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

Australian readers will be glad to hear that the new Aussie Bible is getting some publicity over here. Its attempt to put the Bible stories into íStrine has caused some amusement. For English readers, your argot (if thatís not too rude a description of your slang) confuses rather than clarifies what the Bible says but though the words may be different, the meaning doesnít change .

Other attempts to update language to increase interest have been in the news recently. A Tourist Board in East London has decided for marketing purposes to call the East End, together with areas south of the river such as Greenwich, East Side. This will apparently make it appeal to American visitors. Nothing will be actually be different, just what itís called.

Christians have just celebrated Pentecost, a day when Godís Spirit filled the disciples and everybody who heard them describe their experience understood, even if they spoke a different language.

Margaret Reynolds, speaking on the radio last week about the Greek poet Sapho, expressed her amazement that two and a half centuries later, her description of what it is like to be in love rang exactly true.

Much is changing in our society, and often very fast. Let us be grateful today for those abiding truths about being human , those basic realities of human life and experiences of God which do not change, and which, however the description of them may change, link us with our fellow human beings down the centuries.

There must from now on be no grins, smirks or smiles on the photos in European Union passports. New biometric facial recognition systems which match key features on the holder's face work best when the face has a neutral expression with the mouth closed. "A broad smile, however nice it may be, is therefore unacceptable," said a spokesperson.

It is true, of course, that smiles can hide the truth. Contrary to appearance, they can reflect embarrassment, anxiety, a desire to please or even hidden anger. They can provide an important way of disguising emotions which it would be inappropriate, or too revealing, to show in our faces. But sometimes they indicate an unwillingness to be real about how we are feeling which isnít helpful to ourselves or others.

Equally, a smile can reveal the truth behind our often otherwise unremarkable faces. In the face of a stranger, a sudden twinkle in the eyes and a broad grin brings life, beauty and individuality to what seemed only a blank canvas. When the face of a friend or someone we love is lit up by a smile, it reminds us why we care for them. Letís be grateful today for smiles and that thereís more to our identity than biometric recognition realises.

Nineteen South Korean boys aged between 7 and 11 had their hair shaved at the beginning of this month and entered the Buddhist monastery at Chogye. It was all part of the preparations for the celebration in Korea over the weekend of the Buddhaís birthday. The boys have spent the last two weeks experiencing life in a monastery and after the festivities they will return home.

It seems unlikely that the lads will have been able to grasp much about the theory lying behind the way things are done in the monastery. The concepts behind a monastic life will probably have escaped them. But what they have observed and felt, the atmosphere in which thy have been living, will undoubtedly have made its mark.

In this the boys reflect the experience of all who try taking religion seriously. There is much that our minds are not capable of grasping, many concepts which we canít take in or which, if we do, we donít find helpful. Often it is more at the level of our senses, of our experience and our feelings, that a religious interpretation of life seems worth embracing.

Itís not just our religious beliefs which are sometimes difficult to explain to ourselves, let alone to others. Maybe we canít put into words why we think a certain course of action is right or what we believe is going on in a particular relationship or why we expect events to turn out in a certain way. Perhaps today we should trust what our feelings and intuition are telling us Ė what we grasp at that level is sometimes more accurate than what can be described in words and concepts.