24 July 2010


Or at least close to it.

I was going to write about something else this week-end - the subject of forgiveness, if you must know - but am not ready to yet, and I thought some of you might want to know what the outcome of my court case was.

I pled 'guilty.'

Sort of.  I went to see a local lawyer.  He allowed as how I was sure to get off from the charge of careless driving (had I said in these maunderings that I was charged with careless driving?  If I hadn't, I was), but that it was a fact that I had passed out whilst driving, that I was, in his terms, in 'mature years' (that means 'old' :-)), and that I didn't want to encourage prosecutors to advise the licensing authorities that it might be as well that a medical investigation be taken into my suitability as a driver.

I have no previous record of any driving trouble, not even a speeding ticket.  Mr Blackwood said that if I asked for what is called 'diversion,' I was certain to be granted it.  'Diversion' means that you do some action - sort of like doing your penance after Confession :-) - and then you are not listed as convicted.

So it was.  On the 16th of July, 9 in the morning, I appeared at court in Pukekohe, together with fifteen or twenty other ne'er-do-wells.  We were called up in alphabetic order.  Some of us were definitely goats.  The duty lawyer tells them that they are not eligible for diversion (presumably they are old customers), and must appear at 10AM when court is in session.

The rest of us are the sheep.  "Enter, ye who have not been here before, into the relative joy of diversion."

I never even got to see a JP (non-prisonable offences, such as mine, are seen only by Justices of the Peace; you have to hurt somebody to see a proper judge).  The Clerk of Courts gives me a little form to sign.  I have until the 24th of September to :
  1. Get a statement from my insurance company testifying that all financial claims have been taken care of.
  2. Do a "Defensive Driving" course.
I am still waiting for the statement from my insurance company which I requested a week ago - I may have to ring them again this week.  But the DD course comprises four two-hour evening sessions in a classroom, and one hour on the road.

I have had two sessions so far.  The time spent is a nuisance, of course, and much of the instruction is not terribly relevant to me - I am not highly tempted to take girls out driving and show off by doing burn-outs in my 'van - the course being aimed especially at young persons.  But it has been not unpleasant, has been a little instructive, and not terribly expensive ($170 - I don't know yet how much the lawyer will cost - less, I hope, than $500, from what I have heard).  There are 9 of us in the course.  Only one many is of 'mature years' - mid-50's I would guess.  He and two of the young boys there are there for diversion, like me.  The other five are also young - still in high school.  One of them says he just wants to improve his driving.

The other four are there because of a change in the New Zealand licensing laws that happened ten or fifteen years ago.  It used to be that you got your learner's licence.  You then had to wait a certain length of time - six months?? - and took a road test.  You now had a full licence.

Now you take the written test and get a learner's licence (and have to post a big yellow 'L' in your car's rear window).  After some months you take a road test.  If you pass, you now have a restricted licence.  You can't carry passengers - or maybe it's that you can't carry passengers unless you are accompanied by an older full-licensed driver.  There are other restrictions.

After another long time - a year if you are under 25 - you can take another road test.  But this one is different.  You have to drive properly - and, in addition, the tester tells you to explain what potential hazards you encountered, and how you might have dealt with them.  That's a bit scarier.

The DD course is there in part to teach the young persons how to do that.  And it does another thing.  It knocks six months off that obligatory waiting time.  And that is why four of the people in the class are there.

I quite enjoy the class.  It is a pleasure getting to know these people in this context.  I suppose they are not statistically average - after all, they (or their parents) are paying $170 for the course.  They are doing a fair bit of work (I have to - sigh! - make a safe-driving poster!  And there is quite a lot of other home work).  They seem serious about learning to drive well.  One of them, a young girl, wants to learn to drive racing cars for sport, for goodness' sake!

So it has been fun.  But I will be glad when it is all over :-)

17 July 2010


I chose St Francis de Sales as my confirmation saint.  He was the Bishop of Geneva, and had won many Calvinists back to the "Old Faith" - so I thought it appropriate that I, a once-Calvinist, should ask for his patronage.

Bishops are busy men - and St Francis de Sales was no exception.  However, he found time to write.  And one book that he wrote has been enormously popular, amongst Protestants and Catholics alike.  It is called, in the usual English translation of the title, "Introduction to the Devout Life".  Unlike some books of spiritual reading, it is aimed at persons in all walks of life, not just those called to a religious vocation (monks, nuns, friars, and sisters).

