Sunday, July 28, 2013

Free thinkers

This is a version of an image I saw on Facebook. The original was a bit wider, showed more of the room and the guys at prayer.  I loved it immediately.  The kid's playful gesture and fun expression instantly transcends barriers of race and religion.  In fact this gorgeous little boy had a message for me that transcended the literal message of the text itself.
The original image had the text I included here but also had a logo bottom right which read "We fucking love atheism" showing it come from one of those rash of rationalist Facebook pages which glorify science and unbelief in any kind of God type person running the show. This Pinterest board is a very representative sample of their message if you have been in a cave for the past 18 months.
I edited the image because I liked the photo and the message I didn't wan't to align myself with that group.
I hope this little boy is a free thinker, and I hope those guys on their knees behind him are free thinkers too. But I am pretty sure the guy (or gal) who made the original image wasn't; because what is obvious to me, and to I think a growing number of people, is that these New Atheists force their 'bright' dogma down our throats with all the fervor of the worst kind of televangelist. They are the priests of a new religion that is crying (rather unoriginally) that God is dead. And they aren't the free thinkers they believe themselves to be.
Free thinkers know they don't know the truth, they are agnostic and at times full of doubt. They may express faith (as opposed to certainty) in some kind of Higher Power or they may lean towards the atheist side of the belief spectrum.  But importantly they know that they do not know the answers and therefore that the people who think differently to them have an equal chance of being right.
Free thinkers probably suspect that neither side (us or them) have come close and the truth and when it is revealed (however many millenia down the line when we are evolved and ready for it) will be more mysterious and beautiful and right that we could ever imagine.  And although they don't know, they suspect that the truth will have something to with love and tolerance and being compassionate and nothing to do with hate and opposition and being right.
Free thinkers realise we will learn the truth as soon as we no longer need it.

I have just read a beautiful book called Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism) by a free thinker called Frank Shaeffer.  Here are a couple of quotes from it:
The problem I have with the 'solution' offered by the more radical New Atheists... is that we are spiritual beings with or without their permission.
New Atheists pit religion's literalistic claims against their own literalistic claims.  In that sense the New Atheists turn out to be secular fundamentalists arguing with religious fundamentalists.
To me the secular and religious contenders seem to miss the reality of our actual condition: we are specks on our tiny planet and our concept of the truth, and time and space is related to our limited perspective.
It is a very inspiring book and just the perfect thing if you are looking for a way to have a little old-fashioned faith combined with a little post-modern uncertainty.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Smoothie making

I used to be a Goddess.  Not a beautiful white-robed Grecian Goddess, or a multi-limbed, blue skinned Hindu Goddess.  I was black haired, foul-mouthed, sadistic Goddess of the Underworld named hirondelle (yes, lowercase, always).  I slaughtered many and maimed many more, but one of the few to lay a finger on me and survive (he stabbed me in the face and caught me so much by surprise I clear forgot to tear his head off) was the General of my very own Dark Oblivion Army*.  

When he wasn't tearing the limbs off babies and plunging a dagger into my visage, he made smoothies.

It was a kind of hobby, General REM and his smoothies.  You could ask for anything and he would whip it up in seconds, no matter how exotic and fanciful the ingredients.  

Dom and I have started making smoothies.  The two above, made yesterday morning, are passionfruit, pineapple and banana with a splash of mango juice.  

And with every single smoothie I make, I think of the General.

Smoothie making, smoothie making. 

*Before you call the police, or a psychiatrist - I was an RPGer

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Leave them alone

“There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control.  These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”
Marcus Aurelius

I got this quote from an article on upekkha, or 'even minded love', on the lovely Wildmind Buddhist meditation site.  The article deals very efficiently on a topic that is both intricate and simple.  Being lovingly involved with the world without becoming attached to that involvement. 

It is summarised in these three sentences:
Non-equanimity is like sitting on the shore, watching waves rising and falling and cheering when the waves rise, mourning when they fall. With equanimity we recognize that the waves are not under our control. They rise, they fall; we watch, with love.
Watching with love is a curious thing, it is easy to believe you have a handle on it (or the beginning of a handle of it) when times are good. But not so easy when you are disappointed, hurt or angry; and of course it is during those times when your equanimity is at its most valuable.  When your love and compassion becomes a real treasure for the world.  

I was just reminded of this lesson, and humbled by my lack of skill when it comes to equanimity under duress.

Love, love, love but don't be attached to the idea that the world will always love you back. Don't let the judgement of others lure you into judging.  Let the waves rise and fall. Watch with love. 

And ultimately, leave them alone.


I have never written a film review.  I have no idea where to start.  There seems to be a formula, yet I can't work it out.  But suffering from Facebook withdrawal symptoms and needing to connect with the internet and the people I know are still hidden in it (even though I can't see them) I felt compelled to write a post.  And going to see Mud was the best thing I did all day.

Mud is about love.  It is about the moment when the sometimes dirty, achy breaky reality of love collides with our childish misunderstanding of happily ever after. It is about friendship,  trust and believing in people, and being hurt but still brave enough to trust again. It is about being a boy in a fascinating, dangerous world full of snakes and spiders, bikes and boats, tattoos and titties. 

And guns.

Mud is timeless, for 135 minutes the only screen you see is on a TV.  Phones have cords and people get phone numbers from telephone directories. People also eat sausage and beans from a tin with so much relish that I want to do the same.  

And people earn money from doing old fashioned work.

Mud is Stand by Me, Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations.  Mud is a love story where the lovers only share a single look in the whole film.  But what a look.

Mud is a wonderful film.  There is a magic shirt in it.  Go see.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Creating some space

There are several reasons I have been considering taking a break from Facebook and although they have all been floating around for several months now they coalesced into a big unavoidable decision over the last few days.

We all have different approaches to how we use Facebook – but like it or not our posts are not as superficial or ephemeral as they sometimes seem.  Every time we log on to Facebook we are playing several roles:

  • custodians of our private data
  • ambassadors of our personal  brand
  • curators of our life experiences 

This means what we communicate has a long lasting impact in both the digital footprint left on the web and the mental impression left in the minds of our friends.  This impact transcends time, so what we post today can influence how people think of us in the future.  That includes people we haven’t yet met, employers we haven’t yet worked for and children we haven’t yet conceived. 

Does it matter? Probably not.  Of course there will be moments when it matters, when we are judged, when we will be made to regret a post, a tone - but in the long run, for most of us, our Facebook posts aren't going to cause us any serious grief.  But still it concerns me, the impression I give and take from those seemingly transient interactions.  

Maybe the impressions I take are the biggest worry of all.

But for me Facebook has become a mindless occupation.  I joined on 25 April 2007, and I have been reading, reacting, liking, posting, sharing and commenting on a daily basis with half an eye and half a mind for over six years.  

I can't even remember what life was like before Facebook.

That alone is reason enough to take a break.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Something beautiful in everything

The demolition and construction next door has brought nothing but misery. At midnight a team arrived with the digger that would reduce the old house to rubble. Our fence all but fell down and we were left with no privacy and no security for two months until (again at midnight) a second team arrived to begin construction. We have just 22 more days to endure this as in March 1st we will move to another house in a new part of the city. Yesterday we were given some privacy at last in the form of a hastily erected canvas sheet between us and the site. It was a relief, and today it afforded enough peace and space for me to notice a small and fragile jasmine flower against the rotting concrete and florid blue of the canvas screen.