A voice crying in the wilderness

The Simpler Life

I think I have finally come to understand my rotating obsession with Indonesia (primarily Bali), Japan and trying to relocate to Albany.

Each year that passes, I find that I am becoming more and more disillusioned with Western society. We, as a collective, are very fortunate and privileged to live where we do and have all the social securities that we do – and yet the more we have, the more we want. Instead of being thankful, we have become greedy, self important and rude. We flaunt our success and hoard our excess instead of sharing with the disadvantaged.

I found that I looked to Japan for a more idealistic way of life – people who were considerate towards one another, who worked co-operatively for the collective good of their community. People who were polite and well mannered, considerate and well behaved. People who were diligent and hard working. Everything I wanted our society to be – a stark contrast to the boorish, self-centred, self-serving “I want everything my way, NOW!” attitude of the spoiled Westerner.

During one of my bouts of depression and its subsequent upswing, I became obsessed with moving to Japan, taking up permanent residence, adopting their culture as my own, even changing my name and forging a new identity. If my wife didn’t want to go, fine – I would go by myself. I started studying again, trying to improve my understanding of the written language (I used to be competent in conversational Japanese but struggled with kanji and katakana).

But as I continued reading and referencing the logistics required to relocate, I started reading more and more blogs and journals of people – predominantly Americans – who had been living in Japan for some time, learning from their experiences of settling in and adapting to the culture, all the social protocols and obligations. The more informed I became, the less ideal the lifestyle appeared. Its not that the idea became unappealing, but rather the relocation would simply be exchanging one set of complications for another. Additionally, due to my peculiar dietary and medical requirements, along with many philosophical choices, I would need to import a great number of items from Australia. In short, I would probably be trying to recreate a miniature Perth in a different country.

Thankfully, my manic mood finally reached a degree of equilibrium and I was able to look at the concept with a clear mind. I would love to visit Japan again, but moving there is for a whole different project.

However, remaining in Perth still left with me with that frustration with our selfish, materialist society.

As a thought exercise, I considered how my expectations changed as my income increased. The more I had, the more I wanted and the less satisfied I became. Truthfully, I was happiest and most content when I had very little.

But could I go back to being that way again?

I continue in my pursuit of uncluttering my house – its an ongoing project and will probably last a lifetime. Its not that I want to get rid of absolutely everything, but I certainly would like to pair everything down to the essentials and remove unnecessary duplications.

An aspect of this is an attempt to step away from our disposable culture – I don’t believe in buying the best possible quality of everything; having worked so many years in retail and customer service, it repulses me the amount of money people will spend on an item for what is essentially “boast value” – people who buy expensive products for the sake of buying an expensive product even though they will never use it to its full potential. It would be a demonstration of the shallowness of our society by trying to impress people by flaunting how much money we have to waste. *

Unless a product has a history of longevity and delivers demonstrably better results, I tend to shy away from the premium products and direct people to more conservative, practical and realistic products. When buying for myself, as an example, though I might be happy with a $10 pair of jeans, I am also happy to invest $70 in a higher quality pair that will last longer and fit more comfortably. I do find, however, that the cheaper pants suit my non-fashion oriented tastes a great deal better. I certainly wouldn’t like to invest $100 for a brand name pair that is likely to have been made in the same sweatshop as the $10 pair.

For all our shortcomings as a city, Perth is still a privileged area and living here is a continuous and precarious balance of being in the world, but not of the world – even with my minimalist mindset, I still can be easily distracted by gadgets and materialist possessions. For example, I like my clunky but functional setup with Linux at home, but I am constantly fighting the urge to convert back to Apple – not because of its “coolness” but because all the equipment works together so nicely. A constant battle because Apple represents so many of the aspects of materialist society that I resent and reject. But apart from the tight integration with other Apple products, I cannot justify the expense as using their equipment would not make me any more productive or creative, but more likely would provide me with more distractions.

It would be tempting to run away from society and live as a hermit – as long as I had fresh water, electricity and a broadband internet connection of some description. But what would that achieve? I might be living a more complete and wholesome life but the rest of society would be continuing along their slippery path towards their inevitable self-destruction.

