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absurd life

Kiteflying can kill?


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Kite flyingA story currently in the news about kite-flying (see below) reminded me that I actually used to know some kite-fliers once. I guess that’s not so strange—many people fly kites I am sure, and for all I know my neighbours could be enthusiasts—but back in High School it seemed like an unusual thing to do with one’s time. Of course I’ve learnt a little in the intervening years, including not to be so quick to judge people based on appearances—or unusual weekend activities.

In high school, which for me means the late 80s/early 90s,“Madchester,” grunge before it was popular and electronic music before anybody played it (that the All Blacks lost the World Cup and the Black Caps were terrible needs no point in time), my extended circle of friends included a number of exchange students—students from overseas on programmes like YFU and AFS—here in New Zealand officially to promote international understanding and learn English, often in reality to have themselves a very good time.

There were two approaches to exchange students among the general student body—mostly ignored and annoying, semi-coherent strangers; or interesting novelties from fascinating, foreign cultures. I fell firmly into the second opinion grouping, and can say in hindsight that my life and outlook was genuinely broadened by meeting people from all over the world.

Aside from the to be expected difficulties of learning a new language and fitting into a strange culture, a testing area for some exchange students was the host family they were assigned to. On exchange programmes it’s most parts a complete lottery where you end up—there is a screening procedure, but how do you screen for the host brother or sister who “hates your guts”—and once you arrive changing families is a difficult procedure—and deliberately so. The topic of host families was a bane of contention for many of the students at our school.

One student and their host family stands out in my memory for the sheer absurdity of their co-habitation, although I should repeat that my then teenage viewpoint may have been a little faster to pass judgement than it is now.

I never actually met “The Kite-fliers.” They lived in a nice enough suburb, and were probably nice enough people, but the way their Finnish house-guest described them—eyes rolling with disbelief, something close to panicked desperation as we dropped them home after outings—painted a most unusual picture in my imagination.

The Kite-fliers was not their actual name—more occupation or hobby (or borderline obsession). They eagerly, enthusiastically introduced this every-weekend activity on the first night of said student’s arrival, amateur video highlights and full size kites unfurled in their living room—“We’re so looking forward to your company on our weekend adventures to fly kites!” they announced.

They weren’t joking. Every weekend the Kite-fliers would pack the family van full of silk and string and journey to all parts of the countryside, joining fellow fliers and enthusiasts for contests or exhibitions, one very unhappy Finnish exchange student in tow. One imagines this student miming along to family sing-alongs (“You’re going to sing us some of your native songs soon right?”), or dispatched to the other end of the field to hold the video camera.

This is the picture in my mind to this day of kite-flying (yes there is a website), a hokey, no-risk camp-fire sing-along like activity, more in common with crochet or competitive embroidery than death or dismemberment, the subject of the following story about kite-flying from Pakistan:

Pakistan: 11 dead, 100 injured in kite flying festival

At least 11 people died and more than 100 people were injured at an annual spring festival in eastern Pakistan celebrated with the flying of thousands of colourful kites, officials said today.

The deaths and injuries were caused by stray bullets, sharpened kite-strings, electrocution and people falling off rooftops yesterday at the conclusion of the two-day Basant festival, said Ruqia Bano, spokeswoman for emergency service in the city of Lahore.

The festival is regularly marred by casualties caused by sharp kite strings or celebratory gunshots fired into the air.

Kite fliers often use strings made of wire or coated with ground glass to try to cross and cut a rival’s string or damage the other kite, often after betting on the outcome.

Authorities temporarily lifted a ban on kite flying that was imposed last year following a string of deaths at the festival.

Lahore Mayor Mian Amier Mahmood said that the two-day permission to fly kites ended yesterday and the ban has been re-imposed.

Police arrested more than 700 people for using sharpened kite strings or firing guns and seized 282 illegally held weapons during this year’s festival, said Aftab Cheema, a senior Lahore police officer.

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Life is but a dream…


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A circumzenithal arc (upside down rainbow) by Andrew G. Saffas

Serendipity: Thanks, Horace Walpole by Sumangali Morhall has left me reaching for superlatives and floundering in imitation. A total of two mentions to this web diary? Flattered beyond due, how could I not be effusive in my praise!

On the topic of serendipity, still, I am reminded of a friend from very long ago, an art student and later fellow practitioner of meditation who introduced me to the concept that life itself could be art. My ears picked up at this point; being something of a frustrated artist—one who could and should be doing creative things, had always planned to do them but convinced self that he was not “good” enough to—I knew intuitively as soon as he spoke that here was a better way to live; a chord was struck within.

In following this outlook, my friend and his art school acquaintances admittedly went to very unusual extremes. A flatmate of his, a particularly shy, awkward young man, took to roaming the streets in a reflective, silver spacesuit; several years later child-like quirkiness became full-blown strangeness, live art gallery performances and national magazine writeups of the very unusual party trick—sewing his own lips shut.

Borderline psychosis of fleeting acquaintances aside, I very much admired my friend’s philosophy of allowing life to surprise him, the way he sought joy in the random, the unusual and completely unplanned. Like leaving small amounts of money “forgetfully” in pockets; in a week or a month when next worn—a pleasant surprise!

To one used to planning and practicality but not terribly enamored of the consequences, seeing a person living thus opened my eyes, and ever since I have made a practise of always allowing life to surprise me. Like turning one’s eye skywards to glimpse a rainbow, serendipity and chance are there when looked for; accept them upon their own terms, graciously and un-demanded, their workings far more beautiful than explanation.

There is belief common to many religions and philosophies that maintains our world is an illusion. A more positive way of stating this, a way which doesn’t negate the meaning of our fleeting human experience and reality, is to see life as a game. This is Sri Chinmoy’s approach to living, and he describes it as God’s as well—a being whom he often refers to as an eternal child. If you take God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omni-present, and all the major philosophies do, then what could give such a being more joy than the unknown—a game of surprise?

It is said that God deliberately limits himself, hides from himself and his full capacity, just to be able to enjoy Himself and his creation more fully. This the real meaning of life; our lives an experience of God-becoming in the midst of limitation, God enjoying himself and his creation here on earth in ever-new ways, through our eyes and our human form. Life, it is said, is the ultimate game of hide and seek…

Hide and Seek
Every minute inspires me
To attempt.
Every hour perfects me
To ascend.
Every day illumines me
To reach.
In my attempt,
I have come to learn what I can be.
In my ascension,
I have come to learn who I eternally Am.
On my arrival,
God and I shall stop playing our age-long
Game,
Hide-and-Seek.
—Sri Chinmoy

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Best goal celebration ever!


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Craig Bellamy, striker for English Premier League football side Liverpool, is said to be a person who crystallises opinion. In a League where larger than life is a way of life, everybody either loves our hates the diminutive, fiery former goal-scorer for Blackburn. And just to prove my afore-mentioned maxim: after Bellamy’s latest on-field exploits, I think I could become a fan.

Bellamy has been in the news in recently for allegedly striking fellow team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club during a training camp in Portugal—perhaps confusing the six-foot red-headed Norwegian for a golf ball. Whatever the truth to the incident (did he shout“fore” first?), I very much admired his gesture in this morning’s encounter with Barcelona; after scoring a dramatic, score-tying goal, he turned to the crowd and proceeded to tee-off, striking an imaginary golf-ball to the back of the stand.

To do so showed a considerable sense of humour, and no small sense of self-deprecation. One seldom sees celebrities in his position—deservedly or not—deliberately making fun of themselves, and I expect Bellamy disarmed a legion of critics with this single, comic gesture

I have some sympathy for the situation famous athletes find themselves in. Not for their astronomical salaries mind you, but their non-existent private lives, the smallest incident seized upon and“beat-up” out of all proportion; they are watched ceaselessly by an army of journalists whose livelihoods depends upon such, whatever the truth.

He may have done what he is said to have done, or he may not have; either way it was more than likely a private falling-out between friends, and if they are friends again once more—they both took the field together this morning so it seems likely—what exactly else matters?

Because at the end of the day, whose business was it apart from theirs?

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Serendipity


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Sri Chinmoy

I discovered a new website today; new to me and to the rest of the world, for much like this site it has only just started. Sumangali.org, named after its owner, is dedicated to and I quote:

“…to the spirit of serendipity: finding good-fortune from unexpected sources; discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the new in the familiar, fueled by the sense that all we need is already within us—we only need learn how to look…”

I’m definitely in favour of these sentiments; in fact I think my last post was about them. Now that’s serendipitous!

In the spirit of serendipity I am now going to post a comment by Sri Chinmoy on rainbows, found by myself in exactly this spirit:

“A rainbow is composed of seven colours and seven rays. A rainbow always means success and progress at the same time, even if that success and progress are not in the outer world. A rainbow signifies success, progress, divine victory—everything positive. When you see a rainbow, in the outer world you may not observe your success, but in the inner world, progress has taken place or is about to take place. Again, if it is not destined for you to have success or progress, then you are not going to see a rainbow. Even if the rainbow is there, you will be looking somewhere else. When you are walking, you will be looking at your feet to keep your balance. The rainbow will be there in the sky, but you will miss it. Then for you there will be no success, no progress. If you are meant to have success or progress, then even while driving the car, you will turn your gaze and you will see it. But if you are not going to make progress, you will be looking somewhere else. So always look at the sky. Do not look at the ground all the time.”

From Sri Chinmoy Answers, pt9.

Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen a rainbow in a while…

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Found poetry


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10-things-cover.jpg

I read a touching film review today, a“found conversation” on a movie site discovered in much the same way one overhears a piece of conversation, insight gained even though—and probably because—it is completely out of context; the same words heard but quite the opposite meaning to that the original author intended.

In reviewing 10 Items or Less, louisecardinal from Canada accidentally wrote a poem…

I wish this film was realistic
I wish this type of story happened more often
I wish we didn’t have to go to the movies
to realize that we can indeed connect with each other
even if we come from vastly different backgrounds
The film’s message is based in the open heart
makes us wonder about the possibility of another world
where we meet each other from there
a world where peace could be a possibility

To be completely accurate, louisecardinal wrote this as a film review rather than a poem; these are exactly her words, but I removed the punctuation and broke some sentences to format them as a poem.

I may have to watch this film now, for I don’t mind admitting that films with heart are my most favourite films of all. I can fault louisecardinal’s English, but on this point I can’t fault her sentiments. Yes, I also wish that we didn’t have to go to the movies, read a beautiful poem or hear a haunting song to realise that we can connect with each other. Furthermore, I wish that connecting with another didn’t need the sanction or binding structure of romantic love—that we could connect with every other.

10-things.jpg

I guess that’s why I first got into meditation—I’ve known intuitively since an early age that only loving a single person, a single family or a single country was somehow incomplete. I’m a child of mixed nationalities and two countries, of Canada and New Zealand, an only child of a solo mother, yet because of this I grew up almost a part of a multitude of other families, spending time in households, with non-siblings and their parents I often wished were my own; not exactly regretting my own circumstances, but always wondering why the seemingly impossible couldn’t be possible—“Why is my Mother my Mother when I also love my friend’s Mother?”

There’s something of a koan, or Japanese Zen riddle, to insights gained in this accidental manner. When you put aside the ordinary way of seeing the world, as such riddles ask us to do, quite extraordinary meanings can be found in the most unlikely of places.

I’m not terribly concerned with the reality or not of these experiences. Yes, an argument could be made that my experience of reality bears no relation to“actual reality,” that I have abandoned objectivity for a quite delusional subjectivity. So what? It is my opinion that the sooner people realise that life is always subjective the better—our obsession with objectivity is synonymous with the loss of heart and pre-eminence of mind in today’s world.

Only you have to find a true subjectivity, a notion of and experience of self based on an underlying spiritual reality. I would call this“Poetic Reality.”

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The machine is using us


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Imagine the internet as an enormous machine. Do we use the machine, or is the machine using us?

This is the premise behind a brilliant video posted on YouTube recently, an imaginative exploration of the ideas behind “Web 2.0” by an associate professor of Digital Ethnology at Kansas State University. At the time of writing it has been viewed by well over a million people, speaking much of the power of internet to connect and inform us. Reading the comments left by viewers of video however speaks something of the opposite.

I was fascinated by the idea of the internet once: the convergence of media and content which captivated almost everybody in the late 90’s—time of boom before bust for what is now called Web 1.0, and birthplace for champions of an interconnected, permanently connected available-on-demand future is now—a Brave New World. How soon the imaginary becomes the ordinary…

The idea behind the video is intriguing—that the internet is slowly evolving into a living, breathing, mindful entity through our use of it; the pathways we take, the content we create, the way we label things all teaching the“machine” to“think.” Is the machine serving us, or are we serving the machine?

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Why are they dressed as ghosts?


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ghosts.jpg

Currently doing the rounds on the blogosphere and rating highly at reddit.com is the following image from Canon City, Colorado, 1926—one assumes not a hotbed of culture and intelligence.

Unless…

More than the photo itself, my sense of the absurd was aroused by the following comment:

Why are they dressed as ghosts?!

A comment possibly, hopefully made in all sincerity, I savoured it for a moment, imagining the childlike innocence required to see the world this way, thinking our world a better place if such an innocence really exists.

On the other hand it could be the work of a playful, albeit darkly shaded sense of humour, and that would almost be just as good.

But what if they were ghosts? What a nice world that would be!

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