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Reading a recent post on Stavros’s blog, My Greek Odyssey, I was reminded of the description I’ve included below, of the way before us in life. It took me a while to remember where I’d read it, and to find the book, and then the passage, and then type it up.  I’d like to be able to find it more easily next time.  I’d hate to lose it.


“Our capacity to choose changes constantly with our practice of life.  The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decision, the more our heart softens – or better perhaps, comes alive … Each step in life which increases my self-confidence, my integrity, my courage, my conviction also increases my capacity to choose the desirable alternative, until eventually it becomes more difficult for me to choose the undesirable rather than the desirable action.  On the other hand, each act of surrender and cowardice weakens me, opens the path for more acts of surrender, and eventually freedom is lost.  Between the extreme when I can no longer do a wrong act and the extreme when I have lost my freedom to right action, there are innumerable degrees of freedom of choice.  In the practice of life the degree of freedom to choose is different at any given moment.  If the degree of freedom to choose the good is great, it needs less effort to choose the good.  If it is small, it takes a great effort, help from others, and favourable circumstances … Most people fail in the art of living not because they are inherently bad or so without will that they cannot lead a better life; they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide.  They are not aware when life asks them a question, and when they still have alternative answers.  Then with each step along the wrong road it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they must go back to the first wrong turn, and must accept the fact that they have wasted energy and time.”



It’s by Eric Fromm, in The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, from pages 173-178, but I read it in M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie; The Hope for Healing Human Evil, where it appears at p91.





[And I wrote this a couple of weeks ago]

Jemima is a sweet little girl.  Brown hair, brown eyes, clear skin, freckles, and a lovely smile.  She is small, but perfectly proportioned so that people do not always notice that she is small.  She is quite shy and likes to stay in the background.  She is very honest and kind.  She is so eager to please, so willing to help anyone who asks.  She lights up when someone pays her attention, and then she can become very playful and full of joy.  She is not attention-seeking.  Quite the reverse.  She chooses to wait until someone approaches her and she is so glad when they do.  She spends most of her time in her bedroom.  She reads stories aloud to herself as if someone were reading her a bedtime story.  She talks to her dolls and dresses and undresses them and looks after them, pretending to be their mother.  She writes stories, and sews a lot, and draws.  She’s a girly girl – she likes pretty dresses and beautiful things.

I know that she is very frightened of being rejected which is why she hides away so much, to keep herself safe, to protect herself from the pain of knowing that someone does not love her.  I can see a look of fear come over her face when she thinks the rejection might be about to happen.  Sometimes she is so frightened that it almost as if she is not inside herself, as if she has made herself invisible.  She thinks that she is not loveable, and however many times I tell her that she is wrong, she just shakes her head and disagrees, politely with a smile on her face.  She thinks she knows better than I do whether she is loveable because she knows what she is like inside.

Besides, she says that she knows that her father does not love her, and if he does not love her (and he must know her better than anybody) then we should all follow suit.  I am not sure that her father does love her, so I never know what to say at this point.  If he doesn’t, I don’t understand why not.  I am not sure he knows what love, that outpouring of affection that Jemima gives so many of us, is.

I watch her.  I can see her talking to somebody who I know is so fond of her, but afterwards she will tell me all the reasons why they should not like her, why they would not like her if they knew what she was really like.  People will compliment her on her appearance and she will bat the compliment back like a tennis-pro before the compliment even registers.  People will tell her that she has done something well and, for a brief moment, she loves the praise, but then she furiously chips away at it, until the praise lies in razor shards like a broken mirror.  People will tell her they are fond of her and she finds all sorts of reasons why they should not be telling the truth, or she imagines all sorts of scenarios in the future that will mean that they will discover the real Jemima and will stop loving her.  It’s so sad because people sometimes get really tired of telling her over and over again that she is wrong, and then they do go away, and the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling and Jemima reinforces her belief that she is unloveable.

It is so easy to crush her too.  I have seen her smiling, enjoying talking to someone, and then someone more assertive comes along, and she will allow herself to be pushed aside.  She keeps a smile on her face, but I can see that there are tears welling up in her eyes as she creeps away, hanging her head.  She does not seem to be able to fight back, to stand up to bullies.  In a way she is just too nice.

She’s explained that this is because it is wrong to be horrible to people and, besides, even if it weren’t, she is worried that what little love that comes her way will be lost if she is not always kind and loving and forgiving.  So she tries so hard to love even those people who are unkind to her, who want to hurt her, or seek to overcome her.  I can see her brows furrow and the tension in her eyes as she tries to find love for these people, to smile at them.  I can also see that terrible fear when she thinks she has found final incontrovertible proof that she is unloveable and then her whole world comes crashing down on her and she sinks into black despondency.  She tends to act very irrationally then and needs time and space to find herself again.

She does have a sister.  I am not sure what the sister is really like, but everyone says she has a terrible temper like their father, and she is very, very good at getting attention.  In the evenings when the girls are sent to bed, her sister will lie in her bed and shout over and over again “Mum-meee, Mum-meee” until their mother comes to see her and spend time with her, and the sister and the mother nearly always end up sharing a bed because she just will not let their mother go away.  The sister has lots of tummy aches which need a lot of attention.  I know Jemima is frightened of her sister’s temper.  I’ve noticed that she stays out of her way, hides in her room.  Her mother seems to try to protect her, but she doesn’t have much time, and she needs Jemima to be good.

I wish Jemima would shout at Them, tell Them where to go.  But she has got in the habit of not doing that because early on, when she was little more than a baby, they were the only people in the house, the only people there were to love her, and so she could not have afforded to shout at them if that meant losing the tiny crumbs they’d leave for her occasionally.  I can see that it really irritates them that she doesn’t get cross, and her sister can try to goad her more and more, just to see if Jemima’s smile will crack.  Her sister hates her for being so good, so perfect, but she’s too young to see that Jemima feels she has to be like this, that it doesn’t feel like choosing to be good, but instead having to be good.

Except she doesn’t need to behave like this any more because she does not need their love to survive because she has all of us – the real family that matters, her friends.  I wish she’d realise that we all love her so much, and that we do know what she’s really like, and we love her as she is, and we’d forgive her for being cross and tired and fed up, because everyone is cross and tired and fed up, and we are not going away whatever she does.  She always forgives us when we are like that, so why can’t she see that?  She wouldn’t be so nice, perhaps, but neither are we, and she loves us …  I’d like her to feel what it’s like to be loved as you are, as she is, accepted as she is, not just with a smile on her face.   I love seeing her face when she does sometimes allow herself to feel that.  I keep encouraging her to do it more often, to let us in.  She’s getting a lot better, growing in confidence, learning that it is OK to lean on us, to trust us, that we won’t let her down.

I get exasperated with her too, and keep telling her off, telling her to open her eyes, but this is making her feel bad because then she takes this as proof that I don’t love her as she is, when I really do.  One day recently I decided to tell her off every time she talked herself down; I found myself having to speak every two minutes or so.  I just want her to be happier, and to be able to feel the love that people have for her run through her veins, warming every extremity, and to know that it will not go away.  She is making lots of progress, and I can see that she is trying really hard to listen to us when we tell her how things really are.  I think she knows that she is quite pretty now, and I love seeing her enjoying clothes.  She bought a pair of outrageous pink shoes a while ago and I’d like to keep them on the fireplace as a reminder of how far she has come.  She can also see that she is not fair to herself, although this is still more of a thought than a feeling as yet.

She has friends who really love her.  Even she knows this if she thinks about it.  Quite a few of them are quite similar to her.  She has some fair weather friends – just as the rest of us do – but most of them have been her friends for a long time and would do anything for her, if she dared to ask them.  They tend to be nice and kind like her and they know what it’s like to be Jemima, even if only deep inside where nobody else can see.

 Twenty years ago today I was standing on the football pitch at Wembley making history -just one insignificant person amongst more than 72, ooo young people.  600 million more people watched on television.  We heard Tracy Chapman sing for the first time in the United Kingdom, a small figure with a guitar, filling us all with her words. 

Then, in the dark, the stadium was filled with small flames as Dire Straits sang Brothers in Arms.  That feeling, of being there, of having been there together with all those quiet people listening in togetherness, is still ineffable after all those years.

This concert marked a turning point for South Africa.  The previous year had seen the extension of the State of Emergency, originally imposed in 1985 and intent on ensuring the survival of the apartheid regime.  By 1988 30,000 people had been detained.

The influence of the world was too much for the government to ignore.  F W de Clerk became the President of South Africa in 1989 and began freeing many black political prisoners.  On 2nd February 1990 he delivered his famous “unbanning” speech.  Nelson Mandela was released on 11th February 1990.   The first nonracial democratic elections were held on 27th April 1994 and Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa.


