A little understanding in 2012

Special pleading. That’s what it’s called when you allow yourself certain behaviours that you don’t accept in others. It’s when you know you can justify doing something wrong or bad or rude, but nobody else can.

It’s when you take the very last biscuit. Because you know you missed lunch because of that important meeting and you’re starving. And that’s fine. But if somebody else takes that very last biscuit, they’re just a greedy cow.

It’s when you glare at somebody. Because you didn’t even really see them there, your mind was miles away, thinking of something awful. And that’s fine. But if somebody else glares at you, they’re just a horrible person and what the fuck is their problem?

Think about your own daily experiences. What was the last rude or inconvenient thing that you blamed on somebody? Who did you mentally call stupid or a bitch?

My challenge to the human race for 2012 is to try to place yourself in others’ shoes. Don’t assume everyone else is rude and stupid and unhelpful. Any time you are tempted to do so, try to think of three possible reasons that person might have acted as they did. Maybe their dad just died. Maybe they mis-heard what you said. Maybe the training for their job simply didn’t include the answer to your question. Whatever.

A little understanding, people. A little empathy, a little sympathy. A little patience, a little imagination.

It isn’t hard.

Debunking Christmas

It is not Jesus’ birthday; that was probably in September.
There is no Santa; it’s your parents.
The suicide rate increases over this period each year.
There is no such thing as a miracle.
Not everybody celebrates Christmas, for a variety of reasons.
People feel more stress and guilt than joy and goodwill.
It might be a time of peace, but we’ll be at war again tomorrow.

Stop lying to children. They deserve better.

I’m done for the year!

A couple of years ago Aidan and I made the decision not to celebrate Christmas anymore. Nothing it symbolises means much to us.

  • The initial pagan connotations? Nope; we’re not pagans.
  • The Christian connotations? Nope; we’re not Christians.
  • The consumerism? Nope; we’re not that focussed on belongings.
  • The loving and caring spirit? Nope; hopefully our loved ones know they are loved all year round, and I will give to charity whenever I want to and can afford to.

However, as our family grows, we realise that our children will be going to school one day and hearing everyone else talk about their fantastic Christmas and seeing all the other kids showing off their gifts. It seems unfair and cruel to make them sit through all that and not have anything to say about their own summer holidays. Why should they suffer for their parents’ choice?

So we decided this year, and hopefully each year from now on, to celebrate the Summer Solstice instead. It was just a barbecue with friends and our parents. No gifts, except from our parents to the kids – how can you deny grandparents the pleasure of spoiling their grandchildren? No fuss, and no C-word.

It went very well. Everybody seemed to have fun, and we had minimal injuries and breakages. (Some are expected, of course, when you’ve got a bunch of children running around!)

So roll on next year! Same again, everyone?

1 Samuel

As part of my studies on the early history of Israel, obviously I have to read a fair bit of the old testament. Most of it I can make some kind of sense out of, or at least see why it doesn’t make any. But the book 1 Samuel has me stumped.
So Yaweh has basically created two kings at the same time: Saul, currently in power; and David, who is to come after. But he forgot to tell Saul about David, oops.
So anyway, Saul is all like, ‘Hey, I like this David chap, he plays cool music. Sweet.’ But then he’s like, ‘Noooo, David must die! And also he’s boning my son!’ And then he’s like, ‘Ooohhhh, you’re the next king? Well alright then, if you’re cool with Yaweh you’re cool with me.’ But then, if I read it right, David has to flee to the Philistines, which must mean Saul wants him dead again. Or something. Did I miss a few pages??
This is the least coherent narrative I’ve read since ‘The Ill-made Mute,’ and that is saying a lot. I know I’m going to need to re-read the whole thing, the mere thought of which just about makes my head explode. And I haven’t even started on 2 Samuel yet!

The Hero

Perseus defeats Medusa

Perseus defeats Medusa

FitzRoy Somerset, the fourth Baron Raglan, was a man of many interests and talents. One of his accomplishments was the publication, oft cited amongst historians and others, of a list of characteristics typical of a hero. The list is most often applied to figures of Greek mythology, but can as easily apply to many, or even most, modern literary characters. Raglan’s theory was that the higher a person scores, the less likely it is that the person was historical or that their exploits really happened.

Here it is:

1. Hero’s mother is a royal virgin;
2. His father is a king, and
3. Often a near relative of his mother, but
4. The circumstances of his conception are unusual, and
5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.
6. At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his maternal grand father to kill him, but
7. he is spirited away, and
8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country.
9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but
10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future Kingdom.
11. After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast,
12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
13. And becomes king.
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully and
15. Prescribes laws, but
16. Later he loses favour with the gods and/or his subjects, and
17. Is driven from the throne and city, after which
18. He meets with a mysterious death,
19. Often at the top of a hill,
20. His children, if any do not succeed him.
21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless
22. He has one or more holy sepulchres.

My challenge for today is to apply that list to the main character of your favourite book or movie, and let me know how they go!

Growing up some more

Yesterday we went car shopping. We thought we’d start local, and so we went first to the Ford dealership just down the road. We’d never bought a car from a dealership before, this was a new experience!

So anyway, we’re looking at cars, and this guy comes up to us. Can he help us, he wants to know? Sure he can. We give him an idea what we’re looking for and why, and he leads us over to this Subaru Forester. It’s a great car, it really does tick all our boxes. But it’s a bit expensive. Ok, we’re trading in our old car, that’ll bring it down a bit. And with some negotiation, he’s willing to go still lower. But not low enough.

The wonders of the modern world: even as he’s telling us about this car, I’m online on my phone checking out similar cars for purposes of price comparison, and talking to my dad who knows about cars (and used to sell them for a living, but don’t hold that against him). I know we can get this car somewhere else considerably cheaper if we want to.

This guy, and his manager, pulled out the absolutely stereotypical used-car-seller  lines! I couldn’t believe it. I thought people stopped that shit back in 1991. Haven’t we moved on from “I’ve got a couple of other people interested in this car, so you’ll need to be quick to snap it up!” Can’t we get past “I need a commitment that you’re going to buy before I lower the price any more.” All I could think was, If you give me a lower price, I won’t need to go elsewhere. I won’t commit unless you do that.

So that was annoying and disappointing and put us off buying from there.

So, with the results of our research and a discussion with my dad, we went elsewhere and bought almost the exact same car for considerably less from a much nicer guy! Here she is:

From Thursday, we will be driving this 2008 4-door Subaru Forester instead of our old 1996 2-door Hyundai Excel.

This is the nicest, and newest, car we’ve ever owned.

When I first met Aidan he was driving a Mazda about the same age as himself. It did the job, but finally blew up in the middle of Burnley Tunnel after a weekend of many minor disasters.

Then Aidan’s dad got us a Holden Barina which never actually ran. We had it looked at and replaced the alternator, but it still rarely started. It let us down every time we needed it. We got rid of it through sheer frustration.

For a while we lived without a car; with no kids and living in Melbourne, public transport served our needs quite nicely.

Then when we moved to Canberra we bought the Excel. It’s been a good, reliable car, there’s really nothing wrong with it. It’s just old and small, and with a growing family we need more.

So we find ourselves now with a nice big family vehicle. I feel like a grown-up! A soccer mum, one friend called me!