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Life & Faith: Live Long

Research suggests that doing good is actually good for you. Stephen G. Post, author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, explains why.

Stephen G. Post is Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University, and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics. He is recognised internationally for his work on unselfish, compassionate love at the interface of science, ethics, spiritual thought, and behavioural medicine. He was in Sydney to speak at HammondCare’s international dementia conference in June, 2016.

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Life & Faith: Notes on Blindness

John Hull began losing his sight in his mid-forties. He describes it as a dark black disc that slowly progressed over his field of vision.

“Do remember that day when I caught a glimpse of a church spire?” the Australian theologian asks his wife, Marilyn, in the documentary film, Notes on Blindness. “I think that's the last thing you ever saw,” she replies.

As John was losing his sight, he was intent on understanding blindness and started recording an audio diary. “I had to think about blindness because if I didn't understand it, it would defeat me,” he explains.

On these tapes, he records his daily “notes” on blindness, his frustration and fears, and candid conversations with his children about blindness and why “God doesn’t help him get his eyes back”. 

Thirty years later, these tapes have become the basis for a documentary created by Peter Middleton and James Spinney, Notes on Blindness. The film takes viewers into the experience of what it was like for John Hull to lose his sight, and how he ultimately came to consider his blindness as a gift.

In this episode of Life & Faith, Natasha Moore speaks with Peter Middleton, about the documentary, the life of John Hull, and how his audio diaries continue to shape our understanding of blindness.  

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Life & Faith: Ten Commandments

“The Ten Commandments are among the great cultural icons of the West,” John Dickson writes in the introduction to his new book, ‘A Doubter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments’.

 

For some, doubters and believers alike, the Ten Commandments conjures an image of a white-bearded Charlton Heston standing on top of a mountain, with the voice of God booming like thunder from the sky, and lightning bolts of fire inscribing these ancient instructions on two tablets of stone.

But perhaps there’s more to the Ten Commandments than this mystical event.

In fact, John Dickson says that these ten ancient instructions have changed the world and shows us, even today, what it means to live a good life.

BUY the book here: http://bit.ly/29AqBSu

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Life & Faith: Field Hospital

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds … and you have to start from the ground up.”

– Pope Francis, America: The National Catholic Review, September 2013 http://americamagazine.org/pope-interview

In 2013, Pope Francis famously likened the church to a field hospital. Renowned theologian, William Cavanaugh, takes hold of this metaphor and explores the meaning of it in his latest book, ‘Field Hospital: The Church's Engagement with a Wounded World’.

“I think in some senses, what Pope Francis is trying to do is to recapture the sense that you find in the earliest church where things are very decentralized,” Cavanaugh explains. “What you had was not very tightly institutionalized, but was more based on small communities of people taking care of each other’s needs.”

“It’s a response to the kind of one-on-one, flesh-to-flesh encounter with another person who suffers.”

In this episode of Life & Faith, we talk about how the church can operate as a ‘field hospital’, and why it is important for the church to do so.

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JOIN US at this year’s Richard Johnson Lecture with William Cavanaugh: http://www.richardjohnson.com.au

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Life & Faith: Beautiful Proof

“An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” – Srinivasa Ramanujan

Ramanujan was a self-taught mathematical genius from India, who moved to Cambridge University in 1914 to work with the eminent mathematician, GH Hardy 

His story, as told in the movie The Man Who Knew Infinity, not only tells of a brilliant mind capable of remarkable work, but of an unlikely friendship between a devout Hindu, and an atheist who was a stickler for proofs.

“Your theorem is wrong,” Hardy tells Ramanujan in the movie, “this is why we cannot publish anymore until you finally trust me on this business of proofs.”

Once described as “the most romantic figure in recent mathematical history”, Ramanujan’s life also speaks to the idea of finding beauty in maths – and this is what we explore in this episode of Life and Faith.

You’ll hear from a homegrown mathematician about how Ramanujan’s work has been influential in her own. Then, Oxford mathematics professor, John Lennox, shares his thoughts about the beauty of the world of numbers and patterns. Finally, we wrap up the episode with a beautiful poem from former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams – you won’t want to miss it.

“Why are numbers beautiful? It's like asking why is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don't see why, someone can't tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, nothing is.” – Paul Erdős

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READ a review of The Man Who Knew Infinity from ISCAST: http://iscast.org/node/1144

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Life & Faith: Beyond Belief

According to Hugh Mackay, Australia is in themiddle of a “soft revolution”.

After 30 years of consumerism and theso-called happiness movement, Mackay says people are ready to rid themselves oftheir materialistic and narcissistic characteristics and embrace that there’smore to life.

“Unless there’s something I put my faithin, life is meaningless.”

