Monday, March 29, 2010


"Do or do not - there is no try."
- Yoda, Jedi Master.

However, you may recall a while back I mentioned having started a post that was looking like it might spiral out of proportion and become something else.  Well, so it has come to pass, and besides, it has happened twice more since then.  Yesterday my inspiration led me to begin an especially juicy piece but once again, I have hit a wall with it.

The wall is my own mind.  So I'm discovering something about myself in this process.  What's happening is that the subjects I am writng on are actually more involved than my top-of-mind and strength-of-fingers stamina allows for.  They in fact require some planning and thoughtful execution.  And to do that, I have to be able to see the beginning, middle and end.  And I cannot, because of this mind intrusion.

AN ASIDE: How to write a play or other story.

Act 1:  Put your hero up a tree.
Act 2:  Throw rocks at him.
Act 3:  Get him down again.

Mind is not the enemy; I love my mind and it does a fabulous job with expressing my thoughts/feelings/inspirations most of the time.  It's just that something I'm seeking in the process of writing is an answer to a set of conundra bedevilling me at present, and it's not happening for me right now.  Because I'm trying.

What's going on for me (and maybe the world as a whole, who knows?) right now is a sort of opinion tantra.  Recently I came across a website called Brandkarma, a new social media Web 2.0 type thing that purports as its mission to have the 'wisdom of the crowd' determine the status of a given commercial brand in different areas like its environmental, fair trade, customer service practices etc - all voted, rated and commented on by users.  They say their mission is "to help people help each other make better brand choices and encourage brand owners to be good to all their stakeholders".   I joined so I could have a look, and saw opinion tantra in action.  Thousands of people expressing themselves about Nokia, Kelloggs, Apple and so on.
In this context I'm using the word tantra in its sense of using the mundane to access the supra-mundane, employing the tools and experiences of our base senses and control of our mind to go beyond mind.  In a New Age context tantra more usually refers to certain traditional sexual practices, but also alludes to the concept of 'doing something to death' or 'getting something out of your system' through complete immersion or indulgence.  Thus, I am letting my analytical, intellectual, logic and systems-driven (ie judgement-forming and opinionated) self run rampant.

It's full moon too, did I mention that?  
Usually plays merry havoc with my various systems and functions.

So these posts I've been working on, you won't see them, sorry.  They're not going to be an appropriate format for here, they probably more properly belong in a book or compendium of longer essays.  Or as compost, more usefully.  Because they may never reach a state of completion or discovery.

For a while there I was giving myself a bit of a hard time for not paying much attention to my meditative and other personal spiritual practices the last couple of weeks, until I remembered that everything I do is a spiritual practice, including giving my mind full steam on these thorny philospohical issues.

Sometimes you just have to pour on the fuel until something blows.

Here's to a joyous explosion any minute now, so normal transmission can be resumed.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

And so it begins...

I like cricket, but enough is enough.  The seasons roll on, and the sub-tribe of our nation whose holiest day is some day in late September each year have observed the beginning of the sacred rituals.  The AFL football season has started.

Most importantly, Collingwood has won today.  Things are well with the world in my home.

Fear not, gentle reader, for I am not a rabid, frothsome one-eyed supporter who cannot steer more than a few degrees off the one topic of conversation for the 22 rounds of the home-and-away season, nor am I the kind who feels that insulting the supporters of a rival club is a necessary part of the game.  It is simply that as a former Sydneysider, with little or no native appreciation of this fine sport, having met and married a dedicated ex-Melbournian (this is illegal in our original home states, so luckily we met and married on the other side of the country) Collingwood Magpies supporter, I have become a convert.  And one of the tribe.  I like it here.

OK, so maybe at first it was a bit of a bonding-with my-beloved thing, sure, and to be frank the rules and ways of the game are a little unusual for one who has not grown up understanding it.  But time weaves its magic, and suddenly one day I find myself wanting to know "when our game is on this weekend so I can plan around it."  That's when you know.

But crikey, doesn't it all get a bit much for some people?  This happens with any and every team-sport league all over the world I guess, and while the sort of mad fan-clan hoopla is a marketer's wet dream it usually doesn't do much good for the game.  Look at soccer in England.  And now it almost seems there's a whole silent majority over there secretly proud to have co-opted the term 'hooligan' all to themselves.

I just like watching 'my' team play, and especially win.  Winning is ace.  It must be said, for those who don't know, that until the maturation of the Fremantle Dockers as a newish team in the comp, and with the possible exception of Port Adelaide, Collingwood's supporters have enjoyed a reputation as some of the stupidest and ugliest (most prone to fighting and insulting other team's supporters) around.  Over time however, the ugliness is being washed out, while we proudly retain the stupid.  Stupid people are no less firm or fond supporters than those blessed with more sense.  And they can shout loudly, and have fun just like the rest of us.  Sometimes I think I am one.  Plus, everyone who loves the game needs a team to belong to.  It's not like you can barrack for the umpires.

Looking fondly at an umpire following a correct interpretation of the rules that in no way advantages the opposition or has any possible bearing on the outcome of the game.  Grr.

Irony alert!  This year, the AFL umpires are being sponsored by a leading firm of optometrists.  This should provide some creative twists on the "blind f**king umpire" jibes this year.

One thing you must accept when you take on the responsibility of having chosen Collingwood as your team is the historical precedents.  The most important of which is, for whatever reason this has occurred, you are now part of the team that "everybody loves to hate."  And also the hardest-playing, most nearly-won-the-premiership team in the league.  We last won the flag in 1990, and before that....anyway, there's the old joke about the Collingwood bra - "more support, less cup."  For indeed, it has always had a massive fan base, and is now also the richest club around.  Another irony really, because traditionally Collingwood (both the place, and the club) is the home of the 'poor battler.'

So please take this post as fair warning for the next many months, for much like any of my other interesting life parameters, this one crops up from time to time.  I mean, I get emotionally involved to a degree, and I'm only being honest here. 

For those supporters of other clubs, well, perhaps that's it for us now that you know.  I'll be sorry if you leave, for I mean you no ill will.  I'd just rather my team beats yours.  Every time they meet.  But in a great contest where we all got to see the things we really love -  a whole bunch of guys trying hard together to control a ridiculous ball with only one axis of symmetry within a set of arcane and byzantine rules and ultimately kick it between two big poles more often than the other guys.

It is, after all, only a game :-)

Carn the 'Pies!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Open the pod bay doors Hal"

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave" is one of the first things I've programmed my new speaking device to say.

Along with a few other classics like "my hovercraft is full of eels" and "these pretzels are making me thirsty."  Just playing, and learning the new tools.  It's really quite cool, but also a little threatening because it's an alien (ie not my) voice and of course it has even less emotion or intonation than the HAL 9000.  I haven't downloaded the UK voices yet (the only alternative to the US ones) and my favourite is the adult woman, Heather.  Speaking as a typical male for a moment, if you were talking to her on the phone you would definitely be wondering what she looked like.  But it's a bit odd after a while hearing oneself as a woman.

The two kid voices, Nelly and Kenny, are just plain disturbing, it's like they are about to ask you to come outside into the dark spooky woods to play..........Which leaves us with Ryan.  He has this slightly nasal almost New Jersey wiseguy tone going on, but with of course no charm whatsoever.  Because it's nearly, but not quite, a generic East coast TV accent, it's just that bit more noticeably inhuman.

But hey, it sure beats not being able to communicate at all, and we'll all get used to it.  I'm wondering how to deal with the dogs because they don't even recognise it as speech.  I have proved this conclusively by using the words 'treat', 'dinner,' and 'mince' as well as the phrases 'good Lola, good Cisco,' plus 'where's Puss?' and 'treaty treaty treat treat mincey mince dinner time, yes!' all to absolutely no effect whatsoever.  I'll work something out.

Speaking of dinner time for the furry ones,  talk to y'all later.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The roar of the greasepaint


I've just realised I have stage fright.  It's only part of the problem, but it is part of the problem. 

I've had stage fright before, sure, but mainly when actually going on stage, or more rarely in certain intimate situations involving more than two people.  I handled it pretty well for the most part I guess, but did self-medicate somewhat a fair proportion of the time in my performing heyday years.  None of that these days though.  No stage either, except for that which Shakespeare so clearly identified as "all the world."  Ah, there's the rub.

Never actually completely paralysed by stagefright myself, I have seen its effect momentarily.  This is a long time ago now.  My until-very-recently guitar teacher, now turned guitar partner (Tim) and I had just finished recording a tape (it's that long ago - CDs were ridiculously expensive to produce and buy so hardly anyone bothered yet, but vinyl was already long gone) of his original music, along with a band mainly comprised of guys he'd known for quite some time.  Frankly, this was some very darn good music too.  We had planned the launch at a very large local university theatre, done lots of publicity, and the night had come.  I was only maybe 19, it was my first major gig and I should have been totally crapping my pants.  Maybe I was, but more likely relying on the arrogant "indestructibilty of youth and cojones" program.  Plus, I totally loved the music so I knew that wouldn't suck.

Being the late eighties, and given Tim's tastes and proclivities at that time, there was a fair bit of synthesiser action, and a bit of a light show too from memory.  The plan was we'd use radio mikes on the guitars (way new and cool tech then, but we were warned we might get the odd taxi radio signal through - just imagine, gently winding through a soulful and deep part of your set when suddenly "CAR 69, A RIDE FROM 34 INTERRUPTION ST BAYSWATER TO THE AIRPORT, ACKNOWLEDGE CAR 69" but luckily it didn't happen), the band would be in place in the darkness before us, begin playing, and we'd walk out from backstage playing, be picked up by a spot, and keep playing as we went to our seats.  You generally play flamenco-style guitars sitting down.

OK. The house looks pretty full.  Big risk given no-one knows us and this is a big room.  Actually, holy crap, it is quite full isn't it?  And everyone I know is here!  And all of these, these, total strangers......OK, Ok, here we go.  Please nothing go wrong.  At this point, I had already learned enough discipline not to allow the "don't fuck up, don't fuck up" mantra any room in my head.  OK.

Tim's the man, he's the composer, the main guitarist, the big kahuna.  So he must go first.  Band in place, final tuning done for the eleventieth time, lights down, music starts........well,, Tim........

This I did not expect.  This guy is a friggin superhero in most departments of life, and the last person I would have thought might freeze.  And really there is no waiting available here, the beat is I have a decision to make.  He's playing already, good, so am I, good, so my hands are tied, as it were.  I could edge past him, walk on (steal the applause and maybe have folks thinking I'm him) - not good - or...Yep.  Head of guitar in small of back.  Push him out.

It worked.  The whole freeze might have lasted 1 or 3 seconds only, but what an eternity for me.  I can't imagine what it felt like for him.  Oh, and the gig went great, and I didn't mess up very much from memory.  But we never attempted such a 'showy' show again, letting the music to the work, as it were.

Now it's my turn.

I downloaded the Proloquo2Go software onto my iPhone yesterday, I have the speaker case, and am getting used to using it.  It will only be a matter of several days before I have customised it enough and memorised it enough to be beginner-proficient.  Another part of this problem is that I might have gone off a bit prematurely.  Yes, haha.  You see, for probably a third to a half of the day I can still speak sort of OK, and Meeta is pretty good at my language anyway.  So I can procrastinate with this.  I realise now though, that once I use this thing at, say, the hardware store, that's it - no more speaking there.  And I will at some point absolutely have to use it.

Now I realise that although my jests of previous posts are genuine, and I am looking forward to some new sorts of gentle mischief, there is also an element of self-protection.  Another layer of clinging to normality.  To use such a device is irretrievably to admit another disability (or 'disnormality) to this "stage of the world."  And even the most eccentric of us still have some urge to fit in in some way - even if it's into the company of so-called eccentrics.

Oh, that's it.  Fear of pain.  It will hurt (given past experience as a guide) when I 'out' myself, to myself and others, as that bit less normal.  As it has each time preceedingly.    Plus, it will change who I am seen to be by so much more than any other discrete change so far.  The only other real radical image-changing change was a long process, from physically excellent to well, um, obviously not quite so much.

Naturally too, I want to be seen as at least competent with the device.  I have a deep-seated part of my identity overlay that is very attached to being competent.  If someone's going to see me as disabled, I would rather they see me for what I am, and not also intellectually impaired.  Pride, eh?  Sorry, all those with intellectual impairments.  It's my issue, of course.  So, it's a performance too.  Will I be any good?

And then what happens?  Again, if the past is any guide, I will grow, heal, and adapt.  This to-date deepest layer of attachment to how I believe I am perceived will be healed, made irrelevant, and I shall find myself yet more free and uniquely me.  Closer perhaps to the divine me at the core.  Connected to the real.  Sure, sounds great, but it's unknown, yes?

So it's not just stage fright really.  It's also that ol' 'fear of enlightenment' stuff we spoke about earlier.  I feel a potential wrenching coming on.  I might have mentioned, coffee in the mornings was the last thing I hung on to in terms of oral intake.  I love coffee.  Even now.  But really it was the normality of making and drinking it, and sharing a simple cuppa with my beloved, that I was clinging to.  It got harder, and harder, and more dangerous, and then I just had to stop.  It was a wrench.

I shall aim at a bit more grace this time around.  Wish me luck.  Thanks all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

OMG, I've joined them now.

Perhaps you have too.  Maybe you're smiling smugly and saying "I knew it would be just a matter of time."  I might receive some weird email 'secret handshakes' of recognition from some of you for having crossed the line.

For I have joined Facebook.

And as if on cue, like an omen, this happened immediately after.  Incoming!

Great view of the helipad from my respite bunker, eh?

Look, I had a good reason, OK?  Personally, I don't have any time for competitive 'friending' and although I admit to occasional vague curiosity (mainly when the subject of Facebook tragedies comes up in conversation) about old school friends and the like, I shan't be going down this path.  What happened was that a close friend announced they were quietly running a photo gallery experiment of their (very rare, exquisite and hard-to-find) artwork via a Facebook page and invited me to take a look.  Bastard.  You have to 'sign up,' don't you?  I had successfully resisted all this time, but now, finally, the medium may have grown to a point where there's something good in it for me too.

But I'll tell you what,  I did make a few interesting observations, on the subjects of social network self-promotion and picture avatars.

With regards the former, it amazes me that without filling out a single pixel of any profile form that immediately I joined Facebook had a list of 20 or 30 people who I 'might like to be friends with'.  Sure, most were already friends on the site I had joined to 'friend up with' but others, well, wtf?  Yes, I know some of them at least.  I admit I've not investigated too closely but maybe there's some function where you can upload your email address book or something and when someone with an address in it pops in your avatar is sent to them.  I don't know, but it's instructive to me the lengths the Facebook folks go to make every part of their site methods and architecture all pull towards the one goal; to have their members as befriended - and thus captured - as is humanly (or inhumanly) possible.  I'm sure some of those folks suggested as 'friends' were just randoms.

So, with signing up you more or less have to upload or link a picture for your avatar.  For those unfamiliar with the term beyond the recent movie title, an avatar in this context is a picture icon that represents you, which will appear beside your name, your posts, everything you do on that site.

Maybe you are one of this tribe.  Maybe you are a regular on another site that uses such avatary things.  If so, have you given much thought to how and why people choose their avatars?  How did you decide on yours?  Do you judge people you don't know by their avatars, and conversely, do you have new impressions about those you do know when you see their avatars?  It's like having a whole new face.

I am not my illness, but my illness is part of me.  Anyone who's known me for some time will acknowledge my leaning towards vanity in most of my adult life - which is strange I suppose because I've never really been an oil painting, but there you have it.  Maybe it's just a Sagittarian Rooster thing, either or both. 

The combination is probably a bit deadly in this way.  As my illness has made me look less and less normal, and has certainly not improved my look at all beyond erasing all my wrinkles, I have had to go backwards through the vanity journey.  I'm OK with it now, and I don't hide at all.  I still dress a bit loud and am not shy about enpublicing myself.  So my decision not to use my own head as an avatar is not due to this.

Fact is, I don't think I'd ever have chosen to use a picture of myself, beautiful or not.  Please note the tiny and distant shot I use here on this blog.  True, I admit my vain streak prevented me from enjoying (instead tending towards criticizing) photos of myself, but really I think it's a different set of reasons altogether that shaped my choice.

1) I do prefer to be a little different at least in mundane things, true.  And virtually everyone uses their heads; creatively, boringly, or otherwise.

2)  I don't even have a decent shot of my head to use on my computer, so really that was a no-brainer.

3) I was feeling a bit 'just-get-on-with-it' when signing up to Facebook to get past the slightly unpalatable taste of docking with this particular tentacle of the hive mind, and wanted to just use something quick and easy...

4) ...and suddenly remembered I had this shot from somewhere:

So, Facebook fans, this is me.

Oh, and btw - I may be a twit from time to time, but I don't think I ever will.  Twit, or tweet, that is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Modern History 101

I'm reading Alan Alda's autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and it is rather good so far.  For those who may read it later, there are no spoilers here.  So you can safely read on.

In it, he describes a very short vaudeville/burlesque 'blackout' skit he knew from his childhood.  A 'blackout' being one that closes the show or part of a show and ends with the stage lights going out.

It is indeed brief, but I agree with him that it is a perfect and complete analysis of all of modern history.

(Two men onstage)
FIRST MAN:  You will.
SECOND MAN:  I won't.
FIRST MAN:  You will!
SECOND MAN:  I won't!
FIRST MAN:  You will!!
SECOND MAN:  I won't!!
(First Man takes out a gun and shoots Second Man dead)
FIRST MAN:  You will!!

Is there anything else to say, really?

and then the rain came down

Thanks everyone for your efforts, the rain is most welcome.  I was safely tucked up in my respite quarters when the rain came in and had a beautiful view.  We've had a couple of good showers since, so it feels wonderful.  Luckily we have also avoided the big nasty storms that landed around Perth not far away.  Perhaps some of you were just a bit too energetic and perhaps a bit off-target with your rain dances??

Anyway, following a couple of minor hitches due to (our telecom company) Telstra's exceeding fabulosity (yes, this is sarcasm) I am now wirelessly enabled for these internetty things and have received and activated my new iPhone to boot.  Suddenly I have this weird sensation of being *so 2008* in the consumer techysphere, rather than my usual feeling of *just enough up-to-date to function OK.*  I think the iPhone will provide good service for the future too.  Seems a robust unit.  Next step after I'm home is to download and start with the Proloquo2Go (when my high-spec speaker case also arrives, that is - apparently you really do need the speakers) and then we can start having a bit more fun with words out loud again.

Respite is different this time.  Very quiet, I had the ward to myself when I arrived.  I guess the main difference is a lack of apprehension - I know more or less how it will all be.  The energy here is *down*, but not in a bad way.  There is a sort of movement in the air towards the peaceful aspects of death (such as we like to imagine it), and of course there aren't the usual distractions and habits one has at home:  so lots of just sitting is in order. So *down* as in closer to the ground.

Farting also - crikey, did you hear that?

I am taking some antibiotics again - long story, more later - and they are making me most effulgent with the lower-case loud but(t) non-verbal expression.  If I were a boxer I would take the name Gaseous Clay - floats like a Butterfly, stinks like a Skunk.

Sorry, where was I?  Oh yes, much watching of Star Trek The Next Generation reruns also.  You forget how camp it was.  Also how weirdly addictive.

Home Friday.

Awesomeness of pic from HTB.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Respite, once more

Just a quickie, to let y'all know I'm off for a few days of respite again tomorrow, at the place I was last time.  I'm looking forward to it quite a bit this time, as I guess I have a better feeling for how it will probably go. 

So, there's a 50/50 chance you will/won't hear from me (so I guess that's a 100% chance of one of those then) due to a couple of factors.  Firstly, I have entered more fully into the technological age this week, starting with purchasing a wireless internet thingy.  I am assuming that it will work OK and thus I can access the net from my lovely room, or verandah, etc.  This being the case, I still may or may not choose to post.  For me, respite is going to be very much a freedom from thinking beyond minute-to-minute stuff.

The other techy thing I have embarked with is an iPhone, as I was talking about a couple of posts ago.  It is on its way from the happy Apple corporation, along with some accessories (stylus, speaker case) from here and there.  Then the next step will be to download the Proloquo2Go and get started with my new hobby - talking without moving my lips.  Not that my lips move very much as it is.

BTW, I am told by a marketing guy at AssistiveWare (the makers of Proloquo2Go) that he's read my blog post, liked it very much, has passed it to the developer team, and they are most interested in more ideas for changes and improvements.  They already have a sound-sample thing in development so we can, as I was hoping, eventually sample movie and TV lines etc in the orginal voices.

"Are you talkin' to me?"

So, you know, any great ideas...


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Totally addicted to beige

I won't be posting every time I make a blend up, that would be most tedious.  However, I just finished one then and I was actually really happy it turned out a reassuring, fragrant beige. You'll recall a recent blend that was a violent puce.  Here's what I think I put in today. (Insert usual faulty memory disclaimer)

A largish organic orange sweet potato
Some almonds, about 1/3 of a cup
Some great local pinenuts, maybe 1/4 cup
Chia seed, about a heaped Tbspn
Half a red and half a green capsicum (that's bell pepper for some of you)
A medium lebanese cucumber
Huge ripe yellow peach
3 big cloves local garlic (mm, garlic and peach, yum!)
A large bunch of fresh dill
Wakame seaweed, maybe 20 flakes - a large pinch
Olive oil, about 3 Tbspns
Flaxseed oil, about 1 Tbspn
3 cms ginger root, peeled
2 Tbspns organic blackstrap molasses
Organic oat milk
Biodynamic pear and apple juice

No blue M&Ms available today, oh well.  No avocado either, because $3.70 is just too much to pay for a small unripe one from too far away.  I'll wait for the avos.  and this molasses thing, don't get me wrong, it's fabulous stuff, but I had a choice of organic molasses from either Colombia or Paraguay - and we produce so much organic sugar right here in Oz!  There must be some, I'll have to look harder.  Since you're wondering, I went for the Paraguayan molasses.  As I have never imbibed a product of Paraguay before.

I ended up with 7X400ml feeds.  Beige, beautiful beige.

Not beige.  The Rio Paraguay.

Maille that fist

This has been going on as long as I have been on the internets, which would be since about the mid-90's, and probably longer.  It is so ubiquitous that many people probably hardly even notice it.  It is a seemingly innocuous little thing that really began with snail mail variants, then fax-forwarding (remember faxes? Someone asked if I had one the other day!) but has grown exponentially since those days.  It is, however, far from innocuous in my tiny and insignificant opinion, instead being a profound subliminal cultural meme that deeply affects us - all a little differently for sure - but which touches upon some of our core human fears, desires, and ethical values.

I'm talking about the chain email - chain mail.  The sorts that tell you to pass this on to twenty friends and the person who sent it to you and so forth.

The other type of chainmaille - armour.  What this one lacks in coverage I guess it makes up for in distraction.  Ouch, I hope it's lined.

You perhaps think I'm just jesting here?  Well, um, I'm not actually.  Here's why.

We all mostly know by now about the seriously damaging, obvious types of chain mail.  You know, the virus warning hoaxes, the ones that threaten you with harm or even death if you don't forward them and so on.  What I'm talking about here are the innocenty, sentimental ones.

Now I'm a fan of teh kittehs as much as the next guy and recognize also the urge to pass on a beautiful wish or inspiring story.  I have no problem with this stuff, but I do dislike the manipulative agenda of the 'you must pass this on' emails.  Most of them use some form of emotional blackmail, bribery or fear creation in the request to pass it on.  Bribery and intimidation are the tools of those who seek power over you, not those who give of love or of themselves freely.

"But surely it's just a harmless forwarded message, and I can always ignore it, and whoever I send it to can just ignore it too, right?"

Well, really?  And how are you really feeling underneath about being told what to do - and why?  Remember that in the act of passing an email along, you become the sender.  You are now personally responsible for the messages therein.  No ifs, buts or maybes, if it has your name on it in my inbox, it's from you alright.  So now you want me to believe that if I don't send it back to you that I'm not your true friend?  Or that I don't 'get' the message?  Are you telling me that you seriously believe, with all your heart, that you will receive a miracle from Jesus if you meet His criteria (because obviously he wrote the original email) of passing this on to 24 friends within 24 hours, and that the same will happen for me if I follow these instructions?  Or am I just making up the numbers in your quest to get some miracle action happening? Didn't think so.  Yet if that's what your email forward meant, implicitly or explicitly, then that's what you said.

Ostracism.  To be shunned by the tribe.  It is a terrible feeling for most humans, and a dire and deep-seated fear, to be an outcast.  And now someone is intimating that by not following their instructions and perpetuating this manipulative tool of disempowerment in the world that I am somehow less worthy of membership of the tribe.  If I don't comply, I don't 'get it' or I'm not a 'committed Christian' or I am not sufficiently caring of others or I just don't see the Law Of Attraction in the way that you think everyone should.  So I am made to feel fear of not belonging.
These are ostraka, pieces of broken pottery used by ancient Athenians (Athenians who lived a long time ago, not really really old Athenians, necessarily)  as ballot slips to decide if certain persons should be ostracized - which then meant 10 years' exile.  It's where we get the word.

So when you forward on a message that requires the recipient to send it back to you, you are effectively making yourself their judge, the arbiter of whether they can be deemed worthy of your time, effort and kinship - I mean, what are they to think of what you'll think of them?  You've just told them they must send it on and send it back - but they still want to be seen by you as your friend so maybe they'd better just......did you really want to be a blackmailer? No, me either.

Desire marketing.  Combine this with fear of missing out (what if?)  and you have a powerful selling tool.  This one is especially prevalent with the 'make money by passing this lucky email around' and the 'Jesus loves those who pass this email around' ones.  Would Jesus write this email?  Sorry, I thought he was the forgivingest guy ever invented, and did not require tasks of obeisance and tests to prove one's worth.  I thought his daddy dispensed with that after the episode with Abraham (it was Abraham with the son he was asked to sacrifice, right?) way back BC.  And that person who sent you the lucky coin email, which clearly they sent to a zillion others, are they still your friend now that they've won millions in the lottery?  What, they didn't?  So whenever you send on one of these, realise that you are putting pressure on someone you probably love and like a lot.  You are saying "buy this hope - don't miss out!" And as we discussed earlier, this is your choice, your responsibility.  And, you've just given away a bunch of your power to a bullshit scam perpetuated by a friend of yours.

One for the Creationistas.

I realize that I'm riffing a bit on the Christian theme here, but it's because it's such a prevalent form of chain email.  I have no problem with JC as a dude, in fact I think he was one of our better specimens.  I have no beef with people who wish to get closer to the Divine through the lessons and examples of Jesus.  I do have an issue with using fear, guilt, ostracism and blackmail stamped with 'Brand Jesus' which so many people are so very susceptible to.  I suspect Jesus would chase these email creators right out of the marketplace, kick their silly arses into the dawn of realization, and then forgive them.  It's just I'm a bit sad for the caring Christians out there that they have to deal with this shit flying around plastered with the name they hold dear.

OK, so maybe you have had these thoughts too but didn't want to rattle your friend's cage by declining to participate.  Or maybe you just deleted the email with a wry smile and let it go.  What if we all decided to actually say...

"Thanks for the email forward Friend X, but as I think you didn't realise that the language of this email you forwarded is an attempt to emotionally blackmail, bribe and cajole us both into behaving in accordance with someone else's whims at no benefit and some emotional and spiritual cost to ourselves, I've decided not to send it back to you or on to anyone else.  I'm sorry if this does upset you, but it's what I feel is best for me right now.  No hard feelings at all though, hey.  Your loving Friend, Z."  Or something like that.  Maybe that's a bit closer to taking personal responsibility, and to healing oneself from the message we just got subtly putting us down.

Because it always hurts a little, even if you know it wasn't meant.  Language is like that.  In NLP and probably tons of other ways of looking at stuff they use a phrase "speaking in quotes".  It means that you can say stuff to someone and push their emotional buttons while pretending to talk about someone else.  (Apologies for doing it right now by way of example).  If I stand in front of you and talk about two guys I saw having an argument and how this one guy just kept saying "you're a complete bastard" over and over - really just "you're a complete bastard" and then the other guy starts arcing up and saying to the first guy "could be worse - I could have really shit taste in clothes like you".......and what's going on is that you are feeling on some level like I'm calling you a complete bastard and you're a bit worried now about what you're wearing today.  Same effect with the emails, where they pretend to be from some distant original sender.  Nope, they're from the one who sent it to you.  This "talking in quotes" is a very nasty, dishonest thing to do to someone.  So I'm very sorry I had to use an example to show you.

Here, I would like to give you some lovely cake to make up for it.  Please accept my apologies - I just meant to illustrate a point.  Let's share some cake - yum!  I made it with love.

If you want the love of a deity, there are better ways to demonstrate your love for them.  If you want more money, make friends with money.  If you want your friends to tell you they love you, then tell them how you feel about them.  If you want more friends, be more open and vulnerable and go some new places.

So please, be awake to the negative agenda behind these sorts of things, and to the amount of that manipulative vibe that rubs off on you every time you send one on.

"But I like the message, I think it's beautiful and I want my friends to be able to share!"

Well that's awesome.  Just edit out the requests to perpetuate it or send it back.  This makes it a gift.  Without strings or obligations.  Just exactly the kind you love to receive, yes? Very simple stuff.

Remember, all this is my opinion, and the great thing about my opinions - just like anyone else's - is you can always choose to ignore them.  Or forward them to twenty frien.......

We should never underestimate the power of this stuff.  It is a corrosive thing that (ironically perhaps) seeks to strengthen the hive mind but in a very negative and homogenising way - at the expense of individual responsibility.

And if anything's going to make this hive mind thing work, it's taking individual responsibility.

Here endeth the rant.

Now, pass this along to 20 of your fr.....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You know what the farmers say...

...they say "it always rains after a dry spell."

I wish it would rain here.  We had just the barest sprinkle last Saturday, not even enough to settle the dust, but prior to that it has been since November - just 20mm then in two lots of 10mm, but really it hasn't rained as such since early September (data from BOM).  The pic above shows rain earlier this year on Uluru, and of course Australian readers at least will know of the huge flooding rains across the Eastern seaboard and adjacent inland parts.  Inland WA and further East in the Wheatbelt has had some good rain too.  Bugger all here though.  The clouds and humidity are such a tease, just like the 0.2mm we had on Saturday.

Did you know, and this is true the world over, that farmers always complain less about the weather in February?  This is because there are fewer days in February.

I am a little bit of a weather nerd, I get it from my dad.  As a young man who had been a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and had recently completed a teaching and mathematics degree but seemingly wasn't ready to settle into the career path just yet, he responded to an advertisement in the newspaper.  It essentially was asking for field hands with lots of different skills to man an Antarctic expedition.  This was 1956 or 57, I think, very early days in the whole Antarctica thing.  The slot available was for a meterologist/general hand, and he went for it, doing a crash course as what he always referred to as a "weather guesser."  Now that's a whole set of stories I suppose.

He passed on his continuing passion for weather guessing to me.  It is of jack-all practical use except to be able to see certain types of cloud and know to get under cover *immediately* and be able to understand what Russell Woolf is talking about with his synoptic charts, barometric pressures and satellite images.  I must admit I do sometimes make the occasional quiet bet with myself against the BOM's predictions and every now and then get one right.  Mostly not though - damn, they're getting good.

This is Russell.  He looks happy.  He usually does.

This is not Russell.  But I can see how you got confused there.

On the other hand, the sheer incomprehensibility (I wonder if my new iPhone speaking program will be able to say "incomprehensibility"?) and power of our incredible atomsphere and its interactions with the harder and wetter stuff all about us never ceases to totally amaze and inspire me.

Meeta is a bit the same.  Over the last few years especially, she has turned into a little bit of a storm nerd.  Storm junkie might be a better term.  If there's a cyclone anywhere near our region she's on to it, same if theres an especially interesting or just big and kick-arse storm anywhere else.  So I get to hear all about it too, and frankly, some of this stuff is mind-bendingly fascinating.  But I won't tell her secrets.  Just to say, it's actually a super thing to share, even if I don't talk much about it.  Or talk much at all, I suppose :-)

So come on!  Send 'er down, Hughie!  If any of you have a spare moment, please help send some lovely cooling cloud and precipitation our way, because I really, really want that moment of going outside and getting soaked in a downpour.  We can do this people, I'm sure of it.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are you talkin' to me?

The reason I've not posted the last few days is that the post I started on has turned into something far bigger than that.  Those who've been reading a while now will most likely have discovered that I tend to write more or less off the top of my head, starting with a vague idea, and carrying on with little or no editing until I find the end.  Well, so it started, but we'll now just have to wait and see.  More on this later - perhaps I'll post a teaser.

But yesterday, someone who'd read here of my speech issues pointed me in the direction of this, the Proloquo2Go.  This sort of thing hadn't really occurred to me at all, as yet.  I mean, I was vaguely aware of communication devices such as the bulky wheelchair-mounted thingies people like Stephen Hawking uses, but here's something else again.  I've been trying to work out good ways of managing pen and paper for the future, seeing as how my hands are declining in usefulness along with my speaking bits, and you'll remember from primary school that writing is actually a very fine and difficult skill.  It's got me thinking.

It runs on an iPhone or iPod touch, neither of which I've had a use for to date.  I use a phone for phone stuff and the odd capture-the-moment photo.  And of course in the future speaking on the phone will just, well, stop, so it'll be a txt msg device with a crap camera, phone book and alarm clock attached.  I don't tweet or need my email on-the-go so the iPhone's out. 

I had a Sony Walkman once, back when they were quite new, in 1985 if my memory serves correctly.  Yes, I recall listening to Madonna's version of 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' on a train in Japan, so 1985.  Good version there, thanks Madge.

But since then I've never really had a desire for personal portable music devices.  I generally don't like the way they remove you from the moment, the way they tend to retract so much of your awareness from the present world.  I guess that's why they're so popular - it's one way of having an illusion of control over your life - determine the soundtrack.  I don't even use car stereos much or at all.  Well I did when I had a 45 minute commute twice daily, but in my mind that's what they were really designed for.  Rote-method, relaxed and brainless driving.  I do prefer to be present when piloting hurtling metal, myself.

But now, I can see a great usefulness for a brand-spankers iPod touch.  Plus it's way less than half the price of an iPhone.  I realise I'd then be carrying, charging, managing two devices, but, well, um, anyway, I'll work it out.  An iPhone is also a music player too, yes?  In case I wanted to do that?  Gee, how confusing is consumerism when you let go into the Gruen moment?

Plus, think of all the fun I could have!  At present, there are only two voice suites, an 'Eastern North American' and  'British', which each have adult male and female, and child's voices too.  It would be a hoot to go to the hardware store in the full outdoor-work regalia and ask a question about some big-arse power tool as a small English girl. 

"Excuse me sir, would you have a two-thousand watt roto-rooter professional series available for hire?  We seem to have rooted drains."

And of course the pretend 'oops!' moments.

Cop:  "Good evening sir, just a random breath test and licence check, have you had anything alcoholic to drink this evening?"

iVoice me (British woman): "That cheese smells a bit funny." 
"Sorry wrong button." (shrug shoulders, grin,)

And on we go.  I would plan of having a short series of new absurdisms each day programmed in for "opps wrong button" moments.  Also perhaps accidental insults for those occasions where you really, really, want someone to have a look at themselves and just can't suppress your judgement.

"Sir, you are a juvenile-minded misanthrope"
"Sorry, wrong button" (waves free hand exasperatedly, apology face in place.)
"Thank you for your help, I shall look elsewhere."

Because with such a device, you can be sort of one person removed from what is said, if you don't push it too far.  And yet, in another way, it is so much more intimate, like when someone is listening to a 'neck breather' (I understand that's their own pet word for tracheostomy folks with no vocal chord ability) using a throat-mike thing.

I believe new voices are in development.  I suppose if the app really takes off then there will be fun voices to choose from, like with sat-nav these days.  I am naturally drawn to John Cleese or Jason Alexander as George Costanza for entertainment value, but it would get tiresome.  I wonder if you can sample movie lines in the original voices?

So talk to me people, let me hear your absurdisms, your one-liners of complete inappropriateness, and when I get this whole device thing up and running, I'll report back on how they play....


Sunday, March 14, 2010

In my dreams, I am whole.

So often these days (or nights, mostly) my dreams are full of extremely sensual (no, not that, I said sensual you sexy-minded person you) moments, in which I taste, touch, feel as if I were my previous unimpaired physical self.  It's great, almost never leading to feelings of loss or regret or longing or anything.

For example, the other night I (dreamingly) ate a hamburger, and could perfectly feel the bite through the layers of bun, lettuce, tomato, beetroot (it's an Australian thing) meat and bun, the mouthfeel, the manipulation of my tongue and teeth, and the swallow of a mighty tasty mouthful.  It's been probably over a year, more like two years, since that's happened awake, and then it wouldn't have been terribly easy or enjoyable.  In this dream I also was drinking a cold pint of Kilkenny (a bit like Guinness, but brown, not black, and softer to taste) with the full spectrum of tactility - including functioning hands holding the cold glass.  Divine, I tell you, utterly wonderful.

But the dream the next night was even more beautiful.  Or what I remember of it now, anyway.  A friend had left me to look after her children, all under 5, one of which was a wee small baby.  The two older kids were amusing themselves with a game on the floor, and I stretched out on my side on the couch, my arm tucked up under my head, with the baby on her back nestled against me on a little soft rug.  I could feel the warmth and softness of her head on my cheek when I leant down, could smell that (clean, thankfully!) baby smell, feel the resilience of her little tummy beneath my fingers as I gave her a gentle rub; and it was just sublime.  I should explain that lying on a couch in this fashion is not something I can actually do, nor is feel such soft things through my fingers, and in the dream I was completely at ease, 'normal' and relaxed physically, like I was sharing the baby's sense of comfort and all-is-good-with-the-worldness at that moment.

The recurring dream-theme that means the most to me of all though, the one that I sometimes wish for as I lie awaiting sleep, is where I can play guitar again.

In the dreams I am sometimes even a bit - though never a lot - better than I was, which is awesome.  I am sure my body is smiling in real time when this happens.  I cannot describe or explain the feeling of playing something really well, of 'saying' it as personally and clearly as you want to, but this guy HERE (do check it out if you have 3 and a half minutes in your life, you won't regret it) gives a hint.  He is the best kind of guitar monster, I think.

Sometimes - well, usually actually - I am aware enough in these dreams to know that this is a special moment, to 'remember' that my body is not this way now, and when that happens there is often a sort of 'reality wobble' where my hands go all stupid for a second until my joy and desire kick back in and restore my facility to play as I was.  I also still see and hear myself compose things anew, just as I did when I was playing all the time.  Fresh, inspired things, and I'm aware in the dream that this is fantastic, underivative new stuff........and just as it always was, I remember that this happened when I wake, but never a bar or phrase of it.  Damn.

I often wonder why this sort of stuff happens.  Maybe it's just habit; my subconscious being the repetition machine it is simply hasn't completely caught up with my new physical reality.  What do you think?

In any case, I now so much more appreciate the simple, ordinary things I always used to take for granted.  I guess the fact that these dreams tend not to depress me is a good sign too.  Perhaps tonight I'll play to a baby on my lap, taking a short break to nibble on something tasty in between sips of something rich yet refreshing.  Mm, nice.  My imagination awake is getting nearly as good as my dreaming.


Saturday, March 13, 2010


We live very close to the local hospital, right under the flight path of the rescue helicopter as it comes in fast and hot.  It's just gone overhead now and as always I find myself pausing and doing what I suppose is best described as prayer for all concerned with its reason for being here right now.   And with gratitude that such things exist.  It lands so close that the house shakes.

Helicopters I find quite materially threatening at the best of times.  I can recognise the thrills available, but on a very basic level there's just something incredibly on-the-edge feeling about the way they rely on just smashing and beating the laws of physics into submission in order to fly.  Another way of defining flying is "avoiding hitting the ground in a catastrophic way resulting in mechanical and human blancmange over a wide area, usually with fire".  And that visceral rhythmic thumping as they hammer the air....gets you somewhere in the gut levels.  I have met some people who have worked with them (ex-soldiers and the like) and they tell me you never quite lose the fear response.

A couple of years ago, I was sent from another local hospital up to Perth (our major city here), specifically to Royal Perth Hospital (a misnomer, as Perth is not a sovereign monarchy, but never mind) as there wasn't the technical expertise or equipment available to properly diagnose what was going on where I was.  I went in an ambulance though, not a helicopter.

The room I was given was initially mine alone (amazing!) and had an excellent view of the helipad, about 50 metres away on a rooftop level with my window.  The very same helicopter as has just passed overhead now would land in a fair hurry most days, sometimes more than once, and I could see the goings-on perfectly clearly.  One day I had an arrival of a different sort, Mohammed, a man of maybe 60 or so years old originally from Iraq, with virtually no English, as my new roommate.  He was just sort of parked there as he; like me, didn't really fit properly into any particular 'stream' of treatment, and there was nowhere else to put him.  Mohammed seemed mainly to be dying of some sort of gastric cancer thing, and I do suspect they chose me as his roommate partly as I'd already shown myself a fairly helpful and not-squeamish type about the ward.  Because he was having a pretty gross time of it.

Anyway, we got on great.  We were able to have enough communication to suit his limited desires, a nurse had shown me how to trick the supposedly pay-per-use TV system into working so I could help him watch Al-Jazeera news each day, and most days my intern would stop by for a longer chat and translate - he was an Egyptian Canadian Australian and spoke great Arabic and English.  He was also, it must be said, a fine doctor and fellow.  His name was Islam.

Then on maybe Mohammed's second day, the chopper thundered in, unseen to him from his bed away from the window - plus he used to put a towel over his head to pray - and oh my, did it hit his buttons.

Mohammed was virtually bed-bound but I think if he hadn't been he would have found himself torn between running for the window and running for cover.  I heard a little cry from behind me as I watched from the window and saw his terrified face, with hands outstretched halfway between imploring and covering his face and he simply strangled out...


Oh fuck.

"Or good ones?" he manages to get out before I can muster a response.

"Good ones, yes, good ones.  Rescue chopper.  Yellow one.  From an accident maybe.  It's OK.  They are helping people.  Want to see?"

I watched as some of this at least sunk in through the Arabic/English filters and Mohammed sort of relaxed a bit, but kept staring towards the window with a haunted look flashing across his face.  Then after a while he started talking, and showed me his scars.

I'm a little vague on the details what with not speaking Arabic - and the details being really not the point - but his story in brief was this.  Mohammed was from somewhere called I think "Samawa" (Samarra?  I'm not sure) as I recall, and he explained it was between Kuwait and Baghdad.  The Americans came through on the road to Baghdad in Desert Storm.  Mohammed was already in a bit of a persecuted bunch, I gather the area was not one of Saddam's most loyal districts.  From Desert Storm onward he started progressively getting family members out to Australia.  I met a few, now mostly working professionals with kids and a decent life.  At a few points, Mohammed witnessed some very bad shit involving US helicopters and civilian deaths.  He lost children and other relatives.  He was strafed and bombed by accident and had some very nasty older shrapnel and burn scars on his legs, arms and back.  He saw US soldiers shooting people - combatants or not, I'm not sure. 

Two things I was made very sure to understand.  The first is that helicopters are a major and deep traumatic trigger for Mohammed.  Secondly, he is very against the US forces.  Mohammed has good things to say about the Brits, Australians and Japanese, but when it comes to Americans he just makes a hating, angry face and says "Americans - bad, you understand?  They VERY BAD"  So something happened.  Mohammed had been in Australia for a few years at that point.

I stayed with him about a week before I was discharged, and he never got used to the choppers.  He asked me every time, and once, when I said it was the rescue chopper without me looking up from my book he made me go to the window to make sure.

I used to love M*A*S*H as a kid.  My favourite was Radar O'Reilly, the young simple Iowa farmboy become logistics clerk who knew exactly what you needed before you asked and who told you how he was going to get it as you spoke your request.  But more than that, he was always the first to hear the choppers coming in and call out "incoming" whatever was going on.  No-one ever questioned him, because he was always right.  So he was the character that had the job of constantly turning the plot back to its basis - the reason for their existence.  I felt he was the true anchor of the M*A*S*H experience for me, and apart from the slapstick and shtick I ftne felt moved by the humanity of it all, and was very sad when it ended. 

Thanks for coming, Radar and the gang.  
You have helped me love helicopters more than I fear them.


Today's blend; not beige, actually.

Finished the last of a blend late yesterday, so naturally today I fired up the mighty Vitamix again.  Here's what went in (no particular order apart from my memory):

Walnuts, maybe half a cup
Sesame seeds, about 2 Tbspn
Sunflower kernels, say 1/3 cup
Quinoa (red) approx 1/3 cup
Organic 4 bean mix, 1 tin
Rather large fresh beetroot, 1 of
Medium fennel bulb
Medium lebanese cucumber
Garlic, a few cloves
Olive oil (extra virgin), a big gush, say 4 Tbspns
Flaxseed meal, about 1 Tbspn
Wakame seaweed, a large pinch
5cms turmeric root
A lime (peeled)
Almonds, about 2/3 cup
Organic oat milk, 1 litre
5 blue M&Ms

I think that's about it.  Ended up with 2 litres of quite thick blend so I made 5 X 400 mls serves.  The experienced among you will see that I'm not especially bothered by calorie count, and I'd be surprised if this made more than about 900-1000Kcal per serve.  Especially unbothered this time, hence the absence of any serious rice or grain or starch inclusion.  This lack of starch (the major beige-er) has allowed the beetroot to shine its colour through (and it was quite a large dark specimen) and produce a resplendent puce colour, reminiscent of my parents' erstwhile Mini done in "Plum Loco" duco.  They used to enjoy parking it whenever possible beside or between the other local Minis in Lemon and Lime tones.  Truly hideous, but I loved that car.

The blue M&Ms?  Meeta was eating some and she doesn't eat the blue ones.  They were just there at the right time.

Not that I've gone off beige, mind.  Just sharing, is all :-)

Friday, March 12, 2010


This afternoon I went to the visiting National Respite for Carers expo.  Yes, I know I'm not a carer, but it was hot, and Meeta wasn't into it anyway, however I thought we might benefit from whatever information I might find there.

On arrival at the local community hall, I was greeted by the first of a series of short, intensely friendly young women in a uniform I didn't recognise who thanked me for coming, gave me some paperwork-type stuff and a great showbag full of giveaway goodies, then ushered me into the hall to a table with a bunch of also newly-arrived carer folks doing paperwork and counting the free pens in their showbags.  I realised I couldn't meaningfully complete the government-sponsored survey on what training I had received or felt I needed as an unpaid carer - because I'm not one in this sense, and some of the other forms were similarly irrelevant, but I could fill out their little registration form.  This doubled as my entry ticket for the door prize also, which, as you will have already surmised, I was later to win.

I had been sitting for perhaps 60 seconds filling in the form when a second intensely friendly young uniformed woman came up and asked was I a carer, or did someone "look after me".  I realised later that as I am ambulatory, albeit in a unique and idiosyncratic way, on my own minus a carer that my answer very possibly meant to her that I was someone receiving care for a mental illness or intellectual disability.  I say this because as I made my way around the various information stalls collecting pamplets I was reguarly checked upon by one or occasionally two of these uniformed smilers who made sure I understood what I was looking at, and that I was at all times cognisant that there was tea and coffee, juice, a wide selection of sweets and foods and should I require it toilet facilites all available in the foyer.  I didn't notice anyone else quite receiving the same degree of solicitude.  I sort of got into it, and realised that my speech sounds themselves probably help foster the impression.  I decided not to play up though.  Really, promise I didn't.

Then again, I was probably the youngest there by 10 years at least, and I think the only one who came solo, so maybe they thought I was lonely or something.  At most stalls I was pressed to take information however seemingly relevant and now have a much better understanding of continence issues affecting older women.  And a new collection of squeezy stress-ball thingies (6 thereof) and pens labelled by all sorts of obscure organisations.  I must say though that the Public Trustee pens were so handsome I took a second.

Towards the end of my loop I was again accosted with regards the food (I realised at this point that I was more or less the only one not hoeing into the freebies - they did look far better than your average function food too) and was given a blow-by-blow account of every item available on offer.  It was hilarious, like a mechanical tic as I gave a little leftwards wag of my head after each item's name was issued and said "no thanks" cheerily until my uniformed smiling lady sort of paused and I managed to get in

"You see, the thing is I can't eat or drink."  To which she congruently replied
"Sure, I'll get you a plate then."

This sort of thing happens all the time with my speech problem.  I am constantly wondering what it was that my interlocutor has in fact heard.

I explained again, more successfully this time, about my PEG tube and lack of oral intake and without the merest glimmer of stumble or embarrassment she carried on "oh, well of course then, that's OK!"  So I'm glad it was fine for her too, and that she in the end did not feel needlessly rejected.

So later on in the evening, just after the first few items on the TV news, a car pulled up outside.  Two of the earnestly cheerful uniformed young ladies come beamingly towards the door holding out my door prize, and I was just a tad disappointed to note it was not my peg-conversation lady. Because the door prize I won (my address was on the form) was a hamper of gourmet foodstuffs in a lovely little basket.  Irony!  They had a kick-ass SLR digital camera and I had my photo rapidly and repeatedly taken receiving my winnings from one of the smiley ones by another smiley one 'for their own use only' and they were on their way.

What a very amusing afternoon.

Picture for illustration purposes only.  Mine was far cooler than this one and Meeta and I laughingly pulled it apart before I thought to take a pic.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Purism: Effectiveness Is The Measure Of Truth.


Tricky thing, language.  Most especially tricky when used on ineffable subjects - life, death, love, spirit, god, and so on.  From time to time people (or people-like beings) have come along and had some stuff to share with us, to show us, about those things we usually do not experience - but which we long for.  Stories are legion of both ordinary people and devoted disciples experiencing through a master (please note I use the term 'master' in a non-gendered way) a 'zap', a transmission, an opening, a samadhi, whatever you wish to call it - a moment of connection with the divine.  Stories also abound of those who have followed their own path within a 'way' and found what for them amounted to an enlightenment.

Invariably, as is happening right here and now, words come along to describe something of these phenomena.  I think we might all agree that words are quite simply not up to the task of even describing the feeling of a light rainfall on one's upturned face - an event that most of us have experienced in this material dimension - let alone a glimpse of god, or an experience of unconditional love.

Words can even get in the way. Our wonderful minds have played a great part in our rapid evolution as a species, and we are very attached to them.  For our minds to comprehend something beyond our usual senses, they need some sort of frame of reference to use - and mostly, we use language.  But as soon as we use a word to describe something completely immaterial, and beyond our 3rd dimensional limitations, we have imposed a limit on it.  Thus not just failing to describe it well, but coralling the experience somehow into something necessarily smaller than it is.

It's very difficult for a well-intentioned teacher to help others move closer to divinity through received wisdoms without words.  Words are how we mostly communicate concepts.  Then the words are written down, the master passes on, and it falls to others to interpret the words and promulgate the message.  Invariably dogma thus arises.  Those promoting this way of seeing for one reason or another are often tempted to compare 'their' way with others, perhaps to satisfy the ever-hungry mind, or just to keep their followers feeling happy and secure with their faith.  Maybe even because they belive that theirs truly is the bestest, the truthiest way.  And what all too often results when this is taken to its most unbalanced extremes is the stuff of every international news bulletin.  And the core of discontentment in most societies.

All of this is a bit of a shame, because we are blessed here to have some truly deep spiritual paths and traditions to shine lights for us on earth - the words can be so moving and beautiful, and used well can lead us into wondrous revelation and experience - just as long as we haven't been indoctrinated with exactly what to expect of such an experience.

Hey, don't take my word for any of this please - it's all opinion, remember?  As is everything you think or say about it.  And that's all just fine.  Until we are all perfectly one (if that ever happens) our realities will of course be different.

So here's a whole set of dilemmas.  At the heart of pretty much every religion or philosophy is something pure and true which can be accessed by the seeker to help along their path.  Also within these religious and philosophical traditions are certain practices - old and refined or newly inspired - that can have great benefit for the one who seeks growth.  On the other hand, our ability to get at these 'hearts' is so often stymied by the words involved, and our quest to intellectually understand it all.  Just as much of an obstacle can be a stubborn refusal to use one's mind to seek greater openness to a teaching or way, as when a student simply decides they 'now understand' something.  Because the words can only ever be pointers, not definers.  The subjest matter is indefinable.

So do you reject all the teachings because they're necessarily imperfectly communicated?

Maybe.  Buddha basically sat until he worked through it all, then sat without working at all, until he 'got it.'  Not forgetting though, that he'd already had a priveleged and princely education prior to his journey inwards.

Do you embrace the teachings, hoping that by somehow trying to live as good an example of the dogma as you can that you shall see god (etc)?

Maybe, for there are countless examples of wonderful people full of light and love who adhere to a strict form of faith and profess great connectedness with the divine as they perceive it.

Or do you go for a hybrid, attempting to avoid the pitfalls of organised religion and politics, yet learn from the deep wellsprings of wisdom they have accreted through the centuries while maintaining an independent path?

Maybe.  As the water in the well reaches for the water table below, so our souls reach for the great soul-mass of the divine.  Perhaps like water we will seek the easiest possible route in the moment.

Not that I think there's any right answer - I can only speak for myself.

I think I spoke in an earlier post of Bruce Lee.  Most people know him as a film star and one of the 20th century's most prominent martial artists.  He was also a student of philosophy, amongst other things, and his personal philosophies are known outside of the realm of martial arts.  He was a seeker of knowledge and wisdom, believing that all knowledge ultimately leads to self-knowledge, syaing simply that his chosen means of self-expression was martial arts.  He set out to create the best, most effective bare-hand fighting system possible.  To this end, he studied a great variety of martial disciplines in order to fully understand their 'heart' and what made them work.  

"Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it" 

was a key concept to the development of his martial system, Jeet Kune Do.  This was one very important aspect, one which set him apart from the vast majority of traditional martial artists and indeed thinkers of the day. Equally important though was his assertion that one should...

"...not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there."

Jeet Kune Do is really a toolbox, and Lee's intent was that in order to be truly effective one needs to truthfully express oneself, to be free of form and limiting pattern, to "flow or crash like water," to find one's own unique way.

For me, this all feels good and right.  I'm certainly not trying to synthesize a system or be 'the best' at anything, just wanting to grow in a way that is the most honest for me.  This is not a race, or a competition, after all.  I guess I was given such an enquiring mind and whatever intuitive facilities as I have for a good set of reasons; and as my physical self becomes more limited, so my internal life becomes richer, and my sense of divinity more splendid.

I see that even the 'fundamentalists' have a chance. (ASIDE: the term 'fundamentalists' is so misleading, isn't it?  These are by and large people who adhere to obscure interpretations of religious writings as if they represent the core values of faith. spirituality, and godliness.  To my mind a fundamental principle of, say, Christianity, would be tolerance and forgiveness, as Jesus seemed to be teaching) For within a genuine desire to come closer to divinity, regardless of the way or dogma chosen, regardless of the limitations inherent therein, life does tend to find a way.  Just like that water thing, it will always find a way in eventually.

And it is true, that the individualist seeker may benefit from the learnings of those who went before, on many paths - not having to continually reinvent the wheel is one of the reasons our species has come so far so fast, yes?  Just as it is true that those on a well-worn path can benefit from seeking further from the track.

There are truths everywhere, and what seems truest to you will probably depend on your ability to perceive - in many ways a legacy of all your past experiences.  So if it works for you, let it be true.  But keep your heart and mind open, for you never know when something even truer will come along.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Enlightenment pressure

I've had an ordinary couple of days.  For those who don't speak Australian the use of the word 'ordinary' as in the phrase "a bit ordinary" is a euphemism for below par, which is a golf-derived euphemism for a bit shit.

It's part of my cycle these days it seems, and it's mainly triggered by thoughts and feelings of loss; more particularly the stress I experience within myself about these feelings.

Now we all know it's not unusual to die - in fact as has been demonstrated it is a virtual certainty for all of us - nor is it unusual to have some frame of time reference to work with as a supposition.  What I'm saying is that I realise I'm not by any means in a unique position.  What is slightly rare however is to have seemingly so much time to so slowly observe parts of my self - my physical abilities and the self-identities invested therein - slip away, and to see others waiting in line to go too.  This is indeed a precious gift that I share with other autoimmune-type disease participants, and folks with other degenerative conditions.  Mine is a little different from many in that its progress is quite variable and only really semi-predictable over the short term, unlike something with a more studied and reliably known action;  motor neurone disease for example.

No, really, it is a gift.  I can't recall if I've spoken of this here as yet, but even if that is the case it's an anecdote that bears repeating.  Michael J Fox, the Canadian actor, when he 'outed' his Parkinson's Disease after largely concealing it for 6 or 7 years referred to it as a 'gift'.  This caused some upset from some fellow Parkinsonians and he was moved to clarify, saying "it is a's the gift that keeps on taking."  I can really relate on this one.

So the trigger for me this time has been mainly the speech thing - it's getting steadily worse and 'good talking days' are fewer and less gooder.  I found myself contemplating life minus speech, as will probably happen some time soonish.  Whatever that means.

OK, no problem, having a down day while processing and going through some loss is normal and fine, yes?  Ultimately acceptance comes and I find myself just that little bit cleaner, just that tiny bit closer to my divine manufacturer's specifications - a bit more closely restored to the original, if you will.  Only as soon as I see that this is what's happening I start to ramp up the pressure to get on with it, and this is the real problem for me.  I have ridiculously exacting standards.

To be fair on myself, those standards have in the main served me extremely well.  But anything one feels compelled by is a controlling and/or limiting force.  Well, why all the pressure?

Good question, and I'm not sure I fully know, but I'll explore this as we go along; I hope to learn something I guess.

The first and biggest thing in my face about it is Meeta.  Not that she is pressuring me, in fact quite the opposite, her support and grace in the face of this astonish me every day.  We earthlings are indeed fortunate to have folks like Meeta around.  So how lucky does that make me?  But I digress.  The pressure is that I feel like an impediment to her happiness, an unpleasant lump of discomfortable emotion in the home we share and like someone who just isn't great to be around.  And this stuff is all true to some degree, but I would be false in taking responsibility for her happiness.  That's just impossible.  But we are a couple, a unit, one of those mysterious bringings-together of people that creat something far greater than the sum of their individualities.  And sometimes she needs me and I can't be there for her because of this stuff.

There's a selfish urge in there too.  Is it selfish?  I guess so.  Anyway, it's really hard for me to watch my wife slowly lose her husband, regardless of how graciously she mostly deals with that.  It hurts me to feel her pain, and I suppose the selfish part is that sometimes as well as genuine care for her I just want to avoid that pain I have through witnessing hers.  Does that make sense?

Moving right along, there's ego. "I should be able to handle/heal/clean this better than I am."  Simple, ancient, persistent bullshit.  I admit this factor is now but a shadow of its former self (he boasts ironically) but it's still there enough to catch me by surprise sometimes.

Of course, there's simple longing.  Desire to be closer to the divine.  And right down deep in this surely laudable aim, this morally high-grounded wish, is a nasty barb for me.  Because it must be said, that with most every step I do take in that direction, with every bit of my accreted faux-'self' I fling off, I become a little bit less of the man Meeta married, and for a time at least, this pushes us further apart.  It is really, really sad.

Meeta does not begrudge my needs at all in this.  I understand (and whilst not deigning to speak for her I would posit that she accepts) that in the long run all of the pain and grief stuff makes me a 'better person' for want of a less loaded term.  That means I become actually a more open, loving, easy to love man than before - in the main - but the time lag, and the learning of the new me/us/she can be sometimes difficult and distant.  Born alone, die alone, I suppose.

Enlightenment pressure.  It's something that can happen to anyone who is actively engaged with their own spirituality I suppose.  It's where having discovered one's own ability to actually influence (if not control, certainly not control) one's growth and wellbeing, the urge to judge oneself on one's efforts or effectiveness can creep in.  That's messy mind stuff, that is - but there nonetheless.

Really, I do need to just get over it.  I am better at not overthinking than I used to be, so there's hope, and a trend in a useful direction.

And it is a gift.  I am grateful in the deepest way.