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Michael Dowling - What is the basis for creating a better world?

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Do you remember the wonderful ABC Radio National program at the end of 1999, called A Thousand Years in a Day? Each hour that day, every century from the 11th through to the 20th century was revisited. Hosting the discussion was the inimitable Philip Adams. One panellist was Richard Glover, a noted moral philosopher, author of the preposterously titled Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century” who inspired Michael to describe his talk in much the same way; after all his title is “What is the basis for creating a better world?”  He will ask “what in the current world could indeed be 'better' than it is and in what way?” Who determines what 'better' means in this context? If we decide who is eligible to do this, then we can ask who is responsible for creating it? Some think that only God can bring about “the truly good,” so perhaps we will need to outsource the re-creation to God? Or does the buck stop truly with us humans? How do limited, fallible, often-self-interested individuals work out the answer to a question that transcends their own individuality? Transcendence may require deep humility: a humility that is not thinking less about oneself, but thinking about oneself less.  Whatever we decide about the basis for creating a better world, perhaps we should resist the urge to “go for gold,” seeking to create a much, much better world, with a more modest goal. Perhaps we should aim to create a world that is just a little bit better, because…we just might be wrong.

Tonight's speaker, Michael Dowling, was raised as a Catholic and studied science at the University of Adelaide claiming that in those days he was “absent without leave from the Christian faith”. Life however eventually led him back to the Christian faith and to share in a new blended family. With his wife Joy they worked as representatives for a number of scientific instrument firms. The question of Christian ministry arose to which Michael found himself saying yes having “developed an almost insatiable curiosity about the intersection between our lived human experience; the workings of the natural world of which we humans form an integral part; the ever-changing scientific understanding of the same; and our understanding of and faith in the God who loves us.” Sadly, when Joy suffered a debilitating illness. Michael became her carer. During this time he undertook aged care chaplaincy with Eldercare, which continued for six years until Joy died in 2018. He is now the minister of the Blackwood Uniting Church where he says “it is not so much that I feel at home here at Blackwood Uniting Church, but more that I have come home. It is a place of warmth and welcome, a place of hearts and minds, and a place for questions and curiosity.” Marrying again, Michael feels that his life has been transformed in ways beyond his imagining.

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