Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life is short...

Since the death of my friend I have been thinking how very brief life is. We had a 37 year old friendship but it does not seem long ago that we were all young men thinking we were God's gift to the world.... now he's gone.... It seems like it was a blink of an eye.... and what have I achieved in that time? I still feel uncertain about many things and myself. I thought I might "grow up" some day?

I was reminded this morning of this when my wife read a name out of the "deaths" in the paper. There was a man, I am unsure of his age but about my age, who I roomed with when we did our chaplaincy training together in 1993. He was a keen pastor, now dead and gone.

Eeek ... my contemporaries are dying and I still have heaps more I want to do in life. I want to achieve more in my ministry.... try to evolve and experiment with new shapes for church life. I want to go on more tramps. I want to read more, reflect more and do some systematic theologising of my own, to express where I am and what I think is important. I want get back to self-sufficiency as a lifestyle. I want to explore the computer/cyberworld more. I guess I am realising with a bit of sadness, that I will never get to do these. Excuse me... "Bugger!"

Message to younger people... don't drift ... life soon goes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Let us bow...."...."If we must."

I have been tidying papers around my desk and came upon the following composition. I recently took my turn at leading a prayer at the beginning of a Dunedin City Council meeting. I hate doing stuff like that. I can imagine what is going through councillors minds... "Bloody tradition! ... This old religious git seizing his opportunity to shove outdated modes of thinking down our throat!" Indeed the way they shuffled to their feet and the way a number came in late reminded me of our reaction as school pupils to the regular "Lord's Prayer" at school assemblies at Otago Boys High School. They seemed about as unenthusiastic. I feel sorry for secular people made to endure religious tradition that they no longer adhere to. Anyway here is my composition for the occasion. I share it not because it is notable but because its my fumbling attempt to reach the secular mind in this secular setting where a traditional prayer is expected.

"Let us bow...

We pause briefly in the busyness of life to remember and recognise that there are values that move us forward that transcend religion, race and culture. These are values that are eternal in nature, a part of the make up of human existence, truths to which we are all ultimately responsible.

One of these is the deep truth that we are all connected.... that essentially all people are brothers and sisters together on this journey of history and life..... In prayer we recognise that we have a responsibility toward one another and for others' well being.

A second essential truth is that we are connected to this planet. That just as the cells of our body each contribute to our personal health and well being, so we are part of this large organism that we call earth...... In prayer we recognise that we have responsibility for its ongoing health and well being.

Lord God, you are in all and through all, you are in our midst and the source of all goodness and love. Thank you for these special people who have a common commitment to our community here in Dunedin. They have a special task in our city and it is good that they take their responsibility seriously. Thank you that you will speak through them as they deliberate, that you will bring wisdom and understanding. May the eternal values be allowed to emerge in their discussions and ultimately be given expression in the life of our city.

I pray in Jesus name.


Photo: Dunedin City from the top of Mt Cargill.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Love is the bull"?

This bit of foot path wisdom is written on the path just by the church car park when I came to work this morning. "if life is a china shop - love is the bull."
What I would love to know is what do they mean by that? What is happening in their life to write it? I guess love sometimes seems like a "bull in a china shop". It can certainly make a mess of things. Just thought I'd share this foot path wisdom. - Any suggestions on what prompted the effort?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The only one in step? ... or maybe I have it wrong?

When I was at secondary school we had School Cadets. We all dressed as little soldiers, (sandpaper suits we called the shorts we wore!) shouldered old bore war .303 rifles and marched around. Of course we had to learn to walk in step... "left right, left right, left right, ...leeeft, ... leeeeft, " etc.  My dad, who was a Regimental Sargent Major during the war grilled us on how we were doing. "Did you march in step?"  "Of course!" we replied, "In fact I was the only one in step! The rest were all wrong!" we responded, just to have him on. 

