2.1. Grundverständnis

Auszug aus dem kurzen Projektbeschrieb des Lebens

von Othmar F. Arnold

2.1.1. Die Liebe

le castagne di Bordei
unerschöpflich. bedingungslos. erwartungslos: stark

Gott ist die Liebe. 

Ein provokanter Einstieg – aber ein wichtiger für mich um die Liebe zu verstehen. Heute wird Liebe eher als Ware betrachtet, etwas von dem der Mensch hat und gehalten ist sorgfältig damit um zu gehen, denn eine solche Ressource ist ja irgendwann mal ausgeschöpft – also ja nicht allzu dick auftragen. Das entspricht nicht meiner Sichtweise. Die Liebe ist eben wie das Göttliche – nämlich unerschöpflich. Was limitiert zu sein scheint, ist die menschliche Fähigkeit damit um zu gehen, das heisst die Fähigkeit zu geben und zu empfangen.

Ich habe diese Unerschöpflichkeit konkret erfahren Continue reading “2.1. Grundverständnis”


Under the Rainbow

Terra Vecchia (photo credit: David Marmet)

Liebe Freunde,

schon bald werde ich auf Reisen gehen. Nein, nicht in den Urlaub – vielmehr auf eine innere Reise. Ich werde mich für einige Zeit in eine Einsiedelei zurück ziehen, und zwar genau unter dem Regenbogen im obigen Bild.
Der Regenbogen als Symbol der Verbundenheit: “Ein Hauch positiver Energie der zwei unterschiedliche Orte mit einem nicht greifbaren Band zusammenhält.” Wir leben in einer stark säkularisierten Welt, aber auch in einer spirituellen; und dies braucht immer wieder einen Hauch positiver Energie um diese beiden unterschiedlichen Orte im Alltag zusammen zu halten.

Aus der Stille, auch der Stille des abgelegenen Ortes, werde ich hoffentlich Kraft schöpfen können um das Profane und das Sakrale zusammen kommen zu lassen. Denn dadurch werden ausserordentliche Kräfte frei gesetzt um meinen Auftrag im Leben zu erkennen, diesen um zu setzen, und um in dieser Welt positiv wirken zu können – etwas das in religiösen Worten vielleicht als Zeugnis für die Gnade Gottes im Leben eines Menschen umschrieben wird.

Ich werde mich zurück ziehen, aber nicht komplett der Welt verschliessen. An jedem Werktag vom September bis November werde ich zwischen 10 und 12 Uhr mein Telefon in Betrieb nehmen, Mails abrufen, und Besucher empfangen.

Dear Friends,

soon I will start travelling. No, I will not go on vacation – it will be rather an inner journey. I will retreat for some time to an hermitage, which is located somewhere under the rainbow in the above picture.

The rainbow is a symbol for connectedness: “A breeze of positive energy that connects two different places with an intangible ribbon”. We live in a strongly secularized world, as well as in a spiritual one; this always requires a breeze of positive energy in order to keep together the two divergent places in our everyday lives.

From the silence, also the stillness of the remote place, I hope to gather the strength to connect the profane and the sacred. Thus from there, extraordinary power will be released to recognize my call, to realize it, and to contribute in a positive way to this world – something that could be described in religious terms as testimony to the grace of God in the life a human being.

I will retreat, however I will not disconnect myself from the world. On every workday from September until November, I will turn on my phone, check the email, and receive visitors between 10 and 12 o’clock.

Obedience – Gehorsam

Die deutsche Übersetzung folgt weiter unten.

Obedience is very often understood in relation to the fact that one gives orders and others obey. Obedience is of great importance in hierarchical systems, such as the army, where obedience is imperative and non-obedience leads to punishment. The same is true in the church, where obedience is a special virtue and leads to salvation. Non-obedience is a guide to hell in various church organizations and denominations. But even the seemingly value-free market economy demands absolute obedience. According to proponents of a neo-liberal economic paradigm, influencing the invisible market forces will only lead to misfortune: therefore are government regulations, and other considerations and interventions for the common good responsible for all the ills of today’s consumer society. Continue reading “Obedience – Gehorsam”

what is truth?“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1968

.For more of my own writing related to the above quote, please follow the links below:

The significance of the insignificance of self

Die Bedeutung der Geringfügigkeit des Selbst (in German)


Faithful – half full – unfaithful

I have never been faithful, nor have I ever promised faithfulness in my life. And that’s the truth. My truth. Since I am not absolute, it could not be the absolute truth. Nonetheless, I stick with that truth, which makes me steadfast, and that is what faith is about. So, am I faithful after all, and thus not speaking the truth in the first place?

"Snow on the Water" - near Swan Lake, King William Island, Nunavut
“Snow on the Water” – near Swan Lake, King William Island, Nunavut

I hardly believe that worldly things are true. Just because you or I have witnessed something, and because you or I recall an event with certain confidence, does not make them true. An action might have been the right thing to do, or it might have been justifiable from a particular point of view.

How would I know that something is so true that I believe in it? I would have to trust – in an action faith – that my observation has no bias whatsoever. So, can a person who does not believe in the truth be a faithful person, or would such a person automatically be unfaithful?

I guess it depends. But certain things are unconditional and as such would not depend. They are, and I am certain of them. For instance, I believe in the good of every human being, but I don’t believe that any such being knows the truth; at least some truth – yes, and from a unique point of view. And I believe in the common good – because we are all One.

Since I have no proof for the above statements, nor have I observations to support these claims, I need to believe them – which makes me faithful again. Or at least half full. But never unfaithful.

And you can believe me or not, without loosing your faith.


more on being faithful here

Walking Home – a short film

“Walking Home – A contemplative journey along the Yukon River” is a short film conceptualized, directed, and produced by Othmar F. Arnold, with feedback and support from Celia McBride; filmed in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada).

Continue reading “Walking Home – a short film”

The (personal) impact of working with Doctors without Borders (+de)

Community mobilization and health education during a malnutrition crisis in Babalmé/Chad
Community mobilization and health education during a malnutrition crisis in Babalmé/Chad

The following article has just been published this week in The Canadian Friend, 108(5) p.13 , a publication of the Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. You can find the current and many back issues online: The Canadian Friend.

Für eine deutsche Übersetzung klicke hier:
Arbeiten mit Ärzte ohne Grenzen – der Einfluss auf mein persönliches Leben

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders in Chad

by Othmar F. Arnold

I have been asked: “How did this service work change me? What impact did the experiences have on my life?”

I must acknowledge that I have not been working as a nurse since that time. I am not the same person as before the mission. A major shift began in my life several years ago. I was called back to my roots, to become radical again, and there were other factors enabling a mid-life reorientation

My children were growing up and becoming more and more independent. Though the high-paying nursing work in Nunavut enabled me to liberate myself from financial obligations accumulated over the years, I was becoming less and less convinced by the direction nursing was going.

Continue reading “The (personal) impact of working with Doctors without Borders (+de)”

Becoming a Quaker in a fragmented world (+de)

The Friends Meeting House in Victoria, BC. The Quaker community is celebrating the 100th anniversary of their meeting house in 2013. (photo credit: Vancouver Island MM)
The Friends Meeting House in Victoria, BC. The Quaker community is celebrating the 100th anniversary of their meeting house in 2013. (photo credit: Vancouver Island MM)

Für eine deutsche Übersetzung, klicke hier: Quäker werden in einer fragmentierten Welt

Now it is official, I have been accepted into membership of the Religious Society of Friends. I would like to share a quote from the report of the clearness committee that helped me discern whether becoming a Quaker is the right step for me and the Victoria Friends Meeting at this time:

…His readings, experience and deep reflections about his spiritual journey and its congruence with his life of service led him to apply for membership after some email exchanges and conversations with VFM members.

Our clearness committee enjoyed a lively visit with Othmar.  He exhibits a remarkable mix of delightful enthusiasm and direct, serious, and practical commitment to humane principals.  He also has deeply realistic expectations about his service without cynicism or romanticism.  We appreciated his good natured story-telling which was appropriately serious without solemnity.  We feel that he is committed to spiritual openings compatible with our understanding of Quaker faith and practice.  He seeks to deepen his spiritual life with support from Quakers and in particular our Victoria Meeting…

…We recommend his acceptance into membership with joy and the conviction that our conjoined spiritual lives of worship and service will benefit.

This is a big step for me. Continue reading “Becoming a Quaker in a fragmented world (+de)”

Life-long learning – a professional and a monastic path

The last few workdays, I had a chance to be with people in a professional manner again. Yes, it is in many ways a different way of being, no matter what the personal intention behind it is. There is often a very clear mandate, a professional framework, and whole lot of professional culture that determines in various ways the interactions and relationships in such a setting. I have considerable experience in the field of nursing, which operates within the health care system. This most recent experience was in the field of education. I found many commonalities in how we as professionals relate to those in our care.

The most limiting factor I find is the schedule – the work hours. Although the job mandates to relate to people, work hours are a very foreign framework: They are governed by transactional considerations in collective agreements, agency funding, institutional culture, and individual rights and responsibilities. I find this internally inconsistent with the mandate of being with – of relating to people with multiple needs. How often are we forcing our professional expertise (“we know what to do, what is best for you”), our learning goals and plans, our labour benefits (such as break times) onto the individual lives of those who we care for during work hours? It is not possible to catch that learning window when it is open, we have to pry it open: It is time to do crafts, music therapy, spell and sign… because our schedule demands it at this point.

Many times I have been frustrated by these constraints. But I have also witnessed, that it is so much easier, successful, and satisfying to be with people and weave the learning goals and activities into daily living (instead of simulating a formal lesson): Why not sing and engage in musical activity when the person we are caring for is open to engage, even if it is while out on a walk? The squirrels and ravens don’t mind if I sing and if we clap the rhythm to the song together.

A creative result of applied math and social studies: Grittibänz baking for Dec. 6 celebration (Nicholas of Myra feast day)

I remember the days when we home schooled our children. We never did any formal math classes for three years: our children learned their additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions by working with and adjusting recipes to bake muffins or cup cakes. Continue reading “Life-long learning – a professional and a monastic path”

Grace to you and peace from the One

Grace to you and peace from the One who is and who was and who is to come (Rev. 1:4).

I offered my service as a reader today to the congregation at Whitehorse United Church, and the above quote was part of the readings. On occasion, I do worship with the local United Church congregation. As these things go, they have a relational aspect: I have been invited to join for the worship service; and Celia has been attending this church for a while now. To read from the scripture is a way for me to give back to the community and their hospitality. It helps me to overcome my fear for public speaking and my tendency not to publicly live out and share the ministry of presence.

I must admit that the space the Whitehorse United Church provides for worship is exceptional in the architectural desert of the Yukon. The sanctuary is simple, inviting, and not overloaded with distractions. I particularly enjoy the indirect light from the rainbow-coloured window glass in the alcove behind the altar. Today was not the best day for appreciating the light effects because the skies produced a diffuse light. But on a day with some sunshine, these windows create the warmest glow of light throughout the visible spectrum. A real treasure and for me an expression of the above quote from the Revelation to John.

No it’s not the end, yet! Light effects in the sanctuary of Whitehorse United Church (photo credit: Whitehorse United Church)

I have never required a particular place to experience God, the divine: most often this happens to me when I am out in the bush, close to the creation and at the same time away from the distractions of civilizations. Continue reading “Grace to you and peace from the One”

Nursing with indigenous communities: The question of membership

Membership and belonging are important factors for well-being on an individual level. It is a topic that resonates strongly with me for a long time. In 2004/05, I have written an article on community membership and belonging from a nursing perspective with a particular focus on cross-cultural practice in indigenous communities. It was never published, but might be of interest to some.

Nursing practice with Aboriginal communities: An exploration of the question of membership.

Othmar F. Arnold, RN, MN,


For most nurses working with Aboriginal people, such a posting is a professional challenge. Nurses do not hold any formal membership in the cultural and ethnically diverse communities they serve. The importance is placed on competent and efficient delivery of needed services for populations that are known for significant health disparities and marginalization. Drawing from Nuu-chah-nulth origin stories, it appears to be important for the realization of Aboriginal health, healing, and well being that health professionals acquire community membership. The difference between the two world views poses an ethical dilemma, possibly constituting a form of cultural imperialism. Nursing science based approaches for bridging the intercultural gap are explored.

Health Centre, Carmacks, Yukon, serving the Village of Carmacks and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation


Membership from an Indigenous Perspective

Membership from a Discussion among Community Nurse Practitioners

Membership from a nursing theory perspective

Ethical questions

Recommendations for action at micro, meso, and macro level
Continue reading “Nursing with indigenous communities: The question of membership”

The significance of the insignificance of self

significance of insignificance
The winner of the 2008 Qavvavik sled dog races in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, supported by the community in an inhospitable environment.

In a previous post I made the statement that “we are insignificant but essential particles in the universe”. Out the of the entire article, this statement yielded an immediate reaction from the readership. I then recalled that I made a similar entry in my diary last summer during the time I was visiting in Switzerland:

A thought about the rank of self within the higher order of the universe: I am a small, insignificant part of a much larger organism. Despite that smallness, the self is assigned a significance of its own because it is at the same time a manifestation of the whole; also because it bears its own potential within. That potential is a substantial part of the larger organism, without which the whole would not be complete.

(my own translation from German)

I believe this thinking is influenced by the thought of Mahatma Gandhi.

Continue reading “The significance of the insignificance of self”

Don’t waste your time!

I was brought up with the mantra don’t waste your time. My parents were quite insistent that their children make the most of their time (and definitely not waste theirs). Only now do I realize that this attitude was not something purely utilitarian – a way to make it out of misery and to the top. It actually has biblical roots:

Make best use of the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5:16 (ESV)

For my parents’ and grandparents’ generation making most of their time seemed to have worked. They all have roots in an agrarian lifestyle – something that for the most part excluded options in life, and was equally associated with a good measure of back-breaking labour, servitude, misery and poverty. But they overcame the burden thereof and created for themselves a much more comfortable worldly existence.

Continue reading “Don’t waste your time!”