Friday Post

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Re-learnings this week –
1. to first be the chaplain for others, the body plasma that enables others to make their unique contributions and ‘be the experts in their own lives’. (Michael White, David Epston and The Dulwich Centre). Rather than going straight to what I think.

2. to balance my critical side with positive contributions to others, even if I feel estranged from their elitist culture.

‘Wow’ moment this week – 
book launch of An Encyclopaedia of young people’s knowledge and lifesaving tips – how we overcome bullying, survive the ocean of depression, try not to take hate into our hearts, and much more, by The Dulwich Foundation.
‘Wow’ because the Dulwich philosophy is to go to and value primary sources – the experiences of people themselves and encouraging its sharing!

Thought I’m pondering –
What would be the effect if I considered the flip side for any action I’m considering?
So, for example, rather than lobbying the Lord Mayor to get behind the provision of an ‘Oasis for the City’, to invite him and his wife home to dinner to listen to his dreams and frustrations in achieving them.

Recipe of the week – 
Day-starter lemon drink.
Brew half a cup of green tea.
Squeeze a couple of lemons and wash into the cup with some of the boiling water.
Add a squeeze of honey.
Stir in a teaspoon of strawberry jam.
Night cobwebs gone!

Hospitality and the Herod Principle


More often than not, when we are invited to someone’s home, we will ask if we can bring something.  A bottle of wine, flowers Cadbury ‘Roses’…?

It’s a hark back to the Abrahamic understanding of hospitality; that when hospitality is offered, the invited guest unexpectedly turns out to offer, or be, a gift to the host. However, as modern-day guests, we have slightly corrupted the paradigm by anticipating gift-giving to the host. In the Abrahamic tradition, the giving occurs spontaneously and responsively by the guest from their being, rather than the offering of anticipatory tokens – which can become like a kind of tit-for-tat payback – so we are all on the same power level! (or is that too cynical?)

Indigenous cultures are organised around cycles of the seasons and the natural world. So in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, some astrologers, who noticed a new star appearing in the sky, decided to set off toward it. For them, the appearance of a new star heralded the birth of a new king. So they took gifts with them, to show their respect.

They are full of wonder and excitement to find the new-born child. They offer their gifts. They are un-phased by mixing with smelly shepherds, who had also been given a miraculous vision of the birth-place. Shepherds were the dregs of society – unclean non-citizens, not allowed to vote, and marginalised to the fields by society – a cycle of exclusion. Maybe the homeless today might fit that cycle. The astrologers were elated at having fulfilled their vision, and went home with great joy (as did the shepherds)!

But there is a dark side to the story, preserved for our edification.

On their journey, the astrologers come to Jerusalem, the religious and political heart of Israel. They naively ask if anyone knows the whereabouts of the baby that will become the king of the Jews. (Interesting that no-one knows – maybe too busy and self-interested to keep an eye on the stars?) The reigning king, Herod, takes their enquiry as a threat. And so does the rest of the civil and religious establishment.

Herod makes some enquiries with the Department of Theology. They consult the literature and come back with the answer – Bethlehem.

One could pause the story here and reflect on the two presenting paradigms. One is nature-based, experimental, almost ‘crazy’. Who, these days, would decide to take leave of home to head off in the direction of a star, expecting to find what they believe the star signifies to them? A needle in a cosmic haystack!

But for Jewish readers today, this story resonates with the story of their ancestor, Abraham, who took off with his family on a ‘blind’ journey to Palestine – and the rest is history, as they say! Hard to believe that Abraham’s ‘craziness’ has led to where we are today with the state of Israel!

Both of these dreamers, the astrologers and Abraham are no colonialists! That strategy of exclusion and extinction was taken up by Moses and his successor, Joshua, coming after a period of setting up laws and principles that would establish their identity as a nation.

The other paradigm is of a different kind of authority – the exercise of power by institutions and hierarchies that comes from settlement. Their attitude is that following stars is for the fairies! Does not compute!

