Tuesday, September 30, 2008

a journey of heart, mind and soul

I took a drive today. A deep sense of frustration and a rather large dose of cabin fever - that and the fact that I've been a bit blue over my current financial conundrums etc etc - I decided on an intuitive whim that a trip outside my usual comfort zone might be just what the doctor would order.

I can't afford to go really far, so I opted for the mountain range, practically in my "back yard" so to speak, about 65kms away.

I decided to go visit The Balconies or "The Jaws of Death" on Reeds Lookout for once. I don't remember having done this trip since perhaps very young with my parents and I certainly haven't done a trip to the Grampians heart since the big bushfires of January 2006!

Nature is persistent and resilient and she'll bounce back. I guess there is a lesson for all of us in that too - that no matter the adversity, one must always send new shoots forward into the future, on the ashes of the past.

At Reeds' Lookout, I was rapt to be amongst several different nationalities of people all speaking in their various languages (sadly, I am no Henry Higgins so cannot tell you from which parts of the world they came from). It really felt like being "overseas" in many ways and I felt a surge of positive joy in my heart just being there and watching them climb over the "safety" rails to go stand in the mouth of the "Jaws" themselves! Mind you! After awhile of watching young foreign men and women play mountain goats on rather sheer rock ramparts, I had to leave, feeling a little overly motherly in my concern for strangers, whom I could not communicate with effectively to warn of any dangers! Still, the walk, the sunshine - the sky was clearing by now - the mishappen and alien environs of the mountain and regenerating scrub-land, all did me the world of good.

I then drove the winding roads through the Wonderland Tableland and stopped at Rosea Carpark intent on finding my way to Dellys Dell. This walk down into the fern-hearted depths of the mountain was a delight, if a rather strange journey into a very changed fact of my history. It was 20 years ago, approximately, that I first committed to marrying my once-husband in this very place. I spent some time down here today contemplating that past 20 years. A tiny little native finch accompanied me for a short while, darting from fern frond to fern frond, oblivious and unconcerned by my presence in his home. I let go of that past and accepted that I am finally responsible for what happens to me - on my own - without fear or recoil from a future where the possibilities are limitless. I miss the companionship of being "with" someone, but I need to give up needing it so much and get on with being ME without the co-dependent tendencies. The finch was suitably nonplussed by my few short tears and my determination to re-emerge from the Dell "re-born" so to speak. He/She probably thought I was taking myself just a tad too seriously perhaps! :)

I then travelled the further 10km of winding road down into the township of Halls Gap. Once a tiny little backwater and hidden gem of a place for bush-walkers, camping enthusiasts and visitors to come feed kangaroos and buy a simple ice-cream - it is now a resort/camping mecca for an abundance of national and international travellers! We nearly lost the entire town back in 2006, only a few of the locals stayed to help fight back the wrath of the fires that came, literally, within metres of destroying the place. But, that near tragedy has not daunted this little town! There are resort cabins, accomodations and all manner of "developments" taking place. The place is NUTS in holiday season and it will be a damn shame, but I can totally see the powers-that-be having to remove some lovely forest to make more room for carparking! Joni Mitchell's "Yellow Taxi" springs to mind. Progress be damned in this instance I think - but how the mighty $ rules! *sigh*

I went to the Stony Creek shops to get a cup of tea and met a bloke called "Micheal", a cheeky affable old local who delighted me and engaged me with conversation and much laughter. We only got as far as first names but I already found him lovable and charming and maybe I will meet with him again in future travels to take those photo's. I told him about my trip to Dellys Dell, without giving much away about the spiritual and emotional implications of that short journey, but he said almost immediately "You spoke to the fairies didn't you?". I could only agree, laughing at the knowledge of being "known" so well so quickly!

My money woes and my worries about tomorrow won't go away overnight because of this journey. My sense of isolation and tension in being "trapped" by my own need for personal freedom will possibly return. But, right here and right now, I travelled "abroad" and it feels good to have experienced something new.

My soul is calm.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"She loved us..."

Lars and the real girl is a truly quirky film!

Surreal at worst, beautifully crafted at best. Part Pygmalion, part The Velveteen Rabbit, this story captured my heart with its quirky off-beat humour and sensitive handling of some very difficult material.

The film stars Ryan Gosling in the title role and it deals with the subject of mental illness in a radically different way to most Hollywood portrayals of deeply disturbing and fragile states of mind.

Lars is a sweet loner in a small "northern" (it's not really specified exactly where) community. He grew up with a practically absent family it seems. His brother Gus, who has now moved back into the family home with his lovely pregnant wife, left his grieving father when Lars was very young. Lars father, we learn, was heartbroken, having lost his wife while she was giving birth to Lars. We can only guess at how this might have affected the boy during the course of his growing years, but from the picture presented brilliantly by Ryan Goslings portrayal of Lars, we guess it must have been an incredibly difficult childhood indeed.

Lars stuns his brother, sister-in-law and the town with news that he has a girlfriend. She is like no girlfriend they've ever seen before. An anatomically correct, life-sized doll named Bianca with a full and interesting background and bio. She comes into the lives of this community and they are left bewildered and staggered at how close they've come to losing one of their own to a desolation of mind too intense to be articulated. They never, ever, knew how precarious the life and mind of Lars Lindstrom has been to this point!

At the behest of the towns doctor/psychologist, they agree to go along with Lars' elaborate fantasy to the point where they too begin to adopt Bianca as one of their own.

It's a beautifully crafted, under-stated film that is both sweet and kind-hearted at its core. It's premise may be a little bit weak here and there but this is a movie about Love, Community and Sacrifice - not about the mundane realities for most people with mental illness where they tend to cop brutal shaming, bigotry and rejection rather than loving, if bemused, acceptance and tolerance. What we see here is a community who deeply cares for one of its sons and his gradual awakening to that fact.

