a million little pieces

He does not spare us the gory details. There is plenty of blood, urine and vomit each day. His aggression and humour ensure that we are led on a roller-coaster journey of pathos, violence, serenity and fear both inside his head and in the clinic. Frey wants us to understand the mind of an addict. Perhaps he succeeds.

In this novel, James Frey, describes the inner experience of a twenty-three year old alcoholic and drug addict who is brought by his parents to a rehabilitation clinic in Minnesota.  James tells his story of withdrawal, encounters with the other inmates and care staff. He recounts his progress through the 12 step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  He does not spare us the gory details.  There is plenty of blood, urine and vomit each day.  His aggression and humour ensure that we are led on a roller-coaster journey of pathos, violence, serenity and fear both inside his head and in the clinic.  Frey wants us to understand the mind of an addict.  Perhaps he succeeds. 

During the story he makes new friends, especially with Leonard, the crime boss, who rescues him from self-destruction but also with Joanne, the one social worker who seems to understand and trust him. The clinic arranges for the addicts to meet the parents and guardians and James bravely tries to reconnect with the parents whom he abandoned so long ago.  The ambiguity of these encounters is not glossed over and we are left wondering if the reconciliation is real and long-lasting.

Perhaps the most poignant relationship in the novel, is the friendship between James and Lilly, a pretty crack addict, brought to the clinic by her grandmother.  The two addicts learn to support and respect each other.  After Lilly hears that her grandmother has cancer, she breaks down and flees.  In one of the most dramatic moments of the novel, James defies all the odds to run after and rescue her from a “crack-house”.  This act of love saved Lilly once but the real tragedy of the novel is that it is not enough to save her twice.

All through his recovery, James furiously resists the 12 step program as he refuses to believe in a “Higher Power”.   Nonetheless, by having to formulate his arguments against the program he enters into real communication with other human beings who are different from him.  He learns to appreciate the beauty and silence of nature in the park around the Clinic.  He drinks in silence and peace from it.  Somebody gives him a book of Taoist sayings.  He ponders the deeper meaning behind the apparent paradoxes.  It seems that Taoism offers him a sort of Emptiness that functions like the Higher Power in the 12 step recovery program.  James insists that only his decisions will heal him and bring him recovery.  As soon as he is released, he asks his brother to give him money to buy a drink which he inhales and pours down the sink.  He is able to say no.

At the end of the novel it is clear that James Frey is no longer an alcoholic or drug addict.  However it is not yet clear if James has become an “other-centred” person or not.

There was significant controversy about this book in the States about fifteen years ago where is was originally marketed as a “memoir” rather than a novel.  Many people blamed James Frey for dishonesty since he made up some details and added them into his story as if they really happened.  Once you read this novel as he first intended, you do not need to worry about the details.  It is still a wonderful story about addiction and recovery!

Spiritual Direction

From afar, it seems that they could be following a bright star on their spiritual journey even it leads them into the dark. It’s like Frodo and Sam entering the land of Mordor to destroy the evil power of the ring.

In Hong Kong, Mr. Joshua Wong and Ms. Agnes Chow and Mr. Ivan Lam, have chosen to plead guilty to a charge of unlawful assembly.  They are in custody awaiting trial having pleaded guilty at a pre-trial hearing.   These two young people are freely choosing to make a personal sacrifice in the struggle for democracy.  From afar, it seems that they could be following a bright star on their spiritual journey even it leads them into the dark.  It’s like Frodo and Sam entering the land of Mordor to destroy the evil power of the ring.  Only this struggle is for real.

Since returning to Ireland from Cambodia, I have been trying to discern a personal star in the sense of finding the next step on my spiritual journey.

Two books have offered much encouragement.  The first is an old book by a French Jesuit, Jean Laplace and the second is a new book by a Dutch Jesuit, Jos Moons.  Laplace’s book was published in French in 1965 as “La Direction de Conscience ou Le Dialogue Spirituel” which was translated into English as “Preparing for Spiritual Direction”.   Moons’ book was originally published in Dutch in 2019 with an impossible title (De Kunst Van Geestelijke Begeleiding) which has been translated into English as “The Art of Spiritual Direction”. 

