G is for Gods and Religions

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A great source of comfort to some, a reason to go to war for others, or just a fairy tale?

Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais have spoken far more.eloquently than most on the fairy tale aspect. What is significant is their position is one of tolerance, or even indifference. This contrasts sharply, in some cases literally involving sharp implements, with other more prescriptive religions. There is a with us or against us attitude with some religions that can only lead to conflict.

Religions are a sort of club. You agree to follow specific rules, you get some sort of reward. A lot of these rewards are a bit vague, and are only qualified for once conventional life is over. There are a few flaws in this, but religions have rubbed along for thousands of years on this vague promise with the good old carrot and stick. Happy ever after, if you follow these arbitrary rules, or eternal damnation. In some of the bigger religions, there is a fair amount of detail on the eternal damnation thing, presumably to make it sound as appalling as possible.

But it’s all so primitive. If you do follow the rules there is a  promise of serving some imaginary god like figure for all time under his or her benevolent gaze, or make for own choices and face the fire forever. Sounds like house servant or boiler keeper. Both are hierarchical positions, with you still at the bottom.  

Others appeal to more carnal aspirations, offering a vast number of inexperienced young ladies, at your disposal, to satisfy the most voracious appetites. Apart from sounding like a teenagers wild fantasy, it’s a bit harsh on the ladies. Where do they come from in this version? It’s not overly appealing for them, to be one of a collection of bags of flesh for a random male to abuse for eternity. How did they get subscribed into this story line?

At what point does anyone remember the sage advice, if its too good to be true, it’s probably not.

There is the small matter of proof. There is no record of a reliable witness returning from any of these reward or punishment centres. There are lots of documented near death experiences, where folk, who were presumably in significant pain and under the influence of a lot of medications, make claims of a long white corridors, calming feelings and so on. If you factor out a large number of me too claims, factor in the medication, and the also documented hopeless expectation of death induced calmness, that’s neatly explained.

I fully accept the comfort Religion brings to many people. It offers a codified life, which leans towards doing nice and civilised things, usually for the benefit of other people. Except the whole with us or against us, go to war thing.

I like the rules and safety net of modern life. I’m comfortable with the big rules about killing and stealing, being reasonable and mindful towards the needs of others as well as my own and so on. I am much less comfortable with big religions hoarding riches, slaying people who don’t agree with them, or agree to follow their choice of rules. It’s the big intolerance issue. I cannot understand how so many folk want to be in control of other people’s thoughts and actions.

My personal belief system can be summed up thus.

Firstly, life it is a result of a strange chemical reaction billions of years ago and then evolution happened.  

Secondly, If your alive, you will die, and the biological bits will break down and cycle through the planet again.

Thirdly, there is no master plan, stuff just happens.

Fourth and Final, always try to do the right thing. If the right thing is not obvious, try harder.

 

Ultimately, folk will do what they feel comfortable with or compelled to do. I do, and assume you do too.  

(Note, this whole alphabet thing is turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Pick 26 random topics and write most days. Good exercise, never again…..)

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J is for JUST DO IT

J is for just do it

Struggled here, so I nicked the old Nike slogan. Here is an attempt at short fiction, inspired by Prompturium.

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A week after I died

It’s been a week now. I can categorically state that every major religion got the whole afterlife thing wrong. Completely wrong. They were right about God. Partially. God exists. but it’s not a person or an individual. It’s more of a corporation. That’s almost completely wrong , but close enough for me to understand it. God stands for General Outerworld Developments. We are effectively a breeding colony/ experimental laboratory, in the universes equivalent of a low rent industrial park, a long way from the motorway.  

We were arranged into cohorts based on age and gender, of twenty one. Orientation took up the first four days. The rest of the universe works on a 30 hour day so part of orientation was getting used to longer days. Only a third of us passed this stage. It’s still not clear what that means, either way. The other fourteen have gone somewhere else. We were told it’s not our concern, and to focus on ourselves. The last two days had been assignments and briefing. Tonight is a mandated evening of rest and celebration, before I take up my new role. Something I am not over happy about.

Mostly we record, measure, and report back.

The cohort facilitators were dead like me, but seem to have been bureaucrats before. There were a few middle level managers in the cohort, who seemed to have a bit of an advantage. Before my event, I was a disillusioned junior manager; that must of helped. There were assessors, but they only flickered in and out of vision.

John Lennon was surprisingly well informed.  We were not in heaven, or hell, neither above or below.  Best way to describe it would be alongside. This was a big stumbling block for those heavily into religion, which seems to have been a construct of the Romans, or Greeks, or someone similar, but basically a thing  made up to exert some control over populations. Talk about a little white lie that got well out of hand.

Speaking of getting well out of hand, our bellicose nature was not part of the plan either. Outerworld Developments had seen many bloodlines compromised by war, and was still reeling from the various 19th Century wars. The 20th Century conflicts were organised just to weed out a percentage of the population spike, an unexpected result of innovations in technology and medicine.  OD needed time to evaluate apparently.

Alongside is a dreary place. Think 1970’s beige and brown. It’s a little bit worn, and a lot dull. By getting this far I have been promoted to level five. I managed to suppress a giggle at this point, which would have probably demoted me to a four or even a three. We were herded into the club for a bit of a celebration. I really fancied a pint of two, what with it being a busy week, dying, finding out all life as know was utterly pointless, and now my new role, which was also utterly pointless. Quite a lot things needed to be washed down. Microsoft, for example,  was created to punish us for the cold war. I think we all suspected that, but come on. Apple was set up as an experiment to see how gullible we were, and examine the impact of marketing on the developing brain. Apparently we were a lot more gullible than they thought.

There is no money here, your level entitles you to so much food, so much space and so on. In return, you work, as directed. The food is dreadful, but tonight I was entitled to two pints. A scratchy electronic recording told me I could have two more next month. Given the weak battery acid aftertaste, that might not be a bad thing. The facilitators had tried to encourage us to aspire to promotion through hard work in our new roles. Some of us even make the low twenties. Nice to find out your a low grade species, who in the General Outerworld Developments corp could actually aspire to the dizzy heights of junior cockroach. Did I mention there were over five hundred levels of promotion?

After an hour or so of enforced cheerfulness, without really knowing the alternative, we were ushered out, and directed to our pods for the six hour sleep. Here it really was a twenty four hour day. I call it pod, because that’s a nicer word than box. Just enough space to lay or sit, space for a box of papers, and this place ruins on paper, tons of it.

Alongside is not the Hi Tech  paradise you think it should be, not at level five. Level tens have access to microfiche, if I get that far. There was a cautionary input about getting promoted before your entire box is full of paper. That one gave me a disturbed nights sleep, trying not to think of a mattress of pink assignment reports. Carbonated forms, white to management, pink to keep, yellow to stores.  

Today is the first day of my unwanted role within G.O.D. It started with a brief ceremony at the stores building. Here I returned the faded pink jumpsuit of a novice, as well as the slippers. The receipt was signed, witnessed and countersigned. After a few minutes in the altogether, new ( to me ) essentials were issued. One pair of boots, sturdy. Two pairs boot laces. Three pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, two pairs of heavy serge trousers, one pair braces,  two shirts, long sleeved. One woollen jumper, with faux leather elbow protectors, one knee length cotton jacket, button up, in brown, three ball point pens, one pencil, one pencil sharpener, the clipboard, and one satchel. We hurried to get dressed, the stores manager yelling, the facilitator yelling, and making notes. Everything had to be signed for, witnessed and countersigned for. Three of us got a reprimand. Failed to check inside the satchel, failed to count the needles in the clothing repair pouch. I’d signed to say I had two, there was only one.

Needless to say this caused a lot of smugness from fellow members of my cohort, and near apoplectic rage from the stores. The missing needle was replaced after a very impressive full five minute bollocking.

I looked and felt like a bit part actor in a 1950’s documentary about a factory foreman.

The only concession to technology was the PES. Personal Environmental Stabiliser. This generated a personal bubble of temperate calm, to ensure the paperwork didn’t get smudged.  

So now I am alongside you. You might call me a ghost, or a spirit, but that would be wrong. The world is cluttered with clipboard wielding folk like me. As a level five counter, I have four levels to look down on, but four hundred and ninety four looking down on me. Pays to be aware of that.

Counting the leaves on an oak tree is not a bad job, quite restful. I am too lowly to know G.O.D.’s reason, but I was fortunate.  My tree, and they encourage ownership of the job, is in a park. I can see another clipboard wielder counting and weighing dog poop.

I must of done something right, before after life…..

 

 

K is for Kilter.

As in “off kilter” or “out of kilter”.

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When tired, or jaded, it is quite common to feel not quite up to speed with anything going on around you.

It’s a bit like the keyboard of life has shifted a few inches to the left, and your just not hitting the right keys. When your backspace delete button is almost worn out, and no matter how much you try, the word ordinary just looks wrong.

When you find you carefully parked car is now parked in a space that is only marginally longer than the length of the car, thanks to the actions of other drivers, and the ebb and flow of parkers. When you consider the possible 50 shunt maneuver to extract said car, then realise its longer on the diagonal, and ain’t going nowhere.

When you boil the kettle and then find there is no coffee in the jar, or pour cereal and find the milk bottle is empty.

When you haven’t left enough time to shave, and then find its the day you have meeting with the Boss. When you wash your hands, misjudge the tap, and cover your trousers in water.

You are out of kilter. It’s important to recognise this, and behave accordingly. Know that on these days, everything you touch will turn to sh1t.

