Having chosen to swallow the red pill...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Severe weather warning


Winter
Originally uploaded by Bat21.

I read with slight amusement today the articles on the BBC news about the severe weather warnings in the UK and the arctic weather conditions that have blanketed the country in up to 5cm of snow and made driving hazardous.

I am sorry, but over here we call it winter.

Monday, February 21, 2005

It's official...

I got my student union card today and it’s official, I am now a student again and I get to travel cheaply by bus and I get to go to the movies cheaper on weekdays! Shame that there aren’t some useful discounts like money off wine and beer, money off petrol, or as a ‘student’ homeowner, money off electricians and plumbers, and a student discount on my phone and internet bill!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Books!


Books
Originally uploaded by Bat21.

Just got new books in the post today! I unwrapped them, I stroked them just a little, then I covered them in protective plastic and quickly flicked through them. Then, with much discipline, I put them onto the bookshelf to wait their turn as there are some other books I must finish first.

I love books and can't get enough of them! I could go broke buying books. When we were in southern England the summer before last, we drove past a place called 'Book Barn' which was several agricultural barns, each the size of a football pitch, which had been converted into a second hand book store, with over 1.000.000 books! You had to get a map when you came in as the place was so big. I was breathless with excitement, like a kid around the Christmas tree, and after about two hours, Ellie had to drag me out.

One of my dreams is to one day have my own study (mentioned in the 100 things about me article in the right sidebar). Ideally, this study would face out onto the garden. The side facing the garden would be all glass, with a door that could open out onto a small veranda, where I could sit and read on a warm day. The other three walls would be lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves, including bookshelves around and above the doorframe. Hopefully the ceiling would be high enough so I could have one of those sliding ladders to reach the uppermost books. I would have a large desk in the middle of the room, facing out over the garden, and a comfy chair, small round table and reading lamp in one of the corners for reading. Tucked in between one of the bookshelves would be a small cabinet with some whisky, cognac and glasses for those long winter evenings... So, I know what I am looking for when I have finished studying and have begun to earn again and we can look to move house!

Friday, February 18, 2005

We passed!

Woo-hoo! We just got back our second case, the one about Julia, a depressed 21 year old drug addict who is three months pregnant and abused by her partner, and we passed! We were the only group in our section who did pass, all the other groups need to re-work their answers. That means that I can take the weekend free and re-charge my batteries before our second course begins and keep my fingers crossed that our third case on honour killings passes muster!

End of course one. End of the first 5 weeks at university.

Happy Birthday Andreas!!!


Andreas birthday
Originally uploaded by Bat21.

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Andreas,
Happy birthday to you.

Or as may be more familiar...

We congratulate
We congratulate
We congratulate little Andreas today
With flowers and leaves
We celebrate his day
We congratulate our Andreas today.

Yes, it's my good friend Andreas' birthday today. Happy birthday mate.

Andreas is one of those friends who are rare to find and that is because he is a kind of person who is rare to find. What Andreas has been through in his life would provide enough material for Shakespeare to write at least six more tragedies, but you wouldn't know that when you meet him. He is the gentle giant personified. Had most of us gone through what Andreas has gone through, we would curse which ever kind of higher power we believed in, cursed fate and cursed that damn gypsy woman who mumbled something at us when we refused to buy a rose from her last year. But not Andreas. Andreas walks tall. Andreas faces what ever life throws at him with a courage I thought had died out in our generation and he takes responsibility for his actions and life in a way that most of us could learn from.

First in his life is his daughter, Trine, who is the secret behind the shine in his eyes. He adores her and his stories about her smiles are enough to melt your heart, because when he tells them, you can see that they have melted his. When you see Andreas with Trine, you realise what quite a few parents seem to miss today, that no amount of money can replace love and spending time with your children.

As a friend, Andreas is always there for you, he supports when that's needed and on the other side, he can drink a lot of beer, play bad pool and have a laugh when that is needed. His wisdom and understanding of people is astounding and his constant good humour is infectious. The only bad things about him is his taste in music, but hey, we can't be perfect.

So, if you have read this far, I can understand if you feel that you should worship him too. Think of the comments section as some kind of altar, now go on and leave your offering...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Come in, sit down and feel at home


Uni main entrance
Originally uploaded by Bat21.

Thought that I would just try and help out with some orientation to make you feel more at home on my blog. The photo above in the main entrance to my university faculty that I visit pretty much everyday and sometimes at the weekend.

The building is brand new, it was opened sometime last year, I think and its architectural style is very Scandinavian. It is full of wood and aluminium and large windows, letting plenty of light into the building. The large glass area in the photo houses the library and computer rooms and on the other side of the building, it faces out onto the lake of the city's largest park. It's a nice place to study in.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Is this the world we created...

I was amused this morning when I went in to check my e-mails and saw a pop-up advert from Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. It would seem that customer service in the banking sector has sunk so low that a bank can differentiate itself by offering you a 'real person' to talk to! The ad went something like this... 'When you want to discuss banking matters, does your bank give you contact with a real person 24/7? Here at Hong Kong Shanghai ...'

The sad thing is that the banking sector is not alone on this one.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Society's shadow hunters


IMG_0965
Originally uploaded by Bat21.

I sat working all day yesterday. The snow started at about 10:00 in the morning and continued all day, easing off sometime early evening. I took the photo through the veranda (patio/kondii) window, looking out onto the garden. I liked the pattern of the window and the snow.

They have really thrown us in the deep end in the course. The case I was working on yesterday was about honour killings. They want us to get a better understanding as to why they happen and how could the people in the front line be better prepared to serve and help those at risk. Last week's case was that of a 21 year old girl, with symptoms of depression, who was a drug addict, 3 months pregnant and abused by her boyfriend!

It's tough work both emotionally and mentally, but it also feels clean and authentic. It feels like instead of reading about society's shadows in the papers, I and the people I am studying with will get to roll our sleeves up and work on the front line, hopefully to make a difference, even if it is only for one person. I sat there wondering how, later as a therapist, I could possibly approach these people and try to help them heal their mental wounds, to find some peace. Right now, I wouldn't know where to start and that is a good sign. A good sign that I am on the right path to something more fulfilling and away from the advertising/marketing/branding world that I have been kidding myself matters of the past few years. (No insult intended to those of you who work in the industry, we need you, but I have come to reaslise that my calling is elsewhere...)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Is it that the group doesn’t work, or that I don’t work in the group?

This last week of group work has just taken it out of me. I have been finding that even sitting with the group for just one hour has left me feeling drained and somewhat stressed. I think that the individuals in the group are great as people, but the dynamics of the group just doesn’t work for me. I end up feeling that I am doing loads of work and and also trying to motivate the group, reviving sagging enthusiasm and trying to inject enough energy to just get the job done. It has been a tough old week, as it takes me longer to read and write in Swedish and as a result, it feels as if I have been stuudying and working every single day since I started university, without a break for the weekend. I haven't even had time for my friends, especially Andreas, who is going through a tough time at the moment, and I feel bad for that.

Anyway, yesterday I just ran out of steam and somehow still managed to come home with extra work. I haven’t really worked out how that happened or as the case is, continues to happen. It is a pattern that repeats itself and I always seem to end up with the most work. That bears some thinking about… is it that I have a problem saying ‘no’? Is it that I shy away from conflict? Is it that I just want to be pleased and to be accepted and so am prepared to bend-over backwards to be helpful?

It is funny sometimes how small events, such as this group conflict, can suddenly serve as mirrors into our own souls or personalities and can throw up problems, which, if we approach them with determination and openness, can provide us with opportunities for growth. The other funny thing about these small events is that it is all too easy to see them as BIG events when we are in them and to get stressed out by them and blow them completely out of proportion. More often than not, it is a useful exercise to just take a step back and get some perspective on the situation. What seems like an all-encompassing problem suddenly becomes something small and ever so slightly stupid. I start laughing and once again, life moves on.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Why Warrior?

At one level, the word ‘warrior’ here is just the name for a path. It could as well be monk or seeker. The path can have a name, but doesn’t necessarily need one. It can simply be just that, a path or Way. However, the designation ‘Warrior’ gives the way a definite bias. The word ‘warrior’ is an archetype that conjures imagery in the mind of most people. What a warrior is will be dealt with later, the question here is ‘Why warrior?’

Good question! What immediately springs to mind is a little passage from the book ‘The Craft of the Warrior’ by Robert Spencer that talks about the experience of those who have experienced and survived combat. Theirs is an experience of life enriched by the very real possibility of losing it. It is this enrichment, this sense of the preciousness of each moment, this almost exquisitely painful awareness of life’s ultimate vulnerability that finally brings clarity to the moment, and with practice, to each moment. Suddenly, this is to live, this is to be fully awake. This is the end of the path.

The fact that the journey is one of warriorship reflects the discipline and focus of warriors preparing for battle. The Way itself can take many forms. It can be Zen, ikebana, woodwork or surfing, whatever. What these have in common with this ancient form of warriorship is the discipline necessary to give self-mastery and a way of being in the world that is beyond what ordinary people are prepared to give. It is this recipe of discipline, preparation and self-mastery that enable the disciple to walk the path and give them a chance to taste an authentic life.

For me, by calling it ‘The Way of the Warrior’ you make it somehow more tangible. By being able to read about and relate to the physical, mental and spiritual preparations for battle, I find myself better able to understand the requirements of the path and to be able to start walking it on my own, in the absence of a teacher.

The second parallel for me is that a warrior trains to do battle and, to choose to follow the path is to choose to do likewise. Like in the Matrix, when Neo is given the choice between taking the red or the blue pill, I am finding that once the decision is taken to follow a path, there is no real way back. Somehow everything else feels like mediocrity and even though I have left the path on some occasions, it is always with relief that I start walking it again.

To choose to examine yourself, to examine your choices and the roots of these choices, to choose to accept responsibility for yourself and your actions and to take your character armour off and expose yourself to the scalpel, this is a preparation for battle. A battle for life, for an authentic life. This isn’t necessarily measured by grand moments but more by the small and consistent practice of your Way each and every day and by honing ourselves to a razor sharp edge so we are ready to grab our cubic centimetre of chance when it pops-up before our eyes.
The battleground is real, it’s here and now. The battle is for an authentic life and the Way is that of a warrior.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

What is in a Way?

As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I gave myself the task of trying to define the Way of the Warrior as I see it. I have felt that I needed to get some thoughts down on paper and bring some structure to it, as at the moment it feels as if I am chasing some impossible ideal that represents impeccability on all possible levels. I have to question, then, the sense of partaking in a journey that I will never complete, and, if I call myself today a Warrior’s Apprentice, then the title and effort are pointless if the ‘apprentice’ never can, nor ever could be the master.

I call myself a Warrior’s Apprentice but could just as well call myself a novitiate, a beginner or a learner. All that the title signifies to me is an indication of a decision to follow a path, a decision to exert effort in following that path and a designation where on that path I currently stand. From what I know about Warriors and Master Warriors, I am not one. But what I know has come primarily from what I have read and is therefore an assimilation of the warrior-archetype from a variety of sources. Even Socrates (of Dan Millman fame), the original warrior I came across, who although a real person, has had his lessons and personality embellished by Millman for the purpose of his book. I can see the dangers that I am getting into already. By assimilating all of these personality traits, people and action into ‘one’ warrior, the danger is that I create a ‘super human’ who even the people that I have read about couldn’t live up to and there is not a lot of sense in striving after that!

The way that I thought I can best go about this exercise is by asking myself questions based on my assumptions and then seeing where the answers lead. I hope that from there I can come up with some waymarkers, then see if they are realistic, and if so, incorporate them into my living.

The questions I have come up with so far are:
• Why warrior?
• Who is a warrior?
• What is a warrior?
• A warrior should be fit. Why?
• What about warriors and the martial arts?
• This all sounds serious, where does the warrior stand in relation to fun?
• What or who is a warrior today?

If any of you have any questions, then please feel free to add them into the comments and I will incorporate them and endeavour to answer them.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Today is going to be a good day

This is a mantra I had way back the year before last when I went through my ‘mid-life crisis’ at the quite remarkable age of 27! It was something I said to myself each and every day almost as if to convince myself that the day would work out alright. Well, today was a good day. It was a good day for two reasons.

Firstly, it seems as if I am making some progress in making some ‘friends’ or at least study companions on my course. This at least should make the course more fun. I mean that the material is interesting and it feels good at some level to be studying again, but it is always more fun if there is a couple of other people you can sit with in lectures and have a laugh with. – Shit, I tell you, this will be an interesting change for me. I had to laugh today as the post arrived and there was a parcel with some books I ordered. I opened it and one of the books was a book about feminism as a philosophy and a way of looking at society and I was looking forward to reading it! It isn’t that I have anything against feminism as such, it is just that as late as last year, I wouldn’t even of thought of reading such a book. (What I get out of it will have to be the subject for another day)

The second part of my good day was running. As I work in the ad industry with marketing and brand strategy, I am often asked what my favourite ad is. It is a magazine ad from Nike, done in sepia. It is set in a park and in the background is a corporate type guy in his suit, sitting on the bench eating his lunch. In the foreground is a pair of legs from the calf down and a blur of trainers. The only copy in the ad reads ‘Either you ran today or you didn’t’ That ad is pure genius. Either you belong or you don’t. Well today, I belonged. Not just because I ran, but because I had one of those rare runs where everything just comes together. My legs felt full of spring and power. My arms pumped hard and my lungs were perfectly happy to keep the pace. I just stormed down the roads in the rain, thinking that sometime soon I must run out of energy, but no, I kept going like the damn Duracell bunny, just tearing-up the turf and putting a time on my watch that will be a challenge to match. My whole body was buzzing with a feeling of personal power when I got back home. I guess that it is time soon to increase my distance.