Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Beguiling

Can you see it? Can you perceive it? No image has effected me as much as this one for a very long time. Look at how they relate to each other. The eye contact, the acceptance, the inate way one perceives the other. As I appraise them the first word that comes to me is fortress. Their relationship is a stronghold, a bastion, a lighthouse facing an immense ocean. Beneath those lines, those etchings of timeless experience is something strong. Something deep and enduring. In their gaze I see victory, experience, deep knowledge and connection. More than that it inspires me, makes me dare to dream that a day may come in the deep distance when I can share such a glance with my Joy. What must it feel like to reach such an age having weathered life's slings and arrows? Emerging connected, bound, effectively a single organism comprising two parts. I do not fear death, but the men in my family are not particularly long lived. As such I may not be privileged enough to enter deep old age with my faculties intact. God forbid, I've spent most of this year coming to terms with the limitations of my own body. I'm struggling, to be quite honest, and there's some repairs needed to the hull. As Christopher Hitchins observed, it is only when it rebels against you that one learns that you don't so much as have a body, but rather that you are a body. Still, a man can dare to hope, can't he? And my hope is that Joy and I move into our vintage with a sustained desire to create and innovate when it comes to our relationship. We're good at discovering new elements within each other, and we're not afraid to step outside convention when we know it will make us richer. Isn't it the case that in any relationship the goal should be to seek to become the truest versions of ourselves? To shed the fear and hesitancy? To dare to be vulnerable?
As a man, being vulnerable before my lady hasn't always come naturally to me, yet when I do the rewards outweigh the risks so massively as to render trepidation sheer folly. Joy knows things about me that give her tremendous power, and I've had to trust her with this. But trust is the lifeblood of any relationship isn't it? Is it even possible to sustain a relationship without it? I don't see how? But as always I digress. When you finish reading this just look at that old couple again. They were young once, with appetites and inner conflicts and all the rest. Can you sense how far they've come? Can you comprehend the epic, sweeping scope of such a journey? I'm awestruck. I'm captivated. The image has seized me by the collar and it keeps drawing me in. And here's the thing; the more I look the more vibrant it becomes. Its sheer humanity compels me towards seeking to emulate it. At least to try. See the warmth, sense the enduring connection. And dare to dream.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Koran And Fireman Sam

Seriously! Apparently the producers of Fireman Sam have offended the religion of peace by showing an episode during which a character appears to step on a page of the Koran. This has apparently caused "offence" in some circles, and has led to the episode itself being pulled from the schedules along with suitably groveling apologies ventured. Do you know what offends me? Jet aircraft being flown into skyscrapers. Trucks being driven through crowds. Mass shootings. Executions of innocent clergy members. Those things offend me deeply. By way of contrast, if our beloved firefighter was captured on film slipping on a copy of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, as an atheist I would take no offence. I would likely chuckle. Not so some adherents of the religion of peace, which incidentally continues to tread all over modern culture like a child that has trodden in dog shit. You see, denying a woman basic human rights is seemingly ok, as is murdering homosexuals whom dare to live out their true natures. But tread on their comic book, or speak of it with anything other than deference and the consequences can be startling. You can rest assured the production company in question will currently be undergoing various safety briefings, and the Metropolitan police have probably already attended to give appropriate safety advice. That we have allowed the vapid ideology of Islam to have such an automatic respect in modern culture is astonishing to me, as is how we pander and bow the knee all in the idea of not offending certain sensibilities. Now here's the thing; not all ideas are created equal. Not all ideas are worthy of respect. And I happen to think its high time we actually stood up to this creeping erosion of our personal liberty. Dear Muslims, please believe as you see fit and cherish those beliefs if that is what inspires you. But do not seek to impose your ideology on those who want no part of it. And if you really want respect then a good start would be to develop markedly thicker skin, and quit playing the religious hurt feelings card. It makes you look like a schoolchild scowling in the playground, bottom lip protruding and pony tails flapping in the breeze. Let's just say its not an impressive sight.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How It (mostly) Works Around Here

I've never really craved vast wealth, or a massive house, or flashy cars, although I wouldn't say no to them if they came my way. The truth is, in order to afford the high life you have to work really hard. Now call me vulgar, but I just do not want to. I don't want to spend that long at the coalface. Call me lazy if you wish, but I'm just being honest. I've always tried to strike a balance between putting in a good shift at work, and then stepping away and distancing myself. I don't live to work, but instead work to live. In actual fact the term I use is that I work to subsidise my other interests. My job doesn't define me. No one thing does. We live in a small but happy home, with a very small mortgage that doesn't cripple us. We're not in debt, we've got a cash buffer, and I would describe our position as cautiously comfortable. If we wanted more I could do overtime, or Joy could go back to teaching and we'd be even wealthier. We would also be miserable. And time starved. So you can keep the cars and the expensive holidays and all the rest. There is a little sign in our little house that says "It's not how big the house is, It's how happy the home is." I think those words are bigger than the sum of their parts. Like any family we have issue's, and like any couple we go through challenging periods. But I've always known that at root both Joy and I want a relationship that works. That's a solid base. And from there it's about calibrating and recalibrating, figuring out the best way forward. More than that, It's remembering to do the stuff that makes those memories. Both as a couple and as a family unit. I'm no expert on any of those things, but I don't think you necessarily need to be. So me and my imperfections plod onward, as does Joy with hers. Add a smattering of teenage daughter and preteens daughter and you just know that from time to time the rug gets pulled from underneath your feet. So going back to the original topic, which I think abandoned somehow, I think on balanced that the freedom that time brings offers more than the freedom that more money brings. And that's the basis of how things work around here.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Christianity. An Intellectual Turd Factory.

