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Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Saint Francis of Assisi is forever connected to wildlife and with birds in general. He did not see nature as the enemy that needed to be tamed like some of his contemporaries but as part of who were are and always will be.

I find the song to the 1972 movie about his life, created by song writer Donovan, haunting, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

Not far from Thirroul train station, south coast, NSW, Australia there is a statue of Saint Francis offering water to our feathered friends.

What the moon was remained a mystery for a very long time. In the days of the Roman Empire because the moon was such a strange, unknowable presence, it was given a human aspect. And so Diana also known as Luna came into being. She, this moon goddess, and Lucifer, a sun god, had a game of chasings across out sky. It was between lovers and, when there was an eclipse; no moon or sun, Lucifer had caught up with Diana and being rather intimate with one another somewhere inside the earth but, of course, not for long. This was a way of explaining how night and day came about. It also explained eclipses. It wasn’t very scientific but, as a story and an explanation for something that could not be explained, it does have its charm.

In Europe nature and the natural world, including the moon, came to be alien to those who dwelt in large towns and cities. It was in the forests and other wild places that monsters dwelt.

Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) had humanity united with the rest of creation at a time when Christians regarded themselves as being above nature. In his Canticle of the Creatures, he mentioned Brother Sun and Sister Moon, the wind and the water.

In reading Human Kind A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (2020) and his assertion it takes a lot to get people in the right mood to go to war, I am reminded of what a peace monger this Saint Francis was and how he saw our world continually renewing itself and us at the same time to fit into his God’s plan. I am not a Catholic but I can still appreciate this notion.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I was too young to be conscripted for the Vietnam War. I recall how the main line of American comic book were all for the war and how that changed. In the 1960s the communists were all evil and must be fought. By the 1970s there was the question of how best to make peace and the notion those communists are also human.

Certainly, by 1972, Australians and Americans were sick of the whole Business. Australia opted out but there was to be no honorable exit for the Americans. Perhaps there had at one stage been hope that things would turn out the way they did in Korea with one half the country communist and the other capitalist. That at I’m sure was, at one stage in the conflict, the American strategy as mentioned in Ken Burns’ documentary on the war.

If I was old enough to be conscripted and that did happen, would I have gone or chose either to flee the country or go to jail? If I was called up in 1966 and was old enough to go, I probably would have done so since not many Australians back then knew much about Vietnam or what the war was about. By 1970 I might have opted either to flee the country or go to jail. Who can say for sure what one would do though unless put in that position?

We were told we were defeating the communists and that there was the threat of the domino effect where too many countries fall to communism and your country doesn’t stand a chance. As far as I know the domino effect is still being debated in colleges and universities.

In 1966, bolstering the South Vietnamese people with troops from Australia and the USA to help save them from communism would have appeared noble (This bolstering actually began in 1965.)

The war got complicated when the Americans put an Asian thug who claimed to be a Catholic in charge of the south. Buddhists were persecuted and there was widespread corruption in high places. He was eventually replaced but the damage to what we and the Americans were doing there had already been done.

I remember how young men wore long hair in defiance of military service including those too young to serve. I wore long hair back then in the 1970s.

Conscription was okay during the Second World War because of the bombing by the Japanese of Darwin plus those enemy mini-subs in Sydney Harbor. Men were needed and there was real fear of hostile invasion.

The Vietnam War was a different story because the enemy wasn’t close by and why we should fight at all seemed rather vague to many of us. I remember my dad in 1965 looking Vietnam up on a world map and having trouble finding it. I doubt if many Australians were sad to pull out of that war.

In February next year on the north main island of New Zealand there is to be a Viking festival. It sounds like a lot of fun. Whether it can get up and running with the coronavirus around I don’t know. Hopefully, by February, the virus will have gone and having the festival will be okay and I can travel once more to New Zealand.

The nights are still cold here on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. The days are sunny. Perhaps we should appreciate the cold now because of the sweltering evening in summer to come.

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