Porn, Pot and Friday Drinks

What does porn, marijuana and TGIF drinks after work on Friday have in common?

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There is a dangerous trend that seems to be going out of control today in our society. Here is a revealing look into the scourge of pornography and other similar addictions that are holding our people captive.

Take a look at these images and let it sink in first.

YourBrain-on-p0rn
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These images are known as SPECT images. SPECT is an imaging technique used to show the biological activity at each part of the brain. In other words, using SPECT imaging you can tell how more active or less active certain regions of a person’s brain is.

The top part of the brain’s image (facing up) is the front part of the brain located just behind your forehead. That is what is known as the Frontal lobe. This is the area of the brain which is largely responsible for the majority of our higher mental processes like thinking, memory, decision making, problem solving, planning, emotions, and speech. If anything happens to that part of the brain then you can guess what happens next. 

The good news is that all these is reversible over time with the right attention given to your brain. Our brain is malleable, which means that we can work on getting it back to being healthy.

A healthy mind is very necessary for us to make sound decisions and to rationalise intelligently. Every thought, speech and action of a person is subject to their mind.  That is why it is of paramount importance to protect our mind at all cost.

The devil knows how important our mind is and so has been hard at work, chipping away at your mind. He is always on the prowl, devising new ways to gain control of our mind.

This brings to mind a familiar maxim where they say an idle mind is the devil’s playground. That may be true, but ultimately your mind is a battleground.

The devil is more ruthless, and forceful. Shoving things like porn, lust and evil entertainment in our face. All in the attempt to numb our minds. To weaken us from the inside so he can control our minds like a puppet master.

Jesus meanwhile is standing at the door of your heart knocking gently. With the still small voice of truth He is beckoning with calm sincerity, asking if you can let Him in so He can dine with you and He can show you how to better protect your mind (Rev. 3:20). Not even shoving and pushing His way in. He’s courteous and gentle like that.

There is a battle going on for control of your mind. Ultimately it is you who has the final say. You have the choice to resist or to yield to whichever power you want to serve. Slavery to the devil or Liberty in Christ.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus Christ
(John 10:10)

In Pursuit of Happiness

There is this story of a boy who is sitting by the banks of a river one day fishing. He hears a jet plane fly overhead. He looks up wistfully and says, “I wish I could be that pilot flying up there in the sky”.

Many years later, sure enough the boy becomes a pilot. One day while in the cockpit of the plane he looks out the window and sees the familiar river below, snaking away into the sea. He can just pick out his favourite fishing spot of those bygone days. “O, how I wish I could relax by that river again and fish all day.”

‘The grass is always greener on the other side’. So goes the old adage.  

It is a story of chasing dreams with the expectation of finding happiness in the attainment of those dreams, whatever those dreams may be for you.

We are born into this big chase. The eternal pursuit of happiness as they say, but it has proven as elusive as ever. Just when we think we have a good hold of it, it leaves us empty. Like trying to catch the wind.

The phrase ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a misnomer. It implies that happiness is a destination. A final end goal. It is not. Happiness cannot be the journey either. If anything, it is your attitude on the journey.

True happiness exists when one finds contentment, and contentment has to come from within oneself. It is the peace of mind one has in spite of external factors and circumstances surrounding her. It is a deliberate choice to be content.

To be content does not equate to being resigned to one’s fate. Being content does not mean you take whatever life has dealt you with, and submit and roll over and die.

No.

Being content means to get your buckets and hoses out coz it’s time to water the grass on your side, so you can get it just as green or even greener. Heck you can grow a rainforest if you want to.

 

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:11,13

 

Remember The Living Years

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say…*

So goes that familiar song.

It was quite popular in the early 90s of those high school years. Not really a cheerful song. Nevertheless a poignant reminder of the brevity of life.

To say your piece. To make peace. To see eye to eye first. To say it loud, and to say it clear. Before it is all too late. Before those you hold dear are gone.

I loved that song, but I could not relate to it then. My father was away for the most of part of that period. I related to it by projecting myself into the future. Into the world of what-ifs. Would those words be ringing true for me when my time came around?

He was a soft spoken man. He was one to always go for the more peaceful option when in the midst of conflicts. He had a knack for choosing the path that was less desired. A path most would shy away from, for fear of being seen as unmanly and weak.

Only now I realise that it was the exact opposite. It takes true courage to take that path. The kind of courage that is seasoned with humility. To walk alone.

