Sunday, June 29, 2008

Firefox Extensions June 2008

To help celebrate the release of Firefox 3 and since I haven't done this for a while here are the Firefox extensions I'm currently using.

(in no particular order)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jasmine Rose

Age: 11 weeks. Weight: 6kgs Height: 59cm. She's healthy, happy and an absolute joy to behold (no parental bias here!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Craziness, Religion and the Human Condition

One of the reasons I struggle to write about my spirituality is I write for a tough audience, and I don't mean you, I mean the audience I write to in my head. Stan (name changed) is a very old friend who I have not seen or heard from in years. My recollection of him is of someone who is very very intelligent, very rational and judgemental and not afraid to let you know what he thinks. As I write I wonder to myself what would Stan think about this or what would he say about that. And some topics just get to hard to write about because I desperately don't want to let Stan find out that I am crazy.

I know it's nuts. But then again I'm nuts. You are probably nuts. We are pretty much all nuts. Crazy. That is the human condition. We have socially acceptable norms which wax and wane with the times and provided your outward behaviour doesn't deviate too far those norms then you are considered sane. But inside our heads we are nuts. If you don't believe me try spending a few days (hours will do) recording all of the thoughts that cross your mind. Only a crazy person would think some of the things that you and I think every-day.

One of the functions of religious traditions is to give us a way out of, or relief from, the trap of our own minds and to be less trite about it I am talking here about the ego or false self. God (or Gods if you prefer) being outside of the self and greater than the self offer a way out. Different traditions have different approaches and give a different emphasis to this aspect but it is there in at least some vestigial form in all religions.

In a moment of synchronicity while I was drafting this piece I read Philip Carr-Gomm's recent post where he quotes Catholic priest Sean O’Laoire who says that "we have to become serial killers in order to reach enlightenment". And the first death he prescribes is the ego's. Most of the pathologies of religion which I referred to in my last post exist because the false self will use anything and especially the most sacred to further it's own survival and only rarely does any-one take the first step let alone any of the others.

I'm a couple of weeks into A Course In Miracles and whilst this line of thinking isn't new to me the course has certainly made it clearer. The religious language aside the course says (so far at least) that we are crazy and it offers a way out. I've explored other ways in the past, it's been a more than a twenty year pre-occupation. I don't know if A Course In Miracles can deliver on the goods, or maybe if it can I'm too crazy for it to work any-way. But as I said before I think it is the only path worth walking. So Stan, thanks for everything but I am crazy and I'm going to do my best to stop trying to convince you otherwise, this work is too important to me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Spirituality

I've been writing this post in my mind for quite some time but while I've had many thoughts about what I want to say I've had few answers to the questions that then arise. The thing that has triggered my decision to actually write it now is not a sudden insight or rush of answers; if you want a neat conclusion I would warn you to read elsewhere. No, what triggered this post is that I picked up a copy of A Course In Miracles with the intention and commitment to spend a year (or how long it takes) working through the exercises. I also thought it would be a good topic to write about over the year. And if I was going to do that I would have to address, somehow, the topic of spirituality.

I started A Course in Miracles once before (I don't want to think about how long ago) and gave up because it was "too Christian in language". In the time since then I haven't embraced Christianity or any other religion and while I'm not going to try and say what A Course in Miracles is about at this end of the journey I am approaching it within the context of what I call my spirituality.

To give you a bit of a flavour of my inner world, over the last year I read both The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox. I loved both books and didn't find they contradicted each other. Both in their own ways address the pathology of religion with Richard Dawkins distinctly diagnosing the patient and Matthew Fox looking to the cure. I have an engineering background and I do not question science’s eminence in figuring out the ‘what's so’ of what’s out there. Being grounded in the scientific method I also don't have any interest in belief or faith.

But I am aware that I have a spiritual self, a spirituality, and I feel that I have a duty and obligation to myself and the world to nurture this aspect of myself. One only has to follow the news for a while to conclude that there is something missing in our culture, that something is going wrong in how we humans are relating to ourselves, each other and the world. I think what’s missing is what religion in the past has provided (or attempted to provide) and that's why the cure, which Matthew Fox is talking of, is required.

So what do I really mean by having a spiritual self or by spirituality? As I have alluded to it's not something that can ever contradict science (not that I regard science as infallible but that’s another topic) and it's also not something that requires belief or faith. Put simply it is my relationship to myself, to others and ultimately to everything. There is a ‘me’ who I have witnessed occasionally who deeply moves and inspires me. It's the bringing forth of that me which I regard as spirituality. And it is only through the true self that authentic relationship is possible. I accept that it's a path fraught with all the dangers that Richard Dawkins alerts us to and more; the egoic or false self is out to trip us up. But ultimately I think it is the only path worth following.

Which brings me back to A Course In Miracles. It starts very reassuringly with the words "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists." Which says to me, in the words of another of my champions, "Don't Panic!". Douglas Adams also posited in his essay "Is There an Artificial God" that maybe if there wasn't a God we would have had to have made one up. I'm not searching for God or even Gods but I do accept that it's a pitfall of the path that I may encounter one, or even more than one. If that happens I intend to take Mr Adams advice and firstly not panic. We'll see what happens after that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Latest Paranoia

Riding a bike you pretty soon work out that in the absence of recklessness and really bad luck you can expect to be able to out-brake the car in front of you. Initially this was of great comfort to me but sometime in the last week or two it occurred to me that out-braking the tintop in front is only half the problem if the tintop behind is incapable of out-braking me (if they were paying attention to begin with that is). So my latest paranoia is the sound of squealing tyres, behind me! You have to have your wits about you if you want to live long and prosper on a bike.

Actually I have another paranoia which is new as well- that I might accidentally drop, scratch, bruise or otherwise traumatise our baby girl. But they tell me that's pretty normal for a first time Dad.