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Saturday, 30 November 2013

It Isn't A Crime

It isn't a crime to encourage people to think. It isn't a sin to ask people to reflect on how they know what they know. The skill is in how you do it, and the attitude you have towards those you engage with. From previous blogs you will know that I am far more relaxed about these things now, but I still think truth matters. How we see the world, and the skills we use to reach those conclusions really does say something about us. I'm not in the businesses of trying to win arguments these days. It's enough that I simply live in such a way that people know that I value reason and evidence and the pursuit of truth. It's almost certain that I am wrong about a great many things, but I have an absolute commitment to changing my mind when the evidence demands it of me. I cannot stress how important it is that I take time to listen to what you have to say,because if I do not listen how can I ever hope to understand? If I do not take account of your view how could I even attempt to critique it? You see where this is going, right? Those things on the side of your head; do try to make good use of them. They have a big say in what goes on inside, in that space in the middle. Perhaps more important, and I confess I was slow to grasp this, stop trying to win arguments or score points. I've learned that this is just an abject waste of time. Some people do not want to be continually questioning the world. Some people see things in a set way, and to change would be to abandon too much, to be stripped of something core to them. Whilst I do find this frustrating, I kind of understand their reluctance. I find new ideas exiting, and I genuinely get a kick out of rattling my own cage. I don't like to stay unchanged and I want to be open to new experience and new information. This is just the way I'm wired. And yes, I know it makes me hard to be around. Never quite sure of what tangent I'm going to arc off on. I offer no apology. I fear being entrenched, in growing so old and stagnant. It must be terrifying to be so in fear of the new and different? I'd much rather remain on my toes, not just alert but actively seeking to understand the way the world is. It isn't for everyone, but it's an itch that I still need to scratch.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

It's Not Gonna' Water Itself.

If we spent less time trying to find the right partner, and more time trying to be the right partner, I am convinced fewer relationships would break down. In fact, I believe this with every fibre of my being. I'd go so far as to call it a no brainer. First off, it recognises that we have to take ownership of things, acknowledging that we really can influence the quality of an alliance. It also requires us to remain attentive to the ebb and flow of a relationship, and be ever vigilant in regard to how our other halves are doing. More than that, to adopt this perspective is to recognise that laziness and lack of attention equal a fast track to the kind of corrosion that can bring potentially good relationships to an end. I consider myself hugely fortunate to have a wife who shares the same level of commitment, and an ongoing desire to make things better and even more fun. And it is meant to be fun, isn't it? I'm assuming you didn't hook up to erode the quality of each other's lives? Why then, is this how so many partnerships end up?
I don't get it? Why would you allow something with so much potential, with such good ingredients to become so stagnant and remote? I'm sorry guys, but I don't think we can automatically blame the other person, either. It's idiotic to declare that someone isn't meeting your needs if you haven't communicated what those needs are. Or worse, when you've done that thing where you automatically expect your other half to read your mind. I've done this, I have been that Muppet. And I can't recall a single instance when this approach worked. Far as I can see it's a near perfect recipe for resentment, antipathy, and ultimately failure. So how about we're just honest with ourselves and admit that we have a massive responsibility to not just understand the needs of our partner, but to make ourselves understood. There just doesn't seem to be an alternative to good old fashioned communication. But communication is just a word, itself toothless if not accompanied by self awareness and a desire to listen. Relationships do not stay the same because people do not stay the same. The black art is accepting this, and evolving in such a way that allows all to remain fulfilled. You can be sure that the person you are today is different from who you were a few years ago. Just like the person you'll be in five years will differ from who are now. Which leaves you with a choice. You can flit from partner to partner, convinced that you haven't met the mythical creature commonly referred to as "The one", or you can try your hand at making your current relationship a thing of warmth and intimacy and beauty. You can set about the task of building something awesome and inspiring, and commit to not just surviving but flourishing. It's more than possible, and the rewards are huge. But it isn't going to cultivate itself

