Entries from August 2008 ↓

Reflexion Dominicale 31 Aout

Evangile de Jésus-Christ selon saint Matthieu 16,21-27.

A partir de ce moment, Jésus le Christ commença à montrer à ses disciples qu’il lui fallait partir pour Jérusalem, souffrir beaucoup de la part des anciens, des chefs des prêtres et des scribes, être tué, et le troisième jour ressusciter.
Pierre, le prenant à part, se mit à lui faire de vifs reproches : « Dieu t’en garde, Seigneur ! cela ne t’arrivera pas. »
Mais lui, se retournant, dit à Pierre : « Passe derrière moi, Satan, tu es un obstacle sur ma route ; tes pensées ne sont pas celles de Dieu, mais celles des hommes. »
Alors Jésus dit à ses disciples : « Si quelqu’un veut marcher derrière moi, qu’il renonce à lui-même, qu’il prenne sa croix et qu’il me suive.
Car celui qui veut sauver sa vie la perdra, mais qui perd sa vie à cause de moi la gardera.
Quel avantage en effet un homme aura-t-il à gagner le monde entier, s’il le paye de sa vie ? Et quelle somme pourra-t-il verser en échange de sa vie ?
Car le Fils de l’homme va venir avec ses anges dans la gloire de son Père ; alors il rendra à chacun selon sa conduite.

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Pour ce dimanche, j’ai trouvé que les écrits du grand Saint Augustin sur le thème illuminant et plein d’espérance.  ‘Renoncer à lui-même et prendre sa croix’ m’évoquais une vie austère et pénible. Tout au contraire, indique Saint Augustin. Ni dur ni pénible, Emmanuel, notre Christ, celui qui commande saura nous aider. Renoncer à soi pourrait se faire que dans la mesure que le vide ainsi créé  en nous et bien pour le remplir de l’amour et plénitude de notre Christ Dieu. Plein de Lui, que pour Lui, j’aurai suffisamment de courage pour déplacer des montagnes, il suffit d’y croire. Augmente Seigneur en moi ta foi.

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Renoncer à soi-même, prendre sa croix et suivre le Christ

Réflexion de Saint Augustin :

Ce que le Seigneur a commandé : « Si quelqu’un veut marcher à ma suite, qu’il renonce à lui-même » semble dur et pénible. Mais ce n’est ni dur ni pénible, parce que celui qui commande est celui qui aide à réaliser ce qu’il commande. Car si la parole du psaume « à cause des paroles de tes lèvres, j’ai suivi des chemins difficiles » (Ps 16,4) est vraie, elle est vraie aussi, la parole que Jésus a dite : « Mon joug est facile à porter, et mon fardeau léger »  (Mt 11,30). Car tout ce qui est dur dans le commandement, l’amour fait en sorte qu’il soit doux. Nous savons de quels prodiges l’amour est capable. Parfois l’amour est de mauvais aloi et dissolu ; mais que de difficultés endurent les hommes, que de traitements indignes et insupportables souffrent-ils pour parvenir à ce qu’ils aiment !… Comme la grande affaire de la vie doit être de bien choisir ce que l’on doit aimer, est-il surprenant que celui qui aime Jésus Christ et qui veut le suivre se renonce à lui-même pour l’aimer ?…

Que signifie ce qui suit : « Qu’il prenne sa croix » ? Qu’il supporte ce qui est pénible et qu’ainsi il me suive. Car lorsqu’un homme commencera à me suivre en se conduisant selon mes préceptes, il aura beaucoup de gens pour le contredire, beaucoup pour s’opposer à lui, beaucoup pour le décourager. Et cela de la part de ceux qui se prétendent compagnons du Christ. Ils marchaient avec le Christ, ceux qui empêchaient les aveugles de crier (Mt 20,31). Qu’il s’agisse de menaces, de flatteries ou d’interdictions, si tu veux suivre le Christ, change tout cela en croix ; endure, supporte, ne te laisse pas accabler…

Vous aimez le monde ; mais il faut lui préférer celui qui a fait le monde… Nous sommes dans un monde qui est saint, qui est bon, réconcilié, sauvé, ou plutôt qui doit être sauvé, mais qui est sauvé dès maintenant en espérance. « Car nous sommes sauvés, mais c’est en espérance » (Rm 8,24). Dans ce monde donc, c’est-à-dire dans l’Église, qui tout entière suit le Christ, celui-ci dit à tous : « Celui qui veut marcher à ma suite, qu’il renonce à lui-même ».