Raggety had revisited me several times over the years, but remembering him while walking the dog reminded me, as sure as nights are full of nightmares, of another childhood horror.  

My father’s name on his birth certificate is David, but his father (also David) was, so the story goes, drunk at the time he registered the birth, and my father should have been called Michael.  So that is what he is called, or Mike for short.  Always Mike for short.  He is the eldest of three children, followed by two sisters.  One is close to him in age, the other many years younger.

The elder of my father’s sisters had gone to Africa to teach and had met and married there a Swiss agronomist who was tall and handsome and his family were very wealthy.  His mother was a wonderful woman who showered the family with presents.  We used to look forward to real Lindor chocolate at Christmas with its cold melting centre, and one of my proudest possessions as a child was a metal blue “car coat” that she gave me when I was about seven or eight.  I am not really sure what a car coat is, but that is what I called it.  It was a three-quarter length raincoat.  It’s a strange present, when you come to think about it, for such a distant relative to give a child.  Perhaps I needed a coat.  She also gave me a doll which I named after her and who was a very comforting presence. 

Anyway, another present that came from that direction, though I remember it coming from my uncle rather than Madame G******i (as we called her), was a book called “The Heart of Stone” written by a well-known German writer of children’s fairytales and illustrated in pen with line drawings by a well-respected American cartoonist and illustrator, David Levine.  I did not know anything about the author or illustrator at the time.  All I knew was the book terrified me and yet I was compelled at the same time.  It used to have a white illustrated dust cover, but that has disappeared, but the book remains and I have it in front of me now.  

It is the story of Peter Munk, a charcoal burner in the Black Forest in the southwestern corner of Germany.  On one side of the forest lived the glassblowers; on the other side of the forest lived the lumbermen who cut down the trees.  Peter was betwixt and between, spending most of his time in solitude next to his smoking kiln, belonging nowhere and envying both the glassblowers and the lumbermen, such was his poverty. 

Each side of the forest had its own spirit.  The glassblowers had  the kindly Glassman, whilst the lumbermen had Hollander Mike.  Hollander Mike was a revengeful giant of a spirit that struck fear into everyone’s heart and kept them all abed at night. 

Peter find himself in financial ruin and Hollander Mike appears to strike a bargain with him.  Peter follows him down into the dark abyss where Hollander Mike lives and discovers the bargain.


The most horrible illustration.  Peter is in the depths of despair but seems to be having a nosebleed not weeping tears 

Hollander Mike asks him if his life has not been blighted by his silly heart which makes him feel fear, which urges him to be generous to others when he cannot afford to be generous.  He takes Peter to a room which is full of pickled hearts.  On the jars Peter reads the names of all the most respected men in the Black Forest.  Hollander Mike offers to exchange Peter’s useless heart for a marble heart and a hundred thousand florins and Peter finds himself the next morning a richer but indifferent man.

Life goes on. 

“For two years he travelled, and wherever he stopped he first looked for tavern signs. He went sight-seeing too, but only because he thought he should – for neither buildings, nor paintings, nor music, nor dancing could give him pleasure.  His stone heart remained indifferent; his eyes and ears were blunt to beauty.  All that was left to him were the pleasures of eating, drinking and sleeping, so he ate for amusement and drank a lot and slept because he was bored.

And as he wandered aimlessly through the world, he often remembered how happy and gay he used to be when he was poor and had to work for a living, how, in those days, a simple thing like the view of a valley or a snatch of song had delighted him, and how he had looked forward to the plain food his mother would bring to the charcoal kiln.  How could he have laughed so easily at the least joke then, he wondered, when now he could not laugh at all!  Now when people laughed, he turned up the corners of his mouth out of politeness, but his heart did not laugh along.  It was true he was always calm now, but the calmness was empty, and he could never really feel true contentment of any kind.”

Peter determines that he will make money and that will satisfy him.  He surrounds himself with ferocious dogs to keep the beggars at bay, and derides the old hag of his mother who, stooped and frail, hangs around outside his house.  He seeks consolation in a wife, but murders her – striking her with the ebony handle of his riding whip – because she is annoying him.  Strangely, this death reaches even his stony heart and he is reduced to something akin to deepest despair.


Killing his wife 

He returns to Hollander Mike and taunts him, making him believe that the heart that beats in his breast is still the feeling heart, that Hollander Mike’s collection of hearts does not contain him.  Mike’s ugly pride drives him to rage.

“The giant was livid with rage.  He tore open the door to the other room and shouted, “Come and read the labels for yourself!  See that one over there?  It belongs to Peter Munk!  Look how it’s twitching!  Don’t tell me a wax heart can twitch like that.

“It’s wax all right,” Peter taunted.  “That’s not howa real heart beats, and mine is still in my breast.  No, no, you’re not a magician!”

“I’ll prove it to you.  It is your heart – I’ll make you feel it!  And Mike ripped open Peter’s vest and shirt.  He took the stone from Peter’s breast and showed it to him.  Then he lifted the real heart from its jar, breathed on it, and put it carefully in its place.  Peter could feel it beating and could feel glad of it.

“Now do you believe me?” asked Mike, smiling.

“Yes, you were right,” Peter replied, stealthily taking the little glass cross from his pocket.  “I wouldn’t have believed that such a thing could be.”

“Well, now you know.  But come, let me give you back the stone.”

“Not so fast, Hollander Mike!” cried Peter.  He took a step backward and, holding out the little cross, started to pray whatever came into his head.

The more he prayed, the smaller the giant became, until at last he fell to the floor and lay there writhing like a worm.  Then all the hearts began to twitch and hammer inside their jars so it sounded like a watchmaker’s shop.  Peter shuddered and felt afraid.”

Peter runs away, and “all the while, his heart beat joyfully, just for the joy of beating”.

The Glassman appears and finds Peter crying for all the things he did whilst his heart was made of stone.  Peter’s repentence is matched by the forgiveness of all those he wronged and he turns round to find his wife and mother.  He becomes an upstanding, hard-working man, earning the esteem of all those around him.  He was happy with his wife and good to his mother.  He is blessed with a child.


Even the baby has Peter’s horrible nose 

Now I know why I kept the book – the only book I have kept from childhood – for all those years, through so many moves.  I had no conscious memory of the story, only a frightened fascination for the illustrations.

“One of the most important ways that men can be good fathers is by treating the mother of their children with affection, respect, and consideration. The virtues that a father displays in his relationship with the mother of his children set an important example for the children. Children who witness affectionate, respectful, and sacrificial behavior on the part of their father are more likely to treat their own, future spouses in a similar fashion. Just as child maltreatment and domestic abuse can be passed on from one generation to the next, so can respect, caring, and kindness. These children are also more likely to be happy and well-adjusted.

By contrast, children who witness their father’s anger toward or contempt for their mother are more at risk for depression, aggression, and poor health. The stress of parental conflict can have a negative effect even on the immune system, which can result in health problems for children.

The research on fatherhood suggests two implications for fathers. First, fathers need to accentuate the positive when interacting with their wives and to show affection for their wives on a daily basis. While for many men this comes naturally, for others it does not. Many men, especially those who grew up without a father, simply did not have role models for how men can and ought to relate to their spouse or partner in a positive fashion. Further, the way a man treats and interacts with the women in his life is frequently connected to how he views himself as a man.

The second implication is that husbands need to be able to deal with conflict with their wives in a constructive manner. Conflict, in and of itself, is not a bad thing in a relationship. Indeed, conflict is often necessary to resolve issues, grievances, or injustices in a relationship. Couples who can raise issues with one another constructively, compromise, and forgive one another for the wrongs done generally have happier marriages and happier children than those who do not handle conflict well or who avoid addressing issues in their relationship.

Men should try to avoid two pitfalls of relationships: criticism and stonewalling. Criticism entails attacking a partner’s personality or character as opposed to addressing a specific concern about her behavior. Stonewalling means that one partner disengages from the relationship when conflict arises, either by failing to speak, being emotionally distant, or by physically leaving the scene. In conflict, women tend to resort more to criticizing and men are more prone to stonewalling. Both of these behaviors can be enormously destructive to a relationship.  By contrast, fathers who can keep calm in the midst of conflict, who can speak non-defensively, validate their partner’s concerns, and attempt to respond to legitimate issues raised by their partner are much more likely to have a strong and happy relationship with their wife and children.”

Taken from The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, a link in Stavros’s thought-provoking reply to my earlier post.  There are many other interesting sections in the on-line Manual.  You can scroll through an Index at the beginning. This extract is taken from Section 4.1.

