Who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are?

Can a person be a ‘thoroughbred’? Some people pride themselves on their ethnic identity, imagining that as an individual they distinctly embody their cultural community. Nationalism encourages this. Yet advances in DNA mapping are revealing some truly amazing roots to the family trees of so-called ‘pure-bred’ patriots. The participants were asked to go on a journey to discover the sources of their mitochondrial DNA – that part of our genetic blueprint we inherit from our mothers, their mothers, and so on. Watch the results of an amazing experiment here: http://www.goodnet.org/articles/this-clip-shows-weve-more-in-common-than-we-think-video. The results were shocking. Notions of ‘racial’ separateness were swept away for all but a tiny number of African participants who, alone, could claim to have remained indigenous to their original birth-lands. The rest of the participants, and the vast majority of people across the world, are a mixture of genetics from people groups we may think of as innately ‘foreign’ today. An Arab in the group discovers their Jewish DNA, a Scandinavian is shocked by Oriental origins, a Kurdish woman confronts Turkish ancestry and a Brit learns of German heritage. I love this experiment, especially the discombobulation of those who had vested so much of their sense of self in what assumed was a water-tight national identity. Genetics are forcing a reconsideration of ‘race’. There is truly one human race. All of today’s ethnic groups have African origins. Ethnicity has amazing diversity and cultural differences can be acute, but, the building blocks of our very being tell us that there is so much more that unites than divides us.  ...
Look me in the eye

Look me in the eye

20 years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron discovered that 4 minutes of looking into another’s eyes can bring people closer. Just 4 minutes. It does not sound long. But it is a very challenging experience to hold, and be held, in the gaze of another. It is rare and powerful. Lovers know the power of a long gaze. Teachers use this power to a different effect. Many people are starved of this kind of attention. They spend their lives outside of the sightline of those who pass by. When we refuse to catch their eye, we exercise an exclusionary power. It is as though by not seeing them they cease to exist in our world; a symbolic assassination. Today, there are whole communities of people we refuse to look in the eye. We speak about them in dehumanising language – as the ‘collateral damage’ of war, ‘floods’, ‘swarms’ and statistics. Have we considered how our attempt to diminish their humanity also profoundly reduces our own? Human suffering, even on a global scale, concerns real people, with loved ones, stories, and dreams. When you look into their eyes, you no longer see an anonymous refugee, or the pixilated image of a stranger, but a person, just like us. With this in mind Amnesty International sponsored a series of simple experiments. Recently-arrived Syrian refugees sat opposite Europeans from the places they had settled and were simply instructed to look into each other’s eyes for just 4 minutes. The participants were ordinary people who saw each other for the first time during the experiment. Watch the results here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7XhrXUoD6U I take from this...
10 timeless, forgettable, commandments

10 timeless, forgettable, commandments

I challenge you – 3 minutes to recall as many of the 10 commandments as you can… I tried this experiment on people at the community breakfast in BV Hall. It should be easy, right?  The Ten Commandments form the basis of Judeo-Christian law. It’s even claimed that they are the foundation of Western civilization. The architecture of the U.S. Supreme Court reflects this belief. The image of Moses holding the two tablets of the Ten Commandments is graven into the east portico, over the chair of the Chief Justice and on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court. Other world faiths have versions of this list. The Qur’an includes a version of the Ten Commandments in sura Al-An’am 6:151. So they are timeless, right? And it seems, forgettable. Time’s up. How did you do? The average in the BV group, including people from all faiths and none…just 3 out of 10! [If you want to see how you did there’s a link to Old Testament passage here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20&version=NIV] We remembered ‘Thou shalt not kill’, most added ‘steal’ ‘adultery’ and the word ‘covet’ had stuck in some  people’s minds but NONE of us could remember them all and no-one could remember the 1st command. Interesting! The 1st in the list is a command to honour God above all others, and it is prefaced by a reason – 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, You shall have no other gods before me.” What do you make of this command? Is it a grand scale parenting strategy? Obedience is...