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A point of view

25 January 2013

Guest blog from Max De Boo MBE

Max De Boo MBE, ASE Guest BloggerAfter nearly 3 years of severe illness, I was stabilised enough to attend the Annual Conference of the ASE yesterday - just one day, as I still get easily tired. Indeed I suffered 4 or 5 minor petit mal seizures on the return journey home.

Was it worth a visit to ASE? Yes.

To mix with fellow enthusiasts who want to ‘learn’ more knowledge and how to become better ‘teachers’ is a privilege. I attended a talk by Stuart Naylor* and an illustrated lecture by Cyril Isenberg* - both of which involved audience participation.

I acquired new knowledge (to me), reflected on my practice - not so much in the classroom or lecture hall these days as with the U3A* groups I attend or have led. Most of all, I was made to think. I smiled and laughed, I gazed with delight at rainbows and haloes and other effects caused by light being refracted in raindrops or ice crystals. Knowledge does not remove the sense of wonder at such phenomena.

Three days earlier I had stood in the cathedral of the Natural History Museum gazing in awe at the fossils of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Two days before that I sat in the cathedral of St. Paul’s, gazing in awe - not at the tombs of great warriors - but at the great dome built by Christopher Wren*, rising to the heavens, covered with glorious paintings.

And this morning, I listened to ‘Thought for the Day’ by Mona Siddiqui*, who spoke, amongst other things, about how some Muslim families find it difficult to reconcile the differences between the secular and the religious, hoping that their children will become doctors, where perhaps the distinction is more blurred.

Is there a gap between the secular and the religious? For me there is no conflict. My own perception of ‘God’ might be controversial, in that I think of the ‘divine’ as that Force for ‘Goodness’ which exists in humanity, as well, alas, as that Force for Malice. Revered leaders of the major faiths are the greatest role models of that Force for Goodness. In secular professions, we also have outstanding role models whom we wish to emulate. The pillars of wisdom and goodness in science are similar to those in religion. ‘Saints’ are often just ordinary people who strove to put a greater value on goodness and humanity.

The unsung heroes in science include those who strove to design the prosthetic limbs that empowered our Paralympians in the Olympic Games last year, as well as our great role models such as Darwin, Faraday and Einstein.

And let us not forget all the unsung teachers, nurses, supermarket staff, farmers or local ministers or rabbis. Or the two un-named people who stood up for an elderly lady with a stick, in the underground trains on the way home yesterday - not in the designated disabled seats, but half-way down the carriage.

So I must conclude that, at their best, there is little or no gap between the secular and the religious. At our best, we seek for knowledge, wisdom, humility and goodness for others.**

Max de Boo

**p.s. I would also add Laughter!

* Stuart Naylor & Brenda Keogh, Millgate Education Ltd, Sandbach, Cheshire, CW11 4QD

* Dr. Cyril Isenberg, University of Kent, Canterbury

* U3A: University of the Third Age; a national organisation for those who have retired from work and wish to pursue professional and personal interests

* Sir Christopher Wren, architect, 1632 - 1723

* Professor Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and inter-religious Studies, University of Edinburgh

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