31 Mar 2013

March 31st

fully grown clove tree. www.ifood.tv

An Easter story relating to a tree.

For millennia, mankind's heartlessness has been demonstrated in their disregard for living trees. Men have cut down and decimated trees, our most beneficial relation, with whom we share common DNA. Trees raise the goodness from the earth and spread it above to maintain the planet's atmosphere. The bare Easter Island shows what happens when every last tree has gone. Even now, a massive area of Brazilian rainforest is being cleared to make another dam for profit.

In Ternate, Indonesia, the world's oldest spice tree has survived for 400 years, despite struggles to control every one of its clove-producing relations. Cloves, the dried flower buds of a tree which can grow up to 12m height, are used in cooking, either whole or in a ground form, as well as in some cigarettes, incense and perfume. The tree referred to as Afo was once 40 meters tall and four meters round. Sadly, today, all that remains is a massive stump and some bare branches inside a brick wall. A few years ago, villagers hungry for firewood attacked the tree with machetes.

clove flowers. www.ifood.tv
For millennia, Ternate and its neighbor were the world's only source of the fragrant, twig-like herbs. Cloves were traded by Arab seafarers along the maritime Silk Route as far afield as the Middle East, Europe and China.  A Han dynasty ruler from the 3rd Century BC insisted that anyone addressing him chew cloves to sweeten their breath. Their origin was a fiercely-guarded secret until the Portuguese and Spanish burst into the Java Sea in the 16th Century. 

If the Dutch had had their way, Afo would not have survived at all. The Netherlands United East India Company seized total control of spice production in 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish. All clove trees not controlled by them were uprooted and burned. Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorization faced the death penalty—already carried out on the entire male population of Banda, the world's only source of nutmeg. To keep prices high, only 800-1,000 tones of cloves were exported per year, the rest burned or dumped in the sea. 

Somehow, the tree Afo managed to slip through the net. Mankind took on a kinder role, perhaps motivated by profit and deception. In 1770, a Frenchman stole some of Afo's seedlings and distributed them in France, then the Seychelles Islands and, eventually, Zanzibar. Today the seedlings have produced plantations of clove trees at Zanzibar, the world's largest producer of cloves. 

Although the 400-year-old tree is dead to all intents and purposes, new life has sprung forth like the Easter story.

29 Mar 2013

March 29th


By respecting each other, we can quell any argument about who created our Earth and all it contains. Over thousands of years in every country of the world, religions, and the way each person worships God, have changed. Rather than delve into every religion, I'll concentrate on England and America.

Today, on Good Friday, Christians remember the death of Jesus. Sad Friday, I used to call it.

Christianity emerged in the area around Palestine and Israel in the mid-1st century AD. Christianity spread initially from Jerusalem throughout the Near East, into places such as Syria, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Jordan and Egypt. In the 4th century it was successively adopted as the state religion by Armenia in 301, Georgia in 319, the Aksumite Empire in 325, and the Roman Empire in 380. It became common to all of Europe in the Middle Ages and expanded throughout the world during Europe's Age of Exploration from the Renaissance onwards to become the world's largest religion

In England, Henry VIII made the first break away from traditional Catholic religion. Born on 28 June, he reigned from 21 April 1509 until his death in 28 January 1547. He was lord, and later king, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France. Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. 

Persecuted by the English, the Quakers left for America. In 1682, William Penn received a grant which the King called Pennsylvania. The first settlement of Philadelphia quickly became one of the largest in the New World.

Before the invasion from abroad, Native American beliefs were deeply rooted in their culture. Until this day, they believe everything to be sacred from a mountain to a bee. They honor, love and respect the Creator and Mother Earth as well as every living thing. The Elders keep the culture alive and share an understanding that everything is part of the One.

In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. A group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships formed a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.
Today there are 2 billion Christians, one third of humanity. Christianity divided into the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church in the Great Schism of 1054. The Protestant Reformation split the Catholic Church into many different denominations.

The United Kingdom has been through many changes in their spiritual beliefs.

In Iron Age Britain and France, Druid priests carried out religious rituals. The Romans, who visited and later conquered France and Britain, met the nature-loving Druids and wrote about their beliefs and rites. Although these writings may not always have been completely truthful, it is clear that the Druids were an important group of people in many Iron Age societies.

