Friday, 27 July 2007


Sans God will be quiet for a while. I'm a creature of habit you see. Up until now each night I'd given myself the hour in which the masses are medicated with soap operas to vent my spleen.

However, we've now entered the six weeks in which our children are set free from the machinery of education. As such they're up later, and invariably bouncing and screeching around the place. Hardly conducive to writing.

I'll be bouncing and screeching around the place too no doubt. So my posts will slow to a trickle. Perhaps your loss is my gain, or should that be the other way round?

Anyway, here's a photo from each mile of my run early this morning;

Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 4

Mile 5

Mile 6

See you around ;-)

Monday, 23 July 2007

My counsel

In the absence of anything meaningful to say I've opted to keep my keyboard quiet. The question is then, I suppose, is anything that's preceded this post truly meaningful? Hmn...

Friday, 20 July 2007


My Dad just mailed this photo. It's so sublime that I just had to share it. He took it last night, just before they set off back home from the north coast of Wales - one of my favourite places in the world. I wish I were there to see it in person.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

How far can you throw me?

Diogenes of Sinope was quite a colourful character. Perhaps you know of him, he was after all one of the better known Cynics. Plato knew him too, and often took the piss.

Diogenes you see, was more sensitive than most to the absurdity of the human condition. He found Greek society to be nothing more than a contrivance and affectation. It's said that Alexander The Great, himself an admirer of Diogenes, asked why he was rifling through a pile of bones one day. Diogenese said to him "I'm looking for the bones of your father, but I can't distinguish them from his slaves'."

Diogenes advocated simplicity and self-sufficiency. He saw politics, social climbing, cultural norms and religion as nonsense and nothing more than deceptive, self-delusional claptrap. So he eschewed all that he considered false and lived like an animal. He spent his life in abject poverty, begging and sometimes stealing his food.

Neither did he temper his behaviour in public. Seeing no reason to behave differently than he would in private, he'd defecate in front of crowds. He was also known to masturbate furiously in the local market. "If only one could satisfy a hungry belly just by rubbing it" he'd say. I imagine Plato would watch this and shake his head muttering "wanker" under his breath.

If I were Plato, I'd be pretty pissed with him too. Apparently Diogenes had stamped mud all over his carpets one day and spelt out "I trample upon the pride of Plato". Plato, always one for words retorted, "Yes, Diogenes, with pride of another sort."

Which pretty much sums him, and the Cynics 'philosophy' per-se, right up. Because for me, Diogenes was nothing more than a performance artist and therefore just as affected as the society he was ridiculing.

Perhaps, this was the very point he was trying to make - a point that's as valid today as it was two and a half thousand years ago;

Society is indeed nothing more than contrivance and affectation. We are all, each and every one of us, actors and manipulators. We lie as a matter of course and spend most of our time vying for status whilst pretending that we're not.

How else can we manage to live in such a complex society, one with ever shifting alliances, pressures and opportunities unless we're a bit Machiavellian? Honesty is not always the best policy.

Take the other day for example. I was in a meeting with someone quite senior from a 'competitor' organisation. He likes to remind people of his seniority as often as he can. We needed to reach an agreement between our two organisations. So I smiled politely and nodded sagely, tentatively argued some points and gently guided the discussion to a mutually agreeable point.

You see, I'm cleverer than he is and quite frankly, better looking. So I used his male bravado to my advantage. I allowed him to feel in control, and tolerated his puff chested bleating long enough to subtly (I think), shape the proceedings to our advantage.

On the other hand I could have told him that had a small cock as he seemed to spend most of his time compensating for it. However, this would have done neither of us any favours.

So had I been manipulative in the pejorative sense? Or was I simply being charming and persuasive? Either way, did the ends justify the means? I think so.

Now, I have a theory about really manipulative people. You know the type - always out for themselves and engineering stuff to their advantage at the detriment to others. Conniving little bastards really.

You can spot them a mile off, can't you? Maybe not at first, but it's never long before you're either warned off them, or you discover their nature for yourself.

I propose that these people are just crap at manipulation. Why else do they keep getting caught out? They haven't grasped the subtleties of it and think that winning is about the other loosing. Their Machiavellian Intelligence is poor.

