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Showing posts from 2018

Love Hurts

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Whilst there's truth in it I slightly disagree with the quote attributed to Liam Neeson in the image above.

Love opens you up, it opens you up to yourself and to other people. If you love someone you start to feel their pain, that's empathy. Everyone hurts. You can't love someone without feeling pain. And it opens you up to yourself. If you've been numb, dulled yourself to your own pain, then love will hurt. The difference is that it's a good hurt, it's the hurt that brings healing. Love allows you to accept and to let go of your pain. So love definitely hurts, because life hurts. It's just that there's beauty in it too and the beauty does actually make it worth the pain.

A deeper secret. The healing comes not from being loved but from giving love. Often of course it's only through being loved that we're really able to feel love. Because love itself is so beautiful we can't help loving it. We respond with love and that's how we find our…

Two Tales of the Ancestors: Boudica, the Glorious and Tragic Warrior Queen of the Britons

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This is a tale of the ancestors, or at least it's my version of a tale of my ancestors. It has some truth in it of a literal kind and truth of other sorts too. It's my version of a tale told to me by Natasha Harlow, so the good parts are hers and the misunderstandings are mine. Hopefully she'll correct the more egregious of them.
It's a tale of legends and lies, of glory and tragedy. It's a tale of Europeans of old. It's two tales wrapped into one, or at least two versions of one tale. The tale is the legend of Boudica and the Roman occupation of England and Wales. Towards the end of the Bronze age, around 2450 BCE is the current best guess (the bronze age is charted as ending around 800 BCE) a people walked across Europe and then made their way into England. It seems like they entered mostly unoccupied land. The archaeological record tells a tale of a mass depopulation event, with about 90% of the population disappearing, but with no evidence of large scale ba…

Leaving the Past Behind: Christian No Longer

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For a couple of years I identified as a progressive Christian. Progressive Christianity is a broad church, with as many meanings as adherents, but for me the essence was the understanding of the teachings of The Christ (particularly as explained by John) that God is love. And all the rest is window dressing. The Bible is a library of books written by fallible humans over thousands of years. It is full of beauty, horror, contradictions and myths showing part of the unfolding of the relationship between humanity and the divine over the span of its authorship.

Unfortunately the term Christian comes with a lot of baggage, both my own and other peoples'. To most people to tell them that you're a Christian is to tell them that you ascribe to particular patterns of behaviour and beliefs, some of them ridiculous and some of them awful. I no longer want to be associated in any way with the horror perpetrated in the name of Christianity.

The bottom line is that everyone who identifies …

Chasing the Dragon

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Heroin, like most of the other strong narcotics I've tried, had no effect on me the first time I've tried it. Until my naivety was crushed along with my spirit my only association with heroin was watching the Zammo from Grange Hill (a BBC TV kids program) descend into addiction, eventually caught with smack in his calculator when he wasn't even going to a maths exam! Zammo chased the dragon and got a smack on the nose was the graffiti found in Grange Hill school the next day.

Like Zammo I chased the dragon, and it did nothing the first time. Chasing the dragon is vapourising the heroin by heating it on tin foil and breathing the fumes with a funnel usually also made of foil. The first time was with the friends of a girlfriend in Cambridge. She was a lovely hippy called Sharon, and as far as I know is the only woman to ever flee a city to escape me. She ran away to Manchester. True story. This was all a long time ago.

The second time was with a beggar called Jesse. He had …

A Collection of Short Poems: Here I Sit, The Cult of None, Just Keeping Quiet, Does Christmas Exist, A Tribute to Linux and more

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A collection of short poems from the last few months.

For more of my poems give these pages a whirl:
The Great I AmFragments of a Once Broken MindA Momentary Lapse of ReasonMy SonTo Those Who WorryAspects of the DivineRage and RoarTangle HeartWords, Fucking WordsMuddy Waters
Didn't There Used to be Magic
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.

A Short Poem by Irina Foord
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
We're weird,
Just like you!

Free to Fly
Free to fly
To soar and roam
For a fire burns for me at home
That I can see as far away
As infinity.
I know my way back
For wherever my mind may go
My heart stays here
With you.

Here I Sit
Here I sit amidst the wreckage of my life.
What pretty ruins I have made.
I always loved a broken down castle,
I just never imagined I'd be one.
All we need now are sound and lights,
And we have a show.

Just Keepi…

Ignorance and Intuition

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Stupidity and ignorance are not the same thing. In fact I reckon they're kind of the opposite of each other.

There is an infinity of things that each of us doesn't know. So just being ignorant, not knowing things, can't possibly be the same as being stupid. No matter how clever you are, no matter how much you know, there's still an infinity of things you don't know. And a lot of what you don't know will seem blindingly obvious to other people, and they might think you're very stupid for not knowing.

What's really stupid is not knowing that you're ignorant. We're all ignorant in so many ways, so I reckon the first step of being clever is acknowledging that. Know, as much as you're able, what you don't know and be willing to learn. And that makes you pretty clever. Being able to learn. If you're able to learn and to change and to grow then you're not stuck.

Being stuck is the worst thing in the world, so don't be stupid. Be ig…

Anti-depressants and SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome

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I was on antidepressants for about six or seven weeks this year. I was on the lowest normal dose, 50mg daily, of Sertraline. It's from a class of antidepressants called SSRIs, Selective Serotonine Reuptake Inhibitors. The most effective one, normally prescribed first in the UK, is called Citalopram. This is the one most of my friends on antidepressants are on. Citalopram has a reputation for being the hardest to come off of the common SSRIs.

SSRIs work by raising the base level of serotonin in the brain, by reducing the ability of the body to re-absorb serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone responsible for love, happiness, and it turns out capacity to actually feel like doing anything.

Antidepressants helped me for a little, but I sort of came off them by accident. A friend of mine suggested that her experience of life was flattened by antidepressants. Another friend described it as "letterboxing the emotions". The low isn't so low, but in compensation the joys and ple…

I'm a Rambling Man

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A couple of tales from my travels. Both from flying back from the US to the UK via a layover in Iceland.

Iceland Air One of the things I like to do on a transatlantic flight is make friends with the flight attendants, in lieu of sleep. They're usually bored and not many people treat them like humans, so it's a good chance to make a friend you'll never see again.

All of the Iceland Air employees, all 4000 of then including 1500 flight attendants, are Icelandic. It's not a requirement, just the way it is. The whole country is only 300 000 people or so, not much more than the population of Northampton depending on how you count. I asked Selma if she was from Rekjyavik, and then suggested it was a dumb question. If you're from Iceland you're probably from Rekjyavik right? I wasn't far off, about two thirds of the country live there.

Her husband is a programmer, and something like half the country's energy output is now being consumed in the mining of bitco…

The Role of Abstractions in Software Engineering

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This is the text of a lightning talk, a five minute presentation, given at PyCon 2018.

This is an abstract talk. There isn’t time to give examples but I hope that the application to the day to day challenges of the practise of software engineering is clear. The only theory worth a damn is the theory of the practise. This is a talk about the role of abstractions in software engineering.

Programming is all about the use of abstractions. We often say that the fundamental language spoken by the machine is ones and zeros. Binary. This isn’t true. Ones and zeroes are an abstract representation of the fundamental operation of computers. It’s a way of representing what central processors do in a way that can be understood by people.