Fifty-four years of rapid cultural development separate the two books yet they share some common themes.

The relationship of spiritual director or companion or guide to the searcher is individual and personal.   The key skill of the spiritual companion is the ability to “listen attentively” to what is moving the searcher.   The principal role of the guide is to help the searcher articulate these spiritual movements and to interpret their meaning.  The searcher discerns.  The spiritual director only helps this process.  He or she must remain neutral “like a balance” once a choice about action presents itself.

Both Laplace and Moons insist on the need to be patient and to spend time with the searcher.   The process cannot be rushed. Even the naming of the movements “from the Good Spirit” or “from the Bad Spirit” should come from the searcher.  Help can be offered when requested but the searcher makes the journey.  There are no short-cuts to enlightenment on the spiritual path.

Discernment is the task to be accomplished.  The gold or spiritual treasure that is being sought is goodness, peace, light, love, harmony, mercy and justice.  These will be signs of the Higher Power or God’s presence (or Dharma).   However we can find these signs in human form like in the gospels.  All that is hateful, vindictive, dark, violent and divisive is what is to be avoided and rejected.

Laplace emphasizes the need to situate the spiritual dialogue within the context of mutual prayer and the life of the Church.  Moons emphasizes the need to pay attention to the small details of the searcher’s daily life and their relationships with others. Each offer some practical advice on how to become a good listener and how to ask simple questions to help the searcher further articulate their own inner experience.

In Cambodia, some Buddhist monks serve as spiritual guides to young searchers. The young people still  choose their form of action in society.

It is an amazing mystery to believe that the answer to our spiritual search is already there hidden in our experience just waiting for us to find it.  I wonder what the future holds for Mr. Joshua Wong and Ms. Agnes Choi.

Curlew on Dollymount Strand

In front of St. Anne’s park, I found a natural flower bed where the bees were busy. Inside the park, I followed a new trail for children. Along the trail, 15 indigenous trees had been planted with plaques to show the young people what Irish native species look like. I felt like I was being led by small steps in the right direction.

While on retreat near Dollymount strand during October, I opened my window each evening.  I wanted to listen to the sounds of the sea, the wind and the birds.  No matter hard I strained my ears, I could no longer hear the call of the curlew.  This plaintive sound had accompanied our daily life as Jesuit novices forty years ago.  The curlew was our faithful companion on a lonely spiritual search.  It is amazing that the number of breeding pairs could have declined so dramatically inside a bird sanctuary. 

I have also been struck by the small numbers of bees, wasps and insects both inside and outside the house.  While the sea-gulls, magpies and crows are numerous, the smaller birds, like sparrows, robins, blue-tits, thrushes, starlings, swifts and black-birds are far less numerous than before.  At the same time some foxes and badgers have adapted to urban life.  We never saw these when we were small.  However the hedge-hogs have all but disappeared.  (During quarantine in Co. Kildare in August, I rescued one large hedge-hog with a paper cup on its head from running around in circles).   

In front of St. Anne’s park, I found a natural flower bed where the bees were busy.  Inside the park, I followed a new trail for children.  Along the trail, 15 indigenous trees had been planted with plaques to show the young people what Irish native species look like.  I felt like I was being led by small steps in the right direction.   

Solace

The two of them have fallen in love with each other despite the chaos around them and have somehow kept an inner freedom to recognize this truth and accept their baby. Aoife enters the world. Her world in anything but stable and secure but she is loved.

Nobody recommended “Solace” by Belinda McKeon to me at all nor did I ever hear anyone talking about it.  I picked it up from the bookcase at home.  What a find it has proven to be!

The novel describes the spiritual dissonance experienced by young people who have left their family farms in the Irish countryside to live in the “big smoke” (Dublin).  After graduation, these young people live a frenetic, chaotic life-style bingeing on alcohol, drugs and sex at the weekends while performing as young professionals during the week.

