Archive for category 3. Religion

Twinkle, twinkle

The star of Bethlehem is the defining cosmic symbol of the birth of Christianity. The star that attracted the three Magi to travel for several months to bear witness to the birth of the Messiah. The one who would be king of the Jews. This of course made the three magi themselves also an essential part of the birth of Christianity and yet we never hear of them again in the books of the New Testament..

We read in the bible they visited the Court of King Herod on their journey and were instructed to report back to him when they had found this royal baby. We read that after the Magi witnessed the birth they returned to Persia by a different route to avoid Herod; and we read that Herod then issued orders for all Jewish males under the age of two to be slaughtered to ensure the death of this potential threat to his line.

We also read that Mary and Joseph were warned of the threat and departed urgently with their new born for Egypt; and that when Herod died two years later, the family returned to Judea. But after that we read very little about Yeshua (subsequently amended to Ioasus by Greek scholars and later Romanised/Anglicised to Jesus). The only reference during his first thirty years of his life was a time that the family went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. We read from the bible that Yeshua, at age twelve, astounded the Hebrew scholars with his knowledge of scripture; but then we know nothing again of Yeshua’s young adult life until he publicly began his ministry with his baptism at age thirty, quite a mature man by the standard of the day.

He was baptised by John, the son of his mother’s cousin although we also know nothing of their relationship prior to that point. We have no idea where he gained the knowledge that he impressed the scholars with, or where and how he spent the subsequent eighteen years preparing for his mission to gather “the lost sheep of Israel”. His mission appeared directed against the religious hierarchy of Judea who had ‘turned God’s house into a den of thieves’.

What was the wandering star that caused the Magi to set off around 6bc (minor errors in creating the modern Gregorian calendar have demonstrated that the birth of Jesus would not have been at the beginning of 1ad as we assume. King Herod the great, who is also central to the nativity story, is recorded to have died in 4bc.

Computers today enable us to actually back-trace the location of planets and even comets two thousand years ago. An obvious first point to check is whether the star of Bethlehem was Halley’s comet on its regular circuit. But that passed through earth’s sky in 12bc, at least 5 years before the birth. Apart from which, in ancient times, comets were considered forerunners of catastrophe, not the joyful birth of a saviour.

Of interest, the original Aramaic text of the Magi’s explanation is that they had seen Yeshua’ star “in heliacal rising.” This means a star that appears immediately prior to sunrise. The most significant planetary observation is the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn which make an exceptionally bright ‘star’. This alignment randomly appears in different constellations each time but when it occurs in the constellation of Pisces it is recognised as the Star of David.

It was Johannes Kepler, the father of modern astronomy, who had studied the writings of a medieval Jewish scholar, Rabbi Abarbonel, and discovered the significance to the Jewish people of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which together shine like a superstar, in the constellation of Pisces. This alignment was regarded as the ‘star of David’. Kepler also calculated that during 6-7 bc this alignment of Jupiter and Saturn made the rare appearance in Pisces and was in fact a triple conjunction, occurring three times in the period. This has been confirmed by modern computer-generated calculations as occurring in 6bc on May 22, October 8 and December 2 with the heliacal rising of Jupiter in the dawn sky. This is a very plausible source of the legend that a king to restore the line of David would be signalled by this ‘star of David’ appearing. With such a favourable birth star in Jewish beliefs, Yeshua was well worth a lifetime of training by the leaders of Persia to become a future leader of Judea and Israel.

So the Magi were literally looking for the Jewish baby boy born under the star of David. This would certainly spark the interest of Magi given such a rare conjunction and even more so spark the alarm of the current King of Judea, Herod. Triple conjunctions are rare, the next after 6bc was 786ad, and the next after that in 1583. A triple conjunction in Pisces, the Star of David, is even more rare. It should also be noted that this time was also when the vernal equinox was moving from the age of Aries into the age of Pisces, the fish. This is notable with the significance of the symbol of the fish in Christianity. The last 2,000 years with the vernal equinox in Pisces has certainly been the age of Christianity. The Spring equinox is now changing to the age of Aquarius.

So what then became of the three Magi? The Magi were the astronomer-priests from Persia, adherents of the religion founded by a Persian astrologer/ philosopher named Zarathustra.  It seems peculiar that three foreigners who followed the religion of Zarathustra, an opposing religion to Judaism, would be summoned by the Jewish God, Yahweh to witness the birth of Yeshua for no other reason than to bring gifts and then depart. But yet  the Bible speaks no more of them. There is a reference in an excerpt from a medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne which read, “Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on Jan. 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on Jan. 6, aged 112; and St. Caspar on Jan. 11, aged 109.” The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi’s respective feast days.

So did the Magi play a real part in the mission of Yeshua throughout his life? Did they continue a role in his education after his birth and the family’s return from Egypt? Did Yeshua live with them in Persia to prepare for his mission? And did they see his mission as purely spiritual to bring Zoroastrianism to Israel or as the cosmically anointed inheritor of the kingship of David to restore the sovereignty of Israel as a defence against Rome?

Rome was a serious enemy to Persian Empire and Judea was right on their western border; it was earlier ruled by Persia before Alexander the Great conquered them. So it was certainly in the Persians’ political interest to have an allied, independent Judea between them and Rome. Whatever you think of this theory, clearly the Roman governor of the time and his Jewish religious puppets took the possibility seriously.

It raises the question about just how much influence the Persian magi had on the politics of Judea and whether they were continually working towards the eventual 66AD great uprising of religious zealots in Galilee and Judea when the Romans were actually finally driven out of the region. If so it was a short-lived victory as Rome returned with a vengeance in 70AD and the Jews were driven from the land which was given to the Philistines.

Incidentally the next great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be in November/ December 2020. I can’t wait, but this one will be in Capricorn, not Pisces so don’t expect a descendant of David to appear in Israel.

That is earth on the left of the sun with Mars behind us. Top of picture the giants Saturn and Jupiter (father and son in Greek mythology) one behind the other in direct line with the sun, forming a superstar.

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Atom and Eve

Here is a thought, when the first mother of our species was ‘created’, it was done so by the accumulation of trillions of atoms to form a ‘mass’ that is a human mammal with all the operational functions that we think of as making us distinctively human.

In order to understand how we humans came to be, first we have to understand exactly what ‘mass’ is and what is involved in the mechanics of forming it. I will start with our solar system, I could keep going out further but our own solar system is far enough to make a point. So we start with the biggest bit of mass in our solar system which is of course… you in the back row! yes you! daydreaming??? what is the biggest object of mass in the solar system? The sun? Yes of course it is the sun. Then we step down then to Jupiter the next biggest bit of mass, skip over a couple and make your way down to earth, and within earth we have rocks. And what is all this mass made up of? It is all molecules and they all work as a team to form a mass of something. And so it is with every lump of mass in the solar system, from rocks to planets to a sun, everything of mass has a molecular structure. For perspective, about 45 billion, billion molecules would make an object the size of a dice.

But what makes up molecules? Well that, of course, is our old friend the atom. The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus first theorised that all matter would continually be divisible until it gets down to a point where it could no longer be divisible and that point he called an atom. Atom literally means indivisible. It was the invention of the cathode ray tube in the 1890’s that enabled physicist, JJ Thomson, to ‘see’ the effect caused by an atom within the beam of light and in his experiments he identified the electron, the negatively charged cloud within the atom.

The cathode ray tube is what enabled the creation of television, which is the transfer of particles to enable us to see in one location what is happening in another location. It is interesting to note the 1926  prophesy of famous inventor Nikola Tesla:

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles, and the instruments through which we shall be able to do all of this, will fit in our vest pockets”.

Here he accurately predicted the cellphone but also identified that the earth is simply a huge brain that can enable communication between all the particles that make it up. In fact this same description can be applied to the whole universe.

The fact that all atoms are cloaked with the negative energy charge that we call an electron is the reason we cannot walk through a brick wall. Like forces repel each other as any kid playing with a magnet knows. So it is when your negatively charged atoms try to walk through the negatively charged atoms that are the brick wall. And if the wall has trillions more atoms bonded together than your body, because different chemical elements contain different numbers of protons, neutrons and electrons, then you are flat on your arse with a lump on your head.

Our own Ernest Rutherford worked out that there was more to an atom than just this negatively charged electron. And so with experiments he identified a nucleus within the atom. It wasn’t easy to spot because atoms are not big things. I am reliably informed that about a million of them standing one behind the other would bridge the width of a needle. And if we then imagine the atom as the size of a basketball, the nucleus would be the size of a marble inside it (about 1:1000).

Following on from that he eventually found the proton, the little positive charge housed within the nucleus. He named it ‘proton’ after the Greek word ‘protos’ meaning ‘first’.

Rutherford then discovered that he could disintegrate the nuclei of nitrogen atoms by firing particles from a radioactive source which, in turn, resulted in the release of fast protons. This was the first ever artificially-induced nuclear reaction, a breakthrough that would lead ultimately to nuclear power and the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. But while smashing atoms into each other may change the structure of the atom, he did not end up with two half-atoms split down the middle as the common language would imply. An atom does not die, it always was and always will be.

In 1932 an English physicist, James Chadwick, identified the neutron, the neutral particle within the nucleus and finally we had the trinity of energy that makes up the one atom; the positive, the neutral and the negative, like the red, green and black wires in the cord that turns on our light.

Moving onwards to us humans, as well as other animals and living plants, and we discover that after our atoms sort themselves out into the appropriate molecular structures (seven billion billion billion molecules make up a 70kg human; so I am probably a tad over 7 billion billion billion). Of this, almost 2/3 is hydrogen, 1/4 is oxygen, and about 1/10 is carbon. These three molecular structures add up to 99% of the total human. The molecules then co-operate to create cells, over 30 trillion of them in fact (although again I might be a tad over that).

So how do all these atoms, molecules and cells actually cohabit within a body in a way that does not create chaotic collisions everywhere? Communication. It is what makes the world go round. Just as humans walking down the street by intuitive cooperation and unspoken signals of communication do not continually bump into each other, so too quantrillions of atoms have a communication system that allows them to co-operate harmoniously and creatively avoiding bumping into each other; and they create more communication systems within the molecules and cells that they create.

Once all the required cells have produced a mammal such as Eve, a few of them form into a pea sized gland called the pineal and happily nestle between the two hemispheres of her brain. In fact this is the first gland to be created in the human body after initial conception. You may recall an earlier blog where I wrote about the cultural and religious significance we have historically given to this tiny, pine-shaped gland. I concluded that this little gland may in fact be our human router connecting our PC (brain) to the universal internet. Do we have a built in universal wi-fi? If so is it this wi-fi that connects us with all other groups of atoms also connected (other humans and mammals) by their pineal router and enables us to co-operate, avoid bumping into each other and live in harmony (unless our ambition or hunger overrides such harmony)?

When you ask a physicist to describe an atom he or she will tell you:

  • It is invisible to the eye. We can only perceive its existence by its effect on things we can see.
  • It is three elements in one.
  • It is eternal. It had no beginning and has no end.
  • It is all-powerful. It creates the universe and everything in it.
  • It exists everywhere. There is nowhere that the atom is not present.

I was raised in Christian schools my entire school life. I know by heart the Christian theologian’s description of God. It is as above, word for word.

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Apple anyone?

I saw on some facebook page a bit of a self indulgent reminiscence by one of my generation recalling the good old days when we had face-to-face friends not face-book friends; when we built go carts to race downhill against our mates rather than played X Box games against avatars. When someone else took photos of us if the occasion was significant and we kept those photo prints in a private album. There is nothing new in the older generation despairing for the younger generation; that has been going on since at least the time of Socrates, but the difference today is not so much attitudinal as it is technological. Today’s technology has had an influence on the behaviour of youth that Socrates could never imagine in his wildest philosophies.

The facebook post put the timing of this quantum shift in normality at the mid 1980’s. Those of us born before that time had real lives, but the post 80’s generation are now living a fake online life and they seem to be really struggling, emotionally, to adapt their natural human psyche to this self-created virtual world.

Computers in primitive form had been around well before the 1980’s but they were just big, cumbersome calculating machines. I tried, unsuccessfully, to learn to speak to one of these great machines when I did accounting at university in the early 1970’s. The computer then needed its own room, actually it was the size of a small room itself. It spake strange tongues of Portran and Fortran. It told me, numerically speaking, that it was in control of me, not the other way around. If what I put in did not compute, it spat it back out. Start again human.