The actual language spoken by computers is the electromagnetic dance across wires and etched silicon, choreographed by the beating of a quartz crystal at the heart of the machine.
Ones and zeroes are a representation of that dance, understandable by humans in ord…

Prunes and Funerals

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I was enjoying a sweet treat of prunes and dried apricots with Delia last night and she remarked that prunes reminded her of funerals. She still likes them though.
Delia grew up in a medium sized town in Romania called Roman, in the North East of Romania in the poorest region of the country called Moldova and bordering the country of Moldova where they also speak Romanian. 
Until Delia's mother fell into a bleak depression lasting several years both of Delia's parents worked. So Delia was a latch-key  kid even from her primary school years. Delia's father worked in the local chocolate factory under the communists. Money was tight for everyone so much of the economy ran on a barter scheme. A visit to the doctor or hospital was free, except if you actually wanted anything doing (like your sheets changing or you wanted feeding during a hospital stay) bribes were required. This minor corruption became so endemic that it's still prevalent. We gave our first ever bribe on a tr…

A Very Short Love Letter to Agile

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I love the word rigour. It conveys either, or both, strict discipline or something that was really hard work.

I've found the rigorous application of theoretical principles a really useful way of learning those principles. Learning what they really mean, and what those principles are good at achieving and what they're not good at achieving.

I've been rigorous in my discipline in meditating. I've meditated for an hour a day, generally six days a week, for a number of years now.

My trade is as a software engineer, a computer programmer. I taught myself to program by becoming really passionate about it. What you love you learn. I learned the art and craft of engineering in my first professional job, at a small startup in London called Resolver Systems.

There, for the four years I worked there, we rigorously applied the principles of Extreme Programming, a strict variant and really the progenitor of the "agile" movement. The goal is engineering processes that mak…

IAO I Adore Thee: The Names of God

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Something of an experiment, a bit of spoken word. Here I read a favourite of my poems, mercifully short, and explain what it means to me. It's on one of the names of God.

IAO I adore thee, magickal thou art.


"Seeing this world as evil and doomed is the substantial part of the gnostic heresy that Paul warned against. It leads to horrors."

My Dragon is Growing

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My dragon is growing. The consciousness of an animal is not fundamentally different from that of a human, we are after all merely a different kind of animal. So it's fun to observe and try to understand the lizard brain.

Sapphira's body and brain are different, with much more behaviour "hard wired" and instinctual rather than learned, but nonetheless her conception of the world and her surroundings exist in her imagination. By watching how she sees her world and interacts with it, by becoming part of her world and interacting with her, I can start to feel how she sees her world. She is a hunter. She kills and eats her prey without compassion or mercy. It is her nature. Nature itself is red in tooth and claw, and just as we do she partakes of that nature.

As I am part of her world, she is also part of mine. I live in her imagination and she in mine. Our worlds intersect. And in my imagination she breathes fire. The part of her that is alive in me is very fierce indee…

Understanding Holy Texts: A Curse, A Dead Lion and War in the Bible

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A Dead Lion
The topic of how to read holy texts, what kind of truth they contain and how to find it, is a difficult one. This is most true of the Bible of course, there is no book more misunderstood nor so misused.

I love that the Bible itself teaches you its nature. The two different creation myths of genesis one and genesis two, written at very different times and in different styles, contradict each other on the order of creation. If you try to read them as historical truth rather than spiritual poetry then they can't both be true. Similarly the two accounts of the death of Judas in the New Testament contradict each other. They can't both be literally true. So the Bible itself teaches that literalism is not where its truth is to be found.

This is the sort of truth I find in the bible. Recounted here without bothering to check any of the details.

I just remembered one of my favourite bible verses. It so applies to the wreckage of my church right now: "Out of the strong…

Authority and Today's Pain

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Authority
I like having authority figures in my life. Not the kind of authority where people decide who is in charge and that they have the right to tell you what to do. That's delegated authority and it generally becomes awful because it's too easy for self interest to take over. I recognise that authority when its wise to do so, but I don't like it.

The authority I like is to find people in my life who know more than me on a topic, and who demonstrate in practise that they do. They're not hard to find, I doubt there's a single topic where I know more than anyone else in the world. There's always someone, somewhere, who knows more. I will then consider them an authority on the topic and be more likely to believe what they say, including within the area of ethics and morality. It's very easy to hurt people and it's very nice to have people in your life, or in a situation, where you feel you can trust their advice. It can help you avoid hurting people u…

The Great I Am

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A short poem, "The great I Am" on the rhythm of love. The last line is from a song played whilst I was on a meditation retreat last weekend.


The great I Am

Your love is real. Your love is you.

Everything you are is expressed in everything you do.

As we love one another we are alive within each other, members one of another. If I love you then you live in me, part of your life is in me and part of my life is in you.

And as you go and love, your love is in and moving and active in everyone you know and touch.

And we were formed, both genetically and psychologically, from all that came before. Who we are is formed from all those around us who have loved us, and they in turn were formed from those who loved them. As we love, the love we were given is passed on and grows and changes as we and everything else grow and change.

So love lives on.

The stars whisper, you never die.


"I dream of the armies of heaven. I know of no dream more fun."

Marriage

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My wife has many qualities. One of the best is that she is a completely safe person to like. If you really see her, her personality and nature, it's really easy to see that it's completely safe to be friends with Delia and that she'll be a true friend where she can and do you no harm. Over the years and across the world in our adventures together I've met many of her friends that she's collected through the decades. They include some of the most extraordinary and impressive people I know. It seems that for them, at what was often a hard time in their life, they found someone they knew would be a friend. When I've been with them it's clear how much they love Delia and how much she's meant to them. That's such a precious thing, it makes Delia very beautiful. That's a quality of love I value very highly and will try to be true to as much as I'm able.

A big part of Delia's secret, as with many of the most beautiful people I know, is that sh…

Leaving the Jesus Fellowship Church

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I was part of the Jesus Fellowship for more than twenty years. I arrived as a broken man on the tale end of more than a year of homelessness and psychosis. Being at New Creation Farm and part of the Jesus Fellowship saved my life.

Part of the message of the church was love, commitment, the kingdom of heaven and sharing lives and possessions. Those values resonated in me as the things that I valued most in life and how I wanted to be.

Over those twenty years I've been on my own journey, as everyone is. I've arrived in a very different place, with very different beliefs (although many fundamentally the same depending on how you express it) than the beliefs I took on.

I've struggled with my involvement in the church for a long time. In practise a lot of it seemed so unloving and judgemental. The decision was finally made for me a few weeks ago when a preacher at the Jesus Centre on a Sunday morning stood up and preached a message saying that the root of depression was self p…

Fundamentally Speaking

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I've been thinking a bit about fundamentalist Islam, coming from the context of having grown up within a culture part of which identified as fundamentalist Christian. This had both good and bad meanings. Being totally sold out to what you believe in is not itself a problem.

It strikes me that fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, certainly in the bad elements, are basically the same religion just with some of the names and details swapped around a bit. The same conviction that they are right and others are wrong, and that because you're right anything you do in the pursuit  of that right must be right.

These religions, like any belief system, are a world view as well as a set of beliefs. Mostly people think they're good and not evil (except in their darkest imaginings of course, which we all have). So we rationalise our behaviour by forming a worldview in which our actions are good and right. Or, the way we see the world makes it seem like we're making…

My Second Best Story from 2017, and other tales

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My Second Best Story from 2017 One of the things I learned from my failed experiments in adulting at university was the value of story telling. I don't mean in any mythological sense, nor folklore nor even small tribe oral tradition (those stories your mates tell which you've heard a hundred times but are still worth listening to). All of which I value. I just mean how much fun it is to have an appropriate story for a situation when you're with people. I learned from the best, a good friend who always had a good story to hand. I was inevitably torn between enjoying the story and being jealous of how much more fun it must be to be the one telling the story.

Better even than good story telling is story making. If you want to have good tales to tell you'll have to go out and make some stories. That's my one great consolation when really bad things happen, at least I'll probably get a story out of it. I think my best story of 2017, although there are a bunch to ch…