OBAMA’s nomination speech

It was worthwhile reading and listening to Obama’s nomination speech. He delivered to a very powerful speech. He firstly made his point by giving enough arguments to bring ‘change’ to American leadership, to end 8 years of Bush administration and of republican rule. Secondly, he did give his vision of the future American with a program. Thirdly, he maintained a lyric which qualifies him as a great speaker and leader.

It was 50 minutes of pure pleasure spent in front of my laptop, in spite of the intermittent wait and pauses due to the slow internet download. Luckily I could read the transcript from the New York Times.

I do wish that he is elected on the 4th November and bring about the changes so much needed by not only in America but in the world.

It is worth noting racial segregation was encouraged by law in some of the southern states of America until a few decades ago. The story of Rosa Parks in Alabama and the battle she led, are telling. Up to now the mentality of some the people has not changed. The nomination of Obama and hopefully his election to the presidency may bring in speed in the mentality change in racial co habitation. Understandingly the mentality changes are required both from the whites as well as the blacks. I took almost a century from the abolition of slavery to the recognition of equal rights for the black. Mentality mind set is more tenacious.

Institutional racism still exists and will last much longer than one would think. This time it is not only restricted to whites-blacks discrimination but all the range of races. America in the past in 1882 had discriminating immigration law against Chinese. Today are still discriminated in America: Blacks, Hispanics, Middle-eastern and Muslims.

Admittedly, Obama will not as magic change the ingrained mentality overnight but will surely trigger the start of the process.

Thomas Friedman’s view

I took much pleasure in reading my preferred columnist of the New York Times:

A Biblical Seven Years

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Beijing

After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: “Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teaching your kids Mandarin.”

However, I’ve learned over the years not to over-interpret any two-week event. Olympics don’t change history. They are mere snapshots — a country posing in its Sunday bests for all the world too see. But, as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.

China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.

Seven years … Seven years … Oh, that’s right. China was awarded these Olympic Games on July 13, 2001 — just two months before 9/11.

As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.

The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.

Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?

Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.

I realize the differences: We were attacked on 9/11; they were not. We have real enemies; theirs are small and mostly domestic. We had to respond to 9/11 at least by eliminating the Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan and investing in tighter homeland security. They could avoid foreign entanglements. Trying to build democracy in Iraq, though, which I supported, was a war of choice and is unlikely to ever produce anything equal to its huge price tag.

But the first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America.

We need to finish our business in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, which is why it is a travesty that the Iraqi Parliament has gone on vacation while 130,000 U.S. troops are standing guard. We can no longer afford to postpone our nation-building while Iraqis squabble over whether to do theirs.

A lot of people are now advising Barack Obama to get dirty with John McCain. Sure, fight fire with fire. That’s necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.

He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.

Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls — and I’m sure Obama feels the same about his — that they have to go to China to see the future.

I can only agree fully to Thomas Friedman’s Editorial on all three counts:

1. The energy coming out from China is unrivaled.

2. For seven years China has been preparing for the Olympics, they put in their efforts and might to build their nation whilst America has been for the last seven years postponing the build up of the nation. The Americans were too busy sorting out terrorism.

