Thursday, 6 July 2017

Short Meditations III: The argument from tradition, there's a lot more light, epithets, etc...

 If you're lost with good friends then you're not really lost at all.

The Argument from Tradition

In a recent debate with an acquaintance, the father of dear friends, a good man and a vicar (the two are not mutually exclusive) he resorted to what I call "the argument from tradition" when defending the churches' interpretation of scripture. His setting out of that argument, and my response, are a neat look at this common pattern of argument.
"If you question the authority of scripture in the way it has been viewed over the generations by venerated Christians, then either you are saying they were wrong or implying that modern critics have a better spiritual knowledge than they did. When I read of the faith of people before us which they lived based on the traditional reading of scripture, and what they accomplished, I couldn't ever dare to do that."
My response: so you still think that we shouldn't remarry the divorced, that whites and coloured shouldn't marry, that women must wear had-coverings to attend church (or even whenever in public), that owning slaves is fine, that women must not teach? These are all traditional (and longstanding) interpretations of scripture. I don't find the argument from tradition overwhelmingly compelling. Our understanding of the nature of humanity and the nature of God has evolved. It just has. Sorry.

That's not even taking into account that the breadth of source material (for scripture) has greatly increased, alongside our understanding of New Testament Greek and second temple era culture. In every way we have access to more knowledge and understanding than those upon whose shoulders we stand.

My favourite example being that it's now understood that there was actually very little difference in the usage patterns of phileo and agape in New Testament Greek (and the supposed distinction isn't even present in the Aramaic that Jesus would have probably spoken):
How do bible scholars reconcile the difference between Greek and Aramaic?
Twice Paul says he does not permit women to speak in church. Is this an authoritative statement on the role of women or is it influenced by his cultural context? If the latter then we must be permitted to reinterpret scripture in the light of progress (our increased understanding) - the work of God in humanity. Progress, a word hated by so many Christians.

The Pain of Love Not Received

What a painful tragedy when friends you love won't receive your love, won't let you love them but keep you at a distance. When their own fears, or their judgement, or the judgement of others, is more important to them than love.

In the end you have to move on and be in a place where you can love, where your love is received and rejoiced in as you rejoice in the love of others. Ouch, how painful.

There's a Lot More Light

It's easy to think that the world is darker and scarier than it was. I remember the eighties, with the cold war still going and the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging in the air. Regular IRA bombings on the UK mainland and killings in Northern Ireland. Plane hijackings. War in Lebanon, the Falklands war, the Iran-Iraq war, famine in Africa. The AIDS epidemic.
What's changed is that we're much more aware, and much more quickly aware, of disaster and terror. Different fear but the same fear. But there's more light, we see more.

True Motherhood

True motherhood cuts a deep line of pure love into women, and marks them forever.

By "true motherhood" I mean "of the heart", specifically so as not to exclude adoption. It's the bond of pure love that exists between mother and child, and I see that bond with adopted children as well as biological children. I just say what I see and I don't claim andy special qualification in this area.

I also say "true" because I see cases of physical motherhood where the bond doesn't exist, and it is very painful to see. However I see so many examples of women who lay down their lives for their children and I see a real beauty in their lives because of it, I also see the cost they pay. These observations are the basis of my comment. Motherhood is something I admire deeply and am in awe of it, so many examples of costly sacrificial love which I hold to be the highest form of love. Love which costs you.

Tragedy in Manchester

Yesterday in Manchester thousands of people gathered at a concert in memory of those who died in the horrible tragedy. The theme of the concert was "One Love" and its message was that we must respond with love and not hate or fear. Thousands of people gathered together in the name of love. What a holy and sacred thing, what a precious thing.
1 John 4:18 Perfect love drives out all fear.

Epithets

The core message of Christianity, the inner secret of the cross, is that the path of love is the path of taking on the pain of others.

Tribalism gives you permission to hate. I'm a socialist and I voted green. There's a lot of hate for Theresa May. I dislike hate.

When younger I read the Carlos Castaneda books on Don Juan. My conclusion then and now: incoherent nonsense dressed up as mysticism.

The best defence is a perfect mirror. The fiercer and uglier your opponent the less they can stand to see themselves. Mind as a still lake.

The viciousness is that which does not care. Get rid of it.

Much respect to sir and madam spider. How did *anything* get quite so scary. That's really very impressive indeed.

You must become more fierce than that which binds you.

When I was homeless, for about a year more than 20 years ago, I was beaten up on the street just because people like beating up the homeless.

So much prayer is just going through the motions and wishing it would make a difference. Really wrestling and grappling with reality is hard.

I think my conclusion is that I just don't give a damn about the rules. Love and righteousness is about what's right in the circumstances right now. No rule can tell you what's right.

Hell is not for people, it never was. Hell is for bad ideas. It turns out, being a bad idea is a really bad idea! Hell is not something to be scared of, hell is good and was made by God. Hell is where the evil goes and it's how the world becomes a better place.

Black coffee, like dark chocolate, is a wonderful metaphor for life. The interesting flavours are in the bitter edge, but all are unbearable without a little sweetness.

In times of terror we get to see who loves evil, for it gives them a reason to hate.

Women made men and told them to be in charge. We've done a really, really, really shit job but it's their fault too. They literally made us. "You can never understand" is a lie, by the way. It's either men versus women and black versus white, or it's us. Our choice.

Only a heart that's been broken can help to mend a broken heart.

Not a Paradox

Tolerance need not tolerate intolerance, for if it did it would mean nothing. Tolerance is the absence of intolerance, it must not tolerate intolerance. Likewise full acceptance must not accept rejection, for acceptance is the absence of rejection. Acceptance must reject that which rejects and love must hate that which hates.This is not a paradox, it is what the words mean. A thing is not that which it is the opposite of, nor must it be persuaded otherwise.

That love is not rules is the rule of love.

Worship

Love is deep, love is wide and it covers us
Love is fierce, love is strong and it's furious
Love is sweet, love is wild and it's waking hearts to life
-- Furious, Bethel Music

Rejoice, rejoice The Christ is in you
The hope of glory in our lives
Love lives, love lives, love's breath is in you
Arise a might army, we arise!
-- a paraphrase of a 1980s' worship song by Graham Kendrick

Scriptures: Joshua 6:2, Joshua 6:7, Ezekiel 37:10, Matthew 19:26, Matthew 21:5



"Luke 19:27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

God is Doing a New Thing

In times of tragedy we see those who love evil, because it gives them a reason to hate.
A loving challenge to my Christian friends.

We all know what God is capable of. We all want many, many lives to be transformed by love. But if you say you want the new thing, is what you really want the old thing again? Are you willing to think differently. Are you willing to see things differently. Or is all that you can see the old thing?

God is at work, God is moving. There is a new thing.

God is love (1 John 4:8), this is the most beautiful truth in the bible. Wherever you see love at work, that is God at work. So the question was never "do you believe in a deity?", but "do you believe in love?". If people believe in the power of love, that love transforms and rescues, that love heals, that love is worth living for and can achieve anything, then they believe in our God. The question of what you think you believe with your mind has very little to do with it, and never did.