Regrettably, I must continue to live in the world as I have both a duty and obligation to lead by example – to show people a better way to live, rejecting Earthly treasures and selfishness, instead showing love, mercy, kindness and the way to Christ.

Even to those people who are far more deserving of being beaten over the head with a shovel.

* The recent mining boom and subsequent crash was a great example of this – so many people thought “I have just made a bucket load of money, I shall spent it wildly and recklessly.” With so much disposable cash abounding, the cost of living in Western Australia doubled over the next two years and even following the crash, the cost has barely come down.

Current affairs shows started doing reports on how people who were earning six figure salaries last year were now living on the streets following the crash. I’m sorry, but its difficult to be sympathetic to someone who earned in excess of $300,000 over the last two years but has absolutely nothing to show for it.

DSC02882“Before you complain about bad customer service, ask yourself if you are being a bad customer.”

There is a perception in the media that Japan, as a nation, is largely xenophobic and prejudiced against foreigners – even the word itself, gaijin (外人), means “outside person” – a label all non-Japanese will carry no matter how long they live there, no matter how well they assimilate into the culture.

The laws often cited as being discriminatory, including the residence card issued to any foreigner who intends to stay in Japan longer than the 90 day visa allows and is required to be carried on their person at all times, appear on the surface as biased against non-Japanese. A child born in Japan of non-Japanese parents is not considered a Japanese national – they would still have to apply for permanent residence and naturalisation to be granted the same rights as a “full blooded” Japanese. Even then people will often ask them “When are you returning home?”

The media often seems to get into hysterical frenzies about the rights of the individual but how much of this is unfounded media panic and gonzo journalism, and how much of it is a genuine concern to the non-Japanese citizen?

Searches online seem to find a lot of sites claiming discrimination, or at least bureaucratic fumbling and stalling, when dealing with non-Japanese – ranging from being refused entry to shops or bars, being refused rental of apartments and houses through to police hostility and social ostracism.

If I look to my own experiences during my previous short visits to Japan, I can certainly recall no issues; a few moments are memorable, such as my arrival at customs with the officer having studied at the William Shatner school of English – I was greeted with a war chant of “Anything! To! Declare!?” and having already been awake for 26 hours at this time, shook my head numbly and wandered off through the gate, completely forgetting about the two bottles of wine in my backpack that I had brought as gifts for my host family – or at Yokohama station, my associate Quetzal and I were trying to work out which train to take to our next destination so we asked at the Green Window information counter (Midori no madoguchi) and the staff member gestured to an area behind us. We turned to find three sets of stairs leading off in different directions. When we turned back to the counter, the staff member had wandered off to help another customer. Fortunately we were able to find our train with the assistance of some very helpful passengers.

Truth be told, this became a familiar theme – on several occasions we were looking confused (our natural state of being, really) and trying to figure out a map (word of advice – don’t buy your railway guides from the ¥100 shop), we would have people approach us, usually quite elderly gentlemen, and explain things or point us in the right direction. Whilst viewing the Great Buddha statue at Koutoku-in (高徳院), Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, we were given a private tour by one of the groundskeepers, a sprightly 73 years young gentlemen who helped out twice a week.

About the only occasion of “discrimination”, or more accurately exclusion, we encountered was when attempting to buy a camera in Akihabara from the cheapest store we could find online – we entered the store and approached the counter but again and again the staff would address customers standing behind us. Realising that we had somehow become invisible, we decided to move on to the next cheapest store, Wink Digital, would could not have been more helpful. Even though the weekend staff were not fluent in English, they made use of Google Translate to explain things that they did not otherwise know the words for. During the week they had staff more fluent in English (and other languages) but they certainly tried their hardest and made quite a big sale as a consequence.

As a side note, bigger stores like Laox Duty Fee spoke English and stocked the same camera but charged an additional ¥20,000 for the international version, about the same price I could buy it for at home. Though an international warranty appealed to me at the time, 10 years on I am still using this camera.

The only experience we had where we felt uncomfortable was whilst walking around the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo – a documentary was being filmed that day so the grounds were closed to the public. We were disappointed but continued on our journey around Tokyo. However, one fellow – a white foreigner like ourselves – didn’t take well to the situation and walked around in circles talking to himself, cursing angrily and gesticulating to no one in particular. We watched which direction he went in and then turned the other way.

Walking through Akihabara, we encountered one of the right wing political groups (uyoku dantai, 右翼団体) with their black vans and slogans – they didn’t slow down or abuse us, merely continued on their way promoting whatever their campaign was at the time.

I made enquiries with a number of friends who recently visited Japan for periods ranging from a week through to several months and not one of them could recall any bad experiences, no harassment or obstruction. Quetzal had spoken of a few restaurants and cafés that had signs up excluding foreigners but there could be a number of reasons for this – there are probably a number of times that they had had bad experiences with foreigners causing trouble, but it could be just as likely that they were merely shy around us and didn’t want to make a bad impression either through miscommunication or unintended insult. There would probably be only a small number of locations who genuinely wanted to exclude foreigners for racist or other hostile reasons. Rather than campaigning to have such locations opened to non-Japanese, wouldn’t it be better to simply take our business elsewhere? If we aren’t welcomed, they won’t profit from us.

During my research, the overall philosophy seems to be “behave yourself and be respectful to the people and to their culture and everyone will get along just fine”. Provided that you don’t stir up trouble yourself or demand everyone conform to your expectations of conduct – how many times have people gone to another country and then complained that no one spoke their language, accepted their currency or served their style of food in restaurants – you shouldn’t run into any troubles. Its not a difficult task to carry your passport or registration card with you when you go out so don’t start a fight when an official requests to see it. Don’t get drunk and disorderly in public, something that seems to be a frequent occurrence among visitors, don’t vandalise other people’s property and don’t talk on your mobile phone on public transport. And always, always be polite.

Don’t be that person who fulfils all the negative stereotypes associated with your culture.

Rescue atop Mount Takao, Hachiōji, Japan

Rescue atop Mount Takao, Hachiōji, Japan

Cross-posted from City Cost

A recent but prolonged illness forced me to cancel much of my plans to travel and study in Japan and remain in Australia for the foreseeable future. Between the surgical consultations and medication, my savings and holiday leave evaporated requiring me to start over again.

Perhaps it was fortunate that this occurred in Australia where my wife could drive me to hospital in the middle of the night and explain the situation as I was in no condition to communicate. I would hate to attempt to describe my condition with my limited Japanese, especially trying to mime the symptoms, when I was almost delirious.

In Australia, much of our healthcare is publicly funded by the taxpayer – although private health insurance is encouraged by our government’s obsession with cost cutting. Due to the tight budget, the consequence with both the emergency department and the hospital stay itself is the approach of “treat ’em then street ’em” – deal with the immediate problem and then as soon as the patient is out of danger, handball them back to their General Practitioner.

Also due to the tight budget for public healthcare, there are often long waiting lists when being referred to specialists or being admitted for surgery. As I took out basic private insurance after I was married, my GP was able to call in some favours and get me to see a specialist that afternoon – the specialist examined me and told me “you are not going home today”. I was admitted immediately.

My hospitalisation was brief, but recovery was much longer and required several follow up consultations due to ongoing complications. I didn’t think too much of it until bills for both consultations and medication started arriving – my insurance covered the hospital stay but very little else as the specialist wasn’t “endorsed” by my insurance provider. I hadn’t seen bills that large since my wedding.

Should this have happened in Japan, I find myself wondering what the situation would have been. I’ve known people who visited America and fell ill or were injured during their stay, only to have doctors refuse to treat them because they didn’t have the right kind of insurance. Having injured her back, one was required to pay cash upfront for treatment, the other had to administer their own treatment – the family she was staying with were all doctors but couldn’t help her, but did show her how to inject herself.

Previous study trips I have taken have been to places where comprehensive treatment was available for a modest annual fee, or covered by my own travel insurance for shorter stays – the arrangement being that once I was out of danger, I would be flown back to Australia for the remainder of the treatment required. These have typically been “tourist destination” and often operated by Australian businesses.

I would be interested in learning other people’s experiences with healthcare in Japan – how much was covered by different insurance schemes versus how much they were out of pocket, what difficulties they encountered both in communication and if they encountered any discrimination. Even differences in treatment between cities and rural areas.

Usually when I start writing an entry, I have notes to refer to written during lunch breaks or on trains – numerous notepads and exercise books lurk around me waiting to capture the nonsense that leaps forth from my mind at the most inconvenient moment. Its not often that I draft something direct into the word processor.

There are times that I have trouble sleeping – I wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning trying to get back to sleep. Sometimes I wake up my wife, sometimes I’m lucky enough that she will sleep on through – my habit of getting out of bed in the dark and going into the other side of the house does not meet with approval since she fears I may trip over something and injure myself. I think its more that I sometimes kick an object in the dark and wake her up.

I’ve come to appreciate that quite time; usually between 11:30 and 1:00, sometimes later – I’ve occasionally watched the sun rise before going back to bed for half an hour before the alarm rings. Its a time when everyone else is asleep and I am left alone with my subconscious mind. A time when it is just me and God – and the cat if she is feeling playful.

A time when I can work through ideas and get my thoughts in order.

Some people hate being awake at this time – and fair enough if you’re up for several hours. There can be a number of reasons – anxiety and stress tend to be the biggest players; lifestyle too, if you are prone to going to bed late and sleeping in. Sometimes it can be chemical – caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar or even far more sinister substances. I found that recently I’ve made a number of minor changes – I tend to rise early, go to bed early and read (I try not to use my tablet or ebook reader during the evening), avoid coffee, I’ve cut back on drinking and stopped my cigar smoking habit. Most of all, I trust everything to God – I might sometimes get a glimpse of what God wants me to do, but not an accurate time frame, and can make preparations but a lot of time, I just see what happens on a day to day basis.

One of the areas faith and religion come to friction is how God’s grace is perceived. Religion takes the approach of “I’ve followed all the rules, dotted the Is and crossed the Ts – you owe me now, God” whereas faith follows the line of “God has redeemed me through His mercy and grace so I do good things for His glory, and so others may see His work in me”. Sometimes it works to take a little of each – God is full of grace and mercy but don’t think that means you can take liberties, working on the idea that He will forgive you. You think you may have plenty of time to repent for your misdeed but no one knows for certain what the Father has planned for us – but when we do sin, we can confess and ask for forgiveness.

So whilst I wait for God to reveal His plan, or at least the next stage in His plan for me, I can use my quiet time for contemplation and preparation.

“Be ready,” He says to me, “Be prepared.” For what I don’t know for certain but I want to be able to hit the ground running when I find out.

It’s strange how a seemingly minor event can change your whole perspective on life. A week ago I fell ill with what I thought was a bout of food poisoning after having lunch at a café near my day job – the GP agreed on this diagnosis and prescribed rest, fluids and anti-nausea medication. After a day, I had mostly recovered and thought I would be back to normal by Australia Day.

Instead I ended up in hospital overnight after crashing horribly – initial tests suggested an infection that was an the border of invading my bloodstream and turning very serious indeed. Heavy duty antibiotics were administered intravenously and I rallied enough to be sent home the following day – much to the disgust of my employer who seemed to think I was just enjoying a long weekend.

Lying in the hospital bed, I had time to consider my condition and compare it to the health issues my family had been experiencing recently; Dad suffered a stroke several years ago from which he has never quite fully recovered, and more recently underwent surgery on his knee and presently has difficulty walking or bending it enough to drive. Mum suffered a heart attack a year ago and has had ongoing issues that her regular GPs and specialists are having difficulty diagnosing and resolving. My brother had bowel surgery back in October and although his health has now improved dramatically, life and circumstances continue to pressure and to challenge him on a daily basis.

