Archives for posts with tag: friendship
I find myself feeling increasingly isolated by the groupthink I see everywhere these days.
 
Am I the only person who is uncomfortable with the spirit of the times which divides people and judges them on the basis of what they believe or how they vote?
 
(Photo of a memorial to prisoners of war killed building the Thai-Burma railway in World War 2.
Hellfire Pass, Thailand)
 
 
How sad it would be
 
 
If I believed in tolerance so strongly,
I could show no tolerance
to those who saw things differently.
 
 
If I praised diversity in all things
except opinion.
 
 
If I defended human rights
with personal abuse,
foul language
or violence.
 
 
If I believed those who thought differently
were stupid,
deluded,
bigoted,
or evil.
 
 
If I my belief in a cause
stopped me reaching out in friendship.
 
 
If I believed I held the truth and it were mine alone.
 
 
How sad it would be.
 
Advertisements
(Image of the Carina Nebula – Wikicommons)
 
 
I'm the first to admit it. I'm a nerd. A dreamy nerd, but a nerd.
Have been, on and off, right through my life. Now in my sixties I'm more adept at reading social cues than I used to be, and have learned to temper the hard angles of my nerdishness, but looking back at the nerdish boy-man of yesteryear I see a pattern.
 
As a boy I liked to read much more than to play sport. Still do, but that's more of a physical imperative now, with aches and pains and such. I lived in my mind then, designing intricate palaces, imagining great adventures in this world and out of it. I would spend hours inventing board games and playing them by myself. When encyclopedias were books, I revered them, leafing through and vacuuming up information about everything and nothing.
 
As I said, I was a little different . . . to say the least. A nerd.
 
Gadgets fascinated me; not so much fixing them, but using and understanding them. I was pretty much clueless when it came to repairs. The only workshop I felt comfortable in, was the one inside my mind.
 
And then I discovered astronomy. With a school friend who shared my passion, we would spend nights in the back yard gazing through small telescopes, entranced by what we saw and developing an encyclopedic knowledge of the night sky.
 
Yeah, I know . . . risk takers we were . . . adventurers. When other young teen males were dreaming of their sporting heroes, pop music, cars they would like to own, or girls, our dreams were extraterrestrial.
 
Astronomy was the first of a series of interests to grab me and inspire me to dream. As it turned out my mathematics scores did not let me realise my dreams of becoming an astronomer, and in hindsight that was no bad thing. You see, although I didn't know it, I was barking up the wrong tree as they say. Along with the wonder and physical beauty of the universe, which I love to this day, I had absorbed a trusting belief that the answer to my dreams was out there somewhere waiting for me to discover it. Sort of like Douglas Adams' boffins in his book “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” when they asked the great god-like super computer for the answer to 'life, the universe and everything'. The answer they got was 42.
 
Just as I did eventually, those boffins walked away glumly, disillusioned, except it took me a good few years, a physics degree, wrong turns and blind alleys to realise I'd been sold a pup. Ever slow to see the really important things in life, it was only in the fullness of years that I began to appreciate that although there might be exciting dreams aplenty in science and technology, my dreams were now to be found in an entirely different direction.
 
Mind you, I admit I remain prone to bouts of nerdish indulgence. I'm more excited about the latest toy drone I'm flying in the lounge room than is my grandson who has just received it as a birthday present. I'm interested in reference material of all types: Data tables of vehicle performance; Google Maps; Google Earth; optical devices; wiring diagrams of all types. These are but a few of my remaining guilty pleasures. Furthermore I read books on byzantine history, political analysis, German and Italian language learning, and I am learning to play classical guitar. There, I've said it! What a weight off my conscience. Us nerds carry a lot of guilt about being different.
 
But, where was I? Yes, my dreams. Nerds have them no less than most people, you know.
 
I used to dream about gadgets. It seems to me that gadgets are gadgets, and as fascinating and addictive as they may be, they remain gadgets. Computers, wireless devices, CAT scanners, GPS modules, hadron colliders, telescopes. Some of them produce data and information. Some of that is meaningful to me. None of it is the stuff of my dreams now.
 
Which begs the question: What does a nerdish old man dream?
 
