Saturday, June 21, 2008


Last week was probably the bumpiest of the year: I was sick with a cold from Saturday to Monday; Xin was unwell too, and preparing for an art collaboration in Wellington; later in the week, something else viral hit me pressurising my skull and causing discomfort; I parted with Xin on a cold night; I had trouble on the Wellington Airbus where I had $3.20 on my card and coinage to make up the shortfall in the fare, which for some weird reason could not be accepted by the driver; and then my plane was delayed.

But today is another day; A Saturday; Winter solstice; Saturnalia, if Ancient Rome still existed and were in the Southern Hemisphere. I spent it tidying, planting trees, walking and running around the summit of Big King skyclad (I'll claim it as a religious observance). The latter was a spontaneous decision during a nice urban stroll. As I ascended the wind gathered with a light drizzle. When I reached the top, it was positively howling and threatening to unleash something furious. Perfect: It was elemental; it was glorious. Not a soul was around. It was the night of an All Blacks' test afterall.

Descending, I felt sublimely good; a sensation that has to be enjoyed in its ephemerality.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Irony and Philosophy

I finally managed to download the entire virus definition update from Norton over dial-up on Saturday morning (had tried many times but it kept impatiently disconnecting me from their server). At the same time, my own biological virus definitions proved to be out-of-date to the parallel advance of microbes into my own person. How those tiny particles can torpedo the energetic flow of a life, bringing my cellular edifice to a screeching halt! I walked to the shop for milk this morning (barely 100 metres) and felt like I was dragging sandbags.

While down, I continued to read a book Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and The Death of Utopia by John N. Gray (the N being rather important in distinguishing him for the writer of Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus). I realised I may have uncovered a philosopher who shares a particular facet of my beliefs, extending it far beyond the narrow idea I had, and setting out its validity with (saving me the job).

An idea I have had in the past was simply that ideologies were doomed to fail because they usually didn't factor in human nature, no matter how noble the principle. Gray's point is much more sophisticated in seeing that most modern ideologies all feature something like a utopia or 'apocalypse' (or both). He reasoned that this was a hang-over from Christianity, with a teleological understanding of time and history (i.e. focussed on an end-point).

Take the simple idea of progress. It is true that we have had scientific and medical progress; but have we progressed as a species (beyond the barbarism of previous times)? Has our very nature been improved? He'd say no. We may have at one stage eliminated slavery and eliminated torture, but the desire to use both is still with us; and if we aren't vigilant both will return (well, only Americans deny that torture hasn't returned yet to 'Western' nations).

Most ideologies would posit an ideal end-time when things reach their optimal. The ACT party would see heaven as a small government with liberal policies. Is it an article of faith that once we get there it will be all milk and honey? If we sacrifice a large proportion of the state and the institutions that have developed around it, will things continue better than currently?

Gray points the finger at the Enlightenment, where Reason was brought forth as having the power to progress and perfect society. This resulted in a range of ideals: communism, liberalism and republicanism etc. Almost all of these ideals have killed a great many in their implementation. The idea that liberal democracy has worked in Western states is seen as an example of perfection by liberals and neo-conservatives, and it follows that if applied to other countries that it should have similar results. The United States with allies have attempted to do this in Iraq and Afghanistan and are yet to really show any real signs of achieving legitimate government.

This is a very useful lens with which to look at many contemporary political actions. I may investigate his previous book, the apparently more seminal Straw Dogs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh lord, don't let me be misunderstood!

I recently met someone who is very presumptious of my words and actions. It is ironic because I can imagine many of the comments and thoughts I have had about other people in the past were equally presumptious.

That type of person

I generally consider myself able to communicate well with most people. But there is one kind of person that I seemingly always have trouble with. Fortunately, I have met only three of them in my life: they are all female; they seem to wait for me to say something when I am expecting them to speak; I speak just as they open their mouths to speak. In the perpetual confusion of when to speak, what to speak is frustrated to the point that nothing is said. Headaches abound and pound. Fortunately I'm teaching one: I think I've almost worked out how to.

Recurrent pain

Generally I'm not a person who gets angry or sad easily; but there is a definite sore point that can elicit a wince, a stiffled curse, an urge to strike and a clench of the teeth every single time. In some of the interactions I have with people I say something I regret, and recalling it each brings the same pang, the same pain and the same wince.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Matariki rising

A weaker roll in the last week allowed me the possibility of an early wake-up for Matariki. Again I was not alone with Alex and friends accompanying me. Unfortunately this was an 'early' Matariki and the eponymous constellation was still fairly low on the horizon in the pre-sunrise glare despite the perfect weather. I, with my shortsightedness, couldn't see it but some of my companions could. The following morning in Wellington also provided a clear morning but due to a lower latitude I didn't get any reward either.

Matariki is a time for introspection (as if I needed any encouragement). Here is a brief summary of where I'm at:

Work has come to a juncture of sorts. The work at my original client has wound down almost to the extent that under some circumstances I could fit it all into one day. Within the next month I'll discover whether the Wellington work will continue beyond July. I have two fresh clients in my sights but I haven't got my foot in the door yet as both key contacts are elusive.

My fitness work has been steadily improving. I can now run an hour (11 kms) without much difficulty. My stamina is not an issue; it is the fragility of my legs that I worry about. I have recurrent medial shinsplints and occasional arch pain. I will probably consult a physio and have a rest for a couple of weeks. I've found many opportunities to increase my daily walking including my last trip to Wellington where I didn't take the bus at all (there are three points when a bus is a convenient option).