Category Archives: Wisdom

Creation / Evolution?

“How do we correlate the data of science with the teaching of Scripture?” Read Tim Keller’s “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (PDF)


Go to the places that scare you

“Confess your hidden faults.

Approach what you find repulsive.

Help those you think you cannot help.

Anything you are attached to, let it go.

Go to the places that scare you.”

-Advice from her teacher to the Tibetan Yogini Machik Labdron

in ‘The Places that Scare You” By Pema Chodron

‘A Roadmap to a Life that Matters’ – Umair Haque

 by Umair Haque

So, are you psyched for the new Harry Potter movie? Like you, your kids, and approximately 99% of humanity, I confess: I too am captivated by the thought of a magical world where diligently memorized incantations can grant thunderous powers beyond the reach of mortals. “Accio, job growth!”

If only it were that easy. In our messy muggle world, there are no magic formulas. So, while many of you have been asking me for a roadmap to prosperity — and I’ve tried to offer a blueprint of a better kind of business — it might be that, despite what late-night infomercials and endless banner ads suggest, there’s probably no framework you can pick up off the shelf, pay a few bucks for, do a little dance around, and (voila!) prosper. The plain fact is that great achievement, deep fulfillment, lasting relationships, or any other aspects of an unquenchably, relentlessly well lived life aren’t formulaically executable or neatly quantifiable. First and foremost, they’re searingly, and deeply personally, meaningful. The inconvenient truth is: you’ll probably have to not just blaze your own trail — you’ll also probably have to plot your own map for own journey.

So while I can’t offer a roadmap, I can try and give you a pen and protractor instead to help you begin to create your own:

Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.

Now, my little principle might cause those with hand-made suits and beancounterly tendencies to leap out of their chairs and hit me with the tarantallegra jinx. But even the cynics might be willing to admit: given a mysteriously non-recovering “recovery” for a global economy perpetually poised on the brink of perma-crisis, the status quo’s out of ideas, out of options, and running out of time.

In an economy dedicated to the pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier, the greatest hidden cost and unintended consequence is that something vital, enduring, resonant, and animating has gone missing from our lives — and it might just be the biggest thing: meaning in what we do, and why we’re here.

More, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier has built an economy that might just be in furious pursuit of mediocrity. Five hundred channels and nothing on, corporations whose behavior plunges past merely unethical, or criminal, to sociopathic, big box stores larger than an airplane hangars, billions of dreary, me-too, not-so-great “goods” that fail to inspire, not enough McJobs to go around, financial markets that are more deft at blowing up scarce resources than at allocating them.

So what went wrong with our path to prosperity? I’d suggest: our economy might be in pursuit of mediocrity because too many of us put what, why, and who makes us want to go into a fetal crouch, plug our ears, and bang our foreheads against our knees above, beyond, and before what, why, and who we love.

There’s no magic formula for a life well lived, but my humble suggestion is that the above is probably the polar opposite: a surefire recipe for a life poorly lived, for intellectual, relational, social, ethical, and creative stagnation. Hence, what’s stagnating not just our economy — but our human potential. Too many of us (and some have argued, the best and brightest among us) are trained from birth to be — and rewarded with each bonus to remain — what economists call “rent-seekers,” experts at squabbling over (and winning) the last stale morsels of yesterday’s fading industrial age harvests, the mere mechanics and advocates of wealth extraction, instead of value creators, the architects and master builders, dreamers and doers, theorists and practitioners of the art of great human accomplishment.

Hence, I’d suggest: my tiny principle might not just a disposable epigram, but a diagnosis for dysfunction — and a challenge to all of you. The pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier too often seems to demand putting what, why, and who we love at the end of the list, the underworld of the inbox, the bottom of the heap. That’s a recipe for stagnation, whether for people, communities, cities, countries, or the globe. But the converse might just hold, too: if nations and corporations want to punch past the glass ceiling of mere opulence, to what I calleudaimonic prosperity — lives that are meaningfully well lived — well, then people might just have to begin by making if not radically, then at least marginally more meaningful choices themselves.

Here’s what my little principle doesn’t mean: immediate, lowest-common-denominator self-gratification. That, for example, since you “love” Jersey Shore, you should spend all day, every day GTLing harder than the last. Sorry,lotus eaters. Instead, what it suggests is that if you “love” GTL that much, then, well, your roadmap might be clear. Whatever the method to your madness, whether inventing a better tanning bed, perfecting a better workout, or devising less water-intensive laundry, the authenticity principle says: don’t just mutely “consume” it — live it. Better it, reimagine it, blow the doors off it, and don’t stop until you’re within shouting distance of the point that it matters to the future of humanity.

The roadmap you need to follow is deeply, resonantly, profoundly, and irrevocably your own — the one that calls to you in every dreary meeting, every missed birthday, and every misplaced-but-not-quite-forgotten dream. It’s the one that leads you to your better self. It says: “Follow my lead. Let’s go somewhere that matters — not just somewhere that glitters.”

From here

The Great Courses – ongoing education!

So I’ve just started to read The Bourgeois Virtues by Deidre McCloskey and in her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book she mentions ‘The Great Courses‘ and something about her listening to it while walking on a treadmill or some nonsense. So I thought to myself ‘I’ve never heard of this thing before?!’ So I quickly moved from bed to desk and in five seconds Google was telling me that there was a massive learning resource of which I was completely oblivious. Basically, it’s a for-profit site that sells different courses (i.e. a series of lectures) that are presented by exceptional (think ivy-league) lecturers. There’s a massive variety of topics and lecturers. They seem brilliant. Importantly (and unfortunately) they aren’t cheap. Depending on the course they range from $100 to $1000+  which is pretty damn expensive if you’re paying in Rands! No 3rd-world-country, boo-hoo, give-me-discount here! BUT, they are currently having a sale and it’s 70% off!!! Which is fantastic news. According to the website, the sale is ending ‘soon‘, but the term ‘soon‘ coming from a money-hungry, morally-starved organisation is a rather loose concept I’m guessing. Nevertheless, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity (exactly what they want me to think- good little consumer-drone that I am). So I bought the course The Story of the Bible which had rave reviews and looked really interesting (and was only $30 due to the sale! Usually $130!). So I downloaded the first 5 episodes (there are 24 30min lectures in this series) and started listening to them, and they are great. Wunderbar! The professor is interesting, impartial, well-read and enthusiastic. But the story doesn’t end there…unfortunately for my credit card.

So I thought to myself I should really take advantage of this 70% off thing because paying full price will be so irritating when there was just a sale with such a large percentage off (the hook had sunk deep into my consumer-drone consciousness). I was mainly thinking about another course that Prof Johnson lectures called Jesus and the Gospels which is a 36 lectures series (30min each) and only $49.95 (originally $200!). So I bought that one…but then I also saw RAVE reviews for Classical Mythology (24 lectures $35) and History of Ancient Egypt (48 lectures $65) so I got those too 🙂 great stuff!!

I definitely think it was money well spent and I most definitely intend to listen to them at some stage this year. In my budgeting spreadsheet  I will record this under ‘Educational expenditures’ which is an investment (not a consumption) good. I also chalk up my UCT metrics course fees in that category. Too often we think that buying educational books (read: ‘all books that aren’t Mills & Boon’) is a luxury or we are spoiling ourselves. What CRAP! Utter nonsense. How is it that spending R40 000+ on your formal higher education is classified as a legitimate investment in your future, but buying things like downloadable lectures isn’t? For those familiar with the economics of education literature, I am aware that one can use the Signal-theory argument here to shoot me down (with downloadable lectures sending no credible signal), but for me personally I don’t give two hoots about signals – I’m not planning on going into the real world anytime soon (I’m still thinking of a better, more derogatory word for the ‘real’ world). I intend to inhabit academia as long as she will have me.

So I implore you (whoever you are) to do something about your ongoing education. It doesn’t have to be buying a course online (although that really would be a great start – just be sure to read the reviews first), it could be buying and reading a book about history or linguistics or cooking or whatever –  it doesn’t matter…just learn. When we stop actively learning, we start actively dying. Sad, but true.

Onward and upward…

Do not covet your ideas…

Let me begin this obedience…

‘Engaging in the process of setting a foundation under the lives we’re living is worth attempting. I don’t mean that we should try to do everything all at once; we cannot go from immaturity to maturity in one bound. But we can faithfully say, ‘ Lord, let me practice what I’ve heard in just one area today. Let me begin this obedience. And I will trust You to open the doors to further hearing and obedience to make my life like Christ.’ – Steve Zeisler

This is a great quote from a machine lifegroup leader – the original Mandominal. It fits in well with my understanding of how to tackle this year. Consistency, discipline, delayed gratification…the ingredients for victorious living.


Bill Hybels


Excerpt from an interview with Bill Hybels
Q: At the end of a really bad day, when you lay your head on the pillow and it’s just you and God, what goes through your mind?
A: “The worst day of doing God’s bidding is better than than the best day of  not doing it. So no matter how the circumstances have stacked up against my efforts or whatever bad news I’ve received, if my efforts have aligned with the call of God on my life and I’ve been faithful to Him, I sleep very well. If, on the other hand, I’ve made secret compromises in my spirit, or haven’t been on mission or responsive to God’s promptings, that will be a longer night. At the end of the day I only have to please one person – God.”