This is what John said when he defined who knows God (1 John 4:7); those who love know God. It's what James said when he defined religion that is acceptable to God (James 1:27) as love in action. This is the message of the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the ultimate question is not what you have believed but whether you loved. Jesus even said this explicitly when he said "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
-- Charitie Lees Bancroft
We're all deep and complex people, full of hidden abilities and motivations that we don't understand. This we know [1]. So the substance of faith is not to convert our minds, or the minds of other people, but for the substance of who we are to know love. All that matters is the spirit and truth, the depth, of who we really are and how we live. Not what we think we believe. It is said that the longest road is the road from the head to the heart. This isn't true, it's quite a short road, but it only goes in the other direction. You just can't jam what you think from your head to the heart, but what the heart really finds you can understand with your mind.

But what about those passages that speak of belief, and preaching the name of Jesus, and how do we reconcile "all who love know God" with Jesus saying "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father but by me"? That last part is simple. John says that anyone who loves knows the father, and Jesus says if they know the father they came by him.

As for belief, well the only belief that matters is the belief of the heart. Even Romans 10:10 says "believe with your heart and proclaim with your mouth". It's perfectly possible to believe with your mind yet stay hurt, be hard or bitter, beset by psychological difficulties and never really change. Don't you see this in Christianity all the time? We need to find a real and deep experience of love, and that really can change us. It comes not from being loved, but from loving. The more we love the more we manifest God and the more we're changed. That's good news.

And proclaiming and acting in the name of Jesus. Well it's clearly not about the word "Jesus". That wasn't even his name, he was called Yeshua! When you go in someone's name you go in their power and authority. In mysticism true name reveals true nature. So to proclaim the name of Jesus is to proclaim love, to walk in the substance of his love and power. Let's convert people to really believe in the power of love, and the only way I know to do that is to really demonstrate the power of love. Stop trying to tell people about God and show them God.

This is a message of good news, that love saves, a message of the power of love, that all who love are our brothers and sisters. But it isn't evangelicism, it's progressive Christianity. God is not hidden, God is not hard to find. God is everywhere because love is everywhere. In everyone. Made in the image of God.

So to love God is to love love. To adore love with all your heart. To live for love and to love. Isn't love beautiful, isn't love worth it. I know of nothing better and I think there's nothing that love can't do. There's something worth living for. When your heart is truly captured by the beauty of love there are a lot of things that just fall away. My faith is in love and I think it can achieve absolutely anything. 

Alongside political trouble and global trauma, perhaps even because of them, I see a huge movement of people determined to love, determined to see change. That fierce determination to love, and a determination to do something about it, is love on the move. Let's be them, join them and help them. Let's end the tribalism of Christianity that makes us right and everyone else wrong and let's love the love in action. All you have to do is love people.

The trouble is that we make God into a mixture of love and rules. And as much as your faith is in the rules it isn't in love. Love has fulfilled the law. The standard is perfection, this isn't some permissive doctrine, but the law is love. Not a set of rules.

A big part of the problem comes from our shallow understanding of sin. We think sin is the things we do wrong, so we feel guilty whenever we do something wrong. We continually miss the mark, and we think we're meant to feel bad about it. The message of Christianity is exactly the opposite! Sin is dealt with, it's already forgiven. Sin is our separation from God, that we're not yet able to see God clearly. The problem is not really what we do, but who we are.

This goes along with the teaching of evangelicism that we're already made perfect, and if we could just somehow realise this we would stop sinning. Based in part at least on the scripture "if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation". Except that is no-one's experience of Christianity ever. Even with a dramatic initial experience of God and change, really finding the new creation is the work of a lifetime. No-one is made perfect in one fell swoop. A better reading is "as much as a person is in Christ, they are a new creation".

So stop worrying about sin. The past is gone. Sorrow instead (as I do) over who you are, that you don't really know God, that you don't love deeply. This is repentance, and is part of a change of nature, the work of God in us.

And especially stop worrying about other peoples' sin. It's none of your business. The law of God, which is love, is for us to look to ourselves, to worry about the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:31). The only way to change other people is to love them without expecting them to change, and to leave the rest up to their conscience and to God (John 16:8/13 - compare with this quote from Billy Graham “It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love.”). The greatest tragedy in Christianity is men who don't know God arguing about theology and the rules other people should be forced to live their lives by.
Woe to you teachers of the law.
Woe to you who teach law.
Woe to you who preach rules.
But this isn't how many of us were taught, and there's a cost to being different. I want to know who will pay the cost.


"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people." - Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28

[1] Repeated empirical studies (see the work of Daniel Kahnemann for example) have show that we make decisions based on subconscious promptings that we're not aware of, and then the conscious mind rationalizes the decision we have already come to.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Aspects of the Divine

"Rest in Natural Great Peace, this exhausted mind." - Prayer by Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
Siva the destroyer and friend of the poor, Ganesh the remover of obstacles, Loki the trickster and the madman who is not mad, the horror who has no name whom I call nightmare, Sophia who is wisdom, Venus who is unbridled passion, Dionysius who is abandoned revelry and is also called Bacchus, Delia who is beauty and is also called Artemis, Diana in whom is the moon who may also be Artemis, Anubis who shows the path to the dead, Isis the mother who is all women, the Father from whom all springs, and Michael who is war.

And Jesus who is love, who is all in all. The Godhead incarnate who was dead and yet lives and who makes all things new.

These are the metaphors, the archetypes, the aspects of the divine that I know.

Oh, and you. I know you. If you will permit to be known.

Codicil: lest it remain unsaid, beauty has married war and their love is glorious and terrible. Look not.


"Dark chocolate, like black coffee, is a wonderful metaphor for life. The interesting flavours are hidden in the bitter edge, but all are unbearable without a little sweetness."

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Do What Thou WIlt

In times of terror we see those who love evil, because it gives them a reason to hate.
We often think about the struggle between doing what is right and what is wrong, but far more often the problem is not doing the right thing but knowing what the right thing is. In my experience, more often than not I want to do the right thing but it isn't clear what that is. There are often several options, none of which seems exactly right and all of which could be wrong.

Wouldn't it be good if you could trust your desires, if you could know that you are good and that what you want to do is therefore likely to be the right thing. Then you could usually just do what you want, except  where it is clearly wrong, and most of the time you would be doing the right thing or at least have the right intentions.

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law". Aleister Crowley wrote this in the early 1900s. Contemporary society misunderstood him as saying "do what you want", and for this they called him the great beast. Actually he meant find your true will, and do what you really will. For your true will is to do good. Mr Crowley has a dark reputation, mostly undeserved but not entirely, but for good or for ill (and who knows) his words have had an influence on my life. He also said "Love is the law, love under will". We choose to love, and this it seems to me is a beautiful truth.

So how do you get there, how do you know what your true will is? This is pretty much the same question that most people ask for much of their lives; who really am I and what do I really want?

We spend much of our lives struggling to do what is right, and feeling that we are not very good and therefore we must fight against what we want. So we don't trust our own desires and we remain cut off from ourselves and struggle to know our own heart and mind.

So I'm afraid that the path to discovering who you are, to discovering what you really want and what your "true will" (whatever that may be) is, does largely involve doing what you want - and being prepared to take the consequences of your actions.

If you're willing to trust that you are basically good, with many flaws, and that you want to do the right thing. And if you're also prepared to accept that you can only do what you can do, that even if there is some hypothetical "right thing" if it is beyond your capability then you must simply do what you can and that's all that can be asked. If you're willing to trust that trying to love people is a process that will change you, trust that in having a genuine heart you will be changed, then do what you want. And gradually, if you really are genuine, what you want will more and more be good. As you do what you want, as you're willing to listen to what you want, then what you *really* want and who you really are becomes clearer.

Obviously apply common sense. Deny the clearly wrong impulses, but be willing to make mistakes. If you get things wrong then just deal with the consequences. You only do what you are able to do, no need to feel guilty just get on with facing what is before you right now. The past has gone and the future is not yet written. Let's have some fun and be good.

Love God and do what you want -- Augustine.


"It has been said that for many people their faith involves attempting to clamber from the evil branches to the good branches in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Instead the call is to climb down from that tree and climb into the tree of life."

Monday, 5 June 2017

Why Should I Fear


Didn't there used to be magic 
When you were five the world was magic. And then gradually, the magic fades. But it hasn't gone, it's still there. When you were five.
When I was young I was haunted by a wild and ferocious desperation and I was so afraid. It cut me and drove everyone away. It hurt so much.

The thing is that emotions, these parts of yourself, don't really go away. Instead if you learn not to fear them you can turn them to good. My desperation is still there, a wild longing to love and to burn and to blaze. An unquenchable thirst for the river that never runs dry.

As for the pain, that remains too. And when I see it in others, because everybody hurts, I can sometimes bleed. As we bleed together we heal. Let your inner pain be the engine of your empathy.

Finally that lost lonely death that had me. That I can turn on the fear. Fear must die. Why should I fear, I've been dead.

"The best defence is a perfect mirror. The fiercer and uglier your opponent the less they can stand to see themselves. Mind as a still lake."

Objective and Subjective Realities


Beauty is to be found in a naked paradox.

Objective reality is the composite of all subjective realities. And right at the heart is love.

Fundamental reality is chaos and uncertainty, and I love her with all my heart.

Wherever you go walk the worlds. Let people into your world and enter theirs. Eventually they merge, as you evolve a common language.

Our common subjective reality is our objective reality. Let's share reality, all of it in every way. As we do our reality gets stronger.

Fear is what keeps you out of chunks of reality. Parts of reality are very frightening. So let's conquer fear and help other people conquer fear. My strong suspicion is that as we defeat fear we discover that actually it was really only the fear we were afraid of all along. The rest we can handle and sort out between us.
1 John 4:18 Perfect love drives out all fear.
The Litany Against Fear, from Dune:
"I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
Codicil: so if objective reality is the composite of all subjective realities, what is it that actually exists beyond? Of that, no-one can ever know. We can expand our reality, but there is always a beyond. The great unknowable unknown. But maybe, just maybe it echoes. Ripples through space and time, that only the utterly still may hear.


"I know a spell of unbinding. It is worse than the spell of binding. It is the cost of a broken promise."

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Fragments of a Once Broken Mind


Awaken to dream and be the lucid dreamer.

In a Different Place

In a different place, in a different life, I did community service in Cambridge. Three memories remain.

Clearing a lake a young gypsy lad asked me if I'd ever stabbed anyone. He meant me no harm and I replied that I didn't like the sight of other people's blood.

Then, in a workshop on Newmarket road, we built bikes painted green from abandoned wrecks or unclaimed stolen property. This was to be Cambridge's community bike scheme, free to use. Within a week of starting all the bikes were gone. Most probably drowned in the Cam. A common tragedy perhaps. Building bikes they bullied me and threatened me and I didn't go back.

After the court summons they sent me to a little charity distributing furniture, run by a queer man in his forties and a capable dyke. He told stories of sex with the Queen's horse guardsmen, all as queer as him it seems. They were kind and they were good, and although I was so bound up and couldn't speak much they saw me and they held me for a little while before I fell.

Love Poems

How nice it is to be held, by a promise or a kiss. Isn't it lovely. I promise to love you my darling, and see how its held me. Our love holds.


I should so like to burn for eternity with you. What do you say my love, shall we try it, and if it be possible maybe we shall find it. And if it be not, we're none the sadder for our dreams.

I should so like to burn with eternity for you.


IAO I adore thee, magickal thou art. Evoe. IAO, the black and red sigil of my desire that is also my love. Evoe, the green and white and silver soft response sighs from every evergreen bowed gentle with snow.


Horror

I have come to an uneasy peace with my nightmare. An agreement between me and the nameless, shapeless horror that swallowed my years and dragged me desolate and alone to a place no-one should go. For though it mauled and wounded me, it also shaped and formed me. In its way it birthed me, for it taught me and I am forever marked.

Never will I walk that road again, never would I have chosen it. That path I took marred everything I cared about, and I alone am to blame. But still, I wouldn't swap with anyone. There are lessons that only the nightmare can teach (and sure we must all learn to dance with our own nightmare as I have danced with mine). So in a manner I love that horror, for what I could have learned no other way. And in our mutual understanding we have become friends. And thus its power is mine.

But perhaps after all, the horror is just me.


Beauty

Beauty cries in the corner, alone. She weeps for no-one looks, out of fear we pretend not to care. And our secret love burns and hurts, but who will be the first to turn and look? Few it seems, and instead we dull the hurt and choose to be blind. After all, it's what everyone does and we can't all be wrong surely?

Now beauty is angry. What could be more beautiful, or angrier. Where did you get that idea my love? Well it just stands to reason. She stands. Beauty stands for reason, and she's angry.

Beauty is such a con. The only way to find her, as you seek and ache and burn, is to become beautiful. And then, the trickstress, you can't help but see her everywhere. She was never hidden!

Beauty goes by many names. My favourite of her names is kindness. Before her I am unmade.

At the heart of beauty is a poison, a molecular unbinding. And if you won't be unmade, perhaps you die.


"Remain rational in the face of irrationality. But for that to work the irrationality part is mandatory. Required by law. Possibly enforced. Who knows, not me that's for sure!"

Amethyst Treasure

I is a selfish perspective, and I is sorry.

This is one of my amethyst treasures. Amethyst is my favourite stone, for no particular reason. This ring is a medieval brass ring, dated from the Norman era around 11th-12th century. It's a metal detector find from Britain.

Up until the 18th century amethyst was one of the most valuable, gemstones (along with diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald). No longer true as there are huge amounts of it in Brazil and Uruguay. But "back in the day" this would have been an extremely precious ring.

The ring is large on me, larger than a UK size "X". In general rings from that era are smaller than modern rings, as people were also generally smaller. This means that this ring was probably once owned by a very rich and very fat man.

As another interesting factoid, medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets as protection in battle in the belief that amethysts heal people and keep them cool-headed.

In Greek legend the titan Rhea, daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus, presents Dionysus with an amethyst stone to preserve the wine-drinker's sanity. Also, Amethyste/Amethystos was a beautiful mortal maiden who resisted the amorous advances of Bacchus, the god of intoxication. Diana, one of my favourite godesses, answered her prayer to preserve her chastity and turned her into a white stone. Bacchus poured wine over the stone, staining it purple. (Although confusingly Diana is a Roman goddess, her Greek equivalent being Artemis, notable in my mind because Delia is an epithet of the name Artemis.)

