Author: Bill van de Graaff


Traces of Nuts

That ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ supports Hermann Hesse’s assertion that ‘what seems right and appropriate to one man is slightly odd to another’.

Most of us can handle exposure to different foods, however for some even the slightest intake of shellfish or nuts can result in a rapid display of anaphylactic shock sometimes resulting in death.

cultureCultural differences can also account for extreme reactions, a well-meant compliment in one country being an insult in another. One species we may be, but our differences within that definition are many and varied. Each person’s voice is so unique that voice recognition software is 60 times more accurate than fingerprinting in identifying an individual. Nature’s key to survival lies in diversity and adaptability and ‘survival of the fittest’ determines who stays and who goes.

The upshot of all this is that ‘you can’t please everyone’. There will always be standing room only in the Ark and some animals will be left behind. If Noah would have accepted bribes he would have been the first people smuggler, just as well as animals don’t carry cash.

noahIf the Biblical yard glass was forty days and forty nights both for Noah and Jesus in the Wilderness, our modern day standard is 24, both for hours in the day and beers in a carton, our metric aspirations still eclipsed by our Imperial past.

Some things change quickly, while others resist the tug of time, rooted in the comfortable assertion that what brought us here is good enough and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

In spite of our differences, our global perspective requires the common obstacles such as climate change, wealth distribution and justice to be fixed, otherwise we all end up broke.

Nothing funny about that, it’s just nuts.



Soul Purpose

If the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions, many a soul may have trodden that path and left their imprint on that highway, albeit well-meant but unsuccessful.

golfTo be sure that the arrow hits the target requires follow-through in the same way that a golfer completes a drive down the fairway. The goal is achieved when there is a merging of identities – the archer with the bullseye, the golf swing with the flag, the giver with the receiver.

We may have the desire to help someone, however in order to fully understand how that is best delivered, requires us to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’. We are best equipped to be of service when we identify common ground, usually because we have experienced the same thing ourselves.

Quite often our help can be a hindrance by enabling a victim of their circumstance to continue along the same path. Sometimes ‘tough love’ is needed to change habits and behaviours that keep us stuck.

Parents are constantly put to this test when raising their children. The example they set is what their kids will follow; a mother trying to work out why her baby is crying needs to identify with the child and draw on their own experience to establish the cause.

Donating to charities is an example of a good intention that doesn’t always achieve the desired effect. The follow-through is left to a third party whose purpose may be not-for-profit but only after fat salaries and expenses are paid.

Many of our difficulties are self-inflicted, whether we realise it or not. Life has a unique way of making us confront our fears and failure to rise above them makes it harder to move forward and for negativity to rule our mindset.

Understanding this enables us to be more effective in finding solutions for problems that would otherwise be too difficult to solve. Knowing what is going to work is far preferable to hoping that it will.

noWhile governments play ping-pong with refugees because they don’t want them in their own backyard, an American man and his wife have spent $8 million on a 40 foot boat and twenty staff including doctors, rescuers and supplies to go out and assist those stuck out at sea.

Intent and resolve of this order is what really makes a difference to those in need, actions speaking a thousand times louder than words.

It may be a road less travelled but it leads to a better destination.

Hope we meet up there someday.


Crystal Ball or Glass Slipper?

imageWe can remember the past and imagine the future but we can only see and live in the present moment. Time passes, frame by frame, some of them presenting situations from which we would like to escape.

Cinderella’s story is familiar to us all and there are those times when we wished we had a Fairy Godmother. Failing that, the appeal of positive prognostications provide a reason to seek the services of a fortune teller and their crystal ball.

Ancient Chinese methods of divination such as yarrow sticks, tea leaves and the I Ching relied upon the conviction that there is no such thing as an accident, that everything is part of a matrix which interacts within itself in such a way that each part reflects the state of the other.

Interestingly, there are 64 hexagrams in the I Ching, 64 squares on a chessboard and 64 is 2 multiplied by itself 6 times. So it’s binary.

The only two absolutes are relativity and change. The I Ching distills change into those 64 hexagrams or states of change. The method that is employed to ascertain which of those states applies to the present moment also relies on focus or intent from the participant to align the energy of their query with the casting of the coins or sticks.

The binary quality of yes or no would suggest that on a guess, one has a 50% chance of being right, a fact employed by many a shonkster with mailing list scams. For example, mailing share price predictions where a selection of stocks was forecast to rise to half of the list and mailing the same stocks predicted to fall to the other half of the list would still yield profitable results. A mailing list of 100,000 names can be purchased fairly cheaply and if you lost half of the subscribers each time you would still have 3,125 subscribers after 5 issues who would have had consecutive wins.