Now I for one, think we should celebrate our contrivance and affectation rather than bemoan it. It's the very thing that makes us human and so evolutionarily successful. Manipulation, lying and posturing are the only way that we can get on in life without murdering each other. It's the oil that lubricates our society.

Mind, I may be just being an old cynic. I wouldn't trust me as far as you could throw me...

Monday, 16 July 2007

Meg and the magic tooth

Excuse the radio silence if you will - the past few days have been a frantic blur of family life. What with school fetes, roundabouts and face paints, trampolining, tantrums and toilets, I've hardly had a moment to think.

It hasn't stopped yet. Right now I'm waiting for Meg to fall asleep so that I can sneak up into her bedroom to replace her first baby tooth with a suitable trinket. I thought I'd use this brief window of opportunity to blog about it.

These are moments worth marking you see. Not just for the fact that she's lost her first tooth, cute as it is, but for the realisation that she's growing up.

Tonight before bed we played in the back garden. Meg watered the sunflower that she's grown from seed. It's taller than she is now so I had to lift her up so that she could see its flower blossom.

"Dad, why do flowers grow?" She asked as she poked at the bud.

"Well," I said "flowers help plants make new seeds so that they can have baby plants."

"Cool! Can we plant them next year then?"

"Yup, as long as you take care of this one so that it gets big enough to make its it Meg!"

And she was off, wriggling out of my arms like a fish - she nearly crippled the plant with her elbow. She was away to work out how to jump faster with her new skipping rope.

These brief moments of naive inquiry are nothing but magic for me, as they sow the seeds of my childrens' future happiness. Their questions, questions and questions are the stuff of life I think. Many of which I can answer right now, some of which I can't.

Yet there will come the time, if we execute our parental duties well enough, that the ultimate questions will arrive;

"Dad, why are we here?" or "Mum who is God?"

Now, we have no intention of raising our kids as little atheists. To do so would be as closed minded as the most fundamental of theists. They will not know of our beliefs until we feel they are ready. No, we shall do our utmost to nurture their enquiring instincts so that they may fly upon the path of their own logic, wherever it may take them.

Which is good I think, because this evening we filled Meg's head full of magic. Tonight the tooth fairy will fly down through our chimney pot, up our stairs and under Meg's door just to kiss her on the forehead. She'll leave a present in Meg's little box and take the tooth to make fairy dust with.

Anyway, I think she's asleep now, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off upstairs...

Saturday, 14 July 2007

A divine comedy?

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished me to the Eigth Level of Hell - the Malebolge!
Here is how I matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Descartes' Skin - Part Deux

Whilst I started this blog primarily to explore notions of human spirituality without gods, I had another more selfish motive - to learn how to write more betterly. Because in November last year I pretentiously decided that I could write a novel. I had the story, characters and everything. What I lacked was the ability.

I discovered shortly into page one that I was probably suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect - a tendency of incompetent people to overestimate their skill. You see, apart from academic works, I'd never really written anything creative before. Well I say that, I'd written the odd letter of complaint and some shopping lists. I often forgot the bread. As Darwin once wrote "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge".

So rather than a book, I decided to have a go at blogging. Perhaps a year spent writing fun size posts might improve my narrative ability sufficiently to have another crack at my opus. I'm eight months in now, pretty much two thirds of the way, and the more I learn about writing, the more I discover the limits of my abilities. Maybe in two years then...

Anyway, last night's post about my Hypnogogia reminded me of this first page, as I used these experiences as a basis for it. So I re-read it and my, it certainly was pretentious. Perhaps I have got a little better then. I'm far from perfect I know, but at least I'm going in the right direction I think.

So for what it's worth, I present to you my first real flirtation with with creative writing. Be nice ;).


Suspended in thick dark oil, in the purple fastness, his crumbled dreams sink slowly around him. Their descent through his deepness is gentle and silent. They land with a velvet hum deep below.

Shadows lurk here, amongst his dreams. They hover at their edges, swooping through the muffled suspension like rays. They watch his sleep, waiting patiently like predators. Occasionally they dart into the foreground, bringing with them sounds, sharp and alien to the stillness.

