Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… or is it?

By saying it is, we say beauty is only a subjective quality.

But by saying it isn’t – by saying that something may be beautiful without our being able to appreciate it as beautiful – we divorce ourselves from our experience and our association between words and description…

Is it possible to say

“It’s beautiful, but I don’t like it.”

Which I think I may have said, from time to time. In that I can see elements and aspects which, maybe I know, are considered beautiful, or perhaps I can see an underlying elegance and purpose, but aesthetically I find it displeasing… Some of Rembrant’s paintings would fall in to this category.

The thing is, am I just susceptible to the cultural conditioning of my upbringing in saying something like this? I have preconceived notions of what is beautiful and what isn’t? But then, my aesthetic sense is also formed (to a large degree) by the same…

So there’s a whole philosophic field based around these very questions.

But I guess I’m kind of wondering… how variable language is. How our thoughts are modified by the language and words we use, and yet the language and words we use are modified and morphed by our thoughts.

So often, everything seems so vague, so fuzzy, so indefinable, so inexplicable, so possibly variable, so uncertain and indefinate, and so futile. *sigh*

Thoughts…

We’ve booked our tickets to leave Cyprus in a month-ish. This time has gone SO fast … it did last time too.

I’ve started thinking about “stuff”. Very vague, I know. More, possessions type stuff. Here’s a picture of my cupboard:


as you can see, crammed full of all kinds of bits and pieces. From recorders (blockflöten) to juggling balls to old marmite jars with elastic bands to rope to old telephones to candles to old CD players to scissors…

I know I’m naturally something of a hoarder, and don’t want to throw stuff away… but on Doulos I think I either learned to be more balanced, or else some how got even more messed up! 🙂

By the time I left AV, I had picked up quite a bit of “are we using it? No? Is it working? No? OK, then throw it away.” – I know Ant and Adam will claim somewhat otherwise *cough*oldA&Hsound-desks*cough* – but I know I’ve actually changed a lot. So now, looking at all this stuff in my cupboard, things I haven’t used in over 4 years now… I find it really hard to want to keep it.

How is it helping me to have this here? How is it helping anyone? Am I using it? No. Is it working? Well, some of it, kind of. Will I use it again?

Probably not… well… some of it? Maybe?

Sentimental value seems to be something I no longer really care about much.

I’ve thrown out the old hand-made juggling clubs (plastic milk bottles, newspaper and kitchen-roll centers 🙂 ) and broken telephones (for a juggling routine to do with communication), and some other odds and ends, but amn’t sure what to do with the rest.

Does it actually behoove me ( I’ve been wanting to use that word for AGES! ha! Done it! ) to throw stuff away?

Now I’m going back to Carlisle for a few years, and getting married next year, I need to think more about such stuff, I guess. I will no longer be a batchelor, able to just keep random clutter in a cupboard. I’m fine with that. (I’m pretty sure I’ll end up picking up more…)

I do have a lot of projects on the go at once. Juggling stuff – one day I will get back into it more; Obscure music stuff – I will take up the bagpipes one day; art stuff – I love painting, I just haven’t done any for a while; computer programming – a hobby. I don’t want a job of this! But a little is fun; graphic design… etc… etc…

But it’s not very efficient. I know I need to prioritise, cut away the cruft. I don’t NEED this stuff! But maybe not? Maybe actually having lots of clutter and things on the go is actually how I function best? Or maybe not?

Isn’t it great being decisive? Well, perhaps? Or perhaps not? Some times? Er…

Blinded by love?

Just a random thought.

I was walking past a sign today, I don’t remember what the whole sign was about, but it contained the phrase “love makes you blind”.

Does it?

It’s a weird concept. I know what it means, but isn’t it kind of antithetical to what we would want to believe?

We say love (in it’s purest form) is the highest of virtues, biblically, it’s one of our main goals, God uses “love” to describe himself, Paul waxes lyrical about it, and almost every page of the scriptures are saturated in it. Songs have been written from the beginning of time about it.

Surely love does the opposite of blinding. It’s only in love that we are actually able to see. Without love, we are blind.

If what we call “Love” causes us to no longer see (flaws, problems, sins, etc), then is it really love? Or infatuation, idolatry?

Ethics

“The Good is often the greatest enemy of the Best.” – Maxwell
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” – Proverbs 28:9

Which is better, to spend ones time sitting with street kids loving them and giving them hope for the future, or sitting in an office, wading through tedious documents that it’s actually your duty to understand?

Which is more worthy, to slog away at understanding a law you know that 99% of people really care nothing about, nor even believe in, enforcing it over others and creating unheaval and more work and stress for all of them, or to spend time creatively working on more fun and generally well-recognised projects?

