Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Curing Christians of hell fear

Ok, I have a question for any ex-thologians, current theologians, recently de-converted Christians or anyone else with thoughts on the matter. It comes from an interesting situation.

On the weekend, my 60 year old mum went skydiving. Pretty proud of her courage, but she was a bit anxious leading up to it and in her typical fashion, took it to the melodramatic length of writing us all notesd to read in case she died. We all said "thanks for the lovely thoughts but don't be silly" and of course the jump went fine and she loved it.

However it did get me to thinking.

In her note to me she said some very nice things about being proud of me, and her love for both me and my wife, but also that her biggest hope in life was that I come back to faith, and "return to believing that god is love and welcomes you with open arms"... or something like that.

Of course, one cannot believe that which oine knows to be false, even if one wanted to. It goes against the nature of the human mind. And even if i could, I would consider it the biggest tragedy in my life if I suffered a brain injury that caused me to believe such dangerous and silly nonsense again. I am free of that (and have been these last 10 years) and can and will never return to such an infantile world view.

So I am certainly going to dissapoint mum in that regard, although I do not want her, when it is eventually her time, to leave this one life we have feeling anxious about my eternal soul. Like I said, the simple thing would be to, when she is getting closer to the end of her life, pretend that I have become a Christian again, but this would go against everything I value and hold to be important. However, neither do I want to be calous and just say "Mum, I'm never going to believe and that's it" which will leave her with an ongoing anxiety up till the end f her life that her son will be in hell for eternity.

So I have come up with a plan.

I need to cure my mother of her fear of hell.

I have no desire to try to de-convert her, to destroy her faith, or convince her that I am right about the non-existence of god. her faith works for her and as long as it's not hurting anyone else, that's fine. It gives her comfort, but part of it also causes her pain as it has convinced her that my not sharing her belief has eternal consequences. So I do need to tear down that part of the belief, so that she can be at peace about my atheism.

The fear of hell is one of the most ingrained and damaging components of Christianity. It has been used to control people for centuries and has caused many otherwise intelligent people to relinquish their intellectual honesty and, white knuckled, hold onto unjustified beliefs for der life - beliefs that they really do know deep down have no basis.

It also causes huge distress in those who believ it about their loved ones who do not. In all these ways and many more as well, the teaching and belief in hell is one of the most insidious and nasty elements of Christianity, not to mention something that would make god, if he did exist, a sadistic, childish, petulant and nasty dictator.

But many many committed Christians, people who have faith that does provide them comfort and eace, do not believe in the now somewhat medieval view of hell. Unfortunately, my mother's brand of evangelical fundamentalism does believe in a literal hell as a place of eternal torture and suffering.

So I would like to talk to my mother about her belief in hell, encourage her that for her own peace of mind she would be well served to read soem books by trusted Christian authors who challenge the notion of hell, and come to an understanding that the doctrine of hell is not needed for her faith, and is indeed the antithesis of the loving god in whom she professes belief.

Of course, I could outline to her that facts that a belief in hell was not something that has been existent from the start in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and in fact developed slowly and crystalised quite late in the history of monotheism. I could point out that Jesus almost certainly did not have a belief in hell in the same way that she does, but she would dismiss that as the scepticism of a non-believer, and shut her ears to the facts the same way that she chooses to remain ignorant of the basics of evolutionary biology or the development of the documents that now constitute the bible.

So I need to be able to direct her to thinking about hell, that comprehensively destroys the notion of eternal suffering and torture, from inside her own sphere of belief.

If people have suggestions of Christian authors who write well on this topic, or have their own ideas about arguments that can cure Christians of hell fear, I would be most appreciative.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A sad interpretation of love

A link to an interview between Christian apologist Ray “banana-man” comfort and an atheist blogger:

Ray asserts in the interview that all he has shown atheists is love, and has received hatred in return.

If what Ray show’s atheists is his definition of “love”, it is a sad indictment of his moral understanding.

It seems to me that Christians who think they are showing “love” are quite often showing judgment, patronization and general trashing of others’ viewpoints (and quite often people's deepest understandings of themselves). Quite often they add into this veiled threats (disguised as “it’s not me saying it, it’s God, I’m just warning you”), and that cop-out of all cop-outs, “we love the sinner but hate the sin”. Perhaps the reasons for Christians seeing these behaviours as “loving” are because they have been indoctrinated into thinking that they have a divine right and responsibility to be morally superior and ram their beliefs down everyone’s throat.

However, these behaviours are not loving, and are not morally acceptable.

And the results are all too often tragic.

I was reading the other day a forum that I stumbled on through a link, run for and by Christians. (No, I didn’t comment on it – it’s not my place – what they say to each other within their community is their business). But a couple of the comments shocked and dismayed me, and fit well with this discussion. They were made by people thinking they were acting “lovingly” but completely misunderstanding the damage that their abhorrent actions were doing.

