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Finding wisdom in any book

By John Hargreaves 2 February 2016 12

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Most mornings, the child bride and I have a coffee while I peruse the latest offerings in the paper. We turn and do the quiz on the back page of the first section. You know the one. When I got to the last question, I nearly spat out the coffee, choked on my own spittle and shrieked at the sight of the item following the quiz.

It was the “TODAY’S TEXT”. It was a quote from St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, verses 4 – 13. It said:

“Christ gives me the strength to face anything.”

Well, no – he didn’t.

This little gem used to be part of the offerings in years gone by and I for one was glad to be rid of it. I thought that this illustrious journal had at least stopped ramming little snippets of religion down people’s throats. Whichever intellectual giant thought up the resurrection should be dragged to Mount Calvary on Good Friday!

I find this latest gem an insult, an abhorrence and an unnecessary exclusive attempt at propaganda. So, I thought to myself, (because talking to myself out loud is a sign of madness), where are the quotes from other religions to balance up the offering? Where are the other little pearls of wisdom uttered by the philosophers of yesteryear, so that our lives can be enhanced, given meaning or just entertained?

In my collection of goodies acquired over my parliamentary term, paid for by yours truly, are a series of books from other religions and politics – some say that putting those two together is tautological.

I have, of course, the Holy Bible. This is not only a throwback to my Catholic upbringing but a necessary resource for my role as a JP. I have a Hindu book of stories and poems, a series of books on Buddhism, a book by L Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, a copy (or two) of the Koran, all of which I have consulted for a juicy quote the Times may like to publish, if they read RiotACT.

My two fave books on philosophy are the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

So, my life is now enriched by the reminder of St Paul’s chat with the Philippians and I am comforted by the knowledge that I can face anything, yes anything, because Christ has given me the strength to do so. I would have preferred a Fender Stratocaster or a Kala ukulele but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, can they?

Here’s a couple of quotes I stumbled on whilst thumbing through some of my reference books this morning.

Oh, before I do, I was wondering if the fact that Australia is a Christian country was enshrined in our Constitution. On checking, I found no mention of the Good Lord at all! Fancy! But, to my dismay, I found that in the Commonwealth of Australia Act (1900) – the enabling act of the British Parliament for the creation of the Commonwealth of Oz contained the following:

“WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania [W.A. and N.T. to follow in later paragraphs] humbly relying of the blessing of Almighty God (my emphasis), have agreed …” I didn’t know that the founding fathers relied on the Almighty, I thought they relied on the people in the states (excluding the indigenous guys, of course). Silly me! At least mention of the Man in the Sky is not found in the Constitution and let’s hope it stays that way.

Back to the quotes.

The Koran is full of all sorts of stuff about Allah and his Mercy (along with all sorts of threats to the non-believers and horrible terrors for transgressors and the like; also to be found sprinkled liberally throughout the Old Testament). But one point the Koran makes is that life on this mortal coil is brief – the real game is the Hereafter, hence this quote from Surah 6 Al-Amam Part 7 verse 32.

“And the life of this world is nothing but play and amusement. But far better is the house in the Hereafter for those who are [the pious]. Will you not then understand?” Hmm…

Did you know the old Quaker proverb –

“Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

I found this in a book of photos of soul enriching subjects published by a mob called M.I.L.K. (a philanthropic organisation helping disadvantaged kids – “Mainly I Love Kids”). The photo accompanying the proverb was of a 12 year old boy sitting talking to a 3 year old girl. Thing was, the little girl had no feet and her prosthetics were nearby. Worked for me!

There is a book written by the Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Nanasampanno, a Buddhist monk who was talking about a range of stuff around meditation, the teachings of the Lord Buddha. The book is called “the Life of Inner Quality”. On page 115, he says:

“So put mindfulness and wisdom to use when you need them, and especially before you’re about to die. There’s no-one else who can help you then.” Good point that!

Looking through a Hindu book of stories and poems called the Sri Ramacaritamanasa by Gosvami Tulasidasa, I came upon many little gems of beauteous writing and imagery. Let me share this one with you from page 291.

“Birds and beasts will be my kindred; the forest, my city and the bark of trees, my spotless robes. And a hut of leaves in the company of my Lord will be as comfortable as the abode of gods.” I could write a lovely song using these lyrics.

Now, even the loony toons of the religious community can come up with a pearler or two from time to time. Check out this one from L. Ron Hubbard of the Church of Scientology fame. I found this on pages 102 and 103 in my copy of The Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion – Scientology – a Reference work.

“The manifestation of pleasure and pain, of thought, emotion and effort, of thinking, of sensation, of affinity, reality, communication, of behaviour and being are derived and the riddles of our universe are apparently contained and answered therein.” Bet you didn’t know that!

But we are never treated to pearls like these in the Canberra Times or any other newspaper, are we?

