I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

Still one of my favourite sites on the internet:

https://omfgdogs.com/

😀

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Abstraction, distraction and detraction

A few weeks ago I read Stephen King’s book on writing called, um, ‘On Writing’. If you haven’t read it, and you have any kind of literary aspirations, I thoroughly recommend you give it a go. Even if you don’t, as a biography of a successful writer’s career, and as an insight into how he does what he does, it’s well worth looking into.

I’d never read any Stephen King novels before reading that one, mainly because my entire understanding of his work until now consisted of just three pieces of information.

  1. He writes horror (which I’m not into).
  2. His stories often make surprisingly good movies – Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Shining, etc.
  3. His books have the word ‘fuck’ in them (a fact gleefully revealed to me by a friend at school when I was twelve).

But on the strength of reading the awesome On Writing I decided to give some of his work a go.

reading the king

The old me would me would have felt the need to start at the beginning, with Carrie, because reading people’s work in the order it was published somehow used to seem so important. The new me, who read all The Watch novels by Terry Pratchett first before going back and starting on the rest (and is very happy he did so) decided to start at the very top with what many consider to be his finest work; the 1421 page, complete and unabridged version of ‘The Stand‘.

I bought an old copy from Amazon for 1p, plus £2:80 postage and packing* (I was interested in seeing what it was like, but not that interested), and so far – 444 pages in – I’m enjoying it. Unsurprisingly, considering the length, it rambles a little, and there are an awful lot of characters to keep track of, but it’s well written, the idea’s really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play out.

* The old library copy I’d bought had an anti-theft sticker inside the front cover, a fact which caused me merry hell when I went shopping the other day – with alarms going off all the time, many a suspicious look and one apologetic bag search – until I finally figured out what was going on and ripped it out, taking part of the front cover with it.

For those of you that don’t know, the basic storyline (in a nutshell) concerns a genetically engineered super flu virus that escapes the lab and kills about 97% of the world’s population, and what the remaining 3% do afterwards to survive. It’s an interesting proposition which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to the actual point of this post.

I just read a chapter on the wave of natural selection that would happen if just such a disaster did occur. After the disease had done it’s thing some people, unused to and unprepared for a world without safety and technology, would die off pretty quickly from their own greed, ignorance or stupidity. We are told about a bunch of different people, and the tragic/stupid ways in which they meet their demise, and that made me wonder about the so called ‘sanctity of life’. We’re often told that all life is precious, that dying is bad and everyone is important. But is it true?

There are 7 billion people in the world; 7 billion! Let’s assume that most of them are either making the world a better place, or at the very least not actively trying to mess things up for the rest of us. Statistically speaking, there must be at least some people who are actually making the world a worse place to be. Even if it was just one tenth of one percent, that’s still 7 million people we’d be better off without. That’s a lot. I mean, that’s 7 million deaths that could make the world a better place. Faced with an idea like that it brings the whole sanctity of life thing into question don’t you think? It does for me anyway.

reading in the garden

That was where my mind wandered to on this sunny Saturday morn (NB: I feel ok in having thoughts like this because I’m not actually proposing we go out and start killing people!), when my mobile phone went *ding ding* and I got an e-mail. Train of thought ended. Something new had come along to distract my brain, abstract my thought pattern, and detract from my creative mental ramblings. And that’s what this post is really about.

We’ve made distracting ourselves into a full time thing, so much so that the distractions themselves fight for our attention. Message alerts and notifications want us to stop our lives and take notice of what our friends are getting up to on Facebook or Instagram, and we let them. No wonder we have short attention spans.

But we do it to ourselves too. Whilst I was writing this I heard my friend get up and go in the kitchen. She’s been away for a week and got back late last night, after I’d gone to bed. I felt a compunction to go say hello, see how she was, see how her trip went, and it actually took some effort on my part to stay focused on what I was doing so that it might actually get it finished.

I don’t know if we’d be better off if there were less people in the world, but I do know we’d be better off spiritually speaking if we turned our phones and our brains off once in a while and just stayed in one place – both physically and mentally – and did just one thing at a time. I suspect we’d be a lot happier, and we’d make more of this life that we’re all so keen on preserving.

Ask Yourself Why?

This fascinating presentation by the South American business man and entrepreneur Ricardo Semler asks a lot of great questions about work, life, and what it’s all about (it’s also pretty funny too!).
 


 
It certainly gave me a lot to think about.

I had an interesting chat today with a guy I used to work with a couple of years ago. We both spent a long time at the same company, and we were both generally (but not specifically) miserable for a great number of those years.

As with all these things, it’s only once you get away and look back do you realise just how unhappy you were, and you wonder why you put up with it for so long?

Thinking about it, it occurred to me it’s like the frog in a pan of water on a low heat. Turn the heat up slowly and frog will boil to death before he even realises what’s going on. But try to toss him into some already boiling water and he’ll jump straight out again!

So it is with unhappy situations. The really terrible ones are so shocking we escape from them immediately. The truly nasty, pernicious ones worm there way deep down inside us without us even realising it (often until we explode and don’t understand why?).

I got out by choice, training as a yoga teacher and then going traveling round the world. One of the best decisions I ever made. My friend had a little less of a choice about his exit, which made it a much harder and more painful experience for him.

