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Tuesday, 26 November 2019

On Learning How To Work Again.

The last few months have been both interesting and difficult in various ways. Things have been getting better in general, which has been good, but there have been obstacles as well. So I thought I'd talk a bit about some of that process.

Earlier this year, I wasn't doing well at work. There were signs of depression that were starting to show, and while I had good people to work with and a good place I was working in, I was struggling to find fulfilment or interest in the work that I was doing at the time; though there were certainly good parts to it. And so, I finished up at work. And tried to get healthy again.

But I wasn't really sure how to do that. A couple of different medications for depression had little effect, and it felt like things were going downhill, not uphill. I started to see a psychologist, and that was beneficial. As this was happening, I wasn't getting much income, and so I had to move back home. I got bits of work from one friend here and an odd job there, plus the consistent eight hours at church.

Then a couple of months ago, an opportunity came up, somewhat out of the blue, for a position with a startup that I'd had some interaction with before. They actually specifically called me to see if I'd be interested in the position (funnily enough, because of the work I'd done in Salesforce, which had just been an extra thing on the side in my previous job), which was a bit crazy. Everything worked out, and I got the position, working some hours in the office and some from home, which was nice and flexible.

However, it had been a while since I'd had regular work. And so it felt like I was learning how to work again - particularly with depression, and figuring out how that would fit together. Over the last couple of months, it feels like I've learned more about my preferences with work than I have over the last few years.
I like working in collaboration with people, not doing work by myself.
While most people like socialising during lunch and morning tea breaks, for me, that's my retreat and refresh time, to energise again (particularly if I have been working by myself).
Working in at the office can be worse than working at home, because at the office, you're expected to be working for that whole block of time, whatever it may be. That's just not how my mind works, and I find that extremely difficult. When I'm at home, I can break up the work with doing other things - which can still be productive, not necessarily watching videos/playing games (though that can be a thing as well), but just doing something different. That's not an option in the office.
Motivation can also be a massive issue, particularly if I'm working alone. I'm terrible at self-motivation, and so I have to utilise things that I know I want to do/enjoy doing to help me do things. That can be quite difficult with work, depending on the work that's being done.
I do some things very quickly, and other things very slowly. And they're not typically the things that other people do quickly or slowly. Also, if I have too little work, I can find that a drag. On the other hand, if I have a lot of tasks that I feel like all need to be completed at once, I can find that overwhelming and just not be able to do anything.

If the last couple of months have reminded me of anything, it's that I'm not good at work, or at least the world's idea of work. It's not something that I fit into well, even with various accommodations or allowances being made. I can often have a lot to contribute or bring - but I also bring a fair few difficulties and issues along with that. This is why I kinda hate the world that we live in, where you have to work to actually even live. And if you don't, people often treat you like you're less, and inferior. "What, you don't have a job?" "Don't you do any work?" "Lazy!" The systems that we have in place for people that don't have work - physically disabled and seniors aside - is built upon the assumption that you're trying to find work. It's a temporary measure until you can get work, and you often can't get the money if you're not actively and repeatedly looking for work, which is often an intensely draining and demoralising activity.

As I come towards being a married man, and starting a family (not as in having kids, that's still a discussion that's a while off yet!), this has become ever more the forefront in my perception. I'm not just looking after myself anymore - often when I was, I'd be happy to get by with just whatever, and had no issues with living on fairly thin means. But when I have someone else who is also relying on me to provide for them at some level, that changes the game. Unfortunately, we live in a world and a time that is unkind and expensive. And that doesn't look to be changing any time soon.

Apologies for the depressive post. I was getting better. Or at least, I thought I was. Now I don't know. Life is complicated. Having people around helps. It's just when I'm by myself that I tend to get like this. Not sure where to go from here, or what the next steps are. But we'll get there somehow.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

500 Scientists UN Letter: A Response

NB: Long post.

Recently, I've seen a few people posting about a recent letter, apparently sent from 500 scientists to the UN on the same day that Greta Thunberg made her speech to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, with the letter saying that there was "no climate emergency". This raised alarm bells for me, so I did some searching. I quickly found that a grand number of sites were reporting on this, and going, "Oh goodness, isn't it amazing! People are ignoring real science! Look at this!" ....which is basically a good clue to dig a little deeper. There is an actual letter that was sent, it is real (as far as I can tell). I'll include a copy of the text below, in fact (which seems to be identical on all sites I've seen thus far).

Your Excellencies, 
There is no climate emergency. 
A global network of more than 500 knowledgeable and experienced scientists and professionals in climate and related fields have the honor to address to Your Excellencies the attached European Climate Declaration, for which the signatories to this letter are the national ambassadors. 
The general-circulation models of climate on which international policy is at present founded are unfit for their purpose. Therefore, it is cruel as well as imprudent to advocate the squandering of trillions on the basis of results from such immature models. Current climate policies pointlessly, grievously undermine the economic system, putting lives at risk in countries denied access to affordable, continuous electrical power.
We urge you to follow a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation.
We ask you to place the Declaration on the agenda of your imminent New York session.
We also invite you to organize with us a constructive high-level meeting between world-class scientists on both sides of the climate debate early in 2020. The meeting will give effect to the sound and ancient principle no less of sound science than of natural justice that both sides should be fully and fairly heard. Audiatur et altera pars! (listen to the other side)
Please let us know your thoughts about such a joint meeting. 
There is no climate emergency
A global network of 500 scientists and professionals has prepared this urgent message. Climate science should be less political, while climate polities should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation. 
Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. The Little Ice Age ended as recently as 1850. Therefore, it is no surprise that we now are experiencing a period of warming. Only very few peer-reviewed papers even go so far as to say that recent warming is chiefly anthropogenic. 
Warming is far slower than predicted
The world has warmed at less than half the originally-predicted rate, and at less than half the rate to be expected on the basis of net anthropogenic forcing and radiative imbalance. It tells us that we are far from understanding climate change. 
Climate policy relies on inadequate models
Climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as policy tools. Moreover, they most likely exaggerate the effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2. In addition, they ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial. 
CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. Photosynthesis is a blessing. More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth: additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yields of crop worldwide. 
Global warming has not increased natural disasters
There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly. For instance, wind turbines kill birds and bats, and palm-oil plantations destroy the biodiversity of the rainforests. 
Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. If better approaches emerge, we will have ample time to reflect and adapt. The aim of international policy should be to provide reliable and affordable energy at all times, and throughout the world. 
Our advice to political leaders is that science should strive for a significantly better understanding of the climate system, while politics should focus on minimizing potential climate damage by prioritizing adaptation strategies based on proven and affordable technologies. 
The undersigned ECD Ambassadors
Professor Guus Berkhout, The Netherlands
Professor Reynald Du Berger French, Canada
Terry Dunleavy, New Zealand
Viv Forbes, Australia
Professor Jeffrey Foss English, Canada
Morten Jødal, Norway
Rob Lemeire, Belgium
Professor Richard Lindzen, USA
Professor Ingemar Nordin, Sweden
Jim O’Brien, Republic of Ireland
Professor Alberto Prestininzi, Italy
Associate Professor Benoît Rittaud, France
Professor Fritz Vahrenholt, Germany
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, United Kingdom
What was difficult to find was any response to this from the other side. I did find a post that had a look through the ambassadors list, and found a few shady characters (notably Richard Lindzen). They also found that many of them aren't really experts on the topic at all, and almost definitely have ulterior motives (i.e. being paid by the fossil fuel industry, or similar).

But that's not what I want to focus on. No, I want to focus on the points that they've made, and I want to refute them. With easily available data, that anyone can access and have a look at for themselves. (I will concede that I am relying heavily on www.skepticalscience.com, so if you consider them to be a bad source, you may think my arguments are void. However, they are very good at listing their sources, and being detailed and honest in their answers.) As a reminder, these are the basic points that they are arguing.

  • Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
  • Warming is far slower than predicted
  • Climate policy relies on inadequate models
  • CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
  • Global warming has not increased natural disasters
  • Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
  • There is no climate emergency
Hopefully, by the end of this post, I will have shown somewhat conclusively that these are each incorrect on some level.

Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
This is an old argument from climate skeptics. It goes something along the lines of, "the Earth's temperature has fluctuated for millennia, this warming that we're experiencing is just part of that fluctuation". 
The first part of that sentence is true. The Earth's temperature has variated quite a bit in the past, and yes, we have had Ice Ages before. What's significant about now, and why scientists are saying this is different, is the speed and amount of that change. It's getting warmer faster, and at greater levels, than anything we have records for. Here's a handy infographic that gives you an idea, with sources.
So, while the Earth does naturally change in temperature, it doesn't naturally do it as much as it is now. And the amount it is doing now is alarming.

Warming is far slower than predicted
This is a classic of Lindzen himself, actually. You can see the long version here of why this statement is incorrect; essentially, though, claiming that warming is slower than predicted is ignoring a number of factors. When those factors are taken into account, then the warming matches the predictions quite well.

Climate policy relies on inadequate models
The argument here is saying that we shouldn't base our economic plans on climate models that are uncertain or unreliable. We need concrete, definitive data to act on.
Again, read the fuller rebuttal here. But it's good to remember that we're talking about the future. It is, by definition, uncertain and unknown. Considering that, the climate models that we have and have been working with have been pretty darn good so far at predicting what's happening, with a high degree of certainty. The point about CO2, we will tackle momentarily.

CO2 is a plant food, the basis of all life on earth
Everybody knows that plants use CO2 to survive. This is actually why one of the big pushes you might be seeing at the moment from climate warriors is planting trees (which we should do more of!) - and so this is a clever argument, because it uses a nugget of truth.
However, while plants love CO2, it's clearly quite toxic to humans, and most other animal species, if it gets to higher concentrations. Higher amounts of CO2 are also increasing the warming effect, as detailed further here again. If we want to decrease our warming, we need to decrease our CO2 emissions, and increase our numbers of trees to take the CO2 out of the atmosphere that we've already put there.

Global warming has not increased natural disasters
This one is almost observably false. There certainly has been an increase in both the number and intensity of natural disasters, as you can read about fairly quickly here (with a nice graph). A telling sign in Australia - where I live - is that each year, the "fire season" gets longer. We have a history of bushfires in Australia, and the "fire season" (usually just over summer) is when you get most of them. Each year, that season has been getting longer, and stretching through more of the year, leading the CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to say that there's now a danger year-round.
So the only way to say that global warming hasn't increased natural disasters, is to say that these are caused by something else. But that seems very unlikely. As this page goes into detail on, more and more indications are pointing to the likelihood that these are the result of climate change, or that climate change will result in effects like those we are seeing.

Policy must respect scientific and economic realities
This is basically putting the focus back on money. It's saying, "we have no reason to panic - and if we do this now, we're pouring money down the drain." This is where I will come back briefly to the note I made before this, that several of these scientists may be being backed by fossil fuel companies. And indeed, if we go down this path, they are going to lose money. Big money. They're the ones that stand to lose the most, and have known as much for a long time, and have been intentionally fighting against efforts to reduce climate change.
To answer the point more directly, though - it really comes down to whether you think this is an emergency, or just a serious issue, or not an issue at all. If it's the former, then any economic loss in the short-term is mitigated by the prevention of catastrophic loss that would have happened. If it's the middle, then there's good evidence to say that climate change policies, such as putting limits on carbon emissions, only have a very minor impact on the economy, and an overall positive impact. And if you think that there's no issue, by now - then there's not much I can do to convince you, and you'll think that any spending of money on this is a waste.

There is no climate emergency
Many would disagree. Many would say, in fact, that we've already passed dangerous points, where there will be irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Depending on who you listen to, we may have no time at all, or a very short amount of time.
And when people hear that, it can be shocking. People don't want to hear that things are going to change, and get worse. People want to hear that it's all going to be normal, and they'll fight to preserve that normal. They'll fight to ignore or dismiss anything that might disrupt that normal. And that's what we see happening. We see people denying that anything is wrong, fighting to keep their 9-to-5 normality, fighting to keep economic stability, and shutting their ears to the doomsayers.
It's a psychological phenomenon that's well-documented, and it's called normalcy bias. It's kinda when you get the "freeze" response instead of the "fight" or "flight" ones, but it's not just an in-the-moment thing. It's also a mental attitude, and an issue with brain psychology. As in, it's normal for us to have! 
How do we break out of it? Generally, by someone else pulling us out. From someone else pointing out to us what's happening, the dangers, the situation that is around us. The truck that's rushing towards you, the plane that you're in having crashed, or the cyclone on the horizon. The problem is, climate change is much less visible, for the most part. People can't see it, and so they can feel like it's not real, or not important, or not urgent. It will be fine.

But unless we take some very real and serious action right now, no, it won't be.


Thanks for those that have read all of this and stuck with it for the long haul. Please be somewhat civil in the comments, if you decide to leave some. If you're looking for what to do next - check out Extinction Rebellion on Facebook. They typically have pages local to your country and/or state as well. They're generally pretty good at keeping on top of what's happening, and keeping people informed about developments, as well as encouraging and facilitating action (particularly in the face of very inactive governments).

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

On Not Achieving.

The title of this blog and header text are feeling less and less appropriate moving forward. In the event that I do change them, they currently read "Kainos Zoe" and 'The musings and thoughts of a man living a new life. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." Welcome to the new.' Plus a background with birds. Yay.

As many of you know by now, I haven't been doing well for a while. If we're going on a 1 to 10 scale - I used to average around an 8, with my lowest being maybe a 4 (which I wasn't often near), and going up to 10 a fair bit. These days, my average is a 4-5, highest might be a 6 or 7, and I can go down to a 1 or a 2 at times. I'm at about there at the moment.

Depression kinda sucks. I'm seeing a psychologist once a fortnight now, but we've only had a couple of sessions so far. They've been helpful, but it's early days yet. And unfortunately, when I'm in a low spot, I tend to head towards behaviours that only continue the trend; moving away from people, retreating further inside, etc. I don't have the energy to do things. But hey, I'm writing this, so that's something.....right?

It's annoying flipping between states of "there's so much I have the potential to do, but I don't have the opportunity to use it anywhere" to "I can't even do the tiny things that I still have responsibility for". Neither is good. I'm still looking for work, but still also doubting my ability to be able to actually do any work, in my current mental/emotional state.

There's a neat little tool that my psychologist taught me about in our last session, the ACE circle. I'm attempting to make it a daily thing, but I've stalled a little. It stands for Achievement, Connectedness, and Enjoyment. Basically, the idea is that you need all three as a regular part of your life to be doing well. I'm fairly good at the Enjoyment portion most of the time. Connectedness - I have that with Thalia, and now a bit more with family (I'm living with my mum again, because no money), but not much with anyone else. Achievement is a big ol' zero most of the time. Depression is very good at making you feel like you really can't do anything. So I'm trying to do little, manageable things to tick off that portion of my life, if that makes sense.

And I've mostly been doing okay at that. But it still feels a bit shit when you feel like the least productive person you know; not even able to do this, not even able to do that....
While I know that a lot of that is not actually true in one sense, my brain tends to diminish in importance in these things. Or in its power. I mean, all of it's in the brain, I know, but yeah. Emotions seem to be ruling the roost at present, which isn't great.

I don't know if this had a point. It probably didn't. But hey. I'm writing. That's something.
I'm getting through each day, but it's hard. There are a lot of times when it feels like it's not worth the effort. I get a bit emotionally numb to the rest of the world when I'm like this. It's not good.
Anyway. That's where I'm at.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Stark Clarity and Murky Obscurity

Over the past few weeks, I've suddenly been getting some real clarity from God in terms of my purpose, and what I'm here for, and what he's calling me to do. In some senses, though, it's been more of a reminder than anything else. These aren't things that are new to me; just things that he's bringing back to the forefront, and prompting me on their importance and significance.

They are that I am a messenger; given words to speak by God, understanding from God of his word (the Bible), and that I am to communicate and share this with others. That I am made to speak these words to many, not to keep them to myself. These words have been given to me in many forms - in songs, in poems, in sermons, in other writing. And these were made to be shared.

As I said before, in some sense, I already knew these. But reframing these as central to my life, my purpose - has put a fresh perspective on things. It's caused me to rethink the various things that I'm doing, where and how I spend my time, and how I use my gifts. It's also helped me to recognise some of the gifts I've been given that I really haven't been using; particularly the gift I have to understand the Bible and to be able to communicate that to people. (I'm not sure if that comes under the spiritual gift of knowledge, wisdom, or teaching - perhaps someone with more knowledge in this area could speak to that. Or perhaps it's an overlap of two or all of them.) And I want to focus more on these.

But at the same time, this is very much a big picture view. This is an overall perspective, the broad idea, and it gives me very little clue on what to actually do here and now. It raises more questions than it answers. Questions like, what does that look like? How do I do that practically? How will I be able to do that and survive financially? How does that work with what my fiancée has been called to do? Is he calling me to put all of my time and energy into doing this in a big way, or more to let this approach permeate everything that I'm doing? How do I do this while I need to plan for supporting me and Thalia as a family?

...I don't know. And that's the difficult thing. I've gotten a clear view from the mountaintop, but right now, I'm down amongst the forest, and I can't really see the way forward. At times, it can feel very claustrophobic, and constricting. Now and then, I'll think I see a path to follow, but it ends up going nowhere, or bringing me back to the start.

Perhaps the answer is spending more time with God, and asking him to reveal a path to me. But if experience has taught me anything, it's that he has never made my path clear. He's only ever given me one step at a time, and sometimes not even that much. Most of the time, he's left it up to me to decide for myself. Which can be very scary. Perhaps the answer is going all in on trying to get these words heard. But how do I do that? The songs are all written; the book is mostly done; but I have no real following, or audience, to be able to share those messages or words to. I'm mostly speaking into an echo chamber - which isn't what he's wanting. I never did put all my eggs into one basket, to build up a following for my music early on, or anything like that. Yet he's still asking me to share these words, and so I can't have gone down the wrong path; or, at least, he feels like he can still use me where I am. I just don't know what that looks like.

Sometimes, I wish God would give me clearer instructions. But that just doesn't seem to be how he works - or at least, not with me. And that can be hard.
But I'm also grateful for what he has revealed to me. It's something that I can cling to, something I can remind myself of, and something to keep in mind as I try to move forward in life, and figure out a direction. But really, I'm still just making it up as I go.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Whirled

This is a poem that I wrote about a week back, and then performed two nights ago at the Narellan Poetry Slam in Harry Hartog - and I came second! :D So I said I'd put it up. Here you go.

This world is a tortured place.
Tortured by us; and it’s hard to count the ways
In which we’ve managed to make it worse
Than it was - we’ve become this planet’s curse.
Whether it be plastic in the oceans, or smoke in the air,
Or things just dying - we seem to not care
About what’s happening around us, we shut our eyes
To the evidence that’s so clear, we believe the lies
That say it will sort itself out. We don’t need to worry.
The earth takes care of itself. Well I’m sorry,
But that might be true if we weren’t so good
At beating it within an inch of its life! You would
Think that we’d have more sense than to kill
The very thing that sustained us, but history will
Testify that this is clearly not the case.
There’s no greedier species than the human race.
And race it is, because we just can’t stop,
We have to go faster, we have to get to the top,
No matter the cost, no matter the pain,
It’s always about the little we can gain,
And we don’t really care what we do to get there.
But, if we can pause for just a moment, can you please tell me where
Do we go from here? What’s the plan?
Do we just use up what we have, and
Hike it off to the moon, or Mars, and use up those too?
Are we that parasitic? Is that really true?
Or is it possible for us to turn around
And heal this world? Heal this ground
That has grown us, and shaped us, and made
Us who we are. The hand that we’ve played
Are not the only cards we’ve been dealt.
We just think they’re never good enough, we’ve felt
That we’re worth more, and so we keep pushing for more power,
More strength, more of everything in this hour.
And the thing is, we are worth more.
But more doesn’t mean burning the floor
Just to get an inch ahead of the rest -
It’s about working with this planet that we’ve been blessed
With, not against it. Because as much as we think
That we are stronger than Nature, in a blink
We could disappear if we keep going this way.
That’s how strong she is. And we try to push her away.
But together, think of what we could do -
Rather than torture, remember that it takes two.
We were given a gift, but instead we destroyed.
But if we stopped - if we employed
Even a modicum of the brains that we’ve been given,
And did something good. Maybe then, we’d be living

Well. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

On Directing.

Having finished the run of The Crucible now, I have an opportunity to look back on my first attempt at directing, and the various failures and failings therein. While it was a successful show that did quite well, we certainly had our hurdles.

I think a large part of the issue comes from the idea of the role of 'director', and what different people see them as.
To many, it seems that the director should be the be all and end all, the buck stops with them, they make all the calls and all the plays, and the success or failure of the show ultimately rides on their shoulders.
For those that know me, though, they'll know that this doesn't really sit with who I am, or how I work, very well at all. Rather, I like to work collaboratively. And the word that is crucial for me here is 'ownership'. (NB: not meaning owning people! Very important.)

What I've strived to do as a director - and I think what I try to do when I lead creatively in general - is give people ownership over specific things. Not everything; but specific things.

For example. For the person who is in charge of sound, or lights, or props, or costumes, or whatever it might be. I give them ownership over that. I enable them, as much as it is in my power, to make their own decisions with those things. By and large, I don't have much knowledge in these areas. Me dictating what I think they should do makes no sense. I'll give them my ideas that I have from my knowledge of the show, of course - but I'm not going to prescribe what they do.

I do a similar thing with the actors; but with them, I give them ownership over their characters. Yes, I'll have ideas about how the character should look, or feel, or say. But ultimately, they're going to have a lot more time to dive into their character than I probably will, when I need to have a working knowledge of all the characters and scenes and relationships. They'll also (hopefully) have a deeper knowledge of the specific things they do than I will. I've cast them because of their acting ability, because of how I believe they can build and portray a character, not for their capacity to replicate what I say. I don't want to be a puppetmaster. I want to be a collaborator, a facilitator.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking and working, while allowing some lovely flexibility and creativity, lacks decisiveness. It lacks clarity. It lacks (strangely enough) direction. And I think that's the difficulty that I faced, in finding these things hard to give to people, and I think that's what some of the actors and team found tricky as well at times, particularly as we got towards the pointy end of things, and bits needed to be a bit more nailed down. Thankfully, I had other people that were good at that sort of thing, and able to step in there.

I'm not sure if there's a good balance in between somewhere; or perhaps what I'm talking about is something very different to what a director is. I don't know. But I don't think I'll be doing another go at this any time in the near future. For now, I'm happy to rest.

I do want to note - considering it was my first time doing this, and seeing as it was such a big show, I think I did pretty well. And that's what I've heard from most people as well, which has been very encouraging. This is just me looking back at the things that I did and didn't do well, seeing the patterns, and being able to articulate and formulate them more clearly than I was able to in the midst of all of it.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Slowly Dying.

They say that death comes as a surprise to most of us.
But not all of us.
Some feel her approach, slow and sweet, drawing us in, bit by bit.
We are already hers by the time she arrives.

I am a slave to my emotions, and my emotions are a slave to my circumstance.
My body might look young, but it doesn't feel young. It feels ragged, worn, and heavy. Leaden. My moves are as through treacle, or custard.
My brain sees it all happening, but can do naught about it. It slowly wears from lack of use, finding only moments of clarity.

The world feels like a dream. Or something distant, far away.
There is too much pain, too much suffering, too much injustice, too much idiocy, too much violence, that could be so easily ended - but it is not.
And the world continues to turn. And the world continues to burn.

I once had hope for this world. For this people.
But it feels as though this hope has been snatched away, obscured by the harsh realities of today.
The world is dying. In so many different ways. And we could stop it. But we won't.

Because we're too busy. Or too comfortable. Or too rich. Or too stubborn. Or too oblivious. Or too ill-informed.
Or too unable to do anything, when the weight of the world seems to be on our very shoulders, and it is slowly crushing us into the ground.

I feel like I am slowly dying. I have felt this for a long time, in different ways. But never more than now.
Never worse than now.
And I do not know how to stop.
I do not know if I have the strength, or the energy, to stop.

I do not particularly want to die. Neither do I want to hurt myself, or anyone else.
But living just keeps getting harder. And harder.
And I'm a middle-class white guy in a good house in Australia. If it's this shit for me, then damn.

This is an emergency, folks. Whether you believe it or not, our planet is in crisis. In so many ways.
If we don't do something about it now - we might not be around for that much longer.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Not Working & Blinkers

The following was written a few weeks back, but I didn't want to post it in the middle of working on the play to demoralise the folks there, or distract from it. I haven't edited it since then, because it still represents fairly well where I'm at now, but I've added a few more comments at the end.

I'm feeling more....I don't want to use the word useless, but it's feeling a bit that way. 
I feel like I'm getting more lazy, less motivated, less sharp (in mind and body), more aloof, less good at keeping up with people and tasks, and just less able. More and more, things are piling up (both literally and figuratively - my room is more of a bomb site now than it's ever been) that haven't been done, things are getting put off, I'm actually finding it harder to get out of bed in the mornings (I'm a morning person, so it's usually pretty easy for me - but then, winter, so there's that), I'm having fairly frequent periods where I feel like I can't do anything, and none of it feels like it's getting better. 
Yeah, that sounds employable. 
I know that a good bunch of it is depression, and that a combination of seeing a good psychologist and getting the right medication will help. I'm just not sure what that means for me right in this season, while I'm still having to just deal with it. I've always been a bit distracted at work - I'm no workaholic by any stretch of the imagination, and I've never really had a job that I've been passionate about (though plenty of great workplaces and people to work with) - but in the bits and pieces I'm doing of work at the moment, that's even more the case. 
Add to that, the whole climate change/global warming bonanza making me feel like very little work has much point, when everything could be going belly-up before we know it. That doesn't really help the depression, either. The world falling apart around you never seems to lift the mood particularly well. 
I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe it's just time. There are a few things here and there that I'm still invested in. My fiancée. The play. God. Friends. People. Music. ....I don't know if there's much else. Maybe that's enough. I guess we'll see.
Perhaps one of the things that's most difficult for me, though, is the feeling of always being in crisis mode. Emergency mode. I'm having to constantly deal with my emotional and mental state - but then also somehow find work in the middle of it, which gets me crazy stressed normally, let alone now (there really should be some sort of mental health payments for people who are finding it difficult to work - I know there are some, but the hoops you have to jump through feel like you wouldn't be able to jump through them if you actually weren't able to work) - and I feel like I'm living with blinkers on. Now, don't get me wrong, even at my best I don't tend to look ahead that far; I find it absurd when people say they have ideas about things five years, ten years ahead. I'm lucky if I can think one year ahead, my life changes that much.

But at the moment - it's almost always one day at a time. Living very much in the moment, in the right now. Which some people might say is a good thing, and it's certainly a way to live, but not to the degree that you're almost completely oblivious to plans that are coming up next week that you're supposed to have prepared for! It's quite.....difficult. Annoying. It's caught me out more than a few times in the last month or two, and meant that I've had several last-minute scrambles or situations I've gotten myself into. It's not good.

I'm trying to find a psychologist, but it's difficult to find one that isn't on the other side of the city, bulk bills, and doesn't have a waiting list of several weeks. The last time I checked in with the doctor, she suggested the possibility of bipolar, since the depression meds I've tried so far haven't worked (so far, I've tried a grand total of two). Apparently they don't have any affect if you have bipolar. I don't think I am; my moods can be a little erratic at times, but that's just because life is. I find it difficult to remove myself from the events that happen around me, and so I tend to adopt the emotions that I see. But I don't think I've had the massive upswings that you see in bipolar. I was just generally more of a happy, bouncy person before. And, a lot of the time, not so much now. I still have days, or moments when I'm like that. But it feels a lot more....fleeting.

I don't know. I'm hoping I'll be able to work through this in time, whatever it is. That it's only here for a season. I'm just not sure how long that season will be. And I'm not sure what to do while I'm in it.

Monday, 24 June 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Four

Our opening weekend is done. It's been quite an experience, and we've now had about 250 people who have come and seen the show. The responses, so far, have been really good. Everyone takes something a little different from it - it's quite an intense and emotional experience, and so it is quite a lot for some people, and understandably so. But many people are really connecting to what is happening on stage, and really praising the performances of our actors, and the look and feel of the show. People love the stage, and the tree! If I haven't mentioned before - I can't recall whether I did or not - we've made an entire false stage out of wood that's raked (angled), which is something quite different. It was a bit of a monster effort, but it looks amazing. There's also this one big tree in the centre at the back, that's just incredible, and has this ethereal or spectral quality to it. And yeah, those tend to draw people's attention right away.

The weekend has certainly been tiring. It's a long show - close to three hours, including interval. Which means that we finish up at about 11pm on Friday and Saturday night - plus a bit of time for talking and packing up at the end. I had a bit of a sleep-in yesterday to catch up on sleep - I'm hoping that my body will be a bit more ready for it all by the time the next weekend comes around.

Because I'm not just sitting up the back of the theatre and watching with the audience. I'm actually up in the tech box above the audience, crafting a soundscape. I've got a little MIDI keyboard (courtesy of my housemate Josh) plugged in to my laptop and Ableton Live, which is all plugged in to the sound desk, and I perform - if that's the right word - the soundscape live as the drama unfolds. It's quite an experience. I'm using a number of different sounds for different times, and building it up and down as the tension changes. There are some things that I'm doing the same each time, or similarly - like counting up in semitones with John's attempt to list the ten commandments, or having particular leitmotifs for "witchcraft" happening - but there's a bit of improvisation as well. It's a balance of trying to craft an immersive experience, but also not overwhelming what's occurring onstage. Which is delicate sometimes, and I probably get it wrong in bits and pieces. What I'm able to hear up where I am is a little different to what people hear in different seats - so hopefully I'm not obscuring the lines on stage. I haven't heard any comments to that tune insofar, which is good.

But it's been really interesting seeing how this show has developed quite differently and uniquely. We have a raked stage; a live violinist; an ambient soundscape; we never close the curtain; we reveal the lights. There are a lot of things that are making this production just a little bit different from the norm - but perhaps that shouldn't be so surprising, given that it's me! But it's been great seeing the creativity that has been shown through the course of this show, and amazing being a part of that.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Three

We open this Friday night.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy. When I started this project, I knew it was going to be hard, and ridiculous, and crazy, and that I was probably not going to be great at a lot of things. I didn't know that all of that was going to squish itself into the last few weeks before opening night. But, I guess, such is the way of things. It never rains, but it pours, right?

What I am very grateful for is that, though we've had many issues we've had to work through, we haven't lost a cast member. I suppose I should add a yet - there's still five days to go. Someone's bound to come down with something now.... but I've been really grateful to the cast and crew that I'm working with for their incredible patience with me as I stutter about trying to make this massive show work as a first-time director.

Thankfully, I've got a lot of help. And I've needed it! These last couple of weeks have been all hands on deck, and plenty of last-minute changes and fixes as we make sure that everything is working how it's supposed to. Is it all perfect? Nope. It can't be, and it won't be, with something this complex and with this many people involved. But it is incredible, and amazing, and powerful.

Today, I was asked what next. What show would I direct after this? And the thing is, I don't know if I would. The Crucible has been a passion project for me. It's a play that I've been passionate about for years, and fell in love with back when I encountered it in high school English about ten years ago now. I've been wanting to direct it and planning it out for about....three years I think now. There isn't another play, or musical, that I have that level of investment in. The amount of work that's required to put this on has been crazy, and I know that I haven't been doing as much as some directors do. I don't think I would have been able to get this far with this show if I didn't have this passion for the play that I do. So I don't know if there will be another play. At least, not for quite a while. I've got that musical that I've written still sitting around somewhere, if I pick it back up and try to straighten it out a bit. And there are a couple of other shows that have somewhat piqued my interest. But again - not for a while, I think. After all, I'm getting married next year! I'll be focussed elsewhere for a while.

But this, for me, has been enough for now. While I'll certainly be involved again in shows before too long - there are some crackers happening for the rest of the year, as well as next year - I won't be directing again for a good while yet. I think I'll only do it once in a blue moon; I don't have quite the right personality for it, I think. Good in some ways, but not in others.

I'm very proud and grateful to be a continuing part of this powerful show. We have nine performances, starting from this Friday, over three weekends; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, and Saturday matinee at 2pm. It will be a longer show, so I'll recommend the matinee if you don't like having a later evening. It's not exactly the sort of thing you go to for a laugh and a fun night out - but if you like history, or emotion, or drama, or real stories, or characters with grit, or something a little out there - then this is for you. Don't miss it, because there hasn't been anything like this on stage for a while, and there won't be anything like it for a while yet. You can get tickets here. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Two

Still not writing as much as I should. But let's give you folks a bit of an update.

Since I last checked in, we are now just over three weeks out from opening night, which is a little scary. But, more importantly, our stage has been built! It's looking pretty amazing, and you'll just have to come and see it rather than taking my word for it ;) There's still a bit left to build, but the big stuff is done.

This Sunday is our first full-day rehearsal. It's where things really start in earnest. There's still plenty left to do - like get lights happening, sounds working, music alongside it all, costumes on, props getting used, and lines down! It seems like a lot, because it is. But we have an amazing team, and an incredible cast, and I know we can do it. I'm just really excited that it's all happening, and still have to pinch myself sometimes that we're actually doing this.

I keep being reminded of how much of an analog it is to events happening today. For those that aren't familiar with much of the storyline; a group of girls are discovered dancing in the woods, and rather than say what they were actually doing, they accuse other people of bewitching them. At the time they lived in a theocracy, so religion, government, and the judicial system were all very much intertwined. And witchcraft was punishable by hanging. So the people accused could either go to the noose; or confess, and give up more names. What followed was an absolute tirade of names that was released, and a ridiculous number of people put in the jail and arrested. However, only twenty were executed before a halt was put to it.

These days - depending on which country you live in - the death penalty isn't around as much. But you certainly still have a demonisation of minorities, of the "other". Because of course, it was the slave from Barbados that was first accused; and then the women, particularly the poor or those that were considered immoral. These days, we find similar things occurring to refugees or immigrants; Muslims; women who have abortions or have been raped; the homeless; people from the Middle East; and many other groups besides. Governments have literally been elected based on an "us vs them" strategy. Anyone fancy building a wall? I hear there are spots going over in America....oh, and in Europe, now, too.

We don't quite have a Trump in power yet, but we do have offshore detention centres still keeping people out of our society that we think are "too dangerous" for some reason. They don't even get the chance to be heard by most of the country - they're just locked away, for who knows how long, like rats in a cage. Australia isn't always the "young and free" we'd like to think we are.

There are some, by the way, that would like to link this "invisible crime" of witchcraft to the similarly often invisible crime of rape, or sexual abuse, with things like the multiple scandals within the church of sexual abuse of children, or the #MeToo movement that was still fairly recent. But even though there are similarities - they could not be further apart. Rape is very real. Sexual abuse is very real. False reporting in both these instances is a tiny percentage - what is much more common is an absence of reporting. Some people would like to think that their idols and heroes really hadn't done all that, and these people are just liars trying to besmirch their names....but no. While I'm not saying that can't happen or is never the case, that's not what you should be comparing this to. In the vast majority of cases, those coming forward with stories of rape or sexual assault are extremely brave and vulnerable individuals who have been hurt in really serious and devastating ways. Don't try to cut them down again.

But there are many other parallels that you can see between The Crucible and our modern society. When you do come along (I'll say when, not if ;) ), you can decide for yourself which parallel seems most apparent to you. Or perhaps you'll just be taken in by the emotion of the story in itself. It has a lot of power. Either way, please join us in just over three weeks on stage, as we tread the (somewhat creaky) boards at Campbelltown Theatre to show the town of Salem in 1692, and what happened there. You can buy tickets here: https://www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=408884&embed=true

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry One.

I've needed to do a bit of a write-up on this for a while. I won't be able to put everything into one post, so I'll break it up a bit, and intersperse it with developments as they happen.

I thought it might be a good idea to log down some of my ideas around The Crucible. For those that don't know, I'm directing it at the moment with the Campbelltown Theatre Group. We go on stage near the end of June. It's been a long road to get here, but a worthwhile one.

I first fell in love with The Crucible when I was introduced to it, as many are, during high school English. It immediately captivated me. It was a historical drama, and I had a love for both history and drama. It played with ideas of religion, politics, family, and society, ideas that I was fascinated with or passionate about.

But the real thing that grabbed me about this play were the characters. They were real. They weren't just token people, put in there for no reason - these were real people, who lived real lives, that had depth, meaning, intentions, emotions, relationships. You could feel that, through the story and the writing. And the suffering and pain that these people went through - it was intense. You don't really see anyone at their best; everyone is under stress, under strain, going through trials and tribulations and being put through the crucible to see if they come out the other side. Many didn't - or at least, not alive.

Many actors have a dream role they want to play. This was my dream play to direct. Ever since I read it in high school, over ten years ago now, this story has stayed with me, and these characters have stayed with me. I knew that I wanted to bring this story to life on stage. A few years back, I borrowed a script from a friend, and then bought one online, to start getting ideas for how it might look and feel. I read through it repeatedly. I dove into Miller's notes on it, which were quite detailed. And last year, I got the opportunity to make a submission for a show. I hastily put as much of a team together as I could. 

The submission was accepted.

I didn't have much of an idea of what to do next. I had never directed a show before, and my first stint as assistant director was late last year. I would be learning as I went. I gathered more team members, and started to garner interest for auditions. I knew that this would be a big show that a lot of people would be keen to audition for, but it also had a big cast - twenty two. I needed to get as many to auditions as I could, particularly guys. The split was basically fifty-fifty of male to female parts, but that's never the ratio you see at the theatre. And these were some big, weighty parts, that needed to be done well. I didn't want to stuff this up.

My assistant director ended up being one of my old teachers from primary school, funnily enough. I'd worked with him before on a show, but not for a few years. He was pretty keen, and it felt like things were coming full circle. I also had another experienced director on the team that would be overseeing things, and brought many years of stagecraft and skill to the mix. I had a good friend on sound, and our go-to man was happy to do lights again. Stage manager was trickier to lock down, but the experienced person we had on team said she'd take care of that for now. And costumes. And props. She wears a lot of hats!

Auditions came around, and thankfully, we had some great talent there, and a good number of people. A few more would have been nice, but we managed okay. At the end of the day, we had almost all of our roles filled. But we had a couple of backups that might be able to fill in, and they were smaller roles. We were doing okay.

You might not know, by the way, why it's called The Crucible. It's not a word we use that frequently these days. A crucible was something used in metalwork, and smithing. It was a small metal or ceramic pot, into which you would put pieces of metal. You'd then heat the whole thing up ridiculously hot, to turn the metal inside to liquid. You'd be able to remove the impurities. You'd then pour it out into something else.

The word has since been used metaphorically, in a similar way to the phrase trial by fire, if you like. It's a test of sorts, to see whether you would come out the other side. But it's designed to refine and bring out the best - even though the heat can be intense.

The metaphor is apt in many senses. Witches used to be put through many 'tests' to see if they were witches; generally speaking, if they died they were innocent, and if they lived they were guilty. It was pretty messed up.
The people of Salem went through a test of their own, of sorts. Though most survived, none were the same afterwards. I don't know if you can say they were 'purified', though some may have tried to for a while. They were Puritans, after all.
The process of putting this show on stage has been a trial in itself. Directing a show is no mean feat, particularly for the first time. Most of the time I'm making it up as I go along. I don't know what's going to come out the other side. So far, it's looking pretty good. But I'm no prophet, or soothsayer. I'll see how it goes as I go along, and that's all I can do.
I've been going through somewhat of a personal crucible myself. I won't go through that now, but if you've been reading some of my more recent posts, you'll know what I mean.

This show has been many years in the making, and a lot of hours and work have gone into it, mostly not from me. It's a big team, for a big show. I'll leave it here for now, but I'll be doing a few more posts about it as things travel along.

But if you want to come and see it - tickets are on sale now! It is a limited season, so don't wait until opening night to get your seats. Click on the link here, and you'll find all the information you need to come see this incredible production on stage.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Dreams, Money, Family, and God

Hey folks! Apologies I haven't been keeping up with the blog series, should be doing the next post in that sometime this week. But I had another thought come to mind that I wanted to work through on here, so that's what I'm doing.

Heading back to thoughts about work and the like.
A few times, people have said to me something along the lines of, the creative stuff that you're doing is great and all, but that's a dream. By focusing on that, you're sacrificing safety, stability, security, etc. And that's an understandable argument; but one that, to some degree, you can argue against. After all, if you look in the Bible at some of what Jesus says, you'll see fairly quickly that he's not really about safety, stability, or security. In fact, he's very much about risk, challenge, the unknown, trust.

But then, people pull out their trump card. They say that by chasing these dreams, you're sacrificing family.

And that's a gut punch. The classic reference here is 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT; "But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." I've had that one quoted at me before. And yeah, that hits a sore spot. Nobody wants to feel like they're letting down their family, that they've failed their family. And particularly as I come towards starting a family of my own, and being married at the start of next year - these fears and worries are very much real, and alive.

Then, however, I remembered something. Which may seem small - but I don't think so. Because the thing is, this isn't just a dream that I have, something that I want to do because I like the sound of it or whatever.
Instead, this is something that has repeatedly and continuously been put onto my heart by God. He has been constantly and consistently been calling me back to the albums and songs that I've written. To the book that I'm working on. To preaching. To establishing a creative community. To being there for the broken and the hurting. Yes, these are things that I'm passionate about - but that's a passion that God has placed there himself. This is a calling that God has given.

And when we reframe it this way, we suddenly have a very different discussion. Because we're no longer talking about chasing dreams or supporting a family. We're talking about following God; or following money.
In case you're unaware, this is something that Jesus is fairly clear on. "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." Matthew 6:24 NLT. Jesus specifically tells us - at a few points, actually - not to be chasing after things of this world. Not to be chasing after money. Not to be worrying about things like food, clothing, having a roof over your head. As Jesus continues on later in this passage, "These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT)

But what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God? Well, I might be a bit off here, but I think it comes from following where the Spirit leads. As those who have done old Biblical Studies classes might (groaningly) recall, his kingdom is where God's rule and reign is. Where he is the king. So being part of his kingdom, means being under his rule. Means following what he says, where he calls me to go, what he calls me to do.

Now, does this mean that everyone should go and quit their jobs, go out into the wilderness to seek God, and expect a pile of money to fall into their laps? Er....no. That's not how it works.
Often, God works through the (seemingly) ordinary things around us. The people we interact with. The opportunities that arise. The job that you have at the moment - that could very well be the way that he's providing for you. Or it could be what he's calling you away from. I don't know. Only you and God can, really.

I'm not trying to say I've got it all figured out. I'm 26. I'm human. I don't. But I think in our modern, Western, money-centred world, we can find ourselves serving money quite easily if we're not careful. For me, that's not something I ever want to be doing. Sure, things can be nice sometimes. But people are nicer. And God is better still.

Still working out what God is doing in this time. But I'm trusting in him. Hopefully, you are too.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Big Issues: Climate Change

Well, it's starting a bit late, but here we are!

For those that aren't in the know, I'm starting a new blog series - because why not? - looking at some of the big issues in the world today. I asked Facebook what they thought those were, and these are the ones they came up with. This series won't be so much trying to solve these issues; rather, it's looking more at trying to understand why these are such big issues for here and now.

Strangely enough, one of the ones that popped up was climate change. Global warming. All this fun stuff. And so that's what we'll be tackling first.

Now. I don't really want this post to be about proving that climate change and global warming are real things. Because if you can't figure that out by now, I don't know what's going to prove it to you. Natural disasters are going crazy, temperatures are very much misbehaving, and fossil fuel companies have been trying to cover it up for decades. But let's move on from that for now.

It's not too much to say that this may well be the biggest issue of our time. Within our lifetimes, we're likely going to see things around the world getting worse and worse, even if we start making some big changes right now (which probably won't happen). How bad are we talking? Well, given enough time (and what that amount of time is is still pretty up in the air at this point), it would be looking pretty similar to an extinction-level event. We're talking about whether or not the human race will even exist, in a few generations' time. Or at least, exist in the way we know it now. That's the seriousness we're looking at this with.

And perhaps there are some (though I hope not many) more conservative Christians that welcome this idea, and see it as the promised end times - the quicker we all die, the quicker Jesus comes back! Right?
Ahem. Rest assured, that is not where I stand on the issue of climate change. This an issue of tremendous weight that we have needed to combat with serious action for decades, and have done very little about. As such, we are starting to feel the repercussions.
It's starting to get to the level where I think there are probably people that are deciding not to have kids, because they see things only getting worse, and they don't want to raise children to face that future. (Not to mention the other things we'll be talking about over the rest of the series.) And I can understand that. Things are getting pretty crazy, and a lot of the time, they don't seem to be getting any better. Maybe we'll be able to fix it, maybe we won't - but right now, we don't really know. And that's a tough spot to be in.

But hey, let's not end on too negative a note. Let's find some things that we can do. These aren't solutions - but if enough people start doing them, maybe it will help a bit.
1. Eat less meat. This is actually a thing. Meat production is super-bad for the environment. If everyone ate less meat - we'd be doing a lot better. I'm not saying everyone should turn vegetarian (though it's much easier to do these days), but less meat is good. Just make sure you're doing it properly and getting your protein and everything! Eggs are awesome.
2. Don't just recycle. Particularly with China not accepting recycling as much any more, it's tricky to know what's happening with our recycling now, and that process of things. In some cases, depending on where you are, it may just be sitting in storehouses waiting for things to happen to it, or even going to the tip. As such, it's much, much better if you can re-use things as much as possible. Buying less plastic is always good, but hopefully you know that by now. And when you do recycle - please, do it properly. The right things in the right bin. Recycling contamination isn't good.
3. Make a little noise. I'm not very good at this - but if we keep letting our politicians know that this is a big issue for us, that this is the big issue for us, then they might actually agree to do something about it. We only have so much sway as individuals, so we need to get the people that can actually do things to start doing things, you know.

I'm sure other people can add other good things to that list, but there are three to start off with.
This was a tricky issue to start with, because it's both so big, but also rather obvious in many ways - at least, in terms of why it's an issue for our time. I mean, we kinda made it one, because we done goofed and all that jazz. Hopefully we'll be able to get a bit more nuance with some of the other posts to come.

In the meantime, feel free to comment below, and let me know if you like these sorts of posts. Maybe I'll do more!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Two Weeks In.

I meant to start off the blog series yesterday, but didn't quite get there. I don't think I'll be getting there today, either. Needed to write something else first.

I'm finding myself in a very annoying loop when it comes to work. Get job -> enjoy it for a bit -> job becomes stale -> move on (usually to a different job). And depending on the job, the length at each point in the cycle has changed. But the longest I've had a job has been about two years or so. Which, to me, is crazy, because most of them have been less than a year. I've had about fifteen or so different jobs, not including volunteer positions. But to other people, who have been in jobs for five, ten, twenty years, this idea of going between so many jobs is crazy.

I've also never had a full-time job, and technically only just transitioned to a part-time one. Though I've had the equivalent of full-time (and more) hours before, I've only ever had casual work. Which generally works well for me - I like the flexibility, and never having had the full-time benefits, I don't really miss them! But I also don't get paid leave like many do.

One of the reasons that I find more hours (or the prospect of full-time work) difficult is because it allows me much less time to be creative. To do music, or acting, or writing, or poetry, or whatever else takes my fancy. Like designing board games! But then, when I do have the time - like now - I find that, generally speaking, I find it very hard to motivate myself to do these things anyway. Which seems rather counter-intuitive.

Apparently, I'm not particularly good at motivating myself. Which isn't ideal, to say the least. It's gotten worse over the last months, and I'm wondering if it's also a depression thing. I don't really know. I don't know heaps on that front.
But there are many days where I'm struggling to get anything useful done. Where things are getting put off to the next day. And the next day. I'm not getting back to people like I should. I'm forgetting things that are important. Mess is piling up. And so, I'm finding, are negative thoughts.

Though I don't think much of work - it's rather a favourite topic of mine, if you've been reading my blog at all previously - many people in this world do. And so not having a regular job (okay, I do have a regular job, but one day a week isn't much) can make you feel - less, somehow. Couple that with probable difficulty with paying the bills in the near future, and attempting to figure out what on earth you're going to be doing to sort that out - it can get you a bit down, and stressed, at times. Particularly when you're heading towards getting married early next year, which is a rather expensive thing. And then having a shared financial burden of two people, rather than just yourself.

It adds up to quite a bit, in terms of expectation. And when you feel like you can't meet that - or even worse, like you never could - that hurts. It's very difficult. And that's what I'm working through. (I should note, by the way, that these are not expectations imposed upon me by other people, or my fiancée. It's just me.)
At the moment, it's making me feel things like worthless, useless, those sorts of fun words. And somewhere, I know that they're not true. But that part of me isn't doing very well at being able to fight back at the moment. And so, I start to believe them.

Which, needless to say, isn't good. In fact, it's very not good. It's very very not good, and I need to figure out how to stop this downward spiral. So far, I've tried stopping most of work, because I was finding that that was making things harder. I think that's helped a bit, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped. Medication doesn't seem to be doing as much as I'd like yet either. Don't know if it's because I'm not taking the right type, or because I'm not taking enough. Guess we'll see when I see the doctor next. That's still a couple of weeks away. I was doing running at one point, but I need to actually have the motivation to do it. I haven't for a while. I've been playing music a bit more regularly, and that's been good. So I'll keep doing that.

I feel like I've got a lot to work through, but the busyness and money-centredness of this world doesn't allow much leeway for that.

I don't really know where I'm going. I don't think I have for a long time. I have too many ideas that are very vague and wispy, and I jump at near anything that moves.

I don't know. I just don't know. Hoping that God does.

Monday, 15 April 2019

The Big Issues.

I want to be writing a bit more, so I thought I'd do a series on here! Haven't done one of those in a while. And the series I thought I'd do is looking at the big issues of today. I'm talking global-level big here, pandemic level big, affecting humanity as a whole big.

After asking my reliable Facebook folks for some examples, and generalising the more specific ones, here's what we have insofar:
- Climate change
- Discrimination (based on race/gender/sexual identity/etc)
- Capitalism
- Nationalism/Right-wing extremism
- Overpopulation
- Food/starvation
- Religion
- Mental health

Hopefully people feel like their ideas are represented under one or more of those. If you think there's another one to add, let me know! A couple of these are a bit intertwined, so I may end up doing one post for two sometimes - it will depend a bit on length - and I may have a couple of my own that I come up with. Masculinity/femininity is one big one I'd add.

So keep an eye out for those coming soon! The idea isn't to be solving issues, but to be trying to understand why these are such big issues for today, why they've become such a problem. Hopefully it can be a good starting point for discussion and the like.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Myths About Hell.

Quite a while back, one of the things I used to do from time to time was dispel some common misconceptions that people had about Christianity. Today, after reading quite an interesting article on hell - I'll leave you to make up your own mind about it, because it does make some big claims - I thought I'd dispel some myths that people have about hell.

