Sunday, 30 December 2012

Now or Then?

The sun sets on 2012
As 2012 draws to a close, I've heard a mixture of views about the year. Certainly a number of people have said it was their worst ever and 2013 needs to be a whole lot better. I wonder against what you judge a year's success or failure. 

I can imagine the loss of a loved one, redundancy, serious illness, divorce could be a hint that it's a year you'd rather forget, but on the other hand a successful year might be a marriage, a birth, a house move, a windfall of cash, a new job or an adventure you'll never forget.

The vast majority of my years for example are a mixture of emotions, some difficult times mixed with some good times. So how serious does the bad have to be to outweigh the good to dub it a year you'd rather forget? There's a whole lot of contradictory amateur and professional psychology about which talks about forgetting the past and look to the future only whilst others say the past has made you who you are and therefore how or why should you forget it. The past does shape us to become who we are today. But that doesn't mean to say we have to stay in that shape.

Some people bury the past because it's too painful to remember the traumas whilst others hang on the successes of the past and the pleasant memories. 

Perhaps this is too simple, but for me, the past can't be changed - success or trauma alike. It can't be erased and can't be changed to reinvent the outcome. It's just a spark of electricity in your brain, a piece of data stored away to come back and haunt you or delight you. Can we selectively forget, I suppose we can, but the memory is still there locked away somewhere and our character or behaviour is directly or indirectly affected by it one way of the other.

Ironically the future doesn't exist of course in any way shape or form. I guess we can influence immediate future events although this isn't entirely certain because events unknown or unexpected can come to bite us on the bum and scupper our plans very easily. 

So what do we know? Now. That's it, for certain, we know what we can see, hear and feel at this very moment in time. Many writers talk about the 'now' and how we should enjoy it for what it is, and if that's all we were able to concentrate on, living in this moment we call now will make the worries of the past disappear and the future isn't even a consideration. Of course this is more difficult that you can ever imagine, particularly in this modern and dynamic world and few people can concentrate hard enough to live in the 'now' for more than a few seconds or minutes.

This doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't give it a go, especially in times of stress or anxiety and one method could be meditation for example.

But before I go, I just want to mention a few people who have left us this year and passed on, none of which I have met and not even been particularly influenced by, but those I want to mention have given much pleasure and interest and have helped to pass the time now and then.

Singers Andy Williams and Robin Gibb, Davy Jones of the Monkees and musicians Dave Brubeck, Ravi Shankar and Hal David and actors Ernest Borgnine and Herbert Lom as well as writer, actor, director and stunning comedian, Eric Sykes. There have been others, writers, Kings, philosophers and astronauts as well as ordinary people who touch our hearts and senses in a whole host of ways. Gone but not forgotten.

As the New Year draws ever closer, I wish you and yours a safe, happy and successful 2013. 
Chat soon

Monday, 24 December 2012

One Over the Eight

I think these signs at the top of the street have been celebrating a little too early!
It's nearly that time of year again. I've just been out for a walk in the rain (with brolly) and thoroughly enjoyed it; time for thinking and watching the little rivulets of water running down the hill into the village by passing all the gutters still blocked with leaves. Fortunately, we are well above sea level here but the ground is saturated and even my garden has pools of water on it.

There isn't much preparation for Christmas, we're breaking with a fifty year plus tradition and this year, we're having steak instead of turkey which I am so looking forward to. Boxing Day consists of being with family and a short visit to a friend to say hello in the morning. Sadly, back at work on the 27th but as most people take Christmas off, the phone and e-mail should be very quiet until the New Year!

I haven't done a list for many months and I thought I'd do one that's seasonal and relates to the financial position at home - certainly mine! 

10 things that tell you you've overspent at Christmas:

1. American Express calls and says; "Definitely leave home without it."
2. Your idea of a 7 course meal is taking a deep breath outside a restaurant.
3. You think of a lottery ticket as an investment.
4. You give blood everyday, just for the cup of tea and biscuit.
5. You finally clean your house, hoping to find loose change.
6. McDonalds supplies you with all your kitchen condiments.
7. The wolf sends you food parcels.
8. You go back for seconds at communion.
9. Dried turkey is all you have for the twelve days of Christmas.
10. You rob Peter and then you rob Paul.

I hope you have a great Christmas, if you don't celebrate it - the seasons greetings to you.

Chat soon


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mayan Shmayan

I'm not an academic and his isn't an academic blog either, but just a few words on the 'End of the World' stuff that's going on supposed to happen on 21st December 2012.

The Mayans were and surprisingly to some, still are inhabitants of Mexico and northern central  America - their descendant live today and millions still speak the Mayan language. The Mayans calculated the solar year with a very high degree of accuracy for the time and this was far more accurate than western civilisation had managed. They were also very clever mathematicians and pre-telescope astronomers (of course they wouldn't have had the light pollution we have today.)

In simple terms, their calendar, which has a 5125 year cycle comes to an end in 2012. That's it. Allegedly. Scholars are divided even about the date 2012 never mind anything else. New Age people, perhaps I am on the edge of this label, consider that this date will bring about a transition to a more spiritual way of life with a change to a new kind of world. 

In many ways, this is what I believe, a return to simpler ways because of the economic climate, fading resources and the need to get back to providing for ourselves instead of the off the shelf and discard-because-its-out-of-date society we live in today. More and more we are going to have to 'make do' and cut our cloth accordingly. 

This has nothing to do with the end of the world and that won't happen. Academics and scholars find no evidence of this in Mayan work. Kooks and strange people believe this scenario - many cults have attempted to predict the end of the world and failed miserably. The sceptics play on this and there is a raft of jokes and unkind commentary, and this of course turns ordinary people against what cannot be proved by science which is a shame. This denies faith and belief.

End of the world predictions are what have been described as pseudoscience - in other words, guesswork and finger in the air stuff, made up to sound like it's science-fact where as in fact its science-fiction. 

So don't have a bet that the world will end, if it does you won't collect your dosh and if it doesn't, the bookies will be going to a better holiday destination than you courtesy of your hard earned cash.

Spiritualists and others who are sensitive have been sensing change coming for some time and we have been tested and prepared with challenges to help others who are going to struggle. How is that help going to take shape? Through support of those that want help, spiritually, morally and whatever other help that can possibly be given.

This is little to do with the end of a world but more a sense that we need to help mother earth to continue to sustain an ever growing population and we should begin that by changing our attitude and thinking about others as well as ourselves. Perhaps its not about having a new model phone or car every twelve months, moving to a better house every two years, having the latest gadget because we look better than the Joneses'. Perhaps its the need to survive the next few difficult years with dignity and display love and compassion for our fellow man and woman. As the economic situation worsens, there will be fewer jobs as automation starts to run things more cheaply and in some cases more effectively than we do as humans. Companies are making themselves 'lean' - doing more with less resources or simply struggling to stand still.

People will fall by the wayside if they don't adapt and change and realise things are going to be difficult and different.

Is there a need to panic - not at all. Is there a need to think about change (which we are all uncomfortable about) yes there is, both personally and environmentally.

I'll be doing some meditation with friends tomorrow night (21st) just to chill and think about the effect of the next few years and see what we can do to help others and how we can look after ourselves as well in order that we stay fit to help others.

In any case, I have bought the Christmas presents I need to buy and all but a couple have been wrapped which will be finished tonight hopefully. I haven't sent any cards out this year - that's the decision I took for economic reasons and the fact that the house has been a bloody tip for four months while the building has gone on. Last day at work tomorrow until the 27th, so I'm looking for five days of quality rest with the family and friends.

Hope your Christmas prep is nearly done and here is a sneak preview of the Christmas jumper I am wearing to work tomorrow:

Chat soon



Monday, 10 December 2012

Divided Household

Holy Trinity before the Carol Concert, excuse the quality, taken on my mobile
My very good friend Linda and I went to our annual Christmas church visit on Sunday night, 9th December. This year we went to see the EYMS brass band, one of the best brass bands in the UK, and the Hull Freedom Choir at the magnificent Holy Trinity Church in Hull. There was a formal carol concert with the packed congregation singing along to the amazing accompaniment of the band interspersed with readings.

After an interval, there was an informal concert with the band playing popular Christmas tunes and the choir singing some unusual Christmas songs. It was a wonderful concert and at times, strangely, very emotional. 

This is a funny time of year for me. The children and I celebrate Christmas, my wife does not - she's a Jehovah's Witness. So the jobs of Christmas are mine; cards get sent out without her name on them for example. The first year I sent them out without her name on, probably twenty years or so ago, I had to write an explanation on them which was awkward and embarrassing, but no-one bothered or commented for which I am very grateful, and I get cards back to this day from the same friends, but without her name on. 

She still eats with us on Christmas day, she has to eat all the same, but she won't put a paper hat on, or pull crackers etc., etc., but life goes on, after all these years I'm quite used to it. She doesn't recognise birthdays either so it saves me a few bob, but there is a gap in our lives at what are special times for the rest of us.

Whilst I read of some communities who revel in differences and feel stronger for it, there is a wedge that religion has driven between us and so the differences between my beliefs and hers are a world apart. There is no meaningful commonality even though we believe in the same God; the theory of what its all about and the interpretation of what the Bible says and how we worship is so different.

Mine is a relaxed and joyful experience in the modern world, hers is brought about by indoctrination and a love of God above everything else taking lessons for life from a time long gone by, written for people also long gone. No doubt she enjoys her religion, I don't really know, it's not shared.

I fully support the freedom to choose and live your life as you see fit within the bounds of the law and therefore I can't criticise her right to choose and follow her path as I have done in my belief. I just dislike the dogma and inflexibility and in some ways the hypocrisy of how JW's conduct their selves within their religion enjoying the worldly advantages of modern life.

They will say the same about me no doubt, the Bible tells them that Spiritualists (me) are receiving messages from Satan to give false hope and deception. Wasn't Jesus one of the greatest of all in His Spiritualism and His love of God. Didn't He bring together Moses and Elijah who had been dead hundreds if not thousands of years on the Mount of Transfiguration and He even spoke to them? 

Angels are littered through the Bible in a whole host of stories - superhuman beings, messengers of God. Is there no greater spiritual being than an Angel or Arch-Angel? Yet these ethereal beings are accepted without question. I believe in Angels - I wonder if that makes my wife uncomfortable?

One thing I have learned in my life living with a JW is that you never argue about the content, meaning and interpretation of the Bible. They know it backwards, forwards and upside down and interpret it in a unique and very literal way. 'The Truth' as they call it.

What is the truth, how do we reconcile out faith and belief with the truth of stories, written in a few cases and handed down by word of mouth for thousands of years and collected together and debated by mortal people centuries after the death of Christ before being put together in an agreed version in a book? 

For me that's the crux of it all: Why is my belief and worse or better than anyone elses? Why does one religion find themselves superior and better knowing than the rest? What do the hundreds of thousands of scrolls written centuries ago which have been ignored say, and how do they lend to the debate?

I am just comfortable with myself and what I believe in. I am what I am. I do what I do. 

I hope you are comfortable about yourself too - you deserve to be without being criticised and lambasted because you have given yourself a label even if that label is 'no religion recognised here.'

I don't think this is a rant and it is not meant to be, this is just a personal observation that relates to how I think as an individual and how religion affects me personally. I know fellow bloggers are interested about people and their lives - well here is mine - laid bare.

If you are angry with what I have written I am sorry; if you agree with it, that is up to you and either way I respect your point of view, but please don't leave a rant or embarrass yourself, be constructive if you make a comment and let me understand how you feel.

Have a great week

Chat soon


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hidden Talents

The photographs I put on this blog are generally not enhanced. Occasionally I improve the colour and sharpen dull shots and do admit to being a big cropper of shots to emphasise what I want you to look at, but by and large, I don't mess with them too  much. However, here is an example of just what an automatic enhancement does for a picture. in other words, let the computer automatically make sense of a dark photo in this case.

I took some tables back to Beeford that had been lent to us for the fair last weekend. After  a delightful chat and a cup of coffee with Roz and Howard, we popped along to Bridlington, just a few miles further up the road to have a look at the full moon over Bridlington Bay. After a few minutes to take in the view, listen to the invisible birds in the darkness on the shore line calling to each other (not gulls - not sure what they were - quite haunting whistling calls) I took a picture of the bay near the harbour. I put my point and shoot Panasonic TZ65 on the safety rail and it took the long exposure shot for a few seconds. I was quite disappointed at the outcome which was a lot darker than I had hoped for and here is the result:

Now, I took it home and ran it through the Adobe software asking it to automatically enhance it and this is the result (click on it to enlarge it):

You can see the clouds scudding by, you can even see my shadow on the sand from the lights on the  promenade at the bottom of the picture and the lovely Orion constellation in the sky top centre. Amazing. 

The weather is typically cold now in the UK and the older I get, the less tolerant I seem to be of the cold.  The ground is still sodden and a van working on the paying fields just up the road has sunk to its axles in the grass. Here's a shot from the garden today of frozen water (unenhanced) on an old tree stump.

I've also tried to keep up with the birds as they empty the bird tables and feeders with regularity. They get a mixture of a third peanuts, a third black sunflower seed and a third mixed seed. This seems to cater for all tastes. I have to buy it in sacks to make it economical otherwise to buy the odd pound of seed here and there would be too expensive.

Hope you keep warm and enjoy the week ahead.

Chat soon