Thought for the Week – The Easy Option

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We all love stories – the story behind the Apple Mac Command Key has remained with me as a warning as to how I can get lazy in what I do and in the decisions I make. It stays with me.  Here is the story.

The Development team tasked with developing the early Mac computers came up with the idea of adding a command key to a standard keyboard. This key if used  in combination with other keys provides a shortcut to an array of menu commands.

They needed a symbol for the key and the team understandably defaulted to the now famous Apple logo.When Steve Jobs saw it he was frustrated – he felt the design team had become lazy and that the Apple icon was being overused.

He would not accept their proposal and sent them back to the drawing board – to come up with something better – something more original. The job fell to the graphic designer on the team called Susan Kare.

She searched through countless books of international symbols and then she came across an obscure sign found on campsites in Sweden and other parts of Scandanavia.  It is a square with looping corners – like a Bowen knot. It was the symbol used on information boards to indicate a cultural centre or a ‘place of interest’, such as a waterfall or other natural phenomenon.

Steve Jobs was very taken with this idea of a symbol directing users to ‘places of interest’ on the computer keyboard. He accepted the symbol and it has remained a unique feature of Apple keyboards.

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Thought for the Week – Screwtape and Wormwood

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In 1940 C.S. Lewis, wrote a book about conversations between two devils. In one conversation, Screwtape, a senior devil is advising his young nephew, Wormwood, on the best way to win souls away from God.

Wormwood is determined to be clever and invent his own ways of seducing people away from God. Screwtape is not impressed and becomes impatient and finally loses his temper.   “Listen”, he says,  “I have been doing this for years – I know what works and what doesn’t – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel”.

The simplest way to win those souls for us, is to block their attention – create so much noise and distraction that the only voice human beings hear is their own – and above all make sure you block out the voice of God or the Holy Spirit in their lives.

At one point Screwtape proudly announces, “we will make the whole world a noise and in the end and win every soul away from God.”

And today,  they seem to be winning – with our addiction to technology we are making it a whole lot easier for Screwtape and his nephew – they can’t believe their luck – all they have to do is sit back and watch us addicts unable to resist the next ping on our phones or iPads – we are full on addicts,  our attention compromised – seduced away from life.

The truth is….. that our attention is one of our most precious gifts and we need to mind it – don’t let it be hijacked too easily – our relationship with our environment, with people and with God are based on it……if we don’t mind it and continue to give it away cheaply  we WILL miss out on many of the riches that life has to offer.

Let’s not make life too easy for Screwtape or his nephew or google or Facebook. 

 

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Thought for the Week – Pay Attention

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’Pay attention Sleeman’ – how many times did I hear that?  In the classroom …not so much on the playing
fields. I am not sure it did any good. But now I know that paying attention is key – if I don’t
pay attention I may miss out on many of the riches of life.  Even the All Black’s discovered that success
is about controlling  attention under pressure.
Religion used to hold our attention – its rituals, fasts and feasts all designed to direct our attention to the
sacred. Lent used to get my attention when I was young – Ramadan certainly gets the attention of the
Muslims among us… fasting from sun rise to sun set.
But today it is our gadgets – social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,  online shopping, box set
bingeing which are busy harvesting our attention – and we  let them have it cheaply – And we DO miss out on
many of  the riches that life has to offer.
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Thought for the Week – The glory of God is manifested as light

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There was a time when family homes in Ireland had a picture of the sacred Heart and perhaps an altar of holy pictures. At one time, when I was growing up, I had an altar in my bedroom.
These holy pictures depicting various saints, had a yellow rimmed halo around the saints head. This halo was not attached to them but radiated out from their heads and was expression of their sanctity. Somehow these people had become so transparent to the sacred that the invisible world of divinity was shining through them.
In many religious traditions, the glory of God is manifested as light. For me there were moments during Pope Francis’ visit last week that he seemed to radiate that very light.
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Thought for the Week – Words have Power

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Words have power and deeply influence our lives. They seep into our consciousness and influence our emotions and our behaviour.
They shape how we see the world. The effect can be very harmful especially if our language is judgemental and cruel.
Because of this it is important to take note of the language you use. It took me a while to notice many of my words were harsh and judge-mental. Since that discovery I have tried to change them and use words that are more compassionate and kind.
Instead of  ‘but’, I use ‘and’, instead of ‘have to’, I use, ‘want to’, or ‘choose to’, instead of saying, ‘that is impossible’, I say, ‘it has yet to be done’.
Someone I read recently says that, “language exerts a hidden power on us like the moon on the tides.”
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Thought for the Week – Wood Wide Web