We just had our Church Annual General Meeting. I feel a bit like that. As people talked about Church and as they got excited about the things they felt were important, I felt like asking, "Am I out of step? or am I the only one in step?"  What people think "church" is for is totally different than what I feel called to do. It is not that they are against me, they did not sack me, they give me a fairly free rein and don't complain. It it is just that I feel like they are not on my wave length! After 20 odd years they still don't get it!  I am still a square peg in a round hole and struggling to fit in. Oh well, they still pay me to do my thing, I should not grumble.

Exercise Report

Woe is me.... I have a sore hamstring again!

Sunday..... a run,

Monday... half a mountain walk.

Tuesday... Gym session and a great 9.5k run ... big buzz.

Wednesday... Church walking group.... and a 5 k run... Hamstring sore.

Thursday & Friday rest day....

Saturday ... struggled around 9.5 k 

Today.... 6.5 k fastish walk... hamstring too sore to run. It took months to come right last time, I hope it has not got that bad again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

War time "love"...

It is ANZAC day here in NZ, a time when we remember those who have served in war.  In line with my last post on love and relationships, I was reminded of an incident that happened a number of years ago. I was driving somewhere with a man who had served overseas. I was asking him about his war service, where he served and when. Out of the blue he came up with this story. I have to say that this guy was one I have admired as a devoted husband and family man, a man of integrity and genuine christian love. He was a church elder and had served both his church and community diligently for many years and when I was talking to him it was about 40 years after the war.

He had married just before going away to war, like many did. He was a devout evangelical christian. One of the countries he served in was Italy. He said wistfully, "I could have lived in Italy." Then, uncalled for and surprisingly, he told me his story. He was stationed in a village in Italy for sometime and had got to know an Italian family. They invited him there for meals regularly and he enjoyed their company. I do not know all the historical circumstances as to why he seemed to be in the one place for a while. It turned out that he and a daughter in the family "clicked" and after the family meals she would take him on bike rides around the countryside and tell him about her country and region and its history. He said, "I don't know why, we had a different language, I was only temporarily in her country and I had a wife at home, but we just seemed to 'click' and get on so well."  He said that if he never had a wife at home he would have gladly stayed there with her. He emphasised that they never did anything untoward, they just had a friendship, they knew that was all they could have. ......but with glazed eyes and a choke in his voice forty years after, he said, "I often wondered what happened to her. It was so hard saying good bye." I found his wife to be judgemental and abrasive, and I wondered silently, if he would have been better off staying in Italy.

That is the mysterious power of this weird thing called love. Forty years after, and in spite of a successful marriage and family life, he was still aching over lost war time love. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We want to find love...

I keep track on the numbers of people who check out my blog site on MyBlogLog .Com. The most popular posts that originate from Google searches are two with similar themes in their heading. One is entitled "When a man looks at a woman with lust" and the other "I love her but she doesn't know it..." (The second one is NOT about "eros" love so I imagine a number of people are disappointed because it is not what they think it is.) I find it interesting though not surprising that these headings prompt so much interest. I think it points to longings we all have. That whole area of our lives, sexuality and love relationships fascinates us and yet worries us.

First I think we long for the "right" partner. We have this illusion of there being someone who is exactly right for us and there being blissful "ever afters". Sometimes we are still searching, but never find someone who fits the bill. At other times we are asking about the relationship we have, "Is this as good as it gets?" I love reading the comments in the paper by people who are celebrating 60 years marriage, and often wonder what the highs and lows have been like. It would be interesting to take each partner aside individually and ask them about the history of their relationship. Then there are the arranged marriages in various cultures that seem to work out fine.

Secondly I think we are troubled by this whole area of life because it seems to be one area that has a scary power over us. We are troubled by the various feelings that we have. There seems to be a power in the erotic! When a really "hot" woman (don't ask me to define that!) walks down the street I find it interesting to watch the people watching her. Men just about bump into power poles because they are staring so much. It is interesting watching men who are walking with their wives, looking but not looking. ... and their wives checking to see if husband has noticed. Some woman visibly sneer, and look in disgust. But more than just the erotic, there seems to be a power in the sexuality, the mystery and the irrationality of relationships. Sometimes we are incredibly attracted to another when the brain is telling us it is absolutely stupid. At other times people are so deeply hurt when as my blog heading says, "I love her but she doesn't know it." Some find it impossible to get that person out of their minds. The power in these attractions seem enormous. Break ups in love relationships cause a deep hurt and untold anguish, even when we know it is "for the best" and continuing would be no good for either. They have incredible power to hurt us and knock our confidence. This whole area of life is both scary, fascinating and mysterious because logic seems to get blown away by uncontrollable feelings. Some of us, because of the scary nature of all this, try to avoid getting involved at all. It is easier to build an armour and stay aloof.

I have no wisdom or insight to share, I am just intrigued by the mystery and yet appeal of it all. Why is it that these two blog post headings continue to hold so much interest?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I am of course preparing services from Gospel readings portraying the resurrection. I have long ago come to the conclusion that I am an agnostic as to what happened at the resurrection. I have decided that it would not endanger my faith if someone could prove that the resurrection encounters were a "spiritual realisation/experience" that the disciples had. I kind of suspect that it was the realisation that the life that was expressed in Jesus' ministry etc. was not finished at death, but a movement, a life force that would continue and even be set free after Jesus' death. I believe that maybe they were spiritual "penny dropping" "aha!" experiences in which they became aware that the life Jesus involved them in was bigger than him, himself, but part of the movement of the sacred in this world, and as such could not die, but just build upon the death of Jesus. So, while I would say I believe in the resurrection, my faith is not dependent on a "bodily resurrection" nor an empty grave. I would perhaps say that I believe in what the resurrection stories stand for.

But I had a strange thought that would rock my faith if I happened to believe in the necessity of a bodily resurrection. I was reminded of it last night where on a TV program the explorer came across a deer that had been dead two days, and discussed the decay that had taken place, even though it was lying in snowy cold conditions. In the resurrection stories Jesus' body still has the wounds left by the nails and spear. Now if we are to consider a resuscitated body, why still have the wounds? Surely they could have been dealt to? Jesus died and straight away his body would go into decay mode. Brain cells would die. The muscle tissue would begin the decay process. Rigormortis would have set in for a while. ... he was beaten before death so these wounds would increase decay. Now the process of bringing a two day old body back to life would be enormous, greater things would have to be done than healing spear and nail holes. Brain cells would have to be reconstituted, blood reconstituted, decayed tissue renewed etc etc. Why not in the process of all that healing and renewing, disappear the spear wounds and nail holes?... it would be a breeze compared to the former "miracles"? And yet this body can pass through walls too?

It all suggests to me that the passages are not meant to be taken literally and that the nail and spear wounds are still there for a literary purpose. The stories smack more of mythology and that we should be looking for the "more than literal" truth in the stories, rather than trying to suss out the exact nature of the "body". I believe they are truth full stories, truth filled stories, but am agnostic as to whether they are historically accurate. Just an open questioning thought?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Burble

A worthwhile week.

I have made it through another week of ministry and chaplaincy. It has been a busy week with lots of jobs to catch up on and some extra responsibilities. It has been made more difficult by my being "emotionally tired" and still grieving. I come to the end of today, however, feeling I have done a worthwhile job of my duties. In all modesty, I thought I presented a great service this morning. As I drove home I thought, "I have still got it! I can still do well at this worship leadership job. That was as good as anything a younger Dave Brown did, perhaps with more wisdom and discernment."  It was a bit controversial so I await any backlash. It is funny how when you have succeeded in sharing your "fire in the belly", and you have done it well, you are motivated to get up and do it again. I am chaffing at the bit to begin designing next week's encounter.

Exercise Report

Last Sunday... smallish run.

Monday.... 26 k bike ride

Tuesday .... 9.5 k run.

Wednesday ... gym session.

Thursday .... gym session and 9.5 k run.

Friday ...... rest day...3 hours of table tennis and pool!

Saturday ..... 6.5 k run

Today .... 5 -6 k run.

Not bad for an old bloke! Still not loping along like I used to, but perhaps my expectations are too high.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A nice surprise...

This morning I watched on UTube the singing of Susan Boyle in that "Britain's Got Talent" competition. It was heart warming. This "frumpy" looking spinster from the moment she started to interact with Simon intrigued me. I think she really did not like Simon patronisingly calling her "Darling" and asking her age... I think she had him sized up before she even started to sing. The audience were even laughing at her and expecting an embarrassing audition. But when she started to sing she had only finished the first line and she had everyone including the judges with her. It is great stuff... an ordinary person saying "Up You" to the plastic measuring sticks of this glitzy, superficial and empty souled world we live in.

It happened for me last night. I wrote my last post just before our drop-in centre last night. I was feeling tired, lonely and grief stricken. Drop-in centre was difficult because people kept wanting to play table tennis or pool with me while others wanted to tell me their latest problems. I was exhausted by the time we stopped at around 9:30 p.m. But quite near the start there was a "Susan Boyle" moment that warmed my heart. We have this man who comes who is sometimes "out of his tree". He has mental health issues, is sometimes quite paranoid and can be quite aggressive toward people in the way he speaks. He is often aware of the times his mind is muddled and causing him to rant. He is really quite an intelligent man I have come to appreciate. As I opened up the doors and let people in, I saw him sitting on the car park fence and walked down to sit next to him. I asked how he was. "I am feeling good tonight" he replied. After a brief chat about his health I went upstairs to join the rest. Just as I was being asked for my first game of table tennis (I think I played table tennis for over an hour and a half) this man came to me and began asking about my friend's death. He showed empathy, understanding and compassion and I felt he identified with my feelings. The sense of companionship I was aching for in my post was not answered by the colleagues or people one would expect to reach out to me. It came from a mental health patient who many people laugh about, write off or even despise. For that I am thankful... you just "cannot tell a book by its cover".

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good Grief...

I am learning again the lessons of grief and what it feels like.... It is over two weeks since my friend died but still I feel it. I have known these feelings and read about them before but it does not stop you sensing them all over again. Here are some a grieving person feels.

I was talking to a firefighter today telling him that I went to Australia to a friends funeral. "Gee.. that's a long way to go for a funeral!" he said. It does not matter how understanding people try to be, only the grieving person knows the relationship they had with the loved one. It is impossible to describe what a person means to you, in fact you don't know yourself until they are not there. So you feel incredibly lonely in your grief. It is, in one sense, something only you can endure, because others did not have that same link. Because of this you feel alone.

Life seems to be a waste of time. You come back and work but where as once you worked with a sense of hope, you have this sense that, "What's the use?" Life was once beautiful, now it seems black. Once it had meaning now you feel like saying, "Why care, we all end up dead anyway?" Life seems so short, it seems to have come and gone for you and your lost one, in a flash. "We are nothing but grass." suggests a biblical passage, "here one day and gone the next".

Emotionally exhausted...
I was visiting firestations today talking with people. Everything was OK but I just felt like I had had enough. I left a firestation and began to drive to the next... I thought "No.... I just can't be bothered relating to one more group of people!" I am at the moment trying to get together enough emotional strength to face a night at the drop-in centre. Somehow you are just tired... and wake up tired... not wanting to meet people. Trying to get creative in preparing a worship service, I feel like I am dragging the chain. I would love to have the time to go bush.

These are just three of the feelings I am experiencing. I guess I will "build a bridge" but apart from anything else its is a refresher course for me on the experience of "grief". I have these feelings when Ian was "just a friend" who actually lived a long way away from me. I was not related to him, married to him or in regular contact. I cannot imagine how his widow Curly is feeling.

People about me don't have time to talk, life goes on as normal for them. I remember feeling this long ago when my dad died. I wanted to yell "Stop the world!" ... but the reality is "Life goes on"... and in time I will adapt. I may not get the time to talk, but I can blog out into the mysterious cyberspace. That's better than nothing.

A couple of thoughts on "Friendship" from my mum's beside booklet.

The light of friendship
is like the light of phosphorus -
seen plainest when all around is dark. (Crowell)

I guess that means when life is dark you find out who your true friends are.