Nonetheless when Mark meets Joanne, it is the fact that both come from family farms in Longford that allows an intimate relationship to develop quickly.  Both young people have difficult relationships with their parents but Mark continues to help his father Tom on the farm from time to time at weekends. The contrast between the two men could not be starker.  Tom is an old-style, reserved, Irish farmer whose whole world-view is circumscribed by the land. Mark is writing a doctoral thesis at Trinity College in Dublin.  His thesis concerns a famous female novelist of the previous century who lived in the same area of fertile farmland.

Many Cambodian factory workers and students experience a similar dichotomy between their professional life in Phnom Penh and that of their former rural life in the Cambodian countryside.

In the novel, it is the stormy relationship between Mark and Tom, rather than between Mark and Joanne which provides the back-bone of the novel.  While the hedonic life-style of both Mark and Joanne at first mirrors the life-style of the characters in Sally Rooney’s novel “Ordinary People”, the concern of Joanne for the exploited Mrs. Lefroy and the sporadic commitment of Mark to work on the farm marks the two characters in this novel, as more authentic and real than first appears.  Mark’s mother, Maura understands both her husband and her son and like many Irish mothers, she acts as the go-between to facilitate their difficult communication.

This novel has two striking and unusual turning points.  When Joanne finds to her horror that she has somehow become pregnant, she makes the extraordinary decision not to abort the baby even though she is just starting out on her legal career.  Mark is so relieved.  The two of them have fallen in love with each other despite the chaos around them and have somehow kept an inner freedom to recognize this truth and accept their baby.  Aoife enters the world.  Her world in anything but stable and secure but she is loved.

The next turning point comes after Tom and Maura have reluctantly accepted the unexpected arrival of a grand-daughter and by extension an unofficial daughter-in-law.  As the family seems to be moving towards a peaceful compromise, disaster strikes in the form of a traffic accident.  To be honest, this accident arrived so suddenly eliminating two of the main characters in the story so violently, that I felt cheated and angry.  I wanted to throw the novel into the dust-bin.   However after I calmed down, I decided that sometimes life does not turn out as we expect, so I should give the story-teller the benefit of the doubt. 

 

Now it is Mark’s turn to make a surprising decision.  He refuses to let other people raise Aoife.  He will do it himself. Step by step, he learns how to do it.  Now the whole point of the novel comes into focus.  This is a story of two Irish men who cannot communicate because they do not understand their own feelings.  Like many other Irish men, they have always relied on their mothers, wives, sisters, grand-mothers, aunts or nieces to take care of them and communicate on their behalf.  Neither Mark nor Tom can cope with their grief.  Mark nearly loses his sanity by concentrating on his thesis and Tom nearly loses his farm by forgetting to care for his cattle. 

In an ironic twist, it is tiny, stubborn, feisty little Aoife who can only speak three words who becomes the focus of solace.  She insists on attention to her life pulling both men back into relationship with her and with each other.  While Aoife rages at Tom late at night in the farm-house, the friendly silence of the cattle in the neighbour’s shed enable Mark to come home to her and Tom.   Aoife saves them both from permanent grief.  She brings them back to life. 

While Mark and Joanne have explicitly rejected any religious belief or practice even at Christmas, Mark recalls at one point a legend that he heard about St. Mel during his schooldays.   When St. Mel was consecrating St. Brigid as Abbess, he used the wrong prayer.  Instead of ordaining her Abbess, Sr. Mel mistakenly ordained St. Brigid a Bishop.

Solace is a robust, unsentimental portrait of a modern Irish couple whose values may have no religious content as such but who become “other-centred” and authentic on their life journey.  In this sense, the characters become mature adults and cease to behave as self-indulgent adolescents.  In this way Belinda McKeon’s “Solace” seems to me to be a deeper and more reflective novel than Sally Rooney’s “Ordinary People”.  

