Thursday, January 19, 2017

Petits Fours

I stumbled upon this photo today. My late wife Mirjam had just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. She wanted to break the news to her favourite Church group. With all the strength that she could muster, I drove her to Charly's Bakery in the city, to buy these petits fours for the group that evening. OBSERVATION: She survived longer than the doctors anticipated, after this.

Are We All Scientists?

I am, in an informal kind of way, a columnist for the weekly Philosophical Investigations. I typically write for this on-line publication once a month. My latest piece was more of an "insider" article for those more philosophically inclined -- but it is a prominent question in philosophy: Are We All Scientists? OBSERVATION: There is something of my heart there, too, in the article. The philosophy means that we may need to treat many non-scientists with the same kind of admiration as we do scientists.

The Plateau

I write, sometimes, about "the plateau" on my blog. It is where my wife grew up (pictured), and where her parents still live. It is very arid, and trees only grow there because they are imports from Australia, or because they are specially watered. One sees, on the right, a large green potato patch, which is irrigated from a borehole. OBSERVATION: I might fortuitously have captured the hawk which has been stealing my father-in-law's chicks, at the top edge of the photo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I think we have a problem today with what I would call "significances". People are no longer able to see them as they once did. This means that crucial issues of truth pass people by today -- or have become irrelevant. There is an obvious danger to significances, because people will die for them, and kill for them. If people aren't moved by the right significances, it may be hazardous in the extreme. OBSERVATION: But not to see significances at all, which is more dangerous?

Hout Bay Anglican

Here's one of my favourite photos, for reasons unknown. It is the (Anglican) Church of St. Peter the Fisherman in Hout Bay, Cape Town. I decided on a novel approach for this one -- a photo through the stained glass at the back of the Church. As will (perhaps) be seen, the Church was packed -- however, it is a small Church. As to what I was doing on the other side of the stained glass instead of being in the pew, is also "reasons unknown".

Farm Labourers' Rights

There has been considerable unrest in recent years, in South Africa, over farm labourers' rights and the contravention of their rights. Yet many farm labourers remain in the same situation today as they were in when the unrest started (however, much has changed). Recently I lived with farm labourers for the better part of two weeks, in conditions which were poor. Which is, unlawful. Yet having said this, the authorities know about it. They came around, they took a look, and they made it clear what was needful. OBSERVATION: Who therefore is now at fault, now that government was involved? And what led officials to advise farmers, then vanish?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Meals In Advance

A few years ago, we did something brand new for our Church Fête -- we sold braai / barbecue meals in advance. It worked very well indeed. Unfortunately our costing didn't. We lacked the experience. The ticket on the right was designed by committee.

Seminary Surveillance

I complained to my US seminary once about “surveillance”. I put it like this: “In my European and African theological education, the focus tended to be on the subject matter at hand. By way of contrast, many US assignments require “your view”, “your understanding”, and so on. In East Germany, they asked children to describe “your TV test pattern”. While requests for “your” perspective offer a welcome opportunity for self-expression and creativity, I ask myself what, from the student's point of view, would distinguish this from surveillance. I come to the conclusion that I do not find anything that would.” OBSERVATION: Not to speak of other forms of surveillance, which there were. One had to give one's consent to Internet surveillance, and surveillance on campus was obvious, with cameras at every turn.

Snake Stories

I thought at first that I had made a mistake -- I had accidentally set my digital camera to black and white. In fact this is a full colour photo. It is a niece on my wife's side -- a gentle, thoughtful girl -- listening to a grandfather (which is, one of that generation) tell her stories about snakes.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Police Notice

I received this formal notice today (pictured) from the police. The prosecutor will not prosecute those persons who conveyed threats to me in the name of my old Church, Sea Point Evangelical Congregational Church -- however the police instruct me to apply for a Protection Order. So, while those who conveyed the threats may not have their day in court (although this is not ruled out), this message is nonetheless a sad reflection of what has gone on in the name of the Church, against a long-serving minister with a thriving ministry. A bit late in the day. OBSERVATION: The threats I received were against my safety, reputation, career, and future -- and sad to say, they ended my ministry. A point of clarity: this post is about those who conveyed the threats, not about those who originated them.

Almost A Doctor

I was with son M last week Thursday -- he was working on an Apple laptop -- when suddenly he said: "I just realise I've completed my doctoral dissertation!" And so it often goes. I've had such experiences myself. However, it is the completion of a mature draft. OBSERVATION: M had a great time doing the research -- exploring caves, museums, and libraries on two continents, and discussing his findings with experts in the field. The hard part was writing it all up. Those who have done postgraduate writing will know that every sentence must add something substantial to the whole. Then imagine hundreds of pages of that.

Domestic Scene

Here's a simple domestic scene, taken in my own home. Wife E has baked some dinner in a Römertopf (a clay pot). One can bake a good meal in such a pot, without any preparation. One simply fills the pot with meat and vegetables and puts it in the oven. OBSERVATION: Look closely, and one sees two computers here -- E studying for a BTh, and I writing something for publication.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Van Wyksdorp Bell

This is the Church bell in the village of Van Wyksdorp -- which still gets rung every week. I say "still" because it appears to me to be very rickety. One day churchgoers will hear a strange thud, and wonder why their bell has fallen silent. OBSERVATION: A hefty bell-ringer pulls on this bell with all his weight to make it ring. It is a sight worth seeing. It looks, incidentally, as though the left hand side of the bell is propped up with a cold drink bottle.

Choir Challenge

Through most of my ministr(ies), we have had Church choirs, of one kind or another. I have given these choirs, from time to time, personal requests or challenges. One such challenge was never fulfilled, because it was just too difficult for the choir -- namely, to sing a psalter. One way of describing a psalter is that, instead of fitting the words to the music, one fits the music to the words. OBSERVATION: A problem with this particular request was that the choir was trained with the tonic solfa, and tended to use spontaneous harmonies -- as one finds throughout South Africa. That does not make a good fit with a psalter.

Kouga River

This is a photo of the Kouga River in the Eastern Cape, which borders on the farm on which wife E grew up. Looking at the photo, it is not hard to imagine that the road is hair-raising. The Kouga, too, is a treacherous river, and has swept many people away. OBSERVATION: One sees some history in this photo. On the far side of the river, one sees the road continue up the mountain. Just above this, one sees a thin line. It is a big stone wall, built by Khoikhoi slaves, hundreds of years ago. Today, of course, barbed wire would do the job.