Wrapped in warm bedclothes Thom lies peacefully. His shallow breath the only sound. A shaft of pale yellow light plays about his head as it shines through his curtains. He is unaware of it, as he sleeps with hungry relief. This is his first rest in many days.

His eyelids flicker momentarily.

The shadows have quickened. They start to coil and slip around each other. Their sharp calls cut through the oily sleep like glass shards. In response, the suspension begins to pulse with a tactile, rhythmic pressure.

A ray breaks from the seething group and swims to the edge of Thom's sleep. It tests the border with its snout, stretching it like flesh. It floats back away from the edge and pauses for a while. Again it swims up and pushes, this time with more force. The boundary stretches and at the point of pressure a yellow shape becomes visible before the elastic overcomes the ray and snaps back into place.
Thom begins to moan in his sleep.

More shadows join the first. They nip and jostle each other until until some order forms. Two of them push the boundary together, swimming strongly against the membrane. This time it stretches so thinly that the solid world can be seen clearly through it, yet still the meniscus holds. As if sensing a threat to its integrity the suspension starts to pulse with febrile rapidity.

The sharp calls become a frenzy when a ray makes a tear in the membrane and pokes its snout into the solid world. Twisting and writhing it forces the rest of its body through the hole and drops onto Thom's chest. Its form in the solid world is minute, limp and feeble. It flops helplessly like a fish gasping for breath.

Soon another ray pushes its way through and drops onto the first. They merge fluidly into one and other. As the tear stretches two more slip out into the real world. Joining the unison they begin to form a shining black pod within which a nascent being jerks and pokes, sensing its new world.

Suddenly and with a sharp tear, the rip between worlds gives. The shadows now tumble through in a torrent. As they coalesce the pod creaks and stretches into a black, shining arachnid. It begins to stand, pulsing with fresh life on Thom's chest. As it grows its angular legs reach down onto Thom anchoring themselves first to his feet, then to his hips and finally his shoulders.

Its front legs arch slowly down and spike into Thom's forehead. As soon as they make contact Thom's eyes snap open, wide with terror. Pinned down by the spider he cannot move at all. Thom can do nothing but stare up into the alien face. His mouth opens slowly in a silent scream but the pressure of his panic only builds in his throat.

Suddenly a burst of adrenalin sparkles out from his chest and breaks through his paralysis. He lets out a screech, base and primeval and shoots from the bed. The spider tumbles from his body but quickly rights itself. It poises to strike as Thom sprints for the doorway.

He reaches the light switch by the door and scrabbles at it in panic. Thom senses the arachnid move behind him. Finally he manages to flick on the switch and his bedroom is bleached in bright clean light. He spins round ready to face the insect but all that remains of it is a pile of tousled bed linen.

Thom slides down the wall onto his knees and begins to cry. No revenge can be had of his sleep animals if they just wink out of existence, and they have done each night he's slept for the past month.

Broken, desperate and tired Thom curls up on the floor and holds his head in his trembling hands.

He whimpers, "Please, no more"

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Descartes' Skin

Last night I had nightmares of bloated, spiked animals with long legs. They crept slowly around my bed. Rather than let me see them, they lurked at the edge of darkness. Yet somehow I knew they had marsupial like joints and long forelegs that jutted out beyond their abdomens. Not pretty, I can tell you.

Being awake at the time was a bit of a bugger too.

You see, once in a while, usually when I'm over tired, I experience Hypnagogia. Which according to wikipedia is "vivid dream-like auditory, visual, or tactile sensations, which are often accompanied by sleep paralysis and experienced when falling asleep or waking up."

I experience mine about an hour after dropping off, just as I'm getting into a deep sleep. I wake up suddenly in the midst of a dream which carries on regardless in the real world. Sometimes I see beautiful geometric light shows. Most times however, I wake in a panic because there are beasties in the room with me. Imagine Naked Lunch, the David Cronenburg film. This is about as close as you'll get to seeing my dream-wake madness.

If I slept alone this wouldn't be an issue as my hypnagogia lasts only a few seconds. I'd be left with a thumping heart, adrenalin and sweats to work off. Nothing more sinister than that.

