On God

As some of you may know, I’ve recently acquired an iPhone, and for the first time, have started listening to Podcasts. The podcast of my choice is Ajahn Brahm’s Friday Night Dhamma Talks. Ajahn Brahm is one of my favourite people in the world, and I admire to the heart of me his way of life and ideals about living. He has inspired the virtue and idealism in me, because he makes a difference in the world, and so can I.
 
Anyway, I thought it was about time I wrote a blog entry about my current religious views.
 
I was told that when a body dies, it loses a certain amount of weight. 22grams, or 0.0002 grams or some tiny measurement of weight. No one knows where they came from or what they are, but it happens. Someone once told me this was the soul. I propose it was energy. In my mind, all living things are filled with white energy, like the representation of God in the film "The Prince of Egypt". It is this spirit that gives things life, and when they die, it leaves their body and returns to the Source of all life. I see it as a stream of pure, white energy, constantly giving energy off to living beings throughout Earth and the universe and having that energy returned to it. This energy is what some describe as qi, and others describe as the soul or God that lives within us. Those who are sensitive to it can perceive life, they can feel it and even manipulate it. Psychics and mediums who have limited control over the energy of others.
 
We are all connected. All living beings share a common trait: divinity. And we must be aware of the way we connect to others, its significance and the full effects of our actions on the rest of creation. I do not know if I believe in destiny, but because it can’t be proven, I do not believe there to be a point. My philosophy is to take life as it comes, and when nothing can be done to do nothing, and when something can be done to do all you can to make a difference.
 
I believe God is that life stream. And that He is part of all of us. The energy does not judge, it simply is, in each living being. But it is good energy. Pure energy. Divine, loving energy. And when we do acts of love with good intentions, our spirit grows, in the most literal sense. You can see it in some people, the way they light up a room with their very presence. But for those who choose acts of harm or ill intent, their spirit diminishes, less and less and less. But so long as they live, there is a spark in them, that can always be rekindled.
 
The Christians believe they will go to Heaven and be with God if they die. In my mind, this is true.
The Buddhists believe they will be reborn when they die. In my mind, this is also true.
 
I do not know about other religions to make comment on how they fit in to my own beliefs, but this is what makes the most sense to me.

Whoever thought it was so hard to pick out tee shirts?

I’ve been blogging a lot the past few days. I suspect it’s because I have too much time on my hands- my mind is doing more thinking. Or maybe it’s that when there’s less to distract my mind I can think clearly and have greater insights about the world we live in and how it works.

Anyway, threadless is having a sale on their tee-shirts. Shirts that are normally about $15 are going for $9 on Friday 27th. I’ve been going through in advance picking out the ones I like. And my initial list was something like 50 long, but after pruning out the ones that weren’t available, it was down to 12. And that’s still $108 on tee shirts, which would take my weeks to get through.

And I realised that the reasons most of the shirts appealed to me was because of the humour, the flamboyant awesomeness or cuteness that made them amusing to wear. But the longer I stared at them and tried to discern which I wanted most, the less funny they became. The more exposure I had to them the less enjoyment I got out of looking at them. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility (or Returns) strikes again.

Ajahn Brahm lives in a cave. He has one meal a day, all in one bowl, and he only has one pair of robes to take with him. We drown ourselves in possessions we don’t need because it gives us that momentary amusement which soon fades so we replace it by newer, funnier shirts. I don’t really need any of  them.

See?! This is what happens when I start thinking.

Spoiler warning

EDIT: I think what bothers me most about the later FF games (VIII and X at least) is the insecurity of the main characters. No one seems to know what they’re doing, or why, or for blind reasons.

I’m progressively having more free time as the holidays unfold, and I’ve been trying to pass Final Fantasy VIII. Somehow it’s gotten me thinking about some of the big questions in life.

