The expression, you never know how good you had it until it’s gone, is one of those cliche sayings that proves itself time and time again in the cycle of my life. It’s funny how many of us – especially in my case – go through periods of life where first we wish things were [...]
The expression, you never know how good you had it until it’s gone, is one of those cliche sayings that proves itself time and time again in the cycle of my life. It’s funny how many of us – especially in my case – go through periods of life where first we wish things were different, and then when they are, we wish they were like it was when we wished things were different. As people we’re constantly gazing over the fence looking at stars over grassy fields, thinking that our present circumstances make us hard done by. Many of us seem to live in this eternal state of always looking ahead, but never really appreciating where we are right now.
I recently had a pretty shift in circumstances in my life, and everything is different from what it was two months ago. And now I really appreciate where I was back then, and how good things were. If I could, I’d wave a magic wand and I’d go back there. But of course, I can’t so I don’t bother thinking like this for more than a fleeting moment. What I do find though is that this allows me to reflect quite deeply on what I really want, and what’s important to me.
This process of self reflection is quite valuable in that it allows me to see what it is I really want out of life. And for that, I’m thankful, because then I can structure my life to follow this goal. So perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world to have your circumstances change and you end up in a worse place than before. The worst thing about being in a worse place is that you don’t see a way out of it.
To some extent I think that we as people all have to experience good and bad, to understand the difference between the two. That’s the philosophy behind many eastern religions that talk about enlightenment. You live; you experience good stuff; you experience bad stuff; you learn; you grow. Without believing in any of this though, by the time most of us become adults we have experienced some form of emotional heartache and heartbreak to know that we only really grow as people during these periods. It’s the suffering that defines us because we’re forced to dig deep inside to evolve and change our circumstances for the better.
So tomorrow I’ll wake up and I’ll reluctantly go to the place I’m supposed to be, but at the same time I’ll remember that because of this circumstance, the next change will be going somewhere better because I know what it is I want.
In amongst the blog posts, I am writing a creative literary series about my life in Amsterdam and all the crazy memorable things that happened during the time I lived here. To read them, please select the “Amsterdamage Series” section in Categories on the right hand side, and you’ll be presented with all the articles [...]
In amongst the blog posts, I am writing a creative literary series about my life in Amsterdam and all the crazy memorable things that happened during the time I lived here. To read them, please select the “Amsterdamage Series” section in Categories on the right hand side, and you’ll be presented with all the articles in order. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Enjoy!
Recently I’ve become quite obsessed with the ideology of one particular speaker and thought leader by the name of Sam Harris. As an individual he’s a trained scientist working in the space of neuroscience and philosophy, particularly in the area of human society, morality and, promoting atheism. I was first [...]
Recently I’ve become quite obsessed with the ideology of one particular speaker and thought leader by the name of Sam Harris. As an individual he’s a trained scientist working in the space of neuroscience and philosophy, particularly in the area of human society, morality and, promoting atheism. I was first introduced to Sam Harris through a friend of mine who sent me a Google buzz link to his brilliant TED speech he made just recently. The title of his presentation was called, Science can answer moral questions. Before you read the rest of this post, I would _strongly_ suggest you watch this presentation in full. It’s only 23 minutes long and could quite possibly change your whole way of thinking.
[[I'm going to assume at this point that you did watch the presentation, and have an understanding of what I'm talking about in the next paragraphs]]
What really struck a chord with me in Harris’s presentation was his statement that most people are willing to suspend the reason that they use in their every day life for purposes of believing in a religious framework. Let me give you an example if this isn’t clear. If I was to start a new website called ‘The Truth of the New Lord’, and in the first post explain that a voice from the ether called to me and bade me stand on top of some hilltop where upon a burning bush spoke to me and gave me instructions on how to live a moral life, how many people would believe it? Well I’d say none. There is a well known truism that states extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yet this is just not the case when it comes to religion, particularly Christianity, which was the religion assigned to me by my parents at birth.
I feel a particular anger towards Christianity because I feel it is one of the faiths that lies almost completely to it’s followers, who in turn really must lower their mentality to that of a fucking moron to accept the doctrine that it lays down. It’s a vicious and dogmatic faith that rules by fear, and presents nothing in the way of universal truth that will make sense to a individual possessed of intelligence and critical thinking.
Yet Christianity is really just a derivative of Catholicism, both of whom believe literally what is written in The Bible. If these “stories” were in any other place besides The Bible we would simply discard them as rubbish if it wasn’t purported to be fictional literature. But because it is The Bible people forgo reason for madness; they accept the writings as gospel and use it as the foundation for a moral life!
Back to Sam Harris.
His paradigm faces a new direction, he is one of a handful of thought leaders that are using science in a new way, a way that provides answers to the questions of morality and human well being. He states clearly the reasons why science can answer these questions, and explains that in order for society to flourish organised religion must be put out of practice for society to move forward. In a conversation on this with my friend, I believe that there can’t be more than a small percentile of any societies population that could truly accept this paradigm and move forward with it.
It’s not an easy thing for an individual to radically change their viewpoint on something so core to our own psychology as religious or spiritual views. However this doesn’t mean that just because it’s a sensitive topic that we should shy away from heavy discussion on the basis of respect. If we fail to engage in debate with others simply because it’s considered polite to let them have their views, then we simply encourage ignorance. Reasoning individuals shouldn’t stand next to a person proclaiming the world is flat, and respectfully agree with them out of a sense of tolerance. Clearly there is right and wrong in moral standpoints, as measured by the well being of any and all citizens of a society. Which means we should not have to accept that all religions have something to offer a society just because they say so.
I face now towards a new direction, and no longer consider myself religious, but instead a reasonist. Atheist is a term that doesn’t fit with me in its current vernacular. I believe that there is still value in my beliefs as a Buddhist, but this is because Buddhism is in itself critical of its doctrine. The Dalai Lama has said that where the Buddhist Dharma is in conflict with science, the Dharma shall be resolved. This is a sweeping statement; the doctrine of faith that all Buddhists follow will be updated as science broadens our knowledge and disproves fundamental doctrine text. As far as I’m aware, no other religion has taken the equivalent position. Dare I be so bold as to state, only Buddhism stands as a truly enlightened religious framework, and perhaps the only one worth considering in the new frontier of the paradigm of scientific morality.
While it’s difficult to understand at first the far reaching consequences of accepting a new paradigm of belief and letting go of an old one, it creates its own sense of comfort knowing that the path ahead leads away from useless archaic traditions and in the direction of a truly utopian society.
The more people who make the same journey bring that dream ever closer to reality.
In the years that have passed living here in Europe there was an inexorable motion that I’ve only recently become aware of, you start off as a foreigner and then end up something else, something in between. It’s something every foreigner is aware of, no matter how long they live in an adopted country, you [...]
In the years that have passed living here in Europe there was an inexorable motion that I’ve only recently become aware of, you start off as a foreigner and then end up something else, something in between. It’s something every foreigner is aware of, no matter how long they live in an adopted country, you will never be from that country or that culture, you are part of a class that always sits on the fringes of integration. For some expats the separation is more pronounced, the colour of your skin for instance, for many it’s the heavily accented way they will always speak the language. Some are lucky and can overcome these physical traits and move closer to the heart of a culture, but in most cases the best you can achieve is three steps on the inside ring.
There is a time of change though for those expats that stay somewhere beyond the first couple of years, and really start to grows roots into the place they’ve chosen as home. You start to blend in, and feel yourself becoming part of the place, a blanket of comfort covers your day to day existence, and you feel easy. But, you never are allowed to forget that you don’t come from this place. It is not your culture and it never will be.
I read a book many years written by a man called John Fowles called, The Magus. It’s about the dramatic life experience of a young English man who takes a teaching position on one of the Greek islands. The story is quite involved so I won’t relate it here, suffice to say that for anyone that has spent any time of their life as an expatriate, they should read it for empathy that is inside. Fowles said through his protagonist that once a person takes themselves out of their own environment and moves away, they will recreate that environment where ever they are. And so home becomes a space between a set of walls that imitates their cultural identity, independent of the country they are in.
It’s an interesting concept when you really start to think about it.
I’ve been away home now around 13 years. It almost seems like another life time when I try to remember what it was like. Home for me was Brisbane, that nice big country town about two thirds of the way down the east coast of Australia. Lovely place really, but at the time it seemed [...]
I’ve been away home now around 13 years. It almost seems like another life time when I try to remember what it was like. Home for me was Brisbane, that nice big country town about two thirds of the way down the east coast of Australia. Lovely place really, but at the time it seemed very small, and I couldn’t wait to get out.
The first move I made was London, where I spent just under two years living and using as a base before moving to Amsterdam, where I’ve been ever since. I remember those first two years as a very big time of discovery, both personally and geographically. I roamed England and other parts of the world out of an obsession and love for travelling.
My move to Amsterdam though became something more than just a travel trip, it was a move to a place that I would settle and call home. I grew to love the city and it’s people and the lifestyle that I had here. Each year I would say to myself I would only stay here a year, and then at the end of the year I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. And now after a decade I feel more Amsterdams than I do Australian.