The Persian poet and philosopher Omar Khayyam wrote a book called the Rubaiyat. This is a fantastic read and contains a quatrain by which I live my life and I’ll share it with you because I’d rather see something like this in the paper than some of the righteous claptrap peddled by people who worship an imaginary friend (and I excuse the Buddhists because they are the only religion who don’t have a deity). It goes like this:

“the Moving Finger writes; and having writ, Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Work of it.” In other words, once you’ve stuff it, there’s no going back!

I’m also a big fan of Niccolo Machiavelli. In his seminal piece the Prince, he did actually say, in Chapter 18:

“In the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.” A compelling read indeed.

Anyway, enough now of quotes. I would just like the fourth estate to either be balanced about the pontifications of the religious offerings or desist, preferably the latter.

Or just take advice from that group of philosophers who said:

“Always look on the bright side of life, da da, da da da da da da.”

What’s Your opinion?


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Finding wisdom in any book
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MERC600 4:18 pm 03 Feb 16

John reading the CT causes most a lot of ” spat out coffee, choked on own spittle and shrieking ” . Especially the shrieking. It can’t be long before it folds. Their circulation has been in a spiral for some time, as some scribe like to eagerly advise us in one of those weekly mags I get out at the market.

Anyway might I suggest as a replacement the Herald Sun. It’s a nice size , folds easily, and is just starting to increase its footy pages as the NAB cup gets closer. Long way to go before it reaches 18 pages on footy as it did on one memorable day, but it is increasing every day. Yeah OK .. it prints other stuff as well as the footy. But you can flick straight past that.

justin heywood 1:55 pm 03 Feb 16

“When Allah created me, he knew that I
would drink a lot of wine. So if I didn’t, the
omniscience of Allah would stand on its head.”

Words to live by.

rubaiyat 1:34 pm 03 Feb 16

John Hargreaves said :

rubaiyat said :

You are onto my namesake “rubaiyat”, so let me just correct you as to its correct usage.

A rubaiyat is a Persian quatrain, a form of poetry. The version you are referring to is the translation by Edward FitzGerald of which I am a great admirer as it shows much more the talents of Fitzgerald than those of Omar Khayyam on whose work it was based.The cream on the cake is of course not just Fitzgerald’s beautiful renditions but that the model for it all Omar Khayyam was such a polyglot and polymath features I admire and recommend.

Machiavelli is an interesting example of taking as references the Classics (particularly Livy) without question, simply because they are “classics”, and nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.

At least Machiavelli got me reading Livy. A good read indeed! 🙂

So is Plato’s work, the Republic

I’ve just got into it post Christmas on my Santa’s Kindle. 😀

What is so enriching for me is getting into the head of someone who lived almost 2500 years ago and through deep rational thought struck new paths for us to follow.

My favorite classical read is Thucydides’ “The Peloponnesian Wars”. If there ever was a man from history I’d love to meet it would have to be him.

dungfungus 12:02 pm 03 Feb 16

John Hargreaves said :

rubaiyat said :

You are onto my namesake “rubaiyat”, so let me just correct you as to its correct usage.

A rubaiyat is a Persian quatrain, a form of poetry. The version you are referring to is the translation by Edward FitzGerald of which I am a great admirer as it shows much more the talents of Fitzgerald than those of Omar Khayyam on whose work it was based.The cream on the cake is of course not just Fitzgerald’s beautiful renditions but that the model for it all Omar Khayyam was such a polyglot and polymath features I admire and recommend.

Machiavelli is an interesting example of taking as references the Classics (particularly Livy) without question, simply because they are “classics”, and nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.

At least Machiavelli got me reading Livy. A good read indeed! 🙂

So is Plato’s work, the Republic

“….nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.”
They were the climate scientists of their time by the sound of it.

John Hargreaves 11:29 am 03 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

You are onto my namesake “rubaiyat”, so let me just correct you as to its correct usage.

A rubaiyat is a Persian quatrain, a form of poetry. The version you are referring to is the translation by Edward FitzGerald of which I am a great admirer as it shows much more the talents of Fitzgerald than those of Omar Khayyam on whose work it was based.The cream on the cake is of course not just Fitzgerald’s beautiful renditions but that the model for it all Omar Khayyam was such a polyglot and polymath features I admire and recommend.

Machiavelli is an interesting example of taking as references the Classics (particularly Livy) without question, simply because they are “classics”, and nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.

At least Machiavelli got me reading Livy. A good read indeed! 🙂

So is Plato’s work, the Republic

John Hargreaves 11:28 am 03 Feb 16

dungfungus said :

Blimey John, I didn’t realize that your opinions encompassed such a broad church.
Tony Abbott’s Liberals would be proud of this effort.

Once an altar boy, always an altar boy! But, my interest in religions has been a part of my life since I discovered the beauty of Buddhism at the age of 16, when prior to that the vocation of the Columban Fathers beckoned. The need to know is not yet sated.