How do you find motivation to inconvienence yourself and others to a phenomincal degree, appearing to red-light and be negative to all the other people you want to encourage and help, in order to fulfil a law you don’t even agree with yourself?

For the Christians in mainline western churches:

If your country declared it illegal to meet in groups larger than 15, would you keep meeting
as normal in defiance of the government and protest the loss of your “rights”, or find a way to keep “doing” church and fulfilling the call of the bible within the constraints of the law?

Which is more important: Comfortably doing what you’re used to, or uncomfortably denying yourself in order to be a righteous and unimpeachable testimony?

Getting to know me, or not.

Good morning, blog. Although, actually, it’s more like evening, seeing as how it’s 7pm and everything.

It’s probably morning somewhere in the world.

I have a friend on this ship who has a fetish for “Awkward moments”. I’m sure he wouldn’t like it to be called a fetish, but whatever, he really loves them. He savours them, as a connesour, specially saving them up and preparing them, finely planning moments of Awkwardness in the same way that a conductor of an orchestra prepares the finale of a grand opera.

He’ll often say stuff intentionally to make people uncomfortable.

So I asked about a week or two ago, why?

And his response was something like,

(a) it’s fun,
(b) I enjoy seeing how people really are.

And the second one is the bit that I took issue with.

He said watching how people react when they don’t know how to respond gives a great insight into them, and let’s you see them without the pretence and acting that accompanies so much of human interaction.

What’s there to take issue with?

Well, seeing people when they don’t know how to react, is that really how they “really are”?

It seems to me to smell slightly of the whole humans-are-nought-but-animals thing.

And also, the “You know the real person by seeing how they behave under pressure”. – Likewise, the same.

There is some truth to it, of course. It’s much easier to act nice and give a good image when you are relaxed and can concentrate on impressing others, or on behaving well, than when things are stressful and you’re under pressure and don’t have time to think about what to do next.

Others have also said that you know how someone is by what they do in their spare time, or when no one else is looking, and so on.

Some people seem to do well under pressure, and be able to think quickly and clearly. Others don’t. Some people find it easy to find jobs to do and to use their spare time productively and pro-actively.

So… it’s often very useful to know how someone behaves under pressure, but I don’t think it really shows who they “really” are.

This would have been all nice and theoretical, and all that, except for this week.

I got sick.

And, it turns out, I don’t act very nice when I’m sick.

Usually, when I’m healthy and fine and everything, I tend to use a lot of hyperbole, sarcasm, and irony in my general day to day language. It tends to be (I hope!) fairly good natured, and over-the-top enough that others realise it’s not intended seriously.

“Could you play this CD for me?”
“Nope. It’s completely impossible – the computer can only play CDs on Thursdays.”

and so on.

Well, the thing is, recently I’ve started to tend to mix double meanings and more biting sarcasm into what I say, and, usually, it doesn’t mean anything – to me.

Ie, “hey, the programme schedule says you’re doing a song later, but you haven’t put a form in saying you want any microphones or instruments or anything, so it’s just a Capella, right?”

It appears though, my sarcasm and hyperbole and so on don’t pan out so well when I’m tired/sick or stressed.

We had a wedding yesterday on board. About half way through the ceremony, right in the middle of a song just as I was mixing the band and having to be constantly mindful of the two wireless mics the MC and someone else had and things were quite hectic, when one of the people who was videoing it (a local) came over and asked “Do you have any power sockets? I need to re-charge my camera batteries”.

“Yes, right here.” (pointing at the sockets)

“Ah.” (he pokes around)

“They don’t fit…”

“Oh, right. Um, yes. It’s European, sorry, the whole ship is set up with European sockets. It’s a European ship, after all.”

“You mean you don’t have any standard sockets??” (disbelief in his voice)

And this is, I’m afraid, where my stunning wit came to the fore again, and really didn’t help the situation at all.

“No, no. They’re all standard sockets.” *helpful smile* “European standard.”

Very helpful, wasn’t I. – I don’t think!

Yes… I don’t think. Maybe that’s the problem.

I’m struggling a lot right now with trying to balance work with relationships. Not in that I work too much and don’t spend enough time with people, but in that when people do things which really mucks up my work, I find it very hard to still be nice.

Part of it is I just really have no idea how to be nice.

Middle of a programme, pressing buttons and cueing video clips and trying to make the whole thing smooth and beautiful, and someone comes into the AV room from behind me, is standing right where I need to move to press a button on the video mixer, and asked “hey, would it be possible for you to play me a DVD in the other room in an hour or so?”

How do you respond to such things?

“Go away. I can’t listen to you now.” – Not really polite.

“Dear brother! I would be more than glad to hear from you, and to help you in any way I can, even though you’ve broken two of our published policies in the last 10 seconds, nevertheless, I completely forgive you and forget all about it so if you come back to me in 20 minutes then I’ll be very happy to hear your request and see how I can most elegantly acquiesce to your desires.” – too long, and I’m already late for a cue.

“Ask me later.” – Usually what I’ll try and say but, unfortunately, what people want is something they need more input for. And usually they leave it right until the last minute before asking us. Usually the reply I’ll get from them (while they’re still standing in the way of my mixer) is “Well, I need to know now so I can arrange a laptop or something if you can’t do it.”

“Oh, are you running the programme now? Since you’re in the right place to press the buttons, does that mean I can leave?” – Unfortunately, something close to what’s likely to be my first response.

And it’s not that I really bear them any ill-feeling, or even that I mean to be nasty, mean, or sarcastic.

Sometimes as well, I’ve noticed I have a tendancy to use hyperbole, sometimes in ways which just don’t make sense to anyone other than me:

“Oh yes, it’s horribly frustrating when people forget to hand in their forms on time. I feel like screaming like a little child and jumping overboard whenever they do.” – yes, it’s frustrating, but not that frustrating.

I dunno.

I feel kind of like I’ve picked up some really rude sarcasm and humour somewhere. And especially when I’m tired, frustrated, under pressure, and sick, it really comes out and is just plain nasty to everyone.

Is this the real me, coming out at last?

Or is the real me the nice one?

“When a man’s at his worst, then you see him the best.”

or

“It’s not how good you are, but how good you want to be”.

*sigh* I have so far to go…

Of Coffee Makers and Consciences (part 1?)

One of the things I love about the “Peanuts” cartoons are the tiny little things that I love. If that makes sense. For instance, this one thing I love about the Peanuts cartoon, is Snoopy’s book that he writes occasionally “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?” as part of the whole debate thing with Lucy. I love those books.

Anyway.

Has it ever occurred to you that you might be mad?

It’s been of late the rather disagreeable experience of mine to have occurring to me with disturbingly increasing regularity the possibility that I myself might be in a somewhat insanitous state.

I challenge anyone to diagram that sentence, and send me the picture…

Insanitous sounds rather unhygienic, but it’s not. I just mean “mad”, in a slightly more complex way of speaking.

To take simpler mode of address, I’ll quote Freddie Mercury:

“It’s finally happened, I’m slightly mad.”

Anyway, the current evidence I have towards this conclusion is The Strange Affair Of The Coffee Maker In The Daytime.

I feel remarkably Adrian Plassish as I type this, in a “this is dead serious to me, but I get the feeling people will laugh at me about it, because it’s so stupid…” sort of way. Like his paper-clip story.

Settle back, gentle reader, and prepare thyself for an epic journey into the mind of one convinced that he is no longer all quite there.

It all began like this…

This house is great. I’m really enjoying living here. right now, I’m sprawled across one of the *three* sofas in the living room, with my laptop, and a pot of Earl Grey tea.

Seriously, how can life get more chilled out than this?

What could there possibly be to complain about?

Well, there’s no internet at home. Is this a bad thing? Well, kind of. But also, it does stop me spending inordinate amounts of time online, which I did over the whole furlough, to my shame. 3 months to rest and do anything, and most of the time I spent online. Silly. So, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not online here, and can just write emails that I need to write, and then send them from the Shed. And spend the rest of my time at home cooking, reading, playing clarinet, and exercising. Oh, and sleeping, of course.

Secondly. And far more seriously. There is no coffee maker here.

I say it again, for emphasis.

There. Is. NO. Coffee. Maker. Here!!!

Shocking! But true!

There is a kettle, and a teapot, and plenty of instant coffee, of the “Fair Trade” and the “Nescafe” varieties – both of which are vile – but a brewed mug of the real stuff? Not a chance.

So, how can I solve this crisis, I wondered, then had the brainwave: I can buy a coffee maker.

In the UK they have this really weird store called Argos, where everything is in this funny HUGE catalogue that you can get, and then you write down the item order numbers, or SKU or something, give it to the clerk, and it gets brought in to you via conveyor belt, or so. No browsing around the store, just the catalogue.

Anyway, we happened to have an Argos Catalogue in the house, so I looked inside for coffee makers. Of course, there are plenty. About 20 types of filter machines, and about 30 types of espresso machines, in various shapes, sizes, colours, etc, etc, and every other type of coffee maker I can think of. And 2 things caught my eye.

Firstly, that there was a filter machine for 6 quid. Woah, now this looks like my kind of budget!

And secondly, an espresso machine for 17 quid. Hm. That’s about 100 pounds cheaper than I’ve ever seen before, and just about within my pricerange… so very tempting.

3-5 bar pressure, not amazing, but probably acceptable, milk steamer/frother too… so would be good for hot choc as well. Mmmm…..

And I’ve wanted to learn how to make espresso for ages.

So. Here it seems is a perfectly normal life situation. Nothing to stress about, nothing to worry about, just a simple domestic “which should I buy? Hm, the espresso machine, OK, lets’ buy it, done.”

10 minutes, all told, and not even really worth blogging about.

Except! This is no ordinary story! Not to be stumped by even the more mundane of situations, I find myself wrestling to gain even the fleetest of footings while hanging on to the horns of a stampeding dilemma!

I have been fretting about this! I have been wandering around the town wondering if I should buy the wretched thing or not. I’ve prayed about it, numerous times, and still have no reached any kind of satisfactory conclusion!

Should I buy it? Should I not buy it? The question is easy enough to state, and the pros and cons can easily be listed.

17 pounds is really not all that expensive, and I checked online the website, and found it had apparently gone to 11 pounds. So, even more reason for this to be a minor and inconsequential affair.

The thought occurred to me “If you had this machine, you wouldn’t need to buy expensive coffee at cafe’s After 9 cups you would have saved money!” See how insiduous advertising is? I don’t need all that coffee, and I might not have bought it anyway, thus I’ve not saved money at all, but in fact spent more! I’ll write about this more some other time.. 
Anyway, I frequently find myself wanting to drink a decent cup, and the only place available is expensive, and so if I did buy this machine, and if I had been buying one coffee a day there, then by the end of a week I would indeed have saved money. But, no.

I just haven’t been able to bring myself to go and buy it. Every time I set out towards the store, I’ve felt an almost compulsion to not buy it, and the weird sensation that I’m doing something wrong.

I was asking God, “Do you want me to buy it? Do you not want me to buy it?” and then asked “If you don’t want me to buy it, don’t let me.”, which is a dangerous sort of prayer, and then after work 2 days ago, while praying this, I went to the store, and low and behold it was shut.

Hm! Is this some kind of sign?! Or is it just that they close at 5pm, and it took me until 5.45 to get to the shop?! Is this divine guidence, or just a coincidence catalysed by lack of time management and me not remembering which road it was on?

Do I even believe in coincidence anyway?

As a good evangelical, I know I should not.

But I’m not a good evangelical. I know that God is in control of everything, but I also know that the world is so sufficiently complex that if we want to see correlations and coincidences, we will, without God going out of His way to make sure certain things coincide.

But, argues the pig headed annoying evangelical so-and-so who lives in my head: If I’m asking God something, couldn’t He also make it so that things don’t coincide, just so that I don’t see the coincidence that I asked about?

Yet that also totally stuffs God into a box, and is very unfair to Him.

Why on earth should God go out of His way to modify something running really quite well (ie, what time a certain store closes) on the earth just so that one of his slightly deranged sons gets an answer to some pointless question he asked in an absurd and arrogant way!? I mean, what if I asked for the moon to turn somersaults and the sun to go back one hour? Even if that did happen way back in the O.T…

I dunno. I mean, before, when God has got me to stop sinning in certain ways, I’ve really not wanted to stop, and so I’ve asked Him for help, but in ways that are really not helpful. The kind of thing being “If you don’t want me to lie to so and so about why I haven’t done what I promised, then please could I not see them today…”.

This kind of thing. I mean, yes, it’s asking God for help. And yes, it’s kind of admitting a problem. But is it really sane to expect God to tweak reality because of my selfishness? I mean, I know He loves me, and I know He can modify reality more easily than I can breath, but, well, isn’t it kind of forcing Him into a box? Trying to exert power over Him, and manipulate Him like a Genie?

And “trying to manipulate God like a Genie” is one of those things that definitely falls into the “Unwise bordering on Stupid, yet Amazingly Typical and very Human” category.

And the thing is, usually, if I start praying things in the form “If you want me to not do… then please do…” it’s usually ended up being something that I really shouldn’t do anyway, and a fairly good hint that I already know what the answer is, and what I should or shouldn’t do.

Imagine the little boy saying “God, if you don’t want me to steal the sweets from the sweetshop, then please would the shop owner be standing next to the box I want to steal from when I come into the shop”, knowing full well that the shop owner is always sitting behind her desk on the opposite side of the shop, and can’t even see that aisle.

Well, duh!

Yet that’s exactly how I behave to God, quite frequently. And then, even if the situation I have asked God about *does* happen to be a “no” thing, then I’ll repeat the experiment again, with more obscure clauses, or else repeat again and again until it’s not so. And this is *so* stupid. I mean, if I really want to sin that much, then I’m gonna find a way to do it, even if it means totally ignoring what God is shouting and jumping up and down with a big sign on a stick telling me about.

Yet, the issue at hand isn’t some kind of sin. This isn’t stuff which is even kind of borderline/dodgey, such as using “bad language” on stage at the theatre (one of the issues I fought long and hard with, and with God about, a few years back).

This is a flippin’ coffee maker!

I mean, for crying out loud!

OK, so I can imagine maybe God has some kind of plan, to teach me a lesson in something, or some life skill or something, and so this coffee maker was part of it, but I can also imagine Him putting his head into his hands and saying “Good grief. Just buy the stupid coffee maker already, Daniel. Look, I’m not going to send you an army of angels just to tell you to do your blinking laundry just because you feel doubts!”

And also, I can kind of imagine maybe that God doesn’t want me to buy the coffee maker. I’ve not been so great with my money, in how careful I am about it all, in remembering to give regularly, or in being generous, or whatever. And there is so much poverty in the world, and the current joke here in the office is about the “rich missionaries” with their iPods and iPhones and iBooks and living at Starbucks and being far too damn comfortable. Jesus never told us life would be comfortable, as His followers. He told us it would suck, majorly.

Yet He also said that workers deserve their wages, and that we shouldn’t worry about what we eat or drink, as if we look first to God’s kingdom, He would provide these things anyway.

And it’s not that I’m worrying about coffee. I’m not addicted, and can quite happily go for a week or two without tasting a sip of coffee without headaches and all that. I just like the stuff!

Yet I am worried. About getting too comfortable. About becoming a sleeping Christian, not really in the world, not really living radically, as a revolutionary of Christ in this world. About picking up the strings and rags of this earth, and becoming attached to them, and not scorning them for the true garments of heaven.

Yet Jesus also spent His time at parties, as J. John said in one of his sermons, if Jesus was a stuffed up christian bore at the parties, why was he invited to so many? He’d have been told to stay at home! We are supposed to live life to the full, to not skimp and be prudes and wusses and all that.

I guess it all boils down to this:

Is it better to wait and not do anything because it’s not what God called us to, or to do something we think is from God, even if it’s not?

If I have a course of action in mind, but no “calling” or direction to it from God, is it still a good/the right action to take, or should I only act on instructions?

Or, is this kind of nagging doubt really from God? Or just my messed up personality? Insecure INFP that I am, and everything.

Is it better to do things only we *know* are from God, or to do things that might be from Him, even if they’re not?

And can we know for sure, most of the time, anyway?

*sigh*

Life is so complicated.

And all this just for a coffeemaker.

The whole “having peace” about something just doesn’t seem to work for me. I don’t really “have peace” about things very often.

Is it better to do something we think might be God’s will, or to not do something we think might be against it?

Action and anti-action! And inaction and anti-inaction.

And this has been going on for about 4 or 5 days now.

Back to Peanuts, apparently I’m fairly similar personalitywise to Charlie Brown.

If ever we (Charlie Brown and I) seem kind of indecisive and wishy-washy, this is why. We’re going through this kind of trauma about every single thing in life. From whether to kick the football or not, whether to write the valentine or not, to whether to buy the coffee maker or not…

A part of me, now, says “Just do it, lah” like one of my Malaysia friends had. I mean, God is so much bigger than I am, and if I screw up, He’ll catch me and help me back on my feet again.

It’s just, well, He also gave me the ability to look at issues and find more deep consequences of them. Shouldn’t I use that?

And if I don’t try to figure things out, because I know it just ends up with inaction and all that crap above, then how do I know what to do? What can I trust?

Instincts? Dangerous. Others? Unwise. Myself? Stupid. A pair of dice? Ridiculous!

A big part of me says “Yeah, I’ll buy the coffee maker. No biggie.”

The other half shrieks and says “You don’t need it! And you MIGHT be going against what God has told you, because you are not sure, and so are acting in doubt, and according to the bible: that is sin! It’s not worth it, just for a coffee maker!”

Either it’s just a normal bit of being human, in which case I am weak and indecisive and a wimp, or else I’m slightly schizophrenic.

Either way, life promises to be – if nothing else – interesting.