Excerpts from Mosaic

1. Television and radio presenter Andrew Denton chose this Buddhist-like poem (author unknown)

Watch your feelings; they become your thoughts
Watch your thoughts; they become your words
Watch your words; they become your actions
Watch your actions; they become your habits
Watch your habits; they become your character
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Reflections by Andrew Denton: I think these words are true.

2. Aziza Abdel-Halim, AM, President of the Muslim Women’s National Network of Australia chose a reflection by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in How to live your daily life according to the teaching of the Qur’an, Lisa Abdullah,

Goodness leads to happiness
Happiness leads to forgiveness,
Forgiveness leads to love,
Love leads to giving,
Giving leads to receiving,
Receiving leads to joy,
Joy leads to appreciation,
Appreciation leads to understanding
Understanding leads to God,
God, The One and Only!

Reflections from Aziza Abdel-Halim: This reflection sums up for me the teachings and spirit of Islam: submission to the One and Only God; that faith and action must go together; that selflessness and work to help others is the best way to help humanity, and in helping humanity you are achieving the highest degree of happiness yourself, basking in God’s light and pleasure.

3. The popular prayer The Peace Prayer was chosen by Tim Costello AO, Fr Chris Riley SDB, AM; Bishop Keith Slater, Frances Seen OAM, Sabina Van Der Linden and Richard Gill OAM. The Peace Prayer is attributed to St Francis.

O Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
where there is discord, harmony.
where there is doubt, faith.
where there is despair, hope.
where there is darkness, light.
where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Reflections by Tim Costello: I use this prayer frequently, both personally and in leading church services. It is associated with St Francis because it was published on a card with his portrait. But apparently it was written in 1912 in France by a priest. It was widely circulated during World War I. It is this historic context – ‘the war to end all wars’ which makes its words most meaningful as a plea for courage, hope and love in the most difficult of human situations. The emphasis on seeking the welfare of others instead of pure self-interest also stands in stark contrast to the mood of modern times.

4. Jesuit priest, lawyer and author Fr Frank Brennan, SJ, AO chose Isaiah 42:1-4

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.
He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.
Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.

Reflections from Frank Brennan: I joined the Jesuit Order in 1975 when there was a strong emphasis in the Order on the relationship between faith and justice. I had just completed my university studies in law and politics. I then had two years’ novitiate, developing my prayer life and reflecting on what God asked of me. My superiors asked me to consider the plight of Aboriginal Australians. I experienced a strong call to go deeper into myself, and to reach out more in the world; to practise law and politics while being attentive to and respecting the voice, experience and wisdom of the voiceless and powerless.

This prayer of the suffering servant has always held in creative and hopeful tension for me the two worlds and the two times in which Christians are called to live, work and pray – the already, but not yet; the achievable, but impossible; the ideal and the real; working, relating and enacting the coming of the Kingdom here on earth, while praying and hoping for the Kingdom to come in which freedom, justice and love might survive even suffering and death, forever.

5. A one-time Sudanese refugee and now medical student, Adut Dau Atem, chose words by her father Dau Atem Yong.

Even if you are starving, you must never ever steal anyone else’s food, no matter how hungry you are. If you do not have food yourself, then you are meant to be starving. Be patient, your time will come. It is never acceptable to take what isn’t yours.

Reflections from Adut: These are the words of my father. When the bombs went off in our school and I became separated from my family, he was a political prisoner. Later, when he was released from prison, he walked for two years trying to locate his family, who were scattered all over the Sudan.

I’d been at a refugee camp, on the Kenyan border, for four years when he walked into our camp. By then I was 13 years old. I’d thought he was dead. It is hard to describe what it was like living in a crowded refugee camp with 90,000 other people. We were given one cup of maize and some oil to eat every two weeks. We had to walk a long way for water and we brought it back in big buckets. When there was no food, we called those ‘black days’. My father would sit us down on the dry dirt with the dry wind blowing in that place where there was no hope, hold us together and speak strongly to our souls, encouraging us to believe we could be anything we dreamed we could be. His words became an echo inside me, helping me to find strength when I had none. He would encourage us to go to the little school at the camp, even when we could not concentrate because of hunger. He loved us and we knew and felt it.