John Hargreaves 11:24 am 03 Feb 16

rubaiyat said :

You are onto my namesake “rubaiyat”, so let me just correct you as to its correct usage.

A rubaiyat is a Persian quatrain, a form of poetry. The version you are referring to is the translation by Edward FitzGerald of which I am a great admirer as it shows much more the talents of Fitzgerald than those of Omar Khayyam on whose work it was based.The cream on the cake is of course not just Fitzgerald’s beautiful renditions but that the model for it all Omar Khayyam was such a polyglot and polymath features I admire and recommend.

Machiavelli is an interesting example of taking as references the Classics (particularly Livy) without question, simply because they are “classics”, and nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.

At least Machiavelli got me reading Livy. A good read indeed! 🙂

I was introduced to the Rubaiyat by my mother in 1961 when I was 12, when she showed me a copy of the poetry printed in 1939. It was a tiny book and I coveted it greatly. When my mother went back to England to live, she sent me the book in the mail as a connector between us. It never arrived. I mourn for its loss still.

I have a couple of copies (with various translations but my favourite quatrain is always translated the same. Additionally, I have discussed the work with a great Persian friend of mine and we have had interesting discussions. It is a better bible than the St James version.

dungfungus 6:48 pm 02 Feb 16

Blimey John, I didn’t realize that your opinions encompassed such a broad church.
Tony Abbott’s Liberals would be proud of this effort.

rubaiyat 5:57 pm 02 Feb 16

Blen_Carmichael said :

“When I got to the last question, I nearly spat out the coffee, choked on my own spittle and shrieked at the sight of the item following the quiz…”

I had a similar issue with our beloved Canberra Times (I take it that’s the journal we’re discussing) just a couple of weeks ago. In the ‘On this day’ section it referred to the inauguration of JFK, “the youngest US president”. He was the youngest president elected, but he wasn’t the youngest president. That was Theodore Roosevelt. It did – slightly – irritate me but I managed to contain my coffee and my spittle, and the shrieking was more just a shaking of the head. Life, as they say, goes on. But I digress.

“I find this latest gem an insult, an abhorrence and an unnecessary exclusive attempt at propaganda…”

I think proselytising, not propaganda, is the word you’re looking for. But even that’s a stretch. We’re talking about one sentence on the quiz page, right? Of a non-government publication, correct?

Two young presidents linked by assassinations.

Kennedy removed from office by assassination. Theodore Roosevelt attained office after the assassination of McKinley.

Not quite the co-incidence you might think given the American preference for the gun over the ballot box.

The Canberra Times has many times alternately induced in me bouts of uncontrollable mirth and eye-rolling exasperation at its bad writing, spelling, grammar and lack of even blatantly basic common knowledge.

In many ways, given the state of present day journalism, it has been way ahead of its time. 😀

rubaiyat 5:41 pm 02 Feb 16

You are onto my namesake “rubaiyat”, so let me just correct you as to its correct usage.

A rubaiyat is a Persian quatrain, a form of poetry. The version you are referring to is the translation by Edward FitzGerald of which I am a great admirer as it shows much more the talents of Fitzgerald than those of Omar Khayyam on whose work it was based.The cream on the cake is of course not just Fitzgerald’s beautiful renditions but that the model for it all Omar Khayyam was such a polyglot and polymath features I admire and recommend.

Machiavelli is an interesting example of taking as references the Classics (particularly Livy) without question, simply because they are “classics”, and nobody questions what every one else says, and then inferring wisdom from those as if holy writ.

At least Machiavelli got me reading Livy. A good read indeed! 🙂

Mysteryman 5:35 pm 02 Feb 16

John, this may come as a surprise to you, but not everything in print is going to conform to your world view. Nor should it. There are a lot of other people out there who appreciate the words of Christian scripture. Considering that the vast, vast majority of what’s printed in the press has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity (and, one could argue, usually either diametrically opposes it or seeks to tarnish it), taking offense at one small quote seems miserable and hyper-sensitive.

Blen_Carmichael 1:38 pm 02 Feb 16

“When I got to the last question, I nearly spat out the coffee, choked on my own spittle and shrieked at the sight of the item following the quiz…”

I had a similar issue with our beloved Canberra Times (I take it that’s the journal we’re discussing) just a couple of weeks ago. In the ‘On this day’ section it referred to the inauguration of JFK, “the youngest US president”. He was the youngest president elected, but he wasn’t the youngest president. That was Theodore Roosevelt. It did – slightly – irritate me but I managed to contain my coffee and my spittle, and the shrieking was more just a shaking of the head. Life, as they say, goes on. But I digress.

“I find this latest gem an insult, an abhorrence and an unnecessary exclusive attempt at propaganda…”

I think proselytising, not propaganda, is the word you’re looking for. But even that’s a stretch. We’re talking about one sentence on the quiz page, right? Of a non-government publication, correct?

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