In most RPG’s, or games really, there’s an ultimate goal: defeat the final boss. Everyone has a purpose: in FFVIII, they start as SeeDs, an army of mercanaries whose job is to obey orders, carry out missions, and earn money for Garden. The story gets progressively more complex, and as new events unfold, Squall’s purpose changes again and again, from "Defeat the Sorceress and save the world" to "Rescue Rinoa by going through absurdly difficult trials" etc. And because so many of the characters in the game have contrasting purposes (the White SeeD ship’s job was to protect Ellone, the purpose of the Galbadian soldiers is world domination assumingly, Zone just wants to liberate Timber), it makes me wonder which is the noblest goal, the purpose most worth pursuing. I have no choice but to follow the storyline and let Squall make all the decisions about what happens next, but really, is anybody ever doing the right thing? Are the dreams they pursue meaningful? If the Galbadians are wrong then Squall might be, or the Sorceress, or Rinoa. They’re all fighting for different things, and I have no idea what’s worth fighting for.

What is our ultimate purpose in life? If it is to find contentment, not everyone can achieve it in the same way. So who’s way is the right way?
No one’s, of course. So even if Squall’s quest seems meaningless to me, let him do what he wants if he feels he’ll make a difference.
What really bothers me is that he’s changing the world. I’m using him to change the world. And I don’t particularly want to. The origins and future of SeeD have forever changed, the power balance between the nations has been completely disrupted, the purpose of the world has been undermined… Big changes are being made, and I can’t say they’re for the right reasons. I wish I was more sure of myself so I knew that the differences I was making were for the better.

I think people need a vision. One they can believe in and stick to. But of course, the problem is finding the right vision. And any action made without knowing why it’s made is a wasted or harmful action if it contradicts one’s ultimate goal.

So, in short, What is the meaning of life? lol.

Consternating Coles

An update from my livejournal post about whether I should leave Coles, and when. Things have gotten a little complicated in the very short space since I posted that entry.

I had my job interview today at Curtin library. Although Ajahn Brahm knows that we often remember what we want to have happened, and that everybody’s perception is slightly different, I’m fairly sure I nailed it. I have experience, availability and willingness to do the work. Not to mention I’m almost positive I nailed the written and practical tests (of sorting and locating books) with time to spare. So I’m quite confident to say that’s in the bag. But that doesn’t start until February 15th, so if I were to leave Coles now that would mean being unemployed for three months.

So here’s a few additions to the list.

Reasons to quit Coles:
-Binuk, Dylan and Greg (the old debating team from Trinity) are organising to see an interesting movie tomorrow night at a pleasant location. I would love to go, but tomorrow is end’s night at Coles, where I am most needed. If I quit now, I could go see the movie. Opportunity cost at work.
-I’ve basically got another job lined up in a few months time, and I should have enough money to hold me over until then.
-Because my new job earns more than my old one, I’m at much greater risk of overstepping the 11k mark. Three months of unemployment would remedy this to a comfortable level, while still allowing me to receive 2k from Centrelink.

Reasons to stay:
-Christmas is coming up, and I haven’t bought all the presents yet.
-I forgot how much spending money I’ll need in Margaret River.
-I just resumed sponsoring a child, and that’s a commitment that requires an ongoing income to maintain.

Putting it all in writing has led me to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to stay with the store until after Christmas, and not be scared of turning them down to look after Bethwyn (or for equally good reasons), if for money if nothing else. Then I can enjoy a one and a half month period of unemployment before starting at the library (assuming I get it). For the moment, I will continue to sell my labour to Coles, but they’ll be scarcely satisfied by how little I plan to work. Ah well.

Dreaming of some Place to call Home

 I was reading an article on the psychology behind colour and it got me thinking about the kind of house I would like to live in.

At first, I thought I wanted a pool, and heaps of bedrooms, and two stories and a garden. But then I realised those were just the things I associated with a wealthy, rich home.