Institutions are constructed with certain purposes in mind. Boundaries (laws and principles) ensure the maintenance and progress of the institution. Such institutions invariably create a culture of protectionism. They might call it sustainability! Others might call it resistance to change!

And so it was, for Herod.

No doubt he was all smiles as he received the eastern visitors in his luxurious office to get the information he needed to eliminate the perceived threat to his kingdom. He holds a secret meeting with them (‘commercial in confidence?). He lies to get what he wants, feigning affirmation and collaboration: ‘Go and make a careful search for the child, and when you find him (sic), let me know, so that I too may go and worship him’. Crafty!

The astrologers leave Herod and go on to the achieve their mission. But they have a dream which tells them not to go back to Herod, and they go home another way.

Now the Herod Principle shifts to a new level. From the illusion of self-important status and its inherent hubris, comes the protectionism of the entitled that is capable of ruthless violence.

Ultimately, those who live in the joy of dreams and visions cannot be controlled. They go their own way. It may be because those who offer fake hospitality are not able to receive their gifts – they live outside the paradigm of unconditional gift-giving. Gifts are understood as bribes in this regime.

Desperate to maintain his kingdom, Herod has all the children in Bethlehem slaughtered – and in the immediate vicinity, to be on the safe side! But the dreamer parents have escaped with the baby, having being forewarned.

The Herod Principle – do what it takes to maintain power – is alive and well. Men over women, managers over subordinates, political parties, commerce…
But there are also dreamers, trying to evade the Herod Principle, who are looking for a better way!

I think that way begins with an understanding of radical hospitality – likely best understood by being ‘caught’ as well as ‘taught’.

Friday Post


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What thought has helped me this week –
Exercise is the training I must do to enable me to continue to do what I like doing.
(rather than a boring interruption!)

‘Wow’ moment this week – 
Interchange between Sam Neil and Jimmy Barnes on QandA last Monday night.
Followed later by an electrifying unplugged performance of ‘Working Class Man’ by Jimmy.
Shames all past political-bickering QandA’s into obscurity.

Quote of the week – 

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. Victor Frankl 

(Victor Frankl was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War 2. He observed that it was not necessarily the physically strong who survived, but those who held hope in front of their minds. His book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a classic.)

Thought I’m pondering – 
‘Unconditional acceptance’ or ‘unconditional love’ is not a passive or irresponsible attitude, but a spiritual discipline.
– a practice that must be practised – recognising and empowering the other to grow and contribute their unique life in their own unique way toward human flourishing.
– a discipline reducing a tendency to control or micro-manage others to satisfy my needs.
– a discipline serving the interests of the other for the greater good.
– ‘Am I taking responsibility away from the other?’ may be a key question in a presenting situation.

What I’m listening to – 
Revisiting OK Compter, Radiohead – moments of fragile beauty, overwhelming power, irony and satire – darker commentary on the human condition – musically innovative, brilliantly conceived and performed – simple melody lines belie highly complex musical arrangements. (Put on headphones and you’ll hear things you never heard otherwise!)

Book of the Week –
Journey to the Common Good, Walter Brueggemann.
They say that Brueggemann is the Bruce Springsteen of Theology – people come from everywhere when they hear he is speaking and some follow his gigs all over the country!
I confess to being a big fan! I gave away my last copy and I’ll probably give away this one that just arrived, once I’ve read it again! He digs through the Biblical records in search of perspectives to this question: Can the simple concept of Neighbourliness show us the way toward a greater common good?

Encouragement of the Week – 
From friends on The NOW Tribe on Facebook. I think I’ve found my tribe!

Surprise of the Week – 
Discovering the Oasis philosophy in full swing among a group of younger people in Moscow. (See my post: Moscow)

Have a great weekend!


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Unwinding in front of the TV on Tuesday night, I found myself watching The Busiest Cities on ABC.TV – a revelatory picture of the life of Muscovites today.

