Category Archives: Personal Life

Celebrating one year of biking

One year ago, I purchased a Honda Varadero 125cc. It served me well while I learned to ride, but there came a point where I knew I needed something more – like when I was attempting to ride up a steep mountain road and had to revert to first gear just to make it to the crest! So, I’ve decided to splash out on a brand new Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. The difference in power is amazing. And it’s not that I’m a speed fiend. Cruising is just so much more enjoyable, as the bike is not struggling to maintain speed.

The only downside is that I wanted the bike in a nice satanic black colour, in keeping with my personality, but had to settle for a good Christian white. 😉 Still, it’s beautiful …

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My new wheels

Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like?

Nahhhh. Truth is I’ve been saving my pennies for the past four years, attempting to pay off my mortgage early, but frankly I’m just in the mood to live a little this summer. Summers are a bit tough on me generally, because I live alone, and due to the nature of my job I work largely alone during July and August. So it’s time to create some change in my life.

For the past four years, I’ve lived life without a car, successfully, and I fully intend to continue doing all my local business by bicycle. But there are just those occasions when I need to travel further afield, and I hate having to leech off friends for this. In particular, I really miss visiting Ballymartin beach, a place that has been a part of my life since I was about twelve.

So, I decided it was time to invest in another mode of transport, one that was more economical than a car. The bike is a Honda Varadero 125cc, which is about as big as you can go on a learner’s licence. I have never ridden a motorcycle before. Wish me luck.

(Long-time readers may remember the mouldy monstrosity that was my old Nissan Terrano 4×4. It’s been sleeping in my driveway for the past four years, and I’m finally sending it to the knackers yard. I even got £200 for it.)

Butterfly dreaming

I’m inclined to think there’s something more than wishful thinking to the notion of dream interpretation. I’ve had a few bizarre ones in my day, and upon waking, I’ve been able to see direct synchronicities with things in my life. One such dream was about me cooking a dog (alive) in the oven, followed by me about to be caught in the act by my mother. The factor that ties this dream to reality is not the specific details, but the themes of guilt and shame – specifically something I was dealing with at the time of the dream. Isn’t it strange that our subconscious presents these challenges to us encapsulated in such bizarre symbolism? I certainly hadn’t been cooking a dog!

Last night I had a dream that involved something so weird that, immediately upon waking, I had the urge to commit the details to memory. First, I’m dreaming that I’m having an enjoyable bike-ride in the countryside with a woman (someone from real life that I happen to like a lot). My bike has no handlebars, so I can’t brake (probably a reference to my bike in real life that is in need of a little maintenance, including new brake-blocks). I almost fall off a few times as I encounter the corners at speed. My bike actually takes air at one point, but the laws of physics are a little funky and I manage to land safely and stay on course. This part of the dream finishes with one bend in the road that is a little too sharp, and I go spinning through the air doing multiple summersaults. I don’t recall an impact. Now, here’s the weird bit coming up: suddenly I’m at my house, standing alone, entering through the front door. As I close the door behind me, I notice three butterflies on the doorframe, near the top, sitting still, close together.

Now, I’m not going to jump to any wild prophetic conclusions. But it just strikes me as totally weird that my subconscious should insert something as out-of-place as butterflies inside the house. I’m not a nature-lover and I never think about butterflies. And here are some very specific details: there are three. They are not flying but resting together in a huddle on the inside of my doorframe – doing something I’ve never seen butterflies do; they’re not pack animals, after all.

I looked up some dream interpretation dictionaries online, but it’s hard to know when you’re being taken for a ride by these things.

The book Secrets of Dreams by Caro Ness mentions that butterflies can be seen as “symbols of transformation”, or as “accurate and startling affirmations of rebirth into a newer, brighter, and more illuminating existence …”

Interesting. The only thing I can say with confidence is that to dream of butterflies appears to be a very positive thing. Got to be better than oven-baked canine!

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Writing a new book: Reality Check

The intellectual and spiritual journey I’ve been on for the past year has been powerful and life-changing. It shows no sign of fading. In fact, the whole picture has gotten clearer and clearer as time has progressed.

I’m really glad I blogged about it all, because I now have a permanent record of what is probably the most important transition of my life. For a while, I’ve been considering turning the past year’s blog entries into a physical book, but I think I need to start afresh and introduce the insights from a more effective angle than the haphazard way that they occurred to me at the time.

I put an outline together today, penned an introduction and the first chapter, totaling some 3,000 words. I’m really happy with the results so far.