It’s funny though, I haven’t lost the accent from Australia at all. None of us really do I think, once you have it, it stays with you for life, like a criminal record that never goes away, not even after 200 years of colonial rule. But after that there isn’t much inside of me that’s still dinky-di true blue Oz. Most of my core attitudes have changed, and the association I had with the community of people from there is feeling very thin.
After a time you start to ask yourself, who am I?
Ten years ago if someone had of asked me, would there ever come a time when I wouldn’t feel like an Australian, I would have said they were fucking crazy. After all, I was an Australian’s Australian; I loved my Friday night (Rugby League) footy on TV, and honest Aussie rock. I loved driving down the South Coast road to Brunswick Heads to the Stone Ground Pie Factory and chowing down on a meat pie with peas or three. But now, ever so slowly, everything seems to have changed, and after so long away, I no longer feel like the Australian I was before.
Regular readers of my blog (all 2 of you – including myself) will know that I am quite keen on MMORPGs. There is something about virtual worlds that I find incredibly fascinating. I’m not an console fan, owning neither an xbox360 or a Playstation3, and I don’t play any other games that aren’t MMO based. [...]
Regular readers of my blog (all 2 of you – including myself) will know that I am quite keen on MMORPGs. There is something about virtual worlds that I find incredibly fascinating. I’m not an console fan, owning neither an xbox360 or a Playstation3, and I don’t play any other games that aren’t MMO based. The real high for me that I’m hooked on is the world – the reality – created around you that actually is given life by every gamer that logs in and shares the world with you. You don’t just play an MMORPG, you _experience_ an MMORPG.
Okay enough with the dramatic lead in. You get it. And if you don’t, you never will, but that’s okay; different horses for different courses, as the old saying goes.
Everyone has heard of World of Warcraft, and anyone that calls themselves a gamer will not just have heard of it, but will know a little bit about it as well. Enough to hold their own in a conversation. To the non gamer though, it’s just a computer game… and that’s about it. Well let me tell you, if that were true, then you could describe the American political system by calling it, a couple of guys trying to work out who will run the country; there is an infinitude of complexity that runs deep behind the facade.
And that, is actually the problem I have right now! (Plus the point of this post, because I have to rant somewhere). To the casual player it is enough to play a basic game and be able to complete the basic quests that continue your progress. Which is what the whole point of these games are, and why people play them. Play the game –> to get experience –> to get higher levels –> get better gear –> to play the game. It’s a nice comfy feedback loop, that works – in principle – in just the same way as training for the Olympics. This week I joined a guild, a group of players in a club so to speak, to run some of the higher end content that the casual player couldnt reach on their own. And it was like country Bob coming to the big city for the first time and being totally overwhelmed. These guys still call it a game, but they play seriously. They want the big gear, the big numbers on their damage scores, and take down the big bosses that require highly refined tactics and knowledge of play style. It’s no more a game at this level than any other high level competition sporting event is a ‘game’. That’s part of the appeal to be sure, learning how to be a higher end player, doing things other players can’t do. Seeing parts of the game that other players won’t see. But there is a commitment there as well. You don’t just walk into any sporting club and challenge the top player, you have to put the work in first and prove that your worth being taken seriously, otherwise you’ll be ridiculed and laughed out the front door, or hammered into the ground and then ridiculed and laughed out the front door.
Which is where my delimma comes in. I’m at the top of the casual game now, and there is nowhere else for me to go except to the next level. But if I do, then it’s going to require me to put more time in, and take it more seriously. Maximising your DPS (damage-per-second) for a Hunter class is no less complex than working out the equations for rocket propulsion. Aquiring the equipment necessary to achieve the numbers capable of making those equations is no less trivial than collecting parts for a mint condition original 1970 vintage muscle car. Which means that the game is going to be less a game, and more a second job that is like the job you always wanted to have (in a fun way… I guess).
It does beg the question how real is the virtual reality is that I’m constructing for myself here? But that is entirely another discussion to rant about.
I do wonder that if the game becomes more serious and becomes less a game, will it remain something I do to relax, or will it become work, and bring with it work related stress?
Maybe I should take up cigarettes?
“People come into your life for either a reason, a season, or a lifetime”.
A friend of mine told me that. It came up because I have a habit of falling out of contact with people, and I will go for long periods of time without reaching out to people that I am close to. [...]
“People come into your life for either a reason, a season, or a lifetime”.
A friend of mine told me that. It came up because I have a habit of falling out of contact with people, and I will go for long periods of time without reaching out to people that I am close to. So much so that this friend of mine thought our friendship had come to an end. When I asked her why she thought that, that’s when she told me this.
When I first heard this I thought it was just another fish wives generalisation that said nothing meaningful but sounded very profound. However on the eve of turning 40, I’ve been reminiscing on my life and looking back on the years that were the decade of my 30′s, and realising there is more truth to this than I had first given it credence.
