Saturday, 31 December 2011

Tide Goes In, Tide Goes Out

If you're really looking to change something in your life, why wait until the 1st January? What is this whole New Year resolution thing? I mean, shouldn't we always be changing and evolving and learning?
Seems to me that change is just what life is, just part of the package. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. And sometimes change makes the choices for us. And in acknowledging that we uncover our most persuasive illusion; namely this idea that we're actually in control of anything. Sure, make plans if you've got them, but do so in the knowledge that you're not truly at the helm. There are areas we can influence, and regions we cannot. It's useful to be mindful of this. If you're in any doubt about my claim think about 2011. How many of you planned to be bereaved, to lose a job, to win the health lottery and find yourself fighting a lethal condition? Life throws curve balls at us all the time, in both the small scale stuff and large. There isn't too much we can do to protect ourselves from some things, but we can use our minds to navigate a rough path across the seas of fate. I expect many of you have dreams; by all means chase them down. This is your chance after all. Besides, this is the stage on which the drama is played out, and today the lights are on us. 
On a personal level, 2012 has dangers and opportunity already built into the core program. There's going to be some change, and as always I want to be open to life's eclectic range of experiences.
For those of you who have interacted with me this year, thank you. For those of you that have made me laugh, made me think, made me hot under the collar, thank you for the role you've played. I don't often ponder how I influence others, but I hope at the very least I haven't bored you. 
Enjoy the turning of the year later today people. Just don't forget that the wheels of time never stop turning, and change is just a part of the gig.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Monkey On My Back

You've done something wrong. You enjoyed it. You try to find ways to make it somehow less grievous, less damaging. Pick any number of transgressions, whichever weaknesses you're prone too, and then recall the games that took place in your mind as you tried to balance those books.
Don't do that. Own the misdemeanour. It's the only way you're going to overcome it. Actually, you might not ever overcome it, but it's still better not to self deceive. I hope none of this sounds like a sermon; heaven forbid I've got a vast wardrobe of flaws that I sometimes launch into. I speak from a position of abject weakness, but if I do have a saving grace it's my capacity to be honest with myself. I've been having to do a lot of this of late, and it's a sobering thing.
Which leads me into reflecting how our choices, my choices, rarely happen in isolation. Choices have consequences, our obsessions can cause a ripple effect that can damage those inside the blast zone.
One of my fears is causing upset to other people, specifically those close to me. It's this fear, a healthy fear, that's kept me from walking down more than one blind alley or two. I know that I have weak points, and I'm long resigned to having a life long battle with them. Ok, enough crap, my weakness is the fairer sex; always has been and will be until such time when my libido get's replaced by the desire to go crown green bowling and watch the antiques roadshow.
There. Said it. That was bloody hard. I'm fortunate enough to have an amazing wife who I'm up front with, and she's enough of a realist to know what she's dealing with.  I just love women. Absolutely adore them. I can find something attractive in almost every one. In one sense this is cool, but there's always the flip side that I can find myself obsessing from time to time. It's always been a part of me and I've never shaken it, and I almost don't want to. I relate to females really well, and I've always really enjoyed female company and I hope I have a reasonable grasp of how females think? 
I expect many guys who read this are nodding quietly to themselves. Perhaps I'm a fool to be so candid. Yet this blog is meant to record my thoughts, my angst, my lunacy, and if I hold back it's no longer authentic. Besides, I don't think it's a bad thing to admit to a few personal weaknesses, and perhaps this might encourage others to be a bit more honest with themselves. And here's the punchline; when we can be transparent with ourselves we put ourselves in a place of power. Yes our faults still haunt us, but they are in full view, which means they're not going to take us by surprise. I'm afraid that's the best I can do.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Black & White?

Is there any such thing as a black or white moral issue?
Your gut reaction is likely to be something along the lines of yes. It’s wrong to rape, wrong to kill children. We can probably conjure up a number of principles that we consider as absolutely carved in stone.

Ok then, travel back with me a few thousand years to the time of our ancestors. Some civilisations believed that in order to bless a new building they were required to bury alive a child in the foundations. To us now, this is an abject unquestioning horror, yet the evidence tells us that this was a practice that was indeed carried out. Similarly, children were sometimes sacrificed in order to ensure that the rains came, that the sun shone, and the very act of sacrifice was deemed for the greater good of the community.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we’ve learned that the robustness of a building is not dependent on a child being buried beneath it, or that the offering of infant body parts has no bearing on whether the rains will come or the crops will flourish. We have accrued good reasons to think that child sacrifice is an entirely unsatisfactory and profane way to achieve any such goal.

I’m not done yet. Let’s think about rape. Rape’s bad, right? Ok then, let’s journey back even further in time to when the human lineage dropped in number to as low as 50-60,000. Who’s to say that the prolific rapist didn’t actually ensure that you and I were able to exist? Would you rather he’d gone and made himself a nice cup of tea?

Today’s point? I’m challenging the whole idea of black and white, or this idea that there exists some moral absolutes that when transgressed, demand condemnation. Yes, we know now that killing children and raping indiscriminately do nothing to enable a society to flourish. The reason for this is accrued knowledge, our evolution from base primates into creatures slightly more advanced and reflective. Next time I build a shed I won’t demand that one of my daughters occupies a space beneath it, no more that I intend to rape a complete stranger because she happens to be in my company when I have an erection. If I tried to pull either of these stunts you’d rightly lock me up.

Humans learn. We move from the minus of ignorance to the plus of knowledge. It may be in years to come actions that we deem appropriate now are scorned upon, but today we continue to operate using the cognitive tools at our disposal. Imperfect us, wonderful us. Woeful us, remarkable us.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Year I Found My Voice

2011 has been significant for me. I've found my voice. I know where I stand. I'm on solid ground. For the most part this has come from distilling many of my thoughts and ideas, and then throwing them out there by way of this blog.
I started in April. A bit tentative, a bit uneasy, and over the past few months I've hit my stride and become increasingly able to be as candid as I wanted to.
This has sometimes caused offence. Sometimes provided a laugh or two. Above all, if the feedback I get counts for anything its got one or two of you thinking about things in new ways. And even if I haven't swayed anybody into changing opinion I've at least got folks engaging with a few alternative ideas. 
I've penned almost 240 of these now. I've covered a whole range of subjects ranging from religion, sex, obesity , riots, and even Kate Middleton's choice of hosiery. In every sense this blog is a thing of chaos, a reflection of the things I think about. I never went into this with a game plan or any particular agenda; I just wanted to think out loud and invite others to have a peep inside my world. You've probably noticed that's its disorderly and eccentric, and I expect the perception many have of me has changed. You'll know by now that I distrust religion whilst holding many religious friends in high esteem; or that I adore exploring sexuality and discussing taboo issues such as bondage, role play, and masturbation. You'll know I'm contemptuous of rioters without down playing the social morass that creates the conditions for them, and that I consider excess alcoholism and obesity to be real problems largely caused by individual life choices. My position on free speech is that  it's the one sacred thing we truly have, and I stand squarely against every last person who wishes to remove rights that have been hard earned, often in the blood and tears of incredible people. Perhaps above all you'll understand that for me evidence trumps faith every day, and science is the truest and most concise tool we have for understanding the world and our place in it.
As for next year, well who knows? I'm going to be starting a new job, and that's going to stretch me in new and challenging directions. The rest is all up for grabs. I don't know where the road is going to lead. Plans are all well and good but life can untangle them rudely, so whatever I do I'll never take a thing for granted.
Finally, I want to thank those of you who have taken time to read this. This blog has now received several thousand page views, and numbers appear to be gradually rising. Thank you for taking time out of your day to engage with this thing; I hope I've made you laugh and think and perhaps even shake your fists from time to time. The hunt for universal popularity is one of the most wasteful aspirations a human being can have, and I've long since decided that I'd take being interesting over being popular any day of the week.
I'll leave it to you to decide whether this year constitutes the proverbial mission accomplished.

Happy Christmas fellow denizens of planet Earth. And a happy new year.

Twilight Tedium

Perhaps 30 minutes isn't enough to form a full judgement, but I tried watching one of the Twilight films last night. As a cure for insomnia I can heartily recommend it, but as a piece of entertainment I would rather do a bungee jump with the cord attached to my nuts.
Didn't anybody teach werewolves and vampires to masturbate? That would at least have alleviated some of the sexual tension. The wolf could have used a cushion whilst the vampire; actually I don't know what the vamp could have done? No matter, the entire 30 minutes was spent waiting for something meaningful, for something interesting to occur. This was to be a wait in vain, however. I know, I know, I've just added to entire teen population of the western world to this list of those who'd like to see me tarred and feathered. Oh well, I'm always on the lookout to alienate a new demographic.
I initially thought my failure to comprehend this media phenomena was to do with my age, but then I simply decided that the story lacked drive, the characters dull, and the dynamic was turgid. This was bad movie making by anybody's standards; the film makers would do well to study the work of Christopher Nolan or JJ Abrams to learn how to spin a rollicking good yarn.
For goodness sake Mr angst ridden vampire and lamp post deprived werewolf; please please simply take a few moments to knock one out; I'm convinced that would have helped all concerned!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Avenue Of Glass

