Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Poems

Recently, I sent off a manuscript of some poems and prose that I wrote a few years ago.  I’m hoping that the publishers will be interested enough in my concept to turn my manuscript into a short book.  Following is a half dozen or so of the poems that I wrote.  I’m actually a little embarrassed by some of these because they are a bit too self indulgent and (in my opinion) immature.  In the interest of baring the human soul, and showing that one can move on from a low state, I’m opening myself up to share my weakness.  Enjoy!

Pondering Beauty
How can beauty captivate?
What makes me want to possess beauty?
Make it mine
Be proud of it
Hold it
Protect it
Cry because of it
Write poems about it
Change myself to be like it

Thinking is Good
Tepid bitterness
On my lips
My coffee has cooled
While I thought

Contemplating life
Contemplating beauty
Contemplating things
That I've sought

As I think about stuff
Time passes me by
The world moves with a blur
and is gone in a blink

A moment to ponder
Have I wasted my hours?
No! I decide
It is not wrong to think

I look at the world
I look at myself
I seek patterns
In the shapes that I see

What becomes clear
As the days pass by
I am trying to learn
About me

Untitled One
O great sorrow
Heavy upon my heart
Where can I get a love?
Where can I get peace?

How can I be freed?
From this frustration
Unto love
Unto purpose

I seek purpose
I cannot see
I want to see
Show me affection!

Untitled Two
Can I help you?
Is there a problem with me?
I want to develop myself
Learn from my mistakes
I can't see what I've done
Have I done something?
Have I not done something?
Ease my burning
Tell me
Speak to me
Quench this fire
Still my troublesome matters

Untitled Three
Hand in hand
But so much deeper than that
We walk together
Yet more together than any eye can see

My love begins to flow
I can feel my heart rising
Take care of me
I am fragile beyond belief

See me
Know my heart
Take my hand
And walk with me

Look into my eyes
Then will you know my heart
Please, accept my yearning hand
And walk a distance with me

Untitled Four
I'm sitting in my head
Running possible conversations we might have

What a laugh

I try to plan a response
To everything you might say

How about a poem?
The beginning in another time
Another place and thought
Some special eyes to catch the light
And catch also my thought

Careful Words
I carefully construct my loving words
So that I don't offend you
So that you know what I mean
So that I can hide what I'm really trying to say

Something in the shadows
I start
Nothing in the shadows
I sigh
I thought it might be you in the shadows
Waiting for me

A Dedication
Always and forever
My love
Holding your hand
May we enter into glory together

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Absolutely, Radically, Incredible, Life Changing Links (so says Sam)!

During the course of my Internet, life I have come across a number of websites that have made a huge difference to my life and my thinking.  I thought that I would be nice enough to share these with the world.  Following is a brief description and a link to the websites that have made a radical difference in my life.  If I’ve forgotten any, I will likely update this post to keep them all in the one place.

Creativity and Self Improvement Links (Including productivity resources) Fantastic videos on all manner of creativity and innovation, often with a technology focus.  Check our Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools can kill creativity. The blog of Tim Ferriss.  Here you will find all manner of interesting ideas to improve (hack) your life.  Tim has spent most of his adult life experimenting with ways to improve efficiency in life in order to maximise personal gain from minimal input of effort.  Some topics include: weight-loss, muscle gain, learning languages in mere hours, and much more Source of much useful and interesting information Self explanatory.  The entire suite of google software is incredibly useful and integrates nicely with other google components.  Productivity and efficiency is easily found via google “stuff”.  Fantastic google “stuff” includes:  Google Translate, Google Mail (gmail), Google Docs, Google Maps, YouTube, and more lately I’ve been using Google Reader to make one super blog.  Also, Blogger, of course (this site) for making my various blogs. Social networking in a very powerful and integrated way.  Also fantastic for building communities of people for marketing or just to share interests.

Physical Development and Health Links (Including parkour and martial arts) Stadion publishers.  Here’s their blurb: No-Nonsense Authority on Stretching and Flexibility, Mental Toughness, Strength, Speed, Power, Jumping Ability, Endurance, Coordination, Agility, and Technique for All Sports and Martial Arts, Sports Injuries, and Sports Nutrition New Zealand’s online parkour community that I’ve been heavily involved in for the last four years.  

Christian Links Stand to Reason, Equipping Christian Ambassadors with Knowledge, Wisdom, and Character. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.  Matt Slick started up this website, full of answers for Christians who encounter challenges to the Christian faith.  Rational and reasonable answers to non-christian cult groups, atheists, and more.  This was particularly useful to me in my early walk. The ministry of John Piper.  Many, many online resources and links to other reliable Christian sites. Free bible study software. Fantastic and very powerful. This, or something like it, should be in every Christian's arsenal of bible study tools.

