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Tablet - September 2012

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Eduardo Goncalves Ribeiro had a tropical personality. Born to a slave mother in Amazonia he grew to be twice governor of the new Brasilian State of Amazonas whose constitution he masterminded on democratic, positivist principles that confronted the church’s interference in secular affairs.

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Tablet - August 2012

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“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Dr Johnson’s dry remark was actually made to protect the condemned man, a disgraced and embezzling priest, from the accusation that he was not the author of his own last sermon.

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Tablet - July 2012

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In a YouTube worth watching the charmer Leonard Cohen charms a glittering Spanish audience during an award ceremony for his poetry. First, he said, he felt false in accepting a prize for something he had no control over: poetry came from a place which ‘no one commands and no conquers’.

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Tablet - June 2012

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I used to think I would like to be a street cleaner. It still strikes me as, potentially, a very contemplative work, like the mat weaving of the desert monks, a life solitary yet socially useful. Few people notice a man sweeping the streets except for the instant they pass him by (I have never seen a woman street cleaner).

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Tablet - May 2012

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I was with a young ordinand shortly before his ordination. He was naturally excited at the approach of this milestone in his life. He was fairly well-adjusted as the trouble he had with his seminary authorities suggested. He described how some other students were preparing for their big day.

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Tablet - April 2012

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There are few greater pleasures than coming home to a place you love and where you feel loved. And, as Jane Austen once wrote in a letter when she was moving home, ‘you don’t love a place any the less for having suffered in it.’

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Tablet - March 2012

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It was too cold for snow. Everyone was wrapped up tightly but not thinking of the weather. The rabbi, black hat and coat and graying beard, who had come in from another town, was at the centre of the group and very present, a focus for the camera team. But I sensed that maybe he was, and understandably, the most absent. A guest asked back too late by those who had rejected his predecessors. What might he be feeling, apart from the cold?

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Tablet - February 2012

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We joked half-seriously that the GPS seemed fixated on Mountain View as every trip we made in the area led us back through that heart, if that is the right word, of Silicon Valley.

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Tablet - January 2012

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The Magi got much clearer and more definite responses.

“Has anything happened on the island since I was here?” It was far too leading a question to ask an island resident. But listen to the pauses and the silence as well as the evasive answer and you might guess whether anything significant has transpired and even where you might look for it.

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Tablet - December 2011

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The Chinese Taoist Master enters the room from one door as we are led in through another. We walk towards the large table in the centre of the room laden with pastries, cookies, fruit and mysteries. Master Wei is slightly built and also spare in speech; but he has quick observant eyes and a confident yet courteous reticence.

He wears a yellow Chinese shirt harmonizing with the bright reds and yellows around the room. If he is as centred as he seems he would quickly defuse an agitated situation and restore peace and clarity simply by his presence.

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