He recollected once to me of how he saved another man’s life when in prison. A man who was supposed to be his enemy.

I wish I could sit down with him one more time and get more of those stories from him. Going back even in time to the stories of his childhood.

I want to ask him.

What were your favourite pastime when you were growing up in Elakalde?
Was the earth of Konggouldum paste-like and as yellow as I picture it in my mind?
What made you leave the comforts of the fairytale fields of Nangguin in pursuit of a western education? To journey on foot from the top end of one province to the tail end of another. From the headwaters of Ambum River in Londol down to the muddy plains of the Waghi in Fatima in the early 60s.

I want to say sorry.

That afternoon when my friend Kumdi Max showed you to my room at Niomuro flats when I was doing my first year in Uni. I was consumed with rage to see your face. It felt like betrayal all over again. I was lost at what to do. A part of me wanted to punch your lights out. Instead I blew cigarette smoke into your face and told you to get the hell out as you came sobbing and hugged me.

Perhaps the better thing I should have done then was to ask you. To get your side of the story as to WHY you were missing from the picture for the most part of my high school days. Now that I have joined you in fatherhood, I want to know even more, but I still come up empty handed.

It is only in retrospect that we learn some of life’s tough lessons. That emotions left unchecked and unrestrained always gets the better of us. If we could empathise more, then perhaps we could understand better.

I would eventually make peace with him over the years. I brought him his first granddaughter to see. The joy was all around as he held her in his arms with tears welling inside. He beamed with pride as he called the name we gave her. Nisoron. A name of his language.

His health had been deteriorating for a while. It took its toll on him but he hung on. He would still be up and about with his black weather beaten briefcase as if everything was ok. He was one to hide such things from people. Smiling at every turn.

In early March of 2016 I spoke very briefly to him. It was a rushed phone call before I left for Mt Hagen. His voice sounded a bit weak over the phone. I put that down to one of his many faint spells. He was not in a good state to journey with us, he told me. I think I said I would get back to him. Maybe I didn’t. I do not quite remember that last phone conversation clearly.

There was so much on my mind then. I had planned this traditional bride price event for over a year by that time. My wife and daughter were flying to the village with me. This was where I was going to formalise the traditional chapter of our union in front of my tribal kinsfolk and elders.

I had no time to talk. I would talk to him later, I told myself.

On the morning of 30 March 2016 I would board the plane for the return journey to Australia with my wife and my 7 month old daughter in my arms.

Four days later news would reach me. That my father passed away that same morning I was boarding that flight. I still did not get to tell him all the things I needed to tell him.

Life goes on and the memories are all we have. All those stories that remain untold fade from memory with every passing day. Yet more get swallowed up by the grave.

All those unasked questions go still unanswered. For now they may remain as ‘crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thought’.

* The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics

Talking Better To Write Better

Writing is an art form that allows people to connect intimately at an almost spiritual level. Writers block is the scourge that ruins this. How does one avoid that?

I stopped blogging for 5 years. Then all of a sudden it came back. Zzzzing! The buzz… Light bulbs of a thousand year’s lights.

I see the likes of Seth Godin churning out a post every day on his blog. I envy that. I would like to emulate that. One day. Some day. But some day never comes.

I’ll start slow on a weekly chant instead.

Even then, most days it feels almost like I’m drowning. Almost suffocating. Just clawing and struggling. Gasping for breath. Trying to get the words to dance together just right to make sense. To draw out the picture. Or at least get a resemblance of that idea to surface from the murky depths of my thoughts into something recognisable. Just enough to overpower all the background noise to bring out the music.

Every once in a while we stumble across writing that is indeed pure music.  The kind of writing that makes us close our eyes, smile, cry even, and drift away. An escapade even for a moment, yet so intimate. When you know that you and the author are so connected at some kind of a spiritual level. A level where even you cannot understand, yet you cannot help but relish it. 

Such is the power of writing. Of art. Of connecting deeply with people at the soul level. This is the truest level of communion between people, bypassing the masks that we all hide behind everyday.

Eileen Townsend did that for me in In Love and War. So did Tim Winton. Pick you favourite book.

Wouldn’t we all like to write like that someday?

Someday never comes.

So we keep honing our craft. Day by day. Week by week. Keep at it to reach that sublime level.

When you can get me to see the picture without the need for light in my eyes. That is what light bulbs of a thousand year’s light looks like.

Why am I speaking in metaphors anyway?

I don’t know. The weekend is coming up. Go figure.

One thing Godin asked that really got me thinking was this. “No one ever has talkers block…. Why then, is writers block endemic?” His reasoning is that we should write like how we talk.

So is it fair to say we should mind our words then? Chew on that.

 

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Colossians 4:6

Beyond the Four Pillars of Kokoda

A life changing encounter and reflections on the four pillars of the Kokoda spirit of mateship, endurance, sacrifice, and courage. What this means to me as a Papua New Guinean.

Today is Kokoda Day. It is the 75th Anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign.

I thought it proper that I share with you a piece on the Kokoda Track that I wrote several years ago for ANZAC Day.

Walking the Kokoda Track remains as one of the most life changing experiences for me.

This piece was also written on a tiny Nokia phone pre-smartphone days in the bush, so I consider this as an accomplishment in itself. 🙂

Enjoy this read.

N.I Piakal

//

On MATESHIP: ANZAC and the Kokoda Track

Every 25 April each year will see Australians and New Zealanders stand at dawn. In silent salute in honour of brave men and women who took a stand to defend their country with their lives.

Of those that are remembered on ANZAC day, more than 2000 of them will be those courageous men who lost their lives on Kokoda. Regarded by many as ‘the Bloody Track’.

Australians have been involved in numerous conflicts from as far back as the Boer war. However none of them was as close to Australian soil as the campaign on the Kokoda Trail. The national security of Australia was hanging by the balance. That was how critical it was.

Jeff Kennett, the former Victorian Premier noted this fact in his recent article in the Herald Sun. He pointed out the Kokoda Track as a major Australian shrine. He went on to say that “the real wonderment of PNG still remains the Kokoda Track. (sic)

Papua New Guinea must also see the Kokoda Track as a major PNG shrine as well, and not merely a tourist attraction for us to cash in on.

It is precisely on this bloodstained trail that the dynamics of the bond between Papua New Guinea and Australia relations took a major shift.

It was especially the diggers in the frontline who came to see Papua New Guineans in a new light. In stark contrast to the colonial era view of our people.

This 6-month long campaign also saw a lot more Papua New Guineans participate actively in the Second World War than in any other battle. They became porters, stretcher bearers, nurses, scouts and even some were in active combat.

From here on the legend of the famous Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels was born.

On ENDURANCE: My ignorance and Kokoda Track

For a Papua New Guinean born post-independence, the contribution of these great men bore little to no significance to me. They simply got lost in the pages of my high school history text book.

Perhaps we could argue that Papua New Guinea’s Independence on a ‘golden platter’ had a bearing on this apparent disregard for something of such historical significance. Then again this may have also stemmed from the fact that I hail from the heart of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea – a location left relatively untouched during the war.

This ignorance I had was soon to get a good dose of reality check as I came face to face with history.

In late May of 2010 I had the fortunate opportunity to check off the Kokoda Track on my bucket list.

The tales that you have heard about this challenging track is nowhere near the real thing. The entire 96km of this gruelling track alone will demand nothing but the whole of you. If you dare to take up the challenge then be prepared to be slaughtered!

From ankle-deep mud to slippery climbs that seemed to never end. Only to find steep descents on the other side that will turn the knees of any strong man to rubber. From leech infested mud plains to the murky Brown River. Onwards to the raging torrents of the Iora Creek, the Kokoda Track will put the human spirit to the test.

The arduous nature of this track alone has been known to make legends out of ordinary men. For it was there that I came to meet a man that displayed the true meaning of sacrifice by his deeds alone.

On SACRIFICE:  Pte Bruce Kingsbury VC and Kokoda Track

Private Bruce Kingsbury VC – a Malvern boy

I came across the legend of Private Bruce Kingsbury upon entering Isurava. This was another battlefield where the two opposing forces engaged in a raging battle that lasted for weeks.

Kingsbury was, and remains the only recipient of the Victorian Cross in Papua New Guinea.

The Victorian Cross (VC) is the highest decoration of the Commonwealth given with honour to anyone who performs an act of valour above and beyond his or her call of duty. It is the Australian equivalent of the American Medal of Honor.

A farmer and a real estate agent by profession, Private Kingsbury fought valiantly and gave up his life in order to save the lives of his mates and his commanding officers. Because of his actions alone many were able to live and fight another day. Some went on to see the end of the war where they would go on to see their children and grandchildren and die of old age. That day 29 August 1942 got etched down into the history books and into their minds forever.