Some sites that I’m experimenting with and can see the potential of:  Stumbleupon, Delicious.

I’m reconsidering using Twitter again as a bit of an experiment also.  I’m quite interested in developing myself as a writer.  The biggest obstacle in doing this is developing an audience in a moral way (non-spamming and non-annoying: subscribe, rate, embed!!!).  The best way to do this is to give something of value to that audience while in return getting their support and readership.  It can’t be done without building a positive community that passes around the “good stuff” by word of mouth (or the electronic equivalents, e.g. stumbleupon).  That is what has prompted the use of many of these websites, i.e. a way of getting the word out to people who might have an interest in what I have to offer.  Like-minded people who enjoy my take on life.

This will be an evolving page, so check back from time to time, recommend it to others who might find this useful, and please suggest any web sites or web tools that you think I might like to check out and/or add.

Thank you, and have a great week!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Super(?) Schemes

These days it is compulsory for employers to automatically enroll new workers into the kiwisaver scheme.  This is a way to increase savings for retirement for people and requires you to opt out of it rather than asking if you want in on it in the first place.  Your contribution (from your pay) is added to a government contribution, which is then added to the employer contribution.

There is a lot more in the minor details, but it is the major details that I have a philosophical problem with.  Two problems in fact.

Problem one:  Tax dollars are being taken from me and given to other people.  I can save fine on my own as I have enough knowledge and will power to save, making this scheme unnecessary for me.  Also, I prefer to make my own decisions about how I spend my money.  If I want to save more during one part of the year and spend more at another part, why shouldn’t I be allowed to?  Where is my freedom in this not so subtle system of extra taxation?

Problem two: My employer must pay something over and above what I already get paid by them.  This doesn’t seem fair on the employer, especially if I began work with them without the expectation that they would contribute to my savings.  Now, everyone who started after the date that it became compulsory to automatically enroll will get more from the employer, but I am still on the same total income that I was receiving before this.  Not only is the employer forced to pay more, driving up the cost of production for items sold and cost of provision for services sold, but I am getting less than others for no good reason.

A number of other questions arise, such as:
Will employees who agree to opt out of the kiwisaver scheme, during the 6 week window of opt out opportunity, be more likely to get the job?  They will cost their employer less by doing so; and if it is illegal to make this arrangement under the table, who will police it?  And will it be practical to police it?

Personally, I think that the way to go is to make your own contract with your employer that deals with things like this.  While it seems easier for most to use the union and have a collective agreement contract, it is not actually in the best interests of the thoughtful and innovative (“top”) workers to be lumped in with the rest.  My employer and I will both get a better deal if we agree on our own terms.  I might get a slightly higher salary than others who are in the union, but that extra covers the benefits that the union fights for.  Perhaps it would force people to identify exactly what they have to offer to society, if they had to negotiate their own terms of employment and salary.  I know that I would rather have the freedom to decide on finances for myself and my family, as long as there is enough to cover my expenses and to allow me to save for emergencies (and treats).  

Unfortunately, the real world is not so simple and there is a web of systems that link up and depend on each other, making it almost impossible to break free from something like the tax system.  However, some technological innovations, such as the Internet, are hopefully leading to better options for everyone for the future!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Mess of Success

Proverbs 14:4  Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

I love this verse!

Imagine the difference in crops that you could harvest if you were doing it by hand instead of using your trusty ox.  With the ox you can direct the energy of the beast who can pull 10 times or more what you could pull on your own.  The production potential of a team of oxen is enormous compared to the potential of the strength of the same number of people.  Unfortunately, when you have oxen you have to tend them, clean up after them, and make sure their accommodation is in good nick.

So this verse is saying that, if you want to get some work done, then there is bound to be a mess to clean up as a result of the work itself; or as a result of the tools (oxen) that are available to help do the work.

We could also look at this and see that the more oxen you have, the more work you can do, but you will also have to clean up after more oxen.  There has got to be a point where you must spend more time cleaning up after the oxen than you can spend using the oxen.  This means that there is a limit to the productivity of this system.  The verse isn’t trying to focus on this though, just that there will be mess when you work.

The counter to this is that, if you don’t work there will be no mess, but you will not have anything to show for yourself.  Beware an overly clean and tidy desk!  It may mean that the owner of the desk does not use it for much work!