Tibetans consider amethyst sacred to the Buddha and make prayer beads from it.

"Wherever you go walk the worlds. Let people into your world and enter theirs. Eventually they merge, as you evolve a common language."

Best Practises for Software Development and Testing

30 best practices for software development and testing
30 best practices for software development and testing
I wrote an article and someone put it on their website: Software Engineering and Testing

This is the accumulated wisdom of my software engineering experience, boiled down into 30 points on the practise of building software systems. As always, the only theory worth a damn is the theory of the practise. The website, opensource.com, is run by my employer Red Hat. 

In the first week after publication this article got around ten thousand page views and was the second most viewed article on the website that week. It prompted a good discussion on reddit (over 300 points and 50 comments at current count) and was shared a stack of times on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Yes I'm boasting a bit, but it made me happy. The article only took a few hours to write, and more than ten years to prepare.

"What is reality is a dumb question. It is, and that's the end of it. And the beginning as it turns out."

Friday, 5 May 2017

Will ye go, lassie go


"Will ye go, lassie go" is a traditional folk song. It's the first song I worked on with my singing teacher, about nine months ago now.

It's a lovely song. The lyrics for this arrangement are approximately:

Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
And we'll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
I will build my love a bower
Near yon' pure crystal fountain
And on it I will place
All the flowers of the mountain
Will ye go, Lassie go?
And we'll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
If my true love e’er should leave me
I would surely find another
Where the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
And we'll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
Oh the autumn time is coming
And the leaves are gently falling
Where the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?

And we'll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?


The Supreme Joy

"What could possibly be more fun?"

Victor Hugo once said:
"The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves"
As lovely as that sounds I think he got it perfectly, completely and exactly wrong. The supreme joy, greater even than knowing you are loved, is the capacity to love. In the end, the question of whether or not we are loved fades into irrelevance in the sheer delight of the knowledge that we can love, for as we love we manifest God who is love, and what could possibly be better than that?

Similarly it has been said that the ultimate question we must all face is "did we know that we were loved?". Again, I think this is perfectly, completely and exactly wrong. In the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus describes two groups of people who faced the ultimate (literally) question. The second group had simply got on with loving in practise. And it turned out they'd been loving Jesus, the personhood of love, all along. His friend and they didn't even know it.

The ultimate question for us all, as posed by Jesus, is not "did you know you were loved?", but "did you love?". As always, John puts it far better than I could. How can we know if we know God? 1 John 4:7 "All who love are born of God and know God".

"James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Teaching Python



I've been teaching Python Mastery, an advanced Python course, working on US East Coast time (teaching from 3pm to 11pm UK time) to nineteen HP engineers across three different time zones.

I do so enjoy teaching advanced Python. Once I get into the swing of it, which has happened today, I actually feel like an expert. I don't say that to blow my own trumpet, everyone has topics on which they are an expert, but it is such a nice feeling.

There is a Victorian saying of which I'm fond. I'm afraid it's expressed in a sexist way, because Victorians, but it's universally applicable.
"A true gentleman knows something about everything and everything about something."
For me the something about which I know everything (give or take) is the Python programming language. It's fun to feel like I know what I'm talking about, to be able to handle almost any question that is likely to be asked, and to be talking about it to people who want to hear.

The trouble with software engineering as a job (and the challenge - both the frustration and the reason it is worth doing) is that you are rarely dealing with just the programming language. Any task of engineering involves building or working on systems that interoperate and communicate with other systems, and those systems themselves are likely to be comprised of tens of thousands or even millions of lines of code.

Even if you fully understand your code and your system (unlikely of itself), it runs on a modern operating system which is a huge and bewildering beast, it talks on a network, talks to a database (yet another huge and bewildering beast - and if it's not huge and bewildering then it likely isn't any good), a message queue and so on and so forth.

So just as your system communicates and interoperates with other systems specialised for tasks it can't do itself, in order to work on a system *you* need to be able to communicate and interoperate with other people who have specialised knowledge that you don't have. Trying to be an island is a fool's errand.

And in case you hadn't guessed, despite considering myself an expert in quite an important area of the programming I love to do, in the job I've just started with Red Hat I'm still at the "bewildered by the mountain of knowledge I don't have" stage. I'm working on a large system, that itself works with and is comprised of many large systems. And it will be a while before that feeling of blank incomprehension fades.

Fortunately I've started enough new programming jobs to know that the feeling always fades. It happens gradually, and then one day, a few months in and without even noticing it has happened, you start a task and realise you know how to do it. That's such a good feeling.


"There's a bit of the divine in all of us. The bit of God in me is the core of who I am. The God in me is the best of who I am and who I'm meant to be." -- Morgan Freeman, The Story of God

Wade in the Water


This is a song I've been working on with my music teacher. This is me coming back to it after a month's break over the Easter holiday, but as we're not likely to work on it for much longer I thought I'd record it now.

"We exist in the imagination of God. "In him we live and breathe and have our being." Creative life, the outbreathing of the divine."

Monday, 24 April 2017

Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell


"Most people live lives of quiet desperation" -- Thoreau
A sad, sad thing has happened in this Foord household in recent weeks. We've purchased a TV license and adverts have become a thing in our lives. I detest their lies, but I'll admit that some adverts can be mildly entertaining.

For many years we subsisted on Netflix, Amazon video and a mountainous collection of DVDs that inexorably grows beyond any human capacity to ever watch them all but not beyond my unbounded desire to own all the things and know all the things. As with all areas of human endeavour, films (like books and music) present an to-all-intents-and-purposes infinite field of fun, informative and edidying, even seemingly essential, stuff that I could-and-possibly-even-should-but-never-actually-would watch.

Our lives are full enough. As I'm oh so fond of saying, the only thing worse than a busy life is all the alternatives. Years ago I decided that I had consumed enough of other people's creativity and I wanted to create myself. So we don't actually watch much television. Delia and I usually have one TV series that we watch together, on the rare evenings when we have dispatched the children to bed early enough that exhaustion has not fully overcome one or both of us. It took us a few *years* to watch enough of Gilmore Girls before it became clear they'd run out of actual things to say and we got bored enough to turn to something else, promising each other we'd come back and finish the final series soon whilst secretly acknowledging to ourselves that would never happen. 

Despite this Irina, our now six year old daughter, wanted to watch CBeebies and Delia wanted to be able to flick through channels idly relieved from the burden of choice. So I capitulated, and we now have broadcast television.

The world hasn't ended and I'll even begrudgingly admit to enjoying endless David Attenborough on Eden and discovering "Forged in Fire" on The History Channel - a gameshow type program pitting sword makers against one another and judging their work on strength, beauty and capacity to cut and maim.

Last night I even watched three TV programs in a row. I'd probably have to go back decades to the last time that happened Even counting nights of lonely horror in hotel rooms for programming conferences in far off lands I have rarely stooped to such an orgy of entertainment.

All three shows I would recommend, which I guess is the real reason for this post. "Genius" is a docu-drama (even using the word is nearly as much a horror as admitting to enjoying one) on the life of Albert Einstein. Fascinating, I just hope it's mostly true to life and they aren't lieing to me in the name of entertainment. The first episode was plausible and fits what little I already knew.