3. Let Obama bring the wind of change. Let him proclaim the moment and time of nation building in America.

Augustin 28 Aout

Le 28 août, c’est la fête de Saint Augustin. Cette date évoque en moi plusieurs souvenirs qui m’ont marqué toute ma vie. Je revis encore les séquences du baptême de mon grand père YIPTONG qui s’est tenu à notre maison de Port Louis. Grand Père était malade depuis quelque temps, à cause de son diabète : la plaie il avait a son pied ne guérissait pas. En effet, une gangrène rongeait peu à peu ses orteils et s’entendait vers sa jambe. Les médecins avaient décidé qu’il fallait amputer sa jambe. Il fut averti de la décision et il demanda immédiatement de recevoir le baptême avant d’entreprendre l’opération surgicale. (Ouvrier de la dernière heure, dirai je. Car il succomba a l’opération quelques jours après.)  Le Père Paul Wu bienveillamment accepta de baptiser grand père et grand mère à domicile et de donner à grand-père le sacrement des malades. L’atmosphère et l’ambiance, ce jour la, était lourd et triste car les conséquences du moment n’était guère réjouissants. Quoiqu’au fond du cœur de ma maman Cécette, je pensais qu’elle avait toujours souhaité et prié pour la conversion de ses beaux parents au christianisme. Dans d’autres circonstances cela aurait été un jour de fête.
Dans la panique et l’empressement, Père Paul demanda : quel est le nom de baptême choisi ? Un grand silence régna. Personne n’y avait pensé. Père Paul en regardant le carnet liturgique du jour nota que c’était le jour de la fête de Saint Augustin. Grand Père reçu ainsi le nom d’Augustin et grand-mère le nom de Rose en honneur de Sainte Rose de Lima que l’église fêtait quelques jours après.

Qui était donc Saint Augustin ?

Déjà, Monsieur Aimé Laval, mon professeur de primaire, nous racontait de temps en temps, surtout au jour de leur fête, l’histoire des grands saints que l’Église honorait. Saint Augustin fut l’un d’eux. Grand philosophe et docteur de l’Eglise, Monsieur Laval, nous racontât un jour Augustin marchant sur la plage, il était absorbé dans ses pensées par la résolution de prouver que Dieu existait. Voyant un enfant qui remplissait un trou dans le sable de l’eau de la mer, il s’arrêta et demanda à l’enfant : que souhaites tu accomplir là ? L’enfant lui répondit : je souhaite remplir le trou de toute l’eau de la mer. C’est impossible lui répondit Augustin. L’enfant ajoutât : de même que tu ne trouveras pas la résolution de ton énigme. Il suffit seulement d’y croire.

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Saint Augustin est l’un des plus grands génies qui aient paru sur la terre et l’un des plus grands saints dont Dieu ait orné son Église. Moine, pontife, orateur, écrivain, philosophe, théologien, interprète de la Sainte Écriture, homme de prière et homme de zèle, il est une des figures les plus complètes que l’on puisse imaginer. Ce qu’il y a de plus admirable, c’est que Dieu tira cet homme extraordinaire de la boue profonde du vice pour l’élever presque aussi haut qu’un homme puisse atteindre; c’est bien à son sujet qu’on peut dire: “Dieu est admirable dans Ses Saints!”

Augustin naquit à Tagaste, en Afrique, l’an 354, et, s’il reçut de la part de sa sainte mère, Monique, les leçons et les exemples de la vertu, il reçut les exemples les plus déplorables de la part d’un malheureux père, qui ne se convertit qu’au moment de la mort. A l’histoire des égarements de coeur du jeune et brillant étudiant se joint l’histoire des égarements étranges de son esprit; mais enfin, grâce à trente années de larmes versées par sa mère, Dieu fit éclater invinciblement aux yeux d’Augustin les splendeurs de la vérité et les beautés seules vraies de la vertu, et le prodigue se donna tout à Dieu: “Le fils de tant de larmes ne saurait périr!” avait dit un prêtre vénérable à la mère désolée. Parole prophétique, qui renferme de grands enseignements pour les nombreuses Moniques des Augustins modernes.

C’est à Milan, sous l’influence d’Ambroise, qu’Augustin était rentré en lui-même. La voix du Ciel le rappela en Afrique où, dans une retraite laborieuse et paisible, avec quelques amis revenus à Dieu avec lui, il se prépara aux grandes destinées qui l’attendaient.

Augustin n’accepta qu’avec larmes l’évêché d’Hippone, car son péché était toujours sous ses yeux, et l’humilité fut la grande vertu de sa vie nouvelle. Il fut le marteau de toutes les hérésies de son temps; ses innombrables ouvrages sont un des plus splendides monuments de l’intelligence humaine éclairée par la foi, et ils demeurent comme la source obligée de toutes les études théologiques et philosophiques.

Si les écrits d’Augustin sont admirables par leur science, ils ne le sont pas moins par le souffle de la charité qui les anime; nul coeur ne fut plus tendre que le sien, nul plus compatissant au malheur des autres, nul plus sensible aux désastres de la patrie, nul plus touché des intérêts de Dieu, de l’Église et des âmes. Il passa les dix derniers jours de sa vie seul avec Dieu, dans le silence le plus absolu, goûtant à l’avance les délices de l’éternité bienheureuse.

Michelle OBAMA

The world’s attention is now turned to the Democratic Convention happenings in Denver. The nomination and later on the 4th November, the election of the president of the US will impact on our life whether you like it or not. The dominant influence of the largest economic country definitely affects all of us. For this very reason, I took the trouble to document myself and to listen to the speeches delivered at the democratic convention. I must admit that I have already made my choice when I listened to Barack Obama’s address in Berlin earlier. Yes I am a partisan of the Obama’s.

And now, I am eagerly reading the speech of Michelle OBAMA, where she puts in her contribution as the next first lady to be. Let us hope that the 4 day’s convention will bring the democrats nearer to take over the presidency for the next term. The official nomination of Joe Biden as vice president reinforces the case for the Democratic Party and the final success of OBAMA. It is reported that Joe Biden, the experienced senator of Delaware brings to OBAMA the supposedly short comings in Obama’s experience and competence in foreign politics affairs whilst it rallies the votes of the low and medium class white blue collar workers.

The big question still to be answered is: how would the Hispanic voters react to OBAMA’s nomination? How would the Hispanics accept a black President?

All in all, President OBAMA at the head of the richest country of the world will make history. It will once again confirm that the US is the land of opportunities for all those who are willing to work hard enough. Judging from Bill Clinton’s past policies, it would appear that the Democrats at the helm of the US would be more favorable to Mauritius.

OBAMA from New York times

Born to a free-spirited white mother and a black Kenyan absentee father, Mr. Obama spent his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia. As part of a younger generation of black leaders, he represents the success — but not the historic struggle — of the civil rights movement. And his upstart campaign for the Democratic nomination, using a mantra of hope and change combined with tech-savvy, unconventional organization, helped him surpass one of America’s most prominent political establishments, the Clintons, to become the first African-American to lead a major party ticket.More »

Between earning degrees at Columbia and Harvard, Mr. Obama spent two years as a community organizer on Chicago‘s impoverished South Side. Left frustrated by the experience, he decided to pursue change as an insider and won a seat in the Illinois state senate. Mr. Obama has written of his “spooky good fortune” in politics, but his career includes one glaring political miscalculation — an ill-fated bid to unseat Bobby L. Rush, a former activist and a hero to black voters, in Congress.

Some accused Mr. Obama of impatience when he chose to seek the Democratic nomination just two years into his first U.S. Senate term. He faced a difficult decision after his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when his proclamation that “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don‘t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States” propelled him to party stardom. Armed with his charisma and his public stance against the Iraq war before the 2003 invasion, Mr. Obama chose to run despite his comparatively little experience on the national stage.

Mr. Obama, known for his emphasis on the big picture and a tendency to delegate, has been called “post-racial” and “post-partisan.” “I am like a Rorschach test,” he said in an interview with The New York Times this past summer. “Even if people find me disappointing ultimately, they might gain something.” Mr. Obama has carefully eschewed identifying too closely with his party, despite a fairly liberal voting record. His campaign‘s innovative internet organization both dovetailed with his call for a new kind of politics and helped him raise record amounts of money from small and large donors alike. He is a regular on the basketball court and at the gym, and his comparative youth and lofty oratory inspired comparisons to John F. Kennedy.

Despite his focus on unity, his victory over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton caused lingering resentments among her supporters. Critics call him an empty vessel, a charge fueled by his decisions to decline public financing and support an expansion of government surveillance powers after the election, both shifts from earlier positions.

Mr. Obama lives with his wife, Michelle, and two daughters in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park.

Saint Louis

Le 25 Aout nous célébrons la fête de notre capitale Port Louis, mieux encore la fête de notre cathédrale chef lieu de notre diocèse. J’ai a cœur le nom de Louis que je porte et que mes parents ont choisi. En effet mon papa s’appelait également Louis et mon fils aussi. Port Louis pour moi marque bien la ville ou j’ai grandi.

Louis, roi de France a donné son nom à notre capitale. Mais la France a connu beaucoup de Louis rois de grandes et petites vertus. Qui est donc le roi de France, le saint Louis en question ? Grace à l’internet, j’ai pris plaisir hier matin de lire plus amplement sur mon saint homonyme.

J’ai surtout retenu de lui : qu’il était réputé pour sa piété, Louis IX se taille, grâce aux croisades, une réputation de roi diplomate et juriste dans toute l’Europe. Les royaumes font appel à sa sagesse dans les affaires complexes. En grand pacifique, le 4 décembre 1259 à Paris, il signe un traité de paix avec l’Angleterre mettant ainsi fin à la première « guerre de Cent Ans » entre les deux pays.

Pour conduire ses sujets au salut, le roi de France interdit les jeux, la prostitution et punit cruellement le blasphème.

Je suis fier de porter ce nom et me souviens encore de mon enfance quand je regardais en admiration la statue de Saint Louis du haut de la tribune de la cathédrale Saint Louis.

Garbage to Gold

I google searched Garbage to Gold to find out the numerous of projects and initiatives that are available on the web in turning Garbage into marketable products. More importantly, I wanted to learn from the projects the technology used which could be applied in Mauritius.

Whilst composting seems to be the general idea, it is interesting to find out the different composting methods. Recently I was talking to some eco experts in Riambel who are test driving a compost digester for the chicken farms in the south region. Anaerobic digesters have been used for centuries and is one alternative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic_digestion

But have heard of vermicomposting? TerraCycle promotes this technique which seems to catch up fast. Would it possible to use the ideas promoted by TerraCycle in Mauritius?

Turning Garbage to Gold in Japan is also catching up too. Would our municipal authorities pick up ideas from what is being tried out in the city of Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. Food and kitchen wastes from hotels could well be negative raw material to convert in fertilisers too? http://web-japan.org/trends98/honbun/ntj970731.html

Turning old containers into raw material is another great idea that I picked up from TerraCycle. Is it very Chinese to keep the old containers of margarine to be used as food container for the kids to carry their sandwiches at school?

Terra Cycle Story:

TerraCycle was founded in the fall of 2001 in a Princeton University dorm room — 82 Blair Hall to be exact. The idea was simple: take waste, process it, and turn it into a useful product.

The initial business plan was written for a business plan contest sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. The following summer, Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer made arrangements with Princeton Dining Services to accept dining hall waste and process it in their prototype ‘Worm Gin’. The waste turned out to be a bit messier than they had anticipated, but they perservered. Towards the end of that summer, they found their first investor who learned of the company through an interview with Bernard Spigner. They shortly moved into their first office at 20 Nassau St, Unit 14.

Tom took an extended leave of absence from Princeton in the spring of 2003. In May of 2003, Tom entered the Carrot Capital business plan contest, which offered $1 million in seed capital to the winning team. And TerraCycle won! However, they turned down the money because they didn’t like the direction in which Carrot Capital wanted to take the company.

