Because Blog

Pride will sink you (but only if you let it)

“Pride goes before a fall”, so the proverb goes.[1] And I was looking at a classic example – the Vasa warship, named after its haughty king, Gustavus Adolphus. As I came face to face with it, I felt like I had stepped onto the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, half expecting Johnny Depp to walk by with a parrot on his shoulder.

I was staring at a ship that sank in 1628 and lay at the bottom of Stockholm harbour for over 330 years until it was finally raised from the water on 24 April 1961. The Vasa now lives in a museum of the same name, enabling the continuous retelling of the story of one of Sweden’s greatest maritime disasters.

And all because of the pride of a king.

King Gustavus wanted his warship to have an extra level of canons. Sweden had an empire to protect and this new state-of-the-art warship would be the showpiece of the Swedish navy; one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. But the ship builders had their doubts; would it be stable? The king’s pride meant he was eager for the Vasa to take up its position as flagship. There is something about pride that is hard to reach, let alone teach. So the king insisted and the ship was built.

The maiden trip came. And went very badly. The ship was dangerously unstable; it did not have enough ballast for its weight, nor was it wide enough. It managed to sail just 1,300 metres, when it was hit by a gust of wind. It started to tilt. One more gust and the ship was on its side taking in water and the sailors went overboard.

Pride often overextends us and leads to a fall. It makes us top-heavy, just like the Vasa. Pride then hurts people. But it also puts a strain on us: we must put out effort to protect our image or position. And it often leads us to defencelessness; when we don’t listen to others, when we don’t hold space for the possibility that we could be wrong, then we leave ourselves open.

And then, bang! We hit the deck (…or the bottom of the ocean!). You may have experienced this kind of fall. But I find it interesting that the Vasa was rescued! Even though the pride of a king led to its destruction, it now sits in the Vasa museum for all to see. But more than just see, to learn from. And that’s what the fall that comes after pride is all about; to learn.

You may be licking your proverbial wounds from a stiff-necked argument with someone, or a failed project you went all-in with, or just the realisation you are not as good as you thought you were. It will sting, but let it. Your fall will not be meaningless as long as you are willing to learn from it, reflect on how pride got you into a difficult situation. Then make the change needed to move on.

There have been times in my life where I have allowed myself to become the victim of pride and the only way out has been to suck it up and move on. I guess that’s where the phrase ‘swallow your pride’ comes from!

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] The Bible, Proverbs 16:18 (NIVUK)
Image by Salih Seçkin from Pixabay

Learning from experience

Before last week, had you heard of the Chinese city of Wuhan? I hadn’t and was surprised to hear it has a population of 11 million. But then, with a national population of 1.3 billion, China has many mega cities that we in the west have never heard of.

We’ve certainly heard of Wuhan now. The news today, Monday 27 January, reported that the death toll from the Coronavirus now stands at 80, with around 3,000 more confirmed infected.

The Chinese authorities have imposed travel bans, but too late to stop the virus escaping abroad. To date, at least 44 people outside of China have contracted the virus, in places as far afield as Thailand, Australia and the United States,

Here in the UK there are about 120,000 Chinese students studying at our universities, many of whom have gone home for the lunar new year. Will they bring back the virus when they return to the UK? How alarmed should we be? Despite the media hype, most experts are saying that the UK is well prepared and there is no need to be unduly concerned.

That’s where experience comes in. As a pensioner I have lived through a few scares that have been billed by our mainstream media as world-shaking events. For example, according to the media the SARS virus in the early 2000s was a serious threat to our existence. But while some people died, and that is very sad, it thankfully did not become the worldwide pandemic that was forecast.

In my lifetime there have been many threats: a coming ice age (late 1960s and early 70s), no more oil (1990s), overpopulation (1960s to 2020), global food shortages, the “hole” in the ozone layer (1985 to 2000, now repairing itself), acid rain and, of course, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

All were forecast as potential worldwide disasters but somehow the vast majority of us are still here. That’s where experience comes in; being able to differentiate between what the media say and what is realistically likely to happen. Being able to take a calm and balanced view of the situation rather than over reacting.

So while there is no doubt being alive is a definite danger to our health, we shouldn’t live our lives as though danger lurks around every corner. Having said that, one of the best things about my Christian faith is believing I have an all powerful, all loving God to turn to in the hard times, as well as the good. Knowing that whatever happens, he will work it out for our ultimate long-term benefit is a huge comfort to me.

My experience tells me that there will always be times of trouble, but my faith reassures me that God is always there for us.

 

Davos 2020 and the Rorschach test

Hermann Rorschach developed the test that bears his name in 1921 after noting that people interpret the things they see in many different ways. In the test, participants are shown a series of ten inkblot cards and asked to describe what they see. There are no objectively correct answers, but the test demonstrates that what we see can say more about us than what is actually there.

This effect came to mind when I was watching news coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. President Trump told the world to ignore the climate change “prophets of doom”. Yet on the same day, Greta Thunberg said world leaders claim they are aware of the need to deal with climate change but are not doing anything.

An interesting example of two people looking at the same thing and coming to a totally different conclusion, just like the inkblot test.

