If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

I braved what has (since Friday) been waiting for me outside my front door. It's been a while since I've stuck around for the Carnival and I had forgotten just how loud the music is. Not only did my chest hurt but I could hear people's heartbeats nearby me. It's not my cup of tea (I'd actually much prefer a cup of tea), but this debauched festival is here to stay. For another day at least.

Writing this now, in my double-glazed room, I can see a bottle of water in front of me bopping along to the beats of the calypso.

If you've never been (and are interested), here are some photos to whet your appetite:

Oddly reminds me of a Banksy

The lengths that people will go to...

Sunday 30th August - PS.

PS. I don’t mean to be a bore but if you do feel like gracing the Carnival with your presence, please take a moment to think about those who reside in the area the other 363 days of the year, before throwing your rubbish into someone’s garden or relieving yourself on what is normally utilised as a front door. (end of rant)

Much appreciated.

Friday 28th August - Notting Hill Carnival

And so it has begun. The two (unofficially three) day street festival known as the Notting Hill Carnival is back for another year, and once again local residents are feeling its effects before its even started.

Damn those alluring toe-tapping steel pan players. They'll be practicing till at least 2am, I'm sure of it.

Please pray for our souls - and our sanity.

Free Will

In my last post I briefly mentioned the concept of choice. During my short time grazing the vast surface of theology, I’ve learnt that many Christians find it difficult – or at least confounding – to reconcile the idea of free will with an omnipotent, omniscient (not to mention benevolent) God.

Last year, in one of my modules, we momentarily touched upon this seemingly apparent dichotomy between man possessing free will and God. Seeing as my lecturer, Professor Alan Torrance (a highly acclaimed theologian and on the whole a charming man in my opinion) is a Calvinist, most of what he teaches his students are his own beliefs. I do not think he agreed with it entirely, but Perkin’s Golden Chain was one of them.

Perkin’s Golden Chain, in short, illustrates a flow chart of soteriology which demonstrates that man does not have the choice to accept or deny God, but that faith is the product of God’s ‘effectual call’. If one takes Perkin’s Chain to be correct then free will is simply a delusion that man endures; similar to the lives of the proles I mentioned in my 1984 post. But surely this example of Hyper-Calvinism contradicts the Catholic belief that humanity does in fact have free will? Aquinas believed that man has the freedom of choice (liberum arbitrium) and that this choice works with God’s grace and not in contradiction to it. He says, ‘People are free to make decisions. Otherwise counsels, precepts, prohibitions, rewards and punishment would all be pointless’ (ST Ia, 83, 1).

For Aquinas, God cannot intervene in the choices of man as He created them to be freely acting agents; to interfere would prevent them from doing so.
It is as if God has laid out several paths for us and we have the opportunity to choose which route to take. This is similar to Calvinist compatabilism.

But if God is the ultimate cause of our decisions then perhaps you ask whether we are truly free at all? If this is the case, then is God to blame when people choose to lie, steal and murder? Such a question gives rise to another: If God is the Ultimate Good, then how can Evil exist in the world?

Quote of the Day

The living soul demands to live, the living soul isn't obedient to the laws of mechanics. the living soul is suspicious, the living soul is reactionary! ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Thursday 27th August - 'I Want to Ride my Bicycle'

Whilst cycling along the canal today, I marvelled at the way it only takes a trace of the sun's radiance to make something so usually dull, just wonderful.

Why Ask the Big Questions?

I remember being told about a conversation between two people. They were both watching Tom & Jerry when one of them said, ‘Is this the best life has to offer? Watching a Tom & Jerry episode which I’ve already seen?’ when the other person replied, ‘Don’t think about that. You’ll waste your life doing that. Just enjoy it.’

Yes, well who in their right mind would waste their time contemplating the meaning of life, let alone at least for the next three years of their life?
Many people ask me why I even bother studying theology when you can just think about the questions of life whenever and wherever, with no need to sit in a lecture theatre or in a tutorial. Why squander away time asking questions that will most probably never get answered?

See, for me it’s not about the answers. I don’t expect to ever become aware of the meaning of life, discover why love is so paradoxical or quite grasp why there is suffering in the world when we have such a loving God. I’m in it for the journey. The pilgrimage. I find that by asking these questions I discover a lot about the world, about humanity and what I believe. That, for me, is all I need to know.

George Orwell's 1984

I’ve just finished reading Orwell’s 1984 and it’s left me feeling quite futile if telescreens and brainwashing are what we have to look forward to in the future.

I was discussing it with a friend the other day, and we were wondering whether Orwell had any inkling as to just how much of an insight he had into the future of humanity. I hate to sound depressing but his book has made me really think. 1984 provides no hope whatsoever for the future of mankind, implying that we evolve to become mindless robots that can be manipulated by a merciless oligarchy.

And the idea of the proles; Orwell depicts them as being totally unaware of being fed lies that they believe to be reality. But if one thinks about it, it’s sort of already occurring in our society today. Well, what I mean is that it’s not difficult to see aspects of it peering through our everyday life. Did you ever think perhaps we are the proles? That we are the ignorant mass that could do something about the way the world is but are just totally na├»ve to the fact that this is the case?