The company continued, funded by prize money from business plan contests and angel investors. A major breakthrough was achieved in May of 2004 when The Home Depot began selling TerraCycle Plant Food™ on their website. In 2005, TerraCycle continued their growth as Whole Foods, Home Depot Canada, Wal*Mart Canada, Wild Oats and Do-It-Best began carrying the TerraCycle line.

Most recently, TerraCycle has been named one of the 100 most innovative companies by Red Herring magazine and been awarded the Environmental Stewardship Award from Home Depot Canada. The Environmental Stewardship Award is one of only two company-wide awards given by Home Depot Canada.

Sunday 24th August Gospel’s reading:

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16,13-20.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

This reading flashes me back to my visit to Caesarea Philippi in Israel some 15 years or so ago. Our selected group of pilgrims came back from Galilee went to visit Caesarea Philippi. I recall of the human size sculpture on a roman soldier placed at the entrance of the town.

‘But who do you say that I am?’ This is the question I am asking myself now. Who is Jesus to me now? What is the relation I have with him now? True enough, from the teachings that I had, I know and believe that He is the messiah, the son of the living God, the Saviour of humanity. My God is not some great remote organizer and Omni powerful being that is distant from me. My Saviour is a personal benefactor who out of love for me, has decided to come to take care of me. Somebody I can talk to, someone with whom I have to build an intimate relationship. Alas all too often, I forget of His existence. Forgive me Lord, for putting you often aside and neglect your presence.

You instituted a church and gave all powers to Peter to manage it. We are so grateful to you Lord Jesus. May we be reminded of you, and worship you through the church and its teaching. Give us to be closer to you and to be more aware of the love that you are showering on us now and forever.

Maranatha. Maranatha.

Kwan Yin the goddess of mercy and compassion

My grandmother had for many years been practising Buddhism before being converted to christianism at the end of her life. Being the eldest grandchild I had always accompanied her to her weekly trip to the various temples to make her weekly offerings. Though uneducated, as she never attended school, she knew from tradition, the stories about the gods and deities to venerate. She always made sure to spend some time over the statues representing Kwan Yin who she told me is the only feminine who dispenses mercy and compassion.

David, the brother in law of my wife and my friend sent to me today this paper cutting:

Thursday August 21, 2008

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times today contains a sentence about the Chinese “goddess of mercy,” Guanyin (Kwan yin), that I don’t think is accurate. But maybe Kristof is right and I’m wrong. Kristof writes,

When the first Westerners arrived and brought their faith in the Virgin Mary, China didn’t have an equivalent female figure to work miracles — so Guan Yin, the God of Mercy, underwent a sex change and became the Goddess of Mercy.

You may know that Guanyin is a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. My understanding is that until the time of the early Sung Dynasty (960–1126), the bodhisattva was portrayed in art as male. From the 12th century on, however, in much of Asia, Avalokiteshvara took the form of a mother-goddess of mercy.

During this time there were Nestorian Christians living within the Mongol Empire, but I don’t believe the Nestorians venerated Mary. All the reference books says the first Catholic missionary to China was John of Montecorvino (1294-1328), who arrived in China in the early 14th century, when a female Guanyin was already well established in Chinese Buddhist iconography. For this reason I don’t think there was a direct connection between Guanyin and Mary.

However, it is interesting to me that during the 10th through 12th centuries, when the image of Guanyin was becoming popular, the veneration of Mary also was on the rise in Europe. Was there some cultural cross-pollination the historians don’t know about? Or some other factor that made mother goddesses particularly appealing during that time?

The Strategy or the Strategist?

Many years ago, I followed very interesting seminars on strategies in enterprises. Most  had a common thread: learning from the great strategists of the military. In the most recent one, General Fievet retired military teacher from the French army, taught  the bunch of business executives of APM, about the learning to be extracted from Napoleon, Sun Tzu, Moltke and the many military strategists. These lessons in strategy may be used in business and all spheres of life. They are also relevant in sports . I was watching these  previous days the different strategies used by the various country teams to win the Olympics. I could very easily imagine the strategies deployed by the teams to win three medals for the Jamaica by the ladies team in one go.