Many of us are conflicted in the same way. Our hearts listen to the climate change arguments, but perhaps our heads can’t or won’t accept them. What are we to believe? We naturally want to do our bit and be as gentle as possible on our planet, but how much of our way of life are we prepared to change?. We still want to use our cars, maybe fly abroad once or twice a year for a holiday…can we change our lifestyle a little or must it be a lot? Where is the sensible balance between the vast extremes exemplified at Davos?

It is a big question, but only one of many that have no easy or certain answers in the complex world we inhabit today. We talk about spirituality a lot on this website and that is also like a Rorschach test where people look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. For example, I have atheist friends who believe that this life is all we have. But I’m a Christian and so believe that there is an eternal spiritual world that stretches on beyond this one.

I believe Jesus came to show us that there is more out there than we can see on the surface. Which is precisely the effect the Rorschach test demonstrates.

Keith Hartrick info@because.uk.com

Keith is an editor at Because

I once was blind, but now I see

I never thought I would find an empty pool so fascinating. But this, apparently, was no ordinary pool. The pool of Siloam that I came face to face with on my trip to Jerusalem claimed to be the scene of a miracle.

Now, I’m no fan of pilgrimages that take you to some supposed sacred place that promises the believer miraculous recompense for  their efforts, Lourdes and all! But the story behind this ancient pool was unusual and intriguing. It caught – no demanded – my attention.

Its true location and the events it played host to were confined to the pages of the Bible until 2004 when archaeologists uncovered this 68.8 metre pool. What I was looking at was the best-preserved site of one of Jesus’ reported miracles. I couldn’t help but think, what if…?

What if a man who was born blind was really healed here? [1]

Now my imagination began to take over. As I walked down to the steps leading to this empty pool,  I imagined the hundreds of people who would’ve come to this place each day. Including that blind man who Jesus was meant to have sent here.

“Go”, Jesus was reported saying, “and wash in the Pool of Siloam”. The story continues, simply stating, “so the man went and washed, and came home seeing”.[2]

As I sat by the now empty poolside, I imagined it full of water. I wished I could have been there to see it, watching the drama unfold, so I could know what really went on. But I couldn’t; I wasn’t there. Others had to do this investigation into the legitimacy of this peculiar event. And apparently they did.

At the time of this event, some refused to believe, so they spoke to the blind man who could now see. Then they interviewed his parents. If you are curious to learn the rest of the story, you can read it in the Bible, in the book of John. Spoiler: the sceptics couldn’t deny that the man who could not see, now saw. They just couldn’t explain it.

It was now up to me – what should I believe?

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] Painting by James Tissot: The Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Siloam
[2] The Bible: John 9:7 (NIV)

 

Promises, promises

The email’s boast was worth a second glance: a happiness guarantee. Given it was an advert from a utility company, I assumed that the promise related to the product and not to life in general. On closer look, I found that this limited promise was restricted to 60 days! Happiness can be a fragile commodity; even this utility company is cautious about over committing itself.

My parents were big country music fans when I was young. One song that they often played was sung by Lynn Anderson, with the catchy line: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”.[1] The song is about dealing with the ups and downs of a relationship, though at my tender age that went over my head. But I did pick up a simple message: “Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime”. Life has downs as well as ups. There’s no such thing as a happiness guarantee: beware anyone offering otherwise. For me, Lynn Anderson became an early source of wisdom.

Of course, I later learned that my view of Rose Garden is far too simple an analogy for life. To stay with the imagery, it doesn’t just rain sometimes. On occasion we get monsoons; every now and then a tornado rips through. But that wouldn’t make for a catchy tune, so I’ll let Anderson off for her simplification. However, all this just emphasises the fragility of happiness: too often it is punctured by events that are sad, bad or even mad.

Looking back on Rose Garden, I feel that it does actually offer a good piece of advice: “Come along and share the good times while we can”. Share: to share indicates time in some kind of relationship. I wouldn’t mind the diamonds (or the cash equivalent) that one line of the song refers to. But do they lead to true happiness? As much as I would like to say yes – the answer is probably not. But good, healthy relationships will. I have had some great opportunities over the years, but relationships have brought me the longest lasting joy. I don’t hear Rose Garden very often these days, but “I beg your pardon” always reminds me of the things in life that really make me happy.

Years after my first encounter with country music, I began a relationship that has really helped me last out the ups and downs of life. At the time, it took me by surprise; for it led to me dipping my toes into ‘spiritual waters’, something I turned away from when very young. It’s a long story, but I now look at it as a knock on the door from God, an invite to something new. Don’t worry, I’m not going to claim that I’ve now found a happiness guarantee! But it has kept me grounded as to what is important at those times when all seems to be going wrong.

God hasn’t promised me a rose garden. Instead, there is a promise that he’ll always be right there for me. This is another source of wisdom that I endorse. Rose Garden is a bit of good advice sung to a catchy tune, but it can only take us so far. In my experience, my relationship with God has always made a difference – to whatever situation I find myself in. Country music may not be to your taste and so it doesn’t really matter if you never listen to Rose Garden. However, I wholeheartedly recommend giving God a go; he has become integral to all those things in life that make me truly happy.

Woodley info@because.uk.com

[1] Rose Garden, written by Joe South and released in 1971.
Photo by Tabitha Mort from Pexels
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