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A Place Called Home

Habitats are the natural surroundings of plants and animals and the term is also applied to the living environments of humans. Do habitats make the man or man the habitat? Probably both. People strive to make their environments comfortable, to make their places recognisable to others as well as to themselves, whether the place is only temporary or transitory, a place of internment, a simple shelter, or a real home.
It is not until we have what we feel is a permanent home, a place of our own, that our true identities are revealed. When we live in temporary dwellings we ‘add our mark’ but knowing that it won’t last, that we’ll move on, our marks tend to be portable things that can move with us. People who live on the streets, carrying their possessions in plastic bags, or aboard a stolen shopping trolley, follow this urge just as much as the refugee spending years in tented communities with the belongings they carried in their flight from war, or the prisoners clutching a locket or a small Bible or some other treasure until these precious things are forced from their grasp. Sometimes one’s place is just a dry niche under a bridge and a filthy blanket for warmth; others, though better off, simply move on endlessly, never belonging anywhere, never calling any place ‘home’.
For wildlife, habitats provide shelter and food and territories. For mankind, habitats stir up a far greater longing, a lasting need, to build a place called Home. We have become wanderers, by and large, as we move from here to there, from job to job, and our relationships and habitats move with us as temporary assets. We do not always take the security of childhood, if we were blessed to have that, with us into adulthood. The days when families lived together for generations in the same environment are largely gone. They went with the cave painters who were slaughtered by enemies, with farmers swept away by big business, with contented villagers sold to a false ‘progress’. They are lost to wars, to liars and lies, to savages who kill and maim and steal children from their parents and parents from their children. They are wiped out by the greed of the corrupt, the polluters of society, the destroyers of the world.
But the day is coming when people will again find their true place in the world, when their habitats will be sure and no one will take them away. Everyone who was ever born will have the chance to live as their Creator God intended and the world will be rich in vivid cultures that will never be forced into the neutral shades of pretend living that we see all around us now in this Age of the Adversary.
Imagine what that world will be like. Imagine the inventions, the skills, the growth available to everyone as people are finally allowed to develop their full potential in a real world that understands and follows real values. What could we build then, what habitats and talents, in a world unencumbered by wars, by debt, by broken laws and broken lives? Imagine!

Assumptions and Perceptions

Assumptions and Perceptions
Many years ago, I read an anecdote by a young woman who was wheelchair-bound due to a degenerative disease, that did not affect her mind. She wrote that strangers usually treated her as if she had nothing intelligent to say, no ability to make lifestyle choices, or even that she could hear; so often they (including doctors) would speak over her head to the person assisting her and completely ignore her. Then she had a fall and broke her leg.
Suddenly, she was fully and competently human in the eyes of strangers. With her leg in a cast, people assumed that was the reason she was in a wheelchair, and they spoke to her normally, joking and consoling and just passing the time of day. It felt wonderful, she wrote, but why couldn’t they treat her as ‘normal’ all the time?
I have a close friend with progressive MS. Let’s call her Trixie. She, too, spends most of her waking hours in a wheelchair. Her friends don’t treat her presumptuously – they know she’s intelligent, bright and fully involved in her life. She facilitates, voluntarily, in two very different fields, English as a Second Language and Digital Photography, attends art classes, consults on civic issues, contributes to her church activities and keeps her family links oiled and operating. Trixie said that strangers, including doctors who should know better, often treat her with the disregard felt by the young woman mentioned above; they speak about her to her husband – when she is right there beside him, and if they speak to her at all they assume she’s deaf and they shout! We both laughed about that, knowing her reaction.
Once she went to a new two-storey public library; it was well-designed, except for disabled patrons. The toilet facilities were adequate – the problem was that they were on the upper level, with only stairway access. What does that say about both the designer and the approval committee? Trixie’s one bugbear is disability awareness in public places. Civil engineers and architects seem to regard the disabled as a nuisance factor rather than incorporating their needs into general planning and seeing it as a practical advantage for everyone.
For instance, disabled parking is generally inadequate in large cities and often there is no sensible flow-on from the parking space to the door of a public building, whether civic or business; instead of a gentle gradient, there is a ten centimeter gutter to manouvre, a path of broken pavement, potholes or loose gravel, all of which forces both the wheelchair and helper (if there is one) into the dangers of the roadway.
Toilet facilities are another disaster area. Trixie has missed a number of presentations, thankyou dinners and get-togethers because the venue’s disabled facilities aren’t functional to anyone in a wheelchair; this is an area where organisers ought to check things out properly before they book such events – and that doesn’t mean taking the manager’s word for it. Wide doorways, doors that slide open, space to turn a wheelchair and adequate grab-rails are obvious practicalities to put in place.
Architects, designers and students, there is a simple solution! Make templates based on reality research. Get into a wheelchair and strap your legs together, make your way into ‘disability friendly’ facilities and see what really works. Is there room to get from chair to toilet with the door closed? Would you like to sit there with it open? When you’ve done that, tie a blindfold around your eyes and do it again. Then find a frail old lady and see if she can actually open the doors without help. Our disabled friends want to be as independent as possible; they want to use facilities without needing to ask somebody to tag along as a doorman or act as a privacy shield.
Do the walk from the parking lot to the store – is that rolling ramp too steep for wheelchairs? Try it out. Is there long grass or soft fill to cross on the way to the duck pond in the park? Try manouvering through that with a walking frame or on one leg with crutches.
Does your motel’s ‘disabled unit’ actually have a functionable entrance? Does the bathroom suit people who can’t lift their feet over a shower sill? A flat doorway drain works just as well. Are the sink, taps, handwash and dryer or towel dispenser placed within reach or is the user forced to use slippery, wet hands on crutches or wheels to get to them? Are they placed at a sensible height? Is lighting clear and switches within reach? Are grab rails strong and well-sited? Do cupboards have pull-out drawers? Is there thick carpet on the floor or is it wheelchair-friendly? This goes beyond OH&S – it’s empathy in action and to apply that understanding means that the unit will never be empty.
Newer shopping centres are usually thoughtfully designed, and they are the ones that disabled shoppers go to – along with their helpers, their friends and other disabled people they’ve recommended those centres to. It is simply good business to put thoughtfulness into action; not only does the business gain custom but all that goodwill generates more popularity. And no lawsuits. Try it. You’ll like it.

