Thursday 28 January 2010

Aristotle and the chalak man

Gadamer presents Aristotle as giving us a debased version of moral knowledge in deinos. Deinos, he says, is a man who has the ability to get out of any situation. He is termed as “terrible” or as “capable of anything” because he has no inhibition and he puts his skill to achieve any purpose. Gadamer concludes by noting that there is nothing so appalling and uncanny as to use one’s brilliant talents for evil. (Truth and Method 323-4)

Do some of us run the risk of becoming deinos, chalak?

Chateau d'Ori wines from Nashik

Ettore is an Italian who works some months of the year as a consultant to one of the many new wineries in Nashik. He is from a Salesian parish on the Adriatic coast, and we found we even knew people in common, like Francesco Labarile, the Rector of our community at Vasto. Ettore has no illuions about Indian wine: it is not yet standardized, he said. There is good wine, certainly, but the problem is that you can never be sure of what you are getting until you open the bottle. Understandable: after all we do not have the several thousand year tradition of wine making like in the old European countries. But there it is: no standardization.

The same Ettore, I was told by Claude Noronha the other day, said that the best wine he has found in India is not Sula but Chateau d'Ori. In fact, we tasted some the other day: a full bodied Cabernet Merlot, I think, with an amazing bouquet.

Chateau d'Ori: what an odd name, I thought, till it struck me that it must be a play on Dindori, which again, according to Claude, gives us the best grapes in all of Nashik. Chateau d'[ind]Ori. Nice.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Dialectic and truth

I have been thinking of several of my friends - or perhaps acquaintances is a better word - who are cool, who never lose their heads, don't talk too much, are not rash, are pleasant and agreeable people, and who are capable of a great deal of work. The flip side is that they also have very strong opinions, and rarely or never change their minds - simply because they never really discuss things, or never allow themselves to get into a discussion.

And yet dialectic and dialogue is the way to truth, as Ricoeur said.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Restlessness and prayer

Yesterday I remembered Fr Balaguer's remark about how a religious / priest first finds joy in ??, then in his work, and only finally and truly in God....

It is quite easy to get lost in my work, and to find joy and fulfillment there, and to think that all is fine.

The desire to fill up one's time, the search for more and more work and more diverse work, is all perhaps a sign of restlessness.

The restlessness may also be manifest in other ways: in a resistance to prayer, in my inability to pray when I do go there, in a desire to fill up the time of prayer, in the wanting to distract myself. Anything rather than facing the emptiness within.

Yet, as Keith Clark says in I thinkBeing Sexual, Being Celibate, the celibate finds God by facing his moments of loneliness and emptiness. He finds God concrete in and through his moments of loneliness.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Blessed Jose Vaz of Goa

Feast of Blessed Jose' Vaz today. As Michael Mascarenhas has said, he is probably the greatest Asian missionary, and perhaps even one of the greatest in the world.

The word 'missionary' has acquired all sorts of negative and embarrassing overtones in India these days. But the chief reason for that might be the association of missionary work with colonialism. The truth of the matter is that India has been sending missionaries out for centuries. I was thinking this morning of Ashoka's Buddhist missionaries who took Buddhism to Sri Lanka; and the other, unknown, missionaries who took Buddhism to Burma and the other East Asian countries; and before them Hindu missionaries who spread their religion all across East Asia; and today, when we have so many Hindu and Buddhist missionaries going over to the West.

The wonderful thing about Jose' Vaz is that he was a non-colonial missionary: a native of Goa who worked in Sri Lanka 'under cover' - because Sri Lanka at that time was under the domination of the Calvinist Dutch powers. Jose' Vaz dressed as a 'coolie' and went around incognito, trying to make contact with underground Catholics, strengthening their faith.... He learned the local languages - Sinhala and Tamil - and even composed a dictionary for the use of his companions. One of his followers is even regarded as the Father of Sinhala literature...

So a non-colonial and inculturated missionary. And someone who was able to transcend differences of caste - he recommended his own 'servant' for Holy Orders. Not a small achievement. And a man from our own soil, from Goa.

