|News and Views from the School
Greetings again. We've just returned from visiting the School in Malta. This is the view from the front of the School house in Valetta. Only 316 km sq, this beautiful Mediterranean island has a remarkable history which includes the fascinating Order of Knights of St John.
Many insight readers live in an urban environment. So this edition brings a first 'Day in the Life of' article - from a farmer in South Africa, indicating the diversity of people attending the School. With very best wishes,
Stoic philosophy started with the birth of Zenon in Cyprus. Stoicism continues to be a characteristic of modern Cypriots. The challenges of the last 40 years include the Turkish invasion and the more recent loss of savings in the credit crisis. Myroulla is a long-standing senior student in Nicosia.
Stoicism is alive and well
Myroulla Potonidou, Cyprus
Let me introduce myself: I come from Famagusta and my husband, Costas, is from Kyrenia on the north coast of Cyprus. In 1974, our lives were turned upside down when the Turks invaded Cyprus. They swept all before them, killing, capturing and "disappearing'' thousands and subsequently occupying over one third of the country. All who could, fled, along with thousands more, to the south of the country, more or less in the clothes they were wearing. Why take more? We were all sure that 'someone' would put things back to normal. Invasions of a European country could not be happening in the 20th century surely?
We lost everything
My father was among those who evacuated. There were no mobile phones back then and communication was very difficult. We searched desperately for him and finally found him housed in a school where displaced persons were packed in like sardines. We took him back to Nicosia with us and he lived with us for another 10 years until his death. He never gave up hope that he would return home before he died and yet it was not to be.
All of this was a terrible shock for me and my family. My husband had lost his property in Kyrenia and I had lost mine in Famagusta (see photo). All of what I had valued had suddenly collapsed. At first this was totally devastating, but slowly, the realization dawned that what I had valued was neither stable nor permanent. I had to find other values and a different quality of life.
Joining the School
It is said that a School arises when there is a need. With just a handful of students, classes started in 1970 in Nicosia, just before the Turkish invasion. By chance (?) in 1975 I heard about the School of Practical Philosophy and went along to see what it was about. I am still a member now 40 years later! Now we have hundreds of students, branches in Limassol and Larnaca, and even a residential country house in the lower Troodos mountains.
In the School I soon found there were many more people like me, in fact 40%!, who had lost everything materially but were seeking a more spiritual existence. We used to reminisce about the old times and places with nostalgia - but then let it go and return to the present - which as we now know is the only time and place we have!
Perhaps it was then that I realised that the teaching of the School was so similar to the Stoicism propounded by Zenon. But it was not only students in the School who were being stoical, enduring hardship without complaint and developing self-control over potentially destructive emotions, but also the thousands of internal refugees (or displaced persons as they are officially termed), and the rest of the population. I was then working in the United Nations Development Programme contributing in a small way to the restoration of the country. With hard work and sheer determination, Cypriots began to get to their feet and start again. The tourist industry drew many visitors from northern Europe to our never-failing sunshine, beautiful beaches and exquisite archaeological sites.
The banking crisis - 2008
By 2004 Cyprus was able to join the EU and in 2008, adopt the Euro currency. The economy was expanding, new businesses were being created, fine houses being built. The phoenix rising from the ashes! It was prosperity all around, until the banking crisis finally hit Cyprus in 2012-13. It turned out that our banking sector was over-extended, we were exposed to debt-ridden Greece and our public service was over-staffed. Cyprus appealed to the EU for help but in exchange for a ?10 billion loan the Troika (EU, ECB and IMF) imposed harsh, unprecedented conditions.
Capital controls were imposed overnight and all depositors with over ?100,000 savings faced massive losses. This so-called haircut affected everyone. Banks were closed for two weeks and when they opened we all had to stand in long queues to withdraw the paltry ?300 limit allowed. We queued patiently, stoically - no riots in the streets. All our School members have been affected in one way or another; some lost a lifetime of savings. And yet, along with the rest of the community we have met austerity with generosity. Some School members are volunteers at 'food banks' distributing essentials to those most badly hit by the crisis.
And now . . .
It is by no means all doom and gloom! The economy is slowly improving and tourists continue to come to Cyprus to enjoy the good life in the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love. Recently gas and oil deposits have been discovered in our territorial waters. The future seems to be looking brighter, but we all hope and pray we will not be called upon once more to display our stoicism!
Top Tips: recommended by readers
1. Waterperry art works. Some 20 years ago, a major project was undertaken by the School to create large fresco murals based on words from the Upanishads. It is now possible to view the works using these panoramic views. Go to Waterperrypanos
One Human Family, Food for All
2. Bamboo jackets story. Watch this U
Scammers. Philosophy student Mandy Willis had a unusual approach to a nuisance call. Read about it: manage scammers
Andrew with his fastest cutters
Andrew Braithwaite farms 500 hectares in Seven Oaks, where he lives with his wife Megan and their 5 children. He attends at the Pietermaritzburg School and oversees meditation there and also in Durban.