If what we felt was reality was actually a lie would we prefer to know the truth, regardless of how horrible it may be? Would we take the red or the blue pill?

My friend argued that if the ‘world was really corrupt, damaged and beyond repair’ then she would prefer the lie, and take the blue pill. I on the other hand would have to take the red one. Why live the lie, despite it being the happiest thing you have envisaged (although in 1984 even the lie is pretty bleak), if you know that the truth is out there waiting to be found? My exact words to my friend were:

Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m a theologian, but I’d rather be told the truth, as the truth is the only thing worth knowing.

I said that then, but obviously I cannot say for definite that given the situation that I wouldn’t change my mind. But I still cannot help but fail to see the rationale in living a lie if you have the choice to choose to pursue the truth.

Credit to Andrei Robu for the image.

Wednesday 26th August - Quote of the Day

At the door of the monastery, place a sensible old man who knows how to take a message and deliver a reply, and whose age keeps him from roaming about ~ Chapter 66: Rule of St Benedict

Quote of the Day

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist ~ The Usual Suspects

Monday 24th August - Dawkins' Theory of Evolution

Really insightful article that Professor Richard Dawkins wrote for The Times, outlining the need for religious clergy to clarify their beliefs in evolution. I know many people dislike this man with a passion, detest his bigoted attitude, but even if you may not agree with him, he has interesting things to say (I've met him and some of the things he says are really quite remarkable) that -assuming you believe in God- can only strengthen your faith as a Catholic apologist.

I won't recall the whole of the article to you, but if you get the chance you should certainly give it the once over. Below are some of my thoughts on what he has said:
To return to the enlightened bishops and theologians, it would be nice if they’d put a bit more effort into combating the anti-scientific nonsense that they deplore. - Now who's trying to coerce?

All too many preachers, while agreeing that evolution is true and Adam and Eve never existed, will then blithely go into the pulpit and make some moral or theological point about Adam and Eve in their sermons without once mentioning that, of course, Adam and Eve never actually existed! - Even if preachers did not believe that Adam and Eve existed-which I'm sure is not the case- it is not necessary to divulge this to their congregation. The pulpit is not the place to be mentioning what one personally thinks. But is where the Word of God is spoken, and -nota bene- not the Word of Man.
Discussing morality involves deep conversation about a world distant from the physical. We cannot engage in it with our senses, but rather with our minds, which is why we result in using ostensive definitions. Or in other words, metaphors.
How is the person in the pew, or on the prayer-mat, supposed to know which bits of scripture to take literally, which symbolically? - See, this is what you get when someone tries to rationalise faith. Superfluous philosophical questions (I have nothing against philosophy by the way) that strain the mind searching for an answer that most likely doesn't want to be found. Although, I think the answer he is looking for is reason. Oh wait, yes I forgot, he doesn't believe that reason is related in any way WHATSOEVER with faith. How silly of me to think so.

Does Professor Dawkins really expect someone to justify what they say ALL the time?
Parent telling son a bedtime story: There was once a dragon... but of course dragons don't exist, who would be silly enough to believe that?!...and the dragon had a friend which was a griffin... again something that doesn't exist, because you know a griffin is actually an imagined hybrid between an eagle and a lion, it's hard to explain where the legend actually came from and why some people still believe in them... wait, what was I saying again?

What makes him so sure that he is right, when he implies that priests and vicars should tell their congregations outright that Adam and Eve didn't exist? If religious clergy were to say that what else might they feel that they should tell them?

Priest: ...Oh yes, you know the Great Flood didn't actually happen? It was just a patter of rain that fell on an old man's fishing boat. We just tell that story to scare the bejesus out of you. Same goes with that guy, you know the one, Jesus? Yeah, well he was just like any other man. He had a beard that never grew, but that's the only miracle about him. Wait, you know what, I might as well just tell you. The whole Bible, it's just a story. Who'd have thought it eh?!

Sunday 23rd August - Quote of the Day

If you are what you should be, you should set the whole world on fire! ~ St Catherine of Siena

Quote of the Day

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever ~ George Orwell's 1984

Saturday 22nd August - Not All Teenagers are the Same

Really now? They seemed to do a good job convincing the British public that.


I've finished my journalism 'course' and have been accredited with my 'qualification'. Not as momentous as Bobby McHale's achievement of getting on a bus (which for me would just be too stressful to go through), but it's an achievement nonetheless.

I met some great people and I hope to stay in touch with some of them. Here are a few shots of just how glamorous media journalism can be:

Friday 21st August - Quote of the Day

Only build bridges with those who are willing to cross them ~ Ricardo Roberts-Libbert

Quote of the Day

Reality is paradoxical ~ Anonymous

Thursday 20th August - Let's Get Crazy

Today must be 'Let's Get Crazy' day. In the space of 2 mins I have seen 3 men attempt to scale the front of M&S and a lady sing opera to the automatic doors of said building.
All from the comfort of my seat.

I think it's going to be a good day.