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world,
and the best that we find in our travels
is an honest friend. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Photo: Heading toward Green Peak in the Silver Peaks area. Where I would love to be right now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An old photograph...

I thought I would share an old photograph. Me and my two friends Jeff & Ian after a the graduation service of the Melbourne College of Divinity in 1975.
Exercise report....
I am still exercising... this week so far... a run, a bike ride, a run and a gym session. Even when I was in Australia there were a few runs, lots of walks and a gym session. The track I ran in Australia was along side Semaphore beach. Beside the track was a lot of scrubby stuff before you got to the sandy beach. For a kiwi it was a bit unsettling to see heaps of signs up saying "Beware of snakes". Yikes!!! There are some advantages living in NZ. All the exercise does not seem to change much.... I am still overweight and still have blood pressure medication... Oh well.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Love hurts again...

I have been a cry baby in the last week, and I don't know why. Me, David Brown has cried. I never cry! When I was at school and got the strap or the cane from my teachers I would purposely hold it together. I would grimly accept the punishment, eyeball the teacher and put a grin on my face.... never cry. This tactic made one poor teacher lose her cool and strap me around the legs in an angry frenzy. Even on ocassion when my dad or mum hit me I would never cry in front of them, never show they had beaten me, just glare coldly at them.  Mum broke a series of spatulas on us, dad used his army web belt (until we hid it under the bath) and then it was any stick he could grab.... one of granddad's old walking sticks came in handy. But me cry? ... nah. I have cried a couple of times after taking a funeral of people I have loved... once it was compounded with grief from my mum's death at which I never cried. But with the death of my friend Ian I have cried more than at any other time. When I arrived in Adelaide and my other friend Jeff met me we hugged and cried! Two men? When I was preparing for the memorial service and running over the lines, I choked up. Alone in bed, thinking of the journey Ian and I had come, the discussions we'd had, I choked up.  When Ian's daughter started the funeral by singing "the Rose" I was watering up and choking by the end of the first verse. Doing my part in the funeral, I struggled to hold it together. Saying "goodbye" to Jeff at the airport, I choked up and virtually had to text him with what I wanted to say when I sat in the departure lounge. 

I have been trying to figure out why it hurts so much? Maybe my tears are a build up of all the sadnesses I experience?? I loved Ian, but he could be such a pain sometimes .... very controlling.  And if having friends hurts so much when they are gone, why have them? 

I am a bit like that. When I was a child there were some things that happened that made me not trust adult people. ... nothing big mind you, but big and formative for a little boy.  Then I was just starting to enjoy relating to my father as a friend and he up and died on me. I know that because of these events I find it hard getting close to people or allowing people to get close to me. Since then I have had two close friends in my life who I have had a disagreements with and our friendship has broken up. Each time it has hurt! I have got close and allowed people to get close but they have (from my perspective) turned on me and dented my self esteem and confidence in a big way. So I tend to be a loner.... lots of friendly acquaintances, but few real friends. It is safe that way.

When I first met Ian 37 years ago I was turned off by him. He seemed to me to be dogmatic and conservative theologically. Jeff was more my type and he lived in the same building, so we chatted more often. Then I think I was drawn to Ian because at least he was "real". He was prepared to think. He was also fun to be around with a ready laugh.... though often as a kiwi I was the target of his joking. Over the years we have evolved together. We had just started skyping together and that made me feel less alone.... then he up and dies! 

I value the friends I have. I hope I am a good friend. I hope I do not get more "stand offish" because of this loss.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Journeying with others.

I was looking for some bedtime reading last night (my current book was still in my luggage) and in my bedside cabinet found a book of reflections by Charles Ringma.  (Wash the feet of the world with Mother Teresa) I opened it randomly and came across this passage which expresses what I was struggling to say in my last post.

And in serving others the greatest blessing we can bring is often not the giving of things, but the gift of ourselves.

Mother Teresa underscores this in her words to her sisters, "Do not look for spectacular works. What is important is the gift of ourselves."

This may initially sound surprising. Don't the poor need food, housing, and health care? Should we, therefore, not give them what they most basically need? The answer is, of course, we should give as much as we can. But others can't be the recipients of only our welfare and generosity. They are people who need to be loved and known. They welcome our interest and friendship, not simply our giving. Journeying with others through the highs and lows of their daily realities is the great gift we can give. ......

To journey with people, rather than simply to give them things, has important implications. The most important of these is that we are invited to be an incarnational presence to the poor.....

While we may always want to do do more, we should not withhold the greater gifts - the gifts of companionship and solidarity.

Sometimes it is affirming to realise that someone agrees with your thinking, and can express it better than you can. :-) 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Serving with respect...

I am back in NZ after taking part in my friend's funeral. One of the parts of his life that we celebrated was a ministry he had in the Kensington area of Melbourne. This area had a lot of high rise flats in it and people with a lot of problems. Ian and his wife Curly set up the "Kensington Christian Network". It was a pioneering ministry. 

They had a house in the Kensington area close to where the flats were. They moved there on a salary that was the same as they would have got on an unemployment benefit, Ian did not want to be living on more than the people he was ministering to were on. He worked in the community on a number of projects, networking with various agencies in the area. There were too many to mention here. But their house operated virtually as an open home, there were always people staying there and always extra people there for tea. Their house seemed to have expanding walls, it was mind blowing, gutsy and generous ministry. At the memorial service I recalled being given a baby to feed, it's mother was having difficulties and was at Ian & Curly's for support. There was another woman who sat down beside me and talked for a while. She was partly intoxicated, and leaned across me to play with the baby. She smelt so bad that my nose twitched involuntarily. Yet Ian, and Curly showed nothing but love, friendship and respect for this lady and the various people who came into their lives. As Ian and Curly related to them they did so with much laughter, joy and just one on one connection. Their were heaps of people at the service who attested to the impact of the Corlett's love on their lives.

I got to thinking about this. There are people who will do "stuff" for poor people. That is all well and good. But there is a big difference between doing stuff for people and doing it with genuine friendship and respect. I have found this with Christmas dinner volunteers. Some want to come and dish out food to the poor etc. But when we invite them to eat with them, they say, "Oh no I don't want to do that!" I recall asking Curly while at Kensington how she managed, and her reply then was, "I remember that these are people who Jesus loves, just as he loves me." It was said of Ian that he had the ability to see the treasure in the people others would consign to the scrap heap of life. I try to exercise this sort of genuine friendship in our drop-in. As I headed out to Australia last Friday, I called at the drop-in on the way to the air port. I was quite moved by the friendship and warmth extended to me in my loss.  These people treated me as a friend. Each one has a precious personality and something to treasure and celebrate. My task is to see that, enjoy that and respect and value them as a person.  If I do that I am representing God to them. Basic respect is so important, affirming and will lift people up.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

People and cultures..the same but different.

Because of my friend's death I now find myself in South Australia for a few days. I am to take part in his memorial service tomorrow.

I flew to Auckland on Friday night arriving at around 10:30 p.m. after a very busy day. I was to be at the air port again by 6 a.m. so I decided just to walk from the domestic terminal to the international terminal and spend the night there trying to get some sleep somewhere. I did not get much sleep..... but what an interesting place a terminal is! It was interesting watching arrivals and departures. The tearful farewells and the just as tearful welcomes. It was so interesting seeing a great variety of different races coming through, watching them trying to work out systems, relating to loved ones and saying their hellos and goodbyes. You could see familiar feelings of love and human ties. It does not matter who we are, we have similar human relationships and connections and I could feel for and identify with these unknown people I was watching. I flew to Adelaide next to a delightful little boy from America. We chatted from time to time. He was a young perhaps 8 year old boy from America, I was an "old" man from NZ, yet we discovered an enjoyable fun short term friendship. I recall seeing a photo of some remains of a mother and daughter from a civilization about 100,000 years ago. I thought "That mum probably had similar feelings toward her children as mums have today, yet a very different world." We are the same.