Now statistics don’t lie but liars use statistics as we all know from our politicians, perfect examples of our facility to be misled. In Biblical days people were led by prophets, today by profits. No accident.

imageBlind Freddy can see that yesterday’s gone and tomorrow hasn’t yet happened, the best we can do now is to use our past experience and hopes for the future to make the present moment even better.

The Fairy Godmother would tap her wand on that.


More Equal than Others

imageWhether the henhouse was built to keep the chickens in or keep the foxes out matters little if there’s a hole in the wire. For a farmer with sick poultry an insurance claim on stock losses from feral invaders is a better financial outcome than putting them down. American banks and investment brokers have now been fined a running total of $200 billion since the GFC for their part in cartel practices. Congress saw fit to pass that same figure on in tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.2% while 30 million kids live below the poverty line in the Land of Hope and Glory.

Some things never change. If God sent his only Son to save us, he may well need to have a few more progeny to get the job done. The disparity of the haves to have-nots is becoming so highly polarised that it draws a close resemblance to the heady days of imperial Russia before the Revolution.

History repeats itself for those who fail to heed its lessons and we seem to be no exception to the rule. Greed knows no limit and can only be suppressed by a majority verdict, usually only forthcoming if too many chickens have disappeared and the foxes get too fat and lazy to escape.

So Justice must seem to be done even if it isn’t, the random rap over the knuckles for the odd Big Bad Wolf being a panacea for a restive public, similar to the lions devouring the unlucky Christian in full public view at the Roman Ring.

This pound of flesh keeps Shylock at bay until the next major travesty of public trust when the whole carcass is called for. Maybe we have arrived at the point where the auctioneer, bawling out his wares, has transformed into the dachshund, wearing out his ….

Either way, we have yet to achieve lift-off when it comes to ‘thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’. Until we do unto others as we would unto ourselves we will be forever chasing our own tail in vain, victim to the pitfalls of the Usual Suspects.

imageThe idea of Rapture is as self-absorbed as ‘too Big to Fail’, neither of these notions being sustainable or equitable, the only way to solving the problem lying in the realisation that more equal or less equal is no different to half full or half empty. Equal applies to everyone. There will be a revolution to come, but this time the peasants won’t be the ones who are revolting, it will be the rich who will be defined by a stench which is truly revolting.

Not the smell of money, just obnoxious superiority in thinking they are too good for this Animal Farm.


Lunar Asylum

moon1The moon is held responsible for many things that affect us. Tides, crops, fertility cycles and other physical influences all feel the presence of our nearest cosmic neighbour.

As humans we have always had a romantic relationship with this celestial body as if it were a mirror in which our secret hopes and aspirations can find expression.

Lovers, composers, artists and poets have all found common ground in seeing this faithful satellite as a witness to our mortal condition, safe in the heavens but close enough to offer empathetic solace.

Having been unreachable for so long, will the mystery disappear once we start using this enchantress as a launching pad for further forays into the cosmos?

Perhaps the consolation of losing the romance will be the new vistas of space exploration this Lady of the Night will enable. With one seventh the gravity of Earth and potential fuel sources, the benefits of using the Moon for this purpose are self-evident.

Of course, no colonial outpost would be complete without a Golden Arches fly-thru, so it shouldn’t be too long before a trail of detritus marks our presence ‘here in Heaven, as upon Earth’.

Cynicism aside, one of our saving graces as a species is our sense of humour, which can have a mercurial effect in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps there is a tacit wink of consensus from our Man in the Moon, after all this time having presented the same face in spite of its own rotation.

This puzzling paradox is explained by the Moon being in synchronous orbit around the Earth, rotating once around its own axis in the same time it takes for one revolution around our planet, hence any given point on Earth will always see the same side of the Moon.

There is no dark side of the Moon, it only appears that way. Perhaps we can draw more than one allegory from this phenomenon with the most useful application being that of not taking things on face value but instead looking for hidden answers within the drama.

moon3This is surely the realm of science and our never-ending quest of ‘why is it so?’ being our guiding light out of ignorance. Now that our Moon has yielded its secret, may our legacy be one of empathy and solace for those in need, beaming our Light on all and sundry without favour.

In the same way that the Moon merely passes on the light of the Sun, we too can pay it forward. Maybe that cosmic wink agrees, asking us to say ‘green cheese’ while we pose for our snapshot in Eternity.


Phoney Intentions

imageWhen Steve Jobs launched the Apple Macintosh in 1984, this clip shows the hopes and aspirations that freedom of communication would bring to the world.

Oddly enough, just over 30 years down the track and the wheel has come full circle. The Mark of the Beast need no longer be inscribed on one’s forehead as the Beast himself has assumed the shape of Big Brother and resides in your best friend, your smartphone.

Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed the full extent of our exposure to being monitored in our private lives. The amount of information we willingly provide is a bonanza for any data miners that may well have more than a pecuniary interest.

The feel good, ‘I am me’ sentiment that social media platforms offer is also a fertile harvest of voluntary sharing of details.

Historically, letters have been steamed open, phone calls bugged, telegrams intercepted and transgressions recorded, either by video or audio.

Eavesdropping has always been there, like a lurking serpent coiled at the base of the lotus flower.  A young Englishman was arrested upon his arrival in America for having tweeted his friend about how he would ‘blow up the town’ or something like that when all he meant was that he was going to tie one on with his mates.

This landscape of ears means we should be careful about what we say in any medium. Not that we can’t speak our mind. Just forget the facts.

Try not to disclose any information that is superfluous or unnecessary especially when it comes to specific information about yourself or anyone close to you.

imageRemember that everything you disclose on electronic media will be read by someone else. It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you have to fly with turkeys but any public domain is subject to the lowest common denominator and we need to keep our wits about us.

That ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’ applies not just to anti-terrorism but also to our personal communications.

Back to typewriters…..


Where do you go to my Lovely?

griefDeath is as old as the hills but a new experience for everyone whose time is up. The ultimate confrontation of finality and farewell comes in many forms but always has the same result.

Each of us has our own concept of what happens when Life forecloses and the Piper must be paid along with the Ferryman to take us across. But our limited understanding keeps us blinkered, although stories of those who returned from Death’s Door give us some idea.

Losing a loved one is perhaps the hardest pain to bear and opens our soul to questioning the purpose of life. Some people actually die of a broken heart when the pain outweighs any meaningful answer. The role of the priest is to provide spiritual comfort and context where the burden of loss is too much to bear.

As Paul Simon sang in ‘Graceland':

‘And she said losing Love

Is like a window in your Heart

Everybody sees you’re blown apart

Everybody sees the wind blow’

The most profound moments are those unaccompanied by words, they fall short in expressing our feelings. Heartfelt emotions are best expressed by demonstration in physical form when our own energy can merge with the recipient. Just giving someone a hug has more value than any words can deliver.

Our ability to give love is the greatest contribution we can make in our short span of life. It celebrates our humanity and gives faith to others. It is what we are most remembered for when our time has come to take the final journey and is our silent epitaph in perpetuity.

compassionEven the hardest heart can melt when exposed to the Flame of Love and Compassion, available to all but only practised by some. The act of kindness by sharing another person’s grief and giving them love is a reward in itself by knowing you have really helped someone in need.

As to where you go to, my Lovely, is perhaps not as important as where you have been and how you will be remembered.

Time is our most precious commodity and deserves to be spent well, the more time spent on giving love to others being the best investment.

After all, it attracts the highest interest.

Round up the Usual Suspects

imageApart from seven days in a week, the seven wonders of the world and the seven dwarfs, we also have the seven deadly sins. Fortunately there are the seven heavenly virtues to save us. 

We are probably just as guilty now as we always have been as far as falling victim to the weaker side of our nature but the liberalism that is inherent in an emancipated society allows us greater latitude in our transgressions, after all, they make great targets for sales pitches as we can see in almost every advertisement.

Analyse the psychology behind effective marketing for consumer products and services and Pride, Envy and Greed will be lurking in there somewhere. Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Anger are always ready reserves for a different slant if the others have been overworked.

More than being the usual suspects, however, our seven Deadlies are the hot buttons that clinch that sale. Seduction can take many forms, none more effective than pandering to our baser instincts by making us feel that we are losers by not having them satisfied.

The virtues don’t even get a look-in. Can you imagine an ad for faith, hope or temperance? Wouldn’t sell much. The wheels would fall off the wagon of commerce as abstainers file off to church. Can’t have that.

No, we need our indulgences so that we can survive and live in harmony with the mutual recognition of our weaknesses. Live and let live and die another day, for today we party. The music’s still playing and the Fat Lady’s nowhere in sight.

The oldest profession in the world needs no advertising as word of mouth is more than enough to secure its continuity. The fire down below keeps ’em coming.