The problem is, I often wake up in Indiana Jones mode as my first instinct is to protect Miche. She's usually fast asleep beside me. In the time its took to realise I'm dreaming, I've screamed "MICHE, GET OUT!" and lunged at the creature to try and throttle it before it gets to the family.

The first few times this happened Miche crapped herself. Who wouldn't? Besides, the sight of my bare arse flaying round the room after shadows isn't particularly reassuring at the best of times.

Thankfully it's a very rare occurrence these days. Perhaps once or twice a year I get them. Miche has learned how to help me come round more quickly, and is always calm and motherly to me. There's nothing better than a cuddle to calm the Indie down.

Now, I've researched this phenomenon quite a bit, as you could probably imagine. Thankfully I've found that it's not some kind of psychosis. Neither is it pathologically sinister. It's just one of those things and more common than you might imagine. Mind, I do get odd looks sometimes when I tell people about them. Which is why I don't often tell people about them.

For all I'd rather not have these night terrors, I do think they've helped me in my work. I use them as a basis for imagining what it must be like to live with hallucinations. And I can tell you this; I have the highest admiration for anybody who has a real 'psychosis' who actually gets out of bed in the morning and tries to live an ordinary life.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Your angst solved

Hat tip to Slut.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Number 1

I started to get dizzy. As the blood ran from my face, a cold burst of panic sparkled in my chest. I was on my way out. Miche was looking right at me and she knew the signs. She gripped my hand a little firmer, smiled gently and winked at me.

"We'll be fine Scott" she said with her eyes, "Just stay with me now. I love you."

Deep breaths then, nice and calm. Keep it together son.

Micheal broke my anxiety when he announced "We're here today to celebrate the joining of Michelle and Scott in holy matrimony."

So the ceremony began, and it was beautiful. The medieval church resonated with the vicar's rich voice. The sun, which had threatened not to shine, blazed through the stained glass windows. Dust of centuries danced right through it.

As Micheal gave his sermon on the nature of God's love we faced each other. I found Miche to be no more beautiful than when she'd left the morning before. Her dress was magnificent for sure, and her hair was set like a goddess, but underneath she was still my Miche. The same woman I knew every beloved inch of.

We could have been in a sewer for all I cared. The promise was what counted. This was our place - four foot square, in which we would give our lives to one and other.

The sermon finished as we knelt before the choir. They sang a Scottish air over our heads in near perfect harmony. Whilst it was an honor to have forty people sing for us, we knew that this pomp was as much for the congregation as it was for us. For our mothers with their tissues, proud fathers in their top hats, for our siblings and friends, the church faithful and their bystanders.

Micheal knew this too. Because for all his holiness he was still a man of the world. When we'd shook hands years before, he saw my lost soul. He heard that it was deaf to the word of his god. Yet he remained warm and kept his counsel as he was a big man, in both stature and gravitas. No stranger to graft, his hands were calloused through engine repair. I felt in this rugged grip an acceptance of my reality.

So throughout his service he would look at me whenever he mentioned god. Knowing that in a way, I was there under false pretenses. My promise however, was solemn and heart felt. No amount of witness, be it divine or otherwise could have added to its conviction. So we let him invoke his god as he so wished.

We used this magic language too, as we found that it gave dramatic effect. Besides, the audience would have been disappointed if they weren't given the full works. So we made our vows in front of angels and fairies, gods and pixies and any other mythical creature that would grace our union.

I cared not, for when we said "I do" and sealed this pledge within our rings, I was in heaven.

The remainder of our day was as steeped in tradition as it was in the church. All the criteria for a good English wedding were checked off. The stately home, champagne, the throwing of hats and background baroque music. It was all there for the benefit of the audience.

When it came to our dance however, we pleased ourselves for the first time that day. I held Michelle close as we danced to "By Starlight" by the Smashing Pumpkins.

Apologies for the awful vid, it was all youtube had. Thanks to Mojoey for the inspiration.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Cult of Celebrity

Later in his Third Treatise Nietzche had this to say of the artist;

"One certainly does best to separate an artist from his work to the extent of not taking him as seriously as his work. He is in the end only the precondition of his work, the womb, the ground, in come cases the fertilizer and manure on which, our of which, it grows, -and this in most cases something one must forget if one wants to enjoy the work itself."

