They Shall Grow Not Old, As We That Are Left Grow Old

I can’t remember the first time I watched the Service of Remembrance on TV, but it must be well over fifty years ago now. It has always been a family event, with my Mom and Dad and my brothers. And although, sadly, my Dad is no longer with us, and the family is spread across the globe, watching it again brought back poignant memories, as always.

I find it very moving, watching the petals falling on the servicemen and women, and although I have never known anyone killed in the service of our country, I feel a certain duty to watch the service.

The people in whose honour the service is held, gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace and freedom.

  They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
  Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
  At the going down of the sun and in the morning
  We will remember them.

A Real Pride

Godlingston CemeteryYou may remember my post about seeing cemeteries during the course of my cycling trips. Well it’s happened again.

Godlingston Cemetery in Washpond Lane near Swanage holds 15 Commonwealth war graves from World War II.

Maintained by the War Graves Commission, it is a credit to the town, to the Commission and more importantly, a credit to the brave servicemen who gave their lives in the service of their King.

This evening, whilst looking at the boats in the Quay, I heard a very familiar sound, that of four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines droning overhead. It was the Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, having done a fly-by at the Bournemouth Air Show, but that sound and the memories it conjures, left a real sense of pride to be British.

When other countries are been blamed for injuring and killing their own people, it is a great thing that we still hold those men, and machines, who fought for our freedom between 1939 and 1945, so dear.

Coincidentally, one of the graves in Godlingston is that of Michael Giles Homer DFC, a Pilot Officer, who while flying with 44 Squadron was decorated for his actions during a bombing raid in 1940. The citation reads:

“In April, 1940, this officer was pilot of an aircraft carrying out a high-level bombing attack on two enemy cruisers anchored in Christiansand Bay. In the face of intense anti-aircraft fire and attacks by enemy fighters, he successfully pressed home his bombing attack and his air gunner shot down an enemy fighter which burst into flames and crashed into the sea. Although his aircraft had been damaged he skilfully piloted it back to his base, which necessitated a sea crossing of more than 400 miles.”

Although it is unlikely that Pilot Office Homer flew the Avro Lancaster, as 44 Squadron was only equipped with them in late 1940, after his demise, it is a fitting link and further goes to illustrate the ‘connectedness’ of all things.

Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster

What Is Love?

Two HeartsLoving, and being loved is really great isn’t it? There is little to compare with the feeling one gets from being part of a loving relationship, but there are two types of love, unconditional and conditional. Unconditional love is about giving without limits, about being happy for the happiness of others. Conditional love, on the other hand, can be painful for both parties. Elements of jealousy, or the need to be loved in order to love, can lead the way to a painful end of the relationship.

Buddhism defines love as an action. It is that force that motivates people to become better, to improve themselves in order to reach eternity and happiness. Love brings out the best in people, as when they love, the target is not themselves but the beloved one. This wish to serve the other is a reflection of an innate knowledge that everyone is connected through the same principle, and therefore, it is an illusion to believe that one can achieve true happiness while those around haven’t attained it . So, love is the action that makes people forego their own ego and concentrate their efforts on the other in a search for fulfilment.

Personally, I have been criticised for suggesting that, if my partner would be happier with someone else, that I would not stand in their path. That feeling, I believe, shows that I love them unconditionally and, arguably, more than someone who wants to control or confine them. It does not mean that I want them to go, just that I want them to be happy, and that my happiness is found through their happiness.

Achieving unconditional love is hard. So many people feel that they need to be loved to be happy. In fact, the most happiness comes from loving another, and the need to be loved is often a sign of insecurity. Loving unconditionally requires a totally unselfish attitude to the other. Being happy when they are happy, being happy for them when they succeed, rather than feeling jealous of their success. Keeping those negative feelings in check requires constant effort, but the happiness gained from so doing is unbounded.

