20 September 2021

In praise of mentors – and a tribute to a footballing legend

There are many things to adapt to as one becomes older. Speaking personally, one surprise has been the size of the hole left by outliving significant elders. However, with the losses has come an even greater appreciation for the genuine mentors who have blessed, informed and enriched my life in so many ways. 

With my AFL football team - Melbourne - a real prospect to win its first Grand Final in 57 years, it feels appropriate to share something of the remarkable life of a Club legend who was a mentor, and to enthuse about seeking out and maintaining relationships with mentors if you do not have them already, but first

     Thought for the Day

The Buddha is not going to project you to Buddhahood, 

As if throwing a stone. 

He is not going to purify you, 

As if washing a dirty cloth, 

Nor is he going to cure you of ignorance, 

Like a doctor administering medicine to a passive patient. 

Having attained full enlightenment himself, 

He is showing you the path, 

And it is up to you to follow it or not. 

It is up to you now 

To practice these teachings 

And experience their results.

                Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Close friend of my father, Godfather to my elder sister, father of 2 sons I attended school with and one daughter, local doctor in outer Melbourne at the one family practice for life, footballer, incredibly decent human being and powerful influence in my own life for good – Dr Donald Cordner. 

Our families grew up together and we visited regularly. But imagine this – it speaks to the modesty of the man – not until around the age of 30 did I come to know Donald had won a Brownlow Medal in 1946 (best and fairest in the competition) and that he served on the Melbourne Football Club’s Board and as President of the Melbourne Cricket Club. He never spoke of his considerable accomplishments.

Also, for those who watched the pageant and tasteful ceremony of this year's Brownlow presentation as a major event on television, consider this. In 1946, Donald was advised by mail he had won the Brownlow. He was summoned to a Board meeting at VFL House (it was V for Victoria in those days not Australian FL) where he waited half an hour on his own in an ante room. The Chair then said "Player Cordner, you have been awarded this year's Brownlow Medal", handed over the medal, shook his hand and sent him on his way. No media, no fuss; that was it!

As a teenager whose mother had died at 12, Donald was a point of reference. Whenever we visited, whenever we met, he greeted me with warm-hearted affection and importantly, with interest. He always took time to enquire what was happening in my life and was full of encouragement for whatever interested me. He was always asking challenging, sometimes provocative questions; stimulating analysis and reflection. One of his habits was to throw puzzles at his children and their visitors; he was fun as well as comforting. 

Along with his equally remarkable wife, Moyle (from whose presence I also derived great benefit) Donald provided a real model of what a long-term successful marriage could look like.

When my cancer appeared in 1975, my father was living overseas. It was Donald who came to the Hospital and helped arrange the best care and steer me through the difficult choices that led to my leg being amputated. Again, his inner strength and calm was steadying.

As the years went on and my work shifted from the veterinary world towards that of medicine, Donald was happy to discuss issues and provide insight. From time to time we would meet at the MCG, discuss the footy, usually lament the parlous state of Melbourne’s performances, touch on the news of the day, the progress in my life and work. Those meetings were always like a tonic.

Sadly, Donald died in 2009 aged 87.

With Melbourne playing in the 2021 Grand Final, 

Donald would be thrilled. 

I think of him and feel so fortunate to have had this man in my life.

The message? 

Mentors play a key role in life. Elders are important and warrant close relationships, but mentors go to the next level. Some mentors drop into your lap, some you need to seek out. Either way, whether young or older, make the effort; actively build a relationship with one or preferably more mentors. And as you advance in age, experience and wisdom, consider who you might be able to mentor. Pay it forward…

       And of course 

            - Melbourne for premiers!!!

06 September 2021

COVID, antivaxxers and tolerance – breaking the silence

This is a blog about tolerance and what sort of society we all want to live in. No doubt we all want peace and harmony, but is that because we want everyone to agree with us and be like us? Or because we encourage diversity and make an effort to understand, tolerate and even welcome it?

Currently, medical and media opinions are vehemently pro-vaccination. In my opinion they have good grounds for this stance, yet I am disturbed by how many seem intent on ridiculing and shaming those opposed – the antivaxxers, even those slow on the uptake. This tends to polarise people, create entrenched defensive/aggressive positions, take people to extremes and create what is now close to a taboo around even discussing the topic. 

The last blog on vaccinations stirred a good deal of response, including an old friend who shared their own diary-like writings aimed at helping clarify their decision not to be vaccinated at this point in time.

Choosing not to be vaccinated for COVID seems somewhat perilous. No doubt there are many reasons people chose not to be vaccinated, yet currently it seems very difficult to have a measured conversation about why. Tolerance may be in short supply.

Clearly the conclusions this friend has come to are not the same as mine, however, they are well thought out, clearly expressed, may surprise you, and warrant consideration and understanding. 

So how do you respond to someone who has a strongly opposed view to your own? Who is different to you? Is there any curiosity to attempt to understand them? Their point of view? Or is there a rapid and emotion move towards derision? Do you consider yourself to be tolerant, but then feel free to be hard on anti-vaxxers and those who support Trump – as examples of exceptions we all might hold to…

In the interest of being open and of breaking any potential silence or taboo; in the interest of challenging tolerance and commitments to understanding, here are my friend’s reflections, but first

   Thought for the day

 Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between 

 The discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions 

 And the discomfort of being ruled by them.

