Hark! As Christmas approaches here’s an interesting story to find a place amongst the headlines as religion meets science. It’s almost like a cross between a Dan Brown novel and the Dark Matter trilogy. Just as well that Father Renzo didn’t propose this 600 years ago or so or he’d probably have ended up in the torture chambers of the Spanish Inquistion. We’re more tolerant today!
Angels Gabriel and Raphael, Samael and Uriel, Sataniel.
Not cherubims with feathered wings
nor seraphims floating high
but rays of light,
refracted through a crystal vase,
instants of goodness,
at the very heart of angelology.
And where there’s light there’s dark
where demons lurk
Satan skirting time,
flirting through dimensions,
of dark-matter in our minds.
Thus religion has been modernised.
Angels have been energised.
Demons’ darkness recognised.
Science has been harmonised
in Father Renzo Lavatori’s eyes.
20th December 2013 – headline from the Independent
Notes: “Angels exist, but are shards of light NOT winged cherubs.” A top Italian priest has risked the wrath of the world’s Christians by claiming that, although angels exists, they are more like shards of light than winged cherubs resembling humans. Father Renzo Lavatori, who describes himself as an ‘angelologist’, says that belief in angels has grown enormously in recent years, a trend he attributes to a modern Christianity absorbing and drawing influence from New Age beliefs. Although Father Lavatori says acceptance of angels is very much “back in fashion”, he adds that many Christians are simply doing it wrong. Rather than the long accepted idea of an angel as a winged, chubby-cheeked child, Father Lavatori claims that they are in fact not even visible in a recognisable, physical form. “You do not see angels so much as feel their presence… They are a bit like sunlight that refracts on you through a crystal vase,” Father Lavatori said.
Diamonds are forever and now there’s ice in ice, so it’s believed following the discovery of kimberlite in the Antarctic. But, thanks to international treaty, they can not be extracted for anything other than scientific purpose. I wonder if scientifice purpose will undergo a miraculous re-definition.
beneath Antarctic ice
in blue-rock kimberlite.
Of heat and pressure born
treasured for your beauty,
pleasured, flawless paragon.
Is there another Cullinan,
Agra, Hope or Koh-i-Noor,
Akbar Shah, Millennium Star?
yet, like fragile beauty, brittle
tapped down crystal line.
By four Cs defined;
the way you’re coloured, quality of cut,
your carat weight, your clarity.
Notes: “New findings hint at diamond deposits in Antarctica.” Scientists say they have discovered compelling evidence that diamonds exist in the icy mountains of Antarctica. Diamonds are formed from pure carbon under extreme heat and pressure at depths of about 150km in the Earth’s crust. The researchers have identified a type of rock in the permanently frozen region that is known to contain the precious stones. Volcanic eruptions bring the valuable crystals to the surface, usually preserved in a type of bluish rock called kimberlite. The presence of kimberlite has been a clue to significant deposits of diamonds in several parts of the world, including Africa, Siberia and Australia. Now researchers have, for the first time, found evidence of kimberlite in Antarctica through three samples found on the slopes of Mount Meredith in the northern Prince Charles Mountains. However recovering any Antarctic mineral resources for commercial purposes is currently forbidden. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, added in 1991, explicitly bans any extraction activity relating to mineral resources, except for scientific purposes.
Two weird headlines today and I couldn’t choose between them, so I decided to do both. Imagine two poets in a face-off, taking it in turn each to speak a line from their own verse – two poems in contrapuntal rhyme, a bit like antiphony in music. So the story of the imaginary paedophile and the Trappist monks
might go something like this:
Fear and Beer
beneath the door
A weird sight
in its abode.
The school is told,
the changing room
according to its policy.
It must be a peeping Tom,
or some perverted paedophile,
lurking around the pool.
If only, if only, if only they knew.
it’s just the prosthetic
of a disabled man
who’d innocently gone for a swim.
we don’t realise
we’re living in a state of fear.
of ale – no more
Monks are dying out,
not à la mode.
They’re getting old,
in dire straits.
There’s deep, dark gloom,
end of a brewing odyssey
as, one by one, the monks are gone
and beer-loving fans are riled.
The monks won’t break the rules,
no-one outside the order can brew.
The words are prophetic.
when brewing all began,
those famous ales in the interim.
we face the demise
of centuries of Trappist beer.
17th December 2013 – headlines from the Independent
Notes: “Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile.” An entire class of children was evacuated from a swimming pool after a prosthetic leg was mistaken for a paedophile. Teachers from Kings Hill Primary School in Kent spotted the leg poking out from a cubicle whilst taking their class of year 4 children swimming at Larkfield Leisure Centre. They believed it belonged to a “peeping Tom” and after alerting staff evacuated the 60 children from the pool post-haste. Head teacher Kerry Thomas told the Kent Messenger:“One of the members of staff had seen it, and we quickly moved the children out, and everything was dealt with in accordance with school policy.” Yet upon investigation it was found that the leg belonged to a disabled man who had left it on the floor of the cubicle while he went for a swim.
“Last orders looming for Trappist beers as Belgium’s band of brotherly brewers dies off.”Demand for Europe’s elite Trappist beers, brewed in monastic seclusion behind abbey walls, is at an all-time high – but soon there may be no one left to make them because fewer people want to become monks. The International Trappist Association (ITA) stipulates that only beers made by the monks themselves or under the monks’ supervision can be awarded the hallowed label of Authentic Trappist Product. With fewer people joining an order, the breweries are struggling to find suitable recruits.
“Mission accomplished”!!!!!!! How can anyone be so crass and blind to the misery and destitution this Western inspired war has caused. Hundreds (if not thousands) of soldiers killed and tens of thousands of innocent civilians, not to mention the estimated £18 billion (just UK) spent on this senseless conflict. And for what? The poppies still grow in Afghanistan. I’ve adapted John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” as an inset, appropriate I thought since it is almost 100 years since the start of the first world war. When will we ever learn?