So it goes without saying that there will be some mess of successful production.  Get making your mess!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Voting (What if...?)

With local council elections occurring at the moment, it brings my mind back to the nature of the system.  The question always occurs to me during this time:

What if you don’t like any of the candidates, and what if you don’t think the voting system is fair?

There is always the publicity line, “if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to criticise,” which refers to you having a chance to have your say at the election booth.  If you don’t have your say, then who are you to speak against the powers that are elected if you didn’t vote against them?  This is very annoying to me, and it fails to deal with the serious issue where people deliberately do not vote.  Below are some problems with the system that give many a philosophical opposition to it.  We should not ask people to participate in a system they do not feel is appropriate.

Problems with the current system
The foolish majority could win a popularity contest and destine the state to fail. The best campaign will win, and not the best candidate for the job.  One candidate might be known for spending large and increasing debt and rates, but their spending makes a good foundation for future economic growth and income for the city that will mean lower rates later.  Another candidate might be known for trying to bring down the rates, lowering the potential for the city to develop and increasing the risk of much higher rates later down the track as the city tries to play economic catch up without the foundation of investment to support them.  On the surface it seems as if the candidate trying to get more money into the voters pockets with lower rates is better, but for the long-range well-being it is the other candidate who is better.

Under the present system, with perhaps half a dozen candidates for mayor, for example, there is the curious situation where someone could be elected in with perhaps 15 percent of the votes counting for them.  If up to 70 percent of eligible voters vote, and there is a pretty even field, the winner will win without a clear majority of support.  This sets them in a position of power when the majority clearly do not want them in power.  The best outcome from such a system is if 100% of people decide to vote for only one of two candidates and one wins by a majority portion of the votes.  But even then, the other objections to this system are present which can lead to an unhappy outcome.

No matter how many voters or whether there is a majority win or not, voters don’t know the people they are voting for and cannot be expected to make properly informed decisions about who to vote for.  The average voter does not possess enough personal information about candidates and their character, nor do they possess enough knowledge of the role they are voting them for.  In fact, it is only a very few people who do know these things.  When you think about it, it is almost a total fluke that anyone of any worth would be elected into the right position for them by a bunch of strangers!

This does not get into the other problems with the system, such as having too much say over our personal lives via legislation (which can be pushed through by a minority government!), but hopefully you can see that this is a hopelessly flawed system that is unfair for the majority of people who are electing representation for themselves that cannot possibly represent the majority properly.

A better system
It isn’t right to criticise the system without being prepared to offer an alternative that is better.  So here is my attempt.

Being nobody qualified in the matter of political systems, but merely an individual with an interest in having a system that works for me and those I love,  it seems that we should take a system that represents people well and where those voting have enough knowledge to do so fairly.  The people (or person) who has the final say should have enough knowledge of the system to be able to make it serve the people best.  Here is my idea for having representation and governance, taken partly from a more natural type of governance and partly from the Old Testament system of judges.

I call it, the “Chain of Trust”.  In this chain of trust it is important for people to trust whoever is put forward within their group to lead.  The leader must be willing to lead (even if they are a little reluctant, which is probably better) and must demonstrate a high level of natural leadership within the group.  The smallest group would be around 50 people, and they would have some simple but clear guidance about how to choose the best person to lead among them.  Once they have this person to lead them, they can now take all of their problems and issues to that leader to find wisdom or to pass the problem further up the chain if their leader lacks knowledge or wisdom in that situation (or if the situation affects people outside of their group).  

The next level is to take 10 of these leaders of 50 and ask them to choose a single leader-of-leaders.  A chain of trust should be developed from groups of 10 leaders all the way up to the top where there is a final group of 10 with one of them being the final leader who has the final say on the biggest issues that make it all the way to the top.  It sounds scary to have a single leader with that final say over so many, but it will work because of the chain of trust that puts every single person into a clear and simple line of contact with the decision makers.  

One of the advantages of this sort of system (other than dealing with the obvious problems quite nicely) is that each leader should not have too much of a work load if they are leading only one group of 50 or 10.  The leaders of 10 relinquish their leadership to the next best candidate on their previous level of leadership, narrowing their focus.  Each leader will mostly be able to carry out their own jobs and lives without having to be separated from the “real world” while leading.  

Another advantage is the clear and simple election process where trustworthy people are always electing the leader so that the top dog should be the most trustworthy of the lot.  Anybody of any standing in society will naturally become a leader if they are suited to the role.  Roles can be changed at short notice, and a majority decision at any level is possible with the decision travelling up to the next level if there is dispute or a lack of unanimity.  If the decision travels up enough levels it is clear that either way will be suitable anyway, otherwise if it was simple it would have been solved already.

