consciousness

Becoming the meaning of life

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is classic science fiction comedy. One of my favourite parts is when the answer to the ultimate question is finally answered by a super computer (masquerading as a planet) with the number 42, the twist that most people forget is that this answer didn’t make sense because the beings who asked it didin’t actually understand what they were asking, love the irony. But It has since become part of pop culture, whenever someone is angsting about the meaning of life, someone inevitable smirks and sardonically says ‘well don’t you know? Its 42’. I celebrate my 42nd birthday tomorrow and I wonder if I will wake up with an epiphany. I’m not s super computer but I won’t let that stop me giving it a crack. Problem is there are so many choices of meaning!

So I am drawn back to the idea of where we get meaning from. Who is the loudest when proclaiming to know the answer? How do we become aware of the edges of this meaning? What meanings have been recycled, re-mastered, concealed, reviled, rendered invisible? Why is our meaning any more important than the meaning for other species on the planet? If it is not about my own life but the life of all humanity would that shift the meaning? Why do we continue to use extremes of fear to define TMOL? If humanity was one entity/consciousness – how old would we be and as such are we really ‘old enough’ to understand the question?

Well, let’s just hope I wake up tomorrow with an answer other than 42 because that really is just a number and I don’t know what it means anyway. And besides, I’ve never been fond of acting my age.

Tipping The Balance

I am surrounded by amazing creative educators and interesting people talking about ‘modern learning environments’ and what this looks like. I suppose that is where I want to push and provoke some conversations, because we seem to be stuck with ‘look like’ a lot. The focus and emphasis keeps being drawn into changing the shapes of furniture, open learning and staff spaces and increasing use of technology. We rarely get to ‘sound like’ and ‘feel like’ possibly ‘smell like’ which happen to be important relational aspects of learning. One special interest area for me is the realm of discipline. So as usual I have taken to the metaphorical to share some observations, and yes bikes are involved.

If anyone has learned to ride a bike, or swim you might recall the sensations and emotions that come with vulnerability. There is a delicate relationship between being control and feeling the pang of fear. It’s excitement wrapped in caution. As adults we occasionally are asked to learn new things that push us beyond our comfort zone but it is usually by choice and rarely does it mean learning something that puts our professional identities on the line.

But watching the process of restorative practices enter schools has all hallmarks of skinned knees, struggling for breath and feeling ‘out of our depth’ as a profession. Teaching and schools have been moving along just nicely with traditional practices of discipline and punishment for over a century. It’s a machine that everyone recognises and we generally get the mechanics of how it all works.

Learning to Ride a bike is familiar to many people – bit wobbly at the start, usually held by someone to get going, but the freedom gained was well worth it. Once you’ve ridden one you can pretty much jump on any sort of bike, same principles, laws of physics, maybe the shift in gears could be unfamiliar and mountain and road bikes do operate differently. It can feel awkward but you can adjust pretty quickly. I liken this to schools and discipline policies in general, you can move between institutions which claim a ‘unique’ culture but once you are ‘on and pedaling – it rolls pretty much the same. If rules are broken punishment is dished out – we’ve been riding this punitive machine for a while.

Then along comes the restorative contraption. It is more like a unicycle. We don’t generally see unicycles around, they are for clowns and performers, no serious-rational-real person would consider them just as adequate as bikes. They might even say ‘we need unicycles like a fish needs a bike’. Nevertheless teachers are asked to give up their comfortable seat of power, drive chain of consequences and handle bars of truth for what? A one wheeled contraption with no training wheels? And here is the real spanner in the spokes, no amount of experience on a bike will help ride this thing. It is a starting again, a stripping back to a raw relationship with gravity and balance, shame and vulnerability matched with accountability. No amount of watching, reading, analysing will help you ride one. Just getting on requires patience and perseverance, falling off is required, it is the only way to make progress – yet it feels unnatural and letting go of the stability of the wall requires courage and an understanding that without losing balance you cannot move forward. Then finally you let go and try one pedal and it feels like a mile. You start to get a feel for how the unicycle moves with you and go with it, zig zagging all over. Every subtle turn and shift changes the direction, you can even pedal backwards. So it is about giving in to uncertainty with adrenaline surging and mixing this with cautious anticipation for the next attempt.