Wednesday 19th August - Quote of the Day

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ~ Romans 7:15

The Confessions of St Augustine

I've begun to read The Confessions of St Augustine in order to get myself theologizing before the start of the semester. I noticed that St Augustine asks the question: ‘But how will people call upon you if they do not believe in you?’ What I ask is: How do people –who believe in you- call upon you when they doubt their belief of believing in you?
I sometimes feel that I’m losing touch with my faith, with what I’ve believed for most of my life. For so long I have strived to return to a time when putting God first was habitual to me, when questioning what I believe was never a question I had to ask, or when I could confidently say that I was happy. But no longer does this place in time exist. Perhaps, given time, it will once again be reachable. I can only hope -and pray- that this is so.

Friday 14th August - Memory

Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us ~ Oscar Wilde

Ever since I can remember I’ve known how to play the piano. I had a lesson here and there at secondary school, but quickly became fed up of playing scales over and over again. I’m not great, but I can perform a piece or two. It may come as a surprise to you but I can’t actually read notes; the same goes for when I play the drums. I think it’s been seven years since I first learnt how to play, and perhaps a year since I’ve played anything, but seat me in front of a piano and my muscle memory will effortlessly guide my fingers across the keys.

What fascinates me is the way our memory works. Is there something within our subconscious that chooses what to remember? If this is the case, why can I remember trivial things such as Angela Lansbury was the teapot in Beauty and the Beast? Or that an oenophile is someone who appreciates wine? And yet, I can’t remember my first day at school - or much of my primary school life for that matter. I even struggle to recall what I ate yesterday…

My mind’s like a box of Trivial Pursuit cards - but with the questions torn off.

I've read that we sometimes forget certain things because old information is replaced by new information. But that still doesn't answer my question. Why would anyone in their right mind choose useless facts over noteworthy memories? Maybe we don't actually get a chance to choose? Maybe our collection of memories are filtered by a Sorting Hat? Or perhaps they were just not that noteworthy after all?

Anyway, I’ve come to three possible conclusions:

1. My mind prefers to remember things that give me a false sense of security and contentment, veiling a set of memories that are too overwhelming to recall
2. I’ve developed dementia in my old age
3. I had a difficult childhood featuring a talking teapot and a lot of wine

I'm thinking the third one is most likely.

Wednesday 12th August - Journalism

I've enrolled myself on to a (free) Journalism course offered by my local borough.

Our goal at the end of the two weeks is to create a DVD on the summer services that the borough offers, interviewing the public and trying our hand at being top notch journalists and cameramen/women (people?).

Not only is it a good chance to meet new people, gain some skills, and a benefit for my CV, but it's a pretty good reason to get me off my backside and do something constructive.

Who knows, maybe in the foreseeable future you may just see my name in an article near you. Or not.

Saturday 8th August - London (and Philippines)

Being back in London, I have returned to a pile of correspondence I need to sort through as well as the (much-missed) typical English weather. It's good to be home.
I've also discovered that I took over 2000 photos whilst away.
Here are a few more for your enjoyment.
How many men does it take to build a barbecue? Six
He looks like a little Buddha. Aw
Manila Bay
Instead of teaching my cousins English, they learn relevant facial expressions such as this
Oh, if only they knew!
Erm...wrong by any chance?
Now why didn't we think of spelling it like this?
He may look adorable, but looks can be deceiving...Trust me on this one

Taking a Risk

I read in the paper today that former headteacher Susan Duncan was caught spending money on a vacation to Jamaica.

But wait, she had a reason - or so she says.
Ms. Duncan claims it was 'to carry out risk assessments for school trips'.

Ah, well I guess that's ok.

Anyone else want to make a risk assessment? Raise your hand.

Friday 7th August - Baggage Reclaim

I arrived home empty handed (literally).

I was informed at Baggage Reclaim that my suitcase had decided to extend its vacation and was still in Hong Kong.

Selfish bugger.

Thursday 6th August - Goodbye is Not Forever

This morning it was time for me to bid farewell to the country they call the Pearl of the Orient.

I hugged my cousins as they went off to school, said bye to all the neighbours and even had a chance to play with my godson before I left.

At Manila airport only departing passengers are able to enter the airport, not unlike in the UK where friends and family can accompany their loved ones.
So, we said our goodbyes in the unloading bay: my Lola cried her eyes out, my cousin wrapped himself around my leg and my brother pat me on the back reminding me to buy the things on his list. All in all t'was a bit emotional.

Although, for me, it was not until we were 10,000 feet in the air above the slums of Manila, that I wondered when I would be able to visit again - and more importantly, whether I would be able to fulfil my Lola's wish of seeing her once more.

Monday 3rd August - Last Trip

Today my last outing - before returning to the land of fish and chips - was to Acuatico Beach Resort Laiya, Batangas.

I won't bore you with the journey or how many times my couin slipped; all there is to know is that there was sand, sea, pools and food. The only thing missing was the sun.

But we can't have everything now, can we?

The Infinity Pool and the Sibuyan Sea He can't swimStranded at sea
'Yer wanna a piece o' me?'