Interesting conversation this week. With someone I respect. I got to see up close how thinking Biblically is really just short hand for turning one's brain off. The issue was about sexuality, and how this person would feel if they realised their child was gay. Now I've already said to both my girls that I don't care who they love or how they love, just as long as they have love. Their sexuality is their business, and nothing that could negatively influence my feelings. This person with whom I was in dialogue with confessed that they would struggle to feel as I do on the issue, and you've already probably guessed why. Of course, its the good ship Christianity swooping in to derail reason and logical thinking once again. Concerning sexuality, or in fact most moral issues one need only consider the following; namely is what I am doing or considering doing likely to cause real harm in the real world? That's all that is required. Think morality, think in terms of harm. The rest will sort itself out. Alas, a mind pickled and marinated in decades of biblical thinking cannot see beyond what their religion tells them to see. Back in the days when I was a believer I got to hear a lot of trite throwaway lines on the issue of homosexuality. Phrases like "It's less than God's best", or of course, "It's not how we were made to be." There were other's, but they all rolled off of the intellectual turd factory known as Christianity. Complete inability to think in terms of the harm principle, a dreary addiction to what scripture says. And oh boy does it have something to say. The Old Testament in particular uses terms such as abomination, and Leviticus 20, verse 10 makes clear that if man should lie with another man he should be put to death. Cool, Lesbian sex still good to go! Apologies, I digress. At this point the average well meaning Christian will tell us that Jesus bought a new revelation, only this directly contradicts what Jesus says himself. He makes clear that not a single stroke of the old law should go, but rather he states this;

“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:18-19
“It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17)
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17)
“Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law” (John7:19)

So, the figure of Jesus was just as monumental a twat as his bipolar father. To conclude then, when a person of faith speaks into matters of homosexuality they can and should be roundly ignored. No defence can be made against such hate speech. My sadness is that so many otherwise lovely people; people I consider as friends continue to regard this toxic mush of imbecilic nonsense as some kind of guide to modern morality. To that I say only this. If you are gay, transgender, or have a form of sexuality that is unique to you then stand proud. If what you do causes no measurable harm, and if your actions with others are safe and sane and consensual then celebrate your uniqueness. To close, when I was a young teenager I watched a film called My Beautiful Laundrette. It contained an intense sex scene involving two men. It helped me to realise that I was heterosexual and that was that. I never struggled with my sexuality in that regard. As I have aged I have discovered different aspects to my sexual persona, and I have wrestled with some aspects. But I have never been persecuted. Never been told that I was not normal, or that I would go to Hell for my inclinations. I urge all readers of this blog to think in terms of the harm principle when it comes to pretty much every moral issue you face. There's nothing said in scripture that hasn't been said better and with less accompanying baggage elsewhere. And as for Christian's there is nothing for me to say as I am clear that you will not be swayed. As such I pity you. Genuinely pity you. You live in a very small world.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

I Made A Mistake Today

I made a mistake today. I attended a Christian family event. Went to support Joy really, as I knew she quite liked the idea of us going as a family. I got up in the morning with a best foot forward ethos, vowing to be on my very best behaviour. Vowing to be courteous, and something close to respectful. The trouble is that there is nothing about the doctrine of Christianity that convinces me that it is anything other than an atavistic yearning after an imaginary friend. And when I'm surrounded by dozens and dozens of believers, all singing and praying and solemly listening to the generic youthful pastor it strikes me as a wasteful, woeful experience. It isn't that the patrons aren't kindly and generous, and I believe they are truly seeking to be better versions of themselves. It's just that looking from the outside in the experience is weird and disquieting and just so far removed from my own personal experience. I honestly could not wait to drive the two hours home, to clear my head of it all. Perhaps much of this is to do with the fact that I shed my evangelical skin over a decade ago, and in the years since I have rebuilt my life, rebuilt me. The process is ongoing but today reminded me that there's always residue. The past always leaves a mark. And of course there remains the fact that many of my closest family are bible believing Christian's, delightful people on a journey so far removed from my own. Just how do I reconcile this with my instinctive need to value reason and evidence above all else? It is a challenge for me because I love truth. Even when it is blunt and cruel and indifferent. Seeking truth irrespective of how it left me feeling was a game changer for me. It meant that I had no excuse for self deceipt. I wonder if that is at the root of my discomfort? This suspicion I have that religion, in every shape or guise, is the ultimate expression of self deceipt. How do I even say this without causing offence or hurt to those I love? When I get too close to formal religion I just recoil now; I just cannot cope. Which is why my exposure to it will, from this day on, be limited to weddings and funerals and carol services. The week in week out stuff is just bewildering to me, and I came away feeling like I had forayed into an alien world. I deliberately spent the service attempting to surf the net on my phone, but even then you cannot help but hear some of the generic canards. All this talk about God being in control. About how he knew the result of the referendum. The generic preacher talk just kept on coming. I wonder if there were any amidst the congregation going through the transition that I underwent so many years ago? That desperately futile attempt to square the circle, to convince themselves that they don't have to walk away, that if they just pray enough, believe enough, some semblance of faith will return. I hope none of what I have written here comes across as condescending? These are just my very human musings on what was a genuinely weird day. I feel utterly detached as I write this, and I am trying to chart some path that allows me to have some level of respect for those who hold such views. Perhaps it is a weakness of mine that I even struggle in this regard?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