Show of hands please? How many of you have been dumped, or divorced, or rejected for perhaps other reasons? Ok, hands down, I already knew I wouldn't be the only one.
I bet you can remember those feelings. I bet you can retrieve them as quickly as you could pull your mobile from your pocket. Probably faster. There are plenty of unpleasant events that happen in our lives, but being rejected almost always creates a deep and often profound wound. How quickly it heals varies from person to person, perhaps even depends on what came before. Like it or not we're all products of our own story, and sometimes the script that's churned out could have done with a second draft. 
So what happened after? Those first few hours, days, weeks? How long did it take to sink in, when you finally registered that the other person just didn't have the commitment, the desire, the love? 
I can't say for sure, but I wonder whether it's worse for women? I only say this because self image is a normally a bigger deal for them? When a man says I don't want you, I don't desire you, don't want to be with you does it hurt as much as I suspect? And what then? The emotional storm that ebbs and flows; perhaps an early numbness combined with notions of rising above it? Only then like quicksand we get sucked down, a curdling anger seeping outward and a sense, perhaps misplaced, of savaged pride. Oh by the way, don't underestimate the pride bit; you can bet that most of the negative feelings that follow will have roots that go deep into its heart. 
How long was it before you were able to move on? Have you moved on? How much damage has been done? Is it harder to trust, tougher to see yourself as desirable to someone else? It's a shocker how self image can tie us all up in mental knots. Only here's the thing; your past doesn't have to dictate your future. What was doesn't automatically have to be again. For most people there's hope and possibilities, even though imagining that is often near impossible. And another thing; don't expect anybody else to appreciate you if you're not able to appreciate yourself. And I don't mean self adoration, but rather just a healthy appreciation of your own self worth, a recognition that you can be smart, sexy, engaging.
The reason for this blog? Today I heard accounts of how people's lives had been eroded by the behaviour of others. I heard about the wounds, the waste, the fear that some perfectly decent people have to endure. It doesn't surprise me that there's evil in the world, and yet I do feel we need to resist it. And part of that journey means we should sometimes just look in the mirror and say to ourselves, "I'm ok. I have qualities."
We've all got to start someplace. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Should I Apply?

I’m thinking of applying for the role of supreme leader of North Korea. As I understand it the jobs straightforward enough. The successful applicant receives God like status and his every word and deed is regarded as unquestionable and beyond reproach. So far, so good. The main criteria appear to be a commitment to dominating a population of millions, ensuring they are kept hungry, ignorant, and terrified. It’s also advantageous that they are regularly brainwashed into believing that the leader is actually doing them a favour by treating them in this way. Another fairly pivotal job requirement is to sporadically piss off the southern neighbours; they have after all succumbed to a rather nasty ailment known as democracy. Any money obtained from the bewildered populace, rather than re-investing in infrastructure and development can be diverted straight into a nuclear weapons program. Let the peasants starve by all means, but for goodness sake don’t build too few weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, I wonder whether I’m the right guy for this gig. Whilst I do a nice line in eccentric, I’ve little practical experience in being a despot. I’m also afflicted by a nasty malady referred to as empathy and compassion, which stops me doing stuff like eating babies and pulling the legs off kittens. I wonder whether my skill set would be best deployed elsewhere.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Problem With Pedestals