What I really want in my house is a meditation room. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be a spiritual place, facing the sun, where I can burn incense and have the colours of relaxation draped and painted throughout the room. Fresh, clean air, and a cupboard for yoga clothes and candles.

I want a lawn, fresh green and level (unlike anything we have here). Somewhere where a dog can play and bury bones and snooze in summer. Somewhere were I can set train in the martial arts, and meditate in warmer evenings.

I want a bedroom without a television or computer. Just a big, round bed, with ridiculously silky sheets in the summer, and warm, heavy blankets in the winter.

I want a clean bathroom, big or small, with an eco-friendly toilet, shower head and basin.

I’d like a small kitchen. Nothing fancy, but everything I need to attempt to cook: a fridge, a stove, an oven and a toaster. I’d try and resist the luxuries of a kettle, dishwasher and microwave, but maybe I’d cave in sooner or later.

I’d love a gaming room. A room with sound dampening walls, drapes that could blot out the sun and a massive TV or projector and a surround sound system. Very superfluous.

And there’d be no fences anywhere. Or if they were, they wouldn’t be
walls to block people out. It would be welcome to anyone until
nightfall, and then for friends and family.

And I’d love white windows, so wherever you are in the house (except for the gaming room when it’s being used), you can see you’re connected to the outside world. And any time you like, you can join the ebb and flow of life outside the home. But my dream home would be a retreat. A holiday, every day.

But of course these things cost money, and lots of it. And I know Ajahn Brahm is equally happy (if not much moreso) living in his cave. I’d like to think I could be too, but I don’t think I’m very good of letting go of possessions. It makes me feel guilty for even dreaming, but it’s nice to dream. Maybe some day.

Got to go, got to go to rotto…

Golly my calves are sore. That was some great tennis yesterday though, but it doesn’t bode well for a weekend of cycling.
My hamstrings and pelvic muscles are quite sore as well from all the karate I did on top of the tennis… Maybe I should have looked after my body better before chasing after kids for a weekend.
Going to sleep at 2am because I was addicted to flashgames didn’t particularly help either. Though, they were very enjoyable games ^_^

The big 2.0

No, I’m not talking about iSnack 2.0, the new cream-cheese vegemite. I’m talking about the number of years Bethwyn and I have been together, excluding the one day period where we broke up and got back together the day after.

So how did we spend the day? Poor Bethi spent most of it studying for her exam tomorrow. I on the other hand was preparing. I’ve been scheming, you see. I’d been throwing around ideas for what to do for weeks and I decided on something that would work nicely. The end result? A picnic. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Make some food, eat it somewhere nice, go home happy. But there’s so much organisation that goes into it! So I spent much of my free time on the weekend planning it, and this is how it turned out.

Due to disorganisation and lack of time. Monday morning (the big day) was the day I did most of the preparation. I woke up as early as reasonable to finish planning what food to prepare. I spent hours going through feasible vegetarian recipes and ended up with something like seven courses, before I realised that even on a good night, that was overkill to the extreme. What I ended up deciding on was just one salad, sandwiches, a couscous and zucchini main, Turkish bread and fresh vegetable dips, strawberries and/or blueberries and wine, and after much deliberation, rocky road for dessert. I chose meals that I felt would be complimentary, traditional, sweet and full of love and effort. So I organised a hefty shopping lift, left the house at 11:40am to buy all the goods, and planned to be back around 12. It took me nearly two hours to get all the groceries. Who the heck knew that something as simple as picking up all the items on a list could take two hours? Things like trying to remember which brand of Dijon mustard she liked or whether she’d fine the plates cute or silly. I’ve never bought fresh produce before so it was really fun and a little daunting trying to decide what broccoli I wanted and rubbish like that, but it was an adventure which I really enjoyed. All up I spent $108 at Coles for the groceries alone. I bought fresh crusty bread and picked up some flowers and wine. The liquor store didn’t have taltani, a brand Bethwyn’s parents told me she’d like, but the manager was really friendly and helped me pick a nice substitute.