This is essentially what dozens ofAustralians across the spectrum of faith and spirituality told Mackay as heconducted interviews for his new book, BeyondBelief: How we find meaning, with or without religion.

The book explores Australia’s current spiritualclimate and recent shifts in our religious faith and practice. Mackay openlyadmits, though, that the book probably won’t appeal either to committedbelievers or committed atheists – and in this interview Simon and Hugh findplenty to disagree on, as well as some common ground.

In this episode of Life & Faith, we explore the spiritual landscape of Australian society,challenge some of Mackay’s views on Christian faith, and discuss the role ofreligion and the church in helping people find meaning and purpose.

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Life & Faith: Freedom Regained

Neurons and genetics cannot explain away the existence of free will, according to Julian Baggini.

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When philosopher Julian Baggini – author of more than a dozen books, including Atheism: A Very Short Introduction and Freedom Regained: The Possibility of Free Will hears someone talking about free will, they’re usually talking about why humans don’t have it. This doesn’t sit well with him.

“They think it’s the view of intelligent informed opinion, that there’s some sense in which science has shown that we definitely don’t have free will,” he says. “So it’s ceased being a matter of philosophical speculation and it’s become a matter of empirical, scientific fact.”

In this episode of Life & Faith, Baggini takes back the reins on the free will debate and guides us through his thoughts on this question of whether we have free will, and what true freedom might look like.

“Freedom isn’t about the ability to just choose anything you want, it’s actually the capacity for your actions to flow from your best nature.”

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Life & Faith: By The Book

Can books be a cure for the common cold?  

Can a novel help us navigate a midlifecrisis?

Can reading be a remedy for a broken heart?

These are just some of the questions that bibliotherapyclaims to be able to answer. Whatever your ailment may be, there’s a novel – ortwo – that will supposedly provide temporary relief of your symptoms.

The first instance of bibliotherapy wasrecorded in an Atlantic Monthly articlepublished in 1916. The author writes about bumping into an old friend, Bagster,who has set up the Bibliopathic Institute. Bagster welcomes clients into hisoffice in the basement of his church, and prescribes books to heal a variety ofailments.

In the article, Bagster says:

“Bibliotherapy is such a new science thatit is no wonder that there are many erroneous opinions as to the actual effect whichany particular book may have. … 

A book may be a stimulant or a sedative oran irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, andyou ought to know what it is.”

This episode of Life and Faith explores thetherapeutic and perhaps even salvific qualities of books, in response to the“Bibliotherapy” theme of the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Festival. 

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Life & Faith: Exceptional

The human brain is the most complex object known to exist in the universe.

This is the thought that Marilynne Robinson begins many of her classes with. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and acclaimed essayist is a Professor at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.

“I want to encourage my young writers to value their characters sufficiently to make them complex enough to be credible and also to value themselves in a way that makes them push toward real authenticity, real originality,” she says.

Human exceptionalism is something that comes across not only in the characters she writes about, but in the way she treats her readers.

Robinson’s latest offering, The Givenness of Things, builds bridges across science and religion, theology and humanism, to provide a gracious, respectful, and an ultimately hopeful contribution to public culture and conversation about life and what it means to be human.

“We know that given any possibility, human beings blossom into beauty and ingenuity and tragedy and all the rest of it that could not be anticipated and that the world would be utterly cruel without,” she says.

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READ Natasha Moore’s review on The Givenness of Things: http://ab.co/1oqtqI6

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Life & Faith: Reconciliation Week

The story of Christianity and Aboriginal culture in Australia, is one of tragedy, loss and deep sorrow.

“It was the church’s decree that they pillage our land and conquer us,” Larissa Minniecon says. “So through Christianity, or churches - we have lost everything.”

Larissa is a Kabi Kabi woman and a Torres Strait Islander. She is also a Christian woman. In fact, her last name may sound familiar - Ray Minniecon, is her father and a prominent Aboriginal Christian leader.

“We deeply believe in the message, we deeply believe in Jesus, and I think because of that we’ve survived all the atrocities that have been thrown to us,” she says. “Being a Christian helps us survive and give grace to a lot of people, and also hope.”

In this episode of Life & Faith, we consider these stories of hope and reconciliation that are found hidden within the darker narrative that charts the relationship between the church and Aboriginal people.

You’ll hear from Larissa Minniecon, who heads up Common Grace’s Aboriginal Justice team, and her colleagues, TanyaRiches and Shane Fenwick.

Grant Paulson, an Aboriginal man, a son of a Baptist minister and a trained clergyman himself, also joins us with a candid interview about his thoughts on reconciliation. He’s also recorded a song for us so listen out for it at the end of the episode.

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