Monday, 15 November 2010


I have to dedicate this blog to a friend. Her random Facebook status update has bought me back to updating this blog. She asked whether we were guilty of using the word love too freely. So were we trivialising the potential intensity and power of that simple 4 letter word?

She got some interesting responses, but not one from me! I suppose in truth I didn't really have an answer. Subconsciously I may even have thought it was a frivolous question and that it really didn't matter. One comment on the status update suggested that the since the word had such positive connotations, it was better than all the negativity in todays society.

It was only quite suddenly that it dawned on me that perhaps this was the crux of the problem. Through a lack of exposure or real understanding of the word, was love being used too freely to gloss over society's real problems? I am pretty sure the answer to that question is yes. Until this point I hadn't actually given the question much thought it was only when I came across some poetry that I actually started to think about it. Rumi a 13th century philosopher advocated unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love.

"In the existence of your love, I have become non existent, this non existence, linked to you is better than all existence."

The profound declarations of love in his poetry go beyond what we hear with the almost plastic artists we hear blaring from our iPods. Another verse:

"Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it"

I have quoted two sentences that I feel I can vaguely comprehend, there were so many others that I'm not sure I have the capacity to really grasp. What they all seem to have in common though, was an unconditional, unwavering, steadfast love which has been beautifully expressed through poetry but appreciated by only a few.

After studying such poetry i am quite often thrust suddenly into the sounds of Justin Bieber which perhaps more appropriately is loved by my 2 year old. so one of his songs state "Love me love me say that you love me, fool me fool me oh how you do me"

I know Justin Bieber fans aren't seeking lyrical depth. A few good sounds put together, will get us all singing and grooving along but the constant exposure to such a base interpretation of love is perhaps guilty of trivialising the purity of love expressed by the likes of Rumi. This lacklustre form of love is the type widely banded around and it is this hollowness that supposedly inspired the original facebook status update. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Nature vs Nurture the debate continues

Advancement in today’s society brings with it a false sense of security. we forget the importance of nature and just how powerful it is. there is one war that man will never win, no matter how intelligent and superior man feels against nature we will all at some point in our lives be humbled.
I don’t go to funerals. I avoid them, not because I am rude in disposition, I just feel awkward in these situations. I rarely know what to say to the bereaving family, anything I say would sound trite, no matter how sincere the feeling behind those quivering words. Yet I found myself at a funeral here in Golders Green, London. She wasn’t related to me, she wasn’t a close friend and yet I felt compelled to go. I simply had to pay my last respects. Maybe I am just growing up and better able to convey my condolences. No, that isn’t very convincing, my attendance was impulsive; I guess these situations are usually bereft of long term planning. At some stage in our relatively short lives, we will be exposed to the passing of someone we know. That’s a morbid thought, the prospect of attending the funeral of someone who has made an impression in my life, in some shape or form. This is unfortunately a proven science; we will all have to face our death at sometime. Religion, for many, is a way of life that eases the burden of their own death. This young lady, whom I had known for sometime, had died of cancer. She left behind a husband and young toddler. What was poignant about her death was the dignity with which she coped with her illness and made her final exit. Maybe this was why I needed to be at Golders Green Crematorium on that balmy Thursday afternoon. In her dying moments she asked her husband to undress her, she wished to depart in the same way she arrived 32 years earlier, naked. This was her return to nature. She was not averse to medical intervention, she would have willingly returned to her full life if her cancer had been cured. Unfortunately, medical intervention failed her, rather than being consumed by self-pity and fear she accepted her fate as determined by Mother Nature. It is the graciousness with which she prepared for her imminent departure that drew me to her, albeit a little late in life. Death through illness brings the survival of the fittest theory to mind. These old Darwinian theories explained how early man survived and how the stronger genes thrived through generations, this law being similarly applied to the animal kingdom. We are fortunate enough to have access to medicine for certain illnesses, furthermore it is apparent that for some, the treatment they receive cures their illness, unfortunately for others, nature prevails over a potential cure and it is in these cases that the Darwinian theories of survival are discernible. Today, with the advent of medical science, we are able to prevent numerous premature deaths; we are even able to assist childless couples to have big families. It is clear to see that the opportunities available to us in all aspects of life, including medical science, technology and travel have evolved over the centauries, providing more freedom to individuals. The freedoms and opportunities man has created are all a direct consequence of the way he has used intelligence. It is mans intelligence that has made him the most superior living being on the planet and has thereby enabled him to create a society where these opportunities and freedoms are abounded. The nature nurture debate on intelligence, among other human traits, has kept psychologists busy for a while now. There is no definitive answer on whether intelligence is acquired through appropriate nurturing or whether it is something that we are born with. A sensible medium is that it is something we are all born with and fostering it can help to create the geniuses among us. If we are prepared to accept that intelligence is first and foremost born out of nature it our perceptions about the opportunities created through mans intelligence can be more positive. In future generations, it may be a real possibility that cancer will not cause such anguish to families. Gene therapy could be another way that man sidesteps nature thereby helping to prolong life through the cure of cancer and other such diseases. At the moment the possibility of this is a long way off, as of the estimated 100,000 types of genes carried by human beings, scientists understand the workings of very few, thus rendering gene therapy in it’s early stages. Despite the infancy of this amazing medical operation, controversy surrounds the ethics of a procedure that allows man to divert the course of nature. It is entirely understandable that concepts such as gene therapy arouse fears about the creation of “designer babies”. Worse still, it instils worries about a return to the early 1900’s when there was a surge in the Eugenics movement, which purported the sterilisation of those, that were mentally ill, suffered from epilepsy or alcoholism in an attempt to prevent these illnesses from affecting future generations. Perhaps a thorough understanding of the types of gene therapy that are currently under trial will add credibility to its usage. In short, existing gene therapy trials do not target reproductive cells hence they do not affect future generations in any way whatsoever. Typically gene transfer involves delivering a corrective gene to defective cells. This has raised the issue of ethics because at present viruses are used to deliver the genes. Unfortunately viruses have caused numerous other health problems in patients undergoing the trials. It is reassuring however to see that alternatives to using viruses to deliver genes are being explored. In response to those that argue that by carrying out such procedures we are playing god, it seems that we are arrogantly assuming that man has such a stranglehold over nature! Whilst man may attempt, through the advancement of medicine, to help those that wish to continue their lives, man is unable to determine how Mother Nature will ultimately take her course. If god has provided man with intelligence and he is using this responsibly, in order to help others, it seems absurd that procedures such as Gene Therapy should be disallowed on the grounds of religion. Gene therapy should be viewed as a positive step for humankind in playing an assisting role with nature to save lives, particularly the lives of children. My friend graciously accepted her return to nature, the nature that we are all born out of and the very nature that is part of our daily lives. We should respect nature, however there shouldn’t be this constant fear of using nature in different ways, we all need nature to exist, it is simply that the advancement of society is changing the way that we use nature. There are societies within our planet that are still so far behind western civilisation that those living amongst these societies would count themselves fortunate to have access to even the most basic medical help. Several years ago, I embarked on a trip to India – during my trip, I visited a remote village in western India with my friend. There we met a family who really were living on the edge of what a lot of westerners would call civilisation. Despite the minimalist surroundings and the obvious lack of wealth, their hospitality oozed warmth that I have yet to re-experience. The difference between the humble surroundings that I saw within this family’s existence, compared to a lot of those living in the western world, was that they appeared to be closer to nature and perhaps needed nature more covertly for their daily survival. It is important to remember that we are just as dependent on nature as any other corner of the globe. The important thing that I realised during this trip is that nature permeates the lives of people in all spectrums of society, it is simply the usage of it is more sophisticated in some societies, this however does not mean that it is wrong especially in the advancement of genuine medical need. It is plausible that it was in India that my friend became aware of the way that nature saturates two societies so differently. It appears that during her illness she appreciated the importance of adapting to the way nature and man work alongside each other in our differing societies. Therefore she willingly allowed the use of medicine to cure her cancer, when this failed, she accepted her fate totally contentedly. This was the same contentedness that I saw in our hosts in that remote village, despite our perceptions that they were living incredibly difficult lives. In both cases it can be argued that it was the understanding of the boundaries and limitations of nature that bought about a sense of satisfaction that one can only aspire to achieve. There is a tendency for humans to arrive at a somewhat arrogant assumption that man is more powerful than nature and hence able to interfere with it to such an extent, that it will be detrimental to our future. But within the natural kingdom itself evolution insists that weaker species make way for stronger. It is out of this that we see the regeneration of new species and plantations. We certainly cannot get by in our humble existence on this planet without nature. Just as we arrived with the help of nature, Mother Nature will in the end determine our final days. In the interim it is our prerogative as to how we live a fulfilling life alongside nature. Provided mans conscience prevails, there is very little that man can do over and above Mother Nature’s wishes. 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