បដិវត្តពណ៌ (Colour Revolution)

មានកូនសិស្សមួយចំនួនបានសួរលោកគ្រូថា «តើបដិវត្តពណ៌​ជាអ្វីទៅ»?​​ នៅក្នុង Blog ខាងក្រោមនេះលោកគ្រូនឹងព្យាយាមឆ្លើយសំណួរព្រមទាំងពន្យល់អំពីប្រភពដើមនិង​លក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងរបស់វា!

មានកូនសិស្សមួយចំនួនបានសួរលោកគ្រូថា «តើបដិវត្តពណ៌​ជាអ្វីទៅ»?​​ នៅក្នុង Blog ខាងក្រោមនេះលោកគ្រូនឹងព្យាយាម ឆ្លើយសំណួរព្រមទាំងពន្យល់អំពីប្រភពដើមនិង​លក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងរបស់វា!

2. Serbia

ពាក្យថាបដិវត្តពណ៌សំដៅទៅលើ ចលនាបាតុកម្មពេញនិយម ដែលលេចចេញនៅប្រទេសខ្លះ នៅអឺរ៉ុបខាងកើតនិងអាស៊ីបន្ទាប់ពីការដួលរលំនៃរបបកុម្មុយនិស្តនៅប្រទេសរុស្ស៊ីនិងអតីតសហភាពសូវៀត។ មានបដិវត្ត «ឈូសឆាយ» (Bulldozer revolution) នៅប្រទេសស៊ែប៊ីក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០០។

3. young serb

មាន បដិវត្ត «កុលាប» (Rose revolution) នៅប្រទេសហ្សកហ្ស៊ីក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៣ និងបដិវត្ត «ពណ៌ទឹកក្រូច» (Orange revolution) នៅអ៊ុយក្រែនក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៤។

4. rose-revolution

5. georgia

6. Ukraine 2

7. ukraine-protesters

បន្ទាប់មកមានបដិវត្ត «ផ្កា​ tulip» នៅ ប្រទេស Kyryyzstan ក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៥ ។

8. tulip 2

 

ប្រទេសឯករាជ្យថ្មីទាំងនេះ ធ្លាប់ស្ថិតនៅក្រោមការគ្រប់គ្រងរបស់គណបក្សកុម្មុយនិស្ត នៃសហភាព សូវៀត។ ដូច្នេះទោះបីជាពួកគេមានសភាជាប់ឆ្នោតយ៉ាង​ណាក៏ដោយ ក៏លោកប្រធានាធិបតី នៃប្រទេសទាំងនេះនៅតែគ្រប់គ្រងកម្លាំងប្រដាប់អាវុធ ប៉ូលីស និងសេដ្ឋកិច្ច (ពន្ធនិងកម្មសិទ្ធិដីធ្លី) និងសេវាស៊ីវិល (សុខភាពនិងអប់រំ)។ តាមរយៈការប្រើប្រាស់អំណាច លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានគាបសង្កត់ប្រព័ន្ធតុលាការនិងប្រព័ន្ធច្បាប់។

លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានចាត់ចែងប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយពណ៌មាន ដើម្បីដាក់សម្ពាធលើ ឥស្សរជនប្រឆាំងរួមជាមួយនឹងអ្នកកាសែតស៊ើបអង្កេត។ តាមរបៀបនេះ លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានក្លាយជាអ្នកដឹកនាំផ្តាច់ការម្នាក់ ដែលតែងតែមានសម្លៀកបំពាក់បែប ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។

9. Burma 3

 

បដិវត្តពាក្យ«ពណ៌លឿង» (Saffron revolution) ត្រូវបានប្រើដើម្បីពិពណ៌នាអំពីការបះបោរ ដ៏ពេញនិយម ដែលដឹកនាំដោយសកម្មជននយោបាយនិងព្រះសង្ឃនៅប្រទេសភូមាក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៧ ។  លោកស្រីអ៊ុងសានស៊ូជី (Aung San Suu Kyi) ត្រូវបានរធ្ឋអំណាចឃុំក្នុងផ្ទះ ទោះបីគណបក្សលោកស្រីបានឈ្នះការបោះឆ្នោតយ៉ាងណាក៏ដោយ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែលោកស្រីមិនដែលសូមចាកចេញពីប្រទេសភូមាទេ។