A Day in the Life of a Sugar-Cane Farmer
Andrew Braithwaite, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
Our main crop is sugarcane, and in our area, cane is cut at 22 months; the cutting season lasts for 10 months of the year, March to December. We have 115 permanent employees, most of whom are local Zulu-speaking men and women, while some are Xhosa-speaking from the Eastern Cape.
The day starts with tea and meditation, which for me is the centre of everything. At 6.30 I meet with my manager and two foremen to plan the day. All sorts of activities are on the go from maintenance of vehicles to cane cutting, cane haulage both on farm and to the mill, land preparation, planting, fertilizing, spraying, and the timber operation. These are all run by Indunas, ( Zulu term for foreman). Cane is cut by hand; a good cutter can cut 8 tons in a day.
One of my favourite things is standing in the field while everybody is cutting, enjoying the rhythmical sound of the knives felling the cane, along with the banter that goes with it. The really good cutters seem to cut with very little effort and still have cheer in them at the end of the day. All are paid by the ton and most feel they have done enough by about 2pm. The cane is loaded onto trailers using three wheeler loaders, and is run to a central zone, and from there onto a road hauler which runs it to the sugar mill 30km away.
Farming with as little environmental impact and with a long-term view is very important. We use organic fertilizer where possible, and are part of a regional sustainable farming initiative where best practice is adopted. This is soon to lead to certification whereby good labour practice, and good stewardship of the land and environment is a pre-requisite. Being interested in energy, I have started a small company which collects waste material from neighbouring timber plantations and processes it into a coal replacement. We are also working, as an industry, on turning our cane residue in the field into methane gas using digesters, and converting our tractors and trucks to run on the gas.
Megan and I have breakfast, and then the rest of the day is spent at meetings or in the office dealing with general admin and industry issues. I am involved in the local Canegrower's structures, as well as in 2 local schools. Whenever the opportunity opens up, we take an afternoon walk, and sometimes I even find time to ride my motorbike! Each of the children has a motorbike and all ride, including the girls. We have a beautiful dam below our house where we spend idyllic Sundays messing about.
The first thing you learn as a farmer is that you are not in charge, as there are simply too many variables out of your control, such as the weather, product pricing, input costs, security issues, and of course, in SA, politics and the land question. You have to put your best foot forward and keep going. The uncertainty about future ownership of land is a serious one, and underlies decision-making in almost all instances. I have a basic faith that sense will prevail and that a real and lasting solution will be found. The degree of goodwill in South Africa never ceases to astound me.
Over time I have found that the pivotal factor, if you want to enjoy farming, is good relationships with your staff. Real trust and communication takes time to develop and is an effort to maintain; speaking the local dialects properly is important. In day-to-day activities, my spiritual practice really lies here, to try to remember that I am addressing my own self.
A key factor in rural stability is employment, and it is very important that labour costs do not get to the point where we are forced to mechanise. In the sugar industry, this would throw thousands of people out of work, to make way for the machines. Crime and violence are already a part of life here, and any further unemployment would exacerbate this.
Our focus is on keeping life as simple as possible - feeling gratitude for what we have, and trying to enrich the lives of those who work here. Although our lives are busy, one is always grateful to know where to find rest in the movement, through meditation and study. And I constantly learn from the simple lives of the people who work for me, as they move through the same creation, but with a different view and a different speed. And all the time I need to keep slowing down to catch the moment.
Lily is the labrador puppy who lives with Donald Lambie, the leader of the School and his wife, the editor. Many people asked for more from Lily, so here she is again.
Don't I deserve a holiday?
Letter from Lily
They didn't take me to Malta. I don't remember even being consulted. I might have liked swimming in the Mediterranean. And a bit of fishing too? Mind you, a few days away from Her droning on about 'Heel, Come and Sit' is a welcome relief.
I overhear a lot of talk about meditation, so I've put in that photo to
|show that We Dogs meditate very attentively. That's not me obviously, but it just shows we can all do it, probably better than you People. As a matter of fact I sometimes have to meditate for hours on end, especially in the morning if my two People meditate separately. OMG, it goes on soooo long. And what am I turning into? A Conscious Canine? Yogi-dog? There's a lot of pressure living with two meditators. Namaste, and
love from Lily
This year celebrates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, sealed at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. Two practising lawyers, both senior students, consider the relevance of Magna Carta to contemporary society.
Why Magna Carta Still Matters
Allan Moller, New York and John Fisher, Sydney
Need to know about Magna Carta:
1. Equality before the law: The rule of law depends upon the executive power being subject to law and this was first enunciated by Magna Carta.