This was followed by "The Story of God", as told by Morgan Freeman. A man with gorgeously sonorous voice, but somewhat sullied reputation, now largely reinstated in my eyes by the sensitivity of his exploration and how genuine and human he comes across.

And finally "Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell", a look at the history of Auschwitz through two different scrapbooks of photos. The first a collection of photos from one of the commanders, which commits the almost unforgivable sin of humanizing the Nazis. Realising the horrors of that place, the pit of the worst of human capacity, was a merely human creation is such a hard thing to face. The second scrapbook catalogued the arrival and fate of the Jews, accompanied and explained by the narration of a survivor.

When the show came on I nearly switched it off. I know enough of the holocaust, and it has touched and shaped my own family. (See "A Jewish Love Story".)

But, perhaps mostly out of stubbornness, I won't turn away from the horror. I won't pretend it doesn't exist, or claim that it's dealt with and I have no part in it. So I watched.

Hannah Arendt, in her examination of the rise of totalitarianism, said that the way the Nazis could commit such horrors whilst still holding on (at least outwardly) to the appearance of their own humanity (as evidenced in the laughing photos) was the dehumanization of their victims. If the Jews and homosexuals and gypsies weren't really people then they could switch off empathy and laugh and smile and kill.

The very worst thing, personally, is that I can understand.  If you can totally switch off your view of "the other" as a real person, then how fascinating to see how the human body responds to pain and other horrors. How useful. And how then possible to let out, and enjoy, all your darkest, deepest desires - entirely contained and walled off on subjects who matter not in the slightest because they aren't real. And then you can pet your dog and enjoy blueberries with the pretty, laughing Nazi girls, a mere ten miles from the death camp.

So something of that horror is in me, because it is in all humanity. We did it. And I won't run from it, shut it out, stay blind and mute to the worst of what I am. I repudiate it utterly, I want nothing of it. But I will face it, I will find it in myself, not push it away and wall it off. I will touch the darkness in me, and cry over it. God help me.


"My driving desire is the powerful psychological release I find in the active adoration of love. I long to worship, I love to worship."

Friday, 21 April 2017

Mysticism, Freedom and the Human Will


Chaos is creative potential.
The full key to self-actualisaton (personal growth or whatever you want to call it) is will. This is the freedom that Christianity talks of, a free will capable of making choices and effecting change. Freeing up our capacity to love.

Throughout the ages philosophers have recognised the importance of the human will. For example:
Epictetus: You may fetter my leg, but my will not even Zeus himself can overpower.
Schopenhauer: the world as will and representation
Alphonse Constance: magic is the product of will and imagination
Nietzsche: will to power
Crowley: Love is the law, love under will
Schweitzer: I am life which wills to live
Fankl: will to meaning
Both Buddhism and Jungian psychology see the human psyche (soul) as being extraordinarily deep, but mostly unconscious. Most of who we are, most of our capacity to effect change, is not present in our conscious mind. So our actions are driven by forces and desires that we don't understand, whilst our conscious mind rationalises our decisions so that the ego can maintain its illusion of control. (For what it's worth, the rationalisation of decisions after they have been made has been verified by modern empirical psychology.) Compulsive behaviour and neuroses are the clearest examples of "unconscious drives". In "Doors of Perception" Aldous Huxley argues that our limited awareness, our filtered perception of reality, is an evolutionary mechanism for survival. Complete awareness of all our sensory input (including self-awareness) would debilitate our ability to function in a competitive world.

Our worldview, how we choose to see the world, is one of the ways we filter reality. We reject information that doesn't fit our worldview and seek out information that reinforces it (confirmation bias), allowing us to only have to deal with a small (and safer) proportion of reality.

So in Buddhism, the goal of meditation (and for Jung the goal of psychoanalysis) is to permit our awareness (mindfulness) into the totality of who we are - to become fully conscious of the unconscious self. To really see and accept ourselves. In the process Buddhism says that we will come to understand that what we view as "self" is largely (or even totally) the product of ego, and that who we are is in fact not so separate from the rest of the world we find ourselves in. We are merely a small part of everything.

In becoming aware we become free to choose. In becoming conscious our will is freed from the self-repression (self-rejection a pushing away and deliberate - but through habit unconscious - blindness to what goes on inside us). This is why being willing to face who we are, to take responsibility for ourselves and to stop blaming others, is so essential to finding true freedom. This is full self-acceptance.

As we become more aware of ourselves, as our capacity for action increases and we become more free, we become "bigger people". There is more of us around than there was.

This understanding that awareness brings freedom is why to the Buddhist right living, right understanding and right teaching are all the same thing.

But remember, the only theory worth a damn is the theory of the practise. What does it mean about how we live to understand that freedom means a free will?

It means to take control of who we are and responsibility for what we do, and to put ourselves into what we do rather than being dragged around by habit and routine. We can still do the same things (but we can also be free to stop), but choose to do them. Don't let them be someone else's choice about how you live.

It is through habit that things become unconscious. Look at how a child learns to walk, every nuance of every step is a wobbly and conscious action. So deliberate, and so hard! Yet through practise we barely think about it at all, the thought processes involved in balance and avoiding obstacles have become completely unconscious. It's the same with, for example, learning to drive. At first turning a corner (check your mirrors, change gear, slow down, indicate) is a bewildering plethora of actions to perform simultaneously. After a while you develop an "autopilot", and do it with barely a (conscious) thought. In fact the thought processes and decision making are still there, we're just not consciously aware of them. It's still us. There's no-one else to blame for the actions of the parts of ourselves that we don't see or feel.

So it is our habits that bind us. Our habits of destructive thought patterns and destructive behaviour for example. Step off the vicious cycle and onto the virtuous cycle.

Through deliberate action you can train your subconscious, train your "autopilot" into good habits. Choose to love all the time, and what initially takes deliberate effort becomes habit. Make decisions, do things you're afraid of, step out of routine, do unfamiliar things, choose to live. Face yourself, accepting yourself with compassion (by understanding your motives and reasons) but not turning away from the reality of who you are and what you've done. Choose to love, love under will.

By facing yourself you can master yourself.

One silly example (and I'm full of silly examples) of how I've been doing this in practise is that over the last few years I've been trying to make myself ambidextrous. I saw that my children, early on in life, used both hands almost equally with a very slight preference for one hand. Gradually that slight preference meant that they became more skillful with that hand, so the preference was reinforced - it was easier to do something with the hand they had used more often. I realised that my left hand was almost entirely useless for many common actions, and not as strong, simply because I didn't use it through habit. I started to deliberately choose to use my left hand for everything I could. Actions that had previously been completely unconscious, like stirring a cup of tea, suddenly became difficult and I was very aware of them. As an interesting side-effect I was forced to live more in the moment, putting more conscious effort and will into things I used to do completely passively. A very interesting experiment. Over time the conscious effort required to choose my left hand and arm is fading and it is becoming more natural. I haven't switched for hand-writing yet though, my writing is barely legible with my right hand!

So we can choose to change, by changing our habits. At this point Christians may protest and argue that it is God who changes us. Well yes, but the freedom God wants us to have is a freed will. So God doesn't make our choices for us. God (and I will shortly provide an understanding of God that the atheist may not object to) brings us an awareness of our weaknesses and habits, that awareness is the capacity to change. We must still choose to change.