A better system is possible, but if we put that aside for a moment and look at the current system; we can see that it is not merely a matter of complacency or procrastination that causes a lack of voters.  For many, their issues with the system are unformed and hard to identify where their ill-feeling comes from; and it becomes just too hard to try and form them, or too disheartening to offer their vote which, for the majority, will not matter.  

It has to be acknowledged that there are legitimate reasons for not voting and it is a immature and shallow response to dismiss principled non-voters.  Lets consider alternatives in everything we do so that we end up with the best system we can.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Companion of Fools, or Walking with the Wise?

Proverbs 13:20  Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

This is such an obvious truth that it almost goes without saying.  However, sometimes we need reminding of the the obvious because we lack the attention to focus on it or we lack the will to keep to it if left to ourselves.

So here is your reminder, and an encouragement if you lack the will power to do what you know is best!

A Reminder
Take a look at the people that you spend the most of your time with.  Would they be considered wise or foolish by someone you know as definitely wise.  You know that someone is wise by the decisions they make.  They are not impulsive, but think about decisions before making them.  They don’t talk about nonsense from sun up to sun down, but keep quiet and listen before giving a bit of thoughtful advice or input to the conversation.  Someone wise tends to build you up and make you feel energised and mentally “switched on” though they can be a challenge to your mental energy if you don’t have a lot of patience to think through things yourself.

Someone foolish will make poor decisions, their life will seem very messy because of this, and they may not even be able to recognise that it is their own lack of personal discipline that is the cause of this messiness.

Remember that not everything is black and white in this.  You might find that your friends are a mixed bag and that one of them could make some wise decisions and some foolish.  When it comes to relationships there are a lot of wise people that have been led astray because they are so desperate for love, or to fit in with the crowd who all seem to be deeply involved with the love of their life in perfect relationships.

Perhaps you should consider yourself.  Are you wise, or are you a fool?  Should people keep company with you?  Are you someone who will build positive things into someone else’s life?

Keep company with those who you know are wise, and if you must spend time with fools then make sure you are the wise person who is teaching your foolish friends.

An Encouragement
After you’ve considered your friends and you find yourself as one who has a lot of foolishness around you, what do you do?  Begin by pointing our your own foolishness and start to make wise decisions yourself.  Your foolish friends will either become less foolish, or they will push you away because they don’t want to change.  Both are acceptable outcomes for yourself, though it is obviously a very sad thing for you to be rejected.  If you do get rejected, remember that it is fools that are rejecting you, and take heart at that.  It will only be a matter of time before you make friends with wise people also, especially if you are switched on to considering whether someone you meet is wise or not.

Where can you get wisdom, to notice your own foolishness and make changes?  Look at people close to you who you know are happy and joyful, but not just on the surface.  Their life should be happy right down to the nitty gritty.  If you see someone who can clean a toilet with a smile and walk away with a bounce in their step, you know that they have wisdom to offer.  If you are more inclined to read, you could look at wisdom literature in the Bible.  Proverbs for example.  You could also find wise advice through the Internet, but you have to be pretty wise to notice if you are being fed rubbish advice, so that can be dangerous if you are not careful.

As long as you have the desire to be wise, you will do okay and you will tend to keep company with wise people.  Just remember that the first step to becoming truly wise is to know that you can never be the ultimate source of wisdom.  To become wise, you must see that it is dangerous to be wise in your own eyes, and that you must begin by adopting the established wisdom of an ultimate authority who is never wrong and is eternally wise because he has knowledge of everything.  If you don’t understand that, then here is the ultimate fool’s guide to becoming wise:

Read the bible and don’t stop until you are sure that you know where ultimate wisdom lies!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love Languages (by Gary Chapman)

As a wedding gift from my new parents, my wife and I received a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  As so many others have already said, I think that this is a great book.  I don’t totally buy into it for a couple of reasons though, but before I get into those reasons, let me give a brief overview of the theory.

The Theory
There are five categories (languages) in which you can show (or be shown) love.  These five languages are: Words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.  I won’t get into exactly what these involve, but it should be pretty clear to anyone with a little thought and research skill (try googling “love language words of affirmation” for instance).  There are a lot of areas of overlap between the five, for instance a gift of your time to perform a service involves three of the five in a loose way; so the five shouldn’t been seen as limiting.

