Saturday 26 August 2017

All that is

I started thinking about the nature of the universe, harking a long way back to when I was a physics Professor!  Then the excitement was to understand how it all started: what was the nature of the "big bang" that started the universe (or was it quick squirt?); or is it really a "multiverse"?
But surely this is thinking the wrong way round: the question is, what is the nature of my own being, that draws me to other people, and to the inner wonder of the earth's creatures?     
More trees! And the oaks dominate with their fastness. Two days ago we were out with our grandchildren. They're much more practical than me, using fallen sticks to make a "den" - while I lifted my gaze to the tree's highest reach and got all soppy. The kids have got it right.

Saturday 12 August 2017


Here's my standard recipe for wholemeal bread:

 BREAD (revised 12/8/2017)
Apparatus (in addition to usual)
3 cooking tins, Measuring jug, grinder (e.g. mortar and pestal)

50 gm yeast
250 gm strong white bread flour  
1 kg strong wholemeal bread flour 
Sesame, sunflower and linseeds to taste.
A little sugar ad lib.
Up to 720ml warm water as required
1.3 tsp salt
About 2 serving spoons of vegetable oil for kneading.

If using gas, heat up in good time.
Oil 3 bread pans with butter (or do this while waiting for first rise) .
Cream yeast with a little sugar, add 150 ml warm water, cover with
 some  of the white flour and leave to rise.
Put remaining white flour in one heap in mixing bowl and wholemeal
 flour  in another heap.
Roast sesame seeds, grind with some of the wholemeal flour and
 return  to its heap.
Roast sunflower seeds and add to wholemeal heap.
Put linseed to soak with water in a cup .
Mix everything, except linseed, with salt, oil and 500-550ml warm
water as required and knead.
Kneed and leave in warm place to “prove”.

Divide into 3 parts for bread pans and put to rise. (if pans are same
           shapes it’s quickest to weigh the  parts)      
(If not done already, oil 3 bread pans with butter.
Spread linseed over them

Cook for about 25 min.
(Gas: 8 reducing to 6. three in parallel  
 AGA: start with sideways pan at back. Later reverse and
   put in deflector)

Friday 11 August 2017

Yes: God again ...

The notion of single human-like god who created "all that is" seems to have developed some 3300 years ago (from ancient Egypt) and has developed ever since through Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jesus and Muhammad experienced God an a way that made it appropriate to speak of god as God: person-like. But their concept of the universe was fully graspable. You might say that their universe was a lager version of what could be seen from a high mountain.
Now we can speak of multiple universes, twisting time and space within each.

So what is that I, none the less, "believe"?
The best I can do is to recognise that what I think is "the universe" is tightly limited to the capacity of my own humanity. "The Universe is physics" is as narrow as "God is love" and the nature of each is bottomless. And in addition to thinking, there is nature of my own being, that can join reach out to the being of other people, of the trees and the hills - and perhaps beyond.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

This morning I went to Winchester Cathedral, an easy bus-ride from us.
 I'd been there a few times earlier, but it really struck me this time: varieties of "stuff" randomly placed everywhere: wildly twisted struts supporting the ceiling; no discernible spirituality aspects delineating different sections; a rather large, randomly area for "silence" (no mention of prayer) and the whole place swarming with site-seers (though I appreciate their need for keeping the show on the road.)
Any "oldies" remember the song 'Winchester Cathedral, your braking me down? Give me Romsey Abbey or Salisbury Cathedral any time!

Sunday 6 August 2017

Torreciudad declaration

I've just read the "Torreciudad declaration" for the future of the world inspired by Pope Francis. Here's an abbreviated version - well worth reading:

1. The vast majority of people living on our planet believe in the importance  of spiritual and religious
traditions in their daily lives. Abbreviated text of the “Torreciudad declaration”
1. The vast majority of people living on our planet believe in the importance of spiritual and religious traditions in their daily lives. These provide a source of inspiration and moral values, as well as a cosmological vision of who we are in relation to the Divine, the Earth, and our fellow humans. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity... 
2. Science plays a critical role in understanding environmental problems, monitoring trends, and projecting future outcomes. Environmental degradation is global, both in terms of the areas and the subjects affected. Climate change, ocean acidification, water and air pollution, biodiversity and habitat loss, and many other problems have to be tackled by integrating many different disciplines within the natural and social sciences and the humanities. Close cooperation among the key disciplinary fields is required. 
3. Science alone cannot solve the current ecological crisis. Stronger cooperation is needed with all actors including political bodies, non-government organizations, and corporations. Religious and spiritual traditions are the oldest source of moral values, wisdom and inspiration. They inspire us to live in justice, peace and harmony. Spiritual and cultural values enable us to avoid overconsumption, which leads to environmental degradation.  A closer cooperation between scientists and religious leaders in promoting environmental awareness and action is required.
4. Religious and spiritual communities have a prominent role in education worldwide, particularly of young people. Therefore, of all faiths advocate an “ecological conversion” from our unsustainable lifestyles. The required radical changes entail not just giving more attention to environmental issues or making a superficial reduction to our consumption patterns. They imply “a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm” (Laudato si’, §111). Religious institutions should be more actively engaged in being responsible custodians of the Earth, instead of her destroyers.
5. The severity of environmental problems and their trends poses a serious risk to the habitability of our planet. We are responsible for recent climate change, due to our intensive use of fossil fuels, with potentially catastrophic impacts on natural systems and society. We are causing massive extinctions of species, most of them unknown and forever lost to us and to our descendants. We are polluting air and waters, disrupting ecosystems, cutting down forests, destroying fertile soils, and squandering resources. As a result, the most vulnerable people, in particular the poor, marginalized, and excluded, are already severely suffering the consequences. Environmental and social problems often have the same roots and they should be tackled simultaneously: “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (Laudato si’, §139). 
6. We urgently need to reverse the most threatening trends in environmental degradation. We need to encourage a new model of progress that integrates human and natural ecology and promotes clean energies and sustainable economies. We need to find creative ways of living that concentrate on essential values instead of leading us to absurd consumerism (less is more); we need a realistic and hopeful way of thinking that makes our lives happier, while encouraging care for other humans and for other living beings and habitats. We need Science and Religion working together to make this necessary change happen.