I’m not sure how much or how little a book of this kind is going to interest the folks who visit here. I just feel passionately about, so I’m going to do it.

The working title is Reality Check, which is a perfect fit thematically, but is a bit common. I’m sure those words have already been used as titles before now. I’m all ears for an alternative title.

I would like the cover to feature a kitten playing with its reflection in the mirror (i.e. not fully understanding reality), but how I’m going to get a photo of that I’ve no idea.

I want to thank everyone who posted challenging comments to my blog entries over the past year. It’s good to be kept on your toes and also helps me to notice my failure to communicate at times.

The journey is, of course, not over, and probably never will be. I haven’t reached any sort of ultimate conclusion, and I doubt there’s a point where I will say, “I understand it all now. Job done.” So, when is a good time to write a book about the nature of reality? Might as well be now.

Building bridges while others burn theirs

About seven or eight years ago I was in the sticky position of being “piggy in the middle” in a dispute that broke out between a friend of mine and a relative. It was a stressful time for me, and without going into the details, I ended up flushing that friendship down the toilet. A couple of years later, I contacted this ex-friend again briefly, because I needed help with making a DVD of a movie we had both produced. He declined to help, but asked for a copy of the DVD when it would be finished. I said, “The DVD was offered in exchange for your help.” He replied, “You’ve got a nerve. Don’t contact me again.” That was the last time we spoke … until a couple of months ago.

Circumstances had conspired to put us in touch with each other again. I decided it was time to reach out and try and rebuild the bridge I tore down, without any request or demand or expectation of apology, and especially without any pride or self-defence. I said something to the effect of, “I regret speaking harshly to you those years ago. Would you like a copy of the DVD?” He suggested I could post it to him or we could meet somewhere. That was all the encouragement I needed to invite him to my home.

I’m really glad I did. We chatted for well over a hour, talking about our lives. We also cleared the air about old times. Neither of us were interested in apportioning blame, only in being reconciled. “I think we should keep in touch,” he said at the end, and we exchanged phone numbers.

I’m talking about this now because I’ve been reflecting on how easy it is to hold on to bitterness and resentment. When I was a Christian, I lived with a sense of reality that said for every sin there is a punishment, and forgiveness only comes with a price. For God to forgive man, it was necessary for him to send his Son to die on a cross – the transferrence of our debt and punishment to another. And for man to forgive man, it is written, “If he repents, forgive him.” The Christian message is one where every wrong deed is of great import, and forgiveness is withheld until certain conditions are met. It makes bitterness and resentment so easy to cling to and justify. And I did, for so long.

I remember hearing a funny sketch by comedian Bill Hicks. Hicks has no problem poking fun at religion, and it often comes up in his stand-up sketches. In one sketch, he talked about how a couple of guys once came up to him after a show and said, “Hey, Mr. Funny Man, c’mere. Hey, Mr. Comedian, c’mere … We’re Christians. We didn’t like what you said.” After a pause for dramatic effect, Hicks replied, “I said, ‘Then forgive me.'” The audience roared with laughter. When it subsided, Hicks went on, “Later, when I was hanging from the tree …”

There’s something ironic in the fact that I had to let go of Christianity in order to learn how to forgive people. When I reflect on my own attitudes as a Christian, it’s not surprising to me that some of my friends have cast me off. All I’ve done is express a difference of opinion, and that’s all it has taken for some of my friends to wave bye-bye. They view life with a sense that everyone else around then should conform to their personal expectations of what’s sacred, and when I refuse to agree with those expectations, they turn their back on me. A Christian (one who has stuck by me) recently said, “Christians are the only people who shoot their own wounded.” Of course, I don’t see myself as wounded, but I imagine that’s how I look to a Christian. The truth is I have never felt more clear-headed or in control of myself. I feel like my mind belongs to me for the first time in many years.

One of the major shifts in my understanding is in the areas of guilt, punishment, forgiveness, retribution – all those inter-related themes. I have come to believe that the entire concept of punishment for wrongdoing is incorrect (that is not to say there should be no prisons, but I think the focus of such places should be rehabilitation and the protection of society, not punishment). I made the transition to this kind of understanding after I started to see that human beings are not separate from each other. We do not have individual souls. Individuality is an illusion that plays out in the arena of the physical world. From a wider perspective, everything is one consciousness, eternal and all knowing. But in these bodies, on this physical phane, we are conscious of only a tiny fraction of what we truly are. We are everything that exists. I am you and you are me. Oh, I know how this sounds to a lot of ears, and I feel so frustrated that I can’t communicate the extent to which I sense this to be true or indeed why I sense it to be true. But let’s at least take a look at the implications of this kind of understanding.

When we see ourselves as separate from one another, it is so easy to dismiss another person. If they do something wrong, we can say, “They made their own bed; they have to lie in it.” But if we are all one consiousness, then the thing that is happening to someone else is also happening to me. It makes no sense for me to condemn that person, only to help them. Our belief in separation facilitates everything from the holding of grudges to the belief in eternal damnation. I spent so much of my life trapped in that understanding, but when you open your mind to challenge these preconceptions, it can open to door to wonderful change.

I once believed that it was profound that a saviour had to die in order to save me from my sins. I now believe that there is no vengeful diety marking my every action, no need for such a sacrifice, no eternal punishment for any actions that anyone every did. It sounds like a free-for-all, like we can all do whatever we want without consequences. Well, take a look at what I wanted to do. I wanted reconciliation with a friend that I had cast aside. Where did that desire come from? From this thing called Original Sin that we’re all supposedly born with – this predisposition towards evil? Or is that yet another smokescreen in life – another illusion that actually has the effect of luring us towards negative behaviour because we’ve been made to believe we’ll never do better? In my experience, that’s exactly what Original Sin is, and my rejection of it has done nothing but improve me morally.

I’ve come to see that our beliefs can cause us to fill our lives with such high-and-mighty nonsense. Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of so much “How dare you say such-and-such,” “I can no longer be your friend,” etc. And in the past I’ve dished out my fair share of it, too. But I’ve come to understand that so much of the human drama is a joke. Here we are, Infinite Consciousness, incased in these egos, unaware of our true magnitude, identifying ourselves with these finite bodies, with the mental chatter and chemical addictions of our brains. We look at the ego and say, “This is me,” and quickly add, “Screw you.”

But when you understand that we are all One, there is only one attitude to others that makes any sense: love. That is why I can put aside pride and ego, and the need for apology, and reach out to someone whom I had been pointlessly resenting for years.

I have no doubt that some of my friends who have been following my blog for a long time are going to see me as slipping further from “common sense” into la-la land. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t ignore the good changes that have happened inside me, as a result of embracing an openness to possibilities outside of a Christian worldview. I have conquered my personal vices; I have courageously spoken out about a sensitive issue and refused to be silenced when pressurised; I have learned to love unconditionally, putting aside grudges and resentments. There is no pride in stating these things, only an encouragement for others to step outside of their conditioned reality to discover the same things and more. Frankly, when I look back on my Christian experience, I was a blundering oaf by comparison, blown to and fro by dogma and doctine that was making a mess of me.

But someone will say (and has done), “Your life may be better morally, but that’s only because Satan is making it easy on you. He will use any methods to get you, as long as he gets you.” Frankly, from a Christian perspective, that’s borderline heresy. Christianity is supposed to have a positive transforming effect on the lives of those who embrace it, with the power of sin broken by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But when rejecting Christianity has the effect of changing you dramatically into a better person, something is seriously wrong somewhere.

Forgiveness is there for the giving. That’s the simple truth I learned recently. No need to hold resentment, to demand apologies, no need for keeping a catalogue of wrongs. It’s just a choice – one that can be made without condition. Of course, it may not be easy. Someone may do something horrible to me, and my reaction might be to wish harm upon that person. That’s when I need to remember, we are all one consciousness. There are no good guys and bad guys. Even people who do great evil are an expression of Infinite Conciousness. Such people need to be loved and helped, not punished.

Speak no evil: You can’t even talk about porn, it seems

Many of you will know that I wrote a lengthy essay speaking out against pornography. The tone of the essay was one of empowerment against addiction and also of sympathy with those already addicted. I do not believe in condemning people, only in helping them to better themselves.

The essay was part experience, part information gleaned from conversations, part introspection, part personal philosophy, and part research. Throughout the essay, I made no distinction between those elements, because I was not interested in writing some kind of personal confession. However, somebody out there has interpreted it just like that. In the eyes of someone (I don’t know who, because this was communicated to me through a third party), I am viewed as dangerous. I am gutted that someone could so completely miss the 101 positive things I had to say that will help young people steer clear of pornography, and instead see me as some kind of villain.

I knew I was taking a risk to tackle such a taboo topic, but I also knew that so many young people were naively exposing themselves to porn and becoming addicted behind their parents’ backs, and all I could think was, “I know exactly what porn is, and I know exactly how to keep it out of my life. I can’t not share what I know.”

Anyway, I took the essay down, and in doing so I disappointed myself, because I feel I caved in to something I try very hard not to do: live in fear of what other people think of me. It’s the way a lot of people live, and it’s no way to live.

I plan to make some changes to the essay and put it back online. I want to improve the accuracy, amend some parts that I’ve had new thinking on, and snip a lot of unnecessary waffle out.

I try to live an inspiring life. I try not to be someone who merely comes home in the evening, switches on his television, and has no higher purpose than to entertain himself as much as possible on the way to death. I want to be the sort of person who does what he believes is right without fear of the consequences, but sometimes it’s so hard. I am just so disturbed that someone could read something I said and paint a picture of me that is the total opposite of what I am.

I leave you with some statistical information that reveals the sheer scale of pornography on the internet. The word “epidemic” comes to mind, and it’s clear that it extends to young people. I feel this is the ultimate justification for the necessity of an essay like mine:

  • Number of pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12% of total websites in world)
  • Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
  • Received unwanted exposure to sexual material: 34% of internet users
  • Monthly pornographic downloads (peer-to-peer): 1.5 million (35% of all downloads)
  • Average age of first internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old
  • 15-17 year olds having multiple hardcore exposures: 80%
  • 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online: 90% (most while doing homework)
  • Christians who said pornography is a major problem in the home: 47%
  • Adults admitting to internet sexual addiction: 10%

These stats are from Family Safe Media. Click the link for a lot more.

Stand-up storytelling

One of my loves as a writer of fiction is when I have the opportunity to tell stories, that is, with my own voice, in my own way, without worrying about grammar and punctuation, to an audience. I seem to have a knack for it, and I can get quite animated. What I really love is seeing all the captive faces and watching the emotions change as I form the story. It’s a whole different ball game from when you sell books and the only feedback you get is when the occasional reader takes time to tell you what they thought. I don’t know what you would call this kind of storytelling. If I were a comedian, this would be stand-up comedy, so I guess stand-up storytelling is as good a term as any.

I had the honour of being invited to a local primary school last Thursday to talk about writing. I planned to tell them a particular story – a scary story that I’ve told many times to other kids aged twelve or thirteen. I figured the primary sevens (aged ten) could handle it. So I drew them along, watching their transfixed faces as I told them the terrible true (ahem) story of the trapdoor in my house. A great time was had by all.

I was invited back again this morning to present certificates to children who successfully completely a reading challenge called “Team Read.” I had arranged to tell another horror story to the primary sevens. Imagine my surprise when primaries six, five, four, and right through to one, all filed into the hall.

Looking around at all those innocent doe-eyed kids, I thought, “Oh heck. I can’t tell them this story. They’ll have nightmares for weeks. But I don’t have a backup plan. I’ll have to go ahead.”

So I told the story of the murderous stalker who taunts a friend of mine until he kills him by fear. To my surprise, the room filled with laughter. When I mentioned the way the stalker stood still and stared out from inside his fur-rimmed parka, they giggled and laughed. When I told them about how I knew my friend was dead when I saw him through the window, because his eyes were wide open and staring, the room erupted in laughter again.

Well, it wasn’t the reaction I expected, but it was great. Man, kids are just weird sometimes. 🙂

Overcoming the fear of hell

I still feel disturbed by that meeting I had two days ago [see previous post]. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over me. I’m trying to get a handle on why, so that I can move past it.

The man I was talking with is actually the previous pastor of my church, under whose ministry I sat for years upon years of my life. And I wasn’t just a church-goer. I was in this guy’s life as a close friend and confidante for a long time. He was also like a mentor to me. We did grow apart to some extent at one point, because I stopped seeing life in quite the same way as him, even as a Christian. Although he stayed a part of my life even then, because I was friends with his son.

It was a hard experience having him speak angrily to me and condemn me. Hard because there’s still that suspicion in the back of my mind that he’s much older and wiser than me. Those memories are powerful. And combined with his reaction to me, the effect is a sort of irrational dread that tries to creep over me.

The easy thing to do would be to give in to it. To say, “I don’t want to go to hell! I believe! I believe!” I have to remind myself that all I’ve done for the past few months is I’ve followed what I believed to be true. The thing that some Christians can’t seem to understand is that sometimes people learn things that change them. This is true when you become a Christian in the first place, when you make the transition to turn from your sins and believe the Bible. For most people, this change is once only, and forever. I expected it to be that way with me, too, in the beginning. But it has been a rocky road, primarily because I have always been a thinker.

For instance, it doesn’t sit easy with me that the Old Testament God commanded his people at one time, “Thou shalt not kill,” then at another time, “Make sure you kill every, man, woman, child and infant of the Amalekites” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 15). I use this example a lot when talking to Christians because it is the strongest example I know of the way they refuse to ackowledge serious problems in the Bible. The first hoop they usually jump through is to say, “God has the right to do whatever he wants.” That was never in question. I’m concerned that he appears to contradict his own law, on the most disturbing level. I mean, if I had to spend an afternoon putting a sword through little babies, just because God told me to, I imagine I would probably want to kill myself. Another hoop is to point out, “The Amalekites were an evil people, and God was using his people to judge them.” Those babies were thoroughly evil, huh? People are not evil because of the race into which they are born. All people are born the same. It’s our experience that determines what we become. Still another hoop is, “You’re judging the ancient world, which was a very different culture, by modern standards.” That might explain why the people dutifully accepted commiting this atrocity, but what we’re dealing with here is the law of God, and God is absolutely righteous and unchanging; culture doesn’t come into it. Finally, the Christian may concede and say, “We just don’t understand these things.” But I decided to say, “Hold on a minute. It just isn’t right to keep ignoring what this is actually saying forever.” And can you really condemn me for that?

We’ve got the more heartwarming story of Abraham and his son Isaac, where God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to him on an altar. At the last minute, while Abraham is literally holding the knife over his son, God intervenes and tells him to stop. Abraham’s obedience is tested to the ultimate standard, and the readers think, “We knew you weren’t really going to do it, Lord. We know you’re a loving God.” But we’re all too quick to put out of mind the harrowing story of 1 Samuel 15.

Am I against God? No, no, no! My point is, this isn’t the true God; it’s an illusion. The ancient world is filled with stories of cultures sacrificing animals (or people) to so-called gods. I don’t think the God of the Old Testament is any different. I mean, when you read the early books of the Bible, you learn that this religion demands the constant flow of animal blood. What on earth does the infinite, eternal, all-knowing, transcendent God need with the endless slaughter of animals, day in and day out, all year round? “A pleasing aroma to the Lord,” the Bible says. I’ve heard the usual Christian defence of this, of course, that it was a prophetic picture of the death of Christ, sacrificing his life for the sins of man. But that just doesn’t make sense. Millions upon millions of animals had to die over thousands of years for a mere metaphor?

I refuse to ignore these things any more. It’s like I said before. When you dare to deconstruct your belief system and re-examine it without any emotional attachment to it, it all starts to look very different. I can choose to bravely face the implications of this new awareness, or I can cower away because I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I step away from the herd. Likewise, I can be afraid of some eternal punishment on the shaky grounds thats it might be true. It’s one thing to warn someone of an actual, real threat, but another to manufacture the reality of a threat by using a warning.

The pressure to conform never hit me so strongly as it did two days ago, when I was confronted by the pastor and his wife. But I see it for what it is: manipulation through fear. We’re not allowed to make our own minds up. In essence, it’s like a voice in my head saying, “Forget what you’ve learned, Darryl. Forget all your objections and be afraid. Believe what they tell you, because you might be wrong. And if you’re wrong, you’ll end up in hell. Believe in Christianity, Darryl. It doesn’t matter about all that horrific stuff that doesn’t make sense. Don’t think. Just be safe and snug. Take the easy way out and believe.”

I have no doubt that the pastor and his wife would be delighted if I did exactly that. How many Christians actually care why a person believes, just as long as he believes? And they say Christianity isn’t mind-control. Am I going too far? Well, let’s look at how Christianity advances. We have a society today that, in general, doesn’t believe in Christianity, and hasn’t got much of a clue about the Bible. So we assert that the Bible is the word of God, and we present its message, which is essentially, “You didn’t realise this, but God actually holds all your ‘sins’ against you. You are condemned to go to hell when you die. But there is a way out. Turn from your sinful ways and believe that Jesus sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for your sins.” We tell this to our children from a young age, rarely encouraging them to question its validity. This is how Christian families are perpetuated from one generation to the next. “The Bible is the word of God” – that’s the great assumption of our lives, and the starting point we want our children to cling to. Let’s face it, few of us are scholars. I once read a portion of a book on the reliability of these 2,000-year-old manuscripts that we call the New Testament, and the whole topic got so complex that I didn’t know what to think. You’ve either got to assume you’re dealing with the word of God, or not. But if it’s all based on an assumption, how can you condemn someone for choosing a different assumption? Or how do you spread the Christian message to the world when people in general no longer assume the Bible is the word of God? Answer: you use fear. You tell them that the consequences of not believing you are so dire that they must believe. Forget the question of whether it’s true or not – just believe. I ask you, does that sound reasonable?

I hear this all the time from Christians: “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” Well, why do you believe the Bible is the word of God? I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God. And I’ve got reasons for not believing, some of which I mentioned earlier. I actually don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to believe in the Bible. They’re free to believe anything they want to believe. You won’t hear me shouting threats at people, or hanging them out to dry, because they want to believe something different from me. Unfortunately, Christians not only say, “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” They add, “And you too must believe.” In my experience, some Christians will respect a person enough to try and find out where he’s coming from, and to coach him with reasonable arguments towards what they believe. Others don’t care what you believe and just want to metaphorically slap you across the face with “Turn or burn!” My stance is, if all you’ve got behind this is an assumption, you can’t expect the rest of the world to fall into line and see reality as you do. And yet some of my Christian friends will insist on condemning me and holding our friendship to ransom on the condition that I see life in the same way.

This matter of “assumptions” is equally true of me with my belief that we are all one consiousness. I can’t prove it to anyone. And I only “feel” it to be true intuitively. I talk about it because it’s a way of looking at life that helped me be more compassionate to others. And I’m hoping this may be interesting to others who are open to the idea of intuitive knowledge – knowledge that comes from within, from a higher aspect of our consiousness, rather than from our observations on the world around us.

The experience two days ago was actually slightly scary to behold. I realised that the minds of these people had been utterly absorbed by a complex and rigid belief system that was in total control of their actions. And their belief system is just one of countless factions of Christianity – which is why I’m experiencing more tolerant reactions from other Christians. The experience scared me, because I realised I was looking at something that wasn’t so different, in principle, from the religious extremism of the Middle East. I saw that these people would do whatever the word of God (or their interpretation of the word of God) told them to do, no matter what the consequences to those around them. In this instance, the consequence was their denial of me as a friend. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if their own son ever decided to change his worldview. Would they break their own hearts and insist that he move out of the house on principle? I had the scary realisation, “I really don’t know what these people are capable of.” And I’ll never forget that.

As for me, I intend to continue being the open-minded, caring, spiritual person that I am, open to new information, wary of manipulation, always searching for the truth about life. All I can say to the Christians who now find me unacceptable is, “I’m doing what I believe to be right. This is me. Take it or leave it.”

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More friendships crash and burn

I’ve just had a pretty harrowing evening. A Christian man and wife in their fifties/sixties recently discovered my change in belief. I knew it was only a matter of time before they found out. I didn’t want them to remain in the dark indefinitely, but I’ve been dreading this day, because I know how hardcore they are about their faith.

So I called round to their house to talk it through with them. It didn’t go well. They believe I have committed apostasy, that I have “rejected the saviour.” It doesn’t matter that in my mind I haven’t rejected anyone. All I’ve done is changed my mind about what I believe is real. You can ask me, “Do you deny that Jesus is the son of God?” How can I deny something that isn’t even a reality to me, because I question the reliability of the documents that explain this person to me? Yet the idea that I have rejected an actual person is what will be imposed upon me, because they will only see it from their point of view.

They listened to me for a while. And they got their own concerns off their chest, too. It was mainly prophecies of doom upon my life, and the heavy suspicion that I had never been a true Christian in the first place. Furthermore, I’m no longer welcome at their house, nor do they want me to maintain a friendship with their twenty-two-year-old son, whom I’m quite close to, in case I lead him into deception. How about the idea of respecting his ability make up his own mind about what he hears? That doesn’t come into it, apparently. I left with a heavy heart, and feeling like I had been poisoned.

I also saw how real this was to them. The lady even wept slightly during the proceedings, so I know there is real love for me in these people, but they have lived so much of their lives within Christianity (or their particular Calvinistic brand of it) that it appears impossible for them react any other way than they did. And yet it’s the most bizarre kind of love. The underlying attitude seems to be, “I love you, but I must reject you. You are only acceptable to me if you believe what I believe.” Or, “I love you, but I must hang you out to dry.”

As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I bumped into the very guy who led me to Christ when I was seventeen. Hadn’t seen him in many, many years; he lives in England but was back here for a visit. This guy’s Christian faith has been a rocky road, like mine. Many years ago, in an email, he admitted to me that he was gay. And, you know, it was great to actually have the chance to tell him in person, “I just don’t care. You’re all right by me.” To allow myself to empathise with what he has had to go through and to express true unconditional love – not the love that says, “I love you but I don’t accept you.”

As for me, the experience this evening only reinforces my views about religion, and the problems with accepting any rigid belief system that tells you what you’re supposed to think en masse. The craziness of the extreme reaction to me is illustrated by the simple fact that I’m the same guy I always was. Better, morally, than I’ve ever been. To some extent, it’s even true to say that I was living a double life as a Christian, and for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m now the same person in private that I am in public. What’s a guy to do with that reality except embrace it?

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How to slowly kill yourself and your children

[Appended 27 July 2008: On my stats I’ve noticed that people are arriving at this blogpost through search engines, using phrases like “how to kill yourself.” I have no idea how to give a complete stranger a reason to live in a single paragraph, but if you are thinking of committing suicide, what I can do is offer you an understanding, listening ear. So please, contact me. Nothing would make me happier than having opportunity to help someone.]

I have had a problem with being overweight my whole life. It was pretty bad when I was at school, until I finally had a moment of clarity at age sixteen (i.e. I had the hots for a particular girl and wanted to be in with a chance). I cut out lunches, bedtime suppers, and went cycling every day after school. It worked. Within a couple of months I was looking great, and I kept most of the weight off for several years. But I gradually started putting it on again, and although I never ended up with the same obesity as in my boyhood, I did end up with this annoying layer of flab around my middle. I’ve even made an effort to eat reasonably well in recent years, but I never managed to shift the blubber … until something came to a head in December 2007.

I started experiencing some bowel problems. That’s a lie. I’ve been having bowel problems for a few years. You know, soreness, minor bleeding, occasional constipation. Okay, if you need to, have a big horselaugh and get it over with, because I’ve actually got some important things to say here. It got to the point where I would hate the thought of going to the toilet. In December 2007 I decided: This can’t go on. What’s the first thought that comes into your head? “Go see the the doctor.” That might well be a big mistake (I’ll get back to that in a minute). What I did was a little internet research and I came across an interesting site called Wai Says. Some of the stuff on the site is radical, but I came across an interesting piece on how “Eat more fibre” is not the answer to constipation. This piqued my interest, because I had a very fibrous diet already and it wasn’t helping.

To cut a long story short, I learned that the old “Five portions of fruit or veg per day” is a misnomer. I was getting my five portions a day, but I was making it all veg, no fruit. When you think about it, fruit is completely different than vegetables, in terms of sugars, so how can the health profession make this blanket statement, lumping the two types of food together as if you can ignore the quantities in each? I’m convinced that lack of fruit sugars was a major factor in my constipation, and my overindulgence in vegetables (too much fibre) meant that my bowels were often trying to evaculate food too quickly, causing soreness and bleeding.

That’s not the whole story. I still liked my weekly (or twice a week) Chinese takeaways, full of who knows what in terms of artificial additives. I decided the only thing to do was to cut everything out and start off with “safe” foods – those proven to benefit the human body. Six months later, here’s how I eat …

Breakfast: Every morning I have toasted brown bread with butter and honey, a big tall glass of pure orange juice, and a slice of melon. I find this perks me up to the degree that I don’t even feel the need for a caffeine drink. In the beginning I was pining for a cup of tea and a big bowl of cereal, but these cravings vanished after a few days. I actually have a big problem with cereal. I think it was instrumental in me gaining weight in the past, and the processed nature of it responsible for some of my bowel issues. In any case, I find cereal completely unnecessary. Pure orange is great, and I go the extra mile to buy the “not from concentrate” variety.

Lunch: Sometimes I don’t bother. If I do, it’ll be a banana, crisps or nuts, or all of those. You might find it weird I mention crisps. Well, the only crisps I’ll eat are those hand-cooked Kettle Chips containing nothing artificial. Also, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’ve got this completely regimented eating schedule. I don’t. I just know what I can and can’t eat.

Dinner: Every evening I will have some kind of meat with my meal. I regularly buy fish (proper fish, like a Salmon steak straight from the meat counter at your supermarket, not some processed Fish Fingers), steak, and bacon. I never make chips, nor do I buy those oven chips (which are coated in fatty batter). Instead, I cut potatoes up into wedges, roll them in olive oil and cook them in the oven (a little herb is nice on ’em, too). I make three particular meals regularly: (1) salmon, pasta & salad; (2) steak, wedges, peas, mushrooms & onions; (3) bacon, egg, rice, mushrooms, onions. After dinner, I will often indulge in a cup of tea and some chocolate (the expensive organic 70% cocoa variety); I find it doesn’t do me any harm at all.

I’ll be the first to admit this is not the only way to eat, but it represents a pattern of eating that is the only way to eat, if you want to maintain your health. The pattern is this: Eat real food. Avoid all processed meats and as many artificial food additives as you reasonably can. When you’re at the butchers browsing the meats, did you ever look at the label under the sausages that says something like, “Actual meat content 75%”? What the hell is it that the rest of the sausage is made of! Do yourself a favour and buy an actual pork chop or something. You want to know a really delicious alternative to a humburger? Buy a tenderised minute steak (instead of a processed pattie; the meat will be tougher, but still brittle enough to bite), some tomato (as an alternative to ketchup), add lettuce, onion, cheese, and put in a bun. Delicious.

For a savoury snack, if you buy a packet of Kettle Chips crisps, you know you’re eating actual slices of potato cooked in sunflower oil. Look at the ingedients label on a packet of Pringles and you’ll see an unintelligible list of chemical substances that is frighteningly long. I noticed a Smarties television advert a while ago that said “No artificial colours.” This is the perfect example of the way companies will try to deceive the public into believing their product has a healthy side. Here’s how you tell. When a product says, “No artificial colours,” it means there are artificial flavours, otherwise they would proudly display “No artificial flavours or colours.” I see this all the time, and I steer clear of food like that. When you purchase candy for your child, do you realise you’re giving him nothing more than a lump of chemically enhanced refined sugar? Do you honestly believe that is beneficial? Do you suspect, as I do, that it might be harmful? Why not introduce him to a variety dried fruit snacks instead?

Here’s how common modern eating habits work. The crap is there being sold, so we buy it and eat it. And we find that it tastes nice. So we keep on doing it. And the detrimental effects don’t show themselves for years, until we suddenly realise we’ve turned into Ten-Tonne-Tessie, or we’re diabetic, or we’ve got bowel cancer, or who knows what else. A friend once said to me, “All things in moderation.” But to me, processed foods and artificial additives are more akin to slow-working poisons, and it would be crazy to subscribe to the idea of arsenic in moderation. One microgram won’t kill me, but don’t ask me to eat it anyway. I was at someone’s house a while ago (quite a rich family) and they asked me if I would like a glass of orange. I said, “Yes, please.” Then I watched them lift a big bottle of diluted “orange” from the cupboard, fill the bottom of my glass with this chemical substance, then top it up with water. And they handed this poison to me like it was normal. These are people with their heads in the sand, who (despite being rich) will save a few pennies by buying artificial orange juice that doesn’t even taste like orange, and think they’ve make a sensible choice. I let my guard down recently at a barbeque, where there was processed meats on offer. So I indulged, just this once. I paid the price the following day; my body, now re-sensitised to eating real food, almost felt like it was trying to tear me a new arsehole.

Am I an alarmist? I think I need to be. I’m no dietition, and I’ll be the first to admit there may be some innacuracies in this article, but if you still think there’s no link between cancer and food, you clearly haven’t been watching the news in recent years.

I no longer have bowel problems. And I’m glad I was able to sort my problem out without resorting to a doctor. Although I didn’t realise until recently how lucky an escape I may have had. I know of someone else who has bowel problems who did go to see a doctor. And the doctor prescribed a remedy. In other words, the doctor gives you something that allows you to keep on harming your body without noticeable ill effects (until it’s too late), and also helps keep the laxative industry running smoothly, as well as helping you grow dependent on an artificial means of keeping your body functioning normally. The last thing the health profession needs is to run out of sick people. It’s called treating the symptoms instead of the causes. Far be it from me to strike off all the good doctors in the world, but this is something to watch out for.

I could very easily have ended up sitting here today as overweight as I was in December, thanks to doctors. “Ah, you must have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here’s a prescription.” Instead, I’m 2.5 inches slimmer at the waist and feeling a darn sight better than I’ve felt for most of my life. And I did it without dieting. Dieting is fruitless because it’s temporary. I lost weight even though I’m eating chocolate regularly, for goodness sake! What I did was make a permanent lifestyle change – one that I’ve adjusted to completely and love, and one that will stand to me for the rest of my life. I have not only woken up to the dangers of unhealthy eating; I have lost any kind of craving for it. When you detoxify your body from all that crap, you learn that the foods God placed on this earth for our enjoyment are actually delicious.

The only downside to this healthier way of living is that it costs more. And to that, I reply with a simple, “So what.” Putting your health and your bank balance side by side on the scales strikes me as foolhardy in the extreme.

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