May You Be ...

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Sunday, 27 May 2012

May you be happy
May you be peaceful
May you be free of disease in mind and body
May you live in joy and harmony with all beings.

May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be free of disease in mind and body
May I live in joy and harmony with all beings.


Professionalisation Schmofessionalisation

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Friday, 25 May 2012

Apparently blogging is going the way of the analogue phone, the mangle, the iron. It is not the uber coolest in school any more the way it was in 1995. Its allure is fading like bell bottom jeans, snaking the line from must-have-item back to what-the-hell-was-I-thinking? irrelevance and derision.

Well, okay, maybe things are not that bad. But it certainly does feel like there is not the warm fuzziness that there once was with blogging, where there seemed to be more of a community spirit.  But maybe that's just my personal perception.  Blogging has changed for me, too.
 
I partly blame professionalisation. With every new article about 10 Ways to Bring Traffic to Your Blog and tips on smartening it up with SEO, the lustre has gone down a notch and the self-consciousness has risen.  Who am I to say these things?  Is this not self-indulgent twaddle? With every company that's started up a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account, the blogosphere gets a new pimple on its arse and a little bit of fun goes out of everything. Blogging has gone from something that people do to express themselves, to something people do to be seen, to display their brand, to Get Ahead.

Yawn.

The word "brand" is not only dirty to me, it's boring, tedious and soul-diminishing. I'm not at all immune to the whole "your blog is your persona to the world. What if an editor somehow clicks through to your blog and the post they come upon is some hastily scrabbled-together mess, and then you lose out?" dictums for a professionalised blogspace. And I'm also not immune to thinking, "Oh, that post didn't get as much reaction as the one before.  Maybe I should take it down.  How is the world going to see me if I have this post up here?"  But then again, even though I do grapple with those things, it's all ultimately - yawn. Are there not enough things to hang my anxiety hat on throughout the day without worrying about things like that?  Do I really want to Get Ahead that much?  (Yes.  When it comes to writing, yes, I do.  Unfortunately.)  Do I want to do it in a straightjacket?  (No. Or at least not one that comes from excessive worrying about my "platform", or turning my platform from something that's fun to something that's Furthering My Career.)

UPDATE

And one more thing - I feel disturbed transcribing court cases as I do which involve family breakups and divorce how much focus there is on having professionals give evidence over non-professionals, the dweebs, the losers who don't know anything because they haven't got bits of papers and accreditations under their belts.  So the focus is on psychologists and family report writers, professionals who may only see these people for relatively short periods of time considering the seriousness of what is at stake, but their evidence is given uber weight simply because they are professional and understand the court system.  There is something very out of balance there, to me.

Chronologically Challenged

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

I am, it has to be said, a little challenged when it comes to lying.  Oh, of course I do it - everybody lies.  Everybody lies and if they tell you they don't ... etc.  I generally lie when my back is against the wall and there is something someone wants to know and I'm either not ready or able to tell them about it, or I don't know how to tell them about it without hurting their feelings.  But I can't say I even do that very often (unless, of course, I do it all the time, and the real lying is the sort going on from myself to myself, but for all that I can see, that's not the case).

In the grand scheme of things, keeping it honest is for me the best kind of personal policy.  Some of that has to do with the fact that my memory is basically kinda shithouse, and if I lie about stuff then I have to remember I've lied about it, and all sorts of complications start happening then in a world that already smacks me about the head with its over-complication every morning before brekky.

I like the feel of honesty.  I'm too honest sometimes - I have been known in past incarnations to suffer foot in mouth disease.  The face in front of me drops after I've said something.  Sometimes I say something and realise, after it hits the air, that no, no, no, that's not what I meant.  It sounds much worse than it did in my head, and I wish I could take it back and say it better, in another way that more accurately reflects what I am really trying to get at.  I can say though, thankfully, that I have improved on this in recent years, so whoever said miracles are not possible doesn't know me :)

I like the feel of honesty because it feels like a big spacious field full of grass and trees and cows and me and nothing else.  Whirling-around space.  That's how being honest feels to me, and chuck in a semi-trailer full of conscientiousness and it means that if you come to me with a question and a desire for feedback about yourself, and it's the kind of question that is delicate and could hurt your ego but you want to know, I'll tell you.  'Cause sometimes you want feedback and everybody around you is too scared to tell you.  I reckon that's some sort of sacred ground, really.  Those situations make my stomach clench, but they also make me feel honoured that someone would trust me enough to come with their hands full up with vulnerable and ask for my help.

I've just been watching Neil Gaiman address a gang of newly-graduated American university students.  In it he talks about how he got his first journalistic breaks - by lying, basically.  To score writing gigs, he told potential editors that he had been published in several different sources that he had not, thus scoring said gigs.  This is the sort of lying I like - chutzpah lying.  But even if technology didn't nowadays prohibit the telling of such porkie pies, I just don't think I'd have the guts.  But I kinda like that he did.

Even better, I like the fact that after he scored that first publishing gig, he set about putting his conscience to rights by proceeding to go about trying to be published in all of those sources.  This ensured, he said, that "I hadn't actually lied;  I'd just been chronologically challenged."


Creating the Clay From Which You Carve Out The Story

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

I've been reading a post over at Writer Unboxed about going deeper to find those "crunchy" story ideas that create the sort of writing that make people sit up and take notice.

I love what the writer, Robin LeFevers says here:

But here’s the thing: we writers don’t have so much as a block of marble or lump of clay or even paints with which to create. Writers are required to produce the material from which they will then craft the book. So recognize that your early drafts and story journaling are essentially creating the material, rather than writing the story you will be telling.

Straight away this image popped into my head (yes, Kel, I think it would be a wonderful side trip to draw or otherwise engage said image :)   I got this image of a writer standing in front of a giant mound of ... well, I guess from a distance it could look like a rubbish heap.  On closer inspection, there is some weird shit in there - arms, and flaps of clothing, and keys, and cars, and purses and elephants and things that you don't even really know what they are until the third draft.  A big teetering mound.

And then you start to craft.  And then after that you start to write your story.

I loveses this :)

Myth and Reality

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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

"What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something,
but reality is that about which truth is)" ¬ CS Lewis


I remember when I first came upon CS Lewis's writing.  I had perhaps read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, but it was as a young adult who was considering the whole Jesus question where I first fell in love with his mind.  He had such a great ability to bring his beautiful abstract ideas down into lands that I could walk about in, and that delightful way of his extended into his Christianity as well, something I was starving for.  At that time in my life, I felt that I had apprehended something - or someone - true.  I had begun to believe that maybe this Jesus was who he claimed to be.  But I was confused.  Surrounding what I perceived as wonderful (and scary, but liberating in some way I could barely comprehend) were giant cesspools of the most tedious variety - religion, small-mindedness, control-freaked, half-living, fearful people.  I found it so difficult to reconcile what it was that I felt I had experienced on a mystical level with of this giant mound of bullshit that existed out in the world as apparently some sort of expression of that.

If Jesus was an amazing story-made-flesh, Christianity was a control-freak Dan Brown, who had taken the story and squashed it down into something formulaic, bland, feeble, and badly written to boot, and turned it all into a fable.

These days I have swung back the other way when it comes to Jesus.  I'm not at all convinced any more that he existed as the historical person that he has been cemented into by Christianity (and even if he was, I'm not so sure modern evangelical Christianity could ever hope to approach a high enough plateau where he becomes a beautiful thirst crusher, seeing the terrain on the way to that plateau involves metaphor, not-knowingness, and a worldview far closer to Buddhist and Hindu thought than Western thought - which of course to an evangelical Christian could be equated to selling your soul to the devil, being the sole owners of the truth as Western evangelical Christians apparently are.

I am not entirely happy with this swing of mine.  It's been quite difficult.  Because I really did once hold quite firm convictions that this Jesus not only existed, but that he existed now and was available to consort with those who wished to consort with him.  I sensed regularly and often that I was doing this consorting.  And the thing is, I still believe that this type of thing happens.  My swing has not been on the grounds of inability to tolerate metaphysics.  All of the main world religions (I'm including Buddhism in here) sit quite comfortably with some variation of the idea that those who have gone before and ascended in some manner are available to assist those living on the earth.  It is a bizarre and childish concept to the scientifically minded postmodernist ... which in turn is fascinating when you consider that modern physics has identified that realms in fact exist that are not apparent to the general senses of the average human being. 

So my crisis of faith in the truth of the Jesus I once thought I knew is not so much on worldview grounds as it is on historical ones.  There is simply not enough evidence there for me to be comfortable with putting all my eggs in that particular truth basket.

(When I read back on blog posts I have written here in previous years, a part of me that I'm not particularly proud of is uncomfortable.  It wants to take the posts off here that sound so sure of Jesus, of his place in the world as redemptor, and revert them back to draft form for my own eyes only). 

On the level of myth*, however, Jesus is a whole other story.  The reality that Jesus has always pointed to is still completely and utterly there for me.  The feeling of what he represents, as if he is someone I've known in the past.  Simply an archetype, perhaps.  Or - who knows? - perhaps it is I who have walked off into the bushes and the Christians are right (oh, how dreadful that they would be right), and he is true.  But even if he is not truth, I still think he is reality.  And this is where I fall silent.  The words attributed to this Jesus, whether spoken by him, or by a conglomerate, are still so profound that they never fail to have the same impact they have always had.  Maybe even more.  Now that I'm well and truly sitting on the outskirts of Christianity, covered in sores the dogs are licking, spat on by passing literal Christians,  I can see his words even better than before.  Out here in the darkness, their light shines just as brightly as it always has.  They are freer than ever.  They have always been free.

¬¬¬¬

Myth is not a dirty word.  It is beautiful.  Clive Staples Lewis knew this.  So do people when they are free and unconstrained by the straitjacket that Christianity tries to slam "truth" into.  Myth is not truth, but myth is real, perhaps more real in the end than the version of truth that Christianity  tries to peddle.  Now, wouldn't that be ironic.

The Latest God

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Monday, 14 May 2012

I've felt it so strongly, for such a long time.  Our native language is not spoken here.  Not readily.  Oh, some brave souls do.  More and more as time goes on, even though others misunderstand them and ridicule them.  But even though it is our native language they speak, and I drink it like water, when I read or hear their words they still sound funny.  Almost as if I should be ashamed to hear them spoken out into the air, speaking of childish things.

Even though it is our native language, forming the words feels weird in the light of the shape my mouth is in after speaking the other language.  That's the one we've been asked forever to speak.  It troubles our souls from the day we're born and then blames us for being troubled.  "Speak like this," the latest god says.  But I've never felt at home in it.  Its words itched.  They separated, divided, conquered.  Many of us have been impaled on its spikes because we forgot that our native language was real.  It was more real than the language the latest god has asked us to speak.  The latest god said, "This is the only possible way that you can see."  And we accepted what he said because that's what we are wired to do, to accept authority.  Even though it itched, and it quieted what should not be quieted.

"That language is primitive," the latest god said.  "Follow my way." And even though we didn't like it we did, and it took us years to be able to admit that as we followed along behind the latest god what we really were seeing was his bare naked arse.  Because apparently no one else was seeing it.  And anyway, the only way we could speak about the nakedness of the latest god would be to translate it into our native language, the old one, the one we have forgotten, and then translate it back into the latest god's language.  And when that happened the words sounded weird. 

And anyway, the latest god tells me that there is no space or room or time or necessity to see things in these old-fashioned ways - to see things as connected, to desire to do things for love.  And so for years you have felt this golden thread that connects you all is some weird mystical thing that you have to be a bit embarrassed about.  "Those are primitive concepts," the latest god says, "childish things, and you must put them away if you want to get ahead.  There is no space or room or time or necessity for those things that make your heart beat faster, or that enable you to see the person in front of you and the earth below your feet as anything other than elements completely separate from you, elements which you must transfer into goods and services to make money from."  This is what the latest god says because he has one eye in the middle of his forehead, like the chick from Futurama, and that eye has blinkers on either side of it so he can't look from left to right.  The latest god is like a giant head connected to a giant arse, that has spewed his shit all over the earth.

We are addicted to the latest god in the same murderous way that a diabetic is addicted to sugar.  But the latest god he has brought us so much, we cry.  We think that we have one eye in the middle of our forehead with blinkers on, too, and that all those things we yearn for are stupid.

But still we know, deep down.  Hundreds of thousands of years of ancestral knowing flood through our veins, and they know.

