Friday 15 September 2017

A Question of Proportion

On Tuesday evening, I had the (rather unusual) opportunity to watch the evening news service. There were two feature stories that attracted my attention: the ‘juvenile white pointer shark’ that washed up on Manly Beach during the week, and the ‘bearded lady lion’. In the case of the former, a shark beached itself at Manly and required a rescue crew, overnight care, a large boat to take it back out to sea, hydraulics, the services of specialist agencies and the like to deal with a very sizeable (juvenile) carcass, as well as a range of other cost intensive services to return the animal to its environment. Later in the bulletin, an extended piece of reporting focussed on a female lion in the Adelaide zoo that had started to grow a mane due to hormone changes that required extensive medical intervention. I thought for a minute that it was a return to the same-sex debate that raged a few weeks ago!! No, this was a hormonal imbalance in a captive animal, but it required various sophisticated medical procedures, including a CT scan, biopsies, tissue analyses and ultimately surgery that humans would have baulked at. I am deeply committed to ecology and to the wonder of nature, but I am troubled by a dichotomy that would see fauna receive so much preferential treatment, when so many others who are part of the human tapestry are deprived of such services. Yes, extremes are part of life, some of which are surrounded by regulatory authorities, but, wouldn’t it be uplifting to see such services apply to each and every Australian, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, as well as the 65.5 million refugees across the world who don’t have access to the necessities of life such as adequate food, proper medical treatment and the care and support of the community? Such moments are sobering and worthy of considered reflection as we finesse the priorities of our times.

The Indian Bazaar conjoins fun with purpose, resulting in an excellent outcome for the Jesuit Mission.

Over the weekend, the College was turned from school into fun park as the festivities of the Indian Bazaar imposed themselves on the grounds. The colour, life and animation of this annual event came to life under the glory of a magnificent spring day. There was no shortage of entertainment between the Rugby Sevens Competition, stalls, sideshows, produce, bric a brac, books, and the list goes on. As for food, a veritable smorgasbord of options was available, from the authentic and popular national dishes of India, Greece, Italy and Thailand, to those more regular staples such as barbeques, sandwiches and hot dogs. As predicted, a carnival atmosphere prevailed throughout as the thousands enjoyed this family and fun filled day. But, the cause that lies at the heartland of the Bazaar, namely, the mission imperatives of South East Asia, prompted the generosity that saw so many give to the marginalised and disadvantaged in some of the poorest regions of the world. That this story is now the better part of three quarters of a century old is significant in itself; that it can continue to find so much traction in contemporary times is truly extraordinary. Sincere thanks are extended to all who gave so much in the lead up to, and on the day – parents, students, staff, alumni, past parents and friends of Riverview. And what a result: in excess of $200,000 that will be gainfully deployed to the most acute areas of need; children in quite desperate circumstances in schools, orphanages and villages across the Third World. In a word, thankyou, to all.

The Grandparents’ Mass at Regis is always a special occasion of the year.

Grandparents’ Mass, which was held this morning at the Regis Campus, is a highlight of Term 3. It is a time when the generations come together to appreciate each other, when the wisdom and life experience of grandparents is made manifest for the boys to see, and when the boys can offer their own statement of appreciation for role that grandparents play in their lives. Fr Ross presided at the mass, reflecting deeply on the importance of families, both immediate and extended. This is not something to be taken for granted, for there are many who are not so favoured to have mutually supportive family units that cultivate the intergenerational joy synonymous with them. Many thanks are extended to Ms Emma Kent who coordinated the liturgy, to the musicians and the choir, to Fr Ross as presiding celebrant, and of course the grandparents – some of whom made very special efforts to join the College on the day.

R U OK? It was the prevailing question of the week as the pastoral welfare of staff and students came under the microscope during the week. While the boys in Year 12 rush head long into their Graduation week, propelled by the demands of the HSC, and the Year 11 boys round off their End of Semester Examinations, the need to ensure the well-being of all was a timely reminder. Part of a national awareness day, R U OK aims to provide a greater understanding of how a simple question is an expression of interest can make someone feel valued and supported, despite the sometimes challenging vicissitudes of life. And, it too is about proportion – about balancing competing priorities, dealing with disappointment, developing resistance and promoting active listening, pro-social health and well-being. A sea of yellow in the form of paper planes built bridges of understanding and connection between students of different ages and interests. In all, a valuable consciousness raising exercise that embraced the school.

The question of proportion is always an elastic concept. How far do we stretch before a threshold is reached? In the paradoxes of life, in our support for the needy in mission stations across the world, in traversing the delicate divide between intensive study regimes and well-being; finding equilibrium can sometimes be a struggle. Over the past 12 months, a small but dedicated class of Year 12 students have approached the study of philosophy under the direction of Thinker in Residence, Dr Cornelius O’Donovan. Grappling with the subtleties of ethics, aesthetics, logic and metaphysics, these young men have plumbed the depths of the big questions and during the week they completed their course in heuristic learning. They have grappled with the tensions, engaged in discernment to come to informed decisions, considered the virtue of knowledge (epistemology) and the importance of conscience. Like life itself, a challenging proposition, but one that they have embraced and explored, and emerged wiser for the experience.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine