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What I’m Into
2�� 27th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories
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I made the comment in a previous post that ‘I cannot for absolute certainty say that God has answered my prayers’. While this statement in and of itself is true, I will add the following.

While I cannot be absolutely sure that God has answered any particular prayer, I do choose to believe that God does answer prayer. I choose to believe this because I have an inexplicable sense that there is some kind of higher power not only directing my life, but also listening to my prayers and acting in response to those prayers. This doesn’t mean that God gives me everything I ask for, that in His infinite wisdom He doesn’t choose to withhold some things in favour of something more beneficial.

I am sure that many incidences of a sense of prayer being answered could be explained away as mere coincidence. That prayers pertaining to guidance and clarity are simply wasted words, considering that with time clarity will come to most situations. But there is something inexplicable at work. I choose to believe that this something is in fact the biblical reality of a living God.

Whatever promotes love, community, tolerance, peace, unity, fair and just judgement, understanding; all those things that create and maintain harmony on earth, this is what I want to be focusing my energies on. So far in my life – and admittedly I’ve only been on this planet for a short 28 years – the central message of the Christian Bible just seems to be the most solid solution for achieving all those things.

Recently I met a man by the name of Michael Rich, who in his twenties (1975-ish) travelled in South America for a number of months. He shared with me an essay he had written about his experiences and his thoughts on life during his travels…

“(At the Nicaraguan border) I was warned not to go into the hill country (of Colombia). The area is reputed to have the best dope in the world…Santa Maria gold. Yet even here is a paradox. People trapped in poverty grow dope to eek out a living and then sell to sleek, fat cats who live on the cream. Seems that we know how we ought to behave yet our actions don’t measure up.”

“We seem to be subject to a moral law we didn’t invent, which doesn’t go away, and which I feel I ought to obey. In other words, some force wants me to behave in a certain way. Somehow I feel I, too, have broken the moral law and put myself wrong with the force that controls the universe.”

As way of background, Michael was about 24 years old at the time of writing this text, and admits that despite an upbringing in a Christian church he did not understand much of what the Christian life was actually about.

The reason I mention this is because this reflects closely the journey I have been on for the last few years. Over time I have come to realize that despite my upbringing in a supportive Christian environment, I absorbed ideas that in fact did not reflect the central message of the Bible. My ideas about the world revolved around me trying to be as good as possible and obeying rules. This worldview led to me actually being quite narrow-minded and judgemental.

Michael goes on to say:

“(I) have been wondering if the Christian answer to life is true. Education and science only go so far.”

Once again this is a reflection of my own ponderings of the workings of the world we live in. Philosophy and worldviews abound here on earth, and they all offer different suggestions as to the solution to how to solve the dilemma of us humans breaking this “moral law we didn’t intent, which doesn’t go away…which I feel I ought to obey” and I would add, “the breaking of which seems to be the source of all suffering and unrest and pain in our lives.”

Michael continues:

“History books are blotted by man-made misery, exploitation, war and terror. The sins have not improved to what they were yesterday. This implies that sin is part of raw human nature. We revolve around ourselves, rather than God. It’s like trying to run a car on water when it is made for petrol. What a mess we’re in. The Christian remedy involves repentance: humbly admitting that one is a natural sinner. It involves belief: that God sent His own Son, who is both God and man, into the world to shoulder our sins. At the cross God poured the sins of mankind into the sinless Christ. He then endured spiritual, physical, and mental hell before dying. Because of His death and resurrection our sins are paid for. We now have the opportunity to be born spiritually alive on this earth. It involves asking: asking Christ to come into the centre of our life in place of our ego. The practical implications of this last step will be costly and hard in terms of earthly standards.”

Wow. Just wow. “Asking a living God to come into the center of our lives in place of our ego”. A God that embodies all those things that I listed earlier (all that creates harmony on earth) and more. This is an awesome concept. Is it just a concept? Or is it real? Seeing the incredible changes that living out this concept has on people, I cannot help but have a sense that it is real. And the changes that I see all point towards those things I listed earlier that create harmony on earth.

At my stage of understanding and where I am at right now, I see this as an immediate ‘right now’ solution to the mess that humanity is (we are) in. And I say ‘right now’, because I feel that so often there is an over-emphasis of the afterlife in the Western Christian worldview that promotes an unhealthy over-focus on the future, and draws our attention away from the immediate hurt in humanity that requires immediate attention.

In his musings in his essay, Michael is now coming to clearer understanding of what the Christian faith is about at its core, stripped away from the cultural and human baggage that hangs off the term “Christian”; a result of many years of the seemingly faultless message of Jesus being dragged through the mud of humans’ lust for power.

Michael comments:

“There are many things about the Christian life which I don’t understand. At this stage it is not important to do so as Christianity is a live faith. If all things were coldly and logically thought out beforehand, one would be committed to a dead faith.”

This also reflects my own journey. There is much that I don’t understand. For example, recently, I have been working my way through a ‘bible in a year’ thing where I aim to read through the entire Bible in 6 months. I’m up to Leviticus in the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament of the bible, certainly at first glance, does seem to fit horrifically well into Richard Dawkins’ description of him;

“The god of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it. A petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, philocidal, pestilential, megamoliniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (as read by Dawkins in an interview in film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed).

What is the big picture of the Old Testament? How can God allow the killing of so many people in His quest to fulfill promises to just one nation out of many on the earth at the time of the Old Testament? Am I even allowed to ask this, considering that I am taught that “God’s ways are not our ways”?

To not ask questions, to just blindly believe whatever supports my worldview, is no longer my style.

All I can hold onto, while I seek answers to my questions, is that the central gospel message of Christ just seems to makes sense.

Like a friend once said to me, “It’s no use throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

Thoughts welcome.

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Filtering and Worldviews
2�� 14th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories
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So this afternoon, I was surfing this grand World-Wide-Waste of time that is the internet, and somehow came across John Cleese’s blog. Like, really, the man himself has a blog. I thought all my Christmases had come at once, and was instantly setting myself up for a great afternoon of relaxing at home with John.

After watching this video of him showing a guest around his cottage, I moved on to some of his podcasts. Here’s just one to whet your appetite: http://pcnworld.net/jc/john_cleese_podcast_32.mp4.

I liked the three or so comedy podcasts so much, that I decided that I would fork out the horrendous sum of US$1 to download his recent Headcast. It was not at all what I had been expecting, but it was thoroughly interesting. So much so that I think it really is worth the download. And interesting enough to make a few notes on.

Cleese starts by giving an example of “a scene where Gallileo was standing there with members of the church and Gallileo was saying ‘Please look into my telescope and you will see the craters on the moon.’ And the church guys were saying ‘Well we don’t need to look into your telescope, because we know there are no craters on the moon.’ And he said ‘Yeah but if you will just look, you’ll see them,’ and they said ‘Well we don’t need to look because we know that they’re not there.’”

Cleese goes on to begin his discourse on filtering and evaluating evidence, motivated, as he says, by the fact that it wasn’t actually members of the church that said these things to Gallileo, it was “academics, sort of scholastic philosophers”.

Cleese at 9:02 – The old idea of people ignoring evidence, which is we know everybody does it – that we do it ourselves – we kind of think that scientists are these very rational people who, um, examine, ah, evidence, and, and, explore hypothesis and theories in a very sort of calm, unattached, distant way. No emotion involved, you know, just intellect. And that of course is nonsense. Because even scientists are deeply emotionally attached to the paradigms that they happen to believe in.

Cleese then gives an example of a friend Stan Groff, who had a conversation with cosmotologist Carl Sagen about cardio-surgen Michael Sabom’s research and book about studies into near-death experiences of his patients. Groff tells Sagen about a particular incident of one of Sabom’s patients’ near death experience where the patient was able to recount in intricate detail the entire surgery procedure while he was incapacitated and unconscious during the operation.

Cleese explains that Groff asked Sagen how he would explain this phenomenon based on his materialistic world view. That is, how can he explain the research and studies outlined in cardio-surgeon Sabom’s book.