Myth 1: the devil rules over hell.
You see this idea a lot in popular culture - particularly depictions that show demons in hell torturing people in there, enjoying themselves, all of that sort of thing. Sorry, but this doesn't line up with what you see in the Bible at all.
Hell is clearly a place of punishment as much - if not more - for Satan and his demons than it is for people. It's where he was 'cast down' to out of heaven when he rebelled against God. He's trapped there, and he can't get out - but he still has a limited influence over this world, during this age we live in (however long that lasts for).

Myth 2: the devil created hell.
Closely related to the previous myth, this one is also no good. God created everything - the heavens, and the earth, and also a place that the devil was trapped in. That's what we call hell. The devil also can't really 'create' things. He doesn't have that power. He can only twist what God has already created.

Myth 3: hell is a place of complete separation from God.
This has become a popular idea more recently, particularly with the pushback against the more traditional 'fire and brimstone' view of hell - the idea that instead, hell is just a complete and total separation from God. However, Paul very clearly writes:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39, New Living Translation
Nothing, in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from God's love. (You may argue that the presence of God and God's love are two different things, but seeing as God is love, I think that's a tricky argument.) Satan and hell are both part of creation. Therefore, they cannot separate us from God. God is present, in some form, in hell. Which means that his love also will be.
This seems impossible to many of us in our ideas that we have about hell, as a place of eternal torment - but God has a habit of never giving up or letting go of his people. I don't think we've seen the last chapter of this story yet.

Myth 4: hell is where you go if you've done bad things.
A slight oversimplification, but you get the gist. Many people seem to think that God works by the Ancient Egyptian model - where your heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, a symbol of truth and justice, to see if it was good enough. But that's not how God works.
You see, sin isn't an accumulative thing. It's not a, "how bad was your sin?" kinda thing. It's a binary thing. One or zero. Either you have sinned, or you haven't sinned. And, being human - unless you're Jesus - you have sinned. Which means there's a problem.
Thankfully, God works on the grace model. What does that mean? Basically, it means he gives us a substitute. Someone that didn't sin, who can stand in our place. (If you missed the memo, that's Jesus, by the way.) And because of Jesus, even if we've sinned - no matter how much we've done, no matter what it is we've done - God accepts us into his family, to be with him. (And if you're thinking that you've done too much bad for God to love you - keep in mind that there are examples in the Bible of murderers, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and even pretty much a full-on terrorist [Paul was pretty crazy] following him.)

On a related note, Satan is never described in the Bible as being red, or having a pitchfork or horns (in fact, there's very little or no description of him at all). We get bits of that from other mythologies that artists have used to influence their work.

I'll note that I haven't been definitive on what hell is, and that's partly on purpose. I like to leave room for discussion and debate, and for people to explore for themselves. But it's also because it's still something I'm working out as well! But I hope you've found these points interesting, and I might try doing a few more of these on other subjects in future. Let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to cover.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Down And Out.

It's been a while, folks. Apologies. I haven't done much of an update in a while.

That's for a few reasons, but mostly - I haven't been doing well. Not well at all, on a number of levels, but particularly emotionally and mentally.

It's recently come up that I may have depression. I haven't received an official diagnosis or anything, but each day that goes by seems to reinforce that possibility. The doctor has me on medication for it. Hopefully I'll see some positive results from that soon.

But it's been meaning that, even though I have some awesome things happening - engagement and directing The Crucible bring chief among them - I'm feeling quite detached and uncaring much of the time, and struggling to motivate myself to do anything much. It's not great. I'd say I'm probably at the lowest I've been - or at least, for the longest. Thankfully, I have some good to counterbalance it, and awesome people around to lean on.

At the same time, God has been repeatedly challenging me and pushing me. Constantly, he is asking me to take a step out in faith and trust him, to actually use some of these creative talents that I've been given. To come back to some of these projects and ideas that he's entrusted me with. To be doing work for him, and his people.

And that's challenging, particularly from a financial perspective. We're planning to get married in January. That's not exactly cheap. On that note, neither is rent. Or life. I don't earn much as it is. It's going to be a lot less if I'm focusing on things like music, writing, speaking, etc. It's very difficult to earn much doing those. You can, but it usually takes a long time to get there. I don't really have that time or luxury.

But it's what I'll be doing anyway. For both of the reasons above, I'm finishing up with my job at Hope. It's not a decision made lightly, or on the spur of the moment - this has been something that I've been going back and forth on and thinking about for a good month or two now - but it is happening. Next week, actually.

Which is both extremely scary, and rather exhilarating.

I'm hoping that I can use this season to take care of myself a bit better, so I can actually be a better me. So I can use these gifts I have, and maybe even get paid for it. Or maybe I'll find bits of other jobs. We'll see. I don't know yet.

But I know that God does. And this an adventure we're on together. I may be blind - but I'm being led by the best guide there is.

I'm looking forward to sharing the next chapter of this story with you. I'm sure you'll hear more from me before too long.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Inclusive and Exclusive People

If you haven't heard about the horrible events over in Christchurch the other day....it's pretty grim. Basically, a guy from Australia (yes, our own country) went over to a mosque with guns, and shot pretty much everyone he could see. There are near fifty confirmed dead, and more wounded. He livestreamed the event, and uploaded the video to social media.

Let me be clear. This is an act of terrorism. The sad fact is, we are already getting people who are saying different. Who are demonstrating their Islamophobia, and saying that Muslim immigration should be restricted. I'm looking at you, Fraser Anning. To those outside of Australia - he's one of our Members of Parliament. Yeah.

This wouldn't be happening if they didn't think there was an audience for it. If they didn't think that there was a strong group of supporters behind that opinion. And that's the scary thing. Not that we have a rogue MP who has terrible views; we're used to that sort of thing by now. Heck, these days we're used to that in our presidents and prime ministers.....but that's the problem. These people wouldn't be in power if there wasn't the numbers there to support them and their ideas.

Which means, chances are, you know people that think this way. There are probably people that are reading this blog post who think this way. (Assuming they haven't stopped reading by now, that is.) Exclusive people. And it doesn't really matter who it is that they exclude. Whether it's by religion, race, gender, sexuality, mental or physical health - people that want nothing to do with a certain group or groups of people, and think that they shouldn't be a part of their country. Or sometimes, their world.

This isn't okay. If it isn't obvious - in today's world, we are becoming increasingly connected by technology. We are more and more in each other's backyards (metaphorically speaking), but also more and more seeing movement around the world from country to country (literally speaking). Australia has (apparently) prided itself on being a multicultural country; but more and more, this won't be just an Australian thing. Communities won't be able to seclude themselves, and peoples will be mixed that haven't mixed before. Tensions will be raised, and cultures will mix and mash in strange and different and amazing ways.

In all of this, we need people of inclusivity, not exclusivity. People that are willing to include others, regardless of their background or who they are. Because, at the most basic, we are all human. We are all different, but we are all the same. We need to come together, not be split apart along lines of country, or race, or religion, or gender, or whatever else. Particularly when our world is groaning and falling apart because of what we've been doing to it over the last centuries.

We need inclusive people. And I very much hope that you are - or that you can be - one of those.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Pell Tolls....

For those who haven't heard, the verdict on Cardinal Pell has just come out. Shocker - he's been found guilty.

If you've been living under a rock, Cardinal George Pell (the highest ranking member of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia) was (a while ago now) accused of sexually assaulting underage boys. Strangely enough, he denied this claim. After some time, he has now been found guilty, and that verdict has been released.

It's the latest in a long line of higher-ranking religious men, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, who have been accused - and found guilty - of sexually assaulting minors. If you don't know much about it, go watch Spotlight on Netflix when you've got a couple of hours. It does a great job of telling the story.

But I think people are starting to ask the question - why is this such a widespread issue? How has this happened? And so that's something I thought I'd take a look at.

Let's say that you are a man in the Roman Catholic Church. You're quite devoted to your church, and so you decide to spend some time and become one of the clergy. You can't marry, and you spend a number of years in seminary, and some time as a deacon, before becoming a priest. It's a lot of hard work to get there, and there's a lot of pressure.
When you do become a priest, you promise to obey what the bishop says, stay celibate (don't have sex), and live a Godly life. That last one in particular can be a lot to live up to. But now, as a priest, you have certain privileges. You can minister to those under your care, and you learn about things that you didn't know before.

You're given power that you didn't have before. You have a certain level of access - both to areas, and to people, that you didn't have before. And there is a level of secrecy, or at least, lack of transparency, around many things that happen. Things are kept in confidence - after all, this is the point of the confessional. All that you would have to add to this volatile mix is an opportunity.

I should note. I do not intend this to mean that people join the priesthood explicitly to do these things. That would be highly (and, I'm fairly certain demonstrably) incorrect to suggest. What I do believe is the case, however, is that some people, when introduced to this environment - where they are given power, access, secrecy, and opportunity, and are under pressure - can use that in a bad way. Many won't, and haven't. When I'm saying 'many' and 'some', by the way; I'm meaning in comparison to the total number of priests. Not just as, this is a lot of people. Because it is, as you probably know, a large number of priests that have offended in this way. But in terms of percentage - it's about 4%. (At least, according to this study that I'm looking at.)

Unfortunately, churches - and not just Roman Catholic ones - can create situations which make it easier and less visible for leaders to hurt others in this way. Thankfully, we are now realising this, and starting to put measures in place to ensure that this doesn't happen again, now or in the future.

But I think this is also something that you can apply in different ways, to different organisations, and with different crimes. When you have this mix of power, access, secrecy, pressure, and opportunity - sometimes, even people that we'd think of as quite good, can turn down paths that are really quite terrible. It's why, more and more, people are emphasising the importance of transparency within organisations. Of accountability, and even rest.

There's a lot of work to be done. But perhaps, slowly, we might start to see some changes happening. Until then - keep pushing.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Screwtape #3 - Patriotism

My dear Wormwood,

I hear you've had a new assignment. Don't get too cocky about it, though, or you'll stuff it up like last time.

You say that there's a wave of nationalism sweeping through the country at the moment, and you're wondering what to do with your patient in response to it. Well, we have two choices. If he is the sort that secretly wishes he was born somewhere else, and actually thinks his own country is a bit stupid, then feel free to push him against it. Let him declare that all nationalism is, in fact, idolatrous, and should be stamped out at once. Let him follow this with such conviction that his anti-nationalism becomes poisonous, and is in itself idolatry.

But, if he is of the other persuasion, and instead loves singing the praises of his country - as, it seems, your patient is more than happy to do - then let him declare his love for his country from the rooftops! Let him say that he is the one that loves his country most, that nobody could love it more! In fact, that anyone who does not love their country should be shot on the spot, for daring to consume the same air, the ungrateful swine. Let him put the country upon such a pedestal that nothing could ever seek to replace it.

Let him entwine his ideas of God, with his ideas of his country - to the point where he starts to believe that by loving his country, he is actually loving God as well. And, indeed, those that do not love their country must be unreligious heathen, and need to be converted, evicted, or wiped out! Push him ever closer to the edge, and then watch as he himself jumps off. He will start saying that his country should be pure, clean, undefiled; that nobody should be allowed in, if they aren't special like him. That the swine and the scum should be cleaned off the face of the earth!

And if you manage to convince him in such a direction, I shall speak to the demons own in our political division, as I understand your subject has certain aspirations. I'm sure that with some small encouragement, if he proves to be malleable to our cause, that we could easily see him climbing the ranks to the top. All in the name of his God and country, of course, and none could say otherwise; but really, he shall be nothing more than a puppet, leading those under him as far astray as we can take them.

You doubt that this can happen? Well, my young Wormwood, you have clearly not read up on the human wars of the last century. Do Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany, not ring any bells? Goodness, the education these days really isn't up to par.

Rest assured. If your patient is half the man I think he is - he will do much work for us yet. I only hope that you are up to the task.

Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Best A Man Can Get....

Is probably not Gillette, but how would I know?

I'm feeling a bit like a broken record, with already a few posts over the last year and a bit about masculinity, but it seems like it's the hot topic of the day. So, off we go again!

If you're not sure what I'm talking about yet, Gillette recently released an ad that's become quite the hotbed of discussion. (Apparently it's #2 trending on YouTube. There you go.) Why? Because it's about toxic masculinity.

For those not down with the lingo yet, toxic masculinity isn't saying, "all men are toxic!" Rather, it's a way of describing a certain group of behaviours often portrayed in men, and generally associated with 'traditional masculinity', that could be called toxic. I do a decent post about it here, but I also recommend this video talking about it. Basically, it's a way of recognising that the traditional ways of saying what men should be like are actually super-duper unhelpful. Boys will be boys? Man up, toughen up? Bragging about sexual victories, alcoholic exploits, speeding or that time you beat someone up? More and more people are recognising now that these things aren't okay, and doing work to discourage these behaviours. But old habits die hard.

In steps Gillette. Which is surprising for a number of reasons. a) Their audience, which is largely men (hence the slogan). And, given b) their previous advertising, probably more of the 'traditional masculinity' or 'toxic masculinity' variety than not. They have a tendency to do ads along the lines of, "use our product, and scores of beautiful women will come running after you." Very healthy, right? Also, c) they're a big company. And finally, d) they have an interesting track record in terms of their moral compass, shall we say.

And yet, they do this. And the ad itself is quite well done. The video is pretty great, really, and it would be awesome to see more advertising like this happening.

But the response was overwhelmingly and immediately negative. A large number of people have now started a movement to boycott Gillette because of the ad, and though there are also many voices speaking out in its defence, not nearly as many. Why? Basically, see the reasons from earlier. Gillette's main audience is pretty much exactly the audience that is going to react against this sort of message. Plus, their motives are....questionable, at best.

So, where are we now? I'd argue that the content itself is done well. But because it's Gillette - people ask questions. People raise issues. Which is fair.

But it's also sad that one of the better pieces of content that has a call for action around toxic masculinity has been shouted down so quickly. Hopefully, in time, we'll see some that are welcomed more openly. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

....and starting 2019.

Well. I'm doing this slightly later than expected, but perhaps that's for the better.

This year is looking epic and crazy and many other words besides. But also awesome. Let me let you in on a bit of what's on the table.

One of the bigger consumers of my time, at least for the first half of the year, will be directing The Crucible. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's a play about the Salem witch trials. If you don't know about those, Google it. But it's a pretty well-known play, and it's rather big. About twenty in the cast. Which is massive for a play, which often have less than ten in their cast. Five or less isn't uncommon. So, yeah. Pretty big. Particularly for me as a first-time director. Not really sure what to expect, but I've got a good team. And I've been wanting to direct The Crucible for a few years now, so I'm really looking forward to this. But yeah. It's going to be crazy.

Work is chugging along fairly well. Still doing a combined amount of between three and four days a week with the two jobs, which seems to work fairly well for me. Work more, and I have less time for this sort of thing - but work less, and I'm stretching the budget a bit tight! So it's a fun balance. But that's okay. I'm used to that.
Music at church is actually going really well. Quite a bit of growth has been happening in the evening service over the last months, which is very encouraging. More young adults and youth! Which is awesome. I used to be pretty much the only one my age there. Not the case any more! And that's really nice.
Bits at the radio station are moving along fairly well too. I'm getting a little bit of variance in what I'm doing at the moment, which I rather like. Variety is the spice of life! Particularly for me, so that's nice. As always, just enjoying the environment and the people there. Great people :)

I'm hoping to get my tabletop gaming group back on board this year. (See what I did there? ;) ) I've picked up a few new games over the last while, and I may have been a bit naughty and ordered Pandemic Legacy: Season One over Christmas. To say I'm keen would be a large understatement. A game that I'm working on has parts that are actually inspired by legacy games, so I'm really interested to actually give one a go myself.

But, as some of you may already be well aware of by now, there's some bigger news as well. I may be....well.....engaged. :D <3
I know, I know. All very soon. Thalia and I have been dating for a grand total of almost nine months now, and known each other for about a month longer. Less than a year! Preposterous.
....needless to say, we've been talking about it for a fair while, and have given it a fair bit of thought. We're not just rushing into it because we're crazy touchy-feely for each other. (Though people that have seen us together may still describe us in that way.....we're working on it.) We're actually very much committed to each other, and have spent a fair bit of time going over this with God, and getting advice from others as well. We're also giving ourselves a fairly long engagement - mostly just to plan and save up, but it also means that we have more time to really know each other deeply as well.

So, yeah. That's going to be taking up a good chunk of my year as well. We're looking at January next year. I'll be letting people know dates when things are confirmed and all that, which isn't now. But, like I said, we've been talking about it for a while. Doesn't make it any less crazy, though! Particularly when I introduce her as my fiancée.....goodness. (Pro tip: fiancé with one e is for the guy, whereas two is for the girl. Who knew?) I'm still getting used to that. But I certainly prefer it to girlfriend! Never liked the word. But never came up with a decent replacement, either. Anyway.

Well. That's what my year is looking like at the moment. Hopefully, it doesn't get too much busier! But I guess we'll see. I'm hoping I can really keep these (and maybe one or two other bits) as the main things I'm focussing on, but life has a way of throwing your plans every which way. Until next time, folks!