un momento por favor...

I'm not ready to start up yet... settling is .. well unsettling.  So here's a little tidbit to mull over.

"If there were an afterlife I would have to reconsider the engineering design of fridges with a very critical eye, and I would start to get worried and think that I don't understand the universe."
 - Brian Cox in the passenger seat of a car


This isn't a blog post with a point.  I'm sitting with a cup of tea, full of tired, and wistful feelings of strangeness.  In an hour or two the packers arrive from our other apartment where at this moment they are repacking our boxes ready to ship to Australia. These boxes have sat in that little heat box of a studio apartment, partly unpacked and unloved, waiting for the next big thing.  Some of them were shipped from Perth Australia, to Los Angeles, then stored, then shipped again from LA to India and stored, and then once more from India to Thailand.  Now here they go again.  

I'm not proud of it.  It really sums up the lessons I've learned and the journey I've taken. Once I was a hoarder of western proportions. I went from being pretty poor to having lots of money and buying things I loved - books and paintings, wood carvings, cds and dvds.  But since I have been in the uneasy position of not being able to find a place in the world that is safe and stable for Gagan and I to be, all those pretty things are in boxes and their memory has faded. I've realised that I don't remotely need them in my life to be happy.  Well, I will give one caveat to that - the books would be the one thing I would enjoy having around my home. To cast my eyes along a well stocked shelf, to run my finger along the spines and pull out a random book to read over a hot drink in the afternoon would make life more precious.  But that is truly the only thing.  Though everything else is lovely, and has meaning in its own way - I can honestly say that if I had a photo of them, I could enjoy them as much with a glance once in a while. That says a lot I think.  

It has cost a huge amount of money lugging these things around the world.  By the time I realised I should unload and simplify my life a huge amount, I wasn't in a place that I could do that. So here we go again - spending much of the last of our savings to haul it across the oceans again. But this time - we'll find homes for things at the other end. In Australia there will be second-hand stores and places to donate loved things, so that other people can love them as well.  What a lesson to learn. 

And meanwhile I am sitting with that very surreal feeling I always get in the midst of a move.  Circling the globe is never a 'normal' thing to do.  And now I am finding myself almost back where I was 16 years ago, yet I am not remotely the same person, and the country I fled from has now become one that I see as saving us.  How we do grow up when we learn how lucky we are!

I don't like moving and moving and moving. I've done it enough now to know that I just don't remember things very well. Each place that is so real in a moment, becomes a vague and distant memory way too quickly for my liking.  I'm sitting in this living room in this very nice apartment here in Bangkok. This room was almost prison like at times as I was confined to the house because of my health, but it's where my learning epiphany took place so I feel very fond of it, and to know that soon I won't be able to picture it very well seems a little sad.  But perhaps it's all about living in the moment - learning to enjoy the 'experience self' more than the 'remembering self'.   I'll sign off from Thailand with this interesting TED talk.  I'll write again soon - I have drinkable tap water, fresh air, recycling, and the Southern Cross constellation in my sights.

Love Song

Tim Minchin  ... what a legend!

for karaoke.. here's the lyrics!

Fuck the motherfucker.
And fuck you, motherfucker
If you think that motherfucker is sacred.
If you cover for another motherfucker who's a kiddy fucker, fuck you!
You're no better then the mother fucking rapist.

And if you don't like the swearing that this motherfucker forced from me and recon it shows moral or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you motherfucker, this is langauge one employs when one is fucking cross about fuckers fucking boys.

I don't give a fuck if calling the Pope a motherfucker means you unthinkingly brand me and unthinking apostate.
This has nowt to do with other fucking godly motherfuckers, I'm not interested right now in fucking scripture or debate

There are other fucking songs and there are other fucking ways, I'll be a religious apologist on other fucking days
And the fact remains if you protect a single kiddy fucker then pope or prince or plumber you're a fucking motherfucker.