Is that one can only remain upon them for so long. In fact, the very act of being upon one is somewhat unnatural. Feels kind of awkward, and we have to be a bit too diligent, a bit too aware.
Happily, nobody of sane mind would seek to put me on a pedestal. And for the very simple reason that I, like you, don't belong there. Now here's a straightforward enough fact; during the course of our lives we're going to endear ourselves to some whilst alienating others. I'd actually argue that if you don't achieve this less than miraculous feat you're something of an introvert. For the most part this will happen easily enough; the real challenge comes from standing against those you counted as friends, speaking honestly about the things they might find hard or not really want to hear. This for me is when true friendship is defined; not in the times when the water is blue and calm, but when there's real tension and something is threatened. 
I've done this. I'm still doing it. I choose to.
Thing is, I've never knowingly done so from a point of moral superiority. I have too many faults of my own, too many idiosyncrasies, and more rough edges than I can venture here. No, as imperfect goes I'm as good a candidate as any, and nobody should treat my words as Gospel. Come to that, nobody should treat the Gospel as Gospel, but that's another gripe for another day.
What I'm advocating here is simply moral bravery; the courage to say what we feel for sincere reasons and in a clear manner. Now here's a strange paradox for you; one of the qualities I learned to hone as a Christian was the need to speak truthfully into all situations. It's a good discipline to nurture, yet here's the bizarre thing; it was this self same commitment that caused me to jettison religious belief. It had, if you like, taught me too well, and my faith became the proverbial caterpillar that evolved into a butterfly freethinker and skeptic. Funny how life sometimes produces odd outcomes?
Anyway, as I write this I'm going to try to take two things from the exercise. First, I'm never going to fit on that pedestal, and if I did by some absurd miracle manage to haul my carcass onto it, I'm convinced the whole thing would come crashing down around me. And second, I want to keep searching out what is true. Not what I want to be true, which is a quite different and utterly rancid thing, but what is actually true. 
So anyway about that pedestal; what say we just leave it empty? In fact, how about we use it to remind ourselves that we're not the finished article? That what we know today is nothing compared to what we could know, need to know?
I like the idea of that.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Unmet Friend

Strange how it is possible to grieve for a man I was never fortunate enough to meet. Actually scratch that, I've met Christopher Hitchens through his written words and debates untold times, and as I write this I am actually reading his autobiography, Hitch 22, a searingly honest account of his life, loves, and journey's across this war torn globe. A brilliant man, a brilliant mind, an agile speaker with the ability to illuminate and transform with the power of language.
He was a contrarian, steadfastly refusing to sit in any pigeon holes people might ascribe to him. He challenged authority, stood up for injustice, and called a spade a spade in a way that few could. YouTube is rich with videos of him destroying his opponents; he possesses a formidable rhetorical armoury that few could match. He wrote numerous books, including a critique of Mother Theresa titled mischievously "The Missionary Position" which gave some hint as to his views on mainstream religion. His 2007 best seller "God Is Not Great" propelled him to literary superstardom and earned him the disdain of the evangelical right. I recall the first time I heard him speak I was either still a Christian or certainly in the death throes of my faith. Through listening to him, reading him, and thinking about his arguments I was able to cast off what he described as the mind forged manacles of religion. In full flow he really was utterly devastating, and his loss at the age of 62 robs us of a true great and a hugely influential thinker. There is so much I want to write about this man, but above all as I compose this the overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude.
His death may be the end of him in physical form, but his words and thoughts will be forever immortalised and hopefully shared from generation to generation.
We seem to live in a world where people think only of the trivial and the trite; I often despair at just how few actually ask big questions and engage with what it truly means to be alive. Christopher Hitchens was an open Atheist, so had to live out his final days absent the fear soaked comfort blanket known as religion. No snivelling death bed conversion for him, no inane cry for the priest to lessen the inevitability of our own destruction. He died as bravely as he lived, a feat I desire to emulate, although I fear I do not have his raw courage.
One final thing; don't think that I raise this man onto a pedestal that blinds me to his undoubted many faults as a human. Pedestals are lethal things and none belong atop them. No, today I just want to acknowledge an immense fellow human being, a fellow traveller, and mourn the loss of a man who lived life to the very full.
Christopher Hitchens; I salute you. Farewell my unmet friend.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wouldn't It Be Lovely?

If tomorrow, every Muslim father went to his daughters, lovingly lifted their veil and said, "You require this no longer. You are beautiful, and this is good"

If somewhere in Africa, missionary's renounced religion, yet continued to help the afflicted, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

If in America, politicians no longer had to play the religion card in order to stand any chance of standing for office.

If theologians acknowledged that verbosity does not equal veracity, smiled gently in the direction of the skeptic and confessed, "The game's up. I've been trying to square the circle for too long. Forgive me, let's stand as brothers and make this a world worth living on."

If Creation scientists came clean and acknowledged, "The Bible has nothing to say about science. I am wrong. Help me to understand how the world really is."

If the Christian woman, weighed down with heavenly self loathing looked skyward and saw only the sun and said, "I don't need this grief. I don't need to please a figment of my imagination. I am a good and decent person, and where I'm not I'll just try harder rather than ask a non existent God to help."

