meaning

Sweet – up in smoke

I’m not sure my nervous system, endocrine system, excretion and intelligence system can take much more. After a rugby world cup final that sent my adrenal glands into overdrive while my kidneys processed excessive diuretics, followed by manic dressing up and serious sugar overload there were a few days to recover before the next round of loud explosions at the moment of just getting to sleep.

So I’m gonna simplify the picture and come up with some ingenious answers coz it’s Friday night and I’m wearing odd socks:

We waved flags, all sorts of flags, and won a cup, playing a game the rest of the world has never heard of. In a country that doesn’t exist on many world maps, we worry people can’t tell our flag from Australia’s. Fine – let’s just make it official and put a kiwi on a flag laying an egg shaped object. What is the point of having a flag if we aren’t even on a map? It’s like the world took a bad selfie and cut us off.

Now to deal with this Halloween thing at the wrong time of the year and our insistence on celebrating a failed terrorist plot in another country over 400 years ago by playing with explosives. So if we are going to hang on, borrow and butcher other rituals why not go the whole hog and just completely cluster f*#k it. I propose exploding sugar fire-works. Just shoot lollies and stuff into the sky and kids can run all over the neighbourhood finding it. Much more skill involved having to read the wind and calculate the range of a pineapple lump or jaffa vrs a marshmello. Could be future All-Black training fending off the competition, speed, reaction time.

Time to get a referendum going. Don’t worry about the price, it shouldn’t sky rocket.

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Flagging change

If I was an entrepreneur I would be thinking seriously about getting into the flag industry. From the passionate to the privileged, patriotic to political there is a growing movement toward marking territory along lines of separation in the present that flow into the past and future of which all happen now with real effects that can be felt in persecution, disavowal, and fear. There is a new flag on the block and it’s got nothing to do with NZ trying to decide how to resignify our place such that the rest of the world finally knows we are not the east island of Australia.

The Russians are all in a flap about family values and have decided they need to help people pick a side. This flag is meant to be a counter to the increasing profile of the rainbow one used as a visible representation of the invisibility of those falling outside heteronormativity. The idea of ‘straight pride’ being captured by a flag with a family on it reveals other invisibility. Clearly unless you have three ‘able bodied’ children of clear gender expression (based on clothing and marginal hair length differences) and two parents you are not a good model of heterosexuality. They might have gone with a simpler version that both mirrors and contrasts the rainbow. A simple black and white with no shades of grey, although they might want to refrain from using any symbols – been a bit of confusion with regard to black and white flags recently. Alternatively Russians themselves could fly all sorts of family flags without deviating from a man and woman being the parents. Mixed race couples, people with varying body shapes and functional uniqueness, and the obligatory alternative numbers of children that could make for a family unit – including 0.

South Carolina could consider adopting its state flag for public display, how many people know what it looks like? It’s one that might help cast off the shackles of mixed meaning because regardless of now the past lives and replays certain acts and scenes if given the chance under particular signs that have been etched in the fabric of time itself. We need to remember that rallying under a banner has been an effective propaganda technique for centuries and symbols can be turned from one meaning to another just ask any Hindu about the Svastika.

So to Russia with love – being heterosexual is not a crime in any country, you cannot be sent to jail, killed or denied basic human rights simply for being straight. Pride is only possible against a background of shame, the blood of those lost to hate crimes might make a good backdrop for your new flag – red…somehow I think that has other connotations.

Back to the drawing board.

Humour Me

When I started running a diversity inquiry group with my friend Philip 8 years ago it never occurred to me that having serious conversations could be so entertaining, or that laughing didn’t necessarily mean losing the threads of meaning. A classic example was a recent meeting when we’d decided to talk about voluntary euthanasia given its topical relevance in the media and the fact that Philip was directly involved. The two of us spent time planning the facilitation, by planning I mean considering the alternative ways to approach the delicate edges of ethical and moral dilemmas without plunging into the pendulum of ‘for and against’ like some Newton’s cradle with the energy passing directly through and simply knocking backwards and forwards.

So lunch time came and I’d scrambled to get the list of words together – not bothering to check my spelling and being more concerned that having this conversation on a mufti day where the theme was pyjamas could seem a little trivialising. Although a panda onesie could almost pass for a suit. When students arrived and started looking at the words there the usual questions began. Starting with the Hippocratic oath. But for some reason I had typed ‘hypo’cratic. Goodness knows where my head had been, but to their credit they wondered about the meaning given hypo as a prefix meant something under. This signalled my awareness to the error so quick correction to hippo and more wondering about hippopotamus until we finally got to Hippocrates the Greek ‘father’ of medicine. The group scooted into a robust discussion about ‘preserving life’ and ‘doing no harm’ and quickly gathered some strands to anchor ideas. As we delicately stepped through the web of sticky questions the weight of some ideas required lighter approaches and at each point someone seemed to pick a moment to bring humour in.

But nothing could prepare us for what happened next. A new person joined 10 minutes in, she had been invited by a friend. The intensity had built and there was a moment of pausing to introduce people before launching back into it. A perplexed look fell over her face as we continued until she piped up ‘I thought you were talking about ‘youth in Asia’” and there it was – the irresistible and contagious explosion of tension which spiralled into a temporary mingling of strands into some bizarre hybrid that allowed us to hold both contradictions. Voluntary youth in Asia and coercion mixed briefly with choice and control and then dissipated. Picking up some dropped lines and sticking them back, the shape of ideas changed as the synergy and balance returned. As we turned toward emotional pain there was another language twist where sanatorium and sanitarium were interchangeable and a momentary picture was painted of mental illness and being treated with cornflakes and weetbix. Ironically the terms can be used interchangeably depending on where you are in the world but in NZ Sanitarium produces the breakfast of champions.

While we all regained our composure and recognised the heavier strands that could scaffold some future thinking it seemed what mattered is it didn’t matter what the law was, or who’s beliefs were right or what evidence was presented. It seemed in the moment that pleasure and pain can only exist because of the presence of the other. That without some medium from which tension can arise there can be no release. In fact if we look at the original meaning of humour it derives from Greek medicine, where the balance of bodily fluids or humours was essential for good health.

Laugher is not trivial or trivialising, in fact it recognises the pain, and dis-ease and makes it bearable for a moment just enough to give space to think the unthinkable and stretch our capacity to hang over the edge and search the face of the void rather than shrinking away in fear.

counting for something

Here I am closing in on my 100th blog. I feel a bit like a cricket player nervously perched on the edge of my crease wondering if I should play conservatively or just cut loose, throw caution to the wind and smash it out of the park. But it’s just a number and part of me is also intrigued by our relationship with numbers, statistics and putting numerical values on things. The saturation of data available and our reliance on numbers to define the boundaries and boarders of what becomes significant value doesn’t add up. Data can be forgotten, omitted, discarded and interpreted more ways that you can shake a bit of willow at.

I suppose I have an aversion to the normal curve anyway so its probably no surprise I’d rather use it as a moustache, slide, or bow and arrow or something similar. People love to throw numbers around to get their point across or claim some for of truth status, especially if has been ‘scientifically proven’. Padded up and staring down someone charging into a conversation I sometimes wonder what on earth I should do – I don’t want to be caught on the back foot but learning to anticipate what might be coming down gets easier if you do your research. Sometimes the best way to play a shot is to take the momentum and simply redirect it.

I was always a pretty average batter but I wasn’t a bad wicket keeper, catching people out. Get to know what shots to play depending on the kind of data thrown down. Some will have more spin on it than others so you need to be quick on your feet. Being stumped isn’t the best feeling but it isn’t the end of the world.

Things aren’t always what they seam . Time to run that single – Howzat.