At home in Australia

Today we celebrate Australia Day – or do we? For many it’s a last-ditch chance to revel in the lazier pace of the Christmas and New Year holiday period before school begins and work takes off again with a gallop. But can it or should it be something more? After all, this is the single […]

The Sufis of Lahore

It’s July 2010. With the speed of a meteorite, the news of the recent suicide bombing at the Data Ganj-Bakhsh Sufi shrine in Lahore, Pakistan came and went. More than forty people were killed, including children. Almost two hundred were injured. The loss of safety at Pakistan’s most important Sufi centre was incalculable. But within […]

Zero tolerance for bullying

When I started work (in the dark ages of the twentieth century), sexual harassment was thought of as an entirely private problem. There was rarely any point taking it to the boss.  Even if the boss himself was not the problem, a victim would often find herself blamed, shamed and punished. That’s changed radically. And […]

An opinion on opinions

If asked, I would have to own up to being a fairly opinionated person. And I am perfectly aware how fortunate I am that writing here and in my books about the patterns and oddities of human behaviour gives me a forum not just to express my opinions but, better still, to try them out […]

Long live happiness

We will soon celebrate a wedding in our family and the happiness and optimism this is generating make it easy to think more generally about romance and its quite wonderful magic. I have heard a couple of intensely romantic stories recently, beyond the one closest to home. The first has its genesis in a local […]

Can you afford it?

In recent weeks I have been conducting a mini-experiment. It’s turned out to be surprisingly interesting, not always for the most predictable reasons.  It began when I was debating whether to get tickets for a special concert, then deciding that I could not afford it. Even as I was making that decision, though, I was […]

Rich in friends

We all want good friends.  That’s a given. No, we all need good friends. Whatever our difficulties or joys, it’s the interest of those who care about us that makes all the difference. From earliest childhood on, our social instincts make it essential that we engage with real interest and concern with other people. We may […]

Ego inspection

“Sigmund Freud is no longer a giant on the cultural landscape but some of his concepts remain unusually useful as reference points in our self-understanding.,” Many of us draw very freely on his insights about the unconscious and conscious realms of the mind and also on his identification of the ego as a key aspect […]

Parliament of World’s Religions, 2009

The major and some minor world’s religions were well represented at the Parliament of the World’s Religions that ended this month (December 2009) in Melbourne – but perhaps not quite the “world” itself. The organisers, based in Chicago and offering these ambitious international, inter-religious festivals each five years, hoped for 10,000 people.  Over a crowded […]

Workplace bullying

Most people spend a staggering percentage of their waking hours at work. This makes it not just worrying but totally unacceptable when they have to put up with behaviour from colleagues, managers or bosses that fails to meet even the most basic levels of consideration and respect. It used to be that most bullies, sadists […]

The power of ritual

Easter is the highpoint in the Christian calendar, a celebration of eternal life over physical death. But while Easter has specific characteristics and potency, such celebration is not confined to Christians or Christianity alone. All faiths and faith cultures offer stories and rituals to affirm the co-existence of some form of eternal or infinite life […]

Families: Speaking Up

Our emotional wellbeing depends to a great extent on how fairly and kindly other people treat us. (How we treat others affects their wellbeing just as directly.) But where does that leave us when we are unsure what to expect of others or whether our demands are half-way reasonable? And how does this affect the […]