Sunday, November 28, 2010



Last week I started discussing some ideas by Ronald Rolheiser regarding one's search for spirituality.  Reverting back to his original text, I note how much he emphasises the need for a balance between the two forces in our lives that drive us on, the chaos that can kill you if you don't dominate its unhealthy side; and the order that can make you too rigid to be able to listen to your heart. 

In this I realise too a smilalrity between the action  of the shepherd boy in Coelho's book "The Alcenmist" and start to question my heart.  In reply it reminds me of a reflection I had read recently by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa in which he said that it is only God's presence in our lives which will bring order in the chaos we live in.  It reminds me too that St Augustine's autobiographical "The Confessions" are a classic account of the human struggle involved in channelling vital energies.

On further reflection I start noting that I am beginning to see that the concept of spirituality as Rolheiser seems to be hinting here is something not directly tied to a religious life (although it obviously helps).  Here the order that our beliefs put on us can make us possibly feel that we must comply to its regime or forever feel guilty for not complying.  Instead, Rolheiser seems to be advocating a freer approach in which God's presence is allowed to fill us and free us from these man-made ties (which can suffocate us).  

I remember that Christ often spoke on these terms too, especially when he spoke of the rules of the Sabbath that controlled the faithful rather than helped them to see God in the Sabbath. In Matthew 12, Jesus says
"...have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.  If you knew what this meant, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice', you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

And, in his own way, Coelho seems to agree with this trend of thought: 
"When  someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first make the decision."  ("The Alchemist")


The day before I had just read about this old man in "The Alchemist" called Melchizedek. He referred to himself as a king and a priest. But he also told the shepherd boy that he could be other persons or things as well.  "Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution or a good idea as well" he said. "At other times I make it easier for things to happen.  There are other things I do too but most of the time people don't realise I've done them."

After giving the boy all the wisdom he could cope with, Melchizedek stood back and looked at the result of his work with some satisfaction.  As the ship carrying the boy left the port he thought to himself: It's too bad that he's quickly going to forget my name ... then when he spoke about me he would say that I am Melchizedek, the king of Salem. He looked to the skies, feeling a bit abashed, and said: "I know it's vanities of vanities, as you said, my Lord. But an old king sometimes has to take some pride in himself."

This amused me no amount since, coincidence of coincidences, while Rolheiser talks about the life force that is often experienced as a desire or longing  ("We long for many things, we feel restless, we seem compelled out of ourselves toward something more") the First Readings of these last days - all taken from Ecclesiastes, the Book of Qohelet - read (Chapters 1-12):

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!  There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. What advantage has the worker from his toil? I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about. He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity! -------
I will continue to consider the implications of Rolheiser's ideas as they effect our search for this God we believe in.   There will be more nuts to crack next week! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I have been pleasantly surprised with reading up on a personal journey as recommended by Fr Ronald Rolheiser, a Canadian Oblate of Mary Immaculate, on what spirituality is and what prevents us from living a deeper spiritual life.  His book - prepared on the lines of reflective chapters that take you deep into thinking on the subject - suggests that each of us has this deep, driving desire, this longing for more. That there is an energy, a life force that is most often experienced as desire or longing.  We feel restless, we seem compelled out of ourselves toward something more.

He quotes St Augustine of Hippo (4th-5th Centuries) in support of this: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you" adding that Augustine was to discover - and become aware - that he desperately needed some deeper direction and so the spiritual quest became the driving motivation of his life.   He also discovered that at the root of his restlessness was a longing for God. 

Rolheiser talks about this healthy spirituality that keeps us energised and that keeps us glued together. In other words, a healthy spirituality gives us zest and hope; it allows us to experience life as beautiful and worth living. It works against cynicism, despair and bitterness that can paralyse us.  A healthy spirituality is also integrative; it gives us a sense of coherence and order, a sense of who we are, where we are going and how life is full of meaning.

Rolheiser recommends that the task is to balance these two sometimes-conflicting dynamics: the creative, chaotic dynamic that energises us that must be balanced with the ordered, disciplined dynamic of our life.  Too much chaos and you die of dissipation; too much order and you die of suffocation.  A healthy spirituality therefore is the balance between the two, the way we channel that deep, raging fire that is at the core of our lives.


In reflecting on Rolheiser's provided text, I am coincidentally introduced by a close friend to the works of Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian best selling author whom I had not heard of yet.  Looking him up on the internet I discover an excerpt from his most famous bestseller, "The Alchemist", which seems to follow on the lines of the Rolheiser text. I am intrigued by this kind of fable approach to inspiring people.  This extract - from a conversation between a shepherd boy and the alchemist on the way to the pyramids - is typical of his style: 

"....the fear of suffering is worse that the suffering itself" said the alchemist.  "And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second encounter with God and with eternity."

"Every second of the search is an encounter with God," the boy told his heart.

"Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him" his heart said. "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them.  We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them - the path of their destinies, and to happiness.  Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out indeed to be a threatening place.  So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly.  We never stop speaking out but we begin to hope that our words won't heard:  we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."

Still milling over the interesting and stimulating  concepts in Rolheiser's thoughts, I am now seeing more and more that they are running on a parallel track with Coelho's mixture of spirituality and storytelling. Such as key passages such as these:

"When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognise the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises."
"I'm like everyone else  - I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen , and not what actually does."
"Every search begins with beginner's luck.  And every search ends with the victor being severely tested."

And the one which really tied it all up for me: "There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure."

Monday, November 15, 2010


A friend sent me a really lovely e-mail the other day which I would like to share with you.  It ties up with my current Facebook wall status - "Age is mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. I now feel so much younger with that thought in mind!"  Anyway, the e-mail went like this........

Someone asked him 'What was your favourite fast food when you were growing up?'

'We didn't have fast food when I was growing up,' I informed him.   'All the food was slow.'

'C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?'

'We ate at a place called 'at home,'' I explained!  'Mum cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.'

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.

But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it :

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf course, travelled out of the country or had a credit card. My parents never drove me to school. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow).

We didn't have a television in our house until I was 19. It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at midnight, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God; it came back on the air at about 6 a.m. and there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people...

I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.

Pizzas were not delivered to our home... But milk was.

There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.

Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?  And that was barely Sixty years ago.


My friend said that while cleaning out his grandmother's house (she died recently) his dad found an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. He knew immediately what it was, but his daughter had no idea. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. He said: "I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to 'sprinkle' clothes with because we didn't have steam irons."

How many of you reading this actually do remember any of the following?

Car head lights dimmer switches on the floor....and  ignition switches on the dashboard.....?
Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.......?
Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner......?
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals......?

And there's more.....
Candy cigarettes....Coffee shops with tableside juke boxes..... Home milk delivery in glass bottles............ Newsreels before the movie....... TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. (there were only 1 or 2 channels  [if you were fortunate])..... Peashooters from straws.........45 RPM records.......... Hi-fi's......... Metal ice trays with lever......... Blue flashbulb....... Cork popguns........... Wash tub wringers........!

I was told to share this especially with all my really OLD friends....  Luv Yah!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wow! - Happy anniversary

What would you think if I were to dare to wish myself a happy anniversary today?

Well this week this blog has recorded the start of its second year.  I published the first Cappuccino post on November 2nd, 2009.  Since then I have penned a weekly post as I looked around at the things that effect our life.  And as I searched for further meaning to it. 

Reaching back into the archive of posts available here below you can still read all the many and varied topics we have discussed and I am thankful for the feedback from readers and followers for their comments (even if these were sometimes not sent directly to the blog but to me personally by e-mail.

I have been asked two questions repeatedly this last year....

Why Cappuccino? 
Because it is a way of meeting friends and chatting over a coffee. 

Why the url 
Because it refers to three verses (6 to 9) from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. I believe that these verses inspired me by offering the initial vision that set me on my present course.  Look them up for yourself and let them inspire you too.

So.....What is in store in the coming months?  Do I intend to continue writing it?  My reply would be a resounding yes, since this blog has - to my surprise - somehow reached across the globe and has been read by so many persons in so many different countries.  Over this past year I have learnt a lot and this should surface in more interesting and better quality posts.  For one thing it sports a new design which I hope you like. You deserve it.

Thank you for the encouragement you give me by simply logging on.  No other comment is needed (though if it comes it is appreciated; it tells me that I am not only writing for myself!).

I thank my God for caring for me and my readers with His immense love.  May your God bless you too.

The Last Word?

Make yourself at home here, come back and read some of the older cappuccino posts too, relax, reflect.... and comment if you wish....there's a comment button at the end of each post!
I hope to see you again in a few days time. Enjoy.