This through contrast, summarises a vacuous malaise in our modern culture. We seemed to have deified the artist and attributed all the beauty of their creations onto the person themselves.

The actress for example, beautiful as she may be, becomes more important than the characters she plays; the rock singer the epitome of of cool. We imagine neither of them making toast.

It's in this milieu that Paris Hilton becomes inevitable - the empty and wholly irrelevant persona. Yet she serves at least one purpose; to makes us feel better about ourselves.

On the one hand we worship our celebrities. On the other we hate them. Perhaps it's because they disappoint us. You see, because of our boring lives we demand that they're perfect. We live vicariously through them. Yet so often they're exposed as flawed, ugly people just like the rest of us. Utterly ordinary.

Of course, this could be a load of twaddle. Don't take my word for it simply because I've quoted Nietzche. You see, I only let a little bit of me poke out onto the Internet. The rest is either dull, offensive or smelly. I'm probably talking shite.

This notion of celebrity, and the living of an ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances fascinates me. It fascinates me because I think each and every one of us lives a life within this dichotomy. Just fewer people notice it.

Which is why I've decided to try out this 'vlogging' malarkey. For the last 24 hours I've snapped bits and pieces of banality on my cellphone vid cam. Tonight I've spliced it together. So, I offer you a glimpse into the duller bits of my life. I would say enjoy, but that would be pushing it a bit.

Stage Fright

Today I'll be speaking at a conference about palliative care in late stage dementia. I feel a little nervous as there will be much academic glitterati in attendance. Now, I've desensitised myself these days to the worst ravages of stage fright, however I'm still worried that the limits of my knowledge will be shown for what they are.

I'm taking one of our staff nurses along with me. She is a brilliant clinician. Her practical knowledge and skill in this area are unrivalled in my view. Mind, it's took some persuasion to get her to come along.

"I'm going to look an idiot", She said the other day, "Little old me amongst the big knobs."

I said "Bolloxs to them, could you imagine how terrified these 'academics' would be if they had to run a shift in your dementia care unit?"

It's one thing thinking about it, but another thing entirely walking the walk.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Oh, to be beautiful

or, Third Treatise: What do ascetic ideals mean? Nietzche;

"What do ascetic ideals mean? Among artists nothing or too many different things; among philosophers and scholars something like a nose and instinct for the most favourable preconditions of higher spirituality; among women, at best, one more charming trait of seduction, a little morbidezza on beautiful flesh, the angelicalness of a pretty, fat animal[!]; among the physiologically failed and out of sorts (among the majority of mortals) an attempt to appear to oneself to be "too good" for this world, a holy form of excess, their principal instrument in the battle with slow pain and with boredom; among priests the true priests' faith, their best tool of power, also the "most high" permission to power; among saints, finally, a pretext for hibernation, their novissima gloriae cupido, their rest in nothingness ("God"), their form of madness. That the ascetic ideal has meant so much to man, however, is an expression of the basic fact of the human will, its horror vacui; it needs a goal, -and it would rather will nothingness than not will."

I will be expanding...

Though in what direction I'm less sure.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Right on my doorstep

I see the Church of England as some fusty old sofa. You know the type - dusty, washed out and frayed around the edges. It would look stupid in a modern home, lets put it that way.

I've never imagined fundamentalism to be rife within its parishes. I thought the C of E left that to the Americans.

It seems that I've been had.

This week the rain has been incessant. Biblical even. And there have been deaths. Tragic, unfortunate deaths that will devastate families. Towns and villages have been flooded causing much damage.

Now, for the UK this is extreme weather, but it's hardly unprecedented. It has happened before. This time however, some of the pious have come out and attributed the weather to the wrath of god.

From the Telegraph;

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence.

"This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way," he said. "We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused."

"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

To quote Charles Babbage (credited with inventing the first 'computer' in 1822) "I am not able rightly to apprehend [this] kind of confusion of ideas".

And how about this quote taken straight from their god;

Genesis 8:20-22: "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."

Sometimes I despair. I really do.