To those on the outside, it appears unsafe, reckless, even dangerous. They might wonder where is the control? The direction? How do they steer? It looks awkward and clunky and many will turn away and say ‘I’ll stick to the bike thanks – at least I know how that works.’ A small group will persevere and take the risk of leaving the safety and comfort of the wall of familiarity. A few pedal strokes is exhilarating enough to feel like you are getting it. But the next time in might be face in the floor time, it doesn’t mean going backwards, learning is non-linear and with every painful fall there is a sense of progress, the body senses more and more how to move with this strange new (e)motion. Encouragement, support, laughter and shared experience allow those who continue to maintain their momentum. The wobbles will lesson and the flow will come, falling gets easier and less painful, in fact, direction comes through careful adjustments, a growing awareness of what works for you.

There is no skipping a stage, there is no way to short cut…just get back on… hundreds and hundreds of times. Eventually getting going will be less of a struggle and momentum will come naturally. The effortlessness is illusory, it masks the commitment and dedication, change in physiology with a new and unique proprioceptive relationship to rolling friction. But those who have tried to ride will recognise and appreciate the visual confirmation that ‘it can be done’.

Because the usual mechanics of power and privilege that comes with Authoritarian discipline have been stripped back, the time to get going restoratively does mean many will need gentle introductions whilst others will be ready to throw themselves into it. Both are fine, but recognising the kinds of support people need is something schools need to pay particular attention to when introducing restorative processes. Developing effective restorative practices takes time to develop and they only get easier by doing them. If there ever was a place for repetition in learning it would be here and particularly the skill of asking questions. However it is helpful to find creative ways to ask the same thing otherwise you run the risk of wearing your ‘mental tire’ out on starting in the same place all the time. You can get around this by rotating the tire every few weeks on a unicycle, or to get some alternative starting points to conversations.

One of the things I remember from learning to unicycle was how tired I felt, how exposed and vulnerable I felt. Bruised in places I never thought I could be (or should be) including my ego, frustrated, exasperated at times but also quietly satisfied with each tentative meter gained. Even scrapes and bumps are celebrated and cherished.
I am by no means an expert on a unicycle but having watched and taught over one hundred people to ride one I understand it is a process that has as many demands mentally and emotionally as it does physically. Fear is one of the main reasons people ‘get off’ and return to what is safe. This will always be the case. The irony is – the very ‘gravity’ of the situation is what enables these kinds of conversations to take place.

Finally, surround yourself with others wanting to share the same experience, laugh a lot, console, apply ice packs, laugh more. Expect to fall off then just get back on…again and again and again…

Faking It – Just Tantastic

It is officially summer…apparently. Kiwis everywhere are readying their bodies to embrace the sun, our skin will burn before it actually gets warm here. I Love living in a country where you can be wearing a jacket and beanie and be worried about burn time…if you had skin exposed beyond your face. But I have a confession to make, I get nervous toward the end of October knowing that at some point I will be exposing my legs to the world which have hibernated for some months. The skin on them is a bit like a chameleons – it changes colour depending on the temperature and conditions. It can range from pale blue, pink and sometimes blotchy purple. I believe that riding my bike could pose a hazard to motorists should the sun strike them and reflect off them. But my upper body face and arms are quite different, they just quietly move to a gentle toast tone, you know the one, where your bread just looks golden but not overly brown – perfect for butter and marmite (the toast not the skin). So I feel it is my duty to ensure public safety and succumb to tanning moisturiser, it is a sacrifice I feel passionate about and take very seriously. But I do wrestle with the irony of my own self-consciousness at times while I try and talk about diversity. Then again, I am comfortable being in a contradiction, it’s like a comfy sofa now, well worn.

