Monday, 24 January 2011


'Out of Jurassic Park' -a journey from the raw, the primitive, the simple into a very different kind of world -one which is more sophisticated, more efficient because it's more technological. And now I'm asking myself if this is progress. I've reached that cranky stage in my life when I'm pining for the good old days when I was easily satisfied with what I had. By modern standards that was not very much!

Time was when all that was needed for writing was pencils or steel nibs, bottles of ink, sheets of paper, and, lastly, blotting paper. Then came that break-through moment that was to impact every scribe and scribbler...the appearance of the Biro ball pen. At first this was taboo at school; now it's the normal tool for writing.

Those of us who still prefer the fountain pen are now frustrated because it seems nowhere sells blotting paper. So often my enquiries meet with, 'What is it?' 'Never heard of it!' How the world's moved on, and I've stayed still...still in Jurassic Park!

My introduction to a typewriter came when I had to 'fill in' for a sick priest. In his presbytery was a splendid, massive, solid object. Its proud owner boasted it was nearly thirty years old and still served him well. Mechanically there was nothing mysterious about it...simply a combination of levers and springs. I was comfortable with it. I could understand it. I could fix most of its ailments with the aid of rubber bands, bent paper clips and springs salvaged from broken toys. Finally, an occasional squirt of '3-in-1' oil. I felt in control.

Was it progress or weakness that I fell for the advantages of a word-processor? This, I persuaded myself, would greatly assist me, the dabbling journalist. With this, at the touch of a few keys, I could shift around paragraphs and re-arrange sentences. No longer would I have to erase or replace...over and over again. This level of progress was deeply satisfying for me. I looked for no more.

I long resisted all blandishments to 'go computer.' Was this out of fear of a new technology or a smug humility, that, unlike my twin, Isidore, I could manage without this expensive 'toy'?

Hurricane 'Ivan' changed all this. This mega-storm destroyed my home -the presbytery -my clothing, my books and my everything.

I could either return to the days of pen and paper, but, sadly, no blotting paper, or enter a world I had shunned -that of the computer. Forget about the word-processor. By that time it was pretty well obsolete. Circumstances dragged me into the laptop culture. I must concede I'm most grateful for what I can accomplish with it. Still, I'm not comfortable with it. I don't understand what is going on inside it. I can't repair it when it falters. I'm utterly dependent on it functioning all times. It's moody, capricious. It refuses to oblige. I'm furious and frustrated when texts suddenly and totally disappear from before my very eyes, without my doing a single thing to send them on their way.

Ever since I became computer-wise I've been driven to anguished prayer. Baffled, inadequate, I'm humbled that my dependence on my computer has made me increasingly and utterly dependent upon God, in a way I'd never foreseen. In His name I bless, absolve and pray for my computer.

Just to create an interlude of spiritual serenity I've considered banishing my computer, sending into exile, for the coming Lent. I feel this self-denial might purify my soul of attachment to such modern gadgetry! But Isidore, my twin -a wise old bird (which I am not) -and something of a computer nerd (also which I am not), urges me to forget such strange and quirky spirituality. He argues there would be something wrong with a spirituality which impeded my preaching work.

Indeed, I shudder at the very thought of ever having to return to pen, ink and paper. I quake at the prospect of being deprived of Google Search and so having to find appropriate reference books in libraries. I recoil from the task of scouring through them for the information I need. So much hacking and grafting has gone into the composition of this blog...It's the same for every blog that the two of us write for this series.

Dear Lord, don't let it be yourwaymyway that I should have to return to Jurassic Park!
I'm now so disenchanted with it!
Peter O.P.

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on meeting God by 'Taking the Long View.'

Monday, 10 January 2011


I've never claimed to be much of a cook, especially in comparison with some of the superb chefs in my community. But I do have a go with some simple dishes for myself. With the shortage of vocations I couldn't risk cooking for my community and poisoning the lot of them! Nor would they be prepared to take that chance.

Occasionally I cook a simple omelette for myself. Though I was pleased enough, I didn't consider one of my efforts a work of genius. Once cooked, I started to ease it from the frying pan onto a plate. So far so good. But then I was completely thrown off balance. One of the Cordon Bleu chefs in our community happened to pass by and see my omelette. To my amazement he congratulated me! I wasn't used to such praise for my culinary excursions -especially from him.

Such unexpected acclaim from such a discerning cook caught me completely off guard. In my confusion I grabbed a bottle of washing up liquid and squirted it into the frying pan. Unfortunately I hadn't yet removed the omelette!

What to do? I certainly wasn't going to throw away such a highly praised and, therefore, prized dish. Anyway you have probably heard of my great reluctance to throw away anything. I will go to great lengths to salvage what others would throw away -even a soapy omelette. But not me! So I did the most obvious thing -stuck the omelette under the tap to remove the washing up liquid. Then I re-heated my 'dish of the day' and, surprisingly enjoyed a tasty meal True, it did have an unusual, distinctive flavour. But none the worse for that -nor was I. And I didn't foam at the mouth or blow bubbles!

Of course my community thought I was completely mad. Possibly they had a point. But I would argue that great discoveries have been made -even in the kitchen -by accidentally throwing together unlikely ingredients. That's my defense and I'm sticking to it -with the warning not to try combining washing up liquid with omelettes or any other food. Your digestive system may not be as tough as mine.

How on earth can I find a way of meeting God in the crazy way I reacted to unexpected praise? As I see it, my problem lies in the way I coped with praise. If I'd been sensible -which I wasn't -I would have expressed my gratitude for a bit of friendly encouragement. Hopefully that would lead me to be even more ambitious with my cooking. That could even have given me the confidence to offer to cook for the whole community. Whether or not they would have accepted is another matter. If I'd welcomed praise graciously I might have blossomed as a chef. There's no knowing what heights I might have attained!
My eldest brother has the best approach to commenting on my efforts -not in cooking, but in water colour painting. He's a highly gifted artist, while I'm very much an also-ran. When we went out painting he would look at my mediocre efforts -that's the truth, not false humility. He would then ask me if I wanted to know what he really thought. Hesitantly I would say, "Yeeers." First he would find something good to say about my picture. Then he would show me how it could be improved. Hopefully I've listened to his advice. Encouragement, then suggested improvements. That's what I needed. And that's what he gave me. The same is true when Peter and I work together on our blog postings.

Giving and receiving praise is difficult. Empty flattery is insincere and useless. That would never spur me on to improve. I need the teacher's classic report comment, "could do better" -and be shown how. But totally devastating criticism can be worse than useless. It can dampen down, if not extinguish, the flame of enthusiasm, the self confidence to try again.

The virtue of humility doesn't mean refusing to accept praise and denying that we've done something well -when we've produced a little gem of modest worth. It would have been a lie to have insisted that I had cooked a bad omelette. And to do so would have been ungracious to the person who had been kind enough to praise my efforts. That would have meant denying the truth and making a virtue out of lying. That can't be right! And it wouldn't have been conceited for me to have drawn quiet satisfaction from doing something well -like cooking a tasty omelette. That again is a matter of truth.

Perhaps the best and most honest way for me to handle praise is for me to thank God for making whatever I achieve possible -even cooking a decent omelette. So my way of meeting God is for me to recognize any success I may have, while echoing the words of the Psalmist,
"Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give glory," (Ps. 115. 1).
At the same time I must heed His instructions. With His help I certainly could do better.

Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Peter's 'Meeting God' reflection will be entitled, 'Out of Jurassic Park'