                             Mingyur Rinpoche

Reflections from a friend   who asked to remain anonymous - a further indication of the difficulty expressing these views publicly…

In January this year I reviewed my position re COVID vaccinations and came to the position that I would not get vaccinated but that I would leave the door open and see how the situation unfolds. Time has moved on and a new situation presents itself. I feel it time to review my position.

What is new? We now have ready availability of vaccines and subsequent pressure from the government and media for people to get vaccinated.

Also, potentially severe restrictions are emerging for non-vaccinated people. 

This includes likely expected pressure and victimisation of non-vaccinated people from the wider public. 

My expectation is that life will become very difficult and restricted for non-vaccinated people.

How does this influence my position re COVID vaccination? 

On the one hand it would be so easy to just give in, make an appointment and have this vaccination over and done with and life could continue as usual – fairly straightforward. In addition to that I could do a bit more specific healing meditation around the actual vaccination event and the impact on the body, as a friend of mine suggests and ‘end-of-story’. Let life go on without avoidable government pressure/punishment and potentially ugly peer pressure and the fear surrounding all of that. 

So what is holding me back from this fairly straightforward process?

There is a strong inner voice active in me telling me to not accept this vaccination for myself. 

The inner voice is based on the following points:

1. I have reservations about the lack of a spiritual awareness in mainstream science and in medicine particularly. The human body is commonly regarded as a ‘complicated machine’ devoid of a spiritual dimension. In my worldview there are 2 vital dimensions - spirit and matter. For me, very clearly spirit is primary and matter secondary. 

From that perspective I evaluate very carefully what allopathic/mainstream medicine offerings are acceptable to me or not. In case of COVID vaccination; that is not acceptable to me at this point in time.

2. I am very particular about what I accept going into my body or being done to my body in the form of drugs, vaccines, medical treatments and foods. There is a particular emphasis for me to avoid genetically engineered/manipulated DNA substances wherever possible.

3. I maintain a healthy immune system through a very healthy lifestyle and I trust my immune system to be able to handle viruses.

4. I am not afraid of death. I accept my destiny. If I get COVID or other viruses I will do my best to recover from it. However, if it is my destiny to die from a viral infection, so be it.

5. In the mainstream narrative of the so-called COVID pandemic, the COVID virus is seen as the primary enemy and warlike measures have unfolded worldwide to ‘beat the enemy’. 

Following explanations of credible virology experts in the field there are millions of different viruses around and we could not exist without the viral dimension. 

The challenge is to find a way to co-exist with the viruses and on one level strengthen the immune system to cope with the health effects of some viruses like COVID. 

On another level there needs to be a clearer recognition how the treatment and exploitation of the earth, animals and plants as spirit-less commodities has contributed to conditions whereby viruses jump from animals to humans for instance and interfere with human health. I suggest the root causes should be addressed as a matter of urgency to work towards a sustainable future for all living beings.

6. I spent a lot of time reading/listening/watching the ‘experts’ in the field arguing for and against the current COVID vaccinations and the severity of the so-called COVID pandemic over the last 18 months. I cannot claim to know the truth; as a matter of fact I realised that no amount of research will lead me to the point of ‘knowing the truth’. However, all the information I could take in from the experts in the fields from different camps, leaves me with serious question marks over the validity, accuracy, robustness of the ‘main narrative’ promoted relentlessly by the so-called mainstream leading medical organisations, the mainstream media and the governments at all levels. 

For me the ‘mainstream narrative’ leaves me with too much doubt, too many question marks. And for me this puts serious reservations over the real motives for the relentless, unprecedented push for people to get vaccinated. Too much doubt remains for me which prevents me from trusting the ‘main narrative’. Based on all that I cannot just take the simple way out and get vaccinated. 

The opposition of my ‘inner voice’ to the COVID vaccinations for myself is also strongly linked to my
spiritual beliefs. 

It feels that I am at a major inner crossroad with the vaccination question with potentially serious long term consequences one way or the other. 

Of greatest importance for me at this crossroad is to make my decision based on a state of spiritual ‘Presence’. 

To avoid making decisions based on fear or hatred or anger or ‘becoming a martyr’ which would be related to my ‘pain body’ and driven by my ‘lower ego’. Instead I want to make my crucial decision out of freedom, guided by my ‘I am’, the ‘Deep I’.

The best I can do at this very moment is to listen to my ‘inner voice’ to the best of my capability. This voice is clear for me at the moment and that is to not take the vaccinations at this point in time. 

My firm intention is to do my best to be able to look into the future without fear and anxiety and to strive to have complete peace of soul and tranquillity of mind. And in the given moment to hopefully be able to make decisions out of full ‘Presence’.

I strongly believe in basic ‘human rights’ and one of the most fundamental human right for me is that of ‘informed consent’. At this stage I clearly do not consent to the COVID vaccination.

I fully respect the rights of other people including friends, partner, family members, colleagues to arrive at
their own decision re the COVID vaccination and I respect their choices. 

I also accept my responsibility towards the health of fellow human beings and I will apply appropriate self-isolation measures if I ever do show any relevant symptoms.


How to have a COVID vaccine that is effective and side-effect free