The God who suffers

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The recent (2013) typhoon in the Philippines, the tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004 and other similar catastrophic events provoke questions about “Why does God permit such suffering?” or “How can God exist, in the face of such evil?”

I am not sure that the early deaths of a lot of people in a flood of seawater or a terrible storm are more or less evil that that of thousands of AIDS sufferers in Africa or just one person in a city road accident. But the suffering of those left to grieve demands a response.

(Read more . . .)

We don’t have a helpful or even reasonable answer to the “why?” of suffering. But God offers solidarity with the sufferer and the oppressed. In the cross of Jesus Christ, God shares in our pain and suffering. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has achieved liberation and new creation.
Where was God when the tsumani struck? With the dead, the injured and the heartbroken.

Rudd’s tragedy

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Kevin Rudd’s story in politics has the elements of a classic tragedy, expect that he is, thankfully, still living (though dead politically?). His rise was due to his own strengths and his downfall at the hand of former allies the result of his own fatal flaws.

Like so many, I had high hopes when Mr Rudd and his team were first elected in 2007. They achieved much, but there were some monumental failures as well. And way, way too much noise and sheer busyness. A calmer, more measured, approach would have been more successful, dampening down the 24-hour news cycle, not fueling it with perpetual ‘announceables’.

Just before the 2013 election, academic David Burchell wrote:

For the past seven years of our national life, he has played the role not so much of a political leader as of the central character in a literary tragedy of his own writing […] It has been the personal trajectory, and now the personal tragedy, that has held our attention – the meteor that is now plummeting to its fiery end. […]

It is impossible to forget the spirit of hope that spread across much of the nation [in 2007]. That is an achievement too often overlooked: it is rare that an individual can instil that sense of excitement in a country of such practised laconicism. And with that talent—the first sign that he could turn history to his own ends—Rudd became only the third Labor leader since the Second World War to take Labor from opposition into government. […]

It is a truth well known to the scripters of mythology: our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses.

North America road trip

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North America trip - North North America Trip - West
North America Trip - South

The big North America road trip. The numbers on the maps show where we planned to stay, but we visited more and had to make some changes!

Fog on the CA coast

29 August 2013: Safely arrived in San Francisco. The first day was inauspicious:  fog along the Northern California coast, but we survived a long scenic drive on the wrong side of the road. Piaci Pub and Pizzeria in Fort Bragg CA supplied  superb Italian food.

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The next day was better:  near Fort Bragg. We were soon surprised to find American shopping, food, road rules, streets, buildings, etc., etc., more difficult to understand than those in Europe.

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The lighthouse at Crescent City, CA, a town described by Lonely Planet as “about as charming as a wet bag of dirty laundry.” Most unkind.

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We saw the famed Redwood forests … and elk, calmly resting near the road.

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After a strenuous climb up the hill, delicious local beer was welcome at the Oregon Caves Chateau, where we spent a night.

Portland, Oregon was good fun after sunshine and forests, seaside and fog for three days

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Absurd traffic jams kept us from seeing more of Columbia Gorge.

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Mt Ranier shed its cloudy blanket for us.

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We were made most welcome at Trinity Parish Episcopal Church, Seattle WA.

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We saw this Elio being promoted @ $6,800 for delivery late next year. Two people:  driver in front, passenger in the back, full comforts of ordinary car, 84mpg, 100mph, 3cyl., 900cc.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour, near Seattle were interesting.

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Just the thing for an idyllic holiday shack in the San Juan Islands, 45 mins from Seattle.

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Spectacular crossing from Anacortes WA to Sidney BC … once the fog lifted.

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Pumpkin beer in Victoria! Amazingly tasty.

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A lovely spot for a picnic:  French Beach, at the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island BC, with a view across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Olympic mountains of the USA.

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The Butchart Gardens, near Victoria, were magnificent, but so was the admission price!

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In the past, Victoria had a reputation for false Englishness that tried to be more so than the English themselves.
That seems to be largely gone. Now it’s multicultural, with a place of honour for the First Nations.

Vancouver view
Vancouver view

The view from our 15th floor Vancouver apartment, at dawn.

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Took the Sea to Sky highway as far as Squamish:
fog was a challenge to the serious sightseer, but we did see a few superb views.

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Our visit to Jasper was favoured by sunshine: this is Medicine Lake in the Maligne valley.
Lots of ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ as we saw one fabulous sight upon another.

We found authentic, tasty and reasonably priced Korean food, in Jasper, in the midst of the Canadian Rockies!.

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With snow falling steadily, we couldn’t see far,
but the short excursion onto the Athabasca Glacier was fun and interesting.

Very pleasant stay at Holiday Inn Canmore; dinner at Crazyweed Kitchen in Canmore..

Superb views from the summit of Sulphur Mountain, in bright sunshine the day after the first Autumn snowfall (which had experienced the previous day).

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North America wildlife sightings to date:  two porpoises, two seals, a single butterfly, a small family of elk, a couple of deer, many chipmunks and squirrels, not many insects, no flies, surprisingly few birds … and newly hatched fish in a marsh near Banff fed by warm sulphurous springs. Coniferous trees sighted:  many millions.