Last year, I declared 2015 the Year of Getting Stuff Done. I made many grand plans and set lofty goals, working and studying to the point of draining and exhausting myself. Truthfully, my ambition lies some 20 years hence so there has been no pressure to exert myself and yet plans such as studying the Japanese and Indonesian languages and culture took hold to the point of becoming an obsession. One day I would like to spend time in Japan and Indonesia teaching the Gospel but I need to learn to talk amongst my friends and family first.

And then came the health crash and I realised that none of it was really all that important – the Gospel certainly is, but I should start closer to home and concentrate on that. Instead I need to focus on time with family and make that one of my highest priorities. Overseas travel can wait – Indonesia is constantly changing and revolutionising, but Japan will always be Japan.

So 2016 I think will be a year of Focus and Family. The rest of the world can wait until I have attention to spare.

With my research project this year involving further studies of Christianity, studying the Shinto and Buddhist religions and renewing my study of Japanese, I’m finding myself distracted by an urge to visit Japan again and even take up a position teaching theology there.

If my wife were agreeable to spending some extended time there, what kind of employment would I pursue? I have little in the way of formal certification despite spending many years at college, not that many of those courses really contributed to my career – in the end, they were for my own interest. Even in my long employment history, there is little to make me seem appealing enough to inspire a foreign company to employ me. The most common choice would be as an assistant language teacher, but even that requires a University degree – something that I have neither time nor finances to acquire.

Usually when I consider this, I might normally become depressed that I didn’t pursue higher academic goals – many of the studies that I engage in now could have been a great career path if I had known in my youth how my life had turned out. But I’m not depressed or disappointed by the missed opportunities; I consider that I am in my early Fourties, in possession of fair health and a good mind, there is nothing to stop me acquiring the qualifications I desire through other methods.

I’ve signed up with free online courses to learn Japanese, I’ve enrolled with a free online theological University to study. Certificates can be acquired at the end of the course for a modest fee. When the school holidays are over, I will make contact with a number of Japan related organisations in the city. There is no end to the amount of resources that can be obtained online or from the library.

I’m hopeful, encouraged and inspired – I feel good things ahead.

Sometimes you have to approach a goal via the scenic route.

Embracing your inner minimalist, or travel light, move fast

I encountered an article in The Japan News highlighting a movement of people reducing the amount of clutter in their lives to the point that they barely owned any items at all, and those that they retained served multiple purposes – a place to sleep that doubled as a lounge suite, a smart phone that acted as television, library, music collection, game console and camera on top of being a communications device. They don’t entertain at home so they don’t require much in the way of utensils or crockery, or even furniture. An advantage to this being that a very small apartment suddenly permitted a lot of free space.

By modern, particularly Western, standards this would seem mind boggling – surely the standard by which one measures success is how much stuff you own. Moreover, how much more you paid for it. To encounter an individual, or even a community of people who have come to the realisation that stuff does not make you happy would cause many a person to think if they actually understood this correctly.

I am a natural born hoarder – I’ve been prone to accumulating stuff, and then dragging all of that stuff with me whenever I moved. I relocated 400km from the city to the country and took 10 years of computer magazines and comics with me. When I worked in a computer store, I would scavenge parts from broken systems and build new ones, grabbing whatever parts that came to hand “just in case” because “you never know when you will need it”. When I moved out of my two bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house, the amount of stuff I owned seemed to expand to fill all available space.

And then I got married and my wife brought all her stuff along as well.

When my wife moved from her family home into mine, her family decided to get rid of a lot of stuff – and passed it onto us. Stuff was accumulating, filling every room and taking over the shed. We made several valiant attempts to get rid of stuff, taking boxes, car loads, trailer loads of stuff to the recycling centre, selling stuff where we could, giving stuff away to those who needed stuff.

And yet we still have a house full of stuff.

Two years ago, my parents suffered a series of health scares – my Father suffering a stroke, though he recovered well; my Mother suffered a heart attack that we thought she escaped unscathed following minor surgery but proved to have ongoing effects. I felt compelled to move back to the country to be with them – but even if my wife agreed, with all the stuff we still had, it would be a logistical nightmare.