But looking back now he truly believes it was the best thing that could have happened to him (work-wise, at least). He’s happier now, he’s about to embark upon his own business venture, and to quote him directly, he feels that “…a great weight has been lifted from [his] shoulders.”

Change can be hard, especially when it’s not by choice, but if we can take that change, build on it, and come out the other end with something that benefits us, then it makes it all worthwhile.

That’s what I think anyway. 🙂

Accidental Blashpemy

I blaspheme. Like, a lot! On a daily basis in fact.

As I go through life you’ll find my vocabulary littered with ‘God Damns’ and ‘Jesus Christs’ as I continually take the Lord’s name in vain whilst stubbing my toes or dropping things or, if I’m lucky, gazing in wonder and amazement at something magical.

But the important thing to remember is that I don’t mean it. These words have no more specific meaning to me than does the word ‘Coke’ mean specifically the brown sugar water made by the Coca Cola Corporation. When I say coke I mean any brown sugar water you have available (or at least did, when I drank brown sugar water). They’re just words I use to express a general meaning, and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Likewise my latest bit of blasphemy.

I’d seen this bookshop/cafe just round the corner from the hostel I’m staying in in Adelaide, and filed it away as a nice place to go and sit, drink tea, and read a book. And so, the other day, that’s exactly what I did.

Initially it seemed like any other bookshop you get; ie, full of books. But then as I was perusing the DVD shelves (I can’t help it, I see a DVD shelf, I have to peruse) I noticed that I’d heard of none of these movies; not a single one. ‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘So they get their supplies from some knock-off DVD supplier.’ It happens. Usually in 24 hour garages and back street newsagents though.

Then I spotted one with ‘Kirk Cameron Presents…’ emblazoned across the top, and a spark went off in my head. He’s a pretty well known Born Again Christian in the States. ‘So,’ I thought, ‘they have a religious DVD section. Ok, that’s cool. Each to his own.’

Then I headed to the cafe counter, passing lots of what appeared to be Self-Help books along the way. I stood waiting to order, my gaze drifting around the room, alighting on children’s books with the word ‘Jesus’ in the title, and adult books with the word ‘save’ on them somewhere, until it finally settled on a corner of the room separate from the rest that just had ‘Bibles’ written across the top of the entryway. I think around then is when I finally twigged I was in a Christian bookshop (and if that didn’t do it the t-shirt shop across the road selling ‘born again designs’, and the homeless guy with JESUS tattooed across his knuckles, really would have been the clinchers).

Now as I say, each to his own. It’s all good. But what made me chuckle to myself, and where the blasphemy comes in, is I was there to finish reading ‘Good Omens‘ by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, a light-hearted, tongue in cheek look at the Book Of Revelations and the End Of The World.

accidental blasphemy

If you haven’t tried it and you like a bit of a chuckle I suggest you give it a go. It’s a fun, well written book, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Apparently it’s a bit of a cult classic. I don’t know about that. I just picked it up in the book exchange at the hostel, figuring both these guys pen a good yarn, so together they’ll probably do alright.

But be warned, it doesn’t take The Bible entirely seriously. It doesn’t take much of anything entirely seriously in fact, but certainly not The Bible. That was why I felt kinda funny sitting there reading it in what was quite clearly a pro-Jesus establishment.

I’m happy to report though that I survived the experience. No one took umbrage at my presence or choice of reading material (though they would have had to have known it’s contents to do that, which seems unlikely in somewhere like that), and I was neither cast down, smote, nor rent asunder, which would have put a bit of a dampener on the rest of my day let me tell you.

I can only conclude that either God doesn’t care about that sort of thing or, as is more probably the case, She’s got a better sense of humour than most people give her credit for. Just look at the platypus for example. A prime example of someone having a laugh if ever there was one. 😀

Get Your Head Around This

They say the original Blue Marble photograph really showed humanity what a singular and precious world we have.

NASA Blue Marble

For the first time ever mankind was able to see our home in it’s entirety. To see just how isolated we really are, how unique our planet is, especially within the vast emptiness of space. And to understand just how important it is for us to stop all this fighting and destruction and work together for a better future for all.

Well now we have another unique perspective of Earth to ponder; Earth, from another planet!

Earth From Mars
 
both images reproduced under license courtesy of Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre

Seen from Mars our home planet is just a tiny dot, no hint of the complexity or confusion that lay upon it’s surface. There are more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand, and many more planets than that (ie: the ‘star’ at the centre of our solar system is the Sun), yet ours is still the only one that we have found anything close to life on. The current Mars rover Curiosity is looking for any hint that there might once have been water on Mars. If they can prove that they will be pretty certain life could once have existed there. But what will that mean to most of us? In the great scheme of things, not a lot.

Water on Mars is a long way from little green men, and really that’s what most people are interested in, the idea of meeting other intelligent species. But let’s say, against all the odds, that we found them or that they found us. Do we really think they’d be impressed by how we treat one another?

Countless astronauts have said upon seeing Earth from space that it’s hard to believe such a thing as war could exist on such a beautiful and peaceful looking place. And many of them have even dedicated their life to humanitarian missions upon their return home, so moved and changed were they by their experiences. Sometimes all we need to make sense of the world is a slight change of perspective.

As Bill Hicks once said, “It’s a round world last time I looked.” We need to stop looking at our differences and start concentrating on our similarities, both inner and outer. It’s the only way to be if we want to get where we’re going (and be ready for when the sun goes super nova in about 5 billion years!).