Now days, the United Kingdom respects the different races and religions of all its citizens.
Representing the rights of all in 1826, the UCL University offered places to students of any race, class or religion and welcomed female students on equal terms with men. Beforehand, university education in England was restricted to males of the Church of England. The university challenged discrimination. Spiritual and moral systems offered by religious rituals, such as dress, diet and prayer, form an integral part of traditions and beliefs. 

The Jewish faith Judaism continues its ancient practices amongst the other UK citizens from the world. Their UK population is the second largest in the world. 

Others include: Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. 

Where reasonably practicable, the needs of people from all religious backgrounds, and also of those with no religious affiliation, are valued. However, nobody should impinge upon the needs and freedoms of others. Terrorist attacks from one group of believers against another can never be tolerated. Peace depends on respecting one another.

28 Mar 2013

March 28th

Have humans incited the wrath of God? Now, as well as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, a severe plague of locusts has descended over the unique island of Madagascar

Quote from the bible, Exodus 10. 'The Lord said to Moses: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields'.

Whether we believe the bible word-for-word or not, the collection of stories forms part of our history. Presumably, the change from grasshopper to locust was a natural occurrence even then, and one feared by mankind. It must have been terrifying to have all available food wiped out by an unstoppable swarm.

The island of Madagascar is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones which bring torrential rains and destructive floods. A recent cyclone provided optimum conditions which allowed another generation of locusts to breed. About half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms made up of billions of plant-devouring insects.

Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island. Because of its isolation off the east coast of Africa, most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth. Click here to see the unique mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees including Baobabs and the habitats. The World Bank has estimated that 70% of the population lives on less than $1 per day. Poverty and the competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife and key to its emerging tourist industry.

Now, locusts will devour rice crops and decimate livestock. 22m people could be threatened by a significant worsening of hunger in a country that already had extremely high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization estimated the need for $22m to avert starvation for  60% of the population. 

I can't help wondering why groups already at risk are the ones most likely to suffer hardship. Divine providence or Mother Nature's forces? No matter which, the weak are targeted.

27 Mar 2013

March 27th

Where do ideas come from?

Over a thousand letters written by Charles Darwin to his good friend are about to be published. The words express his emotional side in a way previously unknown when he speaks of deaths in his family. The first tentative approaches to his theory on evolution are more like an apology, as if he's committing a murder of ideas and faith. See the full story here. The letters as a whole are hailed as a wonderful set of documents about Victorian science, but also show the social bonds that could be forged in correspondence.

Famed for his theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin travelled extensively, most famously as the naturalist on the Beagle on an expedition to South America and the Galapagos Islands. At the end of the voyage, he approached Joseph Hooker to work on classifying his collection of plants. After comparing two lists, one entitled Marry, the other entitled Not Marry, he married Emma Wedgewood in 1839. They produced 10 children, three of whom died in infancy.

How did Darwin develop his ideas and subdue the strict religious beliefs of the day? Now days, scientists are encouraged to think freely. 

Truth, seen through each person's eyes, developed in their brain and filtered by their emotions is different for each person. One person's account of a traumatic event, like an accident, will differ from another's. I remember learning in Religious Studies at school nearly sixty years ago that each person faces a central fire to see a different flame. The flame represented God or the Creator in that circumstance.

Many people have expounded the idea of a Universal Consciousness. Scientists have proven a common DNA in all living things. So we're linked to trees, snakes, animals, insects and a banana. Can certain people hone in on their contact with living things and absorb information? Perhaps this explains telepathy.

The legendary seer, Edgar Cayce said that when a person thinks, that thought makes an impression on the Universal Consciousness. Nothing is lost or done in secret, and each thought affects the whole.

This could explain how two inventors, living apart at a time when communication could only be achieved by letter, came up with the same thing. A case in point is the invention of the telephone. Born in Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell lived in Ontario, Canada, with his deaf wife. This led him to invent the microphone and later, in London, the electrical speech machine, his name for the first telephone. Elisha Gray, a Quaker from rural Ohio, came up with the same idea at the same time, but because of an earlier court case, Bell won the caveat.

In my own experience, ideas concerning writing penetrate during my morning meditation. Such profound, clear thoughts lead me to expand and modify what I'm working on. I don't actively seek advice—it just comes. Sometimes, I'm amazed at the diversity and I question whether they came from my own mind at all—or somewhere else.

Do you have similar experiences, where an idea seems to pop out of nowhere?