Because of this selfless act, the following was written of him by W.B. Russell:

“Whenever men speak of courage,
wherever men speak of sacrifice,
he will be remembered,
his name ever an inspiration and a challenge.”

On COURAGE: The essence of the Kokoda Track

Starting from Ower’s Corner all the way to Kokoda Station, it was hard not to notice the plaques along the length of the track. They help to point out the historical significance of the locations or the actors in it in relation to the Kokoda campaign.

Skeletal remains of weapons and helmets are littered all throughout. The remnants of foxholes and craters made by mortar rounds lay eerily silent next to each other. Weather and time have metamorphosed them into vague resemblances of their former self. Yet they linger. Mute witnesses to those terrifying times, reminding us of grim tales of desperation and bloody carnage. They also hold a much louder truth. A tale of the human spirit. A tale of courage in the face of uncertainty and imminent doom.

With each passing day it was hard not to see what these valiant warriors had to endure. Ordinary men who rose up to the occasion to successfully fight off a larger, better trained onslaught of Japanese forces.

Brigade Hill is one such location where such fierce fighting ensued.

After leaving Brigade Hill, I made my way round the western side of that hill towards Efogi. For anyone who has been there, they will know that there are several similar looking bends there. One of those bends hangs precariously close to the edge of a rocky ledge. It is a narrow pass between two jagged edged rocks pointing inwards with just enough space to allow the passage of ONLY ONE person at a time. A few centimetres of misstep left and a gaping yawn of a chasm awaits to receive that unfortunate stray.

This narrow little pass brought me to a halt and to a moment of quiet contemplation. You have to give credit to the tenacity of the Australians with all those weights on their backs with gun in hands, plodding through the muddy slopes and bogs.

However, I was more in awe of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels then.

I have tried over and over to construct a picture in my mind to see how four men would negotiate such a dangerously tricky one-lane path with a young wounded — perhaps even unconscious Australian in a stretcher. Carrying anything more than 10 kilograms along the length of the track is no easy feat, let alone a 70 kilo fully grown man. I got lost trying to figure out this equation.

However I was dead certain of one thing though.

I beamed with humble pride and admiration at the accomplishments of these selfless men. Papua New Guineans. Warriors in their own right. With no incentive whatsoever. Just a simple desire to help a fellow human being, even though a stranger he may have been.

With simple courage they  stood alongside the Australians in their capacity as human camels, ambulances, scouts and all round saviours.

Then the words of that poet rang with crystalline clarity as I trudged on. I caught a faint whisper of what he saw.  When that wounded soldier by the name of Bert Beros penned that beautiful ode to my forefathers, the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ 

Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track.

For they haven’t any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse

Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
They look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording
that an artist’s yet to paint

Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track

May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

– by Bert Beros

 

I was never a PROUDER Papua New Guinean than at that very moment.

I may not hail from the Koiari tribe, nor a Kaiva, but I was proud then. As I am now. Proud of my heritage as a Papua New Guinean. That those brave and selfless impromptu Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels are also my forefathers.

If you are a Papua New Guinean, consider the Kokoda Track as your pilgrimage. What it takes out of your body it will put into your heart and soul!

That is the essence of ‘The Bloody’ Track.

Lest we forget.

***


Special delivery for ANZAC day from Afore, deep in the heartlands of the Managalas Plateau in the Ijivitari District of Oro Province, Papua New Guinea.

Awara!

25 April 2011

Fact Check

*Technically, the closest attack on Australian soil took place when the Japanese struck Sydney and Darwin with mini-submarines and air attacks respectively. These however cannot be classified as ‘campaigns’.

** Koiari – the biggest tribe in the Central Province, they live from the coast all the way up to the inland which includes Sogeri and land on which the Kokoda Track runs through and the surrounding area.

**Kaiva – this is the general reference given to the Oro side of the Kokoda Track all the way down towards Popondetta.

**Awara – a common greeting used by the Oro people to generally mean, “Its all right/Its all good.”


 

This was originally published at HopeTrek

Watercress Economics

If life is the total sum of your choices, what ever happened to the choices that you passed on?

The other day I picked up a bunch of watercress from the local grocery supermarket. It was going for $3 AUD, Sydney price. The single bunch could fit neatly into the palm of my hand.