You see, I don't give a fuck what any other motherfucker believes about Jesus and his mother fucking mother.
I've no problem with the spiritual beliefs of all those fuckers, whilst those beliefs don't impact on the happiness of others.

But if you build your church on claims of fucking moral authority and with threats of hell impose it on others in society
Then you, you motherfuckers, can expect some fucking wrath when it turns out you've been fucking us in our motherfucking asses.

So fuck the motherfucker
And fuck you motherfucker
If you're still a mother fucking papsit.
If he covered for a single motherfucker who's a kiddy fucker, fuck the motherfucker! He's as evil as the rapist.

And if you look into you mother fucking heart and tell me true that this mother fucking stupid fucking song offended you. With its filthy fucking language and its fucking disrespect, if it made you feel angry go ahead and write a letter.

But if you find me more offensive then the fucking possibility - the pope protected preists when they were getting fucking fiddly.
Then listen to me motherfucker, this here is a fact:
You are just as morally misguided as that motherfucking power hungry, self-aggrandised bigot in the stupid fucking hat.

Come Fly With Me

The world has been seemingly gripped with the news of the volcano eruption in Iceland and how it has paralysed air travel in the UK and Europe (and therefore worldwide) for many days. It's been incredible to watch. Giant headlines in the newspapers, tv news dedicating much of their half hour to images of stranded passengers sleeping in airports and relating their stories.

I have reacted weirdly to it and I'm trying to figure out why.

I think if it was 5 years ago I may have been the same as many of the people they show. I might have felt like it was a catastrophe and my life was turned upside down, feeling anger and frustration at the situation - at the airlines - at the governments - at anyone! And maybe I'd be making decisions to try and get home from where I was.

That brings up interesting ideas, however.  I'm wondering if it's a combination of our cultural environment, high expectations and a generally poor ability as humans to make decisions, that is making this worse than it really is.

Watching from afar, I find myself thinking that people from the West seem to react to crisis with panic, and when the smoothly run events of their lives are suddenly not so smooth, they begin to make bad decisions, or to not realise their expectations were too high for the situation.  Does that mean, as Westerners, we are not able to distinguish a true crisis from an inconvenience, and as such, we panic or overreact?

Don't get me wrong, I know if I was apart from Gagan I would be feeling very sad and desperate to see him. I'm sure that uncertainty would be upsetting, but at no point in this current flight chaos was there any implication that people *would not* get to their destinations eventually. The stories being related by weary travellers seemed to have a certain disconnect between the actual events and the stress and upset suffered.

Some examples I heard that puzzled me slightly.  One passenger related how they were diverted to Moscow, but none of the people have Russian visas so were kept in a hotel under guard, and basically could not leave their rooms apart from the time they were escorted to the restaurant for meals. Okay... I am sure that was disconcerting, and for most people the idea of being locked away is not pleasant.  But if you compare it to the reality of life for many people on the planet, it's not actually true 'hardship'.  Just hanging out in a hotel room .... is it?  Am I so wrong to wonder why this is newsworthy and upsetting when the world is so full of death and destruction?

Another person was in Amsterdam. He has epilepsy and was running out of medication. I understand that's an urgent thing, but there are lots of interesting things about that.  Firstly, as someone will chronic illness myself, I have to travel with medicine and would never go anywhere without a whole lot of extra doses.  Secondly, once again, as someone with illness, it would be advisable to have insurance so that you are covered for this kind of emergency.  And lastly, I would think in a pinch, if you went into a hospital in Amsterdam you would be able to see a Dr and get a dose of what you need, even if you have to pay for it - they're not going to turn you away and expect you to suffer.  Sometimes, we have to pay if things don't work out.  People do seem more willing to pay for a holiday or something of perceived value in happiness, than something that they just simply need and won't get any added pleasure out of. If it feels like we are paying extra, or paying when we shouldn't have to, then we resent it.  But, sometimes we just have to do it.