Body consciousness is usually talked about weight but more than ever skin tone is seen as just as necessary – models typically boast perfect tan. It’s not enough to be buff, you need to be buff and brown. The only exception is if you are a pouty vampire, or from a dystopian future and are clad in some skin hugging item, or a dystopian vampire. Then you can be as pouty, pale and pasty as much as you like. But then it is the opposite for teeth – OMG you have to have the white teeth, to match the tan, or no tan if you are a vampire. Those canines better not have stain on them or be yellow, crikey it’s off to get some whitening for you. There you go, another dose of chemical correction.

Ok, back to tanning. Those of you who use these creams will know the trials and tribulations. It is not as simple as slapping it on, it’s more like painting a house or cleaning windows. Then later you realise you missed a bit or over did it in a certain place and get the streak effect. Then there are the areas of demarcation – those skin surfaces that should never look tanned in the same way your legs do, like below your ankles. Do you rub it in or leave it to soak in? Oh the anguish, the mirror checking. Sometimes it pays to remember your age when factoring in how much to put around your knees because they soak in extra and can end up looking perpetually bruised or dirty. And don’t forget to wash your hands – the orange palms are a dead give away. But once that colour starts building it pays to know when to stop or ease up because there is a fine line between golden brown and oompa loompa orange. That could work for blending into my bike, but beyond that maybe not.

Ironically, I was watching a piece on a guy – Neil Harbisson who only sees the world in black and white and has a chip implanted in his head to hear colour. He is an artist and does sound portraits of people. Curiously when he scans for skin colour everyone comes out as a version of orange. There you have it folks proof deep down we are all working for Willy Wonka.

Sure, it’s probably toxic, with numerous chemicals that could cause all sorts of horribleness but for a few weeks a year I will maintain my regime of faking it. Heck at least I’m being transparent about it.

Going To Great Depths

Dark, silent, alone, de-pressed, it might sound like the start of a story about depression but William Trubridge is man who took himself intentionally into a deep dark hole, on a single breath of air. Not just any hole, a yawning orifice in the Bahamas over 200m deep. Looking down through the crystal clear blue waters I had the impression of him entering the pupil of a giant eye. Watching him pack air into his lungs, like some poor fish gasping for air before he attempted the world record immediately sent shivers down my spine, this was a huge physical and mental challenge. We are mammals and our physiology is definitely not adequately designed to cope with the immense hydrostatic pressure water packs on the body, whilst starving your brain of oxygen.

He was attempting a world record, most of us in NZ will have seen the Steinlager Pure advertisements over the last month or so, giving us a sense of what he would be putting himself through. Somehow, I don’t think he would be reaching for a Steiny after holding his breath for nearly four minutes, more like ‘pass me that regulator’ and sucking on some sweet air. He was oh so close to making it. I watched live this morning and seemed to hold my breath…well…at least for 5 seconds at a time just mesmerised by the slow, graceful descent into darkness. I admired his beautiful technique and for a moment it seemed like maybe he was an aquatic mammal. At 102m he had made it, but like those who climb mountains (only in reverse) the ascent was yet to be completed. With 20m to go, he made the call to his support crew – a simple shake of the head, the grabbed him and assisted him to the surface, the record missed.

It was the perfect miss. I was quietly celebrating this courageous surrender. Here was a man who did not ‘macho’ it through to unconsciousness. When thinking about the relationship between masculinity, and sport this could be seen as refreshing alternative, a new relationship with physicality, risk and a strength that comes from respecting limits, and leaving ego at the surface to get to the deeper qualities of being that invite patient, gentle wisdom, and confidence to let go.