Then I read the article on minimalism and it struck a note with me. Not a chord, just a single note – like a bell ringing clear and pure, resonating deeply within. People being happy and content without stuff – and because they weren’t spending all their money on stuff, they had more money to play with or invest. They had traded regular visits to StuffMart for quality time with friends, dining out or entertainment.

I badly wanted to be a part of that.

So we’ve started small – replacing some of our extensive collection of books (my wife and I are avid readers) with digital copies; ebooks. Albums and singles on cassette and vinyl replaced with digital versions; CDs extracted and uploaded to The Cloud. Our collection of game consoles and games sold off and replaced with emulators and updated remakes. Photo albums and negatives scanned, displayed on a digital photo frame, phone, tablet or television – who needs a slide show any more?

And clothes – so much that we don’t wear any more! Those in good condition sold or given to charity, those that were worse for wear taken to places like H&M in exchange for discount vouchers.

Its a slow, ongoing process – decluttering can start easily but when you come to items close to your heart, of sentimental value or family heirlooms, the process becomes so much tougher. Photos can be scanned but ornaments not so – perhaps one day in the age of hard light holograms, we can summon distant memories from the ether to recreate and display and dispose of when needed.

The Cloud is the declutterer’s friend – your music, photos, ebooks, videos, documents and the like can be accessed from anywhere with internet access and shared with whomever you wish, wherever and whenever you wish. But don’t forget to keep backups – if you only have one copy of something, it isn’t precious – don’t be disappointed if you delete it in error or a system failure wipes it out.

Crossposted from City Cost
It intrigues me that less than 1% of Japan’s population identify as Christian. According to Wikipedia, this still equates to over 1 million people if you lump Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox together. A respectable number even if a tiny, tiny proportion of the nation. When I began studying Bahasa Indonesian some six months ago, I learned that around 10% of the population identify as Christian, but this number is closer to 23 million people.

I began studying further, utilising search engines, blogs, ebooks and even talking to Actual People and the prevailing thought seems to be that Christianity is disruptive; it spoils the harmony of the community and provokes a selfish, individualist attitude.

What kind of “Christians” have these people been talking to? The question stopped me in my tracks. In my own experience, Christianity seems quite in tune with the culture – it is focused on community, assisting those around us who cannot assist themselves and reaching out to those around us, lifting one another up and teaching one another. The question really should be “How have we Christians been conducting ourselves?”

I started thinking about my own experiences with so called Christians before I found my faith again and I began to understand the negative viewpoint. I encountered a great of hypocrisy, bigotry disguised as doctrine and wild eyed, mindless fanaticism. People confronting me in the street, grabbing my arm and shouting how I was doomed if I didn’t accept Christ as my Saviour, buskers committing crimes against music to the point that even the church they were performing in front of ordered them to move on. And then you have the prosperity focused churches who are all about the money. Certainly one can understand how these false teachers are seen as disruptive and objectionable.

As I began to write this entry on New Years Day, I received multiple interruptions that disrupted my train of thought – these proved to be beneficial however, as they gave me time to further my research and realise that my original idea was incomplete. Whilst I had briefly glanced at the history of Christianity in Japan, I discovered that there was a great deal more than I first thought and my original understanding was flawed.

I came to discover that part of the problem was they way we approached the subject – Christianity explained from a Western perspective can be construed as sometimes meaningless, sometimes objectionable and offensive. Expressions and similes that we use in English (or even the original Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic texts) don’t translate well into either the Japanese language or the culture. In addition to translating the language, we must also seek out a cultural equivalent to explain.

So as I renew my studies of Japanese, reviewing my textbooks and notes from my night classes dating back from 1997, I realise that I need to approach my learning from the other direction – I need to study not just more about the culture but also the religion of Japan to find parallels, to find the parallels that make the gospel more comprehensible but more accessible. We will never inspire people to look further into the gospel if we start off offending them.