If the Christian man abandoned the daily battle to repress their perfectly natural sexuality, and instead just laughed and said, "Oh heck, this thing in my trousers doesn't half send me barmy sometimes."

If the religious parents of a sick child ceased to rely only on prayer and instead sought medical help, not fearing diving wrath.

If nations ensnared by millennia of religious in fighting said to each other,  "No, the light of reason must illuminate the way. We must not let doctrines of old poison us and reduce us to living in enclaves of fear and mistrust.

If the citizens of Africa were taught about birth control and condom use, ignoring the preacher or the Imam who insists that such practices lead straight to a fiery hell.

If young girls were spared the torture of genital excision; those performing the rituals hanging up blunt tools and saying, "My ways are evil and no longer will I mutilate and rip asunder."

And finally, if one day we could admit honestly to ourselves that whilst we are so imperfect, we are also precious and unique. And moreover, we are a remarkable chapter in what is perhaps the greatest story ever told.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Rick Perry - The Man Without A Clue

As things stand, Rick Perry's anti gay Christmas message on YouTube has now reached legendary proportions. It has received 697,000 dislikes, which takes some doing. Moreover, it has spawned a tsunami of parody videos, some of which are of formidable quality.
For the uninitiated, Rick Perry is a Republican Presidential candidate, and evangelical Christian, or at least that's what we had all thought.  He is about as American as Apple pie, and appears to be a male clone of Sarah Palin. Sarah with a dick, if you like. In all my years of watching Christians self destruct on the alter of inanity, I don't think I've ever encountered a more spectacular example. And trust me I've seen a few. I find myself wondering; if he had changed his mind about wanting to be President, why not just say so? Why create a video that so remarkably misses the public mood and instead taps straight into the femoral artery of the evangelicals? I can only assume it was a calculated risk, although whomever made the calculation really has something to answer for. 
These gays; scary things. They touch each other! They have a little tinkle with each others bits, and if you love Jesus this just won't do. Because if there's anything that makes the baby Jesus cry its penis's that get too close to each other. I've previously likened it to the scene at the end of Ghosbusters when the team argue about crossing the beams. It would be bad. Oh so very bad. 
Ok, let's ease off for a minute and consider just what it takes to even consider holding the kind of views that Governor Perry holds? What force of nature can create such fear of another demographic that it will actively campaign to deny them rights and privileges?
Oh yeah, Christianity. That didn't take much working out, did it? Good old Jesus worship, or zombie worship as I prefer to call it. Cos' lets face it, that's what we call people who rise from the dead isn't it? So let's gets this straight then, Rick; you were told by a zombie that when penis's or vagina's come too close together this will somehow bring about the end of the world? That people of the same gender cannot love, cannot feel, cannot be drawn to one another in the fullest possible way? You strange, sorry, uneducated man. What more need be said for either him or his followers today? Happily, the people have been sending him and Christian bigots a clear message since his video went viral, and the message goes thus; We're happy for you to hold any personal beliefs you want, and have no desire to make laws or legislate against you. We recognise and respect your right to be heard, and ask no more than you extend this same courtesy to other groups of people. If you do this we can all live harmoniously, and perhaps engage with some issues that we all consider pressing such as climate change, population, economic growth and human rights. 
Surely Baby Jesus is cool with that?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Only Bad Guys Climax First

I think men who deliberately climax first should be penalised. Perhaps they should be required to go shopping with their beau, or forced to sit through a whole episode of X Factor? I really do feel that the punishment fits the crime.
I mean guys, it's all well and good you going off like an express train and leaving your long suffering partner high and dry, but ask yourself, is this showing love in any meaningful sense? And let's be honest, once we're done the enthusiasm is going to wane for us, and our minds are liable to turn to watching football, playing Call Of Duty, or taking the dog for a walk. Well I think we should put a stop to this malarkey and create a new law that prevents men from ejaculating first.
Seriously, I do find it hard to comprehend how a man could do such a thing? Perhaps it's just the way I'm wired, but I love giving pleasure and encouraging a partner to discover their sexuality. I've been this way for as long as I can remember, and would go as far as to say that I consider the other persons needs more important than my own. And here's the thing; when you do this you'll often find that this is reciprocated, and that intimacy goes to new depths, which is what it's all about, isn't it? You might be wondering what's got me thinking about this today, and no I'm not feeling frisky just in case you're getting ahead of yourself. I'm probably just doing a bit of cheer leading and encouraging a more outward looking attitude to sex and sexuality. It's such a potential gold mine of human experience I often think our failure to communicate on the issue constitutes a real missed opportunity, and I wonder how many couples are having an average sex life when they could be having a spectacular one? I've long since advocated a more open attitude, and think our minds and our bodies, when shared in an intimate relationship can open up levels of communication that transcend words. If you doubt this recall the most intense sexual experience you ever had; I'm confident that in those moments you were lost and caught up in something spectacular. As a man I want to facilitate this journey, to walk with my partner and help them find such experiences more regularly. And why? Well I love to see people fulfilled, to feel valued and cherished and understood. This is all the more important when we find it hard to express issues of sexuality without embarrassment or fear of scorn. Newsflash; we all have fantasies; they're all different. And so long as everything is safe, sane, and consensual then what are you worried about?
Once again, If you think I'm being a sexual zealot then too bad. I'm neither seeking your approval or fearing your disdain. I'm just trying to acknowledge what is a real part of our nature and bring it a bit more into the open.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Another Day, Another Moron