As for Steinlager being the sponsor for William, I don’t think the need to worry about their product image being diminished, if anything they got a pure result – and it isn’t always perfect. I hope William doesn’t suck on any of their product unless it’s the pure version, not unless he wants some dry land practice at having his head crushed in a vice. Anyone else experienced the ‘Steingrenade’ effect? Hangover doesn’t even begin to describe the pain and suffering…

You might want to climb into a dark hole after a night on those.

Making The Gradient

I’m glad we don’t have to reinvent the wheel – it’s a pretty awesome thing very hard to improve on a circle. Bikes might be some of the most basic things with wheels. When riding you become aware of the terrain because your body is responding directly to the physical environment. There is no hiding from the elements or the hills. There are of course adaptations you can make, like adding gears, choosing a different route, sheltering behind other riders and exploiting subtle changes in conditions.

All this requires a presence in the moment, a form of mindfulness that is perhaps under recognised or appreciated as a way of moving through life, an antithesis of the future focused lives that capture our attention – getting there instead of being here. Cycling is classical physics wrapped up in a spiritual experience – my perfect package for delivering altered states of being. Moving from a bike with gears to a single speed has changed my experience of the terrain I have ridden for a decade.

Far from being a simple shift in exertion due to the inability to ‘change down’ there has been an opportunity to alter my technique, pay attention to slight changes in gradient even the texture of the road can make a significant difference to momentum. My relationship to wind has significantly changed where a tail wind is experienced as sheer elation and feels like having a rocket strapped on the back. Conversely head winds draw me to focus on prioritising reducing drag, while squeezing every ounce of power from each pedal stroke and recruiting muscles that thought they had retired.

When riding like this, the total embodiment and presence of being is inescapable and surprisingly satisfying. Other cyclists blast past – clearly going somewhere, they barely notice me (although I find that hard to believe on my giant jaffa) and I remember being that person who would chase down anyone who didn’t acknowledge me. Not anymore…I can’t…and so that acceptance of the limits has afforded me a new found peace, one that has translated into the rest of my life.

Coasting when things even out is cherished, a chance to catch my breath. I can look up and take in the wider perspective than just what is in front of my wheel. Ever vigilant though for shiny glistening objects that could bring that momentum to a halt. Pedalling too fast though is pointless, it adds little power and wastes energy without adding momentum, ‘spinning out’ is ugly. So – it’s about finding a pace that allows me to keep ‘over the top’ of my gear.

The terrain in life we travel might look the same but each of us navigates it in a unique way. What might appear flat to one person may feel like a slow grinding slope. Others might need gears and at times struggle to find the right one. It’s also fine to get off and push.

When the mirror gets to reflect itself

I’m rather new to blogging and find it interesting to note both my enthusiasm and trepidation about posting. I don’t have a lot of followers (so essentially I am writing to myself most of the time I think) and often wonder if it matters. In my personal and professional life I like to ‘pride’ myself on openness and measure of sensitivity to others – kind of important qualities as a counsellor. It possibly never occurred that people might want to engage with my ideas when I first started writing – why on earth did I put my writing online? Well I thought if it resonated with people they could take what was useful and interesting and leave the rest. It never really thought ‘the rest’ might be the bits that held the opportunity for me to explore my own assumptions! One of the limits of blogging is the written word and the subtle ways meaning can shift based on the tone crafted by the writing but also the position of the reader – that is ‘who they are as a person’ located in the intricate matrix of life. So recently when a few people…ok 2…started responding to my posts I was suddenly aware there were ‘others’ out there.

I’d left my door open but didn’t really expect anyone to take up the invitation to come in and perhaps that awareness of my own vulnerability was the biggest and most important learning I’ve done in a long time. It also drew me outside to explore the rich world of writing available via blogs. Wow! what an incredible place ‘you’ have all created – this is like the Matrix exploded rather than reloaded! Becoming aware of your place in the Blogtrix is kind of interesting. There are markers that suggest who is ‘worth’ following and I can see there is just as much popularity and potential for isolation here as in the ‘real world’. I like the idea of people enjoying what I read but I’ve also noted a curious form of supplication that some followers show in their comments from time to time. It got me thinking about the seductive idea of being ‘popular’ of having ideas worth spreading and how quickly a response can either open up or shut down understanding.

Perhaps the mirror can’t reflect itself – but I am more aware of how my ideas reflect if they come back to me. But for anyone wondering about the culture of blogging I would say be wary of the ‘house of mirrors’ be ready for unusual, ugly and distorted – it could come back in a way that is unexpected and that is the glory of it – to see yourself as others see you through your ideas. Because regardless of the intent – the original image or idea put out, once that light passes into text – it might be magnified in parts, refracted in others, reflected elsewhere but it is no longer yours.

Thank you to those who have read ANY of my posts, I hope some of the lenses I pass ideas through provide some unique focus you might not have considered or simply confirmed your own understandings.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, glad I don’t have you on the ceiling or floor.

Less visibility means you might see more

Fog doesn’t conjure up warm images or seem to offer much to those seeking motivating imagery. I’d go as far to suggest the ‘fog’ metaphor is probably more frequently applied negatively to imply a block or barrier to seeing clearly, or being able to operate at full capacity (whatever that is) such as the term ‘mental fog’. It’s also wet and cold – like rain – only much more stealthy and an umbrella won’t help.

It occurred to me that fog is a wonderful phenomenon that provides a useful opportunity to slow down both literally and metaphorically, take a different sensory lens to the world and ‘see’ what we might not have observed before. Fog reduces visibility or more accurately optical (visual) acuity, you lose the ability to pick up fine detail or the ‘sh*^t I can’t see anything’ factor. Driving is probably the activity most people would associate with impairment due to fog. What is immediately in front of you becomes lost in the murky soup of condensation and should mean an adjustment in awareness or at least some modification of speed and following distance. More often than not I suspect it is met with gritted teeth, reluctant braking and the dilemma of whether to have your lights dipped or on full. People rarely embrace the opportunity to focus in a new way or even notice how things appear in this new ‘muted’ light. They just want to get through it and out the other side.

I’ve noticed when running just how often I expect to get to the top of Mt Eden and look out over the city. My expectation is based on a preference for the view being panoramic but I have come to appreciate the beauty and contrast foggy mornings bring. Trees become silhouettes and lights become orbs and it always feels like I hear more. Breaking through at the summit, the city makes noise beneath the fleece of white cloud and other landmarks form a temporary new perspective of ‘ground level’.

So whether your are driving or just going about life generally if ‘fog’ appears either metaphorically or literally – take a moment to adjust and see what appears to emerge that might have come forward for noticing now that the usual background detail has blurred.

But if you are on a bike in the fog – just get over the ego and go high viz – become a Dutch football fan if you need an excuse, or go all the way and get a vest – embody Emmet from The Lego Movie…either way there are times when it pays to stand out and not blend into the background.

Ice-Cream – lick it or not, there is more than one flavour

Sometimes I struggle to explain my frustration about how pervasive ideas are that construct and limit the full expression of diversity. The expression of sexuality is right up there and I’ve often wanted to put it out there as a story but unsurprising, if you start talking about it – others ‘freak out’. So here is a little story to illustrate some of the practices that hide in plain sight. It shouldn’t take you long to figure out the metaphor I’ve chosen and before anyone says ‘its not that simple’ I agree entirely. It would be easy to pick holes in this story (its a story!) I simply invite people to look at the tensions of power – not the literal translation. If that doesn’t work for you – go out and get yourself an ice cream and enjoy! …..

Here we go!

Once upon a time there was an ice cream shop. Now, everyone loves ice-cream (at least in this story) it is part of life from early childhood through all stages of life. So there were many shops selling ice-cream for obvious reasons.
However – there was only one flavour IC. But people didn’t mind because they were not aware there was any other possibility for flavour. The one flavour on offer was vanilla. Vanilla was delicious and while a lot of people enjoyed it – others were not so fussed but went along with agreeing it was delicious and indeed the best thing in the world.
Eventually some people got tired of pretending they were into vanilla and dared to explore another flavour – dark and mysterious – it was called chocolate! It was still IC wasn’t it? There were some shop owners who refused to stock this new flavour calling it an abomination. Some quietly did but espoused that Vanilla was still the traditional flavour everyone naturally prefers.
It wasn’t long before stories were developed to explain why some might prefer chocolate, something had happened to them at birth or in early childhood to scare them off vanilla, they were born that way, and therapies developed to help people return to the correct flavour.
Resistance came for those who now identified chocolate as a real and preferred flavour that whilst not as common as Vanilla was no less legit. Many snuck chocolate under vanilla and developed ways to blend in with other IC eaters in public to ensure they could maintain their standing amongst their peers. But they longed just to be able to enjoy their IC openly but know the risks.
Still chocolate persisted in fact it started to appear in all sorts of ways, chocolate chip, chocolate coating, cones, ripple, and as more and more awareness grew around some of these other combinations some people who had spent their life only experiencing Vanilla realised they were curious and attracted to the notion of other flavours. Not all of them sampled but it was in their consciousness.
Many rejected these emerging flavours again as deviations and would punish public displays of chocolate. In fact theories around how you could tell if someone was into chocolate emerged with the some calling for schools to ensure vanilla was definitely the only choice offered and if chocolate was mentioned that this would be trying to force and convert impressionable children to the ‘dark side’. Some countries went as far to make chocolate illegal.
All sorts of panic and social problems were blamed on the arrival of chocolate. There were claims that the presence of chocolate somehow diminished the value of Vanilla, that too many choices was a danger to the very fabric of society. Those who didn’t like any form of IC were left out in the cold completely whilst chocolate became associated with other behaviours. Parents hoped their children would grow up to like Vanilla and would go to extreme lengths to make sure they steered them in this direction as they worried what future they might have and what their friends and family would think of them. Some would ask their children not to eat in public, or at family gatherings.
A strange thing happened later where upon meeting another intelligent species in the universe and offering up IC as an explanation of the ways humans define themselves, the visitors shrugged and said ‘what’s IC’? They were perplexed as the world seemed to be in the throws of catastrophic demise and here this species was making a fuss about IC? They carefully but gently pointed this out but were instead handed an ice cream…

Now to let that melt into your mind and hope some consider not freezing change out.

 

To become some Body

If we ever transcend the limits of our bodies as a species I for one will be relieved never to have to find a public toilet ever again. I can never quite figure out from the signs which one I am supposed to use because I am not a triangle. But for now, I’m stuck with this one and it serves me pretty well most of the time.

If you are a human being chances are you have an awareness of your body and how it looks and functions. I know I became very aware at a young age that people confused my gender with my short hair and love of flannel shorts and matching top. As other lumps and bumps appeared I noticed certain bumps and lumps were commented on more than others, some approved of others not so much. There were conversations around eating, food, and a new idea ‘weight’ that emerged to sow seeds of doubt around this vessel I was conscious of as my body. Not the media, not images on TV, no – my parents and coaches and others drawing attention to how I looked or should look helped unease and self-surveillance (Foucault was definitely onto something – but did miss the gender thing slightly),

We have placed an incredible amount of meaning on body size and shape that we cannot escape. Gender aside (for the time being) our physicality is inescapable but we are told it is maleable. Choice and responsiblity and self-accountability have become the new mantras of an industry primed to cash in on the collective fear of being anything other than thin and/or buff, fear is a great marketing tool – remember that. When I talk with adults about the teasing or bullying they experienced more often than not it was about their looks, particularly their weight. Women’s magazines are a page by page rollercoaster through extremes and contradictions. First there is the weight loss success story, followed by the celebrity ‘lost my baby body in 3 weeks’ story, next to the chocolate cake recipes and finally the extreme close ups with arrows pointing out all the flawed bits and ‘too skinny’ or ‘out of shape’ with looking good fitting an incredibly narrow criteria but generally its somewhere between skeletal and thin – thigh gaps essential.