The first was by a Christian girl complaining that she was being discriminated against because of her faith, having been expelled from her school. Her expulsion followed from her finding out that a girl in her class was wiccan. The young Christian Lass told the wiccan girl that she had better repent of her evil ways or wind up in Hell, and was promptly dragged before the principal, who let her know that that kind of behavior wasn’t acceptable and an apology was required. Incensed at being forced to apologise to this pagan witch (and stating that she didn’t mean the apology), said follower of Jesus placed in the other girls locker tracts on how Wicca leads to “murder, rape and other horrible things because it lets the devil get inside of you”, along with a note saying that the girl was going to hell.

The poor misguided indoctrinated child was then shocked and dismayed when the police showed up and the school expelled her for harassment. I say poor misguided child because she was obviously not able to recognise due to what she had always been told to believe and not question, that her actions were in no way loving, and such actions are seen by those to whom they are directed as intimidating, judgmental and hateful.

The second example is much sadder.

A mother writes that her son had been depressed and withdrawn, and was seeing a therapist. Eventually he came to her to let her know that he was gay, and that he had been keeping it inside, thus affecting his mental health, due to fear that she would not understand.

The mother responded with what she obviously thought was the classic “love the sinner hate the sin” response. Something to the effect that she loved him and God loved him, but his feelings were evil in God’s sight, and that he needed to pray about it or be celibate for his entire life. The boy, understandably, burst into tears and said that he knew she would not understand. The woman states that she can’t see what she did wrong. She went to see her son’s therapist, and was outraged that he told her that her boy’s sexual orientation was not something he could change, and that she needed to accept and support him, so she pulled him out of therapy. She finishes her story by asking if it is too late for her to “save” her son, but the post then goes on with the tragic epilogue.

In the following months, the boy ended his life.

If this is a person’s definition of love, then their definition is morally bankrupt in the highest degree.

I have had these conversations with members of my fundamentalist Christian family, with regards to their attitudes towards homosexuality that I can see hurting people that are dear to me who are gay. It seems that my family are unable to comprehend the damage that these twisted views of love are doing, based on the close minded understanding that an absolute morality, as defined by their version of religion, and then wonder why the rest of the world does not take their moral proclamations seriously.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Religious "education"?

I just read a link on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website about a petition in the UK to have collective worship removed from non faith based schools.

For those that wish to read it, it’s here: http://richarddawkins.net/article,4503,Nofaithnoworship---epetition-response,Number10govuk

For those that wish that I would stop posting links that require lots of extra reading (especially when you get sucked into reading the ensuing debate in the comments section and all of the tertiary links and tangents) here’s a brief synopsis. A group of secular parents in the UK drew up a petition and presented it to Number Ten, stating their unease with their children being subject to “collective worship” (broadly Christian based) in public schools. “Sure”, they admit, “we can choose to have our kids not attend this and therefore not subject to the indoctrination it involves, but that means they are being isolated from their peers and made to stand out as different.” They argue that collective worship should be restricted to the domain of “faith based” schools, churches and in the private home.

The government responded by glibly dismissing these perfectly valid concerns of parents with some off handed excuse about it being part of the tradition of education in this, a broadly Christian nation.

There are many obvious counter arguments to this response available: the UK is no longer broadly Christian; traditional educational exercises such as whipping children and teaching them that the earth is flat and heretics should be flayed alive have now assumed their rightful place as being confined to the somewhat shameful shelves of pre-modern and less knowledgeable history.

But it got me thinking about the local primary school in Australia in which we have had to specifically state that we do not want our children to attend “Christian Religious Education”. (They had to stop just referring to it as RE, because it is not. It is Christian indoctrination.

It is, of course, our right as parents to not want our children exposed to such one sided and manipulative teaching, but the result is isolation and being branded as different. And when you are 10 and the new kids in town, you just want to fit in as much as possible, so it’s kind of a Catch 22. (For the record, the boys are smart enough to recognize CRE for what it is, and are quite happy to hang out with the other infidel kids in the library and get a head start on their homework so they can come home and concentrate on important things, like getting more air at the local dirt jumps).

My question is this: In a modern, enlightened and mostly secular society, why is it that Christian groups enjoy the privilege in State schools (need we remind of the supposed dis-connect between church and state?) of being granted access to young impressionable minds to emotionally manipulate, and indoctrinate with messages of fear and loathing for the only life they will ever get to live?

I agree wholeheartedly, in this society, Christianity, like Islam, Buddhism and Judaism, is an important part of many people’s lives, and part of the history of the nation, which young people need to know and be educated about.