But it was in the late 1970’s that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started a business to bring these giant computing machines down to size and into our homes. They wanted computers to be fun for all. They named the company Apple. In his biography Steve Jobs said that it was just a serendipitous choice; that he was on a fruitarian diet at the time and had just returned from an apple farm and thought the fresh, fun name suited his company’s vibe. If so, the coincidence is uncanny. The apple has an established historical connection with a quantum leap in mankind’s knowledge of universal law when Isaac Newton said he had his ‘eureka’ moment about gravity when he watched an apple fall from a tree.

The apple also has a prehistorical connection with man’s quest for knowledge and even immortality.  

In Norse mythology the goddess Idun was the keeper of the apples of the tree of knowledge and life and is known as the goddess of eternal youth.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, ruled the Garden of the Hesperides (nymphs) where there was an orchard in which trees bearing golden apples had the power to heal and renew. 

The Hebrew mythology, which is the one most well known in the Judaeo-Christian world, is that Lucifer (the enlightened one) gave Eve, the mother of all mankind, an apple from the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden. Yahweh was most displeased because mortal man was not ready for such knowledge and so was banished from the lush farmlands of Eden; sent back to the wild to forage like the beasts lest man also eats the apple from the tree of eternal life.

And yet still mankind flourished. According to Genesis 6, the sons of God mated with the daughters of man to create ‘great men’.  However the next chapter of genesis describes a cataclysmic forty day flood over all the earth that might well have resulted in our species becoming extinct. Geological and climatic research has now shown us that the biblical and mythical global flood that killed most of humankind, at least in the northern hemisphere, did actually happen 13,000 years ago and the cause was a massive meteor strike on earth, just like the one that had caused the dinosaurs’ extinction 66 million years earlier.

At the time, planet earth was emerging from an ice age; but still the whole of Canada and countries across northern Europe were under an ice cap that would have been about two kilometres thick. And this is where the biggest chunks of the comet hit. The evidence it left behind is in the form of nano diamonds; beds of micro diamonds that were created from a massive explosion creating heat of over 2,200 degrees centigrade. By comparison, fire is 600 degrees C and volcanic molten larva is 700-1200 degrees C. The immediate impact was the instantaneous melting of large parts of the ice cap and an unimaginable tsunami that washed over much of the known world. The meteorological evidence shows that 13,000 years ago, just as earth was emerging naturally from an ice age, it was suddenly plunged back into a big chill referred to as the ‘Younger Dryas.’ This winter lasted 1200 years before the climate recovered again.

Archeological evidence of civilisation pre deluge is understandably a bit thin on the ground. Such a cataclysmic event would not leave much behind. But we do have writings from the middle east region; the authors of the Book of Genesis, the authors of Gilgamesh and those writings of a prophet called Zarathustra. The first two write of an ark in which the selected humans, plants and animals floated above the flood and survived to restart civilisation again. Zarathustra wrote of a prediction that a giant serpent would fly through the sky and that, in readiness for this event, underground, multi level caverns called Vara were built with sophisticated entranceways between the levels and artificial lighting. Such multi-level caverns have recently been excavated in Cabbadicia, southern Turkey. Only the highest quality human, plant and animal species were housed there and they were control- bred to maintain the population levels. When the long winter was over, they were sent out in boats to repopulate the world and to utilise, in secret, the technological knowledge that had been preserved. 

Cabbadicia ancient underground city, Turkey

But the knowledge that these great men, survivors of the great deluge, possessed must have been quite advanced. The meteor would have done a few circuits around the solar system before zooming in for the kill; so if we, or the gods, had prepared for it then then we must have had sophisticated astronomical knowledge. And as all myths record that there was indeed a plan to save the best of humanity, animal life and plants, so there must have been that astronomical knowledge to allow those plans to be made and executed.  Soon human civilisation re-established itself to the level that we now have archeological evidence of sophisticated buildings and civilisations dating back 10,000 years in Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey. We know of  sophisticated cities, such as Babel in Mesopotamia. Babel meant a place where many people gather to talk together. A place of debate and learning. Its modern meaning is voices talking over the top of each other in excited discussion. And it was here, in Babel, that the idea of building a tower with which they would endeavour to reach the heavens was conceived.

Mesopotamian Pottery tablet VA/243

Was the tower of Babel a bricks and mortar tower as we assume? Or was it actually a rocket ship, which is also a tower, designed to reach the heavens. Interestingly the discovery of 5,000 year old clay tablets in southern Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, showed an astronomical map of our solar system that included the outer planets of Uranus and Neptune which were not discovered by the post-flood modern man until the 18th and 19th centuries, after the invention of the telescope. It also shows the two largest dwarf planets of Pluto and Eris. Prior to the re-invention of the telescope only the planets visible to the naked eye were known to ancient sky watchers. As we know, Yahweh ‘confused’ the Babel, scattered the men who conceived it across the lands and the project to reach the heavens apparently never got off the ground.

But after the deluge we redeveloped our knowledge of agriculture, pottery, metallurgy, astronomy and technology. Mankind survived and flourished; the scattered regrouped, their babel no longer confused. And the two Steve’s have brought the Apple computer into our homes. Well they did not immediately arrive into our homes; in the 1970’s and 80’s they were still a geeky, impractical and expensive machine that most homes could happily live without. But while Wozniak was the brains behind the machine itself he would never have taken it beyond the techno geek market and as such would not have survived commercially. His Apple would have withered on the branch. Jobs was most certainly the man (the Satan, the enlightened one) responsible for giving the Apple to mankind. And in a very strategic move, he first took it into the classroom, actually donating the original Apple 1 to some schools just to whet the appetite. He was less interested in wasting the fruits of the Apple on the elders of humankind, he wanted to give it to the children. In 1978 he won a contract to supply 500 Apple II computers to schools in Minnesota. In 1983 he sold a computer package (including floppy disc) to over 9,000 schools in California at a cost per package then for what you would now get a decent I-Mac. The Macintosh (an actual variety of apple) was launched in 1984 and the flood gates started to open. One generation after the Apple from the tree of knowledge was fed to our children, we could no longer imagine education without computers. We could not imagine homes without computers, or people without smartphones.

My little grand daughter is two years old. Her innate demand for language, knowledge and technology led us to the conclusion that we had no option but to give her her own personal connection into the universal consciousness. Her very own Apple i-pad. She took to it like a duck to water. Her knowledge, understanding and communication skills have taken quantum leaps; she swipes through the icons as though she invented them. 

So once again an apple from the tree of knowledge is the means by which knowledge and imagination is being spread throughout humanity.  It is the means by which we have built our rocket propelled towers with which to explore the heavens. In history Babel was the place where many voices come to speak together. Could the modern day Babels be the headquarters of Google, Apple, NASA and Spacex? Or is 21st century Babel located in the cloud and refers to the inanity of Twitter? The fake lives of Instagram? The pretend friends of Facebook? Interestingly while the Bible’s Genesis tells us that is was man’s corruption and evil that cause the great flood, the pre-dated original Sumerian clay texts said it was the noise and unending chatter of humans that caused the Gods to bring the great flood.

The changes in our lifestyle are, in reality, just as dramatic as noted in the Facebook post that began this blog. The irony being that he used Facebook to express his concerns; he did not call around to voice his concerns to me in person over a cup of coffee.

If Steve Jobs was the 21st century Lucifer then let us hope that humanity is ready for such knowledge this time around and that we are not once again expelled from our Eden to forage like the beasts in the wild for trying to use the Apple to gain eternal life. 

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suffer little children

I feel I should be in the middle of this uproar about the pedophile Magnus Murray who stalked the parish and school of my childhood preying on the young and vulnerable, breaching the trust given without hesitation to any man who donned the robes of Roman Catholicism priesthood. Those accepted as having a direct connection with God, with the divine authority to forgive sins on Christ’s behalf. It went on around me while never touching me. I knew the priest Magnus Murray ( I refrain from now referring to him as ‘father Murray’). He was our family parish priest during my high school years and took the latin class that I was in. ‘Amo, amas, amat, I love, you love, he loves’; the chanting we did in class now has such a sinister sound. But instead of feeling part of the story, I feel oddly outside looking in at it all.

Magnus Murray never molested me, but I was vaguely aware of a bit of murmur about a creep factor in him and you might hear the odd snigger when he would get a bit touchy in class. Pedophilia back then seemed to have a weird sort of unspoken denial. I recall in the early 1970’s when I had returned from Australia and met up with an old schoolmate who also lived in our parish. He mentioned, with a bit of a knowing smirk, that Magnus Murray had been sent away from the parish to Mosgiel for getting up to a bit of you know, nudge nudge. It turns out that the schoolmate’s brother was one of Murray’s worst effected victims and has suffered dreadfully his whole life. So while I am personally unscarred, I am also obligated to now reflect on this for it happened around me, by and to people I knew and yet I was essentially oblivious to the evil and emotional damage that I walked amongst.

He is only one of many Roman Catholic priests and brothers guilty of pedophilia. Why so many sexual deviants would be in one institution is not, in hindsight, unexpected. I don’t know, and will not venture to speculate on, the cause of pedophilia in our wider community. But to examine why so many pedophiles have been found in Roman catholic religious orders, we need to examine the structure of the catholic church of Rome. Catholics of Europe and Ireland tended to have large families, as was encouraged by their church. These families were expected to offer one of their children to the service of the church. Understandably when giving up one of your children you might, as a parent, discount those who you consider good breeding stock to produce future generations to look after you in your old age. But if one child was a bit different, a bit of an odd character, the runt of the litter, or one who may have been traumatised themselves by a childhood experience, then it was very likely that would be the one you gift to the service of the church.

And so it came to pass. A collection of family rejects for one reason or another brought together in a celibate environment under strict authoritarian rule and denied any normality or freedom in their life. And while all the focus currently is on male pedophiles, the girls from the catholic girls’ school also have disturbing recollections of the behaviour of some of the nuns who taught them.

Whatever their personal aspirations in life may have been, these were denied to them. Whatever their talents may have been were left to wither, unless they related to functions within the church’s scope of business. Whatever their emotional troubles might be, they were hidden, or protected, by the institution they were adopted into. Church secrets that even the police were reluctant to challenge. After all, the priests had the ear of God and no one wanted to risk going to hell for getting offside with God’s own priests.

Not that I am excusing pedophilia. I am as far from that position as it is possible to be. No matter what shitty card life might deal you, there is absolutely no mitigation for pedophilia. My point is that the hierarchy of the Church of Rome is also directly guilty of tacitly allowing pedophiles to prey on the children of their congregations. Apart from Magnus Murray, who did not overly surprise me in hindsight, a number of other teachers at my school have since been accused of sexual assaults on pupils. I now recall a story a friend of my brother told me at Mike’s funeral. He recalled how Mike phoned him one Friday afternoon and invited him for a drink. With inhibitions suitably dulled Mike told him they were off to a school reunion, and so they went. At the door they were asked for their tickets and the doorkeeper was brushed aside as Mike stormed into the hall, raised a $50 note above his head and called out “$50 for the guy who points out brother x to me.” The $50 was claimed in a heartbeat and brother x, a former teacher of Mike’s, found himself cowering under the outrage and public judgement of a grown man that he had last seen when he was just a vulnerable little boy.

Mike told him exactly what he thought of him as a man and a human who had ruined his life. The teacher was left a gibbering mess as Mike and his friend turned and left the hall to pin-drop silence and the teacher had to face his reunion. I doubt anyone in the hall had any doubt of the legitimacy of Mike’s accusations. He need do no more. He had personally, eye to eye, reclaimed his self esteem. He had completely overcome his tormentor and they both knew it. One would sleep well that night, the other would not sleep well again.

Magnus Murray got a couple of years in jail after some of his victims decided to go the police to accuse him. His guilt became undeniable, he was duly exposed and eventually tried and convicted. Out of sight out of mind and when released was confined to the security of a catholic home for the old and bewildered. And the world moved on, justice done. All a bit of an anticlimax in the end that probably did not entirely satisfy the victims. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He was undeniably guilty of planned, calculating and cruel actions against trusting and vulnerable children and had offended for many years despite being challenged, warned and given chances to reform.

