Make the world better- return to the hope of community…


Michaela sent me a link to a lovely site called The MOON Magazine– she had discovered it through her day job, which involves running a local community project called a ‘Time Bank’.

The ethos of time banking is to encourage people of all abilities and skills to donate time (which might range from proof reading, gardening, teaching Russian, feeding fish etc etc) in return for using the skills of someone else. Obviously there are practical benefits from this – we can get stuff done that we have not the skills to do ourselves – but the much greater benefit is found in the deep satisfaction that people get from doing something useful, and in making connections with other people. It answers some deep human need, and is the very foundation of community.

For example, we have made a ‘direct exchange’ with an accountant, who helps us with all the complex taxation stuff for our small business, in return for me cutting her grass. Not only do we get to provide one another with a service that fits our skill set, but we also get to meet interesting people, share lives and stories.

The MOON magazine is full of stories like this- things that people have done that make a difference to our relating to one another in a time when the prevailing culture would trend towards our isolation in boxes looking at screens (as you and I are doing right now!)

Check out these films for example.

The man who started Time Banks, Edgar Kahn has an article there in which he says something which chimed very much with my previous post;

It’s not that money and price aren’t useful; but we must not mistake them for the only determination of value. All of us have domains in our life that we define as priceless, where a reduction of their value to market price is unacceptable. Our relations with our loved ones, our families, our friends, for example, are not for sale. Some of us think that same principle applies to other domains: justice, democracy, spiritual realms, the planet.

We cannot let market price define value for a very simple reason. Price is determined by supply and demand. If something is scarce, its price is high. If something is abundant, its price is low. If sufficiently abundant, it has no market value; it is worthless.

Consider what that means: every quality that defines us as a human being is abundant. Every quality that enabled our species to survive and evolve is abundant. What are the qualities our species needed? Here’s a list: our ability to come to each other’s rescue, to care for each other, to work together, to come together to make decisions, to stand up for what’s right, to oppose what’s wrong. If we accept the message that money sends about value, then being admirable human beings is worthless.

Money sends another message: Your worth is determined by how much money you make. But most of the money in world markets is generated by money making money from money….

…Back in ancient Greece, Aristotle characterized such exchanges as making “barren metal breed.” Today making money takes the form of digits breeding digits in cyberspace. Now, as then, we seem to turn to oracles and soothsayers to divine a future that remains beyond our control or theirs.

Time Banks stem from an awareness that we cannot grant money an exclusive power to determine value. We need another medium of exchange that defines value differently and that sends a different message. Msg. Charles J. Fahey, a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, New York, who was the director of Catholic Charities, put it this way, decades ago, when he announced: “I have good news and bad news for you,” which he summed in the words, “We have no money. All we have is each other.”


If you want to change the world, if you want to make life deeper, more fulfilling, more satisfying, then build community. Find friends you can laugh and share with, hold things in common. Stop thinking that money is going to help with any of this- beyond a certain level, money just enslaves both those that have it and those that want it.

(By the way, those last things were not original ideas, they should rightly be attributed to Jesus.)


It is there in me again- that pull towards Spring.

This morning the mountains are suffocated in another heavy fall of snow, and it is cold. Cold.

It will not last- the rain is already starting to mottle it into the hillside, but it sits there at the moment like repressed hope- and as the proverb says, hope deferred makes the heart sick.

So, by way of antidote, here is a song from the soundtrack of one of my favourite films…

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow
Gonna rise up
Burning black holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
Suddenly swallowed by signs
Low and behold
Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

Eddie Vedder- ‘Rise’ from the soundtrack of ‘Into the Wild’.

Foy Vance- step forward and take a bow!

One of the guys at the recent network meet up was a musician called Foy Vance. I had not heard his music before. He did a great turn at a party on the Saturday night- knocking out credible versions of random songs gathered from the other guests. It was great fun.

I thought I should check out his stuff, and ordered a copy of this album

Just been listening- and it is simply brilliant.

Recorded mostly on portable gear, it is spare, poetic, tender and beautiful.

And this song made me cry-

There’s a man in the corner and his clothes are worn
And he’s holding out his hand
You could see in his eyes as the people walk by
He knows they don’t understand

Ya see they just think he’s gonna take their money
And go and spend it all on dope
Then a man stopped by and I saw a smile inside him
As he gently whispered hope

Well the tramp started to cry, just kept saying,
“Why? why? why?
Could you see I’m a dying tonight
Well I’m 32 and I’ve got this one pair of shoes
And a bad taste in my mouth
I think it’s clear to see that even God don’t love me
Or else why would He leave me this way.”

Then Gabriel just smiled and said be peaced my child
Salvation is here today

He got up to his feet and he sang Hallelujah
People were turning around in the street
He looked them in the eyes and he sang,
There’s someone here that you gotta meet
Someone you just gotta meet.”

When the vagabond turned around well without a sign
Gabriel just smiled and disappeared
Then he looked to the crowd and they were laughing out loud
But he could not see them fore tears
When his vision came round
There was a young girl on the ground
I knew she was fine and hard to cope
She never was a fighter until he laid beside her
And gently whispered hope

They got up to their feet and they sang Hallelujah
People in the street were turning around
They looked them in the eyes and they sang,
There’s someone here we have found”
They sang,
“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
We are the voices crying in the wilderness
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
The people in the street started their sins to confess
And a chorus of,
“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Every knee will bow and every tongue confess
and the voice of one crying in the wilderness
Hallelujah, Hallelujah”

At the end of hope we seek death…

I heard about the tragic story of this young rugby player today (more from the BBC here)

Daniel James, talented rugby player, tipped for great things. Until in March 2007 he suffers a compressed fracture of the spine as a scrum collapsed, and the resultant damage left him a paraplegic and in considerable pain.

And 18 months later, after two previous failed suicide attempts, he traveled to a swiss clinic who were prepared to assist him in his wish to die.

His parents described their experience in an e-mail in this way (as reported by the BBC)

“We returned from Switzerland on the 12 September after accompanying our… son who had been left tetraplegic after a rugby accident,” she wrote.

“Dan found his life so unbearable and had tried to commit suicide three times, other than to starve himself to travel to Switzerland was his only option.

“Whilst we were away some ‘well meaning’ person involved with social services took it upon herself to call the police.

“This person had never met Dan before or after his accident and obviously gave no consideration for our younger daughters who had seen their big brother suffer so much, and the day before had to say goodbye to him.

“I hope that one day I will get the chance to speak to this lady and ask if she had a son, daughter, father, mother, who could not walk, had no hand function, was incontinent, and relied upon 24-hour care for every basic need and they had asked her for support, what would she have done?!

“Our son could not have been more loved and had he felt he could live his life this way he would have been loved just the same but this was his right as a human being, nobody but nobody should judge him or anyone else.”

It is a terrible thing to lose someone you love. We can only begin to guess what this family have gone through. Nor what we might do in their situation faced with such pain and suffering.

But this seems to me to be such a terrible waste. A young man full of talent and aspiration looses everything that he thought life was about. And in the middle of all the searing pain and loss, he finds no hope. He sees no possibility of a future that has any meaning.

His family have been with him every step of the way, but 18 months is a short time for you and me in the stride of our life, but a long long time if every minute is full of misery and agony.

So they eventually accede to his wishes, and take him to one of the few places in the world where assisted suicide is permissible, administered in a modern clinic surrounded by his family.

A peaceful medicinal and narcotic end to what is known, and a passage to whatever is to come…

To lose hope is to lose life itself.

Could this young man have found his way back to life given another 18 months/weeks/days/hours?

No-one will ever know for sure. His actions can not be undone. His parents can not afford to ever think like this, or no doubt it will destroy them.

May they find their own hope.

But what of us, facing our own uncertain future? We have a friend who is a supporter of dignity in dying. She is towards the end of a full life, and lost her husband a couple of years ago. She is an atheist, and sees no point in prolonging life beyond the ability to fend fully for oneself.

These are such difficult issues. As with many deeply human ethical questions, what may seem black and white is shadowed with large areas of grey.

The giving and taking of life is God’s business.

But the sustaining and defining of life- this increasingly is a scientific phenomenon- at least for those who can afford it.

I think our response can only be to be those who accompany, and illuminate beauty and grace particularly those who need it most.

May we be bringers of hope to the hopeless

And singers of songs of freedom to those who are captive

May we dream of redemption for the irredeemable

And at the end of it all

May we fall

Into the arms

Of a loving God.

Our garden goes all arty!

We have an annex to our house that we let out to folk from time to time. We have had some wonderful, interesting folk living there.

At the moment, we have to lads living in there who are in Dunoon to participate in a ‘life college’ that is run by some friends, Michaela and Juergen Kast (check out

One of them is the very talented artist Marcel, from Switzerland, whose grafiti art is starting to make a bit of a splash…

We commissioned Marcel to do something to one of the walls of the house. He went through lots of options, before settling on this wonderful word HOPE.

Hope springs eternal.

Proverbs 13:12 Lost hope makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.