I chose the Superman pic cos Hybels looks a bit like Superman and he is also a legend!


This Impersonal World

“One effect of the increasing uniformity of life and of the crowding of people together in huge populations has been to mould vast numbers of them to a standard pattern. It is frightening sometimes to watch the crowd go by, catching the same bus every day so as to arrive at the same time at the same office or factory, in order to perform some excessively specialized operation never requiring of them anything but the same robot-like movement.

They have become merely cogs in the machine of production, tools, functions. All that matters is what they do, not what they think or feel. In any case their thoughts and feelings are similarly moulded by propaganda, press, cinema and radio. They read the same newspaper each day, hear the same slogans, see the same advertisements.

…For their part those who aspire to live like real persons  and not like automata find themselves caught in the toils of a mass society, against which originality rebels for a time, and then grows weary and is extinguished. The more people there are crowded together, the more does the herd-instinct develop. The massive undertaking in the long run turns its participants into automata. I have often had to quote a remark made by Professor Siebeck: ‘It is the calling that creates the person'”

From the chapter “This Impersonal World” in The Meaning of Persons by Paul Tourier

Nelson Mandela

“We accord a person’s dignity by assuming that they are good, that they share the human qualities we ascribe to ourselves”

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is a protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life”

“”I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

What an amazing man Madiba is!!!

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

I have started a new Bible reading plan, the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan) which is going well. Some cool and profound quotes on the Word of God:

“The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars” – Henry Ward Beecher

“The Bible…is the one supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God, and spiritual nature and needs of men. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation” – Woodrow Wilson

“There is one sure and infallible guide to truth, and therefore, one, and only one, corrective for error, and that is the Word of God” – G. Campbell Morgan

“We cannot attain to the understanding of the Scripture either by study or by intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His Word. There is no interpreter of the Word of God than the Author of this Word, as He Himself has said, “They shall all be taught of God” (John 6:45). Hope for nothing of your own labors, from your own understanding: Trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has experience” – Martin Luther

“Go to the Scriptures…the joyful promises it contains will be a balsam to all your troubles” – Andrew Jackson

“Though we claim to believe the whole of Scripture, in practice we frequently deny much of it by ignoring it.” – Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones

“To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?” – Queen Elizabeth II

“What Dryden said about Chaucer applies in infinitely greater degree to the Bible: “Here is God’s plenty” – Robert J McCracken

“Everything must be decided by Scripture” – Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones

And one more quote that is related to the Word of God through Jesus, the ‘Word made flesh’, by Queen Victoria

“I wish Jesus would come in my lifetime so that I could take my crown and lay it at His feet.”

“One of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions. In many cases we have to rely on secondhand information in order to function. I accept the word of a physician, a scientist, a farmer, on trust. I do not like to do this. I have to because they possess vital knowledge of living of which I am ignorant. Secondhand information concerning the state of my kidneys, concerning the effects of cholesterol, and the raising of chickens, I can live with. But when it comes to questions of meaning, purpose, and death, secondhand information will not do. I cannot survive on a secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation, if I am to come alive!”

-Alan Jones in Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled”


Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


“One mark of genuine Christianity is faith in the eye-witness testimony concerning the historical facts of the gospel (1 John1:1-4). Another test is love: how we respond when we are  ill-treated, whether we show kindness or whether we lack kindness, our freedom from jealousy or envy, our unfeigned graciousness towards people, our endurance when people are difficult, our humility or lack of humility, our attitude to our ‘self’, our ability to control anger, our freedom from a critical spirit, our willingness to suffer for the sake of good relationships, our determination to persist in friendship no matter what happens, our determination to make goodwill characterise everything we do.”

What a useful description of how we can test for love in ourselves. Eaton is a machine!

From Michael Eaton’s Commentary on 1,2,3 John. Focus on the Bible. 1996. Christian Focus Publications


“Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking.” – JM Keynes


“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods” – C.S. Lewis


“The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority”

-Kenneth Blanchard

Problems and Pain

‘Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems’

“Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we deliberately set problems for our children to solve. It is through the pain of confronting and solving human problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Those things that hurt, instruct’. It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welocme the pain of problems.

Most of us are not so wise. Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain. We attempt to skirt around problems rather than meet them head on. We attempt to get out of them rather than suffer through them.

This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

-The Road Less Travelled (M. Scott Peck, Page 4+5)


“To recast the Cartesian proposition “I think therefore I am” ubuntu would phrase it “I am human because I belong”. Put another way “a person is a person through other people”. No one comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think or walk or speak or behave unless we learned it from our fellow human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. The solitary, isolated human being is a contradiction in terms” – Desmond Tutu