But we do it to each other as well. We notice and comment on whether people have put on weight, lost weight, have a tan, a new hair style, are on a diet, not on a diet, should be on a diet, what diet is new. People are quick to ‘tut tut’ those who’s body shape has moved out of the narrow margins of ‘acceptable’ while condemning those who fall into the clutches of anorexia or bulimia.

The morbid fascination and objectification of obesity as a form of ‘horror show’ can be seen in the number of TV shows dedicated to weightertainment. It’s kind of psychotic and pathological but we accept it as normal and even important to know what our ‘ideal weight’ should be based on a fundamentally flawed formula called the BMI – invented by a mathematician in the 19th Century…yes you read that correctly. Not a physician (let alone one within the last 100 years!) someone who liked numbers and measuring things. Well I have to say those three letters should be renamed from Body Mass Index to Blatantly Manipulated Information.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes but lets get real and honest about how we restrict what is validated as beautiful. There is a rather more insidious effect; the art of distraction, like a perpetual maze confusing, disorienting and consuming consciousness. The time and energy that some people put into managing their bodies to ensure they ‘look perfect’ means less for other things. It is the ultimate form of control, probably the most effective form of Matrix program for subduing a population. People can now get Apps to help them stay plugged in more deeply and ensure they become fully immersed in the Weigh-tricks.

Yip, I’m feeling inspired to write a spoof – The Weightrix. Main characters Porkeus, Thinnity, and Gello. Porkeus looking for Gello inside the Weightrix offers him the red or blue pill – they’re jelly beans. Thinnity hopes Gello will make the ‘Pump test’ but he fails the first time. They send him to The Biggest Loser where he meets The Oraface.

“Bake up – the Weightrix has you.”

A theory of relativity we should challenge

Something sits uncomfortably with me at the moment and it has to do with the effect of polarity and the ability to compare values and actions based on increasing extremes. When extreme violence is posed at one end of the spectrum however justified everything after that can be viewed as more ‘humane’ or ‘tolerant’ and I think we should be mindful of this. When a woman is stoned to death outside a court house in Pakistan and another woman in prison is awaiting the death penalty for marrying outside her religion there is horror, outrage, but also relief. If you are a woman living in a country where this is not accepted and are not exposed to such extreme threats of violence for breaking tradition then the invitation is to be grateful. We have access to in-formation about social, cultural, religious and political landscapes on a global scale. Even if you are not living in that situation the knowing it exists shapes our existence and understanding of ‘it could be worse’ and I’m concerned about the yardstick growing and the relativistic acceptance of ‘less than death’ as progressive in terms of respect and human rights. The same goes for same sex marriage. Now legal in New Zealand but again, in other parts of the world you can be killed or jailed for being gay. Kind of makes travel arrangements for honeymoons a bit more delicate.

Of course I am outraged and bewildered that we as a species are defining ourselves through fear based beliefs that has perpetuated continued practices that contradict the idea that we are highly evolved beings. But lets not pat ourselves on the back ‘over here’ when people are living under constant threat, fear for their lives for simply being.

That awareness sits in the fabric of consciousness. Years ago, before the digital age the context of understanding was local and contained within a limited sphere of exposure to extremes. Now we can know all possibilities and I’m uncertain how to make sense of respect, freedom and safety within an awareness of expanding polarity. The world is smaller so whilst I am fairly certain I am unlikely to be stoned to death in NZ my awareness that this is happening to women in other parts of the world cannot be ignored or pushed aside easily.

There is nothing about this that deserves a witty ending. It’s just too alarming and outrageous that in the year 2014 women are being assaulted, raped and killed in brutal ways.