At 11:45 of the Headcast, Cleese continues to read from Groff’s text about his conversation with Sagen.

After a long pause Sagen said assertively ‘This, of course, did not happen…there are many cardio-surgeons in the world, no one would have known this guy so he made up a wild story to attract attention to himself. It’s a PR trick.’ (Groff laments that) Carl’s last words seriously undermined the respect I had for him and I realised that his worldview was not scientific, but scientistic. It had the form of an unshatterable dogma that was impervious to evidence.

Cleese at 12:50 – To what extent do we all do that? I think we do it a lot. I think we basically build up our beliefs without really examining them, when they are really quite young. We kind of think that we’re…Conservatives or Socialists…we’re Republicans or we’re Democrats. Or we decide we believe in God or we don’t believe in God. And then for the rest of our lives, we tend to filter all the information that’s coming back to us, all the feedback, so that we only take in the bits that confirm this view that we already have, and we carefully get rid of all the bits that contradict the view that we already have.

Cleese goes on further for the remainder of the Headcast speaking about his views on the filtering of information by our education, media, and society. He gives examples of battles in wartime that school children are taught in differing countries (only the victorious battles for each respective country are taught in each respective country), he talks about the Opium wars in China, and also talks at length about Dick Chaney and Iraq, and how he actually seem to believe in the worldview they propose.

He also speaks about “the biggest oxymoron of our time; Fox News.”

This great podcast made me think about a conversation I had far too late last night with a man I only just met the other day, about evolution. He mentioned something that I had never heard before, the gist of which was that one of the major reasons that evolution does not hold up as a strong concept of how the world came about, at least from a biological perspective, is because there has never yet been any confirmed case of a genetic mutation creating new genetic information, which, as I understand from talking to my friend, is what must be assumed should we consider that life forms changed over the years into new, vastly different life-forms.

Now I am not even remotely capable or knowledgable enough to be able to hold my own in a discussion about the evidence for and against evolution. The reason I bring it up however, is because The John Cleese Headcast made me consider the following…

What’s the most well-known alternative to evolution (as believed by many)? God made it. Now, this idea is not acceptable to those who have a worldview of ‘matter is all there is’ in the universe. For one holding to that worldview, that explanation is too simplistic.

If we are to bring me, Rob Thomson, into the conversation at this point, I have to admit that I want to believe that evolution is not the answer, because it gives more credence to my prefered worldview of a creator creating all there is. And how much of my wanting to believe something is actually holding me back from critically and open-mindedly evaluating evidence for and against so many of the issues that we face everyday as humans (not just existential questions like the origin of species). And since my identity is part-and-parcel with my worldview, I have often in the past, and still do, do exactly what John Cleese alluded to in his Headcast:

I think we basically build up our beliefs without really examining them, when they are really quite young. We kind of think that we’re…Conservatives or Socialists…we’re Republicans or we’re Democrats. Or we decide we believe in God or we don’t believe in God. And then for the rest of our lives, we tend to filter all the information that’s coming back to us, all the feedback, so that we only take in the bits that confirm this view that we already have, and we carefully get rid of all the bits that contradict the view that we already have.

So what do I do?

I think the answer is that I have to think for myself.

I have to accept what my experience (especially the last two years of travelling) is telling me about the world. That is, that my upbringing, my culture, my way of life, my worldview, is not universal.

And at the very least, I have to be sensitive to that fact that I am not the center of the universe.

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Religion
2�� 13th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Random
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This post is probably going to be heavy going for many readers. Not quite the ‘check out this awesome high pass that I just cycled across’ post that is so easy to skim over, just checking out the photos. No, this post is another existential, metaphysical pondering post. And to be honest, if you make it to the end of this post, you’re a legend. It is more for my records than anything esle.

Continue if you dare…
The more I spend here back home in New Zealand, the more I am able to reflect on the way I view the world. I am still to a very large extent finding each day rather surreal. Feeling quite detatched from my surroundings. I do not feel as though I have returned home. Rather, I have returned to the country where my family lives, and where many of my friends live. My parents house is not my home. It is where my parents live. I still feel like I am ‘in-between’. Still a ‘stranger’ in this environment (not only my parents’ home, but this city, the social groups etc).

