This morning I went to a funeral. An elderly nun who taught me many moons ago went peacefully to God and I wanted to share in her send-off and show my appreciation of the good marks I got in geography exams, and indelible memories of the insides of a rabbit and the cross section of a sheep’s eye (she taught me general science also for a couple of years). I loved geography -- drawing maps showing the wheat belt of North America, the rainforests of South America and the world’s weather systems -- and probably would have been happy as a conservationist or something if the career chips had fallen differently.
The chapel where the funeral was held is in a charming part of Auckland -- on a cliff overlooking the Waitemata (sparkling waters) Harbour -- and by the time we emerged a light morning fog had given way to a stunning fine day, a gentle sequel to a freezing weekend followed by a deluge followed by a heavy fog earlier in the week. My companion drove us home along the waterfront and I couldn’t take my eyes off our lovely harbour. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to go awol and take a walk along the beach or join the crowd sunning themselves outside cafes.
It often occurs to me at such moments that living in a beautiful, temperate and fertile country which is prosperous by world standards and heir to western (that is to say, Christian) civilisation, is a privilege that implies obligations. We ought to be able to get along with one another better, to use our resources more wisely, to contribute more to global peace and prosperity than nations that have to struggle with climatic and cultural extremes. New Zealand could be so much better. (Note to self: be better!)
South Africa strikes me as another place like that, though it has an extremely difficult history to overcome. In our lead article today a young Australian journalist, Tamara Rajakariar, writes about her experiences during five months she spent there last year, working with an NGO. Happily, she found committed young people with the potential to be the leaders that the country so badly needs.
In other articles: James Thunder takes a close look at the supposedly medical report on which the Obama administration’s infamous contraceptive mandate rests, and finds no medical science at all; Andrew Mullins walks us through the free will versus determinism debate thrown up by neuroscience; and Denyse O’Leary reviews a book about Barack Obama that raises more questions that it answers.