I read it in the first year or two that I was a Catholic, but did not find it terribly helpful - too flowery, too ... well, too 'religious' perhaps :-)

Recently I decided to try it again and have had a very different experience.  Perhaps I have changed in the ten or fifteen years since then.

In particular, after the first introductory paragraphs, he leads the reader in ten meditations:
  4. ON SIN
  7. ON HELL
It may not be true to say that you get out of such helps what you put into them - nevertheless, reading alone will not do much for you.  You must meditate.

Yesterday I read, and meditated upon, number 8 - "On Heaven."  I confess that the thought of Heaven has never meant very much to me.  The presentations in de Sales's book, like so many attempts to talk about Heaven (including the ones in the Bible), are lovely enough - but, frankly, just not much more than the best of earth:
Consider a fair and clear night, and reflect how delightful it is to behold the sky bespangled with all that multitude and variety of stars; then join this beautiful sight with that of a fine day, so that the brightness of the sun may not prevent the clear view of the stars nor of the moon; and then say boldly that all this beauty put together is nothing when compared with the excellence of the great heavenly paradise.
That's from the book, and very lovely it is, and it is, no doubt, true that nothing earthly can compare with the "excellence of the great heavenly paradise."  Nothing, indeed, can compare - so the comparison, alas!, fails.


That is the word that came to me.  Home.

I'm afraid it falls flat as I write it.  At the time - and still when I think about it - I am moved with deep emotion.

The word 'home' has never seemed to mean a great deal to me.  No doubt I loved the home my parents made for me - but I do not recall any very serious homesickness when I left it, first for University, and then to get married.  I know that Susan's experience and feelings about home are very different from mine - she has told me so often.

And yet - the feeling of homesickness - the German word Sehnsucht for which, interestingly, Yapese has a word (taawreeng), but there is no adequate English translation - that feeling is what I think I am feeling.  It is surely what C. S. Lewis meant, misleadingly, I feel, by 'joy' in his spiritual autobiography "Surprised by Joy"  It is the inconsolable grief (I think I have the phrase from Lewis) of the lost child, longing to be home.

That will be Heaven - lost no longer.

11 July 2010


My cat sleeps a lot (no, this is not my cat - but it's cute, don't you think?)

This post is a bit of a muddle - or even more of a muddle than usual, if that's appropriate.  Because I am muddled about sleep.

A few nights ago I lay down to go to sleep for the night - and had suddenly the thought that this was a very strange thing to do.  I lay down and was, indeed, ready for bed - but my thoughts went to the work I had been doing, and to the work I would do the next day.  And I lay - for a little while! :-) - pondering this: why do we sleep?

To retort that it's a 'biological need' only pushes the matter farther back.  Why is it a biological need?  Do all creatures sleep?  This article appears to indicate that most animals sleep.  It says "Rats kept from sleeping die within a couple of weeks,[1] but the exact function of sleep is still unknown."

There is an ambiguity about sleep.  The Scriptures never mention sleep as something that will happen in Heaven - but it is often likened to death.  Death is called 'sleep' more than once.  And a cemetery is just a dormitory - a κοιμητήριον - the Greek means a sleeping place.

Yet we are to 'watch' - the Greek is αγρυπνειτε - stay awake!  It is the Day of the Lord - never the night.  We are to work whilst it is day - the night cometh when no man can work.

The night prayer of the Church - Compline - ends with the recital of the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon, which begins with "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace ..." - and the antiphon for the prayer is "Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace."

I said I was muddled. I do think that sleep is a little death. It is - and we need not fear it.  It is that which 'knits up the ravel'd sleave of care.'  It is the rest that God gives us to be strong for our duties.  When we die, we will be watched over by Him, if we die in friendship with Him.  But it is a reminder - a reminder that we are not sufficient in ourselves.  If we could do without sleep - be always on the go, always doing - we would, perhaps, be tempted to forget that we begin our being out of nothing, by His call; we live the first nine months of our lives in passive reception of the means of our lives; we must cease our activity 8 hours or so in 24; and at the end we will - God grant it! - rest in the Lord, knowing that it is by Him that we will be raised to the wakening that is followed by no dying, no sleeping - and not by ourselves.

07 July 2010

Come on in, the water's freezing!

I didn't post anything this last week-end - busy, as usual - and I don't usually just cross-post; it smacks of laziness (oh, ok, it is laziness).  But please read the post in this link.  And if you're not a Catholic - at least ask yourself why we Catholics feel this way: the worst thing in the world is being a Catholic - except not being a Catholic.