 

ដូច្នេះក្រុមអ្នកតវ៉ាចង់បញ្ចប់នូវរបបផ្តាច់ការយោធានិងចង់រវិលត្រឡប់ទៅរកលទ្ធិប្រជា  ធិបតេយ្យសភាវិញ។ កងទ័ពបានប្រើវិធីសាស្ត្រឃោរឃៅដើម្បីបង្ក្រាបបដិវត្ត។ នៅឆ្នាំ ២០១០ លោកស្រីអ៊ុងសានស៊ូជីត្រូវបានដោះលែងពីការឃុំក្នុងផ្ទះ។ ពេលខ្លះពាក្យ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ក៏ត្រូវបានប្រើដើម្បីពិពណ៌នាអំពីចលនាបាតុកម្មដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅអាហ្រ្វិកខាងជើងក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០១១។ ជាធម្មតាគេពិពណ៌នាចលនាទាំងនេះដោយប្រើពាក្យថា«រដូវផ្ការីកអារ៉ាប់» (Arab spring)។

10. tunisia 2

រឿងទាំងនេះគឺជាស៊េរីនៃចលនាទាមទារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅក្នុងប្រទេសម៉ូស្លីមរួមមាន ទុយនេស៊ី ម៉ារ៉ុក ស៊ីរី លីប៊ី បារ៉ែននិង អេហ្ស៊ីប។

Morsi supporters rally in New York to mark Rabaa and Nahda massacres

ដើមកំណើតនៃចលនាទាំងអស់នេះបានចាប់ផ្តើមជាមួយនឹងបដិវត្ត «ផ្កាម្លិះ» នៅទុយនីស៊ីក្នុងខែធ្នូឆ្នាំ ២០១០ នៅពេលដែលអ្នកលក់ដូរតាមចិញ្ចើមផ្លូវម្នាក់ គឺលោកម៉ូហាម៉េដប៊ូហ្សាហ្ស៊ីបានដុតខ្លួន បន្ទាប់ពីប៉ូលីសរឹបអូសរទេះរបស់គាត់ពីព្រោះគាត់មិនមានលិខិតអនុញ្ញាត។

 

បន្ទាប់ពីប្រជាជនបានតវ៉ាយ៉ាងខ្លាំងនៅទូទាំងប្រទេសទុយនីស៊ី ក៏លោកប្រធានាធិបតីផ្តាច់ការបានភៀសខ្លួនទៅអារ៉ាប់ប៊ីសាអូឌីត។ ព្រឹត្តិការណ៍ទាំងនេះបានជម្រុញចលនាតវ៉ានៅក្នុងប្រទេសជិតខាង។ បដិវត្តឆ័ត្រដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅហុងកុងក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០១៤ គឺស្រដៀងគ្នាទៅនឹងបដិវត្តពណ៌ពីព្រោះវាពាក់ព័ន្ធនឹងមនុស្សសាមញ្ញដែលកាន់កាប់ទីសាធារណៈ ហើយទាមទារប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងនីតិរដ្ឋ។

12. hong kong 2

 

សព្វថ្ងៃយើងឃើញថាមានយវជនតូចតាចពីរនាក់បានក្លាយទៅជាអ្នកណែនំាដ៏ក្លាហានកំពុងប្រឆាំងជាមួយនឹងអំណាចគណបក្សកកុម្មុយនិស្តចិន ពោលគឺលោក Joshua Wong និងកញ្ញា Agnes Chow។