Collecting Friends

The word ‘collect’ originated in Middle English from Old French collecte and from Latin collecta, meaning ‘gathering’. It is part of the human psyche to collect things. Some people collect rich things, some collect odd and whimsical things, some gather photos or stamps or letters or music and place them in albums and boxes to be kept safe and available. Others collect artifacts or fossils or seashells or stones. Some people collect junk, and others jewels. Some people become so engrossed in their collecting that their homes fill up and they need to rent outside storage places. Some become so obsessed that outsiders are called in to clean away their hoarding; others open museums.
Then there are those who collect abstract things, like ideas or emotional responses and these they store within themselves. I like to collect people; they are stored in my memory so that I have them there with me even after they die or when they’re very far away.
People are fascinating. Rich or poor or somewhere in between, young or old or somewhere in between, formally educated or learning through the lessons of life or somewhere between the two, they all have their own special treasure, their unique being, all reflecting their creator’s love of variety.
Book3 of the Adamadas Chronicles is about Rogan, the man who lost his beloved wife to murderous aliens in the Last War, which was written of in ‘Blue’, Book1 of the Chronicles. Rogan’s story of loss and recovery is filled with the people he collects in his life and the richness they give to it. But Rogan is a giver, not a user, and so his friendships endure.
Collecting people is really about friendship, after all. Simply meeting people doesn’t qualify; using people for one’s own needs or purposes destroys the possibility of real and enduring friendship. Giving doesn’t mean handing out money but the giving of support and talents, the giving of friendship itself.

