Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Buddhism and “laying the smack down”

Buddhism and “laying the smack down”

Buddhism, ‘a science of mind’
Buddhism, ‘a science of mind’ (Photo credit: zensquared)

Work has been annoying of late. We have deadlines for handing things in a whole bunch of events that are crisscrossing each other on the run up to the holidays, not to mention idiotic systems of information organisation that has left people copying stuff from paper into the computer, printing it out, and then putting it back into the computer (on a different program) and printing it out again. Needless to say I’ve found myself getting a bit miffed.

I think part of the problem is that I did a reasonable amount of Analysis at university and then went into a job where I had to analysis systems for problems. So when I’m working on a job now I can’t really turn it off. This combined with my borderline OCD when it comes to time and communication, have not been the best of mixes.

It has left me wondering about the relationship between Buddhism and getting stuff done. Is it wrong for me to try and fix the problems that I come up against? Should I just accept that things are the way they are and move on? It seems to be summed up by pseudo-Buddhist a saying that it common in our work place:
You can do it willingly or you can do it unwillingly”

Ie you’re going to have to do it so just get on with it. I’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing recently and I have wondered if it is in fact a perversion of the true meaning of being Buddhist (if there is such a thing.)Needless to say, I hate the saying, as first of all it suggests that things cannot be changed and secondly because it’s a false choice. For me the saying would be better as:

“You can do it willingly or you can do it unwillingly, or you can just not do it at all.”

This would seem the most “Buddhist” version, although it would probably end up in you getting sacked.
The picture of Buddhism seems to have been painted in many ways as passive religion where the world happens and we should not fight to make it better. This seems wrong to me. If you look at what the Buddha did in his life, then one of the first things he did after enlightenment was make a choice to bring about change. He saw it would be hard and troublesome and made the choice to teach others. He chose to engage the world and to try and help with people’s problems.

There is an example of a sick member of the community (dysentery I think) where the poor monk has been abandoned by all the other monks on the excuse of “worldly problems”, and the Buddha corrects then and tells them it’s their responsibility to care for each other. There are numerous other examples. This is just the first one that came to mind where the Buddha tells people to engage and try to make people’s lives better.
Likewise there is case of the Dali Lama. While I could not answer to whether or not he is enlightened, he is clearly further along the path than I am. But when it comes to the issue of China and Tibet, he doesn’t simply say, “well the Chinese are our masters now. Let’s just do what they say.”

There is also Thich Nhat Hanh a monk whose writing I very much admire. He does not limit his teaching to spirituality, but also talks about poverty. I remember in a book I read on Anger that he wrote where he was trying to help people who were having trouble in their marriages due to a lack of communication.

Now I have to admit that the problems I’m talking about here are minor compared the above examples. But I think it does show that it is not the place of a Buddhist to be passive. We should fight for change and improvement with both the little things and the big things in life. Anything that makes people life a little easier is a good thing.

Saying that, I should also point out the place where I have been going wrong this week. Fighting for change is one thing. Getting annoyed and frustrated about it is a different thing. I do need to learn to fight without getting so caught up in it. If I fight for change and get some result it should be the same for me as if I fight and get a result.

Part of the problem for me is that anger has been effective in the past. If I’m nice and say to people “it would be nice if…,” or “is there any chance you could not…” or “This is not effective, maybe we could do it a better way.”  I am ignored and nothing is done. Yet, the times that I’ve lost it, change has often happened. I’m not sure what to do about that. Some would say pretend to be angry, but that tends to lead to me just being angry. It’s something I do need to work on, but I’ll keep fighting for change.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A book lovers library - interview

Recently did an interview with Rebecca Sweeney Graf @ a book lovers library. You can find it here:

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Where do good stories come from?

Enchantments (4)
Enchantments (4) (Photo credit: laffertyryan)

This may be a very short post as in short I have no idea. I think when I read Steven King’s book he said something to the same effect. Ideas are just there. I don’t think it is possible to consciously make them.

Don’t get me wrong, after I have a story idea, I’m often able to follow back my train experience to see how some thing that were in my mind at the time were able to come together (and sometimes I can’t), but I have never be able to reproduce the effect. I can’t say that if I do an activity of type A and combine it with a thought of type B, I will result in C: a story. It just doesn’t work that way.

That said there are some things that I have found conducive to coming up with stories that may or may not work for other people.

1. Be open to stories.

Some one told me once that psychologists studying dreams can have trouble with patients who say that they are unable to dream. The advice that they give, I am told, is to just give it a try. The psychologist will tell them to put a pad and paper next their bed. Low and behold, the next week the patient will come with their own book of dreams.

I think writing is much the same. The more I write and the more that I am thinking about writing the more ideas come to me. I don’t think these ideas are unique to me, or to writers in general. The difference is that writer, or any artist, will be receptive to the idea. While someone else will barely pay attention to it and get back on with what ever that thought happened to interrupt.

That’s why I say be open, and be ready. Listen to yourself carefully, so that when the time comes you’re ready to catch that idea.

2. Experience new things.

I think I get some of my best ideas from new experiences. Personally I like to travel, but even if that’s not possible, I do like to try things locally. If you’ve ever seen the message “yes man” then that should be your template. Go out try things that you’ve never done before and see what happens. It might inspire you to write something, if not at least you are living.

I think writing has a lot to do with perspective. If you get out there and do things, not just things the things you like. You come to understand people a bit better. This really helps with writing and really helps to inspire some interesting ideas.

3. Read, watch and listen

If you want to write in a certain genre then it really helps if you know about the genre. Often the best ideas are combinations of things that came before with a new twist. So to be able to do that you have to know what’s out there already. You don’t want to be plagiarising someone else’s work, but moving it on or giving it an extra dimension or perspective is fine.

A good example would be the Asimov stories. He is described as the found of modern android novels. Now if you look at the work that he did and say Data from Star Trek, you can see quite a few similarities, but the writers have moved things on and brought new aspects and new perspective to the original idea.
So reading all this I think it can be summed up in a single sentence:

Look for inspiration, don’t wait for it to come to you.

The Simplicity of Running.

56/365 morning run
56/365 morning run (Photo credit: kharied)
I went a nice run today and really enjoyed it. Over the past seven years I’ve I’ve been running on and off and I wish that I had got into earlier.

Today, as I ran, I was thinking though about why I like running. Yes there are all the health benefits and you get nice dose of natural chemicals as a reward. But I think for me the thing I like most is its simplicity.

Running is about me. Unlike other things like teaching and writing, the my success and failure is totally up to me. I am in complete control. There are not bosses, no students, no publishers, no readers. Just me and I succeed it’s down to me, if I fail it’s down to me.

In world where everything is so interconnected and success is dependant on the hand you are dealt, it’s nice just to have something simple. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

O father where art thou

Father & Son
Father & Son (Photo credit: jeroenadema)
I was going to call this post “man on man action”, but decided against it.

Anyways it may have been the father‘s day stuff that I seen on the net, but I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my Dad recently. My parents split up when I was young and while I seen my Dad for a while after I ended up not seeing him any more. It was complicated, he had a new family and I felt a certain amount of miss placed duty to my wronged mother to stop seeing him. Anyways long story short, I haven’t seen my Dad for almost twenty years now.

It’s something I wouldn’t mind changing. I mean I don’t hold it against him any more. I’m old enough to know that relationships don’t always work out and that there’s a certain amount of madness surrounding the whole thing. I did try googling him and had a quick look on facebook, but nothing came up.

The thing is I’ve always thought that it hadn’t really effected me that much. I mean I know it changed me, of course it did, but I’ve never considered myself to have anypsychological hang-ups about it, but recently I’ve started to wonder.

You see when I was thinking about psychological issues I guess I was thinking about in my relationships with women. Now I admit I’m not exactly Mr commitment and not wanting a family is maybe a bit odd, but it’s hardly unusual these days and I know plenty of people from “normal” upbringings that feel the same way. What I’m starting to wonder about is how did my parents break up effect my relationships with othermen?

We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” – Fight Club.

I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I am far more comfortable around women than I am around men. Even the male friends I have, and no offence here guys, are not exactly the most macho of people. I seem to have a certain amount of distrust towards other people of my own sex, especially the more butch kind and I usually assume the worst when I think of the male motives. Likewise I’m often not sure how I’m supposed to act around other men, especially in larger groups.

So I’m wondering, is that something to do with my family history?

