Friday, May 12, 2006


I went to see The Forgiveness Project exhibition on Monday and found it very moving. It made me think, if these people can forgive the enormous hurt done to them, then we can forgive the everyday hurts and slights. Forgiveness is not a cop-out - it doesn't diminish the enormity of the crime, but it starts the process of healing. If we seek revenge, it just perpetuates the cycle of violence; if we can forgive, it starts a process of reconciliation, and perhaps prevents other people suffering the same fate. It can't be easy to forgive - I'm full of admiration for people who have had horrible things done to them and can still bring themselves to forgive the people who did it to them. I don't know how I would react in such circumstances, but I hope I would try to create something out of my suffering.

I highly recommend this exhibition - if it comes anywhere near you, see it. If it doesn't, take a look at the stories on the website.
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

play nice

How to stop flame wars with a single phrase - apparently, if you remind posters on forums, blogs and mailing lists that "everybody needs a hug", it deflates the tensions that give rise to flame postings. Though you'd probably need to change the reminder every so often, it's a great idea.

(Spotted on Joel's Reddit.)

Iraq atrocities

One Excellent Reason Not to Join the Military: You May be Ordered to Kill Civilians (by Paul Rockwell, published on Saturday, April 29, 2006 by
"One particular incident really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. We fired some warning shots, but the car did not slow down. So we lit 'em up. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman on the ground looked up at me and said, 'Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong.' That hit me like a ton of bricks."
I don't know whether to feel despair or hope in response to this article. Despair because so many innocent civilians are being tortured and killed in Iraq, and I don't know what I can do about it, apart from continuing to talk about why the war is wrong; hope because some soldiers have retained their humanity sufficiently to resist killing civilians, to leave the military, and to protest about what is happening.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

creationism goes bananas

Why the banana is perfectly formed for the human hand. (Spotted by Catvincent) But surely the angler fish and celery are proof that in fact the devil is the lord of creation?

stop homophobia

Liberal Democrats launch campaign against homophobic bullying

This is a very necessary campaign - there is no tolerance, understanding or acceptance of gays and lesbians among many pupils. Whilst it might be argued that all bullying should be tackled, previous anti-bullying campaigns have apparently ignored the issue of homophobia, so I think that a specific focus on this issue is a good idea. When I was teaching, pupils would often say things like "this computer is gay". When I told them off, they said they said it because they weren't allowed to say it was shit. So I told them I'd rather they said the computer was shit than that it was gay. They thought it was pretty cool to be allowed to say "shit" in my classroom, and lo and behold, the incidence of using the word gay as an insult dropped right off. They were also forbidden to use the words "pikey" and "witch" as insults; but "f**k" and "shit" were permitted. Body parts were out though.

no escape

Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. (Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 28.1-2)

Ah, how true that is... and how many times has it been said since Seneca? Both Alain de Botton's Art of Travel and Phil Cousineau's Art of Pilgrimage make much the same point - though it is possible to travel meaningfully and to gain from the experience, you will not do so unless you travel mindfully. A timely observation now that the holiday season is upon us, and since I am off to Corfu shortly.


I am Midnight

  • More than a little eccentric, and apt to keep very unusual habits.
  • Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
  • Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
  • You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

What Time Of Day Are You?

Monday, May 08, 2006


At the weekend we went to a bluebell wood near Blakeney in the Forest of Dean with my mum & dad. We went there last year but didn't have a camera (apart from on our mobiles) and it was so beautiful that we wanted to go again this year and take some photos. I don't know if the photos will do it justice (I haven't downloaded them from the camera yet) but I took so many that I filled up the CF Card. (Note for Scottish readers - the English bluebell is not the same as the Scottish bluebell, which we call the harebell.)

The whole forest floor was covered in bluebells wherever you looked, and it was like a blue haze, shimmering mauve. Above the carpet of bluebells, the sun was shining through the pale green beech leaves, and the sky was forget-me-not blue. And the smell - you couldn't deliberately smell it, it just came over you occasionally in wafts. The whole thing was incredibly uplifting. Also the path was covered in door beetles, which when you saw them upside down, had beautifully iridescent undersides. After that we went to Gatcombe and saw some derelict salmon-fishing boats, which were very picturesque.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The Divine Androgyne by Paul RuckerEvents have been conspiring recently to make me think about the nature of transgression. I've always felt that one should challenge one's assumptions, and not conform to anything. Obviously if how I naturally am happens to coincide with something 'normal' I can't help that (there's no point being different for the sake of it - that would be just as daft as conforming - the idea is to ignore the norm completely).

Of course there is power in the act of transgression - transgressing against norms, bending the rules, fudging the boundaries - but you can get stuck in mere rebellion, and avoid progression to the next phase, which is to transcend the boundaries altogether. But that alone is not enough; you can get stuck in la-la land if you spend your whole life transcending - after that you need to move on to transforming yourself and the world around you. And then you have come full-circle and can start the whole process again. It's basically another way of looking at the Hero Journey described by Joseph Campbell. You cross the boundary into the other world (trangress); you journey through the other world (transcend); and then you return to this world, bringing back the treasure you stole from the gods (transform).

The Divine Androgyne is a powerful embodiment of this process; it is the goal of the alchemical great work, the expression of balance, and the outcome of the hieros gamos. According to Jung (in his Seven Sermons to the Dead) it is dangerous to think about Abraxas - but without danger, how would transformation happen?

Many of the most balanced people I know are psychologically androgynous - they are not stereotypically masculine or feminine, they do not conform to any norm; they are simply themselves. I don't even know any more which qualities are supposed to be masculine or feminine, I get confused.

Transgress! Transcend! Transform!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pagan history

A complete history of modern Paganism

In the 18th century, there were some Freemasons. Some of them got bored and went to found the Druids.
In the 19th century, there were some Freemasons. Some of them got bored and went to found the Golden Dawn.
In the 20th century, there were some Freemasons. Some of them got bored and went to found Wicca.
In the late 20th century, a few people got bored of all of the above and became reconstructionists.