My old school friend reminded me this morning via email of our shared interest in astronomy as boys and it inspired me to write this blog entry. Not surprisingly, my dreams have evolved along with me in the decades since those evenings in the back yard with a telescope. Dreams of what I would do with my life are no longer relevant. Such dreams have been rendered obsolete by the passage of time. I know what I am doing with my life now, and I am content.
 
Possibilities of meeting alien life forms or communicating with them via sophisticated gadgetry no longer seem quite so likely. The answer may be out there somewhere, but I didn't ever find it, and my questions, and dreams, are different now.
 
Now I dream of being accepted and valued for who I am: an old guy with nerdy tendencies, some of which he has learned to temper.
I dream of letting go of self importance and of embracing humility.
I dream of letting go of the need to know and to be in control.
I dream my wife, children and grandchildren will know I love them unreservedly.
I dream of being a good and true friend.
I dream of bringing smiles to people who need them.
I dream of being as one with my creator.
 
(Image of the Crab Nebula – Wikicommons)
 
 
 
So, the dreams change, bringing with them different questions that have different answers.
 
 
I guess life is about people, not gadgets. If you knew that all along, why didn't you sit me down and explain it to me when I was young?
 
(Image – Wikicommons)
 
 
In a life of dreams, I have indeed been a slow learner.
 

It’s been a longer gap than usual between posts. Nothing has seemed worth writing about. My attention has been elsewhere; directed inward. I’ve been doing the mental equivalent of sitting in a corner with my knees drawn up under my chin. Not a comfortable pose, but not an unhappy one either. I’m not describing a depressive state; rather one for contemplating, weighing, reassessing. Clearing out the garbage, if you like.

So, the first post in a while. I hope you also enjoy what might seem like an eclectic collection of photos. Most of them are in some sort of context.

IMG_2422

(Surfers taken from Burleigh Headland)

I’m quite at peace with myself as I write this. There’s even a warm glow shining from some place deep inside. Happiness, is a word for it, I guess.

The last few weeks have seen me let go of some things I needed to let go of. There’s a weight off my shoulders, a spring in my step, and if not a song, then a blog post in my heart.

 

For a start, I’m grateful – for a whole lot of things.

I am healthy, mostly. I could choose to focus on the aches and pains but I do not. I am alive, with all the possibilities, chances, and delights that flow from just being.

I wake up each morning to a beautiful day, breakfast down at my local coffee shop by the sea, a walk and then time for whatever else I feel like doing.

I have a wife I love and who loves me. With our marriage we have worked at and drawn from, we are so much more blessed than we would be without it. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting marriage is an essential staging point on the road to happiness; or a pre-requisite to it. Not at all! There are enough miserable married people to make that idea a little shaky. It might sound a bit strange but the experience of a loving healthy marriage relationship has helped me understand that we don’t need to allow ourselves to become dependent on another person to be happy. (I just hope my wife reads that part carefully and understands what I mean). Just to explain it more carefully, I think a marriage where two people are comfortable in their own skins is a much better indicator of health and happiness than one where each depends on the other for their worth and meaning. Am I making sense? Well, I am to myself.

My wife and I are definitely joined together in a deep spiritual and emotional way, but we retain our identities, our preferences, our tastes, and our opinions. Neither of us would have it any other way.

So, just to finish up on that point, I am not arguing for marriage as a means of being happy. For Sue and I it has been, and is, a wonderful gift. That’s great. There are a lot of other people for whom a marriage relationship has been a destructive experience. There are many others, who are not married in a legal or any other sense, but who have strong healthy identities, are content with their lives, and who are just as blessed as we are.

 

So, where was I?

Yes. I’m grateful.

Friends. How wonderful it is to have even one friend? I have more than one, and I have no idea how I managed that. I am so happy to feel the close bond of friendship. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, although I guess it’s a bit less complicated for me as a man to sit down with another man and share the deepest stuff. Friendship founded on mutual respect, affection, and trust makes my heart sing. To shatter or betray a friendship is a miserable, terrible thing (one thing I learned along the way that has stayed with me). My friends are important to me. With them, I can be who I am. I can say what I want to and I can be a servant to them in turn.  Sometimes I need do nothing but sit and listen. There is a symbiotic relationship between friends that is worth caring for. I sometimes think friendship encourages the finest things of which a human being is capable.