I think in the court system there should be three categories of crime: minor, major and shameful. And pedophilia is firmly in the shameful category. And the shameful should not get to hide away from society, even in jail. For the breach of trust went beyond the actual victim to the whole of the society that trusted those wearing the robes of Christ’s representative. Shame needs to be on public display. In medieval times they put criminals in stocks on public display. I do not know why that practice was abandoned, but maybe they should bring them back for shameful crimes against humanity. Put pedophiles like Murray on public display, a placard hanging off their neck proclaiming their shameful act. Liberals will call it cruel and humiliating. And so it should be. Let victims of pedophiles see that the community supports them and shames their tormentors. I understand that my old school where Magnus Murray taught has removed any photos of him. Don’t do that. Put up a large photo of him in a public place and caption it ‘Pedophile’; write a condemnation of his actions. Lest we forget. Lest the evil rises from its slumber as soon as  we relax our vigilance. One of the victims actually suggested this very idea to the school but was told that ‘was not in the spirit of Christian charity.’ I am speechless. If the Roman catholic church believe unrepentant pedophiles are worthy of our charitable thoughts, why on earth did they invent hell?

1968 teachers’ photo, St Pauls HS. Magnus Murray is second from the right, front row.
Two others in this photo, now dead, are now also being accused by ex pupils 

So, are you enraged about the evil of pedophiles? About the unfairness of the length of time it takes our justice system to discover the truth and eventually bring some sort of justice? About how difficult it can be to bring justice when it becomes a case of one person’s word against another’s? About the unfairness of the sentences that the guilty pedophiles are given relative to the effect that their crimes have had on their victims? Are you now sufficiently frustrated and determined to make this a better world where, in the interests of speeding up justice, the police and courts are allowed instant access to really know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? To effectively have full, constant access to everyone’s most intimate privacy?

That stopped you in your tracks didn’t it? So how do you stand on the digital intrusion of elected governments into the private lives of its citizens? Planting cameras, tapping phones and seizing computers to search hard drives for evidence of pedophilia activity. Are you comfortable with that? Since such planting, tapping and seizing requires sufficient evidence to gain a Court order to do so, most are possibly quite ok with that. You may not have been so compliant had you been asked that question ten years ago, but times change. If we have the technology to catch these criminals then we must use it; as long as there are controls in place to protect the innocent. But you also know that by the time it has reached the stage of acquiring sufficient evidence to authorise such planting, tapping and seizing, the offender has probably been engaged in this shameful activity for years. Irreparable damage to innocent children already done. It becomes too little too late, as the age and even intervening death of these pedophiles makes the bringing of justice too little, too late.

Actually the government can and does, even now, put cameras anywhere they want in public places, so what would you feel about the government bringing in a law that allowed them to constantly access all data going to all computers and phones in a 24/7 search for pedophile activity in order to prevent it rather than to solve it? Well Google are doing it anyway with their cookies and what nots, and we have nothing to hide, so if it stops pedophiles then……..maybe………

It would be a brave political party to try to sell that at election time, but lets imagine it did go through. The next stage, in a few short years, is that cyber pedophiles will be always finding ways to firewall cyber police (you do know I am bluffing my way through this cyber jargon don’t you). So all we have is two sets of online gamers doing in cyber space what cops and crims used to do on the street. Win some, lose some. But when you think about it, the brain is just a super computer hidden inside our heads and the cyber criminals have the same brain as all of us? So what if the government develop a way to scan our brain wirelessly just as they can scan a computer’s brain? Did I really say that out loud? Even for someone like me that is scarily no longer in the sci fi realm

So what about that? In, say, ten years time would we be sufficiently conditioned to buy into this idea of actually catching pedophiles while the intent is forming in their evil mind by scanning their brains as they walk through a shopping mall, or sit in a cafe? This will make the world predator free they will promise. Well, you think,  if thats what it takes…..and we have the technology…… Really????? The ‘Thought Police’ then are no longer just a clever little exaggerated insult to politically correct pains in the arse? It is real? We are there?

As I write I know I should feel abhorrence about the concept that my every thought is being scanned and analysed by a super computer and that any red flag thoughts are being sent to some bureaucrat to assess and decide whether to send some men in black to pick me up for questioning and possible ‘re-education’. But the little idealist niggling inside is wondering if such openness is in fact the answer to world peace and happiness. A world of no secrets because secrets are the cloak of invisibility for evil. Without secrets the world will be truly beautiful, man. One world race of inter bred, coffee coloured, culturally homogenous people. One world government.

Oh no, am I really here? Or am I still in the middle of an acid trip from the seventies? But if we want a system comprising of police, lawyers, judges, psychiatrists and prison warders to deal with our pedophiles on our behalf then we are probably on the train ride to the state of thought police. The technology will be waiting at the station to meet us but it will be machines that asses the red flag and drones in black coming to collect us. The robots will rule the world. Wow, I think someone has been passing out bad red rope liquorice.

The alternative is to storm into a public gathering waving a $50 note in the air.

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Forbidden pleasures…..

My old workmate, Chinny, headed off a number of years ago to seek fame and fortune in the bright lights of London. I have to say he has done quite well for himself actually and is now a professional pig walker. Sort of like a gym personal trainer, but for the pigs of the wealthy of London rather than for the wealthy themselves. Still its a rung on the ladder to mixing with the rich and famous.

Now before you throw in your Otago University Exam Supervisor’s job and buy a one way ticket to London, I have to warn you that it may not, in reality, be quite as glamorous a job as it first looks. Upon further inspection of the ‘first day on the job” photos that he proudly sent, I noticed his tools of the trade included a strong lead, a trowel and a plastic bag.

I suspect, given the weight and centre of gravity of the pig, that the job involves the pig dragging Chinny all over the manor so that he can scoop up pig poop whenever the pig feels the inclination to poop. The wealthy of London may think owning a pig is all jolly hockey sticks, but one cannot have one’s pig manure lying around the estate. I don’t know if you have ever been intimate with pig shit (apologies for the vulgarity but if any poop needs to be called shit it is that which extrudes from a pig’s arse) but it is the very sloppiest and most vomit-inducing brand of shit you will ever know.