Listen to Jack Welch. As CEO of General Electric (GE) Welch had one of the most spectacular records in history. Great strategy, right? Nope. At the end of his long run at the helm of GE, Welch would say, “Great people, not great strategies are what made it all work.

Without great people, it’s very, very hard to do great things. That doesn’t mean that you need the brightest folks, or the ones with the most credentials. It does mean that you need folks who care about what needs to be done and who take responsibility for their part of the job.

Once you’ve got those folks in the boat, develop a good strategy. A good strategy is realistic and flexible.

Realism is vital when you develop a strategy. You have to know the current situation, along with your strengths and weaknesses. You have to know the marketplace and your competitors. Then you have to select performance targets that you can hit, then mobilize your organization to get the job done. Being realistic about your situation and prospects increases the odds that you’ll develop plans that work.

Great strategists work through simple plans. It’s simply impossible to plan for all possible contingencies so you have to allow for folks to make critical decisions on the spot.

Helmuth von Moltke became Chief of the Prussian General Staff in 1858. He served there thirty years during a period of great political and technological change. Many writers see Moltke as the paragon and proponent of centralized, strategic planning. Moltke certainly was among the first to prepare plans for an entire nation to use in different political situations. But he also changed the Prussian military system to make it more flexible.

Moltke replaced the rigid Prussian system of “operation orders” with a system of “general directives.” The directives gave a commander his objective in broad terms, but allowed him considerable freedom to choose how to accomplish it. He expected German officers to seize the opportunities that came their way, even if the original plan did not anticipate them.

That flexibility disappeared under a later Chief of Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen. Schlieffen, like many top ranking folks, believed that if a little planning was good, then much more planning must be better. He constructed a detailed mobilization plan that included 11,000 train movements on a precise timetable. The planners could calculate precisely how much a given delay would cost the army in terms of land given up at the front.

It was a masterful plan, a true intellectual achievement. It was also far too fragile for reality. When it was finally put to use political and military forces worked to destroy original assumptions and disrupt the precise plan.

Adaptive strategy seems to be essence of the strategist. Reading the changes on the ground and getting the coordinated collective actions to change and take the appropriate measures in time at the right location is the winning strategy.

Donald Laurie writes about adaptive strategies in a changing environment:

Leaders today face adaptive challenges. Changes in societies, markets, customers, competition, and technology around the globe are forcing them to clarify their values, develop new strategies, and learn new ways of operating. Often the toughest task for leaders is mobilizing people to do adaptive work.

Adaptive work is required when our deeply held beliefs are challenged, when the values that made us successful become less relevant, and when legitimate yet competing perspectives emerge. We see adaptive challenges every day at every level—when companies restructure or reengineer, develop or implement strategy, or merge businesses. We see adaptive challenges when marketing has difficulty working with operations, when cross-functional teams don’t work well, or when senior executives complain that they can’t execute effectively. Adaptive problems are often systemic problems with no ready answers.

Mobilizing an organization to adapt its behaviors to thrive in new business environment is critical. Without such change, any company today would falter. Getting people to do adaptive work is the mark of leadership. Yet for most senior executives, providing leadership is difficult. Why? We see two reasons. First, to make change happen, executives have to break a long-standing behavior pattern of their own: providing leadership in the form of solutions. Many executives reach their positions of authority by virtue of their competence in taking responsibility and solving problems. But when a company faces an adaptive challenge, the focus of responsibility for problem solving resides not in the executive suite but in the collective intelligence of employees at all levels, who need to use one another as resources, often across boundaries, and learn their way to those solutions.

Second, adaptive change is distressing for people going through it. They need to take on new roles, new relationships, new values, new behaviors, and new approaches to work. Many employees are ambivalent about the efforts and sacrifices required of them. They often look to the senior executive to take problems off their shoulders. But those expectations have to be unlearned. Rather than fulfilling the expectation that they will provide answers, leaders have to ask tough questions. Rather than protecting people from outside threats, leaders should allow them to feel the pinch of reality to stimulate them to adapt. Instead of orienting people to their current roles, leaders must disorient them so that new relationships can develop. Instead of quelling conflict, leaders have to draw the issues out. Instead of maintaining norms, leaders have to challenge “the way we do business” and help others distinguish immutable values from historical practices that must go.

