operation between states – agreements on use of water, fishing rights, climate change, nuclear weapons proliferation etc being examples of the need for international co-operation.

Prof Kevin Clements (Peace and Conflict Studies) noted that there are now 7 billion of us and that alone reflects the relative decrease in deaths by violence. The last 500 years have been far less violent than the centuries before. There is no ‘violence gene’ in the brain so far as we know and the rise of international organisations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International etc shows that there is a general move towards working together to solve problems and for some formerly violent states to become peace loving (Sweden for example). Governments are not free to mistreat their peoples without a reaction from the international community.

This led me to reflect that whilst man’s innate NATURE may have a tendency towards violence, there is plenty of evidence that NURTURE can overcome that tendency.

– Alan Jackson


Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.
– Buddha

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.

– Meister Eckhart

There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

–  Cicero

Newsletter Editor:
Alan Jackson
55 Evans Street
Ph: 473 6947

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