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In his  classic work on Being and Time, Martin Heidegger discovered that at the heart of time dwells ‘reverence and care’. “The ability to care”, says John O’Donohue, “is the hall-mark of the human, the touchstone of morality and the ground of holiness. Without the warmth of care, the world becomes a barren graveyard. In the kindness of care the divine comes alive in us.”
And care and co-operation are not just the hall-mark of human beings – they are also found in nature and especially in forests.
In 1997 it was discovered that forests are not a collection of individual trees – instead they are connected by an underground biological internet which enables trees to communicate and co-operate and even care for each other. It is known as the Wood Wide Web. The internet connection is provided by fungi – the threads that form fungi provide the information highway allowing trees to care for each other.
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Thought for the Week – Beware of the super chicken model

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A biologist at Purdue University, named William Ure did an interesting study using chickens – he was interested in what makes one group more productive than another.  The productivity of chickens is easy to measure – you just count the eggs produced.
First he got a flock of normal, average chickens and left it for 6 generations letting chickens do what chickens do.
Next he created a flock of super chickens – made up of the most productive chickens he could find (ones that laid most eggs!) and in each generation he added the most productive chickens to keep the flock going and did this for six generations.
At the end of the six generations he compared the two flocks – the average flock was doing very well all plump, fully feathered and they were more productive then ever but the super flock all but three were dead – the rest had pecked each other to death. The productive chickens achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.
Our culture tends to run organisations on the super chicken model – pick the superstars, the brightest and off you go. According to Bill Ure it does not work. The super chickens kill each other as they try to get ahead.
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Thought for the Week – The Voice of Compassion

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One of my yearnings is to discover my own voice – reach below the multiple chattering voices of my daily life to what John O’Donohue calls ones ‘root-voice.’

In Divine Beauty, he describes this voice as a voice of compassion and one that is not absorbed with itself.

“The voice of compassion is not absorbed with itself. It is not a voice intent on its own satisfaction or affirmation; rather it is imbued with understanding, forgiveness and healing.

This voice dwells within every human heart. Ultimately it is the voice of the soul. Part of the joy in developing a spiritual life is the discovery of this beautiful gift that you perhaps never suspected you had.

When you take  the time to draw on your listening-imagination you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the core of life. It is deeper and surer that an all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self criticism and bleakness.

All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen the greater the surprises and discoveries that will unfold.

To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of you life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement. You learn to come down from the treadmill and walk on the earth. You gain a new respect of yourself and others and you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is.

You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence.

You know that your true source is not outside you. Your soul is your there source and a new energy and passion awakened in you. The soul dwells where beauty lives”.

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Thought for the Week – The Black Madonna in Einsiedeln

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In the Swiss monastery of Einsiedeln there is a Black Madonna. The Black Madonna may have emerged as a compensation for the Madonna who became too white.
Catholic tradition made Mary into a white figure of purity and perfection and dissociated her from the darker side of life.
The Black Madonnas of Europe have long been associated with the darker side of life: illness, loss of loved ones, childbearing, woman’s sufferings, shipwrecks, prisoners.
A friend of mine relates this history of the Black Madonna in Einsiedeln:
When the soldiers of the French Revolution stormed Einsiedeln, they planned to destroy the Black Madonna, which they considered to be a cult of superstition. To protect it, the villagers buried it then a farmer smuggled it out of Switzerland. It was restored in Austria. In scraping off the soot the artist found that its original colour was not black.  He painted the Madonna and child the colour of flesh. The Madonna was displayed to the citizens of Bludenz before being restored to Einsiedeln. They were deeply disappointed that it no longer corresponded to the Black Madonna that they had known in Einsiedeln. The painter had to paint it black. Nobody has dared change it since then.

 

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Thought for the Week – The Florida effect

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In 1996 John Bargh, a social psychologist from New York University tested what is known as the ideomotor effect, whereby a thought or mental image brings about a seemingly “reflexive” or automatic response.
In an experiment he gave groups of young people word flash cards and asked them to construct simple sentences. Buried within one of the groups’ cards were word synonyms for age – bald, wrinkled, arthritis, Florida, forgetful.
When they had completed their sentences the groups were asked to walk down  a corridor and sign out and then the real experiment began.
Their progress down the corridor was timed – and something unusual happened. Those who had seen words suggesting age walked more slowly.
Just the merest suggestion of age at an unconscious level, led to a reflexive response – made them display the behaviour of the elderly. It is called the Florida effect.
It indicates the way language can influence our behaviour and that maybe, we are not always acting  as consciously as we think.
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