So with my bags of groceries (it was so strange actually pushing around a shopping trolley) I got home and prepared the kitchen. I spent hours preparing, pouring love and laughter into the various meals. I did the rocky road first because it needed time to chill and harden. That turned out disastrously because: a) I bought choc chips rather than cooking chocolate, and choc chips apparently are meant to keep their shape when baked, and b) I ignored the recipe-maker’s advice and just stuck mixture into a pot to melt. What you’re supposed to do is boil water, put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and then stick the bowl on top of the pot. Too much trouble? Too bad. The end result was what appeared to be a giant, delicious poo. So I made the executive decision to throw that out, buy some actual cooking chocolate and try again. Fortunately it turned out beautifully, and much better than I had dreamed possible.

I made sandwhiches, heavily mustarded with fresh crusty bread, halved and sealed in an airtight bag. One with rocket, one without (because I couldn’t remember if she liked it or not).

I prepared fresh vegetables to go with the dips I’d selected (including her favourite, hummus). It was a strange and unknown experience trying to make capsicum slices, or getting broccoli into bite-sized pieces, but it was enjoyable and super healthy, if a little time consuming and painful (capsicum is unexpectedly easy to cut- I knicked my fingers more than once, but don’t worry, the meal had only sweat and tears, no blood).

Then came the pasta! The recipe I was using was just a few sentences someone had written on Yahoo! Answers, but it sounded good enough to make! Problematicaly, it was horribly vague, saying things like "Prepare a pasta of your choice", or "Add in a, b, c and if you like maybe some d, or sprinkle it with w and or use x. And if you like, you can make your own dressing  using y and z, or…" So I had to just pull it together and pick out the ingredients I thought would go nicely. I think Eugene kind of liked it, Bethwyn certainly expressed she did, and I thought it was the greatest thing since pickles. Success for my extra colourful Italian pasta salad!

By this time it was 5:15pm, and I knew sunset began at 6:54. I wanted to start the picnic at least half an hour before sunset so we’d have time to eat and then drink wine and have strawberries, blueberries and chocolate for dessert. But foolish me, I’d forgotten about the card and present! So I abandoned the couscous and zucchini and spent half an hour getting ready for the date, writing out the card (why is it that I say the most romantic things in messages and then dearly wish I’d saved it for the card?!) and looking for photos. Why looking for photos? Because the present I decided on after much delibration was a locket. And I very much wanted two photos tiny enough to cut out and stick our faces in. But at 5:50, panicking and suddenly realising I couldn’t fit the drinks in the cooler (which I borrowed from her parents) so they’d be warm, I left it.

I arrived at her house just after 6:30 and rang the doorbell (as every good date should start with). Millie, her dog, went ballistic as always, and she answered the door looking amazing, in jeans and a tee with beautifully done make-up. I had to keep Bethi in her room while I smuggled out the picnic blanket and a cooler for the drinks, but not too soon after we left! Kept entirely in the dark about what I’d planned or where we were going, I did my best to drive us to a certain park of significant meaning. It was only two streets away but I got lost, yet managed to fluke it and get there in one piece anyway. I know Bethi has some good memories there, but it’s where some of my happiest have been, so we settled on the grass and busted out the picnic. She loved it all (or so she tells me) but because we were starting so late (close to 7) we had to stop about half an hour afterwards because it was dark and the mosquitoes were out. I’d brought insect repellant candles, but it was more dangerous than romantic so we left them unopened. The roll-on bug repellant was a no go either because the only uncovered part of her were her hands, neck and face, and she needed those to eat and look pretty (rather than smudged). So we left a little early to finish the picnic at home over Lady and the Tramp. I gave her present to her then. The locket I gave her was not empty, just photo-less. But it contained all the love in the world.

So that was the big day out! It was a lot of work in new territory for me, and a little daunting, but wholly rewarding. It really is a joy to cook- I should do it more often. Happy holidays everyone!