Six Guiding Principles

Drawing on our experience with managers from around the world, we offer six principles for leading adaptive work:

1. Get on the balcony. Business leaders have to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept up in the field of action. Leaders have to identify struggles over values and power, patterns of work avoidance, and the many other reactions to change.

2. Identify the adaptive challenge. When businesses cannot learn quickly to adapt to new challenges, they are likely to face their own form of extinction. Leaders need to understand themselves, their people, and the potential sources of conflict.

3. Regulate distress. Adaptive work generates distress. Before putting people to work on challenges for which there are no ready solutions, a leader must realize that people can learn only so much so fast, and maintain a productive level of tension and motivate people without disabling them.

Although leadership demands a deep understanding of the pain of change—the fears and sacrifices associated with major readjustment—it also requires the ability to hold steady and maintain the tension.

A leader has to have the emotional capacity to tolerate uncertainty, frustration and pain. He has to raise tough questions without getting too anxious himself. Employees, colleagues, and customers will carefully observe verbal and nonverbal cues to a leader’s ability to hold steady and tackle tasks ahead.

4. Maintain disciplined attention. Different people with the same organization bring different experiences, assumptions, values, beliefs and habits to their work. This diversity is valuable because innovation and learning are the products of differences. No one learns anything without being open to contrasting points of view.

As Jan Carlzon, CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), told us, “The work of the leader is to get conflict out into the open and use it as a source of creativity.”

Because work avoidance is rampant in organizations, a leader has to counteract distractions that prevent people from dealing with adaptive issues. People need leadership to help them maintain their focus on tough questions. Disciplined attention is the currency of leadership.

5. Give work back to the people. Everyone has special access to information that comes from his or her particular vantage point. Everyone may see different needs and opportunities. People who sense early changes in the marketplace are often at the periphery, but the organization will thrive if it can bring that information to bear on tactical and strategic decisions. When people do not act on their special knowledge, businesses fail to adapt.

All too often, people expect senior management to meet market challenges for which they themselves are responsible. Indeed, the greater and the more persistent distresses that accompany adaptive work, the worse such dependence becomes. People tend to become passive, and senior managers who pride themselves on being problem solvers take decisive action. That behavior restores equilibrium in the short term, but ultimately leads to complacency and habits of work avoidance that shield people from responsibility, pain and the need to change.

6. Protect voices of leadership. Giving a voice to all people is the foundation of a firm that is willing to experiment and learn. But, in fact, whistle-blowers, creative deviants, and other such original voices routinely get smashed and silenced.

People speaking beyond their authority usually feel self-conscious and sometimes have to generate “too much” passion to get themselves geared up for speaking out. Of course, that often makes it harder for them to communicate effectively. They pick the wrong time and place, and often bypass proper channels of communication and lines of authority. But, buried inside a poorly packaged interjection may lie an important lesson. To toss it out is to lose valuable information and discourage a potential leader.

Leadership as Learning

Many efforts to transform organizations through mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, reengineering, and strategy falter because managers fail to grasp the requirements of adaptive work. They treat adaptive challenges like technical problems that can be solved by tough-minded senior executives.

The prevailing notion that leadership consists of having a vision and aligning people with that vision is bankrupt because it continues to treat adaptive situations as if they were technical: The authority figure is supposed to divine where the company is going, and people are supposed to follow. Leadership is reduced to a combination of grand knowing and salesmanship.

Such a perspective reveals a basic misconception about the way businesses succeed in addressing adaptive challenges. Adaptive situations are hard to define and resolve precisely because they demand the work and responsibility of all members. They are not amenable to solutions provided by leaders; adaptive solutions require members to take responsibility for the problems that face them.

Leadership has to take place every day. It cannot be the responsibility of the few, a rare event, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.