For me the defining heart of Christian mysticism is Moses meeting God in the wilderness. The burning bush, the fire that burns but does not consume. Moses asks God his name, and in mysticism a true name reveals true nature (c.f. "he has given us a new name"). God's answer is YHVH, Yahweh, Jehovah. I Am. God is consciousness, pure being, pure existence.

So the eye of consciousness is the eye of God.
1 Search me, O God, my actions try,
And let my life appear
As seen by Thine all-searching eye—
To mine my ways make clear.

2 Search all my sense, and know my heart
Who only canst make known,
And let the deep, the hidden part
To me be fully shown.

3 Throw light into the darkened cells,
Where passion reigns within;
Quicken my conscience till it feels
The loathsomeness of sin.

4 Search all my thoughts, the secret springs,
The motives that control;
The chambers where polluted things
Hold empire o’er the soul.

5 Search, till Thy fiery glance has cast
Its holy light through all,
And I by grace am brought at last
Before Thy face to fall.

6 Thus prostrate I shall learn of Thee,
What now I feebly prove,
That God alone in Christ can be
Unutterable love.


Francise Bottome (approx 1872)
Suspend your disbelief for a moment, if you can, and imagine singing that song with genuine passion. And further imagine that the the God you've found and believe in is in fact pure consciousness and the essence of life itself. That you love and adore it with all your heart and open up the core of who you are to it with reverence and respect, even some fear. That you invite it in, to reach into and search out the depths of your being, determined to face who you are and believing you can find purity of life in it. Now wouldn't that be a fine and honest thing. 

I take a different look at what will is in: Soul, spirit and will.

Christians wondering how I see Jesus fitting into all this may be interested in my article "Theodicy and the Problem of Evil".

"Strive not to know but to be. Turn your intelligence not into understanding but into being."

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Are we living in a computer simulation?

Evolution is the key to understanding our nature.
Are we living in a computer simulation and not the "real world"?

So the argument goes, once computers become sophisticated enough to simulate entire worlds, then lots of worlds will exist. Therefore, if there are many, many worlds, the chances of you happening to exist in "the real one" and not a simulation are very small.

I actually think the best answer to the idea that we might be living in a simulation comes from Wolfram. He was talking about weather predicting but it holds just as true for world creation. He points out that to fully simulate any system (e.g. a weather system) you need to simulate the quantum level, and that requires a simulation model exactly as complex as the system being simulated, and therefore at least as physically big as the system being simulated. This is because you can't simulate quantum systems with a smaller quantum system. If you could you would be relying on more subtle interactions, that also happen in the real system (and affect it) and therefore you would also need these in the simulation and can't use them to create the simulation.

So to simulate a universe requires something at least as big as a universe. The way round this is to cheat and not simulate all of the universe, but then you must have a universe with inconsistent physical laws (since some of the observable effects are not genuinely calculated but "fudged"). As far as we can tell our universe runs on consistent (but chaotic) laws, and is therefore probably not simulated.

The conclusion is that you can only fully simulate a closed system, because a simulation is a closed system. This is also, coincidentally, why weather forecasting will always suck.

However, David Cassandra Mertz asks:
"What if the real universe ribs much faster than the simulations, and we live in a timeshare slice of the simulator?"
This does seem possible and quantized time might be an indication that this is the case. Potentially in "the real world" the speed of light is much higher, so the real quanta of time is smaller. A slower speed of light also makes the observable universe smaller - allowing a smaller universe to be simulated within the real one. However, it seems unlikely you'd have the physical space and energy to create "many worlds" this way.

As an interesting aside, computing speed doesn't matter. Time is only experienced by reality in frames (quanta) of the time it takes light to travel the shortest quantum distance, determined by Planck's constant. The unit of Planck Time is approximately 5.39 × 10−44 s. So even if it takes an hour, or a hundred years, for your computer to evaluate each frame the simulated world will still experience each frame sequentially and it will feel like "real time". The problem is physical space for state storage. Storing the state of a quantum system takes at least as much space as the "real" quantum system, you can't store the state (electronically, digitally or otherwise) in a smaller space. So to simulate a universe it requires a universe.

In the sense that reality is the product of collapsed probability waveforms, not resolved until observed (lazily evaluated), it could be said that the universe is already a simulation of itself. Every universe created (within the probably-not-real multiverse) is a new simulation.


"Imagine the best of all possible worlds. Now apply your will to making it happen. Magic is the product of will and imagination."

Sexuality

"Uncertainty means the future is not yet written. Anything is possible."
It's stating the obvious, but a big part of personal development is coming to terms with (and enjoying) sexuality. This has very little to do with how often you have sex. As a general rule, if you're uncomfortable with someone else's sexuality it's a sign that you haven't fully come to terms with your own. You should be able to admire and appreciate someone else's sexuality (of whatever gender or orientation) without discomfort or a compulsion to take or to control. This is the difference between desire and lust. Desire enjoys without needing to possess (emotionally and physically), lust wants to consume.

Desire everyone, lust after no-one...

(However, as an adjunct, never go - emotionally - where you're not invited. Don't make people feel uncomfortable. However you have a right to exist and be you. If your mere existence makes people uncomfortable that's their problem.)

Lust, infatuation and sexual compulsion are actually symptoms of unmet emotional need. They *can* be resolved in a relationship, but are not a good basis for a relationship (mutual respect and determination to love is the best basis). Sex is best as the culmination and celebration of shared lives rather than the quenching of need. Sex can be a literally, and figuratively, creative act when it is giving and loving.

Sexuality, like aggression, is dangerous and capable of causing great harm both to ourselves and to others. Because they're dangerous culture teaches us to repress them (not true of everyone obviously, but often true). Because we repress them we never learn to deal with them, and so when they do come out it can be in an uncontrolled way. This further reinforces the danger and the need for repression.

Male dominated culture is particularly afraid of female sexuality. Because men can't control themselves female sexuality gives women power over men, which is obviously unacceptable. This is why female sexuality is particularly oppressed, except in very male controlled ways. The threat and fear of sexual violence is one way that society systemically represses female sexuality ("don't wear that short skirt, you put yourself at risk" for example). Shame and disapproval are another.

The trouble is that repression doesn't work, it just makes things worse. Sexuality and aggression are both core parts of who you are, your creative life and your strength. If you won't express them consciously they will find unconscious expression. Uncontrolled anger, spite, neuroses, inappropriate relationships and emotional attachments (etc) are all symptoms of repressed character aspects.

The solution is to learn to deal with these aspects of who you are without being afraid of yourself and your feelings. Learn to control yourself without repressing yourself. The journey of a lifetime. Express your sexuality, express your anger, but under your control and without harming others.

One of my favourite scriptures is Ephesians 4:26 which, depending on your translation, says something like "be angry but do not sin". It doesn't say don't be angry, often anger is the right and appropriate reaction to a situation - but let it be something productive rather than destructive. Let anger be a motivator for change. And if you're looking for an expression of sexuality, including strong female sexuality, in the bible then I suggest you read "Song of Songs".