“I’d rather mingle souls by letter than live a life of regret through email”

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today regrets the passing of the letter, handwritten on Basildon Bond, which he thinks is so much better at conveying the author’s intended feelings, requiring more time to compose and being less likely to be sent without some thought as to its likely reception.  Why, he asks, do we need emoticons in emails when we do not use them in letters and why do we press “send” too soon?

“[…] the computer keyboard, especially for touch-typists, is an invisible piano on which we play instantly and extempore. First musings race into fully-formed words and sentences with no pause for revision, let alone perfection. As soon as they are on screen they acquire validity. Over them hovers the dreaded send button, itching to be pressed and behind which lurk a hundred links, addresses and possible misdirections. Send is always pressed too soon.”

Simon Jenkins overlooks a crucial difference between the letter and the email.  The email does not only replace the letter.  It also often replaces the phone call and the face-to-face conversation because of the distance, geographical. temporal or emotional, between those involved.  Either we cannot speak to someone or we do not want to. 

Some of us would prefer the face-to-face conversation, whilst others revel in the void between the speaker and the spoken to, and the time-lag between bouts of conversation that can be as short or as long as we choose.   For those who wish it, the e-mail leaves a sound-proofed smoked glass wall between the sender and the recipient at which the recipient can only scratch in frustration.  It is fertile ground for passive-aggression, easily setting up a rat-like addictive response in those waiting for a response.  It is rather like a tennis match when you cannot see over the net.  I hit the ball to you and it disappears.  I do not know if it was out, or you have gone, or you caught it and are holding on to it, enjoying it or batting it up and down as a prelude to its return.  Only when you decide to hit it back can I see it again.   There can be a lot of waiting involved.  The strokes follow one another until one person decides just to let the ball leave the court. Rallys are short or long depending.  Play is fast at the net, or slow from the baseline.  Just like conversations really.  Though the timing of the reply is up to the sender of a letter too, post is delivered only once a day.

Some of us pick up a whole library of information from a face-to-face meeting, and only somewhat less from a phone-call.  Others take the words at face value and add no import of their own.  Some of us sometimes write as we speak, our fingers moving as quickly as our words are formed, a stream of consciousness that rolls out our thoughts as if they came out of our mouths.  Our cadences, our vocabulary, our sentences constructions mimic our speech patterns so that our reader hears our words as they read.   Our style is identifiable even in our writing in unattributed.  At other times we hide behind the mask of formality, not even peeping out to say hello.  Letters can be like this too.

Emails can be a way of hiding, of delivering an unpleasant message, or making an excuse without the audience being able to use their instinctive lie detectors.  Letters have been used for centuries for just the same purpose.  Letters can crush you as much as they can fill you with joy.  Often the joy of a letter comes from holding something that has belonged to the sender, from ownership.  The writing paper, the choice of card, the handwriting, the colour of the ink – everything tells us something about the writer.  But type face, spacing, composition and the speed with which we reply all give us information in the email world too. 

Emails can create almost a level playing field between the person who applies a literal interpretation to every word he hears and the audience who reads between every single letter.  It is much more difficult to read between the lines of an email and to be left with no doubt about the writer’s intentions than it is to doubt a speaker’s intentions.  The email always asks for the benefit of the doubt.   The letter does this too.

Take someone with autistic traits, for example.  Receiving a message by email allows him, first, time to think about what the sender meant and what reply might be appropriate.  Secondly, it allows him an escape route.  If it appears from his reply that he misunderstood the email, then the medium can be blamed.  Just like a letter. He probably does not realise that those of us who are neuro-typical work doubly hard in the absence of body language and tone of voice to read emotions into emails, to pack the space between every word with meaning, especially when we understand that emails are interrupted conversations.

We know it is difficult and that we sometimes get it wrong and so, for the avoidance of doubt, we sometimes use emoticons.  They are crude, devoid of the nuances of emotion that would be possible in real life, but are a virtual second best.  That we use them is an added boon for those with autistic traits (who would almost never think to use them) because they make explicit what would otherwise be invisibly implicit.

Where emails stand in for handwritten letters they share the same possibilities.  Where they replace real conversations, they need help to add the vibrancy that our other senses add to the message we receive.  Our eyes, our ears, our nose.  E-moticons go some way to providing visual and auditory clues to back up the ordinary little words we read.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Omar Khayam (1048-1122)

 My mother said

She would not help me

If I went back to work

After my daughter was born

So I stayed at home.

I tried to be the best mother I could be.