The $3 watercress

It drew a chuckle from me. Where I come from I would be trampling on these measly bunch. I would never count them worthy of my plate even.

There is this entire river that springs out from the side of the mountain. Icy cold it is. An entire farm of watercress lives on this water. Perennial and all organic. Pu’up Keres, we call it.

If I wanted watercress on my plate, I would get a bigger bunch of thick and succulent watercress for FREE!

However, for the sake of discussion, I’d say $3 (or PNG K10) could give me roughly three square metres of an entire watercress patch to harvest.

On such days, nostalgia kicks in.

A part of me momentarily wanders to those cool climes. The carefree life of dirt, gardens and calloused hands. Where the smell of smoke from wood fire signals rest, warmth, conversations over the fireplace, and a delicious serving of earthen baked sweet potato. With the receding light of day, the cicadas reach a crescendo as they pick up the chorus of dusk.  To usher in even colder nights. Crisp quite except for the night sounds. Then every so often the very faint sound of radio music wafts in with the breeze from the neighbour’s shortwave transistor radio from across the creek, crackling and hissing, battling with static. No TV. No worries.

So what is the moral behind this story so far?

Everything in life comes with a certain worth associated with it. We place values on them, and that value – or our perception of it, is most often the key determinant for all the decisions that we make in our life. Thus follows the reasoning that our lives are the total sum of all our choices.

What about the choices that we passed up? How would they have benefited us? Would we have progressed? Or would we have regressed? True economists would refer to this as the opportunity cost.

This then begs the question of  how exactly does one truly measure and quantify the opportunity cost of quality of life?

To better understand this in laymen’s perspective, I will use a term more easily understood. Sacrifice. There are big sacrifices that we make, which we most often feel the pinch of the experience that comes with it. Often it is endured for the greater glory or comfort that awaits us in the foreseeable future. We actually label these as indeed, ‘sacrifices’.

Then there are those little sacrifices that we make, almost unconsciously when we are following the progression of life’s journeys. Go to school, take up a trade, get a job, find a wife or husband, make a home, have some kids, settle down, and the story goes on.

At the time when you took up that choice, you would have never dreamt that one day you would see the benefits of that alternative choice as a ‘sacrifice’. It was the negative alternative that you, by every means had to avoid. Or so we thought. Dropping out of school to farm the land, for instance. No way!

Unthinkable!

Years later down the road, something as insignificant as a bunch of watercress can show you that there is value in every choice that you make. Even the option deemed as the ‘negative alternative’ ultimately has value.

Indeed life is the total sum of all your choices.

Whether you are living in happiness or in misery is also a matter of choice. You choose. 

If you choose happiness today, then when nostalgia next bumps into you in the shopping aisle, or wherever it may be for you, chances are you will be left smiling.

 

DSCF7886
Watercress farm, Pu’up Keres Pana,  by N. Piakal/2009
DSCF7890
watercress farm, Pu’up Keres Pana,  by N. Piakal/2009
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Fresh from the rocks, Pu’up Keres Pana,  by N. Piakal/2010
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Natural architecture, Pu’up Keres Pana,  by N. Piakal/2010

 

The Reformation Must Go On

As we celebrate 500 years of the Reformation, we once again look at Justification by faith.

On this day 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg church in Germany.

His seeming defiance of the Roman Catholic Church at that time was based on his convictions of ‘justification by faith’, which is largely the theme of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, and indeed, the entire Gospel.

That we have all sinned, but are freely made righteous only by the amazing grace of God through the redemptive power of Jesus and the cross (paraphrasing Rom. 3:23,24).

In his ‘Commentary on Romans’, Luther wrote,

“The Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.”

There is a misconception today where many believe that, the old testament was under the law and people were saved by mere works, and that today we are living under grace and so are saved by faith alone.

A careful study of the Word will reveal that “justification by faith” was the only way by which people were saved all along, even in old testament times. A scroll through the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 will confirm this for you.

The Apostle Paul wanted to expound on this truth to the early Jewish Christians by bringing two pivotal characters of the Jewish nation into the picture. Father Abraham and King David.

In Romans 4:1-17, he points out that justification by faith was there before the existence of a Jewish nation, and even before the Mosaic laws.

So if we are justified by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ does that make void the laws of God and give us the license to live in lawlessness? God forbid. Rather we uphold the law (paraphrased Rom. 3:31).

Let the REFORMATION continue!