As we saw in last week’s post, our legal system is never short of offenders to process, each one having fallen prey to one of the sins. Though the wages of sin may be death, the hours must be good judging by the numbers of willing contractors.

imageStrapped to the Catherine Wheel of Birth and Death, we cling to the spokes of Agony with fervent Desire and Passion, spending our currency as fast as we can before it runs out.

Buddha realised this and went one better than seven with his eightfold Path. No money in it though, hence the begging bowl. If crime doesn’t pay, then virtue requires a mortgage on the soul that most of us won’t afford.

The credit card is the new communal plate, play now and pay later the modern version of Doctor Faustus and his contract with the Devil, the one thing you can’t leave home without.

Just hope the Fat Lady cancels.


One-up the Two-up

imageWith the dust of the Anzac centenary still in the air, the legend that inspires us to attend dawn services is a celebration of bravery and courage in spite of the madness of political and military masters that were responsible for the intractable situations that met the soldiers. The game of two-up was possibly the only glimmer of choice for those in the firing line and has become synonymous with their plight. Lady Luck, however, was upstaged by her elder sister, Miss Fortune, who sealed the fate of many a hapless soul.

If these lads laid down their lives for our freedom, they would be at a loss to know why we now have mandatory voting, detention and the latest addition, vaccination.

Conscription was a political hot potato in that time but has been used since then in the Vietnam War. Mandatory edicts are signs that normal regulatory mechanisms have failed and the knee-jerk reaction to the problem reveals the panic behind the decision.

There’s nothing quite like a parade to stir up those good ol’ feelings of patriotic fervour and gratitude for freeing Barabbas instead of Christ. Funny though, that after 99 years of proclaiming a public holiday for this baptism of fire, that on the centenary of that occasion it was seen fit to revoke it.

Not so with the Queen’s birthday, however. In fact we just had a year recently in which we had two separate holidays to mark the occasion which has now outlived the spilled blood of our own sons.

But therein lies the rub.

imageAs long as we give currency to authority by yielding to it, we shall always be subject to masters in their various forms. Government and royalty are the most visible but more lie beneath the surface in the form of banks, credit agencies and employers. Their version of the game is called ‘Heads I win, Tails you lose’.

The Anzacs were famous not just for their bravery but also their true blue qualities of irreverence and larrikinism. The rebel in us all can take comfort in their dry humour and sarcastic optimism.

That’s one parade that won’t get rained upon.





Trust minus the Rust

Trust your intuition. Trust me. In God we Trust. Every politician, every salesman and ‘professional’ service compete for our trust. Subtle sales pitches focus on establishing that warm, fuzzy feel-good factor of having your problem solved or need fulfilled. Trust is the hardest thing to establish and the easiest thing to break. A basic need in us all is to be loved and cared for, our welfare being the most important consideration in selecting a product or service.

How many of us bother to sift through the fine print of lictrust2ence or service agreements each time we subscribe to a new offering in the marketplace? We buy with emotion and justify with logic, so our hierarchy of needs is assessed very carefully by those wishing to satisfy them, not necessarily for our benefit. Duty of care has adopted a much greater role in our transactions of a commercial nature, whereby the consequences of delivering goods or services that breach the code of trust can be quite serious.

So, essentially, trust means duty of care is implicit and the rights of the consumer are protected. Family trusts are protected tax havens, the trustees of investment and superannuation funds are meant to be prudential watchdogs overseeing the interests of investors and trust funds are held by solicitors to hold their clients funds in good faith.

Hitler managed to gain the trust of a nation by utilising a small band of supporters made to look like an army by having them marching around a city block repeatedly. Military parades and fly-bys attempt to garner the trust of the populace by a show of strength.

Sales of washing powder are boosted by 35% if the demonstrator wears a laboratory coat. That ‘Colgate ring of confidence’ is as vital to sales as baby powder is to Johnson & Johnson and 43 beans are to Nescafé.

We have become accustomed to a world in which the large print gives it all away while the small print takes it all back. With smartphones being the latest platform of targeted marketing, commercial interests have never had it so good. Tailor made advertising appeals to just the right cohort of consumer in their most receptive comfort zone.

burgerWe rely on trust every time we step out the front door that we will return home; marriage, family ties and friendships are forged by the trust we place in each other.

Christ exhorted us to ‘lay up treasures for yourself not on Earth but in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust do consume’. The ultimate trust is that which we have in ourselves to do unto others as we would have done to us.

That trust doesn’t rust and is the greatest legacy.