A Hope Filled Look at New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: 1 February 2016

resolutionsWell we are currently in crunch time for New Year’s Resolutions. The number of you keeping your resolution is shrinking week by week. It was already at 75% just one week into this year, it was at 64% by the end of January, and as low as 46% by the end of June. The statistics are part of a newly released study out of the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology which indicates that while a total of 62% of us actually make resolutions usually or infrequently, only 8% of that number are successful in achieving the goal they had set for themselves at the start of the year. With such a small success rate perhaps it is little wonder that 38% of us don’t even both making a resolution at all.

While it can be easy then to scoff at New Year’s Resolutions and dismiss them as only for those who want to lose weight, make money or find love, the choice of goals are often a part of the problem. One other study of New Year’s Resolutions out of Australia found that of those who failed, 35% admitted it was because the goal was too unrealistic, 33% didn’t keep track of progress, 23% forgot about it and 9% said they made too many resolutions. It’s easy enough to say that we want to lose weight but we probably need to instead consider pledging to cut back on the daily soft drink or the nightly bowl of ice cream. If we want to have more money we’ll probably need to create a workable budget instead of buying a greater number of lottery tickets. Read the rest of this entry »

What Temperament Are You?

Posted: 11 September 2014

PersonalitiesI remember when I was engaged to my now wife Jane, one of the biggest discoveries I had to process was learning that she was an introvert. We were at a social function with people we both knew well and it came up that she would be happy to leave at any time. We hadn’t really been there that long and I would have been happy to whittle away the rest of the afternoon amongst friends, so I found myself being rather surprised at the whole turn of events. Actually surprised doesn’t describe it well enough, I was shocked! After all these were close friends!

Now if I was an introvert myself, I likely would have realised this fact about Jane a lot sooner, but extroverts (or at least this one) seem to be more likely to be completely oblivious to the fact that some people are just not like them. Whereas the extrovert in me was energised by being around family and friends, introverts need to be alone to recharge because socialising wears them out. It’s not that introverts are shy – they can be the life of the party – it’s just that they’ll need some quiet time to recover from that party.

This discovery led me to look further into personality types and I came across the temperaments, which are the aspects of an individual’s personality that are related to behavior and reaction. Our temperament is something we are born with and while it is molded through our choices and experiences, it is never completely erased. While a person is not the sum of their temperament, understanding the temperaments can lend us a vast insight into ourselves and those around us. In understanding the temperaments I came to understand that it wasn’t just that those who were not like me were strange, but rather their strengths and weaknesses were different. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is the Human Person?

Posted: 6 July 2014

Kermit the FrogThere is a cartoon image which shows Kermit the frog visiting the doctor. The doctor is examining an x-ray of Kermit which shows that it is actually a human hand animating the frog’s body. In the speech bubble the doctor is seen to say “Have a seat Kermit. What I’m about to tell you may come as a big shock”. All these years Kermit has been busy hosting the Muppet Show, meeting celebrities and avoiding the romantic advances of Miss Piggy, but his understanding of himself was completely wrong, he is no more than a lifeless pile of fabric and foam.

To some extent we are no different to Kermit, we go about life, interacting with the world around us, making our decisions based on certain assumptions that we often don’t even realise we have. Everyone views the world through some sort of lens, we are all a canvas that started being painted upon before we were born. This canvas is influenced by factors which include our family, our friendships and our faith. With the increasing secularisation of society though you may have sensed the push for an a-religious attitude to matters of politics, education and public life in general. The problem with this though is that a non-religious ethic is no more neutral than a religious one. Every view of life is underpinned by a certain philosophy which steers an idea like a captain steers a ship.

In our pluralist society there are almost as many ‘isms’ as there are people, philosophies such as relativism, communism, rationalism or feminism. These are all different ideas about life, thought and action. Not all the ideas in the market place of thought are completely wrong or completely right, most errors stem from a truth that has been pushed too far one way or the other. It would be worthwhile looking briefly at four of the major schools of thought that underpin many current ideas held about the human person – Dualism, Manichaeism, Utilitarianism and Personalism. Read the rest of this entry »

Loneliness…the greatest tragedy of all

Posted: 21 December 2013

man-on-benchEach year, as so many of us wrap gifts, baste the Christmas turkey and look forward to the holiday fun, there is a growing proportion who will neither receive a gift, enjoy a festive meal or have the opportunity to celebrate with loved ones. These people are not only the homeless, the physically and mentally disabled, the widowed and the elderly, but in the Western World they are increasingly people in our own circles, the work colleague, the friendly neighbour, or the migrant family.

A recent survey conducted by Relationships Australia, discovered that up to 15% of the country reported frequently feeling lonely. New research commissioned by Age UK revealed that 450,000 British pensioners aged 65 and over face Christmas alone; 26% did not look forward to the Christmas season and 17% reported that Christmas brought back too many memories of those who had passed away.