As an interesting aside, another symptom of sexual repression is over-sexualisation. The un-met need for a freed sexuality can be expressed in an over obsession with sex and the sexual. This is how our culture can be both sexually repressed and sexually obsessed simultaneously. Porn addiction and sex addiction are clear examples of how a genuinely released sexuality, free of fear and shame, is very different from an uncontrolled sexuality.

Inside every person resides a great beast. Repress it and forever live in fear of yourself, or tame it and rule yourself.

This article is a follow on to my other articles on sexuality: Sexual Purity in Marriage and Tainted Love?.


"A huge part of personal growth is stopping blaming other people for how you feel and who you are. No matter how hard that is."

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Evolutionary Spirituality V: A Philosophical Quest


"And the spirit of God hovered over the deeps"
My personal philosophical quest is a union of science, psychology and my spiritual experiences, with a sound philosophical basis. Uncertainty is the philosophical basis, and coincidentally the basis of the scientific method plus according to the findings of science also a fundamental part of reality. Evolutionary Spirituality is how I describe my pursuit.

Psychology and science are unified (at least in theory - but a theoretical solution is sufficient) by the work of Daniel Kahneman. Jung unified religion and psychology.

Buddhism and Hinduism (etc) provide a theoretical union of religion and science (consciousness contiguous with physical reality - as espoused, for example, by Deepak Chopra), but no-one has proven it in practise.

Chaos is creative potential. If the boundary between consciousness and physical reality exists at all it is to be found in chaos.

"Imagine the best of all possible worlds. Now apply your will to making it happen. Magic is the product of will and imagination."

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Evolutionary Spirituality IV: Death, Heaven & Hell


"in the joy of others lies our own" -- Guru Swamishri

Everything you are is expressed in everything you do. We are merely the product of history and a series of unfortunate decisions.

As much as it may feel like it, we are not isolated and walled off from the universe and people around us. In fact we exist in a continuum with the rest of the world, everything we are - all of our unconscious mind - is continually shaped and formed by our experiences and interactions. Similarly everything we do shapes and influences the world and people around us.

Even our physical being, down to our genetics, is the product of external reality - ultimately the earth and then the wider universe is the source of who we are. Our genetic makeup and our psyche is shaped completely (at least initially) by everyone who has come before. We are not self made.

Individually we are created from each other and in relation to one another. We were created out of, and in relation to, the land and society around us. We are merely a small part of everything. 

See my article on empathy for a bit of a look at how we form each other psychologically (and how this can be damaging or healing): Soul Healing and Empathy.

Psychological and physical reality are therefore contiguous, since psychological reality was formed out of the earth. Humanity was shaped incrementally, and chaotically, via the process of evolution. (Ultimately my argument will be that this implies - or at least permits - that psychological reality pre-existed humanity. Or to say it another way, psychological reality (including our shared consensual reality) emerged alongside humanity out of the chaotic potential that already existed. But this must remain an aside for now.)

So everything we are is a product of everything else. It therefore doesn't seem so strange to suggest that who we are persists beyond the end of our physical being. Everything we are has come from, and continually existed in continuum with, everything else. The remaining question being: does personal agency persist beyond death? I'm sure many of you have very strong opinions as to the answer to that question. Interestingly Buddhism teaches reincarnation, but *also* teaches that the sense of individual self is actually an illusion - an artefact of ego trying to understand itself. I've never managed to reconcile those teachings.

Everything, and everyone, that has come before exists in part in us - having made us - and we in turn, through what we do, exist in everything else.

As cheesy as it may be I really enjoy the way that the movie Avatar portrays our connection to those who came before us and the communal unconscious. Both Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett explore this theme in interesting ways: Iain Banks in "Feersum Endjinn" (with a Jungian influence) and Terry Pratchett, If I Recall Correctly, in "Thief of Time" (more Taoist).

My own personal musing reconciles Christian teachings with my own instinct that we ultimately judge ourselves, that God does not condemn us. When illusion is stripped away and we are confronted with the reality of who we are, and what we've done, we have two choices. We can either run, until we are completely alone. This is hell. Or we can face who we are, accept what we've done, but recognise love. If we know love (and if love knows us), if we are able to love despite who we are, then we can face ourselves. This is a truth as applicable to life as it may be to death, and I know the reality of hell because I've lived there.

Coming face to face with perfect love is what strips away all illusion, seeing reality as it really is. This is how God can be judge of all things, yet not condemn us, we condemn ourselves.

As for heaven, the teaching of The Christ on the kingdom of heaven, teachings which are so potent, is that we can do it now.



"A huge part of personal growth is to stop blaming other people for how you feel and who you are. No matter how hard that is."

Monday, 10 April 2017

Analytical Philosophy and Meaning


"First define your terms" that beguiling product of Western analytical philosophy, that would dissect the frog in search of its life. It discards the very thing it seeks.

Language is a game. It hides meaning and reveals meaning, but as you systematically unpeel the layers the meaning dances and taunts- snubbing her nose at you in the sheer delight of the game you don't want to play but cannot escape.

Instead woo her, sidle up to her and catch a glimpse of her soulful eyes. Probably she'll laugh at you and flit away, or maybe she'll tarry just a while, just long enough.

Meaning skips and dances along the words, neither contained nor constrained by them.

Meaning won't be pinned down, its as messy as your dreams and as fleeting as the moment. But it's real, like a rock, as fierce as the electron dance of the sun that would flay you alive if you got close enough. Join the dance, snub your nose at her, and if she likes the way you play maybe she will play too.

Communication is the substance of spirit. But what do I mean by that? To commune is to communicate.

"Inside every person resides a great beast. Repress it and forever fear yourself. Tame it and rule yourself."

Evolutionary Spirituality III: A Natural Philosophy

We are physical beings. Our life is the operation of the physical laws of the universe, neurochemical and biological processes. From this understanding there are two possible points of view (excepting a dualistic worldview that I reject for other reasons):

1. Our life, as we experience it and perceive it, is in fact an illusion and we are merely the semi-deterministic (but chaotic) operation of physical matter and energy. "Moist pink robots" as Scott Adams calls us. We are not alive, we are in fact as dead as the rest of the universe.

2. I believe in life. My life is merely the operation of the physical laws of the universe, therefore the same life that is in me permeates everything. I am merely a small part of everything.

In fact these two statements are equivalent, it is literally a matter of which perspective on life you choose.

I do not believe in the supernatural. I merely believe the natural is more super than we give it credit for. I see infinities in the equations.

"Not knowing, but being and doing (which must become the same). Thirst for knowledge is a bad as thirst for power."

Short Meditations II: The City, Desire, Community and so on and so forth

Alphonse Constant: Magic is the product of will and imagination

The Scars of My Folly

The scars of my own folly, the etched lines of lonely desperation, these are precious to me. The wounds I've carried, both self inflicted and those from a careless world, the memory of pain I've held and caused, I treasure. That blindness that wouldn't and couldn't think for itself, that cowed itself out of fear, I remember with compassion. This part of who I am I'm grateful for, because it has taught me. I have learned. I am not there and I will not go there again.

The Rule of Love

First was the rule of force, survival of the strongest and fittest. Then came law. Law was a gift from God, more just than force. But law can only tell you when you have transgressed, it can only condemn and not redeem.