Thing is there are plenty of other factors that could contribute to it. High school was fine for me, but I was on the fringes of things generally and knew who to avoid. Maybe I’m just continuing on the same way. Also most of my home life was dominated by female figures and I was rarely part of a group made exclusively of men. I’ve also wondered if it could be natural. Is this some genetic animistic thing about male dominance?

In truth it’s probably a combination of all of the above. Either way it’s interesting to think about where our ability to form relationships comes from. Does anyone have any great psychological insights?

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Where next?

English: Not to be confused with Clapham London
English: Not to be confused with Clapham London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well I’m going to be 30 next month, so I guess it’s time to figure out what I want to do for the next decade or so. I’ve got a few ideas, but really not sure which to go with so some advice would be appreciated.

The biggest problem is cash. I’ve been thinking about investing in some further education, but it’s expensive and I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth it or not. That’s doubly so since I don’t want to do it part time. If I’m spending thousands of dollars I want to be able to focus on the course, not do it at night after a day of working.

Anyway here are some idea I have. I’m leaning towards option one or two but others are still possible.

Option 1 : Keep on writing.
I think no matter what I do I’ll probably still write, but if I save up enough it might be worth working then taking time off to write until I’m out of cash and then finding a job again. I could also use this time for meditation and other things like that.

The problem with this one is that I’m just not sure I am good enough to do it as a career and the chances of being picked up seem slim. It would be a long shot, but it might pay off.

Option 2: The Delta
The delta is a diploma for teaching English as second language. I have the basic certificate, but this is a step up and it would open a few door to such things as being doing IELTS exams and things like that. The course itself is not too expensive, at least I could probably afford it after my current contract, but paying for hotels and food while getting no income for two months, would pretty much burn most of my savings.

My problem is that I don’t know how much of a difference having the certificate is going to make. Would it pay for itself in the long term or would I still be doing the same job on the same pay but with another piece of expensive paper? If I knew it would pay off I would be tempted to go for this option as it would allow me to do option one more effectively.

I think the other thing that’s holding me back a bit is that I would like to move into something else. I have no idea what, but there might be something down the road.

Finally, I hear the course is tough and I’m worried that I wouldn’t pass, wasting my savings in the process.

Option 3: Masters
The masters is out of my price range at the moment for doing the in person course. There is the option of the distance course for a masters in TESOL, but it would cost around double the cost of the DELTA and I would have to work at the same time as doing the course. It would take two years to do and I’d think I would have to stay in one place while I do it. Again I’m not sure what, if any, doors it would open for me. I know there are some university jobs where a masters is needed, but from what I seen in Japan most of those places are over subscribed already. I’m not sure about other countries though.

I think I’d rather do a PGCE, or another teaching qualification, but it would mean doing two years full time back in the UK, which I couldn’t afford yet either. I’m wondering though if I could get certified in another country?

Option 4Chinese
I’ve not looked into the prices, but my Chinese is not bad, although my writing needs some work. I’m tempted to see if I can get a place at a Chinese university for a year to study Chinese full time and see where that leads me. I think it would mean going back home to find a job though and I’m not sure if I’m ready for another year in China. I doubt my lungs could handle it.

Option 5: Stay still
I could just keep doing what I’m doing now and see if something comes up that interests me. I’ve thought about moving out the south America for a bit and teaching there. That, or maybe it would be good if I learned to stay still for a bit and stayed in the job I have now.

Option 7: Something else
I’m hoping that something will present itself that’s a bit different. Maybe I’ll be lucky and some opportunity will fall into my lap. Who knows.

Any advice? If anyone has any information on courses or had any experience with any of the above I would love to hear from you. Suggestions for alternative plans are also very welcome. 

Penwinnard Story

A friend of mine has released some books. Worth checking them out:

Penwinnard Storybooks

A boy is discovered walking on a country road. He is injured, exhausted, lost and alone. He refuses to tell what happened to him, and the name he gives matches no records. But he tells a story, a story of routine kidnaps, murders, and abuse. It wasn't him, though - he was never there. ‘Someone’ had told him about it. This is the story of Bob, who would never again be called Angel. Ian Mackender is the manager of Penwinnard Boys' Home. He knows his boys, he knows the good and bad of them. He understands them better than they understand themselves. But this new one? He doesn’t understand Bob. When the story finally breaks, the ramifications will be felt worldwide.