Asked many years ago by an American reporter about the poorest country she had ever been too, the renowned nun Mother Teresa of Calcutta responded that while she had indeed been to many poor places the poorest one she encountered was America. Somewhat surprised the reporter reinforced that America was one of the wealthiest nations, but Mother went on to say that the poverty suffered was that of loneliness. Captured more fully in her later writings Mother Teresa explained, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.” Read the rest of this entry »

Men and Women…Are Not Equal

Posted: 16 October 2013

Men Women EqualityI am sorry to be the one to raise this issue but I am going to put it straight out there so there is no confusion: men and women are not equal. For two things to be perfectly equal they would need to be the same and it should be self-evident that a man and a woman are not the same. Not only are they different on the physical level but they differ in almost every way they relate to the world around them. Men and women have different communication skills, different uses of emotion and even different perceptions of pain. However just because men and women are different does not mean that one is better than the other, in fact the very existence of humanity depends on these differences. These differences are what we might call complementary and they are part of the richness and design of humanity.

We have a major problem in our modern society though, we want everything to be ‘equal’, at least equal in the way we think it should be equal. Marriage has to be suited to whatever combination certain people desire lest it be discriminatory, faith-based employers are forced into employing those not of, or contrary to, faith, and some workplaces have quotas placed upon them in order to employ equal numbers of men and women. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of Overpopulation

Posted: 5 June 2013

overpopulation PicAustralia recently welcomed its 23 millionth citizen. Of course we do not know who this person is exactly but they are out there somewhere. The person may have been a new born baby or possibly an immigrant who relocated to call Australia home. The news reports generally seemed to have been positive, or at least neutral, about our growing population numbers, which are still rather small compared to other nations. The same positivity was certainly not present when the global population ticked over to seven billion in early 2012. At that time there were renewed warnings from some quarters that earth could no longer continue with so many humans moving in.

Talk of overpopulation is nothing new. One of the foundational works on the subject was published in 1798 by an English Vicar named Thomas Malthus. Malthus believed that unchecked population growth would lead to a reduced standard of living and he actually advocated the death of poorer members of society so that those of a higher social status would not starve. Malthus predicted that society was about to reach a point where the planet would no longer be able to produce enough food causing worldwide starvation. Although his predictions of a global meltdown never came true, Malthus is still cited as an authoritative reference for those who advocate the forced curbing of population growth. Read the rest of this entry »

Death. A Part of Life.

Posted: 6 October 2012

It turns out that I am dying. One day, in the not too distant future, I will be dead. It may be tomorrow or it may be in seventy years, but either way, compared with the scope of history, it will be fairly soon. It will happen to me and to you and to everyone we know. In fact from the moment we are born we are on a path towards death. Death is actually happening all around us. As you read this an old man is breathing his last breath in a nursing home and a middle-aged woman is saying goodbye to her family in a hospital. Over 150,000 deaths occur worldwide each day, yet the modern psyche seems less equipped to deal with death than ever before.

For all of history, illness, death and grief have generally taken place in the home within a family context. However, in the Western World in the last century, death and illness have been relocated behind reception desks and security staff into hospitals, nursing homes and palliative care units. People go in and bodies come out. Yet for most of us the closest we will get to that, is sitting in our car next to a windowless mortuary van at the traffic lights. Of course our progress in healthcare and nursing is a wonderful achievement but it has come at a price, that of us seeing death as a somewhat unique anomaly. This compartmentalisation of death in modern society into purpose built institutions away from ‘real life’ has resulted in a general ignorance and even fear of death. Read the rest of this entry »

How Free is Our Free Will?

Posted: 12 February 2012

What are we to make of ‘free will’ in our lives, the ability to choose our own direction? The classic Catholic response is that human beings are created free because without freedom they could not choose to love God or love others. I was recently talking to a friend who was questioning how real this freedom was. Her point was that while we may say that we have free will, at the end of the day the choice is to love God or go to hell. For example if you ask a child whether they would rather eat chocolate or get stung by a bee, then they would obviously choose the least painful option but can we even call that a choice? I have certainly thought that same thing at times in my own life, but if I am honest they were always times when I did not feel that life was treating me so well and I began to resent ‘having’ to do the right thing lest I break a commandment.

We can fairly easily fall into the trap of being a bit tough on God though and legalistic on the concept of freedom. It is an unfair comparison to think that we either love God or go to hell, and I do not believe it is completely true. Those who are in hell are those who have fundamentally rejected truth, beauty and goodness in their lives. Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and was later killed by the Nazis, is quoted as saying, “all who seek truth seek God whether this is clear to them or not”. Inversely she is saying that all who reject truth reject God whether this is clear to them or not. To complain that we are ‘forced’ to choose the right path is akin to complaining that we are ‘forced’ to avoid drinking poison because if we do we will die. And in that sense it is true, we are not completely free as human persons. If I walk out in front of a moving train, I will die. If I pull off my fingernails with a pair of clippers, it will hurt (a lot). Our freedom is certainly limited but to go down the path merely thinking ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ will only lead to complete frustration and eventual insanity. Read the rest of this entry »