According the Bill Donohue, head of the American Catholic League, as an Atheist I “Believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”
I have to confess, I was not aware of this? He's got me thinking, though, so I figured I'd put his assessment to the test.
I believe in lots of things. Oxygen and gravity to name just two. I believe there's a reasonable chance the sun will rise tomorrow, that I will get out of bed, and have at least one thought of a sexual nature. I believe strongly that I'll dwell on that last one far longer than I probably need to.
In terms of what I stand for? Well I value truth and honesty, courage and self reflection. And I sure value living fully and passionately and being open to new experience. I also stand for challenging delusion in all it's forms, which as you might imagine keeps me rather busy.
And as for what I'm good for? Well he should ask any women I've ever gone down on.
Oh come on, you weren't seriously expecting me to spend long on this basket weaver, were you?

He's just too much!!

My best friend taught me everything I know about being open. By way of example, if she hasn't told you about the intimate workings of her womb and pelvic floor within the first five minutes of meeting it means she doesn't like you. Ok, that's marginally over the top, but I do owe her a lot for helping me out of my shell. I think I've probably earned myself a reputation for being candid, and the more you get to know me the worse it gets. For some reason, the subjects that society finds taboo I can't get enough of. So be it religion, sex, or whatever just bring it on. I should probably come with a health warning, something along the lines of "Exposure to Rob may seriously damage your social skills"
What I mean to say is that I do get bored very easily. I just like to go straight to the lively stuff, because at the end of the day that's where it's at isn't it? By the way, this also makes me a very acquired taste. Some people love the fact that I'm so socially inept, whilst others would gladly refer me to the nearest mental health practitioner without seeking my approval before hand.
Know something? I don't want to change. I like cutting to the chase, and similar people will be ok with that. I think I have sufficient discernment to know when not to dive in, but if you give me even the slightest wisp of openness I'm going to have your intellectual knickers off quicker than you can say jack flash.
Pet hates as follows; political correctness, lack of honesty, absence of genuineness. If you manifest these then I'm off. Got better things to do than to play games. And unlike most people I don't need a drop of alcohol to open up; the latch is already undone so you need only nudge the door.
Have I always been this way? Not so much. It's just that over the last few years I've wanted to project an honest image; I can't find it in my heart to play games or suffer fools gladly. I'm sometimes right and I'm sometimes wrong, and Lord knows the words don't always come out well. But if you can look beyond that, and if outrageous conversation is as fun for you as it is for me then we'll get along just fine.