2. The right to justice: It was declared that justice should be free, quick and available to all and that judgement should be according to the law of the land and by one's equals.
3. Consent: In order to tax his subjects the king had to seek the consent of his barons. This evolved into representative government.
Alan Moller writes:
Allan Moller, NY
|It was 1971 when, at a summer residential in New York and having just been admitted to the New York State bar, I was invited to a meeting with the Principal of the School of Economic Science, London. It was this meeting, urging us to study the original founding documents of the USA, which set me on a quest that has deeply enriched my life for the last 45 years.
My study of American legal documents and Constitutional tradition, led me to Magna Carta, the Great Charter, a compact between English King John and his barons of the realm, sealed on the fields of Runnymede in June 1215. Its purpose was to declare the rights and obligations of both King and barons, and to quiet the difficulties that had arisen between them, occasioned by the King's arbitrary and abusive conduct.
What is its relevance and why is it worth celebrating today? The answer is that it should be celebrated and honored as the foundation of the freedom and liberty we now enjoy.
From a British perspective it is the basis for the great institution of Parliament. In the case of America, its sound was in the colonists' battle cry of freedom; its words found their way into the Declaration of Independence and ultimately, into the Constitution of the United States and its first Ten Amendments, America's Bill of Rights.
Particularly alive today and still ringing out are:
"No freeman shall be taken or [and] imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or [and] by the law of the land." (Ch. 39)
"To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice." (Ch. 40).
Lord Coke, Lord Chief Justice in the 17th century, added the concept of "due process of law" to that of the "law of the land". He explained that the "liberty of a man's person is more precious to him, than all the rest that follow." These words constitute the foundation of the American legal system and are found in Article V of the Bill of Rights.
It is undisputed that Magna Carta established the bedrock for the idea of the rule of law and protection of the individual from arbitrary action by an oppressive government, not only in England, but in the entire English-speaking world. The principles laid down in Magna Carta provide the basis for a stable civilization.
John Fisher writes:
John Fisher, Sydney
| As recently as 2014 a Mr Jones (name changed) appeared before the Supreme Court of Western Australia appealing against the decision of the Magistrate, that he had trespassed and obstructed two persons, one a police officer, in the performance of their duties. Representing himself, Jones demanded a trial by jury.
He claimed that the Magistrate had breached his "unalienable rights, the Common Law and rights of a trial by jury under section 39 of Magna Carta".
As recently as 2014 a Mr Jones (name changed) appeared before the Supreme Court of Western Australia appealing against the decision of the Magistrate, that he had trespassed and obstructed two persons, one a police officer, in the performance of their duties. Representing himself, Jones demanded a trial by jury. He claimed that the Magistrate had breached his "unalienable rights, the Common Law and rights of a trial by jury under section 39 of Magna Carta".
The magistrate dismissed the application on the grounds that Magna Carta did not apply and listed the matter for hearing. In the judgment the Court could have easily dismissed the appeal on jurisdictional and procedural grounds but nonetheless explored the possibility that Magna Carta was still law in Western Australia and even quoted Chapter 39 (text above). Reading this chapter, you can see why Jones thought it would entitle him to a trial by jury and perhaps much more.
His appeal was later dismissed. But this is just one example of a strange phenomenon in Australia and New Zealand - that Magna Carta has been referred to by both litigants and judges more in the past thirty years than at any previous time during the application of the Common Law in these countries. As someone who appreciates, loves and has written about the evolution of the Common Law, I am astounded to find that Magna Carta still enjoys such prominence in the twenty first century.
This year many countries, mainly those that found their roots in the British Empire, are planning extensive celebrations of the day King John (yes, the same one who got bad press in the legend of Robin Hood for primarily raising unfair taxes to finance wars in France) affixed the Great Seal to the list of the barons' demands. Many of its chapters are now inapplicable to modern needs, others are repugnant to modern law and some can even be seen as discriminatory. One could ask, "If Magna Carta has no real significance in modern law, should there be so much excitement about the anniversary?" Well it was one of the first examples of the power of the people, a measure of control over the use of arbitrary force from someone who considered himself above the law. Today Magna Carta is a cornerstone not only of the common law but also of democracy.
The British Library in London is staging the largest-ever exhibition to showcase this anniversary, showing two of the four remaining copies. Open until 1 September, go to BritishLibrary
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As always, thanks for reading!
I just loved your newsletter this month - inspiring reading on all the good work from the Art Academy, deeply moving and profound piece on the Shinto Shrine, and completely LOL material on Fenton the dog from Lily all of which left me smiling and giggling for the rest of the day. What a complete tonic - thank you! London
This is really excellent! Well done- I so enjoy these when they ping into my inbox.... MARVELLOUS! You've included Fenton!!! WONDERFUL!!! And I love the idea of SES alumni. The best ever! London
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