Not just good enough, but better.

The first five years, she said,

Were the most important

And she was a children’s nurse

And a midwife and a health visitor

So she knew best.

Then my second daughter was born.

The winter was damp and dark

And long and horrible,

Being the best mother I could be.

I was tired.

I sat on the hearth and

I asked her for help,

But she said she couldn’t help

So I hired a nurse

And we got through it.

And then she died

No warning, just one night.

All alone.

“She’s gone”, Dad said

And that was it.

We hardly mentioned her again.

I felt liberated –

Not immediately, but later –

And guilty for feeling that.

The Five Minute Rule

You may not (except in the presence of your spouse or a close friend of your gender known to and trusted by your spouse)

1.  Talk to any man/woman for longer than five minutes who is not:

  • Your father/mother
  • Your elderly uncle/aunt
  • Your brother/sister
  • Your son/daughter
  • Your first cousin
  • Your doctor
  • Your dentist

Save that if you are employed, you may in the course of the employment, speak to men/women for the purposes and furtherance of your employment which exemption shall be generously construed

Save further that casual and accidental encounters in a public place during daylight shall not be deemed to contravene the above rule if they do not last longer than five minutes in any seven day period.

2.  Further exemptions may be arranged for group meetings such as:

  • Church
  • Study groups
  • Sporting groups

Provided always that encounters are not one-to-one

3.  Telephone conversations shall be treated as if they were face-to-face conversations and may not be initiated by you. 

4.  Email correspondence is allowed occasionally.

5.  Special rules may be negotiated separately for other blood relatives and for friends who either pre-date the marriage or are of more than fifteen years standing provided always that the contact must be initiated by the friend and should not exceed the five minute rule.


It should be clear from the rules that any contact at work will generally fall within the rules.   Lunches, coffee breaks, over night stays, team building sessions, evening meals and social events including “rain making” events will all usually fall within the rules.

It is not generally possible to argue that the absence of a father/mother or son/daughter should permit the substitution of another person in their place.  For the purposes of the rules a person with parents, several opposite gender siblings, offspring and cousinswill be in the same position as a person who has none of these.  Whilst this may appear to penalise those from small families, there appears to be no precedent in such cases for substititon of persons from outside the permitted categories.

It may be argued that this rule is indirectly discriminatory since in practice woman with children are much less likely to be working and able to make use of the work exemption.   Whilst many women are content to socialise only amongst women, it it likely that the professional woman at home with children finds that her environment is sharply different from that she enjoyed when she was working.  The contrast will be heightened where she has neither father, brother nor sons.  She may find a paucity of intellectual stimulation available to her and her conversations restricted, with few exceptions, to only one gender.   The internet might provide some alleviation of her situation, but as yet the rules in relation to blogging, for example, have not been agreed.  It is likely that blogging may be permitted within the rules where comments are public and where a variety of commenters of both genders contribute to the discussion so that the environment resembles a virtual group situation.  It would apperar that men who have recently retired are likely experience similar frustrations.

There is widespread ignorance of the rule.  Many women happily lead their lives within extended families without rubbing up against the perimeters of what is permitted.  For others, the work exception camouflages the true extent of the rule until children come along.  Even then, nature intervenes for several years to provide hormones to the female brain which blind her to the effect of the rule.  It may, therefore, come as somewhat of a shock to her in mid-life to discover that the rule has always existed and is entrenched.

It is a rare example of an absolute rule which applies worldwide and is not culturally relative.  Its existence in Muslim countries is often signified by a covering of the woman’s face, sometimes called a burka.  Other societies have idiosyncratic methods of signfying the existence of the rule, and exemptions are somewhat less generous in societies where women are less economically active.

Comments in relation to the rules are welcomed as part of a process of widespread consultation.


“The distinction between information and wisdom is old, and yet requires constantly to be redrawn. Information is knowledge which is merely acquired and stored up; wisdom is knowledge operating in the direction of powers to the better living of life. Information, merely as information, implies no special training of intellectual capacity; wisdom is the finest fruit of that training.”

“Because their knowledge has been achieved in connection with the needs of specific situations, men of little book-learning are often able to put to effective use every ounce of knowledge they possess; while men of vast erudition are often swamped by the mere bulk of their learning, because memory, rather than thinking, has been operative in obtaining it.” 

Dewey, John, How We Think, Chapter Four, ‘School Conditions and Training of Thought’.