He organised a sponsorship for siblings and me to come to Australia. Two years later, they found my mother whom we thought to be dead. We hadn’t seen her for eleven years; he hadn’t seen her for fifteen. He died two days after she arrived in Australia. His strong spirit is still with me, guiding and encouraging me to keep going. I miss him terribly.

6.One-time world tennis champion John Newcombe AO, OBE chose ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Reflections: This is my favourite poem. And these two lines from it are inscribed above the door at the entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon:

‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat these two impostors just the same.’

7. Avril Alba, Director of Education at the Sydney Jewish Museum chose

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14.

Pirke Avot, usually translated as The Ethics of the Fathers, is a collection of rabbinic sayings found in the Mishnah, the central text of the Oral Law, codified circa 200-300.CE

Although deceptively simple, this axiom encapsulates the complex reality in which we all live, work, play and love. As life goes on, it increases in difficulty, and in our desire for simplicity, it is tempting to either subsume the self in the name of the ‘greater good’ or, alternatively, turn away from the community as a means of control and ‘self-preservation’.

What the sages remind us of is that to succumb to either position is to relinquish what it means to truly live: to actively engage with the self and with one’s community, and in so doing contribute toward the ongoing mending (in Hebrew, tikkun) of the world. However, there is no idealisation of this lifelong project. Rabbi Hillel exemplifies the wisdom of classical Jewish sources and their ability to explore the dialectics of human experience. They require the individual to challenge and care for both self and others as the foundational experiences of a truly spiritual life.

8. Tasmanian author Heather Rose chose a Lakota (Native American) Prayer

O Tunkashila, Wakan Tanka, Tatiya Topa, Unci Maka, Wapila, Wapila …

Heather’s reflections:

In the mornings I like to climb the hill behind our house to watch the sunrise and these are always my first words. I learned this prayer as a young woman when I travelled to the United States for four years to participate in Lakota ceremonies. The Lakota are one of the seven tribes of the great Sioux Nation, whose lands were the plains of America’s mid-west.

The words say, “Grandfather, Great Spirit, the four directions of East, West, North and South, Mother Earth, thank you with deepest gratitude.” I particularly love the word “wapila”. In Lakota it means “to be thankful” but with great generosity. To me it means I give myself completely to life in gratitude for my life.

Reflections only

1. Dani Haski, of Australian Story fame, chose a Jewish Meditation from Rosh Hashanah. Her reflections were about a roadside memorial ceremony, 25 years after her brother died…

I found this meditation in the prayer book I use for the Jewish festivals of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). For me, these stanzas describe the essence of memorial – from internal self-reflection to sharing with community, then beyond, to a transcendent experience.

Tragedy, trauma and grief are transformative events, and far too many people in Australia are touched by the tragedy of road trauma. Recently my own childhood trauma has taken me on a life-changing journey. On a bright morning in August 1979, my ten-year-old brother, Ben, was on a school excursion in the outback when the vehicle he was travelling in collided head-on with a panel van on a red dirt road, halfway between Bourke and Brewarrina. Eight young people died, aged between ten and 22 years old.

In 2004, 25 years after this awful accident, I organised a memorial ceremony by the side of that road, and the families met, many for the first time. We stood and remembered our loved ones and shared our feelings.

Trauma and grief have form and mass that we carry inside us. It slips and sloshes around inside our hearts, sometimes spilling out at inappropriate moments. With time, it is contained, and the load is more manageable. Talking about our loved ones and sharing our experience slowly transforms grief and reshapes the anguish. Memorials allow us to feel heard; for our pain to be validated; for our anguish to be acknowledged.

Much healing at our roadside memorial happened without words. It took place in looks and handshakes and embraces, which communicated eloquently our understanding and empathy with each other.

This is the power of memorial: the comfort offered by sharing as part of a community, the strength that comes from being a link in a chain connecting one to the other, and the light which lifts the darkness of despair.

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