I listen to the news and the subjects of the latest god are talking about his dominion and about his growth and expansion.  The latest god is standing right beside them with his testicles hanging in the breeze like an ancient old man whose time has come, but they are blind.  They are terrified because they have forgotten how to speak their native language too.  There are no purple robes for them to wear in that land, and they have not yet developed the synapses that link the thirst they feel in their mouths to the words they have forgotten from since before they could speak.

But some have.  Like here, for example:

.

New Blog Lurve

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Monday, 7 May 2012

I love everything about this blog - its design, its content.  Just about every post I have been reading recently has sent me off into that awesome brain space where the creativity bubbles up and starts rushing around inside my brain like lemonade bubbles and I feel inspired, filled with hope. 

'Tis Brain Pickings.  'Tis good.

Just for a Couple of Hours

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Sunday, 6 May 2012


In the ordinary world, I am somewhat attentionally deficit.  I work at home on a computer, and against my better judgment, every day while I work I flick backwards and forwards between my work and the internet because I simply can’t help myself.  On any given day I tend to have 10 browser pages open at once.  Before I finish the end of one page, I have generally flicked over to another, or to check my email, or to look at Facebook, or to look at Twitter.

I hate it.  I feel like an addict, like I’m munching my way through those pages, going from one to another without digesting properly.  I guess a lot of the stuff I like to read is about subjects that are maybe a little deep, and that feel wonderful to me – creativity, humans and how we work, spiritual stuff, the stuff that goes beyond the dreary and desultory everyday.  I guess what I’m looking for when I read (and when I watch a movie) is meaning – finding it, keeping it, living in it.  Because to be honest, I’m struggling, in this world I find myself in.  It’s too fast, too loud, too disjointed, too meaning-deficient.  What the goddamn is the stupid way we live for, exactly?  

But then what can we say about the world we find ourselves in that hasn’t been said a million times before?  How can I talk about this deeper sort of stuff that compels me without sounding like a wanker?  I find that people have a limited ability to talk deep because they’re basically too busy just trying to get through the day. Sometimes that makes me feel lonely and frustrated in equal measure.

This weird system we are forced to live under is too in love with the economy at the expense of damn near everything else.  Where do the stories about us fit in a world where the economy is the new god, and we are forced to be its subjects?  Where do we fit in?  And how does this system make us see each other?  It feels like every turn in this world I am encouraged to see people as cogs.  There is nothing to stop me from looking at you and seeing someone who is simply not-me, and simply in my way.  

I sat in a university class on Thursday afternoon listening to fellow creative writing students who are 20 years younger than me talking about how flatpacked and meaningless this culture is to them, how going overseas opens up their eyes because they see people who are living in ways that are meaningful.  There was something about hearing those people say those things that made me feel hope.  Even though they have been born directly into consumer culture in a way that I wasn’t 41 years ago, they still harbour the same hopes and desires for things that it’s becoming harder and harder to find the words for.  

This search for meaning, for story, is why I love writing and reading.  And it’s why I love going to the movies.  Like Patrick Goldstein, I am an old-fashioned purist when it comes to the cinema.  Even in the age of Netflix and DVDs, there is still a ritual about moviegoing that sets it apart from those other forms of viewing.  Something about sitting in the dark feeding your face with popcorn with a whole lot of other people who are all sharing the same story turns it into a sacred space for me.  

When I go to the movies, I guess a lot of what I like to see is about meaning as well.  When I was a child and before I could read, my Mum read a story to me every single night.  By the time I was eight years old I was spending afternoons clambering up the Faraway Tree, polishing off one of Enid Blyton’s books from the time it took to end lunch and begin dinner.  It was escape, but it was also developing imagination.  It was learning that there are as many different ways of looking at pretty much anything, and that every way you do look at something opens up a particular world at the top of your tree.  It colours the way you see everything. And so this is why I love going to the movies.  I love seeing enormous people who are not politicians or corporate shmuck going about their life.  I get to see through their eyes, and sometimes, on very special occasions, I see something so different, so good or so bad, and it changes me.

In the cinema, I am stuck.  I’m not at home.  I can’t go and get online.  I am forced to sit there, even if my mind wanders.  I don’t want to check my mobile phone.  Nor do I want anybody else to check theirs.  We might miss something.  I want us, just for this little time, to be all looking the same way and all seeing the same thing.  Just for a couple of hours.