The Lonely Highway

I was watching a video this morning from a former preacher called Dan Barker, who is vice president of the Freedom from religion foundation. He was talking about the plight of the many clergy that have lost faith, yet remain in their position and continue to preach. You might consider that these men and women are being grossly dishonest, and that it would be better for all concerned for them simply to walk quietly into the night and find a new career. To say this is to misunderstand the power of religion, and the way that it infiltrates every aspect of a persons life. For many of these closet atheists they were born and raised as believers, probably training at devotional college and forsaking other career choices. What to do then, when the penny drops? When the veil is drawn back to find that their lives have been built on mistruth?
An important caveat; that alone is a painful experience; leaving religion left me physically and emotionally damaged for some time, and I wasn't involved in the Ministry. Imagine you are pastor to hundreds, perhaps thousands of believers; added to which you have a believing wife and children born and raised to learn the "truth" of their faith on Mothers knee.  Take one thing from this blog people; those around you who shared your error can offer no support in the extrication process. The road is often walked alone, under incredible psychological pressure, with everybody around you imploring you not to do the one thing you know deep inside that you have to do. Nobody wants to discover they have been deceived, and I see people fight tooth and nail to cling on to faith, deploying all kinds of wild rationales to avoid the monumental changes that leaving religion requires. It's roots go deep, like the growth of ivy around a derelict building, choking and denying them a view of the real world. Religion is like a lens, distorting reality, making the unreal seem real, disabling peoples moral compass in ways that sometimes beggar belief. This is not to say that the devout aren't by any standards magnificent people; they are sincere and generous and almost always lovely. Which brings me to my own personal struggle; how do I live consistently as a non believer when in the company of the devout? The truth is, I haven't got a strategy, and have resolved myself to letting it unfold on a person by person basis. My blog allows me to share my views, whilst my published articles get my voice a little bit further afield. Yet on a personal level I tend to let my relationships develop or fade naturally. I have one or two Christian friends with whom I have an even closer relationship now, and whilst we disagree we do so with enjoyment and mutual respect. There are others that I expect remain a bit wary, and in these cases I only express myself If they ask me direct questions or say something I just cannot palate.
Going back to my original point, I don't feel we should be too hasty to condemn those who are trapped in the religious life. To leave is to pull the whole tree out of the ground root and branch, and it destroys many friendships and alliances on the way. And what does an ex-preacher do in this economy? How hard must it be to set the counter to zero and face the prospect of beginning again, often with nothing but a sincere heart and a good working ethic? No, I cannot condemn these souls; I understand something of their journey and the painful road underfoot.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Christmas Verse

Into the shops searching for bargains, anxious store managers bemoaning low margins. Credit cards pounded as debts overload, the January debt causing homes to implode.
The Wii and the Apple are top of our yearning, no matter the scale or the scope of our earning. They fly off the shelves with invisible money the absence of which we now rarely find funny.
Yet this is the season where reason is flouted, our good sense torn grimly asunder. Our cash swapped for plunder whilst big banks go under, our common sense now but a cold empty tundra.
The money we spend we just cannot afford cos' we need to pay back all those big banks abroad.  The euro it crumbles with no end in sight, rich bankers hand wringing bemoaning their plight.

At home just for now it's a different story, the future put grimly on hold. The Christmas trees up and the gifts are all wrapped but the misery's yet to unfold.
Christmas day comes and then Christmas day goes, the frost and cold nibbling our toes. The house is alive with the drink freely flowing, yet deep in our gut our anxiety's growing.
The wrappings recycled, the bottles are gone, the music no more than residual song. The food that's been wasted, this ugly excess, we're fools to be poking at this hornets nest. And lest we forget in our rush to consume that there's no guarantee that bust leads to boom. We've all grown too comfy, our senses have dimmed as we spend and we squander anew, refusing to accept that we now face a different view. And January comes with a shape at the door, a postman amidst frosted glass. A rattle a thunk and the bills on the floor, the enemy silent, returning once more. So a new year begins as the old one concluded, our good sense long gone or perhaps just deluded? So onto the treadmill we climb once again, bemoaning our burgeoning debt.  One really has to wonder, "Ain't we got the message yet?"

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Teflon Non Stick God

I stumbled across a Facebook status update this morning that made me smile. It went thus; "Church on a bike this morning. Creator God in the beauty of all he has made. Fabulous."
Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that the poster had seen lots of lovely things during the ride; perhaps a dreamy sky, some intoxicating landscape, children playing? I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but it was the underlying motivation behind the status update that got me thinking.
This person had seen something lovely. It made them think of God. I wonder then, what that same person thinks when they see something that is a bit on the unsavoury side? Perhaps other natural phenomena such as a dog turd? or images on television of a child stricken by a parasite that eats its way through the eyeball causing terrible suffering. The actual parasite I refer to is loa loa filariasis, caused by the nematode worm, and it only really does its business in the eyes of the stricken child; in fact it cannot do so anywhere else. Would my intoxicated Christian cyclist be so quick to give glory to the same Creator God, whom presumably created this wee beastie, and gave it the required skill set to perform its magic inside the eyes of children in sub Saharan Africa?
Confession; there was a time when a majestic sunset, or a summer glade or a frozen winterscape would have prompted similar thanks from yours truly. Much of the world is beautiful, and I’m often given reason to draw breath or shake my head in wonder. I’m not seeking to mock this person either; rather I just want to illustrate an inconsistency. When the world is at its best, when the sun shines, when that rebate comes through, when our child passes that exam then praise the Lord. Yet when sun turns the landscape to dust,or the inland revenue demand a chunk of money back, or a loved one suffers we seek to lay the blame elsewhere? I’m unclear why some of us do this so easily? It seems to me that their God can do no wrong? They appear to worship a non-stick God, a Teflon God, like those clever saucepans we can buy?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

No Casanova

I have always been spectacularly unsuccessful when it comes to dating. Thankfully I found a lady prepared to take pity on me and dive sufficiently far down the evolutionary ladder, sparing me the continued embarrassment of romantic failure.
I blamed this on being a slightly overweight teen. Puppy fat, but fat nonetheless; just enough to be crossed off the list of teenage desirables. I countered this, or so I thought at the time, by trying to be either funny or crass, and in so doing achieved the feat of being even less attractive for my efforts.
The odd thing is, I've never felt any discomfort around women. Quite the opposite. Having two older sisters probably taught me that these strange alien creatures were not that strange and alien afterall. I do recall, at the age of 12 having a crush on a certain Joanne Chapman, who for reasons best known to herself agreed to "Go out" with me. Going out, please note, involved standing around at break times, both having the excruciating feeling of having nothing to say to each other. To combat this I actually bought a box of Milk Tray one day which she gracefully accepted. A few days later however the same chocolates were handed back to me unopened via my then teacher. Happily, this was to coincide with Mothers day so the chocolate didn't go entirely to waste. Never let it be said that I cannot turn a negative into a plus.
I've always had a fairly self effacing attitude towards my own inadequacies, adopting the view that I may just as well be at the head of the queue rather than having to join it. I think that during my teenage years I just tried too hard, wanted to impress too much, and in so doing never really reflected who I was. Truth was, and still is, I'm actually a fairly gentle soul. Don't be fooled by some of my blogs; I'm deliberately contrarian when I write because it makes the whole exercise more fun to compose and, so I'm told, more fun to read. As I became an older teenager I lost the puppy fat, toned up, and became a marginally more attractive specimen, although I still had the brain of a walnut combined with the mouth of a planet. So still not exactly a catch, then. 
I was never the kind of guy who had a lot of girlfriends anyway. Beyond the bravado I was actually quite shy and largely clueless. It was many years before I learned that the only image worth projecting is an honest one, and that no amount of window dressing is going to make a person desirable in the long term. I do recall having quite a fear of rejection, possibly linked to some the abuse you get as a "fat" kid. Funny how the critique you get during those early years hangs around in the dusty vaults of our minds. A nasty little voice always ready to remind us of our lesser qualities. Still, in my case it was probably a good thing. Anything that curbed my arrogance was a plus. Again, how much of this was just a cover, just window dressing behind which the real man cowered?
Oh well, too early to think too deep. Suffice to say that I may as well just come clean and admit to myself that I never had the ladies falling over themselves to get to me. And even if they had I'm not sure I would have known what to do with them once they arrived?

Post Impact

It was strange contemplating the prospect of repeating a journey precisely 24hrs after having nearly killed myself on it the day before. An involuntary shiver passed through me as I was on my lunch break, which incidentally was at three this morning. I am aware now that I spent much of yesterday in shock without apprehending it. Shaking for three hours was probably the giveaway, but I hadn't put the pieces together at the time. I wonder how many inches differentiated between what was a side swipe, as opposed to a head on collision? I was lucky to experience the former rather than the latter.
So anyway, that's my car buggered. Royally, as it happens. Front wheel at some absurd angle, the offside door steadfastly refusing to close. The cost of the repair would likely flirt too closely with the actual cost of the vehicle, meaning that as they say, is that.
Still, could be worse. I could be in hospital. Worse, I could have hospitalised someone else. And this is the worst of it; I'm perfectly prepared to be the author of my own downfall, but to inconvenience and harm others is to me a horrible thing. And beyond the accident itself I now deprive my wife and children of the other car by virtue of my need to use it for work. Joy and I had talked about doing this, but I don't believe she had expected my decision to be quite so unilateral. You know something, that woman is spectacular. Between me making the call from the roadside and her appearing with warm drinks and biscuits was probably half an hour. In this time she'd got the girls dressed and dropped off at a good friends. And not once since has she been critical of me, preferring to express her gratitude that I walked away unscathed. I do not deserve her. I don't think I ever did.