The trowel may also be required to repair lawns and gardens as he goes. A neighbour of mine decided to grow a couple of Christmas hams a year or two back, they got out of his property and rotary-hoed my lawn. They are destructive little beggars.

Anyway, our email conversation about his latest career move led to the speculation of how it might taste with a couple of poached eggs on the side. That, for some reason, (our emails always take odd and unexpected twists) led to a discussion on the unique practices of some Jewish people he knew. Oh how we laughed at the irrational phobias of the Israelites, like denying themselves of bacon sandwiches and cutting off the ends of their cocks as though Moses had been told on the mountain ” by the way, Moe, when I wrote up the dna formula I accidentally  left a bit of surplus skin on the end of  your knob; sorry about that, but would you mind tidying up that little flaw every time a boy is born?”

But before I condemn an entire race for what appears to be an irrational fear of enjoying the delights of a plate of crispy fried streaky bacon with eggs and tomatoes, I should actually check up on their rulebook to understand the full story.

And it’s all in Leviticus 11. Sort of like the Israelite Ministry of Health’s “Good Eating Manual”. And it’s not just pigs that are targeted.

Sons of Israel can only eat animals with both a divided hoof and which also chew cud. (Just one or the other doesn’t work, its got to be both criteria). And beasts that walk on paws as well as beasts that crawl along the ground are also off the menu. Chewing cud is a double processing of food and I applaud the ancients for recognising the health science benefits of maximising nutrient extraction by cud chewers. The cloven hoof criteria is a little more difficult to understand.

So forbidden meats included camel, rabbit, hyrax (like a rabbit with short ears) and pig. Also lions and snakes, I presume, and horses whose hooves be not cloven. I would have thought that Moses was angling towards saying you can only eat herbivores and not carnivores, which I would understand. But excuse me? Rabbit pie is not kosher? May I ask why?

Rabbits eat their own dung………Oh……point taken.

Now, not that I have ever eaten a camel, but I know it is a cud-chewing, two-toed herbivore so I think camels get a very rough technical red card just because having two toes and respective toenails is not, strictly speaking, a cloven hoof. But you can see Moses’ point in getting the camels on the no-eating list. Imagine him wandering past one of his little tribes as he is planning his next big march to the Promised Land to see them all enjoying a camel roasting on a spit. “oy yoy yoy, if you keep eating the camels it’s going to take us literally months to cross this bloody desert.”

Actually when I think about it, there may be a truth spoken in jest. Whatever the reason, while I am not going to die in a ditch over the right to eat camel meat, a cloven hoof is one of those skinny little pointy hooves designed for agility in scrambling around rocks rather than the type of footwear needed to usefully transport a heavy load like a human across a desert. Sort of like the difference between ice skates and snow shoes. 

So maybe Leviticus is saying exactly that, don’t eat the animals we need to carry us, our tents and tabernacles across the desert; the camels, donkeys, horses and elephants. Especially when you consider the gestation of a pregnant camel is 13 months and it takes about 7 years for a male to reach maturity (female 3 years) and you can get 50 years work from a camel. Whereas by contrast sheep  have a gestation of less than 5 months, reach maturity between 5 and 12 months, goats about the same; bulls reach maturity at 12 months and cows 18 months. The original fast food option.

Makes sense, it’s nothing to do with being unclean, just practical farm and transport management. Don’t eat the bloody camels, it takes too long to get another one to replace it. Lesson learned after the Moses desert crossing and now we know why it took forty years to get from Egypt to Israel instead of the 11  days it would have taken by the direct route.

As for seafood, the sons of Israel may only eat that which has both fins and scales. So that rules out oysters, crayfish, prawns and crabs. Bugger. Well I suppose in our hearts we know crustaceans are the bottom feeders of the sea, scouring the seabed for food amongst the turds of all the fish that swim above them.

Also banned are insects with four legs with the exception of a few permitted species like grasshoppers and locusts; well that was never going to be an issue for me.

There is also a list of forbidden birds including eagles, kites and gulls.

So can’t a chap even have a seagull sandwich now?

And even if it is a clean food source but it dies (presumably of natural causes rather than being butchered by an Israelite) then it becomes unclean.

I certainly don’t argue with most of their forbidden foods on the list. Carnivorous animals that eat dead, rotten food or raw, still-functioning organs, including livers, bladders and intestines, are obviously full of nasty parasites that are quite inappropriate for the delicate human digestion system. Although I am starting to wonder what a roast camel might be like.

Gulls and hawks are scavenging birds, with roadkill being a particular favourite and I certainly wouldn’t want to re-digest anything that they originally digested. And yes, yes we know shellfish can contain high levels of toxicity, and true enough, the  crab-cakes you get at a Jewish deli are in fact made out of pulverised flesh of a fish that has fins and scales, which is a bit deceitful but probably no less so than the prawn sticks I get at a Chinese takeaway. Personally I am prepared to take the chance when it comes to Bluff oysters and prawns, albeit I accept that I may live to regret it. I certainly regretted it the day I didn’t quite cook the prawns well enough. That was the most violently ill I have ever been in my life. I still break out in a sweat remembering it. It was not a case of fearing I might die, but rather praying that I would. And yet I still can’t resist a plate of garlic prawns. And if anyone suggests that salt and pepper squid may have neither gills nor scales, I just don’t want to know. Fingers in ears, eyes shut tight, ‘nahnahnahnah…”

But what is the problem with pigs? Are they saying those cute little farmyard animals are indiscriminate eaters? They do have a divided hoof so is their only crime not chewing their cud? Seems harsh. Well, as it turns out, I have just finished a book about some rather unpleasant criminal types in southern Italy who decided to throw an unsuspecting (and innocent as it turns out) chap who they believed to be a snitch, to the pigs on a farm, comfortable in the knowledge that by morning there would be nothing left of the chap but his teeth in a pond of pig shit.

So pigs, as I learn, are classified as omnivores. They eat anything and everything.  I have recently taken a moral high ground and now only eat free-range pig meat. But now that I think about it, allowing them to wander about freely probably just increases the odds that the pig I am about to eat has already recently eaten a dead hedgehog, a plastic coke bottle, a trowel, a bag of its own shit and a professional pig-walker. No amount of smoking of the beast actually makes eating them sound any better. I think the Israelites have got this one dead right.

