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

Maria Riva has published a biography of her mother, Marlene Dietrich. Her sexy persona in more than 40 Hollywood films was, says Maria Riva, ďalways just the person in the mirror, but never her real selfĒ. The real Marlene was apparently very distant and hated sex and her daughter often felt sorry for the men who fell in love with her glamorous mother.

Many of us present a faÁade to those we encounter at work or in our leisure pursuits, if not to those closer to us and even to ourselves. We do need times, especially in the presence of those whose love will not be deterred by what they see, when we can come out from behind the mirror and be ourselves. But the faÁade can sometimes be an important way of getting through life Ė if we revealed, and dealt with, all thatís going on in our lives in every interaction we have with others, weíd be exhausted and get nothing done.

Perhaps itís helpful to recognize that this is what might be happening in the lives of people we meet. Even the apostle Paul who gave such strong leadership among the first Christians admits he had internal struggles to deal with. Some he admits to, others still remain unknown.

Perhaps today in our interactions with others, it might be worth remembering that what we see may not be all there is. If people are ratty or irritable, morose or withdrawn, there may be reasons for this we donít know about. But the more real we are able to be about ourselves, the more weíre likely to be able to help those who feel they canít be.

A life-sized skeleton paper doll has proved a hit in Japan. Like a human, "Bony" has about 200 bones and it takes about three days to reconstruct the doll by assembling paper parts which link together without scissors or paste. Originally marketed for medical students, Bony, which when reconstructed stands 5 feet 11ins tall, was designed by a medical professor, a dentistry professor and a papercraft artist. "It is very easy to make it," said Masaaki Fukuda, head of the sales department at Bony's maker Nishimura. Twenty thousand have so far been sold.

The intricate attention to the make-up of a human body required to assemble the skeleton would undoubtedly provoke wonder at the complexity of our anatomies. It would perhaps make us more grateful that they keep working so long, especially when advancing age causes some of our joints to work less efficiently.

But there is more to life than bones. The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of dry bones lying wasting in a valley. They are wonderfully reassembled and given flesh but only after they are given breath do they return to life. For the prophet, the breath represented Godís gift of all that makes living more than just existing within a skeletal structure. Itís about the human heart and soul, about personality and creativity.

Perhaps today, especially if itís a day when our physical bodies seem to be working less effectively than we would like, it would be worth reminding ourselves of all the things which make human life more than just an intricate construction of 200 odd bones.

Gondolas are running aground in Venice. Hotel docks hang in midair. Only the Grand Canal, the cityís biggest and most famous waterway, can still take water traffic. "The phenomenon is due to the good weather that coincides with the syzygy, the alignment of the moon, earth and sun," said Venice's tides office. The new moon last week helped push water levels to their lowest point in more than a decade.

Itís hard to imagine Venice without water. The canals give the city its character. Its commercial life depends on them. Without it, the place loses its soul.

Each human being has unique fundamental characteristics. ĎSoulí is just one of the words used to describe the essential Ďheartí of each person, what makes them unique and makes them tick. Itís mysterious and hard to define yet each of us is aware that there is something there which makes us who we are. There are times, of course, when we feel less confident in ourselves, battered by life. Or our lives seem to be dry and unfruitful. Or we feel drained of energy. Our souls are sick and need nourishing.

Letís be grateful for anything which energises our Ďsoulsí and enables us to delight in our uniqueness. If thatís not easy today, itís worth working out what it is that for us characterises who we are (for Venice itís water) and how we can nourish that part of us and get our life-blood flowing again.

A judge has given a Tennessee zoo six months to convince him that an African elephant named Ruby is happy. The U.S. Humane Society is seeking to return Ruby to the Los Angeles Zoo and to the companion she was forced to leave behind there. The lawsuit claims Ruby is lonely, spends most of her time by herself on a concrete floor and does not do the breeding she was brought to Tennessee for.

How will Judge George Wu decide whether Ruby is happy when the six months is up? If Ruby finds a new friend, it will make a difference. Companionship is important for elephants, and so it is also, as the eminent psychologist, Maslow, points out, for human beings. Other things humans need to be happy, he says, are safety, a sense of belonging, the respect of others and a sense of self-esteem..

Maslow also suggests that before human beings can experience such ways of being happy, certain basic physical needs must be met. The need for water, food and shelter are fundamental to human well-being. Those collecting money in this Christian Aid week want to bring these basics to those who donít have them and to all those for whom they collect, opportunities for a sense of belonging and of self-esteem.

People who are experiencing real poverty often put the rest of us to shame by their ability still to be happy. Happiness may not just be about our surroundings. It might be worth pondering today what it is about our lives that makes us, or would make us, happy. Whatever it is, letís be grateful whenever nothing in our physical environment stands in the way.

When she was a child, Gulli Wihlborg dropped a wallet while cycling along a street in Trelleborg, Sweden. It contained a small amount of money, receipts and photographs. Recently, forty one years later, it arrived intact in the mail at her home in Malmo with a handwritten note, saying: 'Dear Gulli, never give up hope. Here is the wallet you dropped on Ostersjogatan (the street) many years ago. Greetings from Trelleborg.'

A wallet often says a lot about our personality. To lose it is to lose something very personal. Parts of our personalities can get lost in other ways too. Under the pressure of other demands, we can easily forget how to be light-hearted or how we once liked to listen to music or our fondness for particular places or people. Those who have known us well for a long time can sometimes remind us of things like this and give us back these parts of ourselves.

If we get the chance today, letís remind a friend of part of themselves they seem to have forgotten. Perhaps too we could reflect on what from our past weíd like to recover.

Wine producer Hardys have surveyed male rugby fans and found that nine out of ten enjoy a bubble bath, three-quarters use lip balm and almost half have borrowed their girl-friends moisturiser. Two out of three cry at films and nearly three-quarters have changed a babyís nappy.

Defining some characteristics as male and others as female can limit our awareness that such characteristics are present to some degree in all people, whatever their gender. The classic western portrait of Jesus portrays someone who, without the facial hair, would be androgynous. According to the gospel accounts, he is gentle and tough, intuitive and clever with words, passionate and calculating. In the events which are remembered today, he washes his disciples feet and courageously faces a platoon of Roman soldiers, making sure no one else comes to any harm.*

Jesus was male with all the qualities we would associate with a humane masculinity. But his personality, like ours, embraces attributes conventionally linked with the opposite sex. In the actions we recall today, he took the traditionally female role of serving and caring and the stereotypically male one as protector against an aggressor. Letís be glad today that both male and female characteristics are part of all of us and delight in opportunities to broaden the range of our personalities.

*John 13:1-9,18:1-11