Wednesday 13 January 2010


It seems that the Japanese, who love their fish fresh, have invented ingenious ways of keeping the fish fresh and active after it has been caught: they put the fish into huge tanks on board, and they introduce a shark into the tank. The shark keeps chasing the fish, and so the fish stay active and fresh....

It seems also that the quickest way to get tadpoles turn into frogs is to introduce a small stone into the tank. The tadpoles rub against the stone and so are more quickly able to lose their tails and shed their skins and turn into frogs.

Loddy's moral: don't lament the obstacles in your life. They have their own use and function.

Saturday 9 January 2010

There are no accidents

Another Kung Fooey saying from Oogawooga: There are no accidents.

Good to meditate on that: there are no accidents.

The fat Panda has just been chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Master Shifu is aghast, he protests. Master Tigress was supposed to be the chosen one, but there was some accident. It was only an accident, he complains. And Oogawooga: there are no accidents.

There are no accidents.

Whatever happens, it has happened. Find out the wisdom in that. Work with it. Work with this fat bumbling Panda, whom no one can imagine is the Dragon Warrior.

This confrere, these attitudes, this crookedness, this aggressiveness, this procrastination, this stubbornness, this lack of gratitude, this....

He may be a priest, he may be a Salesian who has dedicated his whole life for poor youth, he may have been your student, he may owe the world to you.

He may still be a fat Panda.

And he may be the Dragon Warrior.

There are no accidents.


The wise old Oogawooga (or whatever) to Master Shifu in the movie Kung Fu Panda: Let go of the illusion of control.

Let go of the illusion of control. You are much too sold on control. There is no control ultimately.

Shifu disagrees. If I want to eat a peach, I eat it, he says. And if I want to plant it, I plant it.

And Oogawooga says: yes, but it will still grow up to be a peach tree, and not an apple tree or a plum tree.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

The beauty that was Trasi

Flashes of memory: the land at Trasi when we had just acquired it: a gentle slope, lightly wooded with cashew and other short local trees, going down towards a quiet and beautiful pond at the bottom, with birds and things. Idyllic. It was mid-morning when we first saw the place. Charming. We then went to a little shack on the beach front, not far from the famous place where only a road divides the river from the sea....

Soon after we bought the land, it was levelled; the trees were cut. Not just levelled, but badly gouged, scooped out. Is it possible to build using the natural contours of the land? Levelling, gouging out the top soil, leaves you not only with an ugly gash, but with unproductive subsoil, on which nothing grows.... Just as in Lonavla. I came to Lonavla in the summer of 1971, I think, just after the bulldozers had done their work. Till today the 'top pitch' refuses to catch grass. It is subsoil. It will take another hundred years perhaps for it to regenerate, or to generate its own layer of topsoil. My companions would tell me of the trees, the five small pitches, and so on. I have not seen them. But I can imagine that we lost a piece of prime forest - if we go by what is still left at the side. Don Bosco Lonavla has the only piece of prime forest in Lonavla, if you discount Raiwood Park. Further down, on the way to Amby Valley, of course, I have seen delightful stretches of prime forest. I hope it is still there....

Sunday 3 January 2010

Resource myopia and messianic abundance

The gospel this morning was the Multiplication of Loaves. The abundance created by Jesus brought to mind a phrase that Fr Aloysius Bulchand liked to use: Resource Myopia. Many of us suffer from resource myopia. At the time Bulchand gave us the course, I remember saying: I don't have enough time to work up my doctoral dissertation into a book. Bulchand said I was suffering from resource myopia, and his tests also confirmed that.

Many of us suffer from resource myopia. We find ourselves saying very frequently: I don't have enough time; I don't have the money for that; I don't have the gifts for that; I don't have the courage for that.

Jesus is about abundance. After the 5000 men had eaten, there were still 12 basketfuls left over. And at Cana, there was an abundance of wine, and good wine at that. One of the images used by the Jews for the Messiah was the wedding banquet: a time of plenty, of food, of wine, of joy, of abundance. Abundance is a Messianic sign. Resource myopia is an indication that something has to give, that we need more faith, more trust, more hope, more joy.... That what we have, our 5 loaves and 2 fishes, is quite enough for another miracle....

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