I’m also grateful for family members, daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, brother, sister, and in-laws. To show them my love more overtly and unconditionally has been a bit of a challenge for me historically.  I guess I have been seen by some of the family at least as a bit of an oddity. They have accepted me despite my oddness. I have tended to play my cards close to my chest where I should have just hugged and laughed and spent time with them. Simple really, and not rocket science. I hope I will continue to learn how to better express the love I feel for all of them. That really would be a blessing and much more important than some of the things I will talk about below that I have decided to unload from myself.

 IMG_2433

(A lone reflective Pelican in Biggera Creek)

This has been a cathartic post to write, and I have not even begun to discuss some of the things I intend to leave behind. So, now to those things:

  IMG_0209

(Pedestrian crossing sign in Berlin)

A Manifesto

I am determined to let go of the need to understand and to categorize other people. People’s motivations are their own and there is no need for me to know why someone else does what they do or behaves the way they do. Neither will I presume to judge them on what I see. (Alright, that might be a bit of over-reach. I will at least try not to judge others quite so often).

Other people deal with stuff I am not privy to. They respond to pressure I am unaware of. They battle demons I cannot see. I will try hard to remember that.

Other people do not need to make choices that I approve of. Well, it’s nice when they do, but I will learn to accept them just as well when they do not. Once again, this might need to be a work in progress.

In the same way I will not allow myself to take on board someone else’s judgment of me. No one knows me as well as I do or my creator does. People may be well meaning in their judgments, or they may not be, but either way, I will learn to follow my own path.

Specifically, I will withdraw from involvement in pointless political discussions and debates. At least I intend to try. Now and then I have allowed myself to be drawn in to a cesspit of negativity where I question other people’s support for political causes and their motives. I have come to understand that contributing to an atmosphere of political polarization where mistrust and hatred drown out concern, compassion and even rationality is not what I want to do. It is not me.

Yes, I have ideas about how the country should be governed and how the world should operate. I have values that I want to see promulgated. For me though, I am going to try to spend my time on building relationships and looking out for those around me, instead of participating in the cacophony of voices talking past each other that constitutes contemporary politics.

I am sick of it all. I have had it up to here (he writes, thinking of his head). Political argy bargy can be left to those who enjoy it, or to those who think it makes any difference.

At the start of this blog I set out some of the things that are important to me. It is these things: My marriage, my friends, my family, and any other people who need a hand, who are going to receive my energy. At least, that is the conclusion I have come to. Life is meant to be a feast. It is too short to spend in endless negative loops.

IMG_0803

(Dining Room at Wernigerode Castle, Harz Mountains, Germany)

My Manifesto is more of a guide than a checklist; a wish list even. I am heartily sick of the endless negativity of political partisanship that I see blighting my country and others. As far as I am able to, I will withdraw from it. Maybe then I will see more clearly to attend to the things that are really important to me. Blog writing continues to be one of those things. Don’t expect that I will retreat from controversy; just pointless political partisanship.

We will see.

 

Early to rise, shower and find some clothes. Kiss Sue goodbye and remind her to take care on her drive to work. Jump in my car and make the three minute drive to my local, which is usually just opening as I park outside.
Tables and chairs are being arranged by my friend, whom I doubt has much English, as our mutual smiles and greetings never vary. I have only ever heard two phrases from him in the past year: “Good morning” and “Thank you”, so I don't make things hard for him by widening the conversation. He is my friend. The smiles and nods we exchange testify to that.
A chair at a table overlooking the Broadwater. Coffee, eggs and crispy bacon. A morning routine that I kind of like in my own small way. Rain, cold, wind, bright, hot sun. Day in, day out. I realise how predictable I have become when the boss of the place, 'Rocky', (he is a slightly built young Chinese man) raises his eyebrows and tells me with mock seriousness, that I am late.
I have come to appreciate this morning hour.
Sea birds crowd together on drying sand banks while Pelicans glide past them distainfully. Quite often, if you pay attention, the small ripples and splashes of bait fish break the surface here and there. One morning a pod of dolphins played just near the shore before heading out into the main channel. That's the sort of thing that can change your life in an instant.
Walkers and joggers remind me of one routine I have let slide recently. The chairs here are so comfortable. I will get around to my daily walk again very soon.
Once the remains of breakfast are removed from the table (my friend is very efficient) and the ritual 'thank you's' exchanged, I settle down to scanning email, news sites, and occasionally working on a blog post. I tend not to chat with fellow breakfasters. Mostly we are a self contained bunch. We recognize each other of course, but as to introductions? No.
There are those, like me, who find a spot to sit and enjoy the down time, not bothering anyone else. You may not be surprised, however, to learn that some do not fit this profile but still manage to make up the happy composite of morning rituals at Rocky's Coffee Shop. Construction workers in their high visibility vests come in twos and threes buying take away coffee and never stay long. One or two passers by take a short cut through the tables, sometimes with a dog on a leash. Friends often drop in for a quiet coffee after their morning walk, sitting in twos and threes, drinking in the ambience of morning sun and lazy waves lapping against the sea wall.
Not so the groups of lycra clad cyclists. What is it about cyclists? Maybe they can't make the change from needing to shout to each other through the traffic. Ten cyclists clip clopping across the floor in their pedal shoes to a table near me is a signal that I need to finish up here and begin the rest of my day. Then there is the table where one guest has the answers to all life's complexity (usually connected with politics) and feels the obligation to share them, not only with his companions, but also with the rest of us. This person always has a penetrating voice. This person also often has the intellectual grasp of a ten year old, alongside the self belief of bores everywhere. It is one of life's enduring mysteries why people sit and put up with loud opinionated gas bags, let alone let them drone on long after the coffee is finished. I tend not to. A suddenly remembered appointment can be helpful in this context.
You know? It has occured to me more than once that I might not be the most tolerant person ever to draw breath. Do I know all the answers? Do I have truth and wisdom cornered? No and no. Have I ever written an opinionated blog that irritated someone? Once or twice I guess.
So, on this morning spent once again beside the water, drinking coffee and feeling so grateful for the daily opportunities to be here doing just this, I feel the need to dip into my humility account and smile at my companions, be they lycra clad cyclists, have fog horn voices, or jar my neck as they push their chair back into mine without looking.

 

 

Another poem that found its way onto the blog:


Facebook

(My photograph taken in the Lego Shop in Copenhagen. I will leave it up to you to decide if it is relevant)

 

Stand back or dive in?

Paint pretty pictures for the world to see

or hang out your laundry for visitors to sift through?

Bring it your triumphs,

your sadnesses,

your loves,

your disappointments?

Say things best kept to yourself?

Seductively, secretly and sediciously,

it beckons us on and inward.

It gathers and stores without comment.

 

Do it all on facebook.

 

 

A feel-good gesture costs nothing

but hints at vacuousness.

Je suit Charlie

Save the planet.

Solidarity

with what?

with whom?

Bring world peace.

Abolish intolerance.

Repost and show your concern

with the press of a button.

 

Do it all on facebook.

 

 

Mining a rich vein of need

it grows rich.

Meanwhile it reflects us back on ourselves.

It laughs at us behind its hand

with contempt at our pretensions.

It holds up our vanities and insecurities;

smirks at our shallowness, our hypocrisy.

It advertises our self-centredness to the world.

Not even the casual callous nastiness

we might prefer to keep under wraps

gets by without an airing.

 

Do it all on facebook.

 

 

Our banality lifts its cover

and broadcasts itself on facebook.

It is scrupulously honest, but we are not.

It mislays nothing,

even as we prefer to forget our transgressions.

It is fearless and relentless.

Quietly and gently it takes away from us what matters most:

Our privacy and genuine intimacy.

Chasing the illusion of community

we chase 'likes' in lieu of kisses and hugs

and validation in lieu of conversation.

 

 

 

 

20140715-123635-45395573.jpg
Brotherly Love personified!

Well here’s a treat for you. Never short of self confidence, I’ve decided to write a diagnostic checklist for love. Naturally the coverage will not be exhaustive. What it lacks in comprehensiveness it makes up for in sincerity.

