Some readers may recall that way back in Uzbekistan, the un-thinkable happened. I was using a small portable hard drive to back up all my photos and videos, and on the very day that I decided I would back the drive up (all 20GB of it), it stopped working (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=199). I thought all was lost, until the other day, my brother Chris calmly and confidently ripped the hard drive to bits, exchanged the small 1.8 inch hard drive from my portable unit with the 1.8 inch hard drive in his Ipod, and promptly proceeded to download all those lost-forever photos and videos onto my computer.
So here is a wee taster for what is to come. When I get the inspiration and time, I’ll put a couple of full edits together. Most of the footage is not particularly good (I have come a long way in video skills), but should make for some interesting videos.
Youtube version here: http://nz.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoWvGvHHAb0
An interesting talk by best selling author Rick Warren (click the link and a new window will display the video). Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life was a massive best seller.
“Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, reflects on his own crisis of purpose in the wake of his book’s wild success. He explains his belief that God’s intention is for each of us to use our talents and influence to do good.”
From the TED website (lots of interesting talks on there).
Who’d have thought that a blog about a cycle journey from Japan to England would end up saturated with a fella’s musings about his struggle with God.
If you came for the cycling and deserts and frozen beards, and are getting annoyed with my inward searching at present, I apologise. But it’s all part of the journey baby, and that was my intention from the start…to record and share my journey.
So, some revelations of sorts today…
I came to some of these revelations while I scrubbed shower stalls and toilets at work at Dreamland Hostel, and some while I walked in the hills with a gun-toting hare-shooting Kim Peters (Pastor at Lincoln Baptist Church).
God is a fair and just God. If someone chooses to live a life that works towards the truth (truth meaning all those good things; honesty, integrity, humbleness, generosity etc etc…), that strives for the truth, then surely God will not reject them, even if they haven’t ‘prayed that special prayer’ that you have to pray to “become a Christian”.
The idea that one must ‘accept Jesus into their heart’ via a predetermined reciting of a particular line of words in order to be saved from damnation (either in the ‘you go to hell after you die’ sense or ‘your life and relationships on earth are bad and will be crap forever until you die’ sense) is absurd. Absolutely absurd.
So does this mean that some good people (who aren’t ‘followers of Jesus’ in the ‘I am a Christian and go to church and have prayed the ‘salvation’ prayer’ sense) may go to heaven after all?
I remember clearly a Christian tract that went around when I was part of a Christian group on campus when I was at Uni. It clearly stated ‘Why Some Good People Won’t Go To Heaven’. The basic gist of it was that you either ‘accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour’ or you will go to hell. To accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, just pray this prayer. Right now, here in your heart….
In other words, if you pray the prayer, you’re part of the club. You’re in. Skip past jail and go straight to Go. You’re on the inside now, and all those other poor people that are on the outside…well…our heart grieves and we’ll pray for them to see the errors of their ways.
If this is the God I have to believe in in order to be a Christian, then count me out. It just doesn’t make sense.
But, what also doesn’t make sense is the idea that perhaps us humans, through eventual collective awakening, will one day reach a point where there is peace on earth and everything is ‘restored’ to the original design (relationally, environmentally). I just don’t think it is possible for us humans to get to a point where every single one of us is practicing pure self-sacrificial love for one another and the earth. We could conceivably get to a point where most people are awake to the fact that there is more to life than what we see in the mass media. Where we awake to the fact that fear is a tool used to manipulate us by the powers that be. Where we awake to the fact that the Afghani taxi driver murdered in Christchurch the other day is just as much human as the guy that killed him. We could conceivably get to a point where most people on earth realise this.
But we’d never get to a point where everyone reaslied that. It’s just not possible. Why? Because we have the power to choose between things that aid others and ourselves to become the best version of them/our-selves they can be, and things that do the opposite. And so often, choosing things that do not aid others and ourselves to become the best versions of our/them-selves possible, is the path of least resistance (in the moment).
There will always be some element of ‘missing the point of life’.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that this where Jesus, God, and that Holy Spirit thingee comes in.
There are dots out there, and they are slowly being connected.
I have a sneaking suspicion also that the dots can and will be connected by way of what is written in the Bible. There is way too much good stuff in the Bible for it not to all make sense in it’s entirety.
I am also open to the idea that I may be wrong. That perhaps after all my searching I will come to the conclusion that actually, the Bible is indeed just another way. A way. Rather than The Way.
Either way, things are looking up.
In other news I did an Enneagram Personality evening last night with my Mum and Nana. Nana is a bit of a legend with this Enneagram Personality thing. Baiscally it allocates a personality type to a person based on statements that you either agree with or disagree with. The results were incredible. I ended up a Type 3 and it describes me to a T!
Type 3 Description (from Wikipedia)
The Three’s attention goes to setting goals and hitting their targets, to success and creating the “right” image in the eyes of others, and to doing rather than being. Type Three is the prototype of being identified with a persona. Thus, they often mistakenly believe that they are their façade. Although all the types do this to some degree, Type Three’s character is formed around this mistaken identification with a desired image. The defensive coping strategy driving the Three is based on an early experience of being valued for what they did, not who they were. They perform and achieve in order to earn the approval and respect of others. Being preoccupied with doing, Threes can often be unaware of the fact that they numb themselves to their own emotions, because feelings can get in the way of doing and achieving. Strengths: Threes can be industrious, energetic, and attractive. Challenges: They can be workaholics, unaware of their real feelings, and unable to slow down and simply be. Major traits include an excessive focus on work and tasks, concern with image and the approval of others, and a competitive striving for status and recognition.
Another really short version:
TYPE 3 PERSONALITY
Outer Image: Competent, accomplished, sure
Inner Feelings: Frightened, have feelings of inadequacy
This describes me so well it’s funny. Indeed I did laugh. Out loud.
How many times have I tried so hard to go along with other’s wishes and requests and ideas in an attempt to be a certain person for them. And then of course burning myself out because I realise that that’s not actually the way I want to go, or am unsure whether that’s the way I really want to go.
How often I have felt totally inadequate beside people that I am closest to.
This also explains my amazement at how easily I detatch from people. Completely detatch, that is. No emails, no phone calls. I spoke to my parents on the phone maybe twice or three times during the entire 2.5 years I was on my journey. I was singulary focussed on the task at hand. And how this tendancy is disturbing when contemplating close relationships, especially girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. I have in the past totally freaked out at the idea of becoming emotionally involved with a woman. “What if I get an urge to focus on something else? What if I end up hurting her because I am suddenly all focussed on the next adventure or job or task? How can I support a relationship and study/work/play at the same time?! Whatever I am focussed on is what consumes me!” These are real fears that I had\have when contemplating an emotional attachment, or the pervieved emotional attachment of someone to me.
This also explains my utter and complete inability to just do nothing for a week after my arrival back to my parent’s home in Christchurch. The very next day I was at it…searching for something to focus on next. I haven’t taken a complete day off since I arrived home. Madness.
This is all stuff that I realised about myself about 6 years ago. I was at the end of my third year at university when I got depressed. Like, I am lying in bed in the morning physically paralysed by fear, indecision, and anxiety. I break out in tears with no apparent reason. I was on anti-depressants for 6 months. I called them Barney pills. Barney is a large, extremely happy dinosaur that sings silly songs and makes children laugh. Barney is purple. My Barney pills were purple. You get the idea.
During that time, I went to counselling. It was a huge wake-up call. I discovered more or less the stuff that is written above in the Type Three description.
So, where do I go from here? It appears that while I did learn something from my previous bout in the ring with depression, I still haven’t conquered some unhelpful parts of my personality.
I have another Enneagram appointment with Nana some time next week to see if I can sus some strategies out.
Before I unload some brain-baggage here, I’ll post some fun pictures.
It was a fun weekend just been. I got to visit my Cousin Rach and Sam and flatting atmosphere in Dunedin on the way down to Invercargill for the Thomson Christmas Party. It was a long two days with a total of about 14 hours driving. But I did enjoy it. Having yarns with Mum in the car, skateboarding up Baldwin Street, and catching up with relatives in Invercargill that I hadn’t seen in over 7 years.
It was tiring weekend too. That’s where the next bit of this post comes in. At the least I hope this serves to assure people that even world record breakers still have issues that they are working through…
So this is excerpts of an email I sent to a friend lately…it gives a general idea of where I am at with the identity of myself in relation to my spirituality.
All part of my re-entry into my home culture. It aint no walk in the park.
….I cannot see a better way of living than that that Jesus represented. Casting off the old self…all that carry on. By nature there is a dysfunction in the human condition. We miss the point of living…we live blindly and unhelpfully and unlovingly (Page 9 – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle)…and that causes suffering. The way of Jesus is such a clear-cut way to transcend so much suffering while we are on this earth. It is a way to bring heaven to earth, rather than hell to earth. Jesus, at the core of his message, is love.
So this is an awesome message for the here and now. It is freeing, and allows people to realise their God-given potential and empowers them to grow into who they were created to be; powerful and effective beings. The love ethic of Jesus is ultimately transferable to all areas of human existence; stewardship of the earth, social justice, interpersonal relationships, inter-cultural understanding…
So….this is an awesome has-no-borders message for people of all cultures. And it certainly does not require forcefully imposing a certain form of social ‘ways’ upon a culture such as Christmas trees, baseball caps, synthetic medicines, blah blah blah…
Purely from this perspective, I would love to be involved with missions, spreading the love ethic of Jesus.
And here it comes…
There is that little niggling issue of the after-life. Some humans require some assurance that this is not all there is. Something that has been growing in my mind is “why even bother about the concept of the afterlife. Why even bother about concerning ourselves about what we need to do or not do in order to be saved from death after death. Let’s just concentrate on the here and now, and what we can do to avoid ‘death’ (relationally, environmentally etc) now”.
Then this of course doesn’t account for the fact that us humans are incapable of true, pure, truly unconditional love. We will always do things that hurt ourselves or others or the environment. When the power of love overcomes the love of power, only then will the earth know peace is a bit of a favourite saying of mine. But rationally, us humans could never get to the point of total pure self-sacrificial love for each other. Even if every person on earth managed to discover within themselves their potential for love and was able to live it out the best they could, there would always be some un-lovingness. So even in this utopian ideal, there would be some un-love. Some selfishness. Some missing the mark of the ideal.
So that’s where Jesus comes in, I guess? Dies on the cross, rises from the dead (as a physical risen-from-the-dead human body made from matter and atoms and cells and can eat fish and people can poke their fingers in his nail-hioles and floats into the sky and goes…..um……up…..um……into outerspace…..um…..a human body….floats…..into space…where does the matter go…the human body of Jesus….into outer space? What the hang was that all about?!) and covers the bits that we humans could never achieve on our own…
As you can tell, I am thinking out loud.
And far too much thought, and far too little actually reading the b i b l e.
But that still doesn’t answer my issue with not everyone on this earth having the opportunity to hear the un-biased, un-tainted-with-church-doctrine-and-tradition message of Jesus. I mean, forget about ‘the four corners of the earth’…how many people have walked away from the church discouraged and hurt and confused because the image of God that they were given was not an accurate balanced one? Due to the mistake of the church they are doomed?
This journey I am on, by the way, is something that I am very thankful for. I saw sooooo many cultural/religious/nationalist/faithist/patriotists on my travels where all that stuff was merged into one. I am therefore I am . I am determined not to be that way. I am determined to know what the ramifications of what I claim to be are.
Right now nothing resonates with me. The last two opportunities I have had to take communion, I have decided not to, because I am just not feeling anything. I don’t want to do it just because ‘that’s what Christians do’ or because it is a meaningless ritual. Yes Jesus’ love ethic is incredible. But the concept that Jesus died for our sins…all have fallen short of the glory of God….why are these concepts not resonating in my heart any more? In the past, was I just fuelled by emotion? Fuelled by a ‘religious’ fervor?
Songs that I once sung with passion are feeling uncomfortable and hollow. Lyrics are just words, rather than meaning.
How do I get a heart-head connection going here?
When all the nice feelings of singing and community of like-minded people are absent for a period of time, I have found that I start to see the inconsistencies and irrationalities that I never had the drive to question. Because hey…if I’m in a nice Christian church bubble, I only get grazed here and there by people who point out the bits that don’t make sense. And then I can climb back in the bubble and feel safe and comfortable and not have to think that perhaps, just perhaps, this church entity is actually trapping people, not setting them free.
But then I see that I do not ‘go to church’…I am the church. Me with my questions and confusion and my rational conviction that Jesus’ way is an awesome way to live and does actually allow people to become the best version of themselves that they can be on this earth.
But I don’t fully believe right now. To fully believe is to accept that all that Jesus said is true. That it is in fact the absolute truth, and all other truths (religions, ways to ‘God’) are but relative to Jesus’s truth. That they may contain bits of the truth, but only Jesus’s truth is the complete truth. Essentially that is what it is to be a Christ follower. Yes?
With baby steps I am getting closer to understanding how the whole ‘let’s publish a book!’ idea works.
As an introduction, I am planning to publish a book about my travels. Much of what the book will be made up of can more or less be found on my blog. But what I am really looking forward to doing, is infusing the tale with some more personal stuff that I didn’t feel like posting at the time, adding some stories that never got onto the website for legal and/or potential risk of deportation reasons, and fleshing out the experience much more (I was often way too tired to fully describe what I was seeing and feeling).
I did a radio interview with Radio New Zealand a few weeks ago, and the hosts asked listeners to email in possible titles for the book. There was one that I liked a lot.
So thanks to Rebecca Hay from Warkworth for that suggestion. It fits the nature of my journey and emotional/fatigue state during the trip very nicely, so we’ll go with that as a tentative title.
Basically I have a first draft written of the book written. Or at least 90% of a first draft written. That is of course in the form of over 850 blog posts. The challenge now is to extract all the text from the blog and print it out and start sifting through it all.
The plan from there is to possibly enrol in a creative writing course of some description. I have emailed a number of potential institutions about the project, and I’ve received many enthusiastic responses. I would have to pay a course fee, but the plus is that I would actually get to learn some writing skills and knowledge about the process of publication and stuff. And I would be eligible to receive the Student Allowance. The Student Allowance is money that the New Zealand government gives to students with no repayment obligations. There are of course rules governing this Student Allowance, but as far as I can see, I would be elligble for around NZ$200 a week. This would be much preferable to having to work and write at the same time or some such nonsense.
Many of the creative writing courses allow students to work towards second and third drafts of a complete manuscript, and to polish it for submission to a publisher at the end of the course. I have narrowed it down to one particular course…the name of the institution I forget…I emailed so many…but I did speak to the director on the phone, and they are keen to have me on board. I am expecting an email from them in the next few days. I am looking forward to the email. When I get the email, I will then be able to work out who the hang I was talking to.
I blame it on the general chaos of life.
A big thank you by the way to everyone who sent me encouraging comments and emails regarding my last post. All very good stuff.
In other news I have finally got everything together to send to Guinness World Records (GWR) to make my claim. I claim to have extended the world record for the longest journey by skateboard to 12,159km. So that will be sent off to London tomorrow. All I can do now is hope they believe all my evidence!
I have uploaded the GWR Record Report here (http://www.mediafire.com/?yzyvdnetykt). I apologise for all the advertising…I guess that’s what you get for free file uploads.
A big thanks to my Mum and to Heather for proof-reading the report and making suggestions.
I’ll try not to cry as I write this post…
I feel no small amount of loss at this present time. I feel grief over what I have lost, and what I am losing. I also feel an excitement of what might be, but a loss because I know I don’t have the energy to pursue it.
I am in grief. And it hurts.
Let me expand…
Is this way of life that I have been brought up on really the best way to live? These values that I have held so dear…what are they based on? Are they rooted in love, or are they constructs of a fearful group of people? You see, throughout university and for a considerable time while I was in Japan, I actively sought to learn all I could about the Christian faith. To live it out. To make it the basis of how I act and make decisions. I still believe that there is such immense amounts of truth in the bible, but what about those niggling little issues that just don’t make sense? And if I was to throw it all away, what is the alternative?
This was a quote I read in today’s newspaper about a stabbing of Abdulrahman Ikhtiari, an Afgani taxi driver in Christchurch. Obviously there would have been much more to the story, but this hurts because I have seen the humanity of this globe we inhabit. It makes me want to scream out loud.
But then I am not who I was, either. Indeed I am who I am. This journey has changed me in ways I am sure I still have not discovered.
And it is all so hard not to rush. So hard not to rush. In typical 21st century Net Generation fashion, I want the answers and solutions now. For three years I worked in a Japanese environment where people did not have morning or afternoon breaks at work. I am accustomed to being on the go. Moving. Forward. Progressing at a tangible, measureable rate. And I feel as though they expect it. Whoever they are.
I do not, by the way, want anyone to become overly concerned with my head space right now. Among other things, I am sure I am experiencing a fairly large dose of Re-Entry Shock or Reverse Culture Shock (one resource of many: http://www.northeastern.edu/oisp/step3/reentry_shock/). There is a process to it all, you see. And I can see that. The process. And the more I can get out of this awesomely valuable time of screwed-up-ness the better. That’s why I’m being as honest as I can on my blog. And considering counselling. Nothing like a good tearing up of one’s mind to sort some stuff out.
In other news, on a whim I found myself back in Blenheim this last weekend. Visiting her. Appreciating now her valiant and courageous understanding of my current head space. It was a great weekend. An escape. An escape that ultimately served to bring reality closer.
Well I got to the end of the post without crying. Feeling knackered though…
Did you know that www (the bit that comes before the internet sites eg 14degrees.org) actually stands for World Wide Waste of Time?
Well sometimes you see something that does have the potential to change you life. How to build an igloo is one such example. Video below originally seen linked to from Ben Saunders’ excellent polar adventure blog.
It has been one week since I arrived at my parent’s home in Christchurch. A week since my journey came to a screeching halt.
It feels like a month.
When I boil it all down, the thing that is keeping my mind and fingers busy over the last week is figuring out how to start getting some pennies coming in. I have finished this journey with a modest amount of credit card debt; NZ$1,000. My outstanding student loan of NZ$10,000 is something I’m not even thinking about at this stage. I have zero savings left. Absolutely nothing.
So, on the go this week has been polishing and honing a sleek inspirational presentation about my journey that I hope to market to groups and corporate interests. I really have no idea about the demand for speakers in New Zealand, and how I would go about contacting potential audiences I also have no idea. Perhaps I need a speaking agent? Or perhaps I would have more luck in North America where the demand for that kind of thing is through the roof? I dunno…
I have also arranged to start some casual part time work at a local backpacker hostel where I worked about 6 years ago. About 15 hours a week to tide me over until Christmas.
All of this I see as a temporary measure while I also put together a synopsis and first few chapters of the book, tentatively titled “Boarderline”. All going well, I hope to have a publisher on board by February, and a completed manuscript ready for editing by May. This would realistically mean that the book would not be on shelves until the end of 2009.
I have been thinking hard about what the plot to my story for the last few years would be. When I look back over my journey, it’s almost a lack of plot that is what makes it so much fun (and at times excrutiating). Numerous unimaginable plot twists and changes of plans is what I know kept me interested in what I was doing. I never set out from the beginning to accomplish what I ended up accomplishing.
It has not been all work and no fun however, and I have enjoyed catching up with friends here and there.
Christmas in the Park with Andrew and Jenna, sushi and drinks with Kevin and co.
I am having some issues of late with blog posts disappearing. So this is a test to see if this one is swallowed up by the cyberspace gremlins too or not.
Perhaps I should include a picture of sushi to see if that would flush them out…
Can blog-post gobbling gremlins even use chopsticks? ‘Tis a mystery…