And I am reliably informed that the Israelites chop the skin off the end of their cocks to stop the irritating sand getting under their foreskin. Even back in the Biblical, desert-crossing days I would have thought wearing undies and peeing downwind might have been a less dramatic way of solving the problem. 

 

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Oh mighty Zeus…..

we are here to worship you and seek wisdom. After forty plus years of flirting with the supreme deity of Zeus, aka planet Jupiter, yesterday NASA put a spacecraft, Juno, into orbit around the planet for the ultimate research project which will, hopefully, unlock the secrets of the origins of our solar system and our own creation. Powerful stuff when you get a computerised audience with the supreme deity of humanity’s ancient cultures.

Since the 70’s we have sent nine space missions up that way; it is the best part of 600 million kilometres away, or in more manageable terms, from Dunedin to Oamaru and back again once a day, every day for 7,000 years and when you say it like that it doesn’t seem so bad.

In 1995 Galileo actually entered Jupiter’s orbit and stayed there until 2003 and observed Jupiter. Juno’s mission is to get to the very core of Jupiter and get answers to some fundamental questions about the creation of our solar system, and of us. Juno will orbit in a path that passes over Jupiter’s poles and will measure microwave emissions, the gravity field and the magnetic field, which apparently is how the scientists will gain the vital clues into the formation of our solar system. 
Zeus_2Don’t ask me to explain how all that works, I was bewildered just watching a real estate agent hovering a camera drone over the house next door. But if you ever wondered why  Zeus (Greek)/ Thor (Norse) / Taranis (Celtic)/ Jupiter (Roman) was associated with the lightning, hammer and shield wielding warrior deity, considered the chief of the planet-gods in their mythologies, you might be interested to know that Jupiter is in fact a protector of earth. The massive energy of magnetic field and gravity of the gaseous giant has either deflected comets back out of our solar system or taken one for the team when its gravitational pull has dragged asteroids and comets to their death and preventing them turning their attention to earth. Such impacts are noted regularly and there is calculation that Jupiter’s size and gravitational pull drag in up to six asteroids/ comets per year. But some of the comets and asteroid strikes that our astronomers have actually observed have been real monsters.

Back in the eighteenth century there was a comet that appeared in our skies known as Lexell’s Comet, named after the astronomer Anders Johan Lexell who first calculated its orbit. He showed that the comet had made a close approach to earth of just 2.2 million kilometers. That was the closest a comet has ever been witnessed to approach the Earth and, in astronomical terms, it was a very near miss. Lexell worked out that with the speed the comet orbited around the Sun, we would see it again in 12 years, possibly a lot closer to earth and, if in an attack formation, would actually smash earth. In 1782, however, the comet was nowhere in sight.

The French mathematician Pierre Simon-Laplace then calculated that the comet had experienced a set of encounters with the giant planet Jupiter. After the 1770 sighting from earth, the second encounter with Jupiter modified the comet’s orbit, ejecting it from the Solar System altogether and removing it as a potential hazard.

A very serious comet in more recent times was named Shoemaker-Levy 9. The comet had orbited the Sun for billions of years but, in the 1960s or 1970s, it changed orbit and made a close pass at Jupiter and the giant planet captured it and it orbited Jupiter on a highly elongated path. On July 7, 1992, it passed so close to Jupiter that the planet’s mighty tides (hammer/ magic belt?) tore the comet apart. When it was re-discovered a year or so the comet had a squashed look due to having been smashed into fragments.

Fragment GBy observing the orbit of the comet, the astronomers calculated that it would collide with Jupiter in July of 1994. Having broken up the comet into bite-size chunks, the first piece of the comet that was pulled onto the planet’s surface was about 2 kilometres in diameter and hit with the equivalent of over a million one-megaton nuclear bombs exploding at the same time. It was probably Zeus’ version of having a really good curry, I imagine. That, however, was not the largest chunk which was fragment G. As illustrated, it made quite a bang.

More recently again in 2009 an asteroid impact, from a rock some 500 metres long, created a created a surface dent the size of the Pacific Ocean. Jupiter is just like our great big personal bodyguard. And the latest asteroid strike to be captured on camera was in fact on St Patrick’s day this year.

So if  Jupiter is the mighty protector deity of earth then that explains why, as a planet, it was so respected and revered by ancient cultures as the warrior hero-god. In Norse Mythology, Thor (Jupiter) rode through the skies during a thunderstorm to kill the giants, the enemies of the gods (planets), and to kill the mighty serpent that flies through the skies with the lightning from his hammer and his magical ‘belt’ that doubles his strength.

In Greek mythology, Zeus, the presiding deity of the universe, ruler of the skies and the earth, was the god-master of all natural phenomena in the heavens. The personification of the laws of nature; the ruler of the state; and finally, the father of gods and men. At his command, mighty thunders would flash and lightnings would roll; he represented the grand laws of unchanging and harmonious order, by which both the natural and the spiritual world were governed.

Just how the ancients had any knowledge from which to create such myths about Jupiter performing such god-like protection roles is a matter of speculation, but the reality is, they did. But whatever the ancients thought, this is the moment when we finally have the technology to approach this chief planet deity that can unlock the secrets of the solar system and finally ask ‘what’s it all about, Alfie?’ 

 

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knock, knock, good news

Why did I answer the door? I broke the cardinal rule of people who are at home during the day, which is ‘don’t answer the door’. No-one you want to see ever knocks on your door during the day.”

But they were a lovely, smiling couple of young people holding what could only be a Bible; they were Asians, although I don’t know why I make a point of that, no reason that I can think of but it added a bit of a challenge; the facial expressions and body language differ from the ginger-haired, glazed eye people who normally bring you the ‘GOOD NEWS’.

They were from a Bible study group up in Roslyn, so they informed me (from which I concluded that I was being assessed for my potential to join their group to help defray the cost of hiring the hall and to take my turn at bringing supper). Then they asked if I knew there was also a female god? Points for originality in an opening gambit, where was this going, I wondered. They might just be weird enough to be interesting. “Why no, I didn’t’ know that”, I replied. Two delighted Asian beams told me I had given just the answer they wanted. Step 2, ‘now we have three question for you, ok?’

‘Ok, give me your three best questions; game-on.’

They produce an electronic tablet of some sort, not an i–pad (although I am not a brandist so I don’t know why I said that) which has a question 1 written on it: ‘do you believe in GOD (in red and underlined).

“Well I replied, that depends on your definition of God, doesn’t it?” Confucius reigned on the young faces before me. Not the expected response at all. It was supposed to be yes/no from which they had two pre-planned paths to lead me to the good news about this female god (they should have said goddess, but I can overlook that with English being a second language).

“The person who created you and us and all thing on earth and star in heaven” they countered, tag-teaming to recover their composure.

That was their big mistake. When some stranger answers a fundamental question of faith with an even more fundamental question of faith, and all you wanted out of this meeting is to get a new member for the Bible study group to help defray costs and take a supper turn, then the red flag should go up on their electronic tablet. It should say to them: ‘this is the moment to cut your losses and exit stage right.’ I am sure an i-pad would have had that function.

“Well”, I continued, “if you are talking about god as a person, a him or her in the sense that you and I are hims and hers and you think that this him or her or both, if that’s where you are leading with your opening gender-specific gambit, created humans and animals and all things in heaven and on earth from nothing but dust,  then no I do not believe that such a gender-specific person exists.

So they switched; so God was now a spirit not a him or her.  Ok now we are getting somewhere even though it seemed to have drifted away from the ‘female God’ opening gambit, but I let it go, for now.

Then they showed me the references to the plural ‘us’ when God talked about creation in Genesis. I am totally with them on all that. There were lots of highlighted underlined verses bouncing between different books in their Bible to continue references to multiple gods; they had done their homework. Yes I quite understand all the Biblical pluralities in reference to multiple gods and have no argument with that although a little surprised that a Biblical study group that normally sticks rigidly to the monotheistic creed would keep pointing it out; normally it would be me who would use it to counter the monotheistic claims and thus send you scampering from my door.

I thought of inviting them into my parlour to see where this was all leading, as their body language suggested would be welcome, but I actually decided against that for their sake. They would find escape much more awkward and they actually did seem genuinely nice people, so I cut them a break and left them on the doorstep. Then I switched them to Genesis 6, that usually sends door-knocking, good news salespeople away quickly. You know the one? ‘the sons of god resorted to the daughters of man and bore children by them’.

Interestingly they also had that passage underlined, presumably as part of their female god theory, although the rationale was lost on me. Then, before we could clarify that, he quickly shifted back to his plan, backing up to the start of the Bible, Genesis. Then with excitement he points out ” Look Adam and Eve have two son, Cain and Abel, but Cain kill Abel then Cain have wife!!! Where come from Cain wife?’ He gibbers with frothy excitement. ‘Then Adam is not first man, just first man who know God!’

Amen, young brother I am with you, the Bible is full of weird anomalies. So I reeled him in with ‘so who do you think wrote all this stuff in the Bible? It is, after all, only two or three thousand years old.’ Confucius again reigned briefly in his eyes. Then he replied, “No no, Moses write of course. Moses write five book of Torah” (‘you silly old man’ said his eyes). “Well there is some dispute with that, with Moses having been dead before some of the incidents in later books of the Torah, but setting that aside, even if it was written by Moses, that was still only 3,400 years ago and humans have been on earth some 200,000 years, the earth has been around nearly 5 billion years and the sun is 15 billion years old; so, if Moses was the author, then he was writing about stuff that happened a long, long time before he was born’. (‘You annoying bastard old man’ said his eyes).

“So anyhow lets get back to Genesis 6” I suggested. The frustrated young man asked “why? why, when he was explaining things for me, did I keep jumping back to Genesis 6 and making Confucius?” For the simple reason my friend, that until you can explain what it means by ‘the sons of Gods resorted to the daughters of men and bore children by them’, we can go no further. That is a brick wall, you do not pass go, you do not collect two hundred dollars, until this is resolved between us.

Again he switches back to the plan. “Look Genesis say, day 1 God create the light make day that is sun made, ok?” (yes my enthusiastic young friend, that would be the sun), “then day 4 God create two light, sun and moon ok?”  (Yes that is what it says). “BUT (he leaped with joy at having sprung his trap) how can be two sun? first sun make day 1 and day 4 make number two sun. How can be?”?

Ok, I am weary of this now, I step it up a bit. So, now that we are talking about suns, there are not just two but many hundreds of billions of stars. We are a small planet in a solar system located in the far corner of a Galaxy, the Milky Way which is only one galaxy in the universe correct and God created all this?” He seemed a little bit annoyed at this topic shift, but he agreed. “So Magellan got in a boat early in the 16th century” I continued,  “and sailed continuously to the horizon not knowing whether he would fall off the edge of the planet or hit the sky like a brick wall but, in fact, he came back to where he started. So if you and I, John, (I had extracted his name by now as John) set off in a space ship travelling faster than the speed of light and kept going would we eventually hit a wall, fall off the end of space or come back to where we started?”

In my peripheral vision I see the young woman moving discreetly stage right, this shouldn’t take long now. The young man is slumping, “I don’t know too many big, too many headache.” Of course my young friends, the universe is huge and we are but one planet in the solar system of what is known as a dwarf sun, a minute speck in the far flung corner of an unspectacular galaxy containing tens of billions of stars, which itself is just one galaxy among a hundred billion galaxies (give or take) so answer me this: would the God who created all those hundreds of billions of suns and trillions of planets only put life on one planet? Ours?

“Yes?” he whimpered. No, no, no my little Good News friend. God would have created more life than us somewhere in the universe, surely? And so is it not possible that we were visited by a far more intellectual species in the past and those alien visitors were in fact the sons of god mentioned in Genesis 6?

At the mention of the ‘alien’ word there was horror and fear in his eyes. I was clearly a lunatic. Asians don’t seem to run, not in the classic Greco style, but a very quick shuffle probably covers it. Exit Stage Right.

“Y’all come back real soon now y’hear? We didn’t even get past question one.”

What I would give to be at next week’s Bible Study meeting in Roslyn. “We meet this crazy guy, he say God make other life is somewhere else in universe. He crazy, scary guy; nobody must visit this man again”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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