I’m not at all concerned with this fact.

This is part of reverse culture shock.

When I think about it, it is actually great fun.

Being unsettled is unnerving, but at the same time I feel invigorated by the opportunity to explore my mind.

The only thing that bothers me, is the fact that most ‘normal’ people probably find me altogether mad and rather frustrating.

I do apologise, and I hope you will understand.

In any case, Wim Harwig, an great man I met and had the honour of staying with in The Netherlands (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=383) recently shared a link with me. It was a link to an interview of Counselling Psychologist Jill Mytton by Richard Dawkins. Mytton made the majority of her remarks about religion based on her experiences with the religious sect (cult?) that is the Exclusive Bretheren. Therefore I had to take the remarks with a grain of salt, considering the extreme cult-like attributes of this very exclusive religion. However, I found the interview to be thoroughly fascinating, with much of what was said resonating with me. It gave me much to consider and explore as I face a year of biblical theology training at Laidlaw College.

These days, whenever I am reading an interesting book or watching a poignat interview, I will type out quotes that resonate with me or so something to make me ponder. I did this with the interview with Jill Mytton, and here’s what I found to be particularly poignat…

Now before we begin, I realise that I am stepping out on a limb here. It may be that in a year’s time I will look back on these things that I felt moved to type out, and think, “What was I thinking?!”. But that’s probably just the religious Rob being cautious. The Rob who cycled and skateboarded around the world feels justified (as all humans should) to ask questions of this world he lives in. Hopefully God won’t mind.

Click on the image below to watch the interview in its entirety. My comments on various parts of the discussion are below in italics

Interview of Jill Mytton by Richard Dawkins


At 28:22
Mytton: My research again showed that if people were attending church regularly, they were actually experiencing less mental stress than people that weren’t. So there was a protective function to it. It didn’t depend on whether they believed it or not, it depended on their actualy attendance, which suggests it is the social group that is important; the network, the structure that it provides.

Rob: This is something that I have wondered ever since getting back to New Zealand and attending church services. How much of church culture is actually just something to give us identity, whether we actually resonate with the central message of Christ or not?

At 28:55
Dawkins: You mentioned earlier that religion can be healthy. Can you explain that?
Mytton: Religion can provide an explanation for people and provide an interpretive framework about why the world exists, where it came from, all the kind of existential questions that people ask.
Dawkins: From a psychological point of view, does it matter if that’s true, the explanation that they get?
Mytton: No. So long as the person is satisfied with it. If they believe in it, and a lot of people don’t even need evidence. They can have this faith in something, and it provides them with something with a structure, with a way of life, and with a belief system, that they are OK with, as long as they don’t start asking questions. And of course once they start doing that, then the whole edifice can crumble. It can also provide other things, I mean, the whole ritual of a religion provides a means by which you can express emotion for example. It helps you get through critical events in life like death, and in that sense it can offer hope, because most religions offer the idea of an after-life, or reincarnation for example. The whole process of prayer, I believe, has a lot of similarities to therapy. When you are praying, you are talking to somebody. That “person” is listening, or you believe he is listening. And it is a he. Ad the whole process of talking through something helps us to cognitively process whatever it is that is troubling us. So you’re having a relationship with some supernatural being. And it does actually help you work through some of your things that are troubling you.

At 31:07 about prayer
Mytton: As long as you believe. I mean, the point about God is, about the supernatural being, is that the people believe he does exist. So when they are talking to him in prayer, or even when walking down the street…they can ask for advice, they can ask him to help them make choices and decisions about life, and there’s somebody listening. And that’s what I do as a therapist; I listen. And that is the most valuable thing you can do for a human being is to listen. Of course I don’t only listen, I’m actually answering as well, or I am talking with them.

Rob: I found this section about prayer very interesting indeed. Just the other day I was mulling this out aloud with a cousin, wondering about what, if any, psychological research there was into the reasons people pray. I mean, for those who don’t believe in God, there surely must be an explanation for why people would spend so much time praying. This is an interesting take on it. I wondered to myself, “Can I name a specific time when I can categorically claim that a prayer was answered? That is, was there a time where there was no doubt that had God not intervened, that something would or would not have happened?” The answer for me is of course no. At no time in my life can I say categorically that “God did for absolute certain answer my prayers”.