ដូច្នេះចំពោះប្រភពនៃចលនានយោបាយទាំងនេះ យើងអាចនិយាយបានថា បដិវត្តពណ៌បានកើតឡើងដោយឯកឯងក្នុងចំណោមប្រជាជនសាមញ្ញ ដែលធុញទ្រាន់នឹងទុក្ខវេទនាហើយចង់បានការផ្លាស់ប្តូរពីរបបផ្តាចការទៅជារបបប្រជាធិបតេយ្យពិតប្រាកដ។ ពួកគេចង់ជ្រើសរើសមេដឹកនាំរបស់ពួកគេដោយសេរីតាមរយៈការបោះឆ្នោត ក្នុងចំណោមគណបក្សនយោបាយផ្សេងៗគ្នា។ ពួកគេចង់បញ្ចប់នូវអំពើពុករលួយ។ ពួកគេចង់បញ្ឈប់អំពើហិង្សារបស់ប៉ូលីសនិងកងទ័ព ប្រឆាំងនឹង       ប្រជាជន។ ពួកគេចង់បានប្រព័ន្ធច្បាប់ត្រឹមត្រូវនិងយុត្តិធម៌។ ក្នុងករណីខ្លះ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ទទួលបានជោគជ័យហើយក្នុងករណីខ្លះពួកគេបានបរាជ័យ។ ចំពោះលក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងនៃ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ទាំងនេះ យើងអាចនិយាយបានថាពួកគេត្រូវបានដឹកនាំដោយមនុស្សសាមញ្ញជាច្រើនកំពុងសហការគ្នា។ ជាទូទៅពួកគេតវ៉ាតាមរបៀបអហិង្សា    សូម្បីតែនៅពេលដែលប៉ូលីសនិងយោធាប្រើអំពើហឹង្សា ទៅលើក្រុមបាតុករក៏ដោយ។

13. hong kong 3

ប្រជាជនដែលពាក់ព័ន្ធបានប្រើប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយសង្គមដើម្បីទំនាក់ទំនងគ្នា ខណៈដែលរបបផ្តាច់ការគ្រប់គ្រងប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយរដ្ឋ (សារព័ត៌មានវិទ្យុនិងទូរទស្សន៍)។ ពួកគេមានទំនោររៀបចំបាតុកម្មទ្រង់ទ្រាយធំនៅតាមទីប្រជុំជននិងទីក្រុង ដូច្នេះប៉ូលីសនិងកងទ័ពមិនអាចគ្រប់គ្រងឬបំភ័យពួកគេបានឡើយ។ នៅពេលដែលអាជ្ញាធរសាសនាបានចូលរួម (គ្រីស្ទសាសនានៅអឺរ៉ុបខាងកើត ពុទ្ធសាសនានៅ ភូមា និងអ៊ីស្លាមសាសនានៅអាហ្វ្រិកខាងជើង) បដិវត្តពណ៌មានឥទ្ធិពលកាន់តែធំ ឡើងៗ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ យូរៗ ទៅ «បដិវត្តន៍ពណ៌» ទំនងជាអស់ថាមពលទៅវិញ។

Le Démantèlement (The Dismantling)

The film tells the story of an old sheep-farmer, Gaby, who owns a small but beautiful piece of land with a prize herd of sheep in Quebec.  He manages on his own with the help of a young local lad and his faithful dog.  His wife left him long ago and his two daughters have made careers for themselves in the city far away.  They rarely come to see him on the farm.

Last night, the Cambodian One TV channel transmitted a film in French with English subtitles called “Le Démantèlement” or “The Dismantling”.  It kept me spellbound.  The film tells the story of an old sheep-farmer, Gaby, who owns a small but beautiful piece of land with a prize herd of sheep in Quebec.  He manages on his own with the help of a young local lad and his faithful dog.  His wife left him long ago and his two daughters have made careers for themselves in the city far away.  They rarely come to see him on the farm.

child feeds lamb

The older daughter Marie, who is living a comfortable life in the city, comes to ask for a loan of two hundred thousand dollars to help her by her husband’s share of their house as they separate.  Gaby decides to sell his farm, flock and house even though he knows that he will never be able to reach the amount that his daughter requests.  As he explains to his younger daughter Frederique, it is the nature of fathers to give.   His real goal in life has always been the happiness of his daughter, not his farm.

frederique

However this simple story contains another more universal story about the flight from stable rural communities to fragile city conglomerates.  The film catches the sadness of the simple farmers who see their friend’s life being destroyed by his own kindness to uncaring daughters. They know that the end will come for them soon.  It is like watching the end of an era not just the end of one farmer’s working life.