When I was young, I believed that all my soft toys were real! My favourite story was The Velveteen Rabbit - about a soft toy becoming actually real through the power of love. To this day if anyone pressed me, I'd still say soft toys are real (when we aren't looking ;)). There is something about my own state of mind that wants to suspend disbelief long enough to will life and stories into the stuffed, softly, furnished chests of toys! And yes...I may have a delusion too!

Lars and the real girl will probably not appeal to many people. It has a slow meandering pace, where the details to Lars and his background are delivered gradually and deliberately. And, I have to admit, the subject matter is well...it's weird! That a community would tolerate a grown man believing he is in love with a sex-toy but treats her as a real woman, is a stretch. In this case however, it works and Bianca becomes as real as any girl who lived and loved!

is poverty a simple state of mind?



Lots of people on the web might tell you otherwise. That its a matter of one "manifesting" their way to better love/sex, health and preposterous riches. Which is all perfectly reasonable on the surface of course. That's "basic" "Law of Attraction" stuff where we get to play "god" of our own "Creative Destiny". You think about what you want, wish for it, pray for it, and then "align your emotional state" with the outcome and voilá! You "should" be technically much happier and wealthier and have better relationships!

(Oh but I am ever the closet cynic on this stuff *smirk* I play around with these concepts but at my core, I find them slightly "off" as in not sucking in enough Truth Serum really... it's all too self-centric and greedy sounding to me at my gut-level analysis of LOA - no matter WHO tells you that its supposed to be about 'Love for the Greater Good' and so on! Still, I do play around with it because well...that's what people - what I - love to do! Be self-centric etc!).

But okay... let's ask someone who is on "The Poverty Line" in the North world. By South World standards, the poor in the North are still incredibly wealthy, at least if they have a roof over their head and something productive to fill in time as a contribution to their membership in society and so forth. They don't HAVE to go picking rubbish tips for rags or scrape animal dung off roadsides to use for their fuel to cook a basic meal. They get regular assistance from most government agencies - well, for the most part they do, even if its dismal, its still a darn-sight better than those who don't have a hope of accessing a welfare payment in the South World.

I'm probably, right now, technically classed as being on the Australian version of "The Poverty Line". Since my separation, my income has been erratic and LOW in comparison to where I used to be as a self-employed, married wife and mother of two! Life is getting exceedingly tough to keep ahead of the financial hurdles we all face at regular intervals in the pursuit of our lifestyles - even if they're really basic lifestyles within the context of ones culture.

Right now, I am scraping every bit of income to my bank balance as I can muster and TRYING to not let it slip right out again on frivolities such as my daughters up-coming Presentation Ball for her year at College! We were told by the school that we needn't spend a fortune, but constituting what is a fortune is relative when its a fortune you don't have in the first place! My credit card got a bouncing with this mandatory event and it is going to take a looongg time to recover from it. That same amount would have easily been paid off within the month last year! How time turns on a wheel yeah?

Did I ask for this?


I can will the "Universe" or God all I like to make me rich enough to squander money like I have on fancy clothes, gloves and shoes for my beautiful 16 year old daughter to be a princess for an evening, but it won't change the fact that I am low on cash right now!

Of course, I am optimistic that this situation can and will change in the foreseeable future. I have enough Faith in God to take him at his word that he'll take care of the details. It doesn't stop me stressing right now though, over what "surprises", financially speaking, are awaiting around the corner that I have not factored into my attempts to be "reasonable" about spending!

Poverty isn't a state of mind! It's a physical environmental and social THING you respond to as you would to cooking a meal, watching a sporting event on TV, Showering, putting on makeup, dressing up, dressing down, touching a friend, feeding a pet. It doesn't come upon you because of the way you have dreamed your manifested existence, it just comes upon you at certain phases in a lifetime, like seasons do.

Of course, I'm not suggesting one need stay in a state of poverty at all! It is however something that is real and acute and that you must DO something with - or not! It CAN be a prison and a cruel one at that and it is NOT necessarily anyone's fault they're in there! INNOCENT until proven guilty my friends! Poverty can be a bit like sackcloth and ashes for some people too - they simply LOVE the kudos they feel it brings to be down and dirty and flat broke! *shrug* More power to them if that's what they like!

I suspect though that for many in the North of the world, where affluenza is a disease of chronic and unassailable proportions, our notions of poverty are rather skewed. We think we can either sweep it into the "too hard" basket and ignore it or we believe that somehow its such a sinful creation of the human condition that it must be willed away by magical thinking and that thinking rich instead will solve the problem overall for everyone (but mostly 'myself' et al).

Poverty and wealth are things we use to make a life. They are tools from the same human tool box. Both can be used in any given situation. Thing is...we don't always get to choose which tool we use - they get handed to us by someone else and the lesson then is "So how would you do that with this tool then?"

I have not asked to be broke! I've not manifested this financial (and I might add, emotional and physical versions of currently perceived poverty) position because I'm aligning my vibrational energy with such notions! Oh man! What an idiot who thought that idea! ... I've just been handed the question as to how am I going to use this tool for this life, right here and now.

Life may not be a dress rehearsal, but it sure as hell is a damned tough school sometimes!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A wee gem of a show about poo

Shane Jacobson is pure genius!

The man has invented a character so charming and disarming that he, aka "Kenny", positively reeks with genuine warmth, good humour, affable charm and extraordinary integrity towards people of all races and creeds!

I'm currently addicted to the half hour TV show on our Channel Ten here called "Kenny's World" on Wednesday evenings (yes! I should be studying! *sigh*). If you click the title of this blog post, the link will take you to the online video's of the same TV show. They're well worth the time to watch if you have a good fast broadband connection and if you're reasonably comfortable with some mild swearing and strange Aussie terminologies.

The show celebrates the International Year of Sanitation. What a fantastic idea! Not only am I being thoroughly entertained but I'm learning a LOT about the world in terms of how we manage and attend to the most fundamental aspects of all human life across the planet, that being, the way we manage our personal waste.

With gentle tongue-in-cheek humour, Kenny leads us on a whirlwind tour of the worlds toilets and associated side-stories. Tonight in Episode 3, I learned that 42 percent of the entire worlds population is without decent sanitation! I also learned about the amazing efforts of a humble man in Singapore determined to change this fact. Marvellous stuff really.

There are probably some people for whom this subject would cause the disgruntled and disgusted "Ewww!" with all the associated distate of having to speak of such things as "Poo" and "Wee"! I feel very sorry for these people! Access to appropriate, planet friendly sanitation is, in my opinion, a fundamental right of every citizen.

We in the affluent "North" of the World with our postulating on what we think is "best" for everyone else would do well to take note of how some of our Asian cousins handle the issue quite frankly! We do need to talk about how we manage and apply planet-friendly ways for reducing our reliance on water-guzzling cisterns and how we can effectively provide sanitation that is cheap, reliable and clean for the children of the world. Note this bit of info from Mr Sim, that approximately one million children a year die from diarrhea associated with poor sanitation! That is what's really disgusting!

But anyway, I am being absolutely charmed - and educated - by the wonderful character of Kenny and am finding this show to be one of the highlights of my TV viewing year (there has been a real dearth of those highlights until now I might add!).


Sunday, September 21, 2008

my strange metaphor for Knowledge

Picture this:

A large spider in the centre of an even larger, robust web, glittering with dew drops in the morning sunlight. Each of the spiders 8 legs, is actually a finely honed tuning fork. Each tuning fork is pitched at a different tone. The spider pings a thread within the web with a particular tuning fork. It's just a quick flick. The tone travels out along the interwoven threads of the web and the dew drops bounce and swerve, dance and glitter as the vibrational energy of the sound and the physical shove on their silken wire mobilizes them.

The dew drops slide and gather together to form new dew drops, larger or smaller than their original size. Some drops drip right off the web and onto the plant matter below, forever disconnected from the song the spider plays at will overhead. It doesn't matter. The dew drops that fall down will feed the life that will in turn eventually support the spider in its quest.

The Spider is Knowledge.

The web is the vast human connected world that receives, responds and supplies Knowledge.

This is connectivism in action.

Does this mean that Knowledge is at the hub of things? Does this mean that Knowledge is implied as some kind of Entity outside of usual and common human interaction?

Yes and No!

Spiders are living things. So is Knowledge. It moves, grows, changes, gives birth to and dies just as any living thing does. Knowledge isn't static.

But it does have tuning forks for legs!

Every nuanced move of Knowledge's leg is a beautifully and carefully orchestrated pitch on a particular scale sent to achieve a particular and carefully orchestrated end. Knowledge loves to feed and it is gluttonous and greedy but also patient and resilient. It pitches for more of what it wants and it usually gets it - for the web is an attractive rather sticky thing. It brings things to it that makes the spider grow and get fat.

Tuning forks have a function. They provide a perfect pitch. A sound. In order to produce that sound, one must tap at the fork so it resonates.

ALL KNOWLEDGE RESONATES. In order to make Knowledge resonate, you need to tap the tuning fork. That's all it takes. A simple tap and the sound and the vibration will do the rest.

This is what both attracts things to the spider and what the spider imparts outwards.

Maybe its a bad metaphor. But to me it's more ecologically quantifiable than pipes!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The subjective truth and nothing but my subjective truth

Zeitgeist is not a movie for the faint-hearted christian! At least for the first 30 minutes or so.

In a rather clever story-telling exercise that more or less "proves" the "myth" that is the religion Christianity, by linking it to astro-theological evidence extending as far back as Egyptian Sun-god worship, it's hard not to feel decidedly uncomfortable as a Christian, watching this, and also not feel rather foolish or alternatively indignant at the claims!

I felt both in the first part of this very interesting, but disturbing viewing experience. I did not want to believe this information at all! It offended and frightened me. I could feel the muddied waters of doubt in my gut, swirling about and I fought with every last ounce of "Belief" I could muster (or which The Spirit, himself could muster within me), to fight my deeply rooted fear of sliding into total disbelief in the very religion and faith system to which I have ascribed most of my life - and character - this past 46 years or so! It, the first 30 minutes or so of this movie, defined the nature and idea of Christianity as being one massive conspiracy theory which almost entirely exists as a man-made myth dating back many thousands upon thousands of years! I could not - and do not - wish to believe it even if on the surface it seems perfectly plausible from the way the information is presented in this film!

It was a very uncomfortable experience and I nearly stopped watching a few times. But I plodded on. I've not read or heard much about this movie, suffice it to say that its title crops up in conversations and in different places on the net enough that I thought it was time I caught up with what it was about.

Interestingly, as I watched the second half of the movie, which is again a clever story-telling exercise in disclaiming much of the hype that surrounded the attacks on the World Trade Centres in New York, U.S.A on September 11 2001, I was very much prepared to believe what I was being told! Absolutely ready to believe it! The information is pretty much a conspiracy theory extraordinaire, indicting the U.S.A. Government of obscene atrocities against its own! Marvellous fodder for the cynic at heart! I'm all for it! Ready to believe what I'm being fed with a giant spoon and with gluttonous joy and delight!

What a difference a belief can make in the soul of a woman yeah?

Both scenario's are presented in a way that outlines the probable LIE behind each "myth". One I refuse to accept and believe. The other I'm ready to welcome as The Truth with an open mind!

My nature is to be highly susceptible to Ideas. I'm easily swayed by a good argument and have ALWAYS had a lot of trouble defending my side of an argument succinctly or with clear winning evidence. I am simply left mumbling in convoluted incoherence whenever someone very clever can present their version of The Truth more clearly and definitively than I can. I need time to go away and muse on things, to define the structure and nuances of what I believe about the "facts" as presented, to research and inform myself of the background on the arguments for and against. Then I MIGHT be able to come back with a clear and reasonable prima facie case of my own. Maybe! More often than not - at least until recent years - I've been swayed instead to the side where the argument appears strongest.

This movie, Zeitgeist, is incredibly clever and intelligent sounding in its portrayal of the information it wishes to convey. It might have easily swayed me once upon a time (or I'd have run for the hills in fear of it probably), but now I see how I CAN be manipulated to believe something that I've not decided for myself to believe!

I am not particularly fussed if God is indeed a Myth! I want to believe in this God because I am comforted when I feel as loved and as valued as I do within this faith I own. Nothing else that I have thus far experienced in life can bring me the level of assurance, comfort and personal peace within, as believing in a God who is ever-present albeit Invisible!

The way I figure it is...if its a myth and a stupid lie then I simply die a bit foolish and nothing much else will happen. If it is however a profound truth of the human condition that God is who He says he is (and who may well have visited mankind in each age as a savior for each age according to that ages faith), then I have everything to gain don't I, even after my death!

I AM particularly fussed that September 11 is a frustrating political machination of human evils perpetrated for the pleasure and political purposes of power-hungry men! I will readily believe the stupidity of mankind enough to say "Yeah! The conspiracy of 9/11 is quite probable" even though we'll probably never really know the absolute truth to the story!

Zeitgeist is not an easy film if you have a weak faith or alternatively, have too much vested interest in having your own very subjective belief systems "justified" by such "facts"! It can work either way for the extremely fundamentalist Christian zealot who decries such evidence against their faith as a tool of Satan and it can work for the Atheist who claps their hands with glee in being able to soundly disprove the myth of religion on an equally zealous scale! It will also polarise those of the pro-war on terror activists and those who believe emphatically in the Government Agency conspiracies surrounding September 11 2001.

The third part of this movie had me smiling somewhat by the end. For all the disparaging of Christianity, much of the thesis of the third part of Zeitgeist is almost text book Fundamentalist Right-wing extreme Pentecostal Christian "dogma" on End Times! I heard much of this stuff back in the early 80's from various charismatic/pentecostal christian evangelists espousing the terrible events of Armageddon, and "The Mark of the Beast" aka micro-chipping (back then it was bar coding). Nothing new under the sun really! No pun intended!

The person this movie is aimed at though, I believe, is the hapless, undecided "Don't-know-much" aspirational christian/agnostic/sceptic/layman. This movie seems to be specifically designed to polarise the middle of the undecided road into moving toward a specific direction - the direction the movie seems to want us to go - which I think,is "Everything you ever believed is a Lie!" Well... that's as close as I can get to its Thesis Statement anyway.

The movies ending is a nicely packaged homely we can all aspire to which gives most of the prior information a kind of humanistic "We're all in this together" sense of rightness and virtue. Thing is, human beings have always aspired to being One People United in Love - we're just a tad chaotic in how to we attempt to get to that goal! Always will be if you happen to believe in "sin" as I do!

The Truth...the REAL Truth in any story is there, but how we are led to that Truth is a convoluted jungle pathway of twists, turns, and deviations, all of which are led and espoused by too many compasses pointing to too many different Norths to be entirely trusted! It's EASY to be manipulated! Really, really easy! It does behoove us to be especially careful in this day and age of vast amounts of information propounding "The facts", that those very facts may be contrived and constructed purposefully in order to steer our beliefs and thinking in a particular direction.

Question Your Beliefs.....

............................ but know when you need to stay firm in your Faith too!

How, When, Where, Who with and Why?


We all do it even when we think we're not doing it!

I mean Education of course.

Dave has written a post on the CCK08 project for week 2 and it got me thinking. I've only sort of been following the blogs on this project. I'm currently undertaking my own slightly more traditional studies via Online Universities Australia. It's just a pre-cursor course in Tertiary Learning Strategies, which is really a fancy way of saying "I'm learning how to write essays the way the Uni wants me to".

While the CCK08 project does leave me a little cynical as to its purpose and success, I'm also battling with cynicism and frustration by the truck-load with this current Unit I'm doing.

Right now, I'm in the throes of developing my Assignment 2 topic which is to summarise in 350 words a chapter written in typically grandiose academic parlance on the challenges of juxtaposing Human Rights and non egalitarian, traditionalist societies where community rights seem to far outstrip individual "rights", and trying to find a consensus between the two!

My particular challenge, apart from having to summarise (something I am, for obvious reasons, not very good at), is finding a study partner I can swap notes with on equal footing. This particular online uni course seems to have dug people from out of the woodwork who are terrified of the written word to such a degree they're hyper-focussed on formatting their assignment pages before they even get to skimming the texts available!

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh though. Many of my fellow students have not "studied" under any formal institutional learning regime for many years and things are very different at tertiary level now than they are/were at High School 10 to 30 years ago!

Learning for me is already instinctive. I may not necessarily follow the prescribed patterns of learning according to the topic notes and objectives etc. But I DO learn by myself quite happily at my own pace and in my own unique way. Learning for me is a process of me 1) needing to know and 2) finding out what I need to know and 3) sourcing the places/people/stuff where I can find out what I need to know.

My biggest learning hurdle with this current course I'm doing isn't going to be about researching, reading or so on - it's going to be in the area of writing in a prescribed fashion for a particular academic audience who have an expectation in that regard. That sucks but I'll deal with it and perhaps my writing may even improve as a result! It can't hurt anyway. *cough cough*

Still! I'm deeply frustrated that I can't find anyone to share this journey of discovery with (re the Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention subject I've chosen to work my next few assignments on) even though there's about a third or so of 500 students doing the same topic!

Perhaps I've come across in the forums as a bit of a educational "snob" in the way I express stuff! Perhaps, I've been intimidating in my discussion-in-text style! Perhaps I'm not "joining in" enough in the dross and flotsam of notice-board exposition with the ubiquitous "Help me! I'm lost - how do you.....?" posts! "er...that was covered in the above 10 posts higher up in this noticeboard" etc etc. *sigh*

I simply want intelligent conversations with people who are EQUAL to me in their prior knowledge of computer communications, writing and their interest in the topic itself! THAT's what is proving to be the biggest issue for me as to my learning right now. Which of course makes Daves comments completely accurate when he says that most effective learning is done in context and through conversations with peers!

I'd have not believed him if I were not experiencing the dearth of such a thing myself right now!

Friday, September 19, 2008

blog block


The dreaded scourge of bloggers everywhere! Blog Block!

Argh! what to write? What to say?

It's enough to drive a girl nuts!

I love my blog; I adore writing in my blog! However, when it feels like there's "nothing" much to say - it seems futile to try and push the words to come forth.

I actually have a TextEdit page here on my hard-drive with possible topics to muse upon in here but as I look at my dashed off notes - written in the inspired heat of a moment when the ideas sprang forth like gazelles over tumble weeds, but which I had not time right then and there to develop into words - and I'm left cold and uninspired by them.

*sigh* Words are my tools. They're how I THINK. I think and imagine in both words AND pictures. I cannot imagine pictures without the running commentary of words panning across the visions in my mind. I'm both visual and aural in my thinking processes.

Words on the page, the literary word, displayed in characterisations and symbolic archetypes - and therefore essentially a visual pursuit really if you boiled it down to its essence - they're how I muse; how I decide things; how I formulate and cohere all the messy symbols that my busy mind perceives.

Words are my life-line to thinking straight. They're the rosary beads of my meditations, the camels in my caravanserai of psychological rectitude, the pulchritudinous jewels of my frontal cortex.

I love words!

But alas! Today I have Blog Block and the words won't come so well.

Poor Blog that writes nothing of note: Poor Blogger who's brow does crease in desperate concentration on the nothing!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First steps in a new kind of "job"

I'm experimenting with a new kind of writing concept.

Not sure if it even exists out there in the market place or on the net actually but I guess its worth a try.

I'm offering my services as a writer of greeting card messages.

Yeah! It's weird and a bit "huh?" but it's something I have apparently always been able to do instinctively and "easily". We will see of course if that is actually true and not just my dear mother being "supportive" of her daughter-scribe.

Lots of people choose a card for its pertinence to the person they intend to give it to. However, a lot of the time, the card's pre-printed message isn't always everything that you want to say even though the picture and the concept seem to sort of "match".

Lots of people have trouble trying to figure out what to say in messages and greeting cards.

There is a booming home hobby industry in card-making where beautiful one-off, handmade paper craft creations are crying out for suitable words to be added.

So here's the thing I'm going to try...

I'll write heaps of greeting card messages and put them on this other blog. You select something that you want to use and then you copy it, either in your own handwriting, or just copy, paste, print according to how you want to use it. These messages on the blog are available for free for now. I intend to incorporate a Tip Jar for those honest souls who like to reward for services rendered.

I'm still not exactly sure how to make this a marketable and viable business that supplements (or surpasses) the current income, but we're working on that aspect.

Coaching people in writing messages that come from their own hearts and voices may be the possibility down the line. Time will tell if that is possible or desired by the market, although, I do have to say that I can totally see myself helping some poor bloke construct his personal marriage vows! hahaha Oh! But, that would be an awesome contribution I could make to the world! Yeah? :)

This is a new concept and I'm willing to explore lots of possibilities with it. If you have ideas about how to make this something extraordinary, drop me a line and express your opinion.

The question really is "Would you buy the words you wanted to say, if you couldn't come up with them yourself?"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What the hell is "Connectivism"?

It's a "new" buzz-word creeping into the conversation that is The Internet.

So far as I can ascertain from a very non-intensive reading of the blog, it's about how learning is "changing" and the process of creating a method of education that is more unilateral and egalitarian than traditional forms of learning.

The fundamental questions of how people learn, why people learn and where, when and who with will they learn are being discussed and critiqued in a kind of giant open-learning experiment currently happening in a small corner of the www.

There are apparently about 2000 people "doing the course", which involves lots of discussion time (conversations) in various locations using the remote communications of the internet itself.

At present, it seems that much of the "learning" is a collective debate on the subject itself.

What IS Connectivism and is it "useful" for the future of education?

I guess it is inevitable really. The whole analogy of the Internet being a "web" has virtually (sic), generated this concept into an actual Thing we can conceive of and utilise for other purposes including the way we learn stuff.

My interpretation, which by no means, have I shared in the discussions with course participants (I'm an outsider looking in at the moment), is that Learning - which is the information one is expected to or naturally acquires, culturally, socially or individually, in order to effectively produce a value-added purpose for existing in the world and bettering it (or not) - has for the past few hundred years or so been a very hierarchical thing. Pump the stuff in and expect the same stuff to be pumped out for future generations and so on.

Connectivism suggests (from my personal observations so far), that learning is now beginning to take on a kind of networked, peer-to-peer quality through discussion, conversation and reciprocated experiential transactions.

It's kind of Socratic actually, although not strictly so. Socratic learning asks questions that lead to other questions that lead to thinking about the subject and further discussions that springboard off from there to more questions and new subjects that circle around back to the original idea. Except, that in this instance there is no actual Socrates himself presiding over the course of discussion and steering it according to his own deliberate and cunning modus operandi.

Whereas Socratic method is reducing things down from a hypothesis to a universal Truth, Connectivism seems to want to deliberately explode the hypothesis into yet a thousand more. Connectivism appears to want to force - naturally that is - learning, to conduit expansively rather than reduce a learning process down a defined pathway to fundamental empirical evidence.

What will this achieve?

Not sure really. It could prove rather confusing in the end. If everyone is everyone else's teacher, who then has the Actual Thing that can be defined? And is that Actual Thing necessary anyway? The debate could be infinite on that last point btw!

When everyone is an expert on everything, nothing can be quantified or qualified. Or so it seems to me. It will be interesting to see if Connectivism as a learning tool does achieve a kind of collective hive-mind consensus on a topic or issue of discussion. It will be interesting indeedy, if ego's can be kept outside of the discussions and those participating can refrain from needing to have their personal opinions exemplified.

The cynic side of me has already assumed that collective learning with no defined structure or hierarchy will be just one big bun-fight with way too many obsessive self interests to be viable over the long term. If anyone does learn something from this, it will be the instigators of the course itself! What they'll learn is probably how to be good bouncers at a rage party!

I am intrigued by this experiment currently being conducted even so. The use of the net as a device for learning is obviously going to become increasingly more valued by our culture, if it isn't already! I myself, am currently doing a tertiary unit of study at an Aussie university via the Internet, so doubting the process is rather silly when I know its already possible and am doing it myself.

The two styles of learning are quite different though. My uni studies are still very much based in traditional concepts of reductionist thinking. Connectivism seems to be somewhat opposed to this process. I could be wrong though on that.

Still, right now, I kind of visualise the whole concept of learning through networking a bit of a confusing jumble of too many ideas with not enough meat on any of them. Like sprinkling salt on the sea.

I also think there might be too many "chiefs" and that the "indians" are all far too interested in making sure THEIR ideas are the best ones (and ergo... are THE 'Chief').

Live and learn though no matter what :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

sense of urgent momentum

Feeling increasingly like I have to burst out and DO something of late.

the intense feeling of needing to change something about my life...particularly what I do for a living... is really pushing from within today.

I currently work in a small cafe during the day. The pay is casual rates so its a bit higher than if I was full-time, but even so, it's barely enough to subsist currently. I quite literally need either another better paying job or I need to find another source of income ASAP.

I have felt for some time that I have something to offer the world in terms of what I can do but I don't yet fully know HOW I can bring it into being.

For one thing, I am convinced its something to do with both writing and the internet. Making money from it is now my focus but HOW?

There's a tonne of advice out there for making money on the internet but most of it is dodgy and silly in the extreme. Those who do succeed at making money from internet enterprises work very very hard in a very very small niche that others have not been able to replicate or do well.

I've yet to discover my particular internet niche where what I do well, (and if I could even come close to knowing exactly what that is...it could be easier, but I don't!), and what I love doing - writing and musing - could bring in some extra income for my family and charitable interests.

But the sensation of a profound PUSH is burbling away inside of me today as if I'm a chrysalis on the verge of some grand awakening. I know its just around the corner. It's there just behind the bend where I can feel its presence but not its face.

WHAT is it that I am going to do?

WHO will I do it with?

The "Why?" is easy. It's my time to break free from being someone else's "slave" and do something that makes my mark on this planet.

yes! I DO want a better income than what I currently have and yes! I believe I actually NEED a better income than what I currently have. I refuse to be locked into a pattern or lifestyle that says "I'm not worth more than this!". My kids are a thousand times more deserving of their Mum making a better than average income than what she's currently earning!

I want to write. I want to be someone who makes a difference. I want my family to push forward into the future with optimism and a powerful sense of being able to DO things that are important without having to stress over the pennies.

I don't want a fancy life style with champagne trimmings, I just want to be in a position where I have leverage to create something better for EVERYONE.

By nature I am generous. I absolutely feel completely and utterly blissfully happy when I can GIVE to others, particularly sharing material things through gift-giving or charitable donations. I love being able to share my resources with those I love and with those things I believe in. It hurts to not be able to do that freely and it has to change! I won't live in a world where I'm not free to be able to give.

Sure! I need to be a lot more savvy about planning for a financially secure future and maybe this current lean phase in my life is teaching me those very lessons. However, it must not last long. I have two teenagers who deserve so much more than a mother feeling "trapped" inside a poverty mindset.

I NEED to break free from it and I need to absolutely find something that builds our lives forward so that my family, my town, my country and my planet all get the reciprocal benefits of me not thinking "small" anymore!

What do you want me to write for you?

Help me make a difference.

That be my boy!

My son has been drumming since he was able to stand on two legs!

He turned 14 at the end of June this year and...well...yeah... this proud mother thinks he's not too shabby on the skins :)

It's not the sort of track that will shake the world, but mothers are allowed to accept what's not perfect and celebrate that which is wonderful about their kids even so. JD is a good drummer for his age! So there! :)

JD and friends September 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

somewhere between our realities lies the Real

"I reject your reality and insert my own"

I really like this quote. Not sure of its original source, but I first heard Adam Savage say the line on the intro to Mythbusters

Lots of people in the personal development, spiritual quest movement (used to be called The New Age etc. but its not really "new" stuff they believe or teach), ALL talk about "Reality" as if its some kind of cosmic fluid you can choose to drink or bathe in.

There is the school of Objective Reality which Ayn Rand the author was famous for postulating. It's not really followed widely as a fully fledged concept or idea anymore although there are lots of people around who still aspire to her teachings on the subject (Atlas Shrugged is one of Rands most outspoken novel describing her ideas on Objective Reality. Great read but the OR stuff leaves me cold. It's a bit dry and hard to understand). Lots of people also tend towards the dictates of this philosophy even without really realising they are!

Basically, Objective Reality is that "Reality" exists totally separately from consciousness. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs have no merit if they can not be objectified into physical, experiential space and we cannot truly know what is true reality until it is quantified or understood through our rational perceptions.

In my understanding, Objective Reality is very much about progressive structure of environment - and the person - in the here and now. 'Onwards and Upwards' is the OR meme in a sense. It's dictates are based firmly in the Self and the personal pursuit of one's own happiness, not for any spiritual reasons (they are not objective), but because Rand thought that "Rational self-interest" was a moral obligation for the human being.

Rands philosophies have been pretty much lambasted by other philosophers and to this day, much of her ideology is ignored or forgotten. She just didn't like ANYthing that even suggested subjective interpretation of Life! And this got her into a bit of trouble in the end as she effectively dismissed much of the art, philosophy, faith systems and ideas of some very influential people in history!

Now days, many aspire towards a kind of Subjective Reality. Steve Pavlina is probably the Internets most prolific and popular writer on this ideology.

Subjective Reality IS very much a "belief" too! It is the exact polar opposite of Objective Reality where belief is discounted in favour of factual evidential enquiry and actuality, and instead, things can ONLY exist as a function of, and as a result of personal consciousness. "I believe and therefore manifest" is the SR meme in many respects (and yes I know I am over-generalising in both instances, but you don't want me to ramble on here forever now do you?)

Subjective Reality says there are no "facts" that cannot be reinterpreted through your consciousness. Your feelings, "vibrational alignment", your beliefs and perceptions, thoughts, intelligence and conceptions of what you see, feel, touch, taste, smell, want, desire, know, is what will define and construe reality into what it is! So, what for you is a form of "reality" can be interpreted and experienced entirely differently by someone else and so on.

The notion here is that there is NO such thing as an Objective Reality as its all relative to how one perceives Life.

Remember the scene in The Matrix, when The child in the waiting room at The Oracle's home told Neo that "There is no spoon" as the kid manipulated the spoon to morph, bend and defy gravity without touching it with his hands, just his mind?

This is sort of the extreme end of Subjective Reality. You can do and change ANYthing you wish just through the power of what you believe about what you know through your senses. So far as I know, not having delved very deeply into it, but I think Zen Buddhism tends towards this kind of thinking. Reality is Relative to the individual and therefore it cannot truly exist.

Now here's the interesting thing about these two systems of thought: both of them are about the Self. Both aspire to creating a "better" world but they do it from the basis that the Self comes FIRST!

Hmmmm! Intriguing is it not?

No wonder Faiths such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are so battered and abused in the modern era! You see, these very old faiths ALL say that Reality is BOTH Objective AND Subjective.

The old religions (outside of eastern mysticism and some ancient pre-Judeochristian religions), all take the middle road. The accept, quite emphatically that there are facts...objective data...and a Reality that exists independent of human endeavour and perception.

However, these faiths also dictate that within that reality is also the Free Will of the Individual to interpret and construe things exactly how he chooses to. The free will of the individual to percieve and respond to incoming data from the Objective, becomes immediately Subjective in that process and an unique experience for that person.

It's not a bad thing this!

In fact for me, so far as beliefs go, I prefer to know that there is something that is very Objective and definitively Real outside of my rather messy perceptions. I screw up my incoming data so readily that its nice to believe that God has everything under control despite me and despite all those nice people around me who also like stuffing things up for everyone.

I do believe there is REAL independent of my intentions and perceptions about it. I can't tell you what this kind of REAL looks like because it would immediately be subjective if I did. I just feel more secure knowing its there anyway.

The thing with these three major world religions that differs from most post-modern self-designed spirituality systems, is that the Self plays a rather small part of the picture. REAL has nothing to do with the Self. We can only respond to God/G-d/Allah, based on how we feel about him but it won't change the fact that *He* is Unchanging in the REAL.

The focus is outside of our Self and placed on *Him*. We are positioned on a completely level playing field with everyone else in terms of our subjective responses when this happens. No one is better or worse than anyone else.

And your version of what constitutes REAL can be as whacked out left of extreme as you like.

You may well be exactly and perfectly correct and have hit the Objective Nail on its Virtually very Real Head.

Insert your own reality here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Night Mare

My friend "Sojourner" sent me an email, all curiosity and enquiry, about my nightmare I related in my previous post.

So: in the interests of a creative "push" to see the FULL drama of this story, which I only ever dreamed about, in a terrified state as a young child, I will now present as a fully developed 'story'.

This means that much of what I remember about this nightmare will become embellished as I write with details I cannot actually recall from the dream itself. I'm simply going to make this dream, I once had on a regular basis, become its own story here.

Perchance, I might find some interesting perspectives now about this dream that I could never have envisaged or mused about at the age of 5. I'm going to write this on the fly so it will not really be edited much. I'm just going to let it come out in the here and now.


The morning beckoned bright with sunny promise. It was a beautiful day outside.

I lived on a mixed farming enterprise along with my Farmer father, exasperated mother and younger sister. My sister and I shared a bedroom in the big rambling homestead where life was secure and cloistered. I spent much of my days playing in make-shift cubby houses making mud-pies with my toy dog and my rather insistent little sibling.

The house was central to an array of various farming buildings. It was ringed almost entirely with a variety of different fencing styles and thus it seemed like a kind of oasis in the midst of a set of very different kinds of oceans...these oceans being fields of grain or sheep, ducks, pigs, geese and cows. There were also large open spaces for machinery to turn and move.

Out the 'front' of the house - which was never used by anyone but travelling salesmen - was "The Timber", a scraggly, but rather large grove of Bulloak Trees, all dark grey and spindly. The Timber contained vast, unanswerable mysteries begging to be explored. There was a kind of old junk heap with interesting artifacts of farm machinery gone wrong or obsolete. My father rarely threw anything made of metal away, inclined as he was to engineering perfectly good, and brand new items of machinery with old bits of metal and bits, cannibalised from other ancient machines so as to satisfy some innovative or inventive streak within.

At the back of this exciting and morphologically wondrous junk pile, behind the ancient hay thrashers and an old grey truck with its wooden floor eaten away under the drivers side seat, was a huge dam.

The dam was deep and had high sides of piled earth, long since smoothed over and grass covered since it had been dug out a generation before. The grey, oozing, sticky mud at the edge of the water line was as far as I would dare to tread near this, the largest body of water I had ever known to that point in my life. The Yabbies caught in that dam were, apparently, something to behold, but my father was neither keen on such sports and never encouraged my sister or myself to indulge in the past-time of catching Yabbies.

There were certain days, when a sort of insistent urging from The Timber, the sunshine, and the allure of that big old Dam would overcome my sister or myself and we would feel compelled to "Go for a walk". We would wend our way through the bulloak trees, talking and discovering old items of interest. Most of the time, by the time we got to the dam, we were tired and hot, thirsty and looking forward to going home. The distance from our house to the dam could not have been more than five or six hundred metres, but for small, dawdling children, this distance could easily triple and we were so very easily tired out or bored.

There was ONE particular day when all the alluring scents, sights and sounds became like a Siren's Call to go for that walk down to the back dam. I would wake, instinctively knowing that this was "The Day". It was a day I dreaded and yet felt compelled to face despite my fear and trepidation. I KNEW this day was not going to bode well for me, but I simply had to yield to its unholy calling.

My sister seemed not aware of the demonic character to this day at all. For her, there was only the fact that it was a good day to "Go for a walk" down through The Timber, to the big dam. I could not tell her with my voice that we should not go. For some reason, I was rendered completely and utterly incapable of voicing any concerns or reasons about going to the dam on That Day! I had to go! I had no choice! And I knew what awaited me there and I knew that I had to face it as best as I could.

We walked through the timber as we usually did, commenting on things in the manner of small children, noticing "fairies" in seedpods, and imagining wonderful luxury in making a "cubby" from an old farm machine or trying to twist the shiny chrome mascot off the front bonnet of the old car. It was kid stuff! Fun most of the time but on That Day, it was deliberate work to steel my inner courage for what awaited.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. The Dam being as it was, at the back of The Timber was also at the end of a wide dirt track that led directly through the various farm buildings, such as my fathers workshop and the machinery shed, the old garage and the water tank on its high stand which loomed over everything in the open yard, it being something in the region of 10 metres high. From the water tank it was perhaps a mere 100 metres to the "back gate" to the homestead. The gate was made of old steel tubing and cyclone fence wire. It made a distinctive squeak, low and grinding as it open and clanged shut, its snib clicking loudly into place. Either side of this gate was a high wooden fence, blackened and greased by my fathers insistence on "preserving" the wood by periodically throwing the old oil from all the machinery sumps over it. The footpath was of cement, neatly laid and perfectly formed squares of cement with one flagstaff on the outside of the gate and the rest leading directly to the side door of our house, hidden from view by a large grape-vine covered verandah.

I felt the foreboding sense of doom rise in my chest as we edged our way up over the side hill of the dam. I kept hoping against hope that my hunch about today would be wrong and this would be one of those good days when it was about walks in The Timber and nothing more.

My sister then disappeared, as she always did on this particular day. She would cease to exist and she simply dissolved into the air as if she'd been up until now, nothing but a ghost. I steeled myself for what was about to come.

The water in the dam began to boil and thrash. Out in its muddy, earth brown centre, the water spun and spiralled as if a giant Charybdis lived under there. Indeed, there was a monster lurking in that dams depths.

With a rush, a giant red, foaming head appeared from out of the depths of the dams centre. It's body followed quickly. A gargantuan horse, dark red to black in colour, seething from its mouth, its eyes black as jet and enraged with all the demonic fury of the world in its sinews and bones. The horse stood in the middle of the dam, which would have drowned me long before I had reached that depth.

I turned and began to run towards home. I scrambled up the embankment of the dam and crested it just as the gigantic animal stepped from the dam with all the intention of taking me out. My tiny legs sped down the other side of the sloping hill, steep as it was but giving me impetus and speed that I hoped would carry my legs to home quickly.

The horse began to run after me. I had a small head start but it galloped menacingly behind me, its nostrils snorting hot breath down the back of my necks, its forefront hooves beating the ground behind my spinning legs, only centimeters from slicing me with its great nailed shoes.

I could feel the adrenalin and the panic mixing into a stone in my belly. I felt incapable of running any faster or harder but I had to or I knew I would die if I did not. I ran down the track from the dam, down into the middle of the yard between the machinery shed and the workshop, the old blacksmithy, the water tank...only a few steps to go... I had to run...I had to stay alive! I could not call out for the sound of my voice - my cry - stayed firmly embedded deep inside of me and could not escape. I was a running mute child, impossibly afraid and left to deal with this monster on my own.

The menace behind me never wavered from its goal. It galloped behind me all the way. It seemed to grow larger and more frightening the closer I got to the back gate. I knew that if I could get through the gate then I would be safe. Nothing would harm me once I was behind that gate!

Finally, I got to the gate and lunged at the snib, fumbling with it so that it would open and let me through. The horse stopped within centimetres of the cement flagstone I was standing on, I slipped through the gate as soon as I got it open and ran half way up the footpath before finally stopping to turn and view my nemesis. The horses head by this stage had grown enormous. Its body seemed to be stretched out and the dark red of its coat was almost blackened from sweat. It's head was so large as to be able to lean over the gate and snort at me.

It stomped its hooves on the ground, apparently angry and deeply frustrated it had not been able to take me down. I watched it stamp its hooves and breathed a silent prayer that it would just touch the cement flagstone.

A loud metallic click as its nailed hoof hit the cement and the horse disappeared! The threat was over. I was safe! I was alive! But I was panting and my heart pounded in my chest and still I could not speak. I walked slowly into the house and there my mother sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and helping my little sister with a jigsaw puzzle.

They never knew what I'd been through and even if they did... they'd never have understood.

I was safe for another year. That Day would come around again and I would have to face that demonic beast once more but for today, I had survived and the sweat of abject terror proved it.