At 31:50
Mytton: (Religion is) consoling, it can be comforting. The problem is of course, is when you have all that, it’s very easy to get sucked into something that is more pathogenic. A bit more further down towards the other end of the continum. And that’s the danger.

At 32:58
Mytton: (Being ‘born again’) is a strange phenomena.

At 33:32
Evangelism…
Dawkins: It’s notorious, for the first week of a freshman’s arriving at university, they are descended upon by the Christian this and the Christian that and the Christian the other, and they don’t leave them alone.
Mytton: …(the students) are vulnerable, and it’s perhaps the first time they have been away from home, so they haven’t got that structure behind them anymore.
Dawkins: And they’re offered friendship…
Mytton: Love-bombing, as it is called, offered a lot of things they have perhaps been deprived of in the past.

At 34:05
Dawkins: And coming back to the people doing the lovebombing, do you think they really believe in what they are promoting?
Mytton: That’s a good question. It’s the million-dollar question, really. I think a lot of them do really believe in it….and it does make it all the more dangerous. I think maybe the people at the top, some of them don’t believe in it. They’ve built this kind of empire almost, and they are the earthly god sitting at the top, and they are the only ones that are in touch with the supernatural god sometimes. You know, everything is a conduit through them; the man of god.

Rob: While this might be the case in many cults, it is not so in the faithful-to-the-text message of Christ (and how do you actually determine that – read the Bible yourself); that is the priesthood of all believers. Mind you, I did see this in a certain extent at the church in Hita City (Japan); the pastor being the top of the pile; the ultimate teacher who had to oversee everything.

At 34:41
Mytton: The whole euphoria that comes with born-again Christians, I mean we know about the, that the brain produces its own natural opiates, the endorphines, and I think that there is a physiological background to all of this as well. I mean rituals, there is a link between rituals and prayer and meditation and intense religious experiences and the production of endorphines…all the church singing is improving the people’s sense of well-being.

Rob: I saw this often in church, and I believe that I was caught up in this at one stage, and now wonder about my emotional reaction to hearing ‘praise and worship’ songs. Am I feeling emotion because of a true understanding of the ‘Person of God’ or just because I have associations in the past that connect Christian ‘praise and worship’ songs with an emotional sense of wellbeing simply because of the melody etc? Since I have not read the entire Bible for myself yet, I am sure that I do not understand fully the nature of the God that I claim to believe in. So perhaps it is the latter…

At 36:20
On the downside to religion (as opposed to the health benefits previously stated)…
Mytton: What I would call the more unhealthy type of religion for a start tends to diminish the self, diminish the identity of the person. So instead of the person being valued for their strengths and their potential, they’re seen as wicked, sinners, shapen in iniquity as I said earlier, and even when they do do good works, it’s not really them who is doing it; it is God working through them. So there’s this sense of helplessness really; there’s nothing that I can do to save myself. And sin is not seen as something that is inevitible, which perhaps is a more positive way of looking at it, but sin is seen as something that is to be judged, and that forgiveness is extremely difficult and shame and guilt and fear, everything is controlled by those three emotions. So if you transgress you feel shame, you feel guilt, you feel fear because of the consequences of that. There is a tendency for unhealthy religions to have a very absoluteist way of thinking about things. So everything is seen as either or. Either you’re a sinner or you’re saved. They think it’s either truth or it’s not truth. There’s absolutely no room for ambiguity or uncertainty in the middle, and life isn’t actually like that. Life is not in all or nothing. There is this huge area in the middle, where most of us live.

Rob: There is something about this statement that really rings true. I’m not sure what to think of it all.

At 43:30
Mytton: Unhealthy religion would not encourage children to ask questions.

Rob: Mytton discussed the need for children to be able to develop their own path. Children in most Christian families, when they ask ‘How did the world come about?’ will still be told ‘God made it’. Why are they not told that nobody knows for absolute certainty. We can only make preliminary conclusions based on scientific evidence, so even that is not an absolute certainty. The bible tells us that God had a lot to do with it. But does God exist? Well I think so. Why do I think so? Because something must have started it all.

Mytton talks about the need for people to think for themselves. I agree. We learn from our mistakes. But on the other hand, when one looks at human history as a whole, it appears that actually, you know what, we don’t. We don’t learn from our mistakes. There is a dysfunction that it seems we have not been able to shake, despite more than 5,000 years of humanity. There are still wars. There is more slavery today than every before. There is something wrong with us. We do need to ask why this is, and how can we cure it?
At 44:16
Mytton: Billy Graham said one thing once; “why do you all you’re gonna understand God? God is such of a higher being; why should you possibly even think you could understand him. You’re just have to accept and have faith.” And I thought ah yes, that’s the answer. And for a while, my spirit was quieted for a while, but it didn’t last for very long. I think the problem with many of these religions, is that they don’t allow children to ask questions; that naturally inquiring mind of a child is suppressed. And that is very detrimental because they never see any other prespective, they never see any other perspective. They don’t learn to criticise, they don’t learn to evaluate what they are hearing. They just have to blindly accept it, really. And that kind of religion is unhealthy.

At 45:32
Mytton: Religion is absolute…it tends to say this is the truth, and there is no other truth; this is it.

At 45:43
Mytton: If you don’t believe what they are saying to you, then somehow that is a shortcoming in you; it’s turned around. It’s you who has lost your faith. It’s not religion that’s wrong, it’s not the truth that’s wrong, or something is wrong with what they’re saying to you, it’s you. Somehow it’s a shortcoming in yourself. And again, you’re made to feel guilty for not believing in it totally.

Rob: Oh so true. Cultural understanding is based on questions. On observing, on accepting…

At 46:35
Speaking about Exclusive Brethren…
Mytton: Anything that is outside is evil and wicked and it mustn’t be heard and it mustn’t be listened to. And so discussion with the outside world is discouraged. Information coming in is very much controlled.

Rob: While this was said regarding Exclusive Bretheren, I can’t help but feel that honest questioning and consideration of truth outside of the Bible is somewhat suppressed in much of Western Evangelical Christian culture. That’s why I liked reading Donald Miller’s books so much. He is honest about his questions and worries about Christian culture. Honesty and transparency, and permission to voice what one is thinking or struggling with has to be present in all cultures, ways of life.

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The Problem With My Journey
2�� 2nd, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Random
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A big apology for the lack of access to this website over the last two weeks. I am at a loss as to why access numbers should be so high now that I have finished the exciting part of the trip!
The problem with my journey is that is has given me this idea that whatever I put my mind to, I can achieve. It’s not so much a feeling of invincibility, but a feeling of self-confidence. An awareness of a truth that exists in every human being (not just those who cycle and skateboard around the world); that we are capable, we are naturally empowered with amazing talent and abilities.

With this awareness comes the challenge of choice. And it gets all very confusing. I have so many percolating ideas in my head at the moment. And they were quite quickly starting to do my head in…

  • Broadway musical singer
  • Outdoor ed instructor
  • Simultaneous interpreter
  • Primary school teacher
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Professional adventurer
  • Solver of Japanese society issues
  • Book writer

What brought me some semblance of sanity, was one hour of lying in bed in the morning three or four days ago. I woke up early, light not yet showing at the edges of the curtains. Like an unwelcome acquaintance arriving unnounced and never motioning to leave, my swirling thoughts quickly started their never ending circular rounds of the inside of my skull.


I always cherish sleep. But never as much as when I have something bothering me. Sleep brings a reprieve from the madness in my head at such times. The moment of clear consicousness between immediately after waking up and before the thoughts begin is like heaven.Perhaps it was because I had been praying the preceeding umpteen nights before for God to reveal direction to me, or perhaps it was just because of chance (it’s not like people who don’t pray to God never gain a sense of direction), but on that morning lying in bed, my circular thoughts started to unravel themselves, and straighten themselves into a clear line of thought.What am I doing, thinking of enrolling in a creative writing course?! One whole year devoted to writing a manuscript, when I 1) have no idea what I want to write about 2) have read about 2 travel books in my whole entire life and 3) feel nothing but a sinking feeling in my stomach every time I think about writing a book at this stage about my journey.

What am I truely passionate about?

So far, since arriving back to Christchurch, after completing the journey, life feels like a puzzle. The problem is that I’m trying to put the puzzle together in outer space. Bits of puzzle floating away from me. I can’t even keep the bits of the puzzle in the box while I try in vain to try to force unmatched pieces together with my clumpsy, space-suit gloved hands. I grab at pieces as they float around and above my head, trying to make sense of it all. And no sooner do I find a couple of pieces that fit nicely together, than they start floating away as I rummage around in the box for another matching piece, sending pieces flying again.

You get the picture?

So basically, even though there is still a clump of puzzle pieces all nicely fit together that show the image of a book, floating around in my outer-space of a head, I’ve let that lot go for now. I wasn’t finding other pieces of the puzzle that would fit at this stage, so I have decided to let that idea float for now, and move on to something that might help bring the whole situation down to earth to make better sense of what and where the puzzle pieces are.

So here’s the deal. This year I will be studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. This decision was fuelled by the following considerations:

  • This two and a half year period of human powered travel has been a turning point and a catalyst for radical personal and spiritual growth for me. My faith in the Christian religion (all the rules and regulations and doctrines) was thoroughly deconstructed and demolished, and what remained was an insatiable drive to learn how my unmovable confidence in the Jesus message would fit into my now drastically expanded global perspective. I had an extremely narrow and judgemental world view before my journey. I find myself now back home still with a strong confidence in the potential of the Gospels to transform the human psyche (Jesus’s message of love, reconciliation and redemption seems to me to be a solid solution to much of the brokenness and ‘dysfunction of the human psyche – Ekhart Tolle’ that so many philosophers allude to in their musings), but a little uncertain of how that all fits in now with my radically expanded global perspective on humanity and the earth.
  • I’m not too keen to jump into anything blatantly ‘vocational’ at this stage, such as teaching or outdoor ed. “It is so easy to live a life that has been scripted for you by others, to fall into the mire of conformity by following a path that society has laid before you, rather than heeding your own unique calling. Comfort, complacency, routine, the path of least resistance, the easy road – these things are the bane of humankind. It is a disquieting moment when you awaken to realise the trappings of conventiality have created a life for you that is entirely different from the one you wish to live.” This is a quote from Dean Karnazes’s book 50 Marathons in 50 Days. It resonates within me as a sort of warning not to rush into things too quickly at the stage I’m at right now.
  • When a friend of mine mentioned that she would be doing the same course (before I ever considered it as a possibility), I was extremely excited by how the course would challenge and shape and expand her understanding and view of the world. Experiences that force us to think outside our own bubble of comfort and understanding are what contribute to a wider, global awareness of the humanity and wonder of this rock we inhabit, and that wider awareness is what contributes to the big picture of love, tolerance, peace, and understanding. I had my awareness of things outside my bubble of knowledge and experience expanded to a huge extent during my journey. To spend a year this year in structured, directed thinking and discussion therefore seems an appropriate step in order to fully debrief my experiences.
  • I’m excited by how I might be able to incorporate my personal and spiritual journey into a book about my travels. If I wrote the book now, it would just be ‘another travel book’. But there was obviously something deeper going on, something sub-consicous, during my journey, that I need to fully explore and be able to articulate well in the book.

Obviously there is a considerable opportunity cost involved in doing this year of study. I could potentially head back to Japan this year and earn around NZ$50,000 quite easily. Plus there is the fact that I still have an outstanding NZ$10,000 student loan waiting to be paid off. Another NZ$4,000 for a course that has no obvious application in terms of vocation is a risky investment.

I hope that this year will be a worthwhile opportunity for equipping me with skills and knowledge. A very luxurious opportunity, I admit, but here’s to the future and all the mysteries it holds…

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