Guilt – real or unreal?

I get email and posts which seem to stress that I ought to feel guilty about all sorts of things. I ought to feel guilty because of my racism; I ought to feel guilty because Australia doesn’t do enough for displaced people; I ought to feel guilty for my part in climate change; I ought to feel guilty because of ?????? And so it goes on. And many of them indicate clearly how I can give my money to them and they will make it good!

Well, I’m sorry I refuse to wear it. Have I lived the perfect life? The answer is obvious and I don’t deny it – I have fallen far short of perfection. But it seems to me that trying to pile straw (guilt) on the camel’s back (mine) will break it. I must live straight in the present and into what future remains to me.

I cannot be blamed nor do I need to feel guilty for what my forebears, close or distant, have done in the past. I refuse to accept others’ rubbish dumped onto the front yard of my life. I cannot be blamed for wrong decisions made by others whose responsibility it was to deal with that/those situations. I cannot go back and undo one thing that I have messed up in the past. Sure I can deal with honesty and integrity with the end results of my actions but a word spoken cannot be unspoken; a deed done cannot be undid!

If there is no God (before whom I may well have responsibilities and guilt) I cannot see how I can feel guilty before a vague concept of evolution, or before a political ideal most (all) of which seem corrupt in themselves. If there is a God then I should see if He has anything to say about the responsibility/guilt/forgiveness/what-next issues. And if there is a real ‘God’ then I cannot redraw Him to suit my personal wants. If there is no God, then finding a standard by which to self-judge or condemn others is difficult. Do I do what seems right in my own eyes and then be faced with the dilemma – should I expect others to agree with what I’ve decided? – or does everyone have the right to judge right-wrong issues for themselves? Can I ‘pass the buck’ and blindly obey those who are ‘in power’ to make the rules? Can those rules then be changed, and if so are there any rules for making changes?

I’m one of the lucky ones. I believe in the God of the Bible and God therein makes amazing and gracious deals on our behalf. I can confess (but no pulling the wool over God’s eyes) and be forgiven and then be given the instructions of what to do. God does not forgive you to free you just to do what you want to do. There are instructions as to how to live. Not that it makes everything easy to either understand or do. Important are – stewardship for the earth on which we live; treating our fellow beings in the way we want to be treated ourselves; fair dealing in business; the need to steer clear of the many ways that people and businesses try to lead us into shonky deals.

And none of us can solve or even be involved in all the problem areas. Taxation needs to be equitable, without all the loopholes now available to be bought. To honestly paint the whole picture causing the various problems and not to just highlight (often the fashionable) one of many issues involved. We will have to be prepared to lower our personal expectations concerning wages, pensions, living standards if we want to raise the standards of the poor and of the developing world. I can’t tour around the world, talking about the main cause of climate change being man-made problems, in a private luxury jet, staying at top hotels, being paid a CEO wage and not expect to be quizzed on my life style. I think you can see where I’m heading, express an opinion if you desire.

Merry Christmas, Dominic Cartier

If only….

The picture below is the one on the front of my autobiography. It was taken in the mid 90’s in Soddo, Ethiopia. I developed a fairly close relationship with the boy who is walking with me. He was deaf and dumb. There was a blind school nearby but he wasn’t blind. There wasn’t anywhere near to help him. In my early days there before we got a vehicle, I often walked past his home going between our home and the hospital. If only I hadn’t had an already heavy schedule…. but had the chance to meet the family and know more about him. I got to hear his story from the workers and did my best to be a friend to this little guy isolated in an overpopulated area inside his silent world. So we’d walk together sharing a chocolate bar, pointing out things that interested us, but sadly absolute silence. If only we’d known ‘signing’ …. Our home was about a kilometre beyond his and when I was walking home he’d walk with me but then after a while suddenly break off and run home to his area of safety. 

Then we bought an old 4WD and as I drove past he would climb up on my knee and steer for maybe half a kilometre before tapping my arm to stop, hop out and run home. I think that either his playmates indicated that I was coming or he, being deaf and dumb, appreciated the vibrations from the car transmitted through his feet. At any rate it was rare for me not to see him coming to the side of the road, waiting for me as I drove past. When we left Soddo one of the saddest things was leaving him. He did not have an intelligence problem, and hopefully as things progress medically in the land, he will get help. If only I’d been able to find an appropriate school…

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I did meet him again several years later when I visited the Soddo area again. He ran up to me with a very broad smile but scratching himself all over. He was covered with scabies. The diagnosis was easy and the treatment relatively cheap, but not all that easy, as it involved bathing and washing clothes. Having worked there just a few years earlier I quickly worked out how much to get him seen, and medicine ordered, then added a little for inflation and gave it to one of the hospital staff to sort out. I was told that after I had left the pharmacy had been privatised and costs adjusted (in)appropriately. Thus the money which I was offering was now insufficient to even get him a card to be seen. I added more, but had to leave and am not sure who prospered from my money, the boy or the one sent on an errand. If only I’d been able to stay and look after him myself….

Life has so many ‘if only‘ situations. You’d go mad if you held onto them too tightly.

A late night..

Just after the communists were driven out of Ethiopia, the organisation we were connected to preferred us not to travel at night. We were seconded to a government hospital in Soddo. There was still a fair bit of shifta (bandit) activity. We had planned to leave earlier than we did, but I was held up at work. Our planned trip was about 400 km. It was almost getting dark when we filled up the main tank with diesel in a town about 150 km from our departure spot. We were using the reserve tank and didn’t switch back onto the freshly filled main tank until we arrived at the next main town a further 100 km along the way.

Within about ten kilometres, having spluttered for a while, the engine stopped altogether, My wife and I, with the 3 Ethiopian teenagers who were living with us, were stranded just outside a prison farm in the dark. A place which we had heard was not well secured.

What should we do? There was a mission station back in the town we had just passed with people we had met. We could not contact them as in those days no such things as mobile phones existed. So my wife and the oldest teenager stayed with the car and the younger two and I set out to walk back for help. I guess we were a bit scared, it was dark and I had seen at the hospital what bandits could do. I can’t remember what we talked about until the youngest explosively let off a prolonged emission from his nether end. He was embarrassed but so what! It got us talking about what sounds were common to all mankind. We could in the languages we knew between us, apart from belches and fluffs,  only think of  ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah’. 

By the time this enlightening conversation was over we arrived back at the last town, and were able to get help. Our acquaintance at the mission got some tools and 20 litres of diesel and a tow rope. I went to the local motel and found out how much it would cost to stay overnight.

With the mission guy’s help, having been towed back to the mission station, we discovered that the diesel we had bought previously was about 80% water. This was drained out, his diesel put into the tank, we were profuse in our thanks then went to the local fuel place and filled up. By now it was getting late, so I went back to the ‘motel’. But the manager had heard about us and, realising that my wife and I were white, doubled the price for all of us even though 3 were Ethiopians.

I decided we’d take our chances of bandits on the road rather than be robbed by this guy. So off we went for the last 150 km. No more robbers, and we arrived at about midnight. We hadn’t been able to contact them but the place we were to stay (friends) having been worried about us were glad to see us arrive.

Bominic Csrtier

Please -Forgive the Absence!

I’ve been remiss lately hardly even opening up my blogs. And I want to say why.

I haven’t even had time to comb my hair!

There has been the pressure of meeting the deadlines for publishing my two ebooks. At last they are in the publishers’ hands and due to open for sales in the next few days. They are published through Smashwords.com. They are – ‘Have Scalpel will Travel – memoirs of an older surgeon – revised and updated’ & ‘Medical Diagnostics a Surgical Approach’. The second is definitely medical with pictures.

Then we are not quite prepared for our pregnant ewes to lamb and have a shed and yards to complete in the next few days.

There was a granddaughter’s wedding to attend about 1,500 km away. We drove but whereas once we could do it in a long day it now takes three days. So we were away a week.

We got a broken car window and with all the bits they add into the glass these days it meant a wait of several weeks for the correct glass to be found and a second trip to have the bits tuned up. Now it is much better than looking through cracks!

Then in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a preaching appointment on zoom to India and Ethiopia, another at a church whose minister has just resigned and this weekend in our own church. Our church has a new man arriving in January, we having been without a Minister for a while.

The house restoration is looking good, but the place needs painting! So all I can say is please forgive my tardiness!

Dominic Cartier

What’s cooking?

Some of you older ones will remember the coupons which allowed your family to buy food during and after World War II. I was still pretty young (5) when the war ended so I don’t remember all the details but if you had a slice of bread it often had fat (lard) from the cooking plus some salt and pepper; you could have butter or jam but not both on your bread; special desert was a jam tart which you were allowed to help your mother cook.

(If you note a lot of spelling mistakes it is because my dog is insisting on putting her paws on my shoulder and licking my ear!)

Back to cooking. I remember when we got a coupon allowing us to get some rice – for instance. Basically we ate a very plain meat, potatoes and vegetable diet with very occasional desert. Somehow at Christmas they seemed to go overboard with lots of lonely old people from around the district and a plethora of delicious food.

Then as a medical student I went into National Service. We weren’t allowed to join the medical corps and I was a cook. So I can tell you that maggots float to the top when meat is boiled and scooped off and there is still good meat to serve the troops – while you (the cook) opened a tin of preserved fruit for yourself. It was good training as my wife doesn’t like cooking much.

So then I went to India where the food was so spicy I wondered why they didn’t just serve up the coals. I got used to it but I remember going to a wedding where the food was so spicy that hardly anyone ate much. I asked why for a wedding it was made so spicy and was told that it allowed them to invite lots of guests. I lost about 20 kilos in my 6 month stay in India.

On arriving in Ethiopia they use different spices. In India spices were hot in the mouth; in Ethiopia they were hot both ends – entering and leaving. Graciously the people who knew us toned it down for we foreigners. But it did give me a taste for more than what we had as kids.

Coming up to date, I want to give you a marinade sauce recipe. I sold some land to a neighbour who still owes me money (they are very faithful in their payments) but who kill their own pigs and cattle and sheep. They send us gifts sometimes. We are very thankful for it but it really isn’t quite as tender as you buy in the shop – but as a gift much cheaper!

So I’ll share with you my mixture to make it more tender and which still reminds me of some of my Indio-Ethiopian past. I know you’re supposed to measure everything exactly but I excuse myself by saying I do it to taste. So what you’re getting is approximate.

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of English mustard powder.
  • about 3/4 cup of tomato paste
  • 2 overflowing tablespoons of honey or brown sugar
  • 2-3 dessert spoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 dessert spoons of ABC thich sweet soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of hot spicy SRIRACHA hot spicy chili sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste.

I mix it all up and if the meat is suitable (eg chops) marinate in the fridge for some hours. Then cook the meat in it. If I think the meat is going to be very tough I use a slow cooker and boil up my mixture separately and use it as a gravy/sauce.

None of us have died; one likes me to limit the tomato paste a bit, but they keep coming back for it!

You might like it spicier, then add some ground chilli – which I tend to do if we have Ethiopian visitors.

Dominic Cartier