But law lays the foundation, it is the framework. Law permits the rule of love. Love is the fulfilment of the law, it does not abolish the law but transcends it and perfects it. Love is not bound by the law, but is more rigorous than law. Through the law the rule of love can be established. And against such there is no law.

This is a political philosophy.

The rule of law puts in place a practical framework to establish the rule of love. It is a necessary precedent in the evolution of social consciousness.

The City

There is a great city on a hill, where the king and queen abide and rule the kingdom. The name of the city is beauty and its foundations named desire. Its walls are love, and they are strong. The river that flows into the city, and sustains the land, is called hope. From the city shines a great light, whose name is joy.

Those for whom the city is home are the eternal ones. They are many but scattered. Those who feel the call know the way there, even if the road is hard. It is the way of the heart.

Dare to dream.

Community

I do not much care what people believe. I care about who they are. It is my thought that we can live as a community, in mutual respect and friendship, supporting and upholding one another, without us all having to believe the same thing. And the [attempted] practise of this is the substance and outworking of my faith.

Reincarnation

I can see why people believe in past lives (I don't). That feeling where you really meet someone and, maybe just for an instant, you really know who they are and it feels like you've always known them.

Secular Buddhism takes the teachings on reincarnation as an allegory of constant rebirth. Planck's constant tells us how often this happens.

Merely a Story

One of the stories, though poorly told still true, still true.

There is a creature more fair and pure than any other. This divine muse may even be the mother of all true beauty in the world. But men fear such beauty, they cannot look. So in weakness and fear and obedience we have caged her. Walled her into a dark place and surrounded her with guards of lust and greed and fear.

And though the guards howl and wail, still when the breeze is right her melody can be heard. A song of longing and fairer times. We fear the guards, but that song has captured our hearts. We can neither flee nor free our captive treasure. So she sings, and waits.

Her name is desire. Slay the guards and let your heart long.

Love

I believe in love. I think it's just heavenly. Simply divine.

The only way to change people is to love them without trying to change them.

The New Thing

How often when you ask for the new thing, are you actually desperately hoping it will be the old thing again.


"There is only one true passion: passion itself. Everything else is a mere shadow."

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Curriculum Vitae


I'll soon be available for new work opportunities. I'm looking for primarily remote software engineering or technology roles, in either Python or Python and Go. I can be reached at michael AT python DOT org.

Note: I have now taken on a full-time role with Red Hat and am not currently seeking work.

I believe that software engineering is as much of an art and a craft as it is a science. I believe that engineers should care about usability, and that encompasses the whole of the human computer interface from direct user experience to API design. I’m passionate in my belief that testing must be part of engineering if we are to really care about quality. I believe, and my experience has been, that we can ensure quality in what we produce through good practises and processes, whilst understanding that there are always trade-offs involved. Quality means systems that work, that are stable and that can be easily maintained and extended.

Career Highlights in a Nutshell

10+ years Python development experience. 4+ years web development experience with Django. 3 years Go development experience, working on a container orchestration and cloud deployment system (Juju) . Python Core Developer with a special focus on testing and unittest. 4 years C#/.NET experience on Windows.

Author of mock, now part of the Python standard library as unittest.mock. Author of IronPython in Action (2009, Manning Publications). Advanced and Introductory Python training, on behalf of David Beazley and primarily for HP (8 times 2013-2016).

Regular organiser, speaker and presenter at EuroPython, PyCon UK, PyCon US and various other conferences. Microsoft MVP 2008-2010, Python Software Foundation Community Service Award received in 2010. Keynote speaker for PyCon India 2014, keynote speaker for PyCon New Zealand 2013.

Familiarity with industry standard tools such as git, mercurial, postgresql and jenkins. 3 years spent wrestling MongoDB for Juju.

My personal obsession with computers and programming began in the early 1980s learning BBC Basic (a structured programming language on an 8 bit microcomputer) followed by 68000 assembly language on the Amiga (which had the first consumer operating system with pre-emptive multitasking).

Employment History


March 2013 – February 2017

Software Engineer, for Canonical, working on Juju

Juju is a service orchestration tool for deploying and managing systems in the cloud, on bare metal and with containers. Juju is written in Go, making heavy use of the Go concurrency primitives, and interoperates with (amongst other things) lxc/lxd and KVM containers and virtualisation, Amazon Web Services, Azure, OpenStack and the Canonical Metal As A Service project. From early 2016 on I was part of the team with a special responsibility for the networking features of Juju.
The Juju project was managed with tools including git & github, Leankit Kanban Board, Launchpad and Jenkins for Continuous Integration. Juju is built on top of mongodb.


2013-date

Python Trainer, for David Beazley LLC

Delivering Python Mastery (advanced) and Introduction to Python (beginner) courses on site throughout Europe. Courses delivered 8 times from 2013-2016.


2010-2013

Software Engineer, for Canonical, Web Development

Working as part of a team doing web development with Django. We primarily worked on the payment service and single sign on systems. We broke these monoliths down into microservices and worked with our system administrators on revising our deployment practises to enable us to rapidly deploy updates using current versions of dependencies whilst maintaining system security. One achievement I am particularly proud of during my time on this team was the large scale refactoring of payment services to replace the business logic scattered throughout the codebase with a single state machine. This made invalid transaction status transitions impossible, as well as reducing duplication and making the system more stable and easier to maintain.
Both SSO and Payment Service were built on top of Postgres and provided REST APIs as well as a web front end.


2009-2010

Freelance Developer

My largest customer has been a German firm, Comsulting.de, working remotely developing business web applications with Django and Silverlight. I travel regularly to Germany (about two weeks every two months), but most development is remote including some remote pair programming. Particularly fun was building a test suite into the Silverlight application, so that functional tests of the graphical front end could run in the browser.


April 2006-November 2009

Senior Software Engineer and Community Champion for Resolver Systems

Working as part of a small team of programmers, creating a spreadsheet development environment (a programmable spreadsheet) aimed at the financial services industry.
This was programmed almost entirely in IronPython (for the Microsoft .NET platform) with some C#. It used Windows forms for the presentation layer. The whole team has played a part in the architecture decisions and constant refactoring to maintain code quality and readability.
Because of my contacts with the Python and open source community, I was also the team 'Community Champion' (Technology evangelist).
We used agile development techniques like pair programming, test driven development (both unit tests and functional tests), continuous integration and iterative development.
This has involved some work directly with the Win32 API, primarily for automation in the functional test suite but also for remoting and a few other areas.


1995-2006

Sales Manager for TBS Ltd, an independent builders merchant

Managing the sales team at the Daventry depot of TBS, including:
  • Day-to-day management
  • Sales reporting
  • Appraisal, training and personal development of staff
  • Management of performance
  • Ensuring excellent customer service from all team members
  • Working with customers on project requirements including:
  • Initial contacting phase
  • Specification and product requirements
  • Quoting and Price negotiation
  • Project management of orders including post delivery follow up
  • Negotiating with customers and suppliers
  • Monitoring the stock profile
  • Researching and advising on new products
  • Responsible for winning new business and new customers
  • Resolving problems and disputes including customer service

Education

First year of a law degree at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge UK completed.
A-Level Maths, Physics and English all at Grade A.
GCSE Maths, Physics, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, Economics, History, Technology all at Grade A.


References available on request.