But......Even though it is a sad time I have enjoyed catching up with families and friends of my two special friends, Ian and Jeff. People have been lovely and welcoming and I have felt at home.... but also not at home. There is a difference between Australians and New Zealanders, don't ask me to define it, but there is a different "culture". When I spend time here, as friendly and as welcoming as Australians always are, I find I feel a bit like a fish out of water. In NZ I know how to relate. I know familiar and expected patterns of conversation and have a common heritage and history when in New Zealand. But somehow its different here and I become more awkward when visiting here, because that unseen familiar stuff we take for granted is not there. As close as NZ and Australia are, there is a difference in a different culture. We need to remember that. We are "the same" but "different". (An example... Jeff is a hospital chaplain... I am in his office doing this. Today Jeff and his male colleague are wearing jeans. I have never seen a hospital chaplain in NZ at work wearing jeans.)

I had a man once suggest I should go preach and teach in Vanuatu. I said, "I have no right! I do not know their culture and their life.... until I understand that and "be" there, I cannot be telling them what to do." I would stand by that. I have even found it in different workplaces I visit. The culture of the fire brigade is different from that at the brewery and that of St John Ambulance... and if I assume that they are the same I will make some big blunders. At all times, in new situations we need to sit and listen to where people are and what makes them tick, and not too easily assume that "we are the same". People are people, similar with similar feelings etc. but also so different. That's what makes the world we live in so interesting.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

He has gone...

Just an update.... my friend Ian died. I have been asked to take part in the funeral with the other member of the trio, Jeff and another of his friends. Jeff and I were pretty choked up when we were talking on the phone last night... don't know how we will go at the funeral. I may have said it before... sometimes life sucks. But I guess grief and sadness is the price you pay for the friendship we enjoyed.

Photo: (1) Ian and his incredible wife Curly and their special daughter Becky (Who turned 20 the other day) They have 4 other kids who are all adults with families of their own. (2) The trio... Jeff, Ian and I as we dressed to go to the centenary dinner of our theological college in Melbourne.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Please excuse the expletive. I had a phone call from a friend (Jeff May) last night to say that a mutual friend (Ian Corlett) in Adelaide had had a massive stroke. It is very serious apparently. The prognosis is not good. The three of us went through theological college together in Melbourne from 1972 - 76. We argued, played jokes on each other, sorted out our beliefs and shared four years of accelerated personal growth. I recall the principal calling us into his office telling us that we should split up and spend more time with other people, that we were too close. We won an award together. The three of us at the prize giving went forward to receive a prize. They could not split us up in choosing which one deserved it. Since then we have gone our separate ways and lived in different places, but in a sense still "been with" each other on life's journey. We have been as close as close brothers. When we have contact we go from hello to in depth sharing fairly fast. We have kept up with each other's changes, wept with each other and laughed lots with each other. One special time for us all was when we got up before dawn and as the sun was rising we jogged around Ayers Rock (Ularu) together. I have told these friends stuff about myself few others would know. Recently Ian discovered the joys of skype and hassled me to line up a camera. We have had a few conversations in the last couple of weeks. Now it seems he wont be doing much in the way of communication any more. I am saddened. Friends like this are hard to come by.

My first reaction on first hearing the news was walking around the house saying expletives. I am still doing that as he and his family come to mind again and again. I am "with them" in thought and kind of distracted.

Secondly I want to be there, but how? And what good would I be anyway? They have heaps of friends. I have a massive "to do" list here over the next few weeks, I'm not rolling in spare money and it is so uncertain at this point. But I want to be beside them.

Thirdly it is a reminder of your own frailty and the ticking away of time. He is about three years older than me. We are in "that" age grouping when stuff like strokes and heart attacks happen. You know that the time left in life to do stuff you would like to do and achieve things is getting smaller.

Fourth... It is so hard to concentrate on work when things like this happen. Your mind is continually going to them and their situation. I better go and try to do some but I had to blog about this, for my sake.

Photo: Ian on his vintage bike. The three of us, Ian on my left.