For me, the 10 years from 30 to 39 are marked by these series of significant relationships that lead in a line, one to the next, with each period of partnership representing a time of happiness, introspection, pain and personal growth. Each individual I became involved with started for reasons as unique as the persons themselves, and ended in the same way. Some of these women were only with me for a short time, and left to leave only a memory of the time we spent together, and a select few others are still with me today, being part of my life and growing with me still. I do wonder why it is that this friend of mine from Australia is one I am still close with, and yet the woman from Almere who I had an intense affair with is now only in my past life – in every way? It can’t have anything to do with the depth of feelings because that would mean we would not have left each other. I think perhaps it is because the two of us found of each other in a time of desperate need when we were both overcome with feelings of loss and loneliness. We shared some wonderful moments, and saw each other through a dark time, and then when that period of our lives changed, we didn’t need each other in the same way. I’ve not had contact with her now for several years, but I suppose she is still with that same man she was with, living the same existence of being patient, waiting for the time she could leave and create a new life for herself.
Maybe you can’t really simplify relationships in this way. Relationships are inherently complex things that are all messy because of the nature of being human, but it does seem to me that there is an inextricable link between the timing of a persons arrival in life and the significance of their presence.
I’ve just finished watching the last episode of Jericho, which in actuality turned out to be only a measly eight shows for season two. If you’re a fan of 24, then this is definitely your style. However I am totally bamboozled why this show had production stopped. Supposedly it was because of poor [...]
I’ve just finished watching the last episode of Jericho, which in actuality turned out to be only a measly eight shows for season two. If you’re a fan of 24, then this is definitely your style. However I am totally bamboozled why this show had production stopped. Supposedly it was because of poor ratings, but I just don’t get that. I couldn’t watch anything less than 4 episodes in one go, because it was truly nail biting stuff. I’m not kidding about that either, I actually have almost no fingernails left after chewing them all down with nervous tension. I feel exhausted too, like it had been me out there in post-apocalyptic Kansas fighting for survival. If you haven’t seen this show, you should, so either download it (not that I would encourage anyone to do anything illegal). Or better yet, buy it, and help convince producers to make more episodes. For me I find, for any truly great film or TV series, the end is like saying goodbye to close friends you’ve bonded with. It’s hard to let them go out of your life after all the adventures you shared. That’s my benchmark for the distinction between the average, and the outstanding; how much I cared! And for the people of Jericho, I cared a hell of a lot!
The thing is, with a series truly that good, that had all the magic – outstanding actors; outstanding performances; outstanding production crew; outstanding production style – why, oh why, did they prematurely end it? Obviously some schmuck in an ivory tower somewhere, who decides for us, what we can and cannot watch. This is this same shit we’ve lived with since the dawn of 20th century broadcasting (and mass consumerism); a handful of people deciding for us what we consume, and how we consume it! We’ve been forced to watch the selection that others feel we should select from. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like an old style dictatorship? In fact, that’s because it is!
The control of the big entertainment conglomerates, and legal entities like RIAA however is nearing a time of critical change. The internet has changed the very nature of consumerism, by the very nature of the internet taking distributive control away from the few and putting it back into the hands of the many. Right or wrong, whatever you may feel about it, there is a sea change happening because of a few enabling technologies that put the masses in control of what they consume, and when they consume it.
Here’s a funny story for you, but only if you’re a TV fan, and not a TV exec. On the day that the new Bionic Woman pilot premiered in the US, hardly an hour after the closing credits had scrolled across everyones HDTV screen, high definition downloads of it were available on bittorrent. This was some time around September 2007. In the UK they advertised for months the premiere date on cable TV in February of 2008. Yet, anyone who was a fan in Europe (or the rest of the world for that matter), had not only seen it the day after it came out, they were in possession of new episodes as they came out weekly. I remember reading a lot of angry ranting by corporate types about how this had to be stopped, and how this evil will destroy capitilism!
With each download an individual makes, it is a hammer swing into the wall built up around content, put there by a few powerful people sitting in white towers far away from the world. With the advent of bittorrent, and IPTV, the powerful current of distribution is ebbing away from these people, and they will be forced to either accept it and progress, or fade away.
It’s a movement that is still young, because the few are still deciding what the many will watch (consume), but the many are more and more deciding when they will watch it. Many years from now, shows like Jericho won’t be taken off the air because the consumer won’t be limited like we are today. They will have full voting power to decide what stays and what goes.
A day, I hope comes sooner rather than later!
Every now and then something comes along that really impresses the shit out of me. Through the wonders of technology I’m writing this on a ferry crossing to London.
Cooler than a polar bear laying on an iceberg.
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