There is no cure for this, it simply has to be endured, and consider damage limitation tactics where possible.

These days are not good days to do anything vaguely important. Try to avoid involving yourself in significant financial deals or new commitments. Order the house red at a restaurant, it will be drinkable and a safe bet. Avoid marriage proposals at all costs. Defer till tomorrow for better decision making.

The out of kilter day will involve spilling soup on your tie, leaving your glasses somewhere, forgetting your PIN number, and in extreme cases, wearing mismatched shoes.

And if you do make it home without serious injury, your car, the one that was physically impossible to move earlier, will now probably have a ticket on it.

STOP.

Leave the car and ticket where they lay. You have drunk most of a bottle of red, as your potential spouse fled in disgust or tears when your declined their proposal at the restaurant. Just go inside, re match your shoes, find some clean clothes for the morning, throw out the soup stained tie, they never clean well, go to bed and hope for a better day tomorrow.

Out of kilter days just suck. Try to avoid them.

V is for Viennese Whirls

Not to take anything seriously, but its time for some cake. These cakes were purchased purely in the interest of science.

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Mr Kipling, or Asda’s own? Branded or not? Is cake just cake? Is it worth paying the extra 60p?

In this mico article I shall be taking, and eating, one or two for the team, just so you don’t have too. On this occasion it just so happens to involve eating cake, but I assure you it’s just a coincidence.

Packaging.

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Both are sold in a handy cardboard box. This stops them getting crushed or covered in other people’s sticky fingers. Within the box is a moulded plastic tray that stops them getting squashed together. All common ground so far. Cardboard can be recycled, or used to light a fire, or made into a model, or even used to write notes on. The plastic tray has several handy impressions, it may be recyclable, depending on how green your local authority claims to be, but it can be washed and used as a handy container to mix paint in, if you need to mix paint, used as a seed planter if that’s on your agenda, or passed to a child to turn into a crappy but cute model of a spaceship or something. Then recycled or put in the landfill bin, depending on your personal social conscious. Any differences in quality at this point are negligible.

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Appearance.

Pretty much as per box art. Mr Kipling is more generous with the dusting powder on this sample. Both are well stuffed with a creamy substance, and a generous dollop of a red sticky jam type goo.

Taste.

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Sorry Asda, your product is quite crude compared to the branded one. Mr K seems to have ground his ingredients a bit more, it is a smoother, more crumbly, and delightfully messy munch. Having said that, cake remains cake, and is always welcome. Especially with a nice cup of Tea.

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Conclusion.

The extra 10p a cake is money well spent. However, if I only had a single pound in my pocket, the Asda version would be welcome too.  

Life Skills 101 #2. Part two of Goal setting

In the last life skill missive, we looked at SMART goal setting, and to continue with this, it is time to unpack DUMB goal setting.  

D Desperate

U Unlikely to succeed

M Monumental

B Bollocks,

 

D is for Desperate.

This sort of plan is a reactive cluster in response to an unanticipated, unforeseen, or wilfully ignored problem. Some sort of immediate action is required, so choices and decisions need to made.

Right Now.

If you have let things get this far, then it is also likely that your instant decision making skills will be as shabby as your forward planning. None of this bodes well.

U is for Unlikely to succeed

The sort of measures required to pull through desperate times tend towards the unrealistic or draconian. This might be okay in the short term, but for anything longer than a month, your simply setting yourself up to fail. Miserably.

M is for Monumental

As in it is going to be a monumental cock up. To many DUMB goals rely on assumptions, or a lucky roll of the dice. This even more of a cock up when the assumption or die throw is right at the end of the plan

B is for Bollocks

This comes at the end of this mnemonic as the phrase “ Oh Bollocks “ usually accompanies the end of any DUMB action plan towards any given goal.

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DUMB action plans are usually in response to something wilfully ignored until it’s too late, something unanticipated, or something unforeseen. If a situation requires a DUMB response you are clearly in the bad place, and need to move. Try to step back from it, metaphorically. Take a deep breath, and see if you cannot turn a DUMB plan into a SMART plan. Try a bit of forward planning. You may find a cup of tea helps.

Have a splendid day.

 

Life Skills 101. #1 Setting Goals Part one.

What is a goal? In this context it’s a thing, a place, a person or a qualification you want, or want to be at or with. Roughly. We are not referring to the game of football, as in football the goal is already set, on the ground, and comes with a handy net at the back to save some poor soul walking miles to get the ball back.

Your goal setting is very dependent on your status and position in life, and it is very important to set realistic or smart goals. Dumb goals are pointless, but surprisingly common.

Mnemonics are very popular in the Goal setting industry. Oh yes, there is a whole industry and sub culture to support you in setting goals. Many trillions of words have been committed to the internet on this topic, beaten only by pictures of cats and porn. Many ostensibly intelligent, sassy and suave folk will even sell you a course on how to set your goals, and some of them even have really impressive sounding qualifications, to reassure you that they know their shit.