But surely, if religion is to be taught, it should be in a cultural studies class, by teachers who are:
a) qualified to teach; and
b) impartial when teaching young people of the various religious doctrines followed by a diverse range of communities living within our society.

Religion should be taught as comparison, history, anthropology and so as to understand the place it held 100 years ago and the reasons it does not hold that hallowed place in society now. And if Christianity is to be taught, why should not Buddhists or Muslim Imams have access to Christian kids in state schools, or for that matter, why shouldn’t atheist humanist philosophers be able to present children with “all of the options” in Sunday School class?

I challenge churches to allow their children to be taught all of the options (by people who wholeheartedly believe those options) within their churches in the same way that Evangelical Christians are allowed access to children in state schools.

Religion as indoctrinarian, taught only by one sect, has no place in secular government schools in Australia.

Personally, I have issues with young people being subjected to this indoctrination anywhere, but if it going to happen, then surely it should be confined to church schools (which should then not receive government funding to perpetuate their shaping of young minds), churches and the homes of the faithful. If young people were not indoctrinated at such a moldable age, until their minds had already grasped the facts and knowledge that is able to be known about the world, say if it was only allowed to teach young people religion after their 18th birthday, I dare say that the churches would be a lot emptier than they are now. Sure there are those who would still “convert” – those who feel like they need something which it appears religion is offering, but most young people, when only confronted with such magical fantastical thinking after they have learned to analyze and think for themselves, would rightfully set these myths alongside the other great mythologies of human history, such as Homer, the Norse pantheon and the Vedas. Fascinating, yes, with something valuable to say about human nature, of course. But the inerrant word of god that should shape their every thought and action? Not a chance.

Government schools in a secular nation should be a place where children are taught within an enlightened framework, and where they learn about religion, it should be in terms of examining why people believe the whole range of things that they do about the world, a place of learning and knowledge, not Iron Age explanations for what was unknown to Iron Age people presented as modern truth.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life lessons from after sunset

My Facebook profile today says that I am grateful to be in possession of my left foot after having it nibbled by a shark on Friday night.

I then go on to thank fuck (whoever fuck is) for wetsuit booties.

So obviously that is the very short version of the story. The Twitter version, if you will.

What actually happened was vaguely this. And I might add that throughout this blog, I’ll do my very best to shit you not.

Friday evening. Light offshore, swell 3-4 feet (for those of you who don’t surf, this swell size equates to waves roughly just bigger than my head if I am standing upright at the bottom of the wave … it’s a slightly obscure way we measure waves). Glassy Ocean.

I paddled out to Boobs – that is the name of the reef break just near my house – I think it was named with a sophistication known only by surfers – if you are in the water there are two caves at the base of the cliff that could, if you looked at them with a particularly juvenile mindset, look like – well you get the point.

At least there were two caves. One of them had a mastectomy.

I mean a landslide.

But I digress. When I paddled out from the reef next to Boobs and across the long, deep channel you need to paddle across to get there, there were about six or seven guys in the water. This being about an hour to dusk. I reached the lineup, caught a first wave, and thought to myself that it was evenings like this that make it so great to live by the water again – a quick after work session with a quiet wave in fantastic conditions (even if the tide was a little full and the wave a little fat, but who’s complaining?). It promptly got even better as one by one the others got out of the water until I was sharing wave for wave with one other guy just after sunset. He’d been out for a while and said he was getting cold – time to head in.

So there I was, Boobs to myself (stop giggling you immature readers, you!), and I have to admit it crossed my mind that it was probably getting uncomfortably close to dinner time – perhaps time for me to catch one more wave and head in. I caught the one more wave – it wasn’t a corker, but had reasonable size and I should have been satisfied with it and paddled to shore.

But, I thought, as you do when you get a good one, “nah, one more – I’ll paddle across the channel to Evo’s (the next reef break across – heading towards the stairs anyway) and catch one of the smaller but nicely shaped waves that are breaking through there." There were still a couple of people out at Evo’s and I thought I’d be glad of the company at that point.

Now, I snowboard too. And used to ski. There’s this old skiing wisdom that when you say “just one more run today” that’s when you’re most likely to go ass up and bust something. This has happened to me a couple of times and is the reason I now wear a helmet when I snowboard. And I have to admit it crossed my mind that I may be pushing my luck on Friday night, especially crossing that deep dark fish pit that is the channel between Boobs and Evo’s on dusk.

The counter to that thought was that it is just the time I start panicking about such things that I need to do it anyway – to overcome irrationality and focus on the stats that say there’s never been a fatal shark attack on the Surf Coast. I thought I was being pretty damn arrogant to imagine myself important enough to be the first. So across I paddled.

About half way, I felt it.

Didn’t see a thing, just felt the bump and an open mouth against my foot, which was lazily dangling over the edge of my board as I paddled. It felt like when the dog runs at you in excitement and