I was attending a product launch at a football stadium in a prestigious suburb, one where my former employer lives. I found myself wondering what they would say if they saw me walking between the train station and stadium. When I was working for them, I recall all manner of bold statements made – “If you want to earn the kind of money that we do, you need to put in the effort that we do”. After several staff departed in rapid succession, I was asked to put in extra effort to fill in for them until they were replaced. Gradually more tasks were placed upon me until I was spending almost every free moment doing work for the company. It took some time before I realised that I was burning myself out for little or no reward whilst all the managers seemed to be driving new cars or buying bigger, fancier houses in increasingly expensive suburbs.

Eventually I stood up for myself and left the company, taking a less prestigious job but that paid more and required fewer hours of my life.

I suspect that whilst they knew that they were misusing me, they felt betrayed when I left.

If I were to encounter them again and they were to boast of their wealth and Earthly treasures, how would I respond? That in one year I made more progress in my life than I had in the 11 years that I was employed by them. I went from being a nobody to a somebody with a loving wife and a house and working in a job that rewards me for effort and an objective in my life.

Truthfully it was inspiration from God that enabled me to move on, giving me both courage and direction with which to take the next step. Not my own strength certainly – the company had robbed me of all that. My house and car may not carry the value and prestige that theirs does but it provides all that I need for my purposes – my goals are higher and greater than anything that they can comprehend because they can think only in worldly terms.

My treasure is in Heaven and God is my god.

Cross posted from Josyf
I have a bad habit of speaking before I think, or perhaps thinking with my mouth. Only once the idea is out in the world and exposed do I realise that it is a stupid idea and I’ve just managed to offend a great number of people.

In the same way, I have a habit of announcing big ideas before I’ve thought them through properly – or that I won’t carry out in any time frame deemed relevant to normal people. Be it a music demo that has been in planning for 21 years now (and is still in “vague concept” stage), drum lessons or a plan to move 400km to be closer to my parents.

I have other ambitious plans but I’m going to keep them a secret so I stop embarrassing myself. Such as opening a hipster café and a small community church.


One idea that has been sitting quietly in the background for the last 7 years is setting up a multimedia company that could permit me to earn a living out of my diverse range of hobbies – my music, writing, photography and even my limited artistic skills. Two years ago I took a break from playing guitar and bass at church in the lead up to my wedding. A change in logistics and increase in volunteers mean that other people took over and my assistance was no longer required when I returned. Consequently, I put my instruments aside and stopped playing altogether until recently. A burst of creativity has inspired me to not just start playing guitar again but also get those drum lessons I’ve been talking about for ages.

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing this year, mainly editorials like this but also working on stories as well. I’m adapting a manga I developed into a novel and am resuming work on another that I was endeavouring to release chapter by chapter but was disappointed by the lack of response after I showed it to my test audience. I feel the need to continue and complete the story now and challenge myself a little. My argument when I stop writing is that I get frustrated because I write like a 12 year old but I still write like a 12 year old because I get frustrated and stop writing. I’m not allowing my style to mature.

Learning to draw again is scarier since after a long break, my style changes – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Again, its a matter of sitting down and practising, challenging myself again and again. I’ve tried to engage other artists to work on my stories only to have them attempt to hijack the story. All the main characters turned into artist proxies. They’re supposed to be author proxies!

Another small task I’m trying is getting my graphics tablets working under Linux – I bought a couple some ten years ago but they came only with Windows drivers, but there are ways of making them cooperate – sometimes not very elegant or practical ways, but workable. When I started developing an interest in art during my high school years, I became fascinated with surrealist art. I found a certain joy in the abstract style as well. I’m not much of a painter as I don’t have a very good eye for colour so I usually work in pencil alone. Rather than wasting paper and water colours, if I can learn to work with my tablet all I am really wasting is my time.

Maybe on my next day off, I should dig out my paints and revisit some old skills from high school. If the weather is up to the task.

But I’m going to take my time in all these things. I write during my lunch break and during flights, I practice my music when I’m home by myself. I review restaurants and hotels during the evening and practice my photography whenever the opportunity arises. There’s no hurry or pressure.

Its not like I have any other deadline than the one God sets. I work for Him.