Thursday, June 21, 2007

Precautionary Principles

"Reality is relative to the measuring apparatus"

I pass by this cottage on the lagoon every day in my travels. It stirs my imagination, primarily because I have never seen anyone around it, or any vehicles nearby(I don't think it even has any driveway access). It is very much part of the "Old Waiheke" many people talk about when they remember funky as the term describing most residences on the island, and affordable was the other. Some of both are still present, but well hidden indeed.

"Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature's delight"
-Marcus Aurelius

The tide makes its twice daily pilgrimage up and through the mangroves surrounding the red roofed retreat, shape-shifting its foundations dramatically. I recall seeing a small boat pulled up on its front shore once, a curious visitor or perhaps the owners exercising their only access. Alone and steadfast, the seasons pummeling it as can only happen to coastal property, it remains a constant feature on my daily landscape. Long may it stand.

Everything in this life can be looked at from a wider perspective, and all too often we fail to do just that. It is an opportunity lost.

One who achieves that mental architecture in a unique way, the Dalai Lama spoke recently in Auckland. I was most impressed with his ability to "re-frame" any controversial or inflammatory questions, with uncanny wit and a lack of any pretentiousness at all. The diplomacy with which he takes his very personal message of Buddha's teachings out directly to people, as well as his relationship with the media, make him a unique communicator. There is an underlying tenderness and playful quality to his manner, one which immediately puts others to ease. His talk centred around the notion of "internal disarmament".

There have been Dalai Lamas since the 15th century, all leading the people in the mountain kingdom of Tibet, until the neighbours to the north decided they wanted to put a stop to all that. He is the first one to have lived outside his own country, in exile, for nearly 50 years. Succession will be no doubt be a disputed matter. However, this charismatic individual, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989 as well as a long list of honours and Major Awards as shown on his official website, has a very high profile around the world. Called both a political leader in exile, as well as a spiritual teacher, he seems more concerned with the message of peace, tolerance and compassion within a wider social context, and that has to be given some merit.

Others also continue to ensure themselves of a high profile around the globe, for various reasons, and if you have ever wondered what people like Bono are doing at G8 conferences for leaders of wealthy nations, Brendan O'Neill of Spiked Online magazine has a few answers in this article, in which he refers to Bono as the the "9th power".

When we start to need rock star celebrities to front global conferences on poverty, it may be time to re-evaluate with deliberate caution the way we go about trying to help others. A noble cause can be hijacked in the most subtle ways, and "internal disarmament" would an important first step in avoiding such sad results.

Enough of the politics...

The Ginkgo biloba tree has long been a favourite of mine. Known to be one of the world's longest living trees, with specimens in China claimed to be more than 2,000 yrs old, it has reputable medicinal value, is very popular for street plantings due to its urban tolerant nature, and is a good bonsai tree.

This one, just down the road from me, puts on a lovely autumn display of golden foliage that lasts for weeks. Amongst all the other native NZ bush and evergreens, it stands out quite distinctively. Apparently, along with all the rest of its remarkable traits, there is a tree that withstood the Hiroshima Atomic bomb attacks in 1945. Only a kilometre from the blast site, it is one of the only living things to survive. Talk about tenacity!

Finally, if you have ever had your beloved letterbox (or mailbox as known in the U.S.) vandalised, it can be an annoying and emotional affair. Here on the island, we have a wide array of creative and artistic endeavors hosting the post, as it were. So much so, there are books of photos dedicated to them. Yet they are frequently the target of vandals out looking for something to do.

This article, reprinted in the "online directory of wonderful things" Boing Boing , describes a firm in Cincinatti, Ohio that specialises in vandal proof letterboxes. Lasting years, and surviving everything from the usual baseball bats to pipe bombs, they are made of 10 gauge carbon or stainless steel, and it is usually the vandal that comes off second best.

What comes around goes around...

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