Why I Don’t Buy Into It
  1. The key seems to me to be more about making the effort to understand your spouse than in learning a particular love language, though I have to admit that the 5 languages are a good framework to reflect on how you show love.
  2. It seems wiser to me to develop your ability to give and to show love in as many different ways as possible.  Focusing on one or two particular languages out of the whole is almost inevitable for the casual reader and this is very limiting.  I know that I don’t want to be boxed in such a way, especially when my tastes and passions shift depending on a much more complex set of variables.  I would hate for my spouse to expect a gift that worked on one day to work exactly the same the next.  It might, but the thought process behind the gift is more important and I think it is a real danger (of shutting off the thought process) when instantly and permanently categorising a person’s love language.

Why I Think it is Still Well Worth Reading
This is a book that is well worth reading for one main reason, and that is to get ideas for how to show your love.  Of the many experiences shared in the book, there is bound to be something that will make you think of your spouse (or yourself) and give you ideas.  Linked to this is the excitement you get from hearing about troubled relationships that have recovered.

I haven’t yet finished reading the book so, to be fair to Gary Chapman, he may deal with some of the concerns I’ve raised.  Even if he doesn’t, I heartily recommend this read to anyone.  After all, if you are reading without really engaging your mind to weigh up the validity of the content, you won’t get anything out of it anyway.

Happy reading, and happy loving!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Progressive Rock

I am a huge fan of thoughtful, creative, and nice sounding rock music.  This is the sort of music that stands the test of time and you can listen to it over and over and over again without becoming bored with it.  There are two reasons why we don’t become bored with music (or anything really) and those are:
  1. Because it is rich and full, so that every hearing of the music leads to new discovery over a period of years.  Then, after all of the discovery is done, when you listen again, you constantly re-discover and note all of the amazing skill and creativity in crafting such wonderful music.
  2. The other reason that we don’t become bored with music is that we are being shallow listeners who are easily satisfied by a mere groovy rhythm, or basic lyrics.  The sort of music that appeals to the shallow listener will disengage the mind and it is not an active process to listen to it.  There is a place for this sort of music (perhaps) but I’d rather not spend the majority of my listening time with it.

There is another reason that I enjoy thoughtful music, and that is the dealing with issues of importance through song.  Music is a great gateway for people to encounter political, social, and moral themes, of which they might otherwise be unlikely to experience.  There is also the option of switching off from listening to the lyrics and just taking in the music.  There is a bit of choice in dealing with the subject matter so that it is kind of hard to have a perspective rammed down your throat.  You can always switch it off too!

The reason I like rock music is that the beats are strong and suit my pace for doing things.  I also got into drumming about 18 months ago and this really cemented the rock music, and even a bit of metal, as being a firm favourite.  I find that my natural pace for doing any activity is quicker than most, and that does not mean that I am rushing, just that my perceptions are working a bit quicker.  I like to get “in the zone” and work there and I enjoy doing this with a strong but complex beat to engage my mind and the rhythm center of my body.  Rhythm helps you work fast but precisely, so long as the rhythm matches your ability well enough.

The inspirational life (not just the fantastic drumming) of Mike Portnoy was a real inspiration to me also.  Being so much more than a highly accomplished drummer, his battles in life, his focus on family, and positive values and character traits amidst a scene reputed for just the opposite; these were things which inspired me and attracted me to the progressive scene.  

A part of the progressive message is that you can follow your dream, and you don’t have to be conformed to the way the rest of the world operates, so long as you have a mind to develop your ability and think outside of the square.  As a Christian, I can see that Jesus modelled this, and encouraged others to do so also.  Now I don’t want to minimise the magnitude of Christ’s ministry by comparing it to something so insubstantial in comparison as a particular genre of rock music, but the parallelism is definitely present.  This is most strongly embodied in the demonstration of doing what you know to be right, despite the opposite being the main course of action of those around you.  For Christians (followers of Christ) they will pursue God and His ways even if it means they will be rejected by everyone.  Even when everyone else is walking the wide road to hell of self-indulgence and loveless-ness, we will battle the flow and seek to move in the self-sacrificing direction of love that is a sign of a new creation in Christ.

If you are a Christian, you might not be a fan of rock beats like me, but hopefully you can see that it is too narrow a view that dismisses rock music as evil.  If you have a tendency to dismiss in this way, perhaps you need to take a look at the foundations of faith and see whether there is really a conflict.  For your conscience there may be, but for the many, many who do not have a conflict between their faith and the music they listen to, you will alienate them before you’ve had a chance to share the life changing, and ever progressive message of the gospel of Jesus.