May You Have an Interesting Life

An old Chinese curse, it is said, growls “May you have an interesting life.” A true curse is to live a wasted life. An interesting life is, at least, interesting – and memoirs can follow, for retribution and even recompense! But a wasted life has nothing of value, either to gain or to give. It’s your life that makes you interesting, not what you know (or think you know) about other lives – that’s just lazy living. A well-lived life is not about looks or money. Intelligence certainly helps but lacking a formal education is not an impassable barrier
In his youth, my Dad knew a rabbiter. Rabbiting was a lowly job, usually performed by uneducated, poor and reclusive men who shot or trapped rabbits when they were in plague proportions, before the days of mass poisoning. Dad said this man, Peter, lived in a shack by the river. He didn’t live long but he was the best historian my father had ever met. Peter had learned to read in the few years he’d had at school. History fascinated him. Instead of buying beer he bought history books; these he kept, protectively wrapped in newspaper, on the shelf in his shack. He was an interesting man, and very wise. In his resurrection, when he has his first real opportunity to expand his horizons, he will be amazing.
When I was a teenager I met three-year-old Thèresa, who had cancer. She wasn’t supposed to live that long. There were lumps all over her head and body. She was the most positive and endearing child I’d ever met; she knew she was dying and she made the most of her life by being happy, by making others happy. Her mind was way past her years. Her one goal, the thing that kept her alive beyond all expectations, was that her mother was pregnant and she wanted to meet her baby sister. And she did. She died a week and a half after the birth. That little girl also has an awesome potential. And decades later I still remember Thèresa, though I only met her only once, for a short while – because she was interesting, fascinating.
I knew some teenage boys once. I remember them (if not their names), not because they were interesting but because they were mind-numbingly boring. Their idea of a wild weekend was getting drunk and fighting, preferably with somebody defenceless. I knew another youth, TK, who came from a poorer home than any of those other boys. He worked after school and in his holidays to pay for karate classes and flying lessons. He had his first pilot’s licence at sixteen, and his black belt when he finished high school. Life was never an easy run for TK but he fought his way through every barrier to achieve his goals and he fought well. He moved to another nation so he could fly the jets he longed to fly. He went to university. He played football. He went on assignment for the UN to Columbia. He rode an old motorbike with his cousin as far as Mexico, revelling in adventures all the way, and when his cousin had to go home, TK carried on alone, photographing his journey in exquisite detail; and training three hoods in Mexico City not to prey on lone tourists… TK is now a Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, a leader who trains leaders.
In a leafy Sydney suburb an old lady buried her husband; she was 82. All her life she had served her family. All her life she’d dreamed of being an artist. With nobody else to care for, she finally had time to live the dream, and she did. In the four remaining years of her life she had six solo exhibitions, earned fame as an artist and became a local celebrity.
Live life to the full. May your life, and you, be truly interesting!

Heroes and Peers

You get an email that demands/begs/flatters you to forward to others. Or a close friend sends you a must-see-this. Or somebody makes a declaration in a way that sounds authoritative, assertive and totally real. But the message is a lie.
When these enticing ‘new truths’ appear – and we all get them – do you simply accept them at face value or do you check them out?
The email that gets forwarded is an address collection vehicle for spam markets. Some are quite witty or lovely or even interesting and you want to send them on. So, delete all addresses (and the ads at the bottom) before doing that; in the ‘forward’ mode, editing is very simple. Check out ‘warning’ or suspect emails through reputable sites like Snopes or Urban Legends.
A good friend told me that she had recently learned something interesting; she’d accepted what she was told at face value because she trusted the messenger. It took just a few minutes of research to learn the truth; the warning signal in my mind was the faulty reasoning behind the statement. When something doesn’t make sense, when an argument is invalid for some reason, don’t be swayed by peer pressure or the desire to believe a friend, or to appear clever; check it out. It’s easily done these days. But don’t shame those who pass on gossip or false information; tell them what you learned in a friendly way; maybe next time they’ll research their ‘news’ themselves. Research is usually quite interesting; you learn all sorts of things you never knew before.
Other friends may pontificate authoritatively on a pet topic, or on somebody’s hidden agenda, and they sound so all-knowing – but there’s that little twinge of doubt tapping the back of your mind as you listen to them. You find yourself thinking, Why are you telling me this? Are you looking for a disciple? or If the agenda is hidden, how do you know what it is? How many times have well-meaning friends (or others) told us that they know exactly what we’re thinking, when in fact they don’t; it’s very egotistical and foolish to make statements like that. So, challenge them! In a nice way, of course – there’s quite enough conflict in the world.
Pressure to conform is pressure to be ordinary. Governments do it to control voters, schools do it to gain funding, and peers do it to validate their opinions of themselves. Know this: your opinion is just as valid as anyone’s – but opinion without the support of truth is neither knowledge nor wisdom.
Right knowledge, properly applied, creates understanding; understanding how to use – not misuse – knowledge creates wisdom; wisdom, with love, will creates discernment; with discernment you will not only conquer life’s dragons but you’ll also save others from them, and that is what heroes do.

The World Turns

The world turns. Time passes. Old folk say how things have changed but the young are excited by events; those in the middle are fascinated by the technology and appalled by the immorality. Youth are enticed into a war made by men and sold as godly; they martyr the defenceless and the naiive and flaunt their cowardice as acts of heroism; when their acts are denounced, their supporters cry “racism!”, weak leaders tremble and respond with yet more politically correct rules, and ordinary people turn away in disgust.
The underground movements begin.
In the countryside greedy monoculturalists destroy land for the sake of temporary gain. In the cities crime and corruption grow rampant. The media promote everything that stands against commonsense and denounce proven values and standards as old-fashioned and conservative and the world spins ever more rapidly into disaster.
“It’s not our fault!” cry the perpetrators.
“God should have stopped it!” the atheists rant.
And Satan laughs.
Law is ineffective. Judgement is corrupt. Integrity is attacked. And so civil unrest begins and vigilantes appear. People understand the motivation and even applaud the tactics – until the innocent are hurt.
In this world goodness is mocked and hypocrisy is just another game plan. Children are banned from buying ‘war toys’ yet they spend hours ‘playing’ video games, learning to kill; why are there no games about building and growing good things?
Our leaders are weak and corrupt and unable to govern anything more complex than a paper bag. They sell off national assets to competitors rather than help their own people afford to develop them. They tax and legislate ‘small people’ into insolvency, the same people they were elected to serve. They are bedazzled by their own status and power and forget that they will die, and give account for every word and deed, just like the rest of us.
The end of this age will come. Mankind will resist but it will happen and we will learn to live as we were meant to. And we will wonder why we wasted our God-given lives in senseless futility. We will understand our potential at last. Inevitably, we will change. And grow. And this weary planet will no longer be ravaged but blessed. And God will smile.

LEADERSHIP

Recent events have demonstrated how boxed in people can get when they do not think through cause and effect, when basic considerations like self-motivation, or others’ agendas, or even a simple search for truth are ignored in favour of propaganda responses or falling for manipulation tactics.

So how do we know when we’re being used? How do we recognise the difference between rebellion for good and rebellion for evil?

First, we need to have a healthy scorn of our own egos and we need to recognise flattery and we need to see ourselves from the perspective of those who desire to ‘lead’ us – what is their purpose, their tactics, their reality?

Are we so fearful of being scorned that we will do anything to be accepted? Do we follow blindly because of fashion or celebrity or the demands of society, religion, peers and so on?

Real leaders lead by example; they listen to facts and give recognition where it is due. Leaders are not always the ones in charge. A youngster who draws a king’s attention to a situation that needs fixing is showing leadership when he does that in a correct and respectful way. Soldiers who attack defenceless people to push an agenda for a ranting and heavily protected general are cowards. Superstitious reactions and violence towards those trying to help in times of emergency is mob rule, not leadership. Hatred and violence promotes hatred and violence. ‘Political correctness’ is not the answer to opposing ideals.

Look at effects. Consider causes. Understand history and learn its lessons. Do what is good for all, not what is expedient for some. Leaders are not always the ones at the front of the army or those being interviewed by the media; the lad who sees a rake lying the wrong way up on the ground and puts it in a safe position shows leadership through his initiative; the girl who befriends someone being bullied by her peers demonstrates leadership in her courage; those who go out of their way to make things better for others are leaders by encouragement.

On the other hand, the middle-aged manager who screams at her staff or the one who publicly belittles those under his authority are certainly not leaders. They have simply been promoted beyond their abilities and are demonstrating their own incompetence. It is very difficult to respect a grown man (or woman) who throws tantrums like a two-year-old (as Orien tells Fuzzy in North of Himal).

J Sakiya Sandifer put it well: “True leaders don’t create followers… they create more leaders.”

Imagine

Imagine a world where tribes build their own lands and cultures, where each tribe is renowned for its special contributions to the whole planet rather than all tribes being blended into a sort of powdered soup mix to which hot water is added but which doesn’t really vary much in taste or appearance.
Imagine lands where civilisations are unique and uncontaminated by cultural blending or envy of others or feelings of superiority or inferiority, where each tribe rejoices in developing their unique talents and skills. Imagine the resources available to all if there were no massive political, military or commercial entities controlling what could or could not be produced.
Imagine cities where individualism was encouraged, where Mondrianism was rejected in favour of Gaudiesque structures… how amazing would that be?! Or cities filled with green spaces and water features. Suburbs with space to stretch, where windows looked onto gardens instead of the neighbouring wall, where no slums existed, where everything worked.
Imagine farmlands filled with many kinds of produce, with no destructive monoculture or restrictive practices to inhibit individuality, where land was not subjected to droughts or floods or sinkholes and earthquakes due to greed. Envision market-places where you could buy twenty varieties of apples instead of just a few, where blueberries and strawberries tasted like they do in their wild states.
Imagine families freed from ignorance, restrained only by good will, all able to accomplish all things that benefit others, all unable to subject anyone to themselves or to political or religious bondage.
Imagine nations helping and honouring one another, upholding each others rights and lands, never lusting or scheming to take over another nations heritage.
What would it be like?
Imagine.