I would like to assure you that I too am extremely well qualified to tell you what to do.

I graduated from “Barelyfinishedhighschool” in the nineteen eighties, completed a Masters in Sarcasm the following year, then a further Doctorate in Cynicism in 2001.

Now I have bull shitted about my qualifications, we can move on. See, your unlikely to be reading this because I mentioned Mnemonics a couple of lines ago, and also the word smart just before it. Your brain will be filling in the gaps now and your eye will be drawn to the bold text below. I feel safe to mention a small pink hamster at this point because no one will notice.

S is for Slippery slope

M is for Might as well

A is for Attitude

R is for Rest

T is always a good idea.

 

D is for Desperate

U is for Unlikely to succeed

M is for Monumental

B is for Bollocks

See there are many similarities in the two sorts of goal setting. Lets unpack the SMART model..

S is for Slippery slope.

Many less experienced Goal setters will try and tell you that S denotes Specific. They will try to convince you to focus on a single issue, like, complete my revision timetable, or, binge watch Celebrity bake off on an icy Island, or some other worthy life changing thing. Note that life changing does not necessarily mean for the better. In my qualified ( see above ) opinion, goal setting is a slippery slope. Sometimes you just got to go with the flow. No matter what you think you goal should be, shit will surely happen and any plans you have will be derailed. If you set goals then you also set yourself up for failure, upset, misery, depression, despair, and generally looking like a bit of a dick. Relax, the grass will still grow, the sun will still rise, and it will probably rain on your day off. You need to be aware of the danger of setting goals, it’s a slippery slope.  Here is a picture of a slide to break up the text.

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M is for Might as well.

Here the less well qualified amateurs implore you use the word measurable. Really How can you measure the pleasure in watching clouds race across the sky? Its measuring things that leads to all sorts of problems. Read Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which claims to have little to do with Zen, and even less to do with maintaining motorcycles. It has a lot to do with giving your full attention to the thing in front of you. If you can be arsed to do it, do it right.   If a company is measured on how many things it makes, it might hit that goal. But if its measured on how many it actually sells, and how many are returned with faults, then the measurement has more meaning.  It gets quite complicated, measuring stuff. It implies having to attribute a nominal value or quantity, or even quantify an abstract thing. In my extensive experience, if you have got as far as needing an M, it may as well stand for Might As Well.

A is for Attitude.

This is one of those rare occasions the self proclaimed Goal setting experts get it almost right. They command you to set an Achievable Goal. Any idiot can sit in front of a piece of paper, clutching a crayon in clumsy grip, and say to themselves, yes, that’s achievable because that’s what I want. And they will feel big and beautiful, empowered and bold. All while sitting in front of their list. I submit to you that anything is achievable, more or less, but nothing will happen without Attitude.

Case study. Earnest is an obese 48 year old male, and has decided for some reason to set a SMART goal. He wants to run a Marathon.  It’s achievable because it actually could be done. It’s not going to be achieved without some serious attitude. The dude need to sort out his eating habits, and get those legs moving. It will require months if not years of training, often painful, sweaty, in the cold and wet. It will require Grit and Determination. Attitude, that’s what we’re on about. The inner anger with yourself that drives you from the warmth of the duvet, to pound the street whatever the weather, for day after day, week after week. No more slumped on the sofa demolishing a packet of biscuits in front of the telly….Attitude. Achievable my arse.

R is for Rest.

The internet dwelling Guros of Goal setting will try and sell you this as standing for Realistic. Just like the rest of it, they are wrong. R is for Rest. Give yourself a pat on the back, and put your feet up. You have done a lot today, and the brain is possibly overheated. The importance of rest is not stressed enough. Proper goal setting is exhausting and time consuming. If you’ve got this far, then you deserve a rest. Don’t worry about goals being realistic, you have attitude, you could do anything. You won’t of course, but you could.

T is always a good idea.

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Thank you very much, got any coffee? Black for preference, with a splash of cold on top. Yes really, you put milk in your tea don’t you? Yes I might be sarcastic, but I haven’t got an asbestos mouth. Got any biscuits to go with that ? It is always a good idea to have a brew. Others will tell you T stands for timescale, that you made up goal should be completed in a made up and arbitrary time frame. I would say it’s important to stay hydrated, and while your up, could you put the kettle on.

 

That is SMART planning boxed off. What a lot of folk do is DUMB planning. That will be covered in Life Skills #2.

To help with your goal setting, here is an example.

S. My cup is empty, it needs filing.

M. Filled with nice warming beverage.

A. Shout at co workers or subordinates to make tea.

R. Always nice to remain seated and have tea made for you.

T.  Always helps, got any biscuits?

Now you have the information you need and are therefore empowered to achieve world domination.     Once you’ve finished your tea.
To be continued….