45 minutes into the program I was gobsmacked to see before my eyes, images of the conception I had for Oasis at Flinders University some ten years ago – the same kind of images I see for an Oasis in the heart of Adelaide, with its 34,000 international students and culture of festivals that bring visitors to the city.

Please have a look! (4 minutes)


What these young people are offering is a true expression of the tradition of hospitality – making space for strangers to become friends. It’s what the world needs. And it is learnt through experience.

Some of the dialogue that I resonated with included:

  • embracing the future yet drawing on the past
  • it looks like a cafe, but it feels like someone’s apartment
  • there’s no prices on food or drink*
  • it’s difficult to explain…the whole idea of the place is big and deep
  • cosy
  • longing for community and wanting strangers to become friends
  • you can do whatever you want…but together
  • I feel like I could live here
  • you learn different things from different people
  • it’s like being in someone’s living room
  • I feel like I’ve been allowed in
  • I feel like I’ve experienced something touching
  • what an amazing place!
  • and why not be able to sit with strangers?
  • she has a global outlook
  • it will spread to the rest of the country

*At Flinders, everything, including (limited) food/drink and salaries for two staff, was provided free to students, funded from student fees via the university administration.
I think an Oasis in the city could be funded by the city and the universities, with an initial aim of bringing together those living away from home – international students and visitors, and supported by volunteers and complementary organisations.

I could write a book expanding that dialogue!

Takin’ it to the Streets


I’ve just come home from a workshop conducted on behalf of the Adelaide City Council to develop a plan of action aimed at addressing the well being of young people living in the City of Adelaide.

I sense there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole approach. It seems so text-bookey! So politically correct, maybe? I don’t know…

I sit down for a late afternoon cup of tea to try and work out why I feel uneasy. Some music for ambience … how about the Doobie Brothers?

The fourth track has these lyrics:

You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living hell

You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon the time will tell.

You…telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see…

Chorus: Takin’ it to the streets…

Is it this ‘we’re doing this for you’ mindset that could be troubling me?

Could it be that we need to change our own attitudes, from the established ‘solving other peoples’ problems’, toward solidarity, empowerment and relationship-building, rather than more programs?

Friday Post

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My first attempt at letting my friends know a bit more about me on a regular basis.
(Thanks Nick in London for this suggestion and template to begin with!)

Purchase I’m enjoying — Breville Nespresso coffee machine.
Nespresso now recycle their pods; but in the meantime we’re using up cheap, out-of-date pods from one of those bulk stores that sell out of date things that are still useable.

What I’m listening to — Declan O’Rouke, Gold Bars in the Sun
A gift from Kathy Kirkpatrick, his Australian manager, for hosting her and ferrying her and Declan to gigs on ABC Local Radio  and Radio Adelaide. Much better live than the CD – Irish singer-songwriter with a rich voice, beautiful poetic imagery and superb guitar playing.

What I’m readingWhite Working Class – overcoming class cluelessness in America, by Joan C. Collins. One of those well-researched but easily readable post-Trump books, shedding light on the rise of Populism.

What I’m watching — ‘Look Me in the Eye’ and ‘Riviera’, SBS Wednesday nights.
Frederic Laloux on Soulful Organisations,
I am gradually ploughing through his many lectures and interviews to get more of  a handle on alternatives to hierarchical management structures, beyond the techy Agile and Lean systems. Ways that engage the heart and soul in constructive work outcomes that make the world a better place.

My Podcast of the Week – Richard Florida: the new urban crisis
Florida explains how the creative economy has produced a deepening urban crisis characterised by inequality and profound social and cultural divisions

Quote I’m pondering

“Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”
– Peter F. Drucker

I’m always hoping to engage with others about promoting human flourishing.

The Cracks Widen


Leonard Cohen once penned a great line: There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.

