Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The theory of Everything & Still Alice



In the last two weeks I have been to see the movie about Stephen Hawking "The Theory of Everything" and one about a linguistics professor who is devastatingly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, "Still Alice"
As I sat down to watch "Still Alice" I thought to myself that it would be in stark contrast to "The Theory of Everything" but it didn't take long to realise that both movies were about very clever people challenged by serious illness while still young.
Seeing the two in close succession was an interesting, unintended study in the difference between losing one's physical abilities and losing one's mind.
It was painful to watch Stephen Hawking bump down the staircase in his home on his bum, possibly worse to watch when his friends had to carry him up stairs and go back for the wheelchair while he lay in the arms of a statue. It was confronting when he was lifted from the toilet and deeply sad to see a family friend start to play a fatherly role with his children.
Even through his loss of physical function Stephen hawking retains his intelligence, he has some wit and humour that he expresses in the film and even though his body is humiliatingly unco-operative he has managed to have a successful career through decades of severe disability.

One of Alice's hugely painful moments is when she is told the comments made by her students regarding her lectures. Alice has become more confused than she had realised and her performance as a professor is inadequate. She attempts to reassure her boss that she is still a contributing faculty member but he tactfully suggests that her time is up. It is an abrupt and cruel end to a stellar career.
She is humiliated again when she can't remember where to find the bathroom in her own house and thoroughly wets herself. Most painfully of all, perhaps, at one point she talks about how she is losing her identity, she talks about how she appears to be fumbling and incompetent but it is not her who is incompetent, it is her disease.

The film talks about the way that Alzheimers patients find comfort in doing things that were a huge part of their, now waning, identity and I wondered, if I had Alzheimers, what would I find comfort in? What is so much a part of my identity that I could do it and enjoy it even as my mind slowly vacated my body?

I liked both films and would recommend them both. Neither is fluffily escapist but neither is bleakly disturbing either.


Monday, 2 March 2015

first world problems

a few years ago i felt too busy and too exhausted to feed my family terribly well and the sense of conflict i felt about it was awful.
then i left my employed world and i had a lot more time. i was delighted to be able to do a better job on the food front.
three years on, in a case of "be careful what you wish for" or maybe "the grass is always greener on the other side" food has become a kind of bittersweet tyranny. i like to think that i provide tasty and healthy food most of the time but  with six adults, two of them ravenous young men, and two almost as ravenous young women, all with personal preferences and wildly varying timetables, keeping everyone happy seems to have become almost a full time occupation. and once they are fed there's the cleaning up and the shopping to do. it's endless.
as an added degree of difficulty, the boys start uni tomorrow and their timetables will require large amounts of portable food. there are only so many sandwiches any mum wants to make and the kids get equally sick of eating them, i am sure.

so, hit me with your best ideas for food on the go!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

On Faith #2

One of the comments that inspired me to talk about faith here was in reference to Christ's instruction to "love your neighbour as you love yourself" 

Snow said "others seemed TO believe, yet they made no discernible effort to live up to Christ’s standard. So, how do YOU do it? You pay $30 for a cellphone, but even that small expenditure COULD be used to buy shoes for some kid in Tibet. I’m not putting YOU down; I’m putting the standard down." 

One of my greatest disappointments with the Christians I know (and I do get a bit judgy about it) is that as consumers they are not discernibly different to the majority of people, in fact sometimes i think they are worse.

I see so little awareness of ethical consumption, whether we are looking at sustainable agricultural practice, sustainable energy use, healthy eating (surely a mark of respect for the body God created for us) or the bonded labour used to produce all of our gorgeous, unsustainable, ego boosting gadgets. 

**the first of what i am sure will be many disclaimers**
I know that there are Christians who care about this stuff but in my neck of the woods i don't see them.

So, how do I love others with respect to buying shoes for Nepalese kids versus luxuries for myself?
Inherent in my faith is the idea that I was placed where I am, in the time that I am living, with all of the details of my life (gifts and talents, connections, interests, resources etc) to be used in this time and place. If I accept that I was born in the 1970s to a white, middle class, Australian family, unless I am knowingly and deliberately acting outside of what I know of Gods plan, then my privileged station in life is what was planned for me. 

That is not to say that I can be self gratifying but it is to say that a cell phone is pretty much essential to function in the society I have been placed in and it is essential for the work I do. The way I think about it is that God probably expects me to have a cell phone but he probably expects me to have a basic one and then put the several hundred dollars I save on a phone towards something like shoes for kids in Tibet. Or new glasses for my friend who broke hers or slipping a shopping voucher to a friend who cant afford to give her kid a birthday cake.

Ultimately it is all a juggling act in my own conscience. Sometimes when I have something that I think is decadent or luxurious or special I think about what  good I might have done with the money and when those thoughts pass my mind I take it as a nudge that maybe my focus is drifting. At times when I am considering a large purchase I might pray for guidance so for example if I was considering a holiday but I was having difficulty making bookings I might take that as a sign to shift the plans. Interestingly enough, I might still take the holiday but it might be in a different place or at a lower price or the timing may change and when that happens I have to think that there must be a reason. I try to keep in mind the idea that if something has to be forced it is probably not right or the timing is out, so a change of direction is needed.

The way I see it, a Christian life has to lived, as much as our understanding allows,in close relationship to God so that our own conscience will tell us when our habits need tweaking. I know this sounds like a cop out and I am sure people use it as a cop out, a la "i feel ok about it so it must be ok" but i hope not to be that way.

I try to live so that principles dont make me grindingly poor and uncomfortable because that kind of life uses so much energy that I would have nothing left to give anybody. I tithe first, then cover basic needs with just a small amount of fat in the system and I feel that once those things are covered I have a responsibility to give what I can where ever I see a need.