Remind us again.
What was the mission
in this twelve-year war of attrition,
the rendition of political myopia?
Remind us again
of the loss of men,
of the billions spent,
of the slaughter of innocent civilians.
We’ve seen it all before,
the misguided justification
for the mission of war …..
In Afghan hills the poppies blow,
opiate tears, row on row,
a darkened place, and in the sky
the drones, missile slinging, fly,
scarce heard among the guns below.
We count the dead; short days ago
they lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved, and now they lie
in Afghan hills.
We struggle to discern the foe.
We thought we knew twelve years ago
when we blundered in, knowing why
so many Afghans had to die.
Now back we creep, still poppies grow
in Afghan hills.
16th December 2013 – headline from the Guardian
Notes: “Mission accomplished in Afghanistan, declares David Cameron.” David Cameron has declared the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time all British troops have been withdrawn at the end of next year despite fears of a surge of violence from the Taliban around next year’s elections. The prime minister made the bold claim – with echoes of President George Bush’s hubristic triumphalism over the Iraq war – as he visited Camp Bastion, the British base in Helmand province, almost exactly a year before all UK fighting troops are due to be withdrawn from the country. Cameron’s ‘mission accomplished’ claim drew criticism from Labour as well as some former diplomats who pointed out that the purpose of the mission has frequently changed from removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy.
Bananenpflanze in Cali, Kolumbien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A fruit which we take so much for granted but which is a staple to many countries’ economies. There is speculation that climate change is to blame for producing conditions in which fungal infections and insect plagues can flourish.
Alarm is spreading
as a dreaded fungal infestation
threads through banana farming nations.
Calm? It’s hard to be calmer
as a panorama of banana plight,
an army of mealy-bug blight
brings harm to the plantain plantations.
Garner bananas while you can,
the farmers have qualms,
They’re harbouring thoughts
that they ought to transform
former banana nirvana
into acres and acres of palms.
Aah, the balm of palm karma.
15th December 2013 – headline from the Independent
Notes: “Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies.” The world’s supply of bananas is under threat from plagues of bugs and fungal infections which could be disastrous if they continue to spread, researchers say. The government in Costa Rica, one of the biggest suppliers of the fruit, has already declared a “national emergency” over the state of its crop. The country’s half-a-billion-dollar banana export industry has been hit by two separate plagues of mealybugs and scale insects, with up to 20 per cent of its produce written off. Meanwhile, a Scientific American report also warned of a variant of banana-eating fungus which is currently threatening key plantations around the world.
Jade rabbit and monkey dramatically framed against an enormous moon tinged with pink. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So we’re back on the moon, pushing the boundaries again after 40 years. I rather like the name Jade Rabbit, understated antithesis of the boldly-go bravura of the space age!
and invites us to return,
push back again the ragged edge of knowledge.
Forty years since we last engaged
and raised the flag
upon your dusty, pock-marked soil, Selene.
And in that time you haven’t changed, have we?
Once the flesh-claws of the eagle scarred your lunar strands;
now Chang’e 3,
sino-daughter of the moon,
has landed in Sinus Iridum,
faded bay of rainbows,
unfolding load in slow Tai-Chi.
Yutu, Jade Rabbit,
has come home to rove
and bathe in dust of Mare Imbrium.
You haven’t changed. Have we?
14th December 2013 – headline from the Independent
Notes: “China’s Jade Rabbit rover lands on moon.” China has reported landing its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon, in the first soft landing of a rover in nearly four decades today, the latest step in the country’s ambitious space programme. The landing makes China the third nation to carry out a lunar soft landing after the United States and the former Soviet Union. The last one was in 1976. Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” was launched onboard the Chang’e 3 lander on 1 December and now begins a three-month scientific exploration, looking for natural resources. The 120kg (260lb) rover can travel at 200m per hour and climb slopes at up to 20 degrees. Its name was chosen in an online poll where 3.4 million people voted and derives from an ancient Chinese myth about a rabbit living on the moon as the pet of the lunar goddess Chang’e.
Nice to see some war-mongering technology being put to a peaceful use. A bit of an experimental verse today, I guess a little like a round in music. You can start anywhere, move lines in sequence from the beginning to the end and the internal rhyming pattern remains the same and the overall meaning is retained (try starting from ‘Domained’ for example). I don’t know if there’s a term for this type of verse, maybe I’ve just invented something!
Swords into ploughshares
honed to kill no more,
humble sheep in wolf’s clothing.
patrolling Altun mountains high,
beaten sword turned ploughshare.
Flying, now from war released,
haring over rough terrain
seeking peaceful end.
Domained in wilderness,
sending pictures back,
establishing herd numbers.
13th December 2013 – headline from the BBC
Notes: “Drones used to monitor wild yaks.” Scientists use the unmanned aircraft to calculate the number of yaks in the mountain wilderness of Xinjiang province, and to collect data about their habitat. In November, a drone performed four flights, taking photos of the yaks, the areas where they live and also collecting meteorological information. The research programme is run by zoologists from Xinjiang’s Altun Mountains nature reserve and Beijing Normal University, which are looking for better ways to protect the wild yaks. Due to decades of rampant hunting, numbers in China have shrunk to between 30,000 and 50,000. An estimated 10,000 yaks are believed to be roaming the remote Altun Mountains at an altitude of 3,000 to 6,000m, where they have lived for centuries undisturbed by humans or other animals. “It’s extremely difficult for field workers to access their habitats or track their activities,” Zhang Xiang, deputy chief of the Altun Mountains national nature reserve, tells Xinhua.