Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Society. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Today Trinidadís Mardi Gras Carnival is in full swing. It will end on the dot of midnight as Ash Wednesday dawns and it began at the weekend with, among other parades and celebrations, the Calypso Monarch competition. Fast calypso music with catchy tunes is what fuels the energy of the street dancing.

But thereís another more melodic and thoughtful calypso style in which calypsonians reflect on contemporary trends and social and political events. Itís from the singers of these that the Calypso Monarch will be chosen.

This reflection on how things are is an entirely appropriate activity for a celebration that prepares people for the beginning of Lent. The soul-searching that is sometimes reflected in the lyrics, the use of satire and comedy to point at communal or individual foibles, the anger at injustice that is expressed in the music as well as the words, all echo the traditional view of what Lent is for. As with so much in Christianity, the tradition has emphasised only the individualís need for personal reflection. But communities too need encouragement to stop and ask themselves where they are going.

For Christians, this kind of reflection can become confession to the God who perhaps shares our disappointment and anger about so much of the way the world is.

Perhaps in these coming days, it might be worth taking a moment to reflect, as if from a distance, on the society we live in. Such thoughts can sometimes lead into ideas about what part we might play in helping to improve it.

The first heart transplant did not just rely on the skill of Christian Barnard. Late in his life, almost 40 years after that marathon, ground breaking bit of surgery, South Africa honoured the equal part played by Hamilton Naki, a black colleague whose role in the operation could not be acknowledged because, under apartheid, he shouldnít even have been there.

In so many walks of life, it is not always the person in the limelight who deserves the credit. There are those behind the scenes and there are those whose status means that their contribution, while just as valuable, is not as valued.

Today on May Day, we could be more aware than usual of the hidden workers and be grateful for them.

A huge number and variety of goods are sold by auction on every day. In the process, the site connects people of many different nationalities. Gregory Pischea of Chicago bought a teapot from a seller in Portsmouth, UK. It arrived wrapped in a copy of that cityís local paper in which the vandalism of a vehicle belonging to Flying Bull Primary School in Portsmouth was reported. He sent $20 to the school towards the repair.

Such warm, specific links remind us of a shared interest and common humanity that connects us all, wherever in the world we live.

Sadly the teapot had arrived broken. There were no hard feelings about that. But its brokenness represents the fragility that lies at the heart of our solidarity. Individually we may feel connected but we only need to listen to the news to realise how easily, within and across nations, and indeed between neighbours, relationships get broken and disputes and divisions spring up.

This contrast is part of our human tragedy. It brings sadness and sometimes despair. But we can contribute to the deepening of the links between people, sometimes across the boundaries of nation and culture. If we get the chance to do that today, let's grasp it, in the hope that it will contribute to a more widespread unity.