So take a look at your motives next time you tell that special someone that you love them. Will you still love them if that love is not reciprocated? Are you happy for them when they find pleasure in something that is of no interest to you? Would you sacrifice the relationship if that added to their happiness? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you are not loving unconditionally.

It is not the end of things if you are not, there is always time to change. Loving everyone, in the broadest sense of the word, is a very rewarding way to lead your life. Being concerned for the happiness of someone who clearly has no time for you is tough. Going the extra mile to ensure that the happiness of another at the expense of yourself is not necessarily a natural thing to do, but the rewards for doing so are great indeed.

So next time you say ‘I love you’ to someone, try mentally tagging on ‘no matter what’ to that phrase and see how that makes you feel inside. If you can honestly say that it makes no difference to you saying it, then you have reached the state of unconditional love and that will reward you every time you say it.

The Wrong Trousers!!!

The Wrong TrousersI think I must be getting cynical in my old age, but correct me if I am wrong here. John Hourican, the head of the Royal Bank of Scotland investment banking arm is stepping down from his post, despite having no managerial control over the people who rigged the LIBOR rate and who are costing RBS over £400 million in fines. Rather weird.

It seems that Mr Hourican, who earned £3.5m last year, is expected to lose his bonus for 2012 along with his position as head of RBS’s investment bank. He is also expected to forego £4m of bonuses from previous years. Are these guys for real?

It is true that there are on going criminal investigations into the whole LIBOR fiasco, and that the people who potentially cost every borrower in the UK money through their actions may yet be brought to book, it seems that John Hourican gets the role of scapegoat extraordinaire.

Whilst it is a little difficult to feel too sorry for a chap who is quite so well heeled, the principle behind the dismissal should not be forgotten. In my view, the people who defrauded the nation, nay the world, with their skulduggery should be held to account. Maybe the bosses of these people, maybe even the senior management who allowed the practices to go on, through their naivety or negligence, but not just some chap who happened to be passing at the time.

The current view of the banking business is that it is a corrupt world of murky practices, run by a bunch of money grabbing, socially bankrupt pseudo-criminals. Of course that view is skewed by the never-ending stream of stories about malpractice and fraudulent dealing that have gone on right under the noses of the FSA and other banking watchdogs, but judging by the evidence, it is not too far of the mark.

It is clear that there needs to be a firestorm of dismissals at the highest levels in the entire banking sector. The current sticking plaster approach will not get us back to the days when the bank manager was a revered member of the local community, or when your money was safer in the bank than under the mattress. But starting with some overpaid shmuck, with little or no connection to the problems will do no good whatsoever.

What is really needed, is a return to social values where honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and honour are held in higher esteem than the salary package or the annual bonus. While we measure people by what they earn and own, rather than the principles they hold, we will remain on this downward spiral into social turmoil.

They’ve sacked the wrong trousers Gommit, and we must not let them get away with it!!!

The Truth Will Out

The Scales Of JusticeWith the final admission today, by ex-MP Chris Huhne, that he has been attempting to pervert the course of justice by lying to police about a motoring offence that happened over ten years ago, we can see that the lack of honesty can bring about anyone’s downfall .

Lying, or even being economical with the truth can swiftly get badly out of control. One lie leads to another, to another and so on, as the purveyor of untruths attempts to cover each falsehood with the next. How much better would it be for all concerned, in the long run, if the truth were told from the outset?

We might feel a modicum of compassion for Huhne, given that he has been described by colleagues as a very hard working MP. However, I think it only right that he serve a custodial sentence, bearing in mind the position of responsibility he held at the time, the number of people he has let down by his attempted deceit and the length of time he has taken to admit to the offence.

The court will decide his fate shortly, but it has already been mooted that he will serve time inside one of Her Majesty’s prisons. Sadly, like many other of his parliamentary colleagues over the last few years, he has been found to be a downright dishonourable member. Oh how the mighty are fallen, hoist by their own petard.

Praise Is Not A Bad Thing

A Truly Wise Man - click for the full size imageI was surprised at work today, when one of our philatelic experts pulled me up short for heaping praise upon her. In my mind, she had done a terrific job identifying a particularly rare and valuable Liberian stamp, and had emailed a client with details, and more importantly, an elusive image.

Having emailed her, I was surprised to receive a reply saying

“Hang on…..I thought we were supposed to treat praise and blame the same….i.e. ignore :-)”

She is a really lovely lady and we have spoken about Buddhism on a number of occasions, but I felt I had to explain that praise, like money, is not a problem. It is the love of praise or money that causes the trouble, the root of all evil, some might say.

I illustrated the principle by sending her the quotation from one of Nichiren’s many letters to his disciple Shojo Kingo in which he says

“Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.”

The eight winds are those conditions that, although impossible to avoid in life, may prevent a person from travelling along the path to enlightenment. People are often swayed either by their attachment to prosperity, honour, praise, and pleasure (collectively known as “four favourites” or “four favourable winds”), or by their aversion to decline, disgrace, censure, and suffering (“four dislikes” or “four adverse winds”).

So we can see that the winds themselves are not the only challenge. In fact, it is our response to the challenges, whether we are carried away by the winds, or not, that shows us how far along out own path to enlightenment we have actually come. We see that praise itself is not a bad thing, it can benefit the receiver as well as the giver, but it is the attachment to that praise that leads to problems.

Charity Open Season

Charity Calendar?Being stuck indoors all weekend, still trying to shift this cold, I have to admit that I have watched more TV than is good for me. I must say that those old X Files still make for good viewing and that Gillian Anderson is rather more appealing as Dana Scully than she is as Miss Havisham in the recent BBC version of Great Expectations.

Anyway, I digress. What really struck me was the propensity of adverts promoting charities. Here in the UK, we seem to have an unwritten rule, that there are no adverts for summer holidays until after Christmas Day.

Clearly no such rule exists for charity adverts. Everything from Save the Children telling me that 20,000 children die every day, to the World Wildlife Fund saying that the equivalent of two football fields of the Leopard’s habitat is felled each hour. The strange thing is, that £2 a month will fix both of these sad situations.

Now I like to think I am as generous as the next person when it comes to donating to charity, but being bombarded by these unconvincing messages really isn’t going to persuade me to give more. With money being tight for everyone at the moment, I really feel we need to be shown the truth, not just peppered with emotive images and fed heart-rending sob stories.

We all know that there are deserving causes out there, and that our charities are seeing reducing donations as a result of the recent economic downturn. It may well be, that research has found that £2 a month is the optimal amount to ask for, when analysing conversion figures, but it all sounds so hollow and I just find I don’t believe their message.

Just to put the lid on the argument, I am told that the 2013 Countryfile Calendar costs £9, £4 of which will be donated to the BBC Children In Need charity. That means that £5 will not be donated. Now that is fine, but they put such an emphasis on the charity side of it, whereas, actually, it’s just another BBC product. To my mind, charity and advertising just do not mix, so please don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

I can’t remember the first time I watched the Service of Remembrance on TV, but it must be the best part of fifty years ago now. It has always been a family event, with my Mom and Dad and my brothers. And although, sadly, my Dad is no longer with us, and the family is spread across the globe, watching it again tonight brought back poignant memories, as always.

This year’s service seemed a little more main stream, in terms of entertainment, with the likes of Rod Stewart singing Auld Lang Syne. Not the way I think we should remember the lost and missing of past wars. Maybe I am getting towards being one of the few remaining who were taught to respect these people from childhood. This is not a program intended to entertain, it is to help us remember those who gave their life, that we may live in peace.

I find it very moving, watching the petals falling on the servicemen and women, and although I have never known anyone killed in the service of our country, I feel a certain duty to watch the service.

The people in whose honour the service is held, gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in peace and freedom.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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