A Beginner's Guide To Self Harm

After yesterday's epic act of unprecedented national self harm, here's hoping that today is a quieter one. Aside from everything that occurred, the overwhelming realisation for me is that we need to create a society where education doesn't end at the school gates. Where mature adults are taught to disseminate facts and see beyond vitriol and their own cultural biases. When you study the break down of who voted where I was so saddened that the older a person was, the more likely they were to vote out. That tells me that education isn't simply for the young. It is a lifetime project. When I reflect on the ramifications my heart bleeds for the younger generation, seventy five percent of which voted remain. How desperately sad that we would be so quick to hurt our children. I do not think for a moment that this was intentional, but it illustrated that as a society we need to be just a little bit more capable of putting reason and evidence before jingoism. All that said, I still adore the democratic process and hold no ill will towards those who think differently. More than ever, in light of what is coming we need to be brave and willing to endure challenges. So perhaps on the back of a dark day, we British can evolve into a wiser and warmer culture. Irrespective of a persons country of origin we are not so different. We are just people sharing this fragile planet together. Just human beings. Here's to the day when we can see beyond cultural or religious divides. Where disagreements do not lead to conflict or discord, or isolationism. May it dawn soon.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Omar Muteen

So, Florida gunman Omar Mateen saw two men kissing in public a while back and it offended him. At least this is what his mortified father has disclosed. Perhaps this was another ingredient that crept into his delusional and sub par mind prior to his public demonstration of high caliber weaponry in a gay nightclub. Not being a fundamentalist renders me ill equipped to comprehend what informed his murderous agenda, yet we can probably predict with some confidence that his religious inclinations were front and centre. When I stop and think about this I don't make it too far down the road before I encounter a contradiction; on the one hand he would likely proclaim full confidence and absolute certainty that his version of the truth is the only one worthy of acceptance, yet he is also so lacking in confidence that he wishes to eradicate those who represent another way of life. It's a tough balancing act isn't it? Claiming to have all the answers yet terrified by voices of dissent. I cannot be bothered to further examine how easy it would have been for him to obtain the weapons he deployed with such zeal. America has made its own bed on the issue of gun ownership, and until it wants to wake up we shall continue to see mass shootings. Truth is, I'm not sure what makes me despair more; the lunacy of the gunman or the lunacy of a nation that makes such events not only possible but probable. Religion will always subvert reason and prostitute itself on the alter of nonsense, for this has long since been its default. And America seems committed to continue to lack the moral courage to legislate sensibly on the matter of gun ownership. What a perfect storm this whole thing has been. What a cluster fuck case study we have on our hands. I realise that I have not mentioned the victims yet. We shall hear their names and pay our respects in the fullness of time. Exactly what business did Omar Muteen have interfering with the life choices of the club patrons? God's business, I expect he would answer. And once more I roll my eyes. Dear religion, by all means practice your faith; celebrate it and share your convictions, even. But do so in the knowledge that we live in a society that more often than not say's no thank you. More than this, understand that we are not obligated to automatically imbibe your truth claims. I am not a Muslim because I happen to think that Islam is a nasty and bigoted pile of festering horse manure. I think its claims are absurd and its doctrines inane. I reject your truth claims. I want nothing to do with them. And i'd really appreciate it if you'd see your way to understanding that my choices will differ from yours. And America, for God's sake can you reach tipping point when it comes to gun control. Stop this madness. Be brave. This isn't the wild west any more. To close, I want to extend my condolences and sadness to the families and friends of the deceased. I stand beside you. I want to recognise and acknowledge your pain and bewilderment and immense sense of loss. Please know that you have the love and tears of billions at this moment. I also choose to celebrate the sexuality of every person on the planet who seeks to explore who they are and has the bravery to live this out. To live true to oneself is to live genuinely. To ignore societal pressure to conform is a testament to your strength. Never apologise for who you are. Never give an inch. You are beautiful, and you have a special place in this beautiful world. The likes of Omar Muteen are ugly scars, pustulant blisters of violence and bigotry. We will brush them aside and live on, live strong, by values of tolerance and dignity that his kind will never understand.