Gaby’s care of the sheep and love of his dog are not demonstrative at all but are all the more real because of his old-fashioned reserve.

This movie is like a parable of a prodigal Father with two uncaring daughters.  At least Frederique came to visit at the prompting of Gaby’s friend but Marie does not appear even to receive the money that Gaby has been able to raise for her.  He retires to social housing at the edge of the town far from his farm. The world is losing something of inestimable value without realizing it.

the land

 

Social Anxiety and Shyness

It is clear that many Cambodian young people experience high levels of stress. Many are fearful and will not speak in public. It is at least possible that respect for authority has been so strongly internalized by them that it has become a paralysis, preventing the young people from acting creatively and freely in society.

A friend of mine recommended a book by Gillian Butler entitled “Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness”.  I finished it this morning.  It was a good read.

It seems that there are many people who suffer silently from a paralyzing fear of certain type of social events (yours truly included) and the book accurately describes the thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns of those caught in the cycle of these types of fear.  In a simple but clear manner the author lays out a few simple clear self-help strategies to encourage people first to face and then to overcome these paralyzing fears.

The first strategy is to reduce self-consciousness by steering one’s attention away from the inner emotional turmoil to the actual context in which one is actually experiencing paralysis.  The second strategy is to alter the “automatic” thinking processes triggered by the event, especially the negative ones.  The third strategy is to try to do things a little differently by not engaging in “avoidance” behaviours.  These strategies will eventually encourage a growth in confidence in one’s ability to “weather the storms”.    The book develops each of these strategies in considerable detail.   Each strategy is accompanied by a work-sheet so that one can work through the steps in a methodical manner. Continue reading “Social Anxiety and Shyness”

Normal People and The Essex Serpent

Both novels are exquisite works of art, even if annoying. Normal People provides an almost forensic insight into the emotional lives of educated Irish young people interacting with each other as if social media is a stage on which our performances are measured. The novel rings true in this way. The Essex Serpent attempts to immerse us in Victorian world but despite the best efforts of the author, the novel seems to deal with the clash between faith and reason with a contemporary mindset.

Last month, I read two novels at the same time.  The first one – Normal People, by Irish author Sally Rooney annoyed me so much that I had to put it away for a while in favour of the second one, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry from England.  In the end, it was interesting to read both of these novels from the perspective of Cambodia just at the time when the Brexit negotiations have stalled on the question of the Irish backstop.

 

Both novels are exquisite works of art, even if annoying.  Normal People provides an almost forensic insight into the emotional lives of educated Irish young people interacting with each other as if social media is a stage on which our performances are measured. The novel rings true in this way.  The Essex Serpent attempts to immerse us in Victorian world but despite the best efforts of the author, the novel seems to deal with the clash between faith and reason with a contemporary mindset.

Sally-Rooney-1-CREDIT-Jonny-l-Davies-JPEG

However, it seems to me that the characters in Sarah Perry’s novel are well drawn and more interesting in their differences than are the two main characters in Sally Rooney’s novel.  The love affair between Connell and Marianne provides the fil conducteur, or connecting thread, of this novel. The other characters in the book are only interesting to the extent that they contribute to the main storyline.  The love affair between Cora and William provides the fil conducteur for the Essex Serpent but most of the other characters are actually interesting people with subplots of their own that provide further insights into the society of the place and time.

phones

Nevertheless, after reading Normal People, I came away with the impression that social media is making Irish young people narcissistic in the sense that their whole lives seem to play out on a stage where those outside the realm of social media simply do not figure.  It is as if half the world no longer exists.  The young people could be living in a cocoon where their well-educated souls are dying of suffocation. The question of the displacement of religious faith from the centre of their lives is only addressed tangentially by references to funerals and Christmas.

 

 

In relation to the Essex Serpent, I also felt that the fascination with the past hides a desire for a lost stability and consensus that the polite conflict between faith and reason used to provide.  However, there is no sense of a benevolent Providence guiding events as is found in the novels of Dickens, the Brontés and George Eliot or indeed of a malevolent destiny guiding them as in the novels of Hardy.

storehouse-mr

In fact, it is precisely the loss of this wider worldview that seems common to both novels and marks them out as products of the post-modern age.  A friend of mine from home recently sent me a link to a TED talk by Johann Hari on how we may be misunderstanding addiction.   His central point is that those suffering from addictions feel trapped inside a cage where the only relief is their drug.  The cage is some kind of affective isolation or abandonment where “normal” social interaction with loving others is no longer possible.  The drug is the coping mechanism that produces the artificial “high”. So to love our friends out of their addiction, we need to focus our attention on the cage itself, not the drug.

Social media is becoming perhaps an intoxicating narcotic that we ingest daily without realising the harm that we are doing to ourselves.  We do not recognise the cage in which, slowly and imperceptibly, we are choosing to live.

Kung Raiya, Hong Kong, the Church and Hannah Arendt

The coastal town of Sihanoukville has become a beach and gambling resort for Chinese tourists from the mainland. Many newly constructed buildings are already falling down, uncollected rubbish is piled high in the streets and the town floods because of blocked drains. Chinese workers are everywhere. The Government is allowing massive unsupervised Chinese investment in Cambodia. There is talk of a Chinese naval base at Ream.

The works of Hannah Arendt, the political theorist and philosopher, have furnished insights into  the political situation in Cambodia,  the Catholic Church and  Hong Kong which I will attempt to explain in this blog.   A recent court case in Phnom Penh reveals the truth about the political situation here.  The insights of Hannah Arendt could help to illuminate the issues around this case.  Perhaps her work can also be applied to the political situation of the Catholic Church, of Hong Kong and of Cambodia.

index

Kem Ley Commemoration

Here in Cambodia on the 13th of August last, the Court of Appeal refused the bail applications of Mr. Kung Raiya and Mr. Suong Neakpaon.  The two were arrested in July for commemorating the anniversary of the political assassination of Mr. Kem Ley, a peaceful social analyst, on the 10th of July 2016.   Apparently, the former distributed tee-shirts with an image of Kem Ley on them and the latter distributed leaflets at the site of the murder.  Mr. Kem Ley had been shot in broad daylight at a Caltex garage shortly after penning an article outlining the amount of wealth and property amassed by the Prime Minister and his family over the last few years. Continue reading “Kung Raiya, Hong Kong, the Church and Hannah Arendt”

Philosophy of Education in Khmer Literature ទស្សនវិជ្ជាអប់រំខ្មែរ ផ្នែកទី៣

នៅក្នុងអក្សសិលខ្មែររឿងដែលសំដែងទស្សនអប់រំផ្នែកសិលធម៌ទាំងនេះឲច្បាស់ជាងគេគឺ រឿងទុំទាវ។ ទុំជាអ្នកបួសមួយអង្គដែលច្រៀងងពិរោះហើយទាវជានារីស្អាតម្នាក់។​ នៅពេលទុំទៅភូមិ ជួបទាវ អក្នទាំងពីរស្រលាញគ្នា។​

នៅក្នុងអក្សរសិល្ប៍ខ្មែររឿងដែលសម្តែងទស្សនៈអប់រំផ្នែកសីលធម៌ទាំងនេះឲ្យច្បាស់ជាងគេគឺ រឿងទុំទាវ។ ទុំជាអ្នកបួសមួយអង្គដែលច្រៀងពិរោះហើយទាវជានារីស្អាតម្នាក់។​ នៅពេលទុំទៅភូមិជួបទាវ អ្នកទាំងពីរស្រលាញ់គ្នា។​ ទុំសឹកហើយទៅជួបទាវដែលស្រលាញ់គាត់ដូចជាប្តីរួចជាស្រេច។

Continue reading “Philosophy of Education in Khmer Literature ទស្សនវិជ្ជាអប់រំខ្មែរ ផ្នែកទី៣”