There has been one main stimulus for this article. The last few weeks have been ones of very strong contrasts for me: A follow up hospital stay for my long suffering shoulder; visits to far away children and grandchildren; joys and sadnesses in family relationships; aged parents who are struggling; and my brother, sister, and stepdaughter who are dealing with their own pain. Love or its absence, is a common factor in these experiences. There’s more, but you get the picture.

Sitting here this morning in the midst of a sea of pain surging out of the space between my shoulder blade and spine and extending down my arm, I cannot avoid being reminded that I am not an easy person to live with at times like this. Love springs to mind this morning, as it provides an antidote for and an explanation of sorts to many of the events of the past weeks.

So, we begin with my own humble diagnostic checklist which is not meant to be a paraphrase of the well known ode in the first chapter of the Book of Corinthians:

1. Love is inexplicable, inexhaustible, and usually undeserved. It cannot be predicted, resisted or owned. It surprises constantly with its adaptability, resilience, and its ability to forgive.

2. Love is tricky, and may not be what we expect. Sometimes it goes unrecognised, as people look for it in all the wrong places. Sometimes in their quest for love, people try to force it or settle for a replica of it. That is never a successful strategy. It is inevitably destructive for everybody concerned.

3. Love is not sneaky. It does not patronise or diminish. It is not afraid of the truth.
It never undermines. It builds up the loved and the lover. Love leaves us open to, and vulnerable to, the will of the one we love. That is the risk (and maybe the price) of love. The possibility of real hurt and pain is never far away. If you are not vulnerable, it’s not love you are experiencing.

4. Love can not be coerced. It can be as strong as rock, but evaporates quickly when fences are built around it or conditions are attached to it.
Love blossoms in every person who receives it. A person who is loved has fullness of life.
Love is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It can not be taken by one person from another. It can only be given away. It is always a gift. But like every gift, it is wise to receive it with humility and grace.

5. Love is a bit like a garden too. It needs to be tended, watered, the weeds removed, the soil turned and fertilized. Mostly though, it works in spite of the gardener. The seeds grow independently and the plants and flowers appear of their own accord in their own time. Just like a garden though, love can dry up and wither. In a loving relationship, the two people know this, and watch each other’s backs.

6. Love is the essence of life. Where we receive it, it heals us, lifts us, inspires us, reassures us, and sends us on to give it away to others. The presence of love is easy to recognise, just as is its absence.

How did I do? Did I cover the ground?
Does my description apply to the love between wife and husband? You bet it does! At least in this household.

Does it apply to romantic ‘lurv’? Yes, I think so, to a greater or lesser extent. There is a difference between being ‘in love’ and loving someone, as most of us discover eventually. Hopefully we discover it before we cause ourselves and others too much damage. Its all in the focus. The love I talk about above is not at all about ourselves. It is focussed on the other or others. On the other hand, romantic notions of love tend to be susceptible to a focus on having our own needs met. Maybe I am sounding like some old out of touch guy who doesn’t know what he is talking about. Maybe.

So, I would give romantic love a tick for No. 1? Yes. (forgiveness can be a bit problematic here though).
No. 2? Definitely applies!
No. 3? Ooh, not so sure.
No. 4? Yep.
No. 5? Don’t know whether this one gets much of a look in the first blush of romantic love.
No. 6? Yes, but don’t mention the ‘others’ bit too loudly. It will cause problems.

What about the love between friends or family members, sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts and so on? Does it apply there? Yes, I think the principles apply. There are undeniable undefinable differences in degree of course! I want to be there for my friends and family. I want to be open to them. I feel for them. I don’t want to let them down. Neither do I expect perfection from them (as they certainly won’t get it from me). Readiness to forgive comes in to play here too.

Specifically: No. 1? Yes. Friendship is one of the joys of life.
No. 2? Yes. Trying too hard to have friends is not a good way to go usually. Sometimes we can be surprised by the people who become our friends, just as they are by us.
No. 3? Absolutely and for sure, although the vulnerability barriers would be set higher than they would be with my wife for instance.
No. 4, 5 and 6 Yes. Pretty much word for word.

Well, I don’t know if I covered the gamut of manifestations of love, but I did forget about my pain for an hour or so, so I am content.

Hope it provoked some thoughts.