So what are the things that have gone wrong?  How could people have dealt with their own circumstances differently?    Just like the guy who probably should have packed some extra medication, or thought about his options, what else should people have done?  From my own humble and meaningless little bubble, it feels like much of the discomfort is 'perceived' rather than 'actual'.

There were people who spent thousands of Euros renting taxis to drive across Europe. Was that a wise decision... or spur of the moment?  Did they weigh up how much they would spend if they stayed where they were, or if they couldn't stay, moved somewhere else that they could wait it out for planes to start up, rather than drive all the way?

Many people were talking about the jobs they had to get back to. I can imagine that would be stressful. It would be surprising (and pretty pathetic) if any boss would fire someone if they didn't get back for that reason. Of course, there could be one or two... but we're talking the big picture here. And if work is piling up while you're away, and that is a worry, how does that stack up against all the stress that you put your body through to try and get back?  Does one outweigh the other?  I don't have the answer... but I think asking the question for each person would help in making a wise decision.

In the long run, I guess I just felt a little dismayed.  You can't live in the developing world and see terrible poverty and corruption around you all the time, without having it change your point of view. I know I might have been one of those people a long time ago, but now I keep wondering what all of them would do if a *real* crisis was to hit.  What if they were in Haiti on January 12th, or the quakes in Chile or China? What if they were lived in a country in civil strife equivalent to anarchy like Somalia?  Just thinking of my friends in India and how they are used to travelling vast distances by train in terrible conditions we would not dream of, and flying is a huge luxury to them.  So hearing these passengers complaining about hotel rooms, and train trips, and uncertainty... but never noticing they didn't have to worry about their own safety or future, makes me feel sad.

To think in these terms, I realise it's all about context. This might be the worst thing they have ever experienced.  If you took some Londoners from the 1940's who lived through the Blitz, they would have probably not batted an eye.  If you live in a culture that has always given you all you need - provided you with the ability to place your wants above your needs, then you don't have to think about how to cope. You don't even need to consider what a crisis is... odds are you will never experience one. Hardship comes in the form of unemployment and debt, or not getting the job you want, the car you want.  Not in having your town fall to rubble in a earthquake, or civil war destroying your community, or no health care while disease ravages the young and the vulnerable.  In fact for people living in poverty stricken countries, they cope remarkably well with crisis and just get on with things, since they live in a perpetual state of it.   Context.   We only know what we see around us.

Which leaves us with the question - why *aren't* we more able to relate to things until we see them for ourselves?  If we're bombarded with images of starving children and war torn countries, why can't we see that we are incredibly well off, and hence shrug off inconveniences and make the best of a bad bunch?  Are we desensitized by the media, are we just greedy, or is it that we evolved to live in small communities with people mostly like ourselves and that was as far as our genetic altruism goes.  I have read a lot to support the latter.

I am not trying to say all the thousands of people stuck all over the world have not had a difficult time. But it's worth noting that until the planes stopped flying, they had gone to those places by choice (and many for a holiday) and it was only when someone told them "you can't fly" that the experience stopped being fun.  That old saying "life is what you make it" must have something in it, I think!

So... with the hopes of making better decisions in future and keeping things in context, I add these two TED talks that I find inspiring and thoughtful.

###  EDIT   ###   I just found out that insurance probably wouldn't cover this as irritatingly it's still called an "Act of God" ... which is just insane in this day and age. I would love to contest that on the grounds of being a rational atheist!  Anyway, so my point about saying people should have taken out insurance was badly researched.  Which means that all the airlines who have tried to compensate and temporarily house people are doing something rather decent I feel.  We hear of airlines losing money - profits are down, so this must be hitting hard.   And now news reports are that people want to know how the 'crisis' could have been handled better.  Sigh.. oh well.   Apparently someone has to 'fess up. What a strange world we live in.

Tell It Like It is

Sometimes the truth hurts..... hurts so good.

This is Richard Dawkins on whether the Pope should resign over the child abuse scandal. Take it away, Rich!

"Should the pope resign?" No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch.

No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears. 


Noah 1 - Darwin Nil


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism