Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mistletoe and Wine

Happy Holidays
Seasons Greetings
Happy Non-Denominational Winter Festival



In all seriousness - enjoy the holidays: drinkingeatingarguingdiscussinggivingreceivinglovinghatingsmilingcryinghugginghittingwatching

Love everyone.

This post was brought to you by Sir Cliff Richard (am I the only one who thinks he's dodgy?)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ich bin Ein Auslander

Sometimes I think my opinions make me a foreigner. Or perhaps someone who is flying the flag for the great British Eccentric.

OK sometimes I know my views can be a bit different; challenging maybe. That's why I have this blog so I can write and say what I want and think.

I've been thinking a lot about the two things: Dawkins' book The God Delusion (very interesting reading), and 'reality tv' in general what with being surrounded and force-fed the media frenzy surrounding X-Factor (total shit) and Strictly Come Dancing (less shit, but still shit).

First up, I did end up seeing both the final of X-Factor, and Strictly Come Dancing too. I'm not sure if it's something to be proud of...I actually know who Rhydian, Leon and Same Difference actually are...and who Alesha Dixon is...do I have my finger on the pulse of popular culture or what?

I also watched a programme I'd heard about, but I think it's slipping under the radar a bit...Arrange Me a Marriage is another bit of tv my wife and I thought we'd watch...and shout about.

In fact I totally agree with the premise of Arrange Me a Marriage, and it's something I did myself, and I tell single friends. The idea of the programme is that when choosing a new car, tv, or computer we check the reviews, we create what we require, we get recommendations...and then we choose...because it's a big choice. Surely when choosing a life partner it's not a choice that should be left to chance...meeting someone in a club or on a train...we need to check everything out, and (to paraphrase Obi-Wan) create our own luck.

That's what I did...I created what I wanted...I did a lot of thinking, creating and wondering...and then went out and had fun searching. I didn't settle for anything less than 100%. I found her, then I married her. She's great.

And that's how God works...I don't think of God as something that exists outside us. It surrounds us, binds us and penetrates us (again to paraphrase Obi-Wan) - a bit like the Force. It's something we create, but we are still learning about. Our understanding is still limited. The great Arthur C. Clarke said "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Perhaps God could be thought of as some very advanced technology. Jesus understood the nature of God - which is why he was so interesting - he walked the talk...

Science and religion are not incompatible. But how we think about science and religion requires a different paradigm. Technology also isn't just about physical existence. The idea of technology can be applied to how we use language (if you know me, you'll know where I got this idea from...) to create new ways of understanding (aka possibilities...)

When we truly understand how magnificent we can be, we'll understand just how close we are to understanding God. Language gives us the gift of creation.

In the beginning was the word...remember?

This post has been brought to you by PWEI

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Closer

Married life

I've been asked about this so many times...usually by people who are not married.

Here's my answer.

The good things are a hundred times better...

...and the bad things are a hundred times worse.

Onwards and upwards.

This post has been brought to you (yet again) by NIN

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

No-one said it would be easy

Well.

It's been a very long time.

And so much has happened since I last posted...I've got married and been on honeymoon, entered my second year as a fully-qualified teacher, learned how ambivalent I am about myself, recaptured my love of guitar, reminisced about university years, learned about Africa, and completed community (leadership) service.

Even more interesting is the fact that people around me have mentioned that I haven't written for ages. I take this to mean that they actually read it. Which I then extend to mean that they might even enjoy reading my musings.

Very cool!

So, thank you for reading so far, and I'll get on with the post proper...just to warn you though, it is going to be a long one - and it'll cover the (seven) areas mentioned above...(I did think about posting lots of separate posts, but the title pretty much covers it all).

Where to start...uhhhh - oh yes...

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1) Marriage
Quite a few of the people who read this are likely to have been to the wedding (especially as this automatically links to my facebook profile) but the day was brilliant. It was full of wonderful emotions and general happiness.

I remember it feeling quite surreal the night before - I was helping decorate the venue with my best man and another friend (wedding planner). We were there until 10pm (which is not that late, based on what others have told me about some weddings!) and then went home...to watch Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with beer and snacks (no I wasn't drinking). My best man and I were explaining the intricacies of East London gang-speak to my sister's Hawaiian-based boyfriend who had flown over for the wedding...

...we didn't make it through the whole film because i) we were quite tired and ii) my incessant quoting, and best man's mimicry probably didn't help a first-time watcher's comprehension...but it's still an awesome film.

My best man had a full English breakfast cooked for us the next morning...but we had an errand to complete...white ribbon tied to the lamp-posts from the church to reception venue...which turned out to be a stroke of genius for everyone moving from one place to the next!

It was then getting ready. Brother-in-law to be and cousin-in-law (ushers) to be arrived and we were then getting ready...I'm still proud of getting ready in about twenty minutes...and that includes sculpting the facial hair (even looking at the pictures now, I'm chuffed with the defined beard and sideburns).

As we were leaving, my best man managed to rip his jacket...I thought it was hilarious...but when we arrived at the church my aunt was on on hand to do a quick repair job...

...we started at 2pm on the dot (I remember seeing my grandad checking his watch, and I felt a certain satisfaction...none of this fashionably late bullshit...start as we mean to go on) and the day went really well...



Here are the top-ten stand out moments...in chronological order
i) seeing how wonderful she looked
ii) actually putting on 'teacher-voice' for my wedding vows
iii) processing down the aisle at the end of the ceremony to the throne room music from Star Wars: A New Hope (I nearly had a tear in my eye)
iv) quoting Gandhi in my speech
v) everyone telling us how much they enjoyed the food
vi) my eighty-eight year old grandad singing Konkani songs
vii) dancing...
viii) ...to 'Raining Blood' by Slayer and 'Walk' by Pantera
ix) seeing my mum and dad dancing/ jumping to 'Jump Around' by House of Pain
x) everyone's varied, emotional and wonderful smiles throughout the day

The honeymoon was amazing too...the most indulgent and excessive holiday I've ever been on - all inclusive drinks, sun, sea, sand...and other couples on honeymoon! We met two other couples who got married on the same day as us - we're in touch with one of them through the wonders of facebook! It was a relief to meet some people who knew what we'd been through...planning the wedding, family politics - swapping and sharing stories made us feel better.

It's true what people say...the whole experience does go really quickly...and yet slowly at the same time. I loved it...

2) Teaching
It's still the most hilarious job in the world...I love teaching, and I want the best for the boys I teach. A-level Psychology has gone from four students to thirteen, and GCSE business studies from twelve to thirty-five. A-level business studies has always been healthy. My form are as mad and wonderful as ever.

And yet...

My life has changed. My priorities are changing. I gotta think about developing myself...and well, it's hard to see those opportunities where I am right now. In teaching, typically, it's a choice between a subject-based career path or pastoral (the second one is more of a 'social' role - typically as a Head of Year). Having just had my review, my choices are opening up...one part of me thinks that the subject route would be better - I like both business and psychology at a-level...yet the other side of me likes the idea of managing a year group - not the younger ones, but the older ones - year 12 and 13.

I know that if I don't choose, life will choose for me, and I'll end up dissatisfied, and bored...and then all sorts of silliness starts...like leaving things to the last minute to make my life 'interesting' and 'busy'.

So the time is coming for choosing.

And yet...there are still other niggling thoughts. My career path hasn't been conventional in any sense; part of me still wonders if I should leave teaching to get a job that pays more. Perhaps then I'll have the financial resources to start a family; to take proper care of my wife; to enjoy holidays; to do nice things for my family; to own a nice car; to buy a bigger house.

Money = Happiness right?

Or would that be selling my soul?

3) Ambivalence
I've observed that my general level of temper and anger has increased. I have shouted and 'seen red' more times in the last six months that in the previous ten years. As I've mentioned before about turning inward...it's happening a lot. I'm finding it much easier to comfort and shelter myself in a cocoon of resignation, rather than deal with life. I'm so much more volatile than I used to be. My usual sense of calm and trusting the world around me has fallen away. I'm familiar with the volatility though, from my younger days as a drama-queen.

It leads to certain negative thoughts/ actions about myself.

Perhaps the best example of this is the lack of care I demonstrate about my body. I do the odd session of Pilates, but the nonsense I put into my body. Comfort eating has become normal...I'm not suggesting I have an eating disorder, but I can certainly see how my consumption of food is influenced by my mood.

Other people have alcohol and drugs.

I have food.

The truth is, underneath the everyday pretentiousness that everyone uses to get through the day, underneath the smiles and posturing, underneath the intellectual vanity, I don't like myself. That's the core thought/ idea/ truth.

I know the truth.

And it seems I'm not alone in this.

Dramatic? Yes. Irresponsible? Certainly. How I feel 100% of the time? Not really.

It's more a subtle background contextual thing. A general unhappiness with myself that rears its ugly head every so often into something more nasty.

I can only call it the Dark Side.

It's something I didn't think would happen to me. What makes it worse is that I know I'm doing it - I'm actually conscious to it.

But I can't be bothered to do anything to address it. My shelter of resignation, indifference, and ambivalence is the path of least resistance; keeping people happy and not upsetting the boat is more important.

Am I selling my soul yet again?

4) Guitar
Cutting through the mood of that last section is the (re)ignition of my guitar skills. Playing guitar is one time I'm truly experiencing something amazing. I am lost in the moment. I've been practising according to Steve Vai's ten hour workout (not that I do it for ten hours - I'm averaging about 45mins per day) - and I'm seeing progress.

There's this one string skipping exercise I've been trying to nail for a couple of years - and I can now do it...and it's getting faster. Nothing like a metronome to get me going...I'm even playing Metallica at 180 bpm with all downstrokes (for the uninitiated - that means I'm playing very fast!)

I'm loving it - I can feel the flexibility and expression flowing; I've not felt it consistently since I was about 21. The next step is going to be converting it into songs and other ideas. Perhaps the well of cynicism/ discontent/ anger/ hate/ resignation that's permeating my consciousness is giving rise to a more positive expression through music.

Who knows? But it's when I experience the most happiness.

Please don't let it end.

5) University
At the beginning of November, the magic four met up in Wolverhampton for a night of clubbing...and it was a trip down memory lane! It reminded me of what I was like ten years ago...and how much I worried about my body then - but how much weight I've put on since. In fact two of us have, and two of us haven't...and yet at the same time, seeing each other was as if everything was the same!

The easy understanding and camaraderie; the flowing conversation; the natural roles we took on; the ridiculous dance moves, and most of all, the bringing out of the worst and best in each of us...

Three of us are married, and in chatting and reminiscing, I realised that I'm as human as they are. I often felt inferior to the others (for whatever reason) but it dawned on me that they
might go through similar things too...we're just humans. So much has changed in the twelve years we've known each other...yet sometimes it feels like the blink of an eye.

It brought a sense of my own mortality, and yet how much each moment is there to be enjoyed.

I also nailed some of my old major moves on the dancefloor...

6) Africa
I started it during the summer holidays, but it's taken me until November to complete it...The State of Africa is a totally amazing read. It's made more interesting because my parents were born on the continent. It was fascinating learning so much about a place that I've only been dimly aware of. Until reading this book, Africa in my consciousness was associated with words like "unstable", "famine", "aids", "genocide", and "diamonds"...it was interesting to find out about how much optimism there was when the first countries got independence just over fifty years ago...optimism not something I would immediately associate with the place...I'm someone that grew up in the 80s, and Michael Buerk's B.B.C. reports on the famine in Ethiopia with the television pictures are forever etched on my brain...a far cry from the happy childhood my mother talks about...

The book charts every part of the continent: from Egypt and Algeria in the north to Liberia in the west and of course South Africa. It also outlines just how much of a mess the European colonisers left the continent...it really was a scramble for Africa; a raping of it's natural resources for the enrichment of the white-man (to put it crudely).

During the time I've read this book, I've also watched 'Blood Diamond' and 'Lord of War' two films that manage to explore the issues surrounding the continent without trivialising them (although the latter is examining the sale of arms on a more general level too).

I haven't been so enriched and enlivened by a book for a long time...and it's all thanks to a unversity friend who worked out there, and had brought it back to read...

It also made me think about how much (white European) people want to 'help' and think they are 'making a difference' but really are doing nothing more than making themselves feel better...(more in another post)

Since reading the book I've heard about OneWater a very interesting company that donates all its profits to water projects in Africa. They build roundabouts that are connected to boreholes...that are actually pumps...the more the kids play on the roundabouts, the more clean water is pumped up into storage tanks - genius!

Except this company has attracted so much attention from the other water companies that they're not happy and are trying to undermine what they're doing...(the guy who started it was presenting at a business conference I took the boys to last week...)

Also - I watched 'Black Hawk Down' really shows how nasty the situation gets for UN troops with a limited mandate, fighting for causes they don't really understand or give a shit about. It seems as if the west doesn't care about what's happening in Darfur...and the French Government knew what was going to happen/ was happening in Rwanda with Hutus and Tutsis and did nothing...in fact they supplied arms...nice eh?

Reading such a consciousness-raising book makes me realise how interdependent and connected we all are, how much opportunity we have to sort things out, and just how we're fucking it all up.

There is enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but still people die of starvation every day because we cannot share.

7) Community
Some people in my life are happy that my time with YLGS has officially ended. I mean purely in the sense that I've stepped down as MD.

It's something I founded, put together, ran and grew.

It's something that's brought a lot of joy, and made a lot of difference to a lot of people.

And something that's really pissed off some other people...but I think they're happy now yay!

I've learned so much about the Goan community, and about people in general. Reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography, and doing the Landmark Forum (yes it does fucking work!) was what started the whole thing. I couldn't have predicted it would balloon into such a community - although that was my intention from the beginning!

To be taken seriously by older people within one's own cultural community; to know that your actions are directly benefiting hundreds (and many more indirectly); to have the space to be oneself; to have a project that challenges one to keep going regardless; and to create something that has a future...well that's quite good really.

It hasn't really sunk in...I've got my last committee meeting next week. At the beginning of December we had our Christmas party - the last one with me on the committee - and I was in a strange space...the faces, the questions, the people I like (tolerate/ don't like etc.)

It's been emotional.

So with the more time I'll have, writing songs, my blog, poetry, and maybe some fiction will be the order of the day.

Something for myself.

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This post reflects the ups and downs over the last half a year...I've not been particularly happy with things a lot of the time, and I've not told many people. The important people know. (Ironically on Facebook, I've been voted happiest!)

I think it's mainly due to the disturbance in the Force earlier this year...Eraser...Fragile...

But you know what they say...onwards and upwards.

J.

This post was brought to you by Sheryl Crow