I wonder whether social movements start with an almost unnoticeable crack.

When the crack is noticed, the first inclination is to put a bandaid on it.

There are no end of cracks appearing in the world today. The ‘News’ reports on them, so much so that many of us have given up reading or listening to ‘News’, doing what we can in our own little patch and hope it helps!

Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm theory posits that life evolves through epochs, or paradigms. Profound, discontinuous, or revolutionary change occurs and new modes of thinking and doing emerge to create each new paradigm.

I have been convinced about such a view ever since I read ‘The Bible and Post-Modern Imagination’ (Augsburg Fortress 1993) by the Biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann. He traces the dynamics behind the decline of ‘modernism’ and today’s emerging paradigm of ‘post-modernism’.

The large, experienced reality faced daily by those with whom we minister is the collapse of the white, male, Western world of colonialism. While that world will continue to make its claim for a very long time, its unchallenged authority and credibility are over and done with. This new reality… touches the economy and reaches right into our patterns of employment and retirement. It touches home and domestic authority in families. And as our systems of management and control break down, the collapse makes us at least anxious and perhaps greedy, and in the end it leads to a justification of many kinds of brutality. The experience of this collapse is profound, intense, and quite concrete. There is a lot of political mileage in rhetoric that pretends the old system works, but it is a deception. Thus the end of modernity, I propose, is not some remote, intellectual fantasy, but reaches down into the lives of folk like us. (p10,11)

I see the paradigm transition struggle continuing to emerge in the gap between the way younger people think, as against their parents’ generation. We know that over 70% of younger people are disengaged from their work, treated as cogs in Industrialist machines at the expense of what they would like to contribute to the betterment of the organisation (and the world!). But most comply with rigid structures for the wage packet at the end of the week to pay the spiralling rent.

By not complying to the Industrial paradigm, some younger people are taking the leap to achieve their dreams and ideas, to start up new businesses. These ‘Start-Ups’ are being particularly encouraged in the Tech sector, though all kinds of new NGO’s also seem to be proliferating in the Social sector – probably out of similar frustrations with the status quo.

It has been fascinating to watch the Liberal Government spruking tech start-ups as the next best thing , particularly through the Prime Minister! ‘Lean’ and ‘Agile’ are becoming part of the political lexicon. How convenient that when the labour market gets tough, one is encouraged as an individual to ‘have a go!’ Classic Neo-Liberalism, transferring collective responsibility to the individual!

Descartes proposed “I think, therefore I am’ to set the ball rolling, at a time of great pessimism and social upheaval in Europe. Erosion of social responsibility had to be an inevitable casualty of liberal individualism; the elite were quite content to extend inequality and class distinction.

But I sense that the emerging new paradigm is transcending the old. Frederick Laloux’s work on organisational paradigms is critical to understanding the broader context of the emerging present.(See my post: Organisation for Wellness –

While the Industrial organisational paradigm will continue to co-opt the Internet paradigm, the new emerging paradigm Laloux observes, is making big moves, replacing organisational hierarchy with self-managing teams, enacting shared decision-making across traditional divides. There is a concern for the ‘whole’ – for the whole person, and the complexity and context of situations. There is an awareness of a higher evolutionary purpose to all endeavour. Such an organisation is likely to be ‘listening’ and open-minded. The saying I hear increasingly, ‘I just want to make the world a better place’ typifies the emerging spirit. It sees everything as inter-connected, and collaboration a more satisfying way of ‘getting the job done’.

In this transitionary period toward new ways of thinking and doing, the traditional virtues of patience, humility, mutual respect, trust and keeping an open and ever expansive mind are vital. ‘Please, Thanks and Sorry’ makes a good three point sermon! Instead of trying to patch over dinosaur structures, faith traditions might play a significant and constructive role in nurturing the life inherent in this transition, by continuing to offer those time-tested values that sustain civilisations and to speak out against all that divides, corrupts or demeans our common humanity.