Tolpuddle, A Name From History

Tolpuddle MarchToday has been a joyous celebration of a hugely important part of British, and arguably World history. In a rather unplanned manner, three of us set off to the historic Dorset village of Tolpuddle.

Now many of you may never have heard of Tolpuddle, but if you have ever been a member of a workers union, been on strike to register your opposition to a change in working conditions or in a demand for a rise in pay, Tolpuddle is inextricably linked to those actions. A group of six men from the village made history, and paid temporarily with their freedom, when they formed the first workers union. Wikipedia says this of them …

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a friendly society and operated as a trade-specific benefit society. But at the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the predominant role of trade unions. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were subsequently sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Before 1824/25 the Combination Acts had outlawed “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions. In 1824/25 these Acts were repealed, so trade unions were no longer illegal. In 1832, the year of a Reform Act which extended the vote in England but did not grant universal suffrage, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to protest against the gradual lowering of agricultural wages in the 1830s caused by the surplus supply of labour in an era when mechanisation was beginning to have an impact on agricultural working practices for the first time. This was a particular problem in remote parts of southern England, such as Dorset, where farmers did not have to compete with the higher wages paid to workers in London and in the northern towns experiencing the Industrial Revolution. They refused to work for less than 10 shillings a week, although by this time wages had been reduced to seven shillings a week and were due to be further reduced to six shillings. The society, led by George Loveless, a Methodist local preacher, met in the house of Thomas Standfield.

In 1834 James Frampton, a local landowner, wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to complain about the union, invoking an obscure law from 1797 prohibiting people from swearing oaths to each other, which the members of the Friendly Society had done. James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George’s brother James Loveless, George’s brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas’s son John Standfield were arrested, tried before Judge Baron John Williams in R v Lovelass and Others. They were found guilty, and transported to Australia.

When sentenced to seven years’ transportation, George Loveless wrote on a scrap of paper the following lines:

God is our guide! from field, from wave,
From plough, from anvil, and from loom;
We come, our country’s rights to save,
And speak a tyrant faction’s doom:
We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!

They became popular heroes and 800,000 signatures were collected for their release. Their supporters organised a political march, one of the first successful marches in the UK, and all, except James Hammett (who had a previous criminal record for theft) were released in 1836, with the support of Lord John Russell, who had recently become Home Secretary. Four of the six returned to England, disembarking at Plymouth, a popular stopping point for transportation ships.

WP_20140720_16_51_39_ProMembers of unions from all over the country, as well as a large number of non-members, converge on the village each year, to commemorate the anniversary of the historic events, listen to speeches, enjoy music, and generally have fun. The impromptu manner of the day only further added to the enjoyment of the day. The commemorative march was remarkable, walking in the footsteps of some very famous people. The highlight, for me however, was a performance by Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, previously of the band Beautiful South with the band playing some of the classics, a great day out had by all.

Remain True To Your Beliefs

The Ungrateful ScorpionShortly after he had finished his practice, an old man opened his eyes to see a scorpion floating helplessly in the river that was flowing slowly past his feet.

As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature.

As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

At that moment, a passer-by saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my own nature to save”. There are times when, despite adversities, we need to hold true to our beliefs and faith, even when it may attract ridicule and criticism from others.

You Have Full Control

Two Headed CoinOnce upon a time, there was a general who was leading his army into battle against an enemy ten times the size of his own.

Along the way to the battle field, the troops stopped by a small temple to pray for victory.

The general held up a coin and told his troops, “I am going to implore the gods to help us crush our enemy.

If this coin lands with the heads on top, we’ll win. If it’s tails, we’ll lose. Our fate is in the hands of the gods. Let’s pray wholeheartedly.”

After a short prayer, the general tossed the coin high into the air. It landed with the heads on top. The troops were overjoyed and went into the battle in high spirits.

Just as the coin predicted, the smaller army won the battle.

The soldiers were exalted, “It’s good to have the gods on our side! No one can change what they have determined.”

“Really?” asked the general, and showed them the coin … there was a head on both sides.

Through Fresh Eyes

Through Fresh EyesA great work of art is one that truly moves and inspires you. The test is when you yourself are moved. Don’t look at art with anyone else’s eyes. Don’t listen to music with others’ ears. You should view art with your own feelings, your own heart and mind.

If you allow yourself to be swayed by the opinions of others, ‘It must be good, because everyone else is raving about it’ or ‘It must be bad, because nobody else likes it’, your feelings, your sensibilities, even your confidence, which are the basis of every artistic experience, may wither and die.

To enjoy art to the fullest, you must abandon any preconceived notions, and look at things through fresh eyes. You should then confront the work directly, with your whole being. If you find that you are deeply moved, then for you, that is a great work of art.

Precisely the same applies to your faith. What moves you is a personal thing, it should not be based on what other people feel, nor should they influence you in any way. Have the wisdom, courage and compassion to stand firm and hold onto your own beliefs.

From Another Angle

From Another AngleHaving confidence in yourself, in your faith, and in my case, my practice is a really comfortable place to be. But simply having someone else question that confidence can be a good thing at times, even though it might leave you questioning yourself.

When you find yourself being quizzed about aspects of your life, it is all too easy to become defensive, even annoyed by the questions. Who does this person think they are, putting my self confidence under the microscope?

But taking the time to think carefully about the questions, to see things from their point of view and to reflect upon what you see, is a good thing.

Of course it can make you question your own beliefs, about yourself, about the way things really are, and not just the way you see them. It can cause you to pull up short and may even make you realise that the situation is not quite the way you had imagined.

But it also gives you the opportunity to take stock and, where necessary, make changes to align your world view with the real world. Our own little universe is sometimes at odds with the way things really are, so if someone asks you awkward questions, don’t come out with all guns blazing, it may just be that they have a more realistic idea of the situation.

Hold True To Your Beliefs

The Ungrateful ScorpionShortly after he had finished his practice, an old man opened his eyes to see a scorpion floating helplessly in the river that was flowing slowly past his feet.

As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature.

As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

At that moment, a passer-by saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my own nature to save”. There are times when, despite adversities, we need to hold true to our beliefs and faith, even when it may attract ridicule and criticism from others.

What’s Your POV?

What's Your Point Of View?Having confidence in yourself, in your faith, and in my case, my practice is a really comfortable place to be. But simply having someone else question that confidence can be a good thing at times, even though it might leave you questioning yourself.

When you find yourself being quizzed about aspects of your life, it is all too easy to become defensive, even annoyed by the questions. Who does this person think they are, putting my self confidence under the microscope?

But taking the time to think carefully about the questions, to see things from their point of view and to reflect upon what you see, is a good thing.

Of course it can make you question your own beliefs, about yourself, about the way things really are, and not just the way you see them. It can cause you to pull up short and may even make you realise that the situation is not quite the way you had imagined.

But it also gives you the opportunity to take stock and, where necessary, make changes to align your world view with the real world. Our own little universe is sometimes at odds with the way things really are, so if someone asks you awkward questions, don’t come out with all guns blazing, it may just be that they have a more realistic idea of the situation.

A Fresh Pair Of Eyes

A Fresh Pair Of EyesA great work of art is one that truly moves and inspires you. The test is when you yourself are moved. Don’t look at art with anyone else’s eyes. Don’t listen to music with others’ ears. You should view art with your own feelings, your own heart and mind.

If you allow yourself to be swayed by the opinions of others, ‘It must be good, because everyone else is raving about it’ or ‘It must be bad, because nobody else likes it’, your feelings, your sensibilities, even your confidence, which are the basis of every artistic experience, may wither and die.

To enjoy art to the fullest, you must abandon any preconceived notions, and look at things through fresh eyes. You should then confront the work directly, with your whole being. If you find that you are deeply moved, then for you, that is a great work of art.

Precisely the same applies to your faith. What moves you is a personal thing, it should not be based on what other people feel, nor should they influence you in any way. Have the wisdom, courage and compassion to stand firm and hold onto your own beliefs.

Double Vision

A CompromiseIt’s a pretty well known fact, that nothing in life that’s worth doing is very easy to achieve. So it is with B’s cottage. It’s the best part of 150 years old, was built before the invention of the right angle and restoration consumes more TLC than money, and that’s a lot.

Having braved the first winter with old, rotten and ill-fitting sash windows, it seems to be a good time to start looking for replica or refurbished units to take their place. Now I stand corrected if I’m wrong, but i don’t remember seeing any sash windows in new build properties lately. There’s a good reason for that, they are a nightmare to maintain.

Ideally, any replacements should combine the look of the traditional original windows with the thermal and sound insulation properties of modern UPVC units. You’d think it would be easy, but it’s not. Even though Mel came to see the property, spent hours measuring, discussing and trying to find the perfect compromise, I’m not sure that there is one.

Faith is a little like that, you know what you want, what you don’t want, what you can believe and what you can’t. Finding Nichiren Buddhism has been for me, after years of searching, the perfect blend of belief, practice and life-philosophy. I know everyone is different and that it’s a case of horses for courses, but any idea that can have life changing possibilities has to be worth passing on.

PC Gone Mad?

The following is an email from the boss to his staff …

From: The Boss
Sent: 23 December 2011 16:59
To: The Motley IT Crew
Subject:Merry mas

Dear Staff,

Before you all go your separate ways and eat too much …

Political CorrectnessBest wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all.

Additionally, … I hope you have a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year of 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions have helped make our society great, without regard to the race, creed, colour, religious, or sexual preferences of the wishes.

(Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wishee or others, and no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.)

Of course this is a joke, but you can just imagine it being the ways things will go in this world of politically correct madness. As a Buddhist, Christmas has lost much of its meaning, certainly in religious terms. It seems to be more and more of a marketing exercise each year. Still, all is not lost if people at least find it a good reason to be nice to each other for a whole day. The pity being, that they can’t find a reason to be nice to each other for the other 364 days of the year.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: