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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy for today


Before I get on with this mumble, I'd just like to mention that this post is not an invitation for you to kill me.

Thank you.




These really are good times.

Whilst it is a core belief of mine that it's important to appreciate today and not postpone the attainment of happiness for 'tomorrow', sometimes something will happen in my life that prompts me to question whether I really am valuing the gift of being alive.

When faced with that question, I look for an answer by asking myself another question:
"If I were to die today, would I be OK with that - is there anything I would regret not having done?"

The film Pay it forward, which I previously mentioned seeing for the first time the other day, provided one such prompt.

I used to think that I would only be able to say "Yes, I would be OK with that, and no, I would not have any regrets" if I had already accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.

I can't remember exactly when it was - perhaps some time last year? - but there came a point when I realised that I no longer felt the need to achieve anything in particular in order to be happy, because I was happy, and I am happy. Very happy.

If I try and determine why this is, two things come to mind: the love of my family & friends, the love of *Twinkle*, and my living in alignment with my core beliefs, which are centred around love and acceptance (Hhhmm. Perhaps I could turn this mumble into a Little Book of Happiness).

It's a great feeling though, because it helps me deal with the pressures of consumerism (except for the Apple iPhone of course, which I absolutely must have) and social norms re. careers. I don't need to feel pressured by others promoting a 'better' lifestyle, because, well, I have it already, sitting here in my little student room, with £24,000 of debt and just a couple of suitcases of 'stuff'.

The net effect of this feeling is something that I cherish - the feeling that every day from here on is a bonus.

I wake up: "Wow! ANOTHER day! What can I do with this one I wonder?!" This doesn't mean I feel pressured into having to do something 'incredible' every day, but it does prompt me to remain true to myself.

Of course it doesn't always work. I stuff up, a lot, but that's ok. It means I go to bed a little wiser than I woke up, even if I do have a swollen tongue from trying to lick a slice of parmesan cheese attached to a mouse trap (only did that the once).

But wouldn't this feeling of happiness rob me of an incentive to try and 'achieve' altogether? It seems not. I don't know why, but I find instead it inspires me to try and achieve more, more stuff with my passion at its core. Kinda exciting really.

I was thinking, it's not just the film that's made me look at these things recently, it's the spate of stabbings, first here in the UK, and now in Japan too. It just reminds me, there may be no tomorrow, so I'd better not place happiness there.

...Well, today is an extra happy day in any case, as in the last hour Apple's website has the announced the 3G iPhone, and an increase in storage on our family .mac account to 40GB from 10GB. What a glorious age to be alive in!

xxx joseph

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Monday, April 14, 2008

My Life Purpose


One benefit of committing the story of one’s life to a blog powered by Google, hosted by some other company and then sent to you by email (and then burnt to DVD) is that when one turns 90, the chances are there will still be a copy of it somewhere. Why should that be important? I’d like to be able to look back on my life at the age of 90 and see if I can draw lines between developments in my thoughts, feelings and decisions early on in life (now) and later occurrences.

For many years, I kept *real* diaries. I have about 49 of them in a big box that will soon be sailing to Japan. They span some 15 years of my life from the age of about 12. There’s only one copy of them, and should the boat go down, they will go down too.

I pretty much stopped writing my *real* diary when I met *Twinkle*, who became the one I talked to about things that mattered. As time has passed, so I’ve grown more confident about writing about my feelings here on the Internet, which has been especially useful this past year with those friends who are happy to talk about such things being some distance away. It took me a while to develop the confidence to open up, and I know that without the inner work, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only though learning to trust my heart / spirit that I can feel confident in what I write. Confident in that I am being honest with myself (as opposed to confident in my being ‘right’, a view I don’t subscribe to. How can I be ‘right’ when things have no intrinsic ‘rightness’? Don’t they only have the rightness or wrongness we as individuals choose to assign to them?).
So there’s my long-winded preamble about why I’m writing this.

Things have been happening in my life this week. Well, actually, it’s more a case of things have always been happening all my life, but I feel that now is a critical period, like some kind of climax. There’s all these things that are happening. I feel like there’s some role being shaped for me, but I have no idea what it is. I’m getting this message that I have some kind of responsibility to do something. But not just an everyday something, but a something that is going to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is.

You know there’s that quote of Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t say I can recall ever hearing it before this week, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. It was on a website I stumbled across the other day in bold letters. Then, it popped up on an audiobook I was listening too (quite the highlight actually - if you’re after self-development books give Brian Tracy a miss!), then the other night I was suddenly moved to pick a book off my shelf that had been there since January, untouched. It’s called “Be the change”, and is a product of the organisation of the same name, based in my second home town of Bristol. There on the front page is the quote by Gandhi.

Then there was the person I met in the pub the other night. Well, I say ‘met’. All I actually did was shake his hand and then talk to someone else on the other side of the table for 20 minutes, but the following day I received an email from his partner (my good friend) passing on a message for me, talking about my future. It was a reflection of the feelings I am writing about here.

Then there was that person who warned me, “Don’t hide behind *Twinkle’s* success”. Now that was a well-placed kick up the backside, and a very timely one at that. Likewise, I can’t hide behind the name of any company or government I might work for in the short term. I might want to, and no doubt I will do so at times due to my ego demanding a stroke, but it will be fatal if I subscribe to such a practice long term.

It’s not these superficial happenings that are overwhelming me though, it’s this feeling that growing inside me that I have a responsibility to use the immense fortune that I have to make a difference. I’m not talking any financial fortune, I’m talking being born in the UK in the late 20th century to loving parents who sent me to a Steiner School, and have always supported me emotionally in all that I have ever chosen to do. In having loving siblings and friends who share my positive outlook upon life and also believe that we can do great things.

Sometimes, the feeling is positively palpable. Like tonight. I had to lie down on my bed and hide under my duvet, hugging my teddy as I felt all these things happening, all this energy surrounding me (if only I could channel it into pressing the appropriate keys on my Macbook to write a dissertation on NGOs in Japan!). I’ve been reading these incredibly inspiring stories in the Be The Change book about individuals who have done the most amazing things and are changing lives. In some cases, just a few lives, and in other cases, many. There’s no fundamental difference between these people and anyone else, except that they have made a decision to make things happen, and then acted. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but that is not important when one first embarks upon a project.

So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t think the time is right to act yet as I need more clarity, and it may be a case of waiting some years before I do know. That’s not to say that I have to “wait until everything is in place” - the biggest excuse in the book that, things will never be ‘just right’! But I do know that it’s vital that I continue to study, study my passions, study others, study those things in life that present themselves to me with a label on saying “study me” (sometimes need an ultraviolet light to see the writing though).

I also know that living in accordance with what my heart tells me is right, is working. It must be almost a year now since I started that ‘experiment’, and the results in terms of being at ease with decisions made, not attaching importance to the subjective opinions of others who are acting out of a perceived necessity for defensiveness, and my ability to love others for who they, are wonderful to experience.

It’s pretty difficult for me to tell even a white lie now. Although I did the other day, first time in a very long time. I can’t remember exactly where I was. It was somewhere on campus, I remember that, and it was someone who I didn’t know too well, and they asked me an awkward question. I told them the answer they wanted to hear, and boy oh boy did I feel bad. I almost burst out laughing I was so amused by my inability to lie. If the person had known me they’d have spotted it right away, but they didn’t.

In a way I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the publishing company we are establishing is essentially a social enterprise, helping others to help themselves without heavy emphasis on profit. If my energy is directed into that, I can feel happy knowing that I am doing a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get the Jet job. If I do I know I’m going to have to use every opportunity within that to make myself a better person, in order that I can make things happen in an area where my true passions lie in the future.

If I don't get it, that’s great too as it means that there’s some other exciting path waiting for me.


So, 90-year-old Joseph, do the lines join up?

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Norwegian Wood, Religious Weddings and the Canvas of Life


Latest addition to my mum's art portfolio

Fascinating, thrilling day today. It is so great to see family after such a long time.

I caught the tram at 6.30am, train down to Hereford, bus to Wormelow, car to Orcop. Thoroughly enjoyable journey. Not only did I get to indulge in one of all-time favourite hobbies -sewing patches on my jeans (and this was a MAJOR patch, handmade by my talented friend Suzie H a couple of years back, I've been saving it for such an occasion as today's), but also, I was able to indulge in listening to a new Audiobook - Norwegian Wood by Murakami. I've not read it before, but have long wanted to, knowing how much it is liked by so many of my friends. I absolutely loved 'Kafka on the Shore': I listened to that as I crossed the East China Sea, and found myself identifying with the characters as they made their own journey's West.

Whilst the narration of Norwegian Wood is not spellbinding in the way that that of Kafka was, I'm really enjoying the story nonetheless. I recognise the characters in people I know, the most prominent example being that of the upper-class womaniser destined to be a bureaucrat, who appears to me as the chap from Oxford university who made it to the final of the speech contest with me last month (to the right of me in this picture).



I did a bit of PC-doctoring today, getting my sister's webcam working for Skype (secret is to uninstall the Logitec software and let Skype handle the camera itself) which the boys liked (funny seeing yourself on screen for the first time!), and setting up iTunes so she can listen to some of the audiobooks I've purchased from Audible (you can license up to 3 computers to play your DRM-protected tracks).

Also talked about the wedding quite a bit, lots of good ideas emerging. It's going to be great.

One 'issue' that comes up for some people is this getting-married-in-a-church business. Neither *Twinkle* or I are particularly religious, and as you know, I am not too keen on traditional Christian notions of an almighty 'God' ...so why do I want to get married in a church?

Well, as with everything in life, a church wedding only carries the meaning that an individual chooses to assign to it. In Japan, 'church' weddings are popular (although the church is unlikely to be 'real' and the priest may well be a fake). I feel I have been somewhat influenced by the research I carried out on Japanese 'Christian weddings' in 2006/07, in that for me such a wedding does not necessarily have to relate to any religious tradition, and is really very appealing.

What others may label as "God" I feel is a nameless infinite source; love; an immense energy that fills us, that is us, and all of our surroundings.

Thus, a demonstration of my commitment to *Twinkle* in the 'presence of God' is for me, not a subscription to norms as laid out in holy texts, but rather, a powerful acknowledgement of our decision to commit to strive to bring our energies, our love, into flexible alignment.

There's other, somewhat more tangible reasons for having a church wedding too. I want to see my dream bride walk down the aisle in a beautiful white dress -it's in all the movies! I want the experience of church bells ringing overhead, confetti being thrown as we leave the church. I've been influenced by popular culture, and I want to live the dream.

I also feel that our parents would appreciate a church wedding. Perhaps here again I am influenced by Japanese customs I feel that our wedding is in a way as much an event for our families as it is for us.

Dad

I'm not sure I could have handled a church wedding a year or two ago, but the timing now is perfect.




It's been a tremendous day of synchronisity. I won't go into details here, but just to say that thoughts that have been circulating within my head have today been vocalised by two people close to me, quite out of the blue. It's all related to where do I go from here? Suddenly, concerns over employment after I return to Japan are made to seem like nothing but minor details that are sure to addressed through the natural unfolding of life.

These worries have been dwarfed by the appearance of this huge blank canvas that stretches out as far as the eye can see. In front of it is this incredible array of coloured materials and tools for their application. There's a sign there too. It reads:

Paint your future. Then Live it.


Aghh! I can't deal with that! Where's the colouring book with the numbered options: 1 for red, 2 for blue, 3 for green? Just choose your picture and fill in as prescribed. I know if I do that I'll succeed, everyone does!

...but a blank canvas?! You mean I can paint anything at all? ...But, I dunno what to paint! And what if I go wrong, what if I get the colours mixed up?

I must work to accept that it's only when artists move away from the colouring template that new colours are created by the mixing of the primaries, its only through experimentation that breakthroughs in style are made - and that it is these breakthroughs that bring great joy to artist and onlooker alike.

I've not been faced with such a huge canvas before. It keeps on getting bigger too as it is unrolled further by friends, by family, by books, by experiences. I understand that I'm being challenged to pick up one of the many tools before me and make my mark, but what tool I should use, and what colour should I apply?

It'll come to me. I know it will. I needn't be afraid because I will be guided by someone or something.

It's also important that I not feel I have to paint the whole picture with a single brushstroke - I'd never dare make that sweep from left to right! If I start small with little dabs, holding a clear idea of what I'm looking to create in my mind, with time the scene will emerge. I may accidentally put a splurge of red where green would be better suited, but that red will come to play an important part, perhaps a little poppy in the field of wheat.

Hmm, it's very exciting.

What's even more exciting though, is that in reality, we are all faced with this canvas, every single day.

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