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

View From The Bridge

Let it be. No, not that song by the Beatles; It’s kind of my new mantra. This blog is a follow on from the last, and I wanted to convey what I hope is a more measured approach to thinking about the world. You see, I’m 42 now, and I hope I’ve a few good years left in the tank. And I want to spend those years in a generally positive frame of mind, which means refraining from some of the negative patterns that I allowed to take hold. This isn’t to say I’ve lost my passion for truth and integrity and living with energy and verve. Quite the opposite; I value these things more than ever. It’s just that I want to enjoy the ride, and help others to enjoy it, too. Any reader of my blog can see that I have often been aggressive in my criticism of various ideas. I’ve no regrets, and I haven’t had a change of heart. It’s just that as part of moving on I want to spend less time at war with the world and more time celebrating its wonders.  And what a world it is. What incredible possibilities exist amidst it? There is just so much I want to do, so many places I want to see; it would be a crime to let the past drag me into a whirlpool of perpetual self reflection. I cannot change the past. I do not want to. For good or ill it’s the only launch pad any of us truly have. I know that many who read this have had desperately difficult lives. And I understand how trauma can leave a person beaten and dejected and mired. If this is how you feel today then I feel nothing but compassion for you. But can I also strike the following call to arms? Your past does not have to dictate your future. You don’t have to live as a victim, or exist in a state of permanent mourning. There comes a point, irrespective of the hand we’ve been dealt when all that is left is to decide where do we go from here? So that’s my question? And I ask it to you even as I ask it to myself? I don’t know how many years I have left, but what I do know is that I want to spend them as constructively and positively as I can. I want new experiences, new horizons, and I want to enable and empower others to do likewise. So if you are in a dark place now can I encourage you just to pause for breath? If you have the strength just raise your head and try to understand that nobody wins if we allow ourselves to be slaves to a past we cannot change. I genuinely think that there comes a time when, regardless of how painful, we have to forge ahead. We have to change. We have to become more than we are today. For your own sake try to look upward, look outward, and get help if you need it. Your future isn’t carved in stone. And it may surprise you. But here’s the thing, you cannot keep a foot in both worlds. Ok, well perhaps you can, but I don’t see what you stand to gain? I’m not asking you to be blind to all that made you what you are. I just think that in order to venture seaward we need to push ourselves off from the shore. The land will still be there. There on the horizon if ever you need or want to look back. But you will be free to travel lighter, faster, and be more agile. Do you really think you don’t deserve that?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The War Is Over

I spent 13 years as a religious believer, and then 7 more years arguing just as passionately against it. That's 20 years. That's a long time. As I reflect I come to realise that the war within me is over. Peace has been declared. I do not need to prove myself right, or others wrong. And if I had the chance to change anything I would politely decline. My religiosity and subsequent apostasy have made me what I am, and in a certain sense I can give a nod to both. Had I not explored religion I would never have met let alone married Joy, an idea incomprehensible to me. Whilst had I not rejected belief I may never have had the privilege of reading and reflecting on some of the most agile minds of our age. I am, as we all are, products of our own journey. Had I not walked this road I would be different, lesser, narrower. I am grateful for even the difficult moments, for they refined me. And I am equally proud to have made so many meaningful associations on both ends of the spectrum. But the war is over. I don't need to fight with the universe, with the big questions anymore. I just want to live this life in the most real and genuine sense, fully open to all the experiences that may come my way. I am 42 now, and perhaps I should have a fixed set of perspectives. I actually don't, though. There is no opinion that I have that is carved in stone, no mantra so sacred that I wouldn't change it if the evidence required me to. I still believe kindness trumps malice, and that honesty trumps falsehood. But I never want to be so fixated on a view that I wouldn't budge. So I guess my openess is a kind of gateway, and it gives me permission to be right, to be wrong, to be enquiring and without bias. I probably spent too long wanting to be certain, to have a fixed point I could build myself around. No more. It just doesn't seem worth it. So if its all the same to you I'm going to be a reed blowing in the wind. I'm going to let life happen. I'm going to roll with it. I'm going to keep my eyes open and just take it all in.
13 years believing it. 7 years fighting it. I think that's long enough.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Where's The Love In This?

Its funny what images stick in the mind. A couple of weeks ago I'm walking the dog, and up ahead I see this really large kid crossing the road. When I say large I mean obese. Morbidly obese. Obese in a way you don't often see in kids. And here's the thing; I found myself feeling angry towards his parents, whom I expect i will never meet. I mean this kid couldn't have been more than 9 or 10, yet he was heavier than most full grown adults. Now I'm a parent myself, and I cannot imagine any circumstance under which I would stand by and watch a child of mine develop habits that will pretty much ensure a rendezvous with an early grave. So the question I have is really simple; where's the love in allowing a kid to develop this way? Under what conditions could this in any way benefit them? And what must the parents be thinking? Are they thinking? Do they care? Is it simply the case that they are large themselves?

I don't want this to be perceived as a rant against obesity. Whilst I do struggle to apprehend why people choose to self harm using food (And it is self harm) I accept that adults have the freedom to live as they chose and treat their own body as they see fit. But with this kid what the parents appear to be doing is either passively or actively supporting a lifestyle destined to lead to unhappiness, low self esteem, and in all probability premature death.

Where is the love in any of this? Where is the desire to see our children flourish? What do we teach them when we do so little to enhance their wellbeing.? Look, I know some of you are probably feeling a little irked with me for putting in my two cents. It's just that I don't get it? I don't understand. The parents of this child are killing him. Slowly, efficiently, silently. If we learned of parents whom introduced their kids to narcotics we would be aghast. Social services would be all over the family like a bad smell. Why not this? Isn't the outcome likely to be just as awful? Why accept one form of abuse whilst allowing other types to go unchecked?

I'll quit now. But I'm going out with a bang. Part of raising kids is teaching them self control, self discipline. And sometimes this means saying no to them. It means taking a sterner line, adopting a longer term view. Reality check; we don't own our children. We're stewards, and we have them for such a brief time. Let's give them the best possible chance to flourish in what is an increasingly challenging world. To do otherwise is about as far removed from love as you can get.