Saw bison, elk, deer and antelope at the National Bison Refuge, near Missoula MT.

Moose Creek Cabins and Inns:  cosy and very comfortable, but contemplating the weather forecast of snow and rain in Yellowstone NP.

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Falling snow decorated the trees and made the hydrothermal wonders all the more mysterious and steamy.

usa556We celebrated the second of our two days in Yellowstone NP by delighting in the colours of the thermal limestone terraces, pools and vegetation.

In Banff and Jasper, the majority of visitors we observed were Korean: in Yellowstone, the majority were Chinese. Some were quietly reflective but many were chatty noisy … just like tourists from anywhere, I daresay. Surprising to me was that in none of these great national parks did we encounter a single African American, whether visitor or staff. Curious.

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Driving South from Yellowstone: I was quite relaxed as James drove steadily. What had made nervous a few earlier was driving a busy ten-lane highway near Seattle at 70mph in the pre-dawn mist!

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A pleasant hour at Jackson Hole National Museum Of Wildlife Art.

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1 October: selfishly hoping for a resolution to the USA budget deadlock as all national parks were closed until the deadlock was resolved. We hastily prepared alternative travel plans, cancelling visits to Death Valley, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia and adding time to our stays to Las Vegas and West Hollywood.

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The classic American road trip, from anywhere to nowhere at 75mph.

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Beaten-up one-dollar hat three sizes too small, from a charity shop.

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Sheer magnificence: Canyonlands.

Amid the enthralled throng: Antelope Canyon.
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Choosing the right road.

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A Eurocopter EC-130 was a superb aircraft in which to enjoy my first-ever helicopter flight, into the Grand Canyon.

West Grand Canyon (not the National Park), which is, yes, to the West of the closed National Park on a Native American reservation. I did not expect it to be green, but it was.

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Black Mountain (Mt Hesperus), watercolour by Englishman Tony Foster from his show ‘Sacred places’ at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

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Thought of our great friend Joshua Park when we saw these (though, thankfully, he looks nothing like them):  Joshua trees, Yucca brevifolia,.

A long walk today took in some of the grandest places on the Strip: the Venetian is the finest and huge.

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The Jockey Club was remarkable value, with our excellent apartment for under $100.

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In the midst of the too-much-of-everything, Las Vegas has some fine things, for instance this chandelier by Dale Chihuly, at the Bellagio.

More curious sights along the Las Vegas Strip.

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In an upscale Las Vegas arcade, we found a boutique crammed with delightful ‘Christmas’ decorations,
but not one of them was a Christian, religious or spiritual symbol
… unless you include Santa Claus who is St Nicholas in a vague sort of way.

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America the Beautiful National Parks pass:  sadly of no further use to us.

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“Seems it never rains in Southern California … It pours, man, it pours.” (Albert Hammond).

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Glorious C12th stained glass on loan from Canterbury Cathedral, exhibited at the Getty Museum in LA.

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Also at the Getty Museum, I found this Still life:  tea set (c.1781), by Jean-Etienne Liotard, intriguing, with its paradoxical depiction of messiness and informality with meticulous technique and careful composition.

Friends setUnfortunately a tour of the Warner Bros Studios wasn’t especially interesting: here we pose on the set of Friends … a show I’ve never watched.

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A delightful four days with Justin, Joe and Bodo the dog!

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Spanish-American influences at the Old Mission and the County Courthouse in Santa Barbara CA.

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The refectory in the ‘Hearst Castle’ at San Simeon:  high art and tomato ketchup, with willow pattern tableware and sterling silver antiques.

Coastal color

The central California coastal scenery is glorious … as were the many colors of the plants covering the hills close to the sea.

Pfeiffer Beach

With the government shutdown ended, USDA workers were reopening the superb, secluded, Pfeiffer Beach (in Los Padres National Forest) just as we arrived for picnic lunch.

Toast

In San Francisco, I toasted James, who safely drove us 6,200 miles (as I took photos and attempted to navigate).

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The ocean-going tug Hercules, now on display at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, reminded me of Scuffy the red-painted tugboat, a favourite of mine as a small boy.

The San Francisco cable cars were fun to ride and the views memorable, but the queues were extraordinary and the service infrequent.

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Blessed by Sunday service at Grace Cathedral.

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Delighted to share dinner and conversation in person last night with Jeff Tabaco and Thom Watson.

Not many places open on Sunday, but we found a good Thai restaurant:  dark, cold and intimidating streets hide pleasant cafés and restaurants in Central San Francisco.
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Superb authentic pizza and a classic view in the sunshine at Sausalito CA.

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No, my eyes did not fool me: I did see a Melbourne W-class tram operating in San Francisco. Many are the journeys I’ve made in one of those.

Captain Phillips Gravity

Three fine movies to round off our travels, each with a masterful leading performance: Tom Hanks in ‘Captain Phillips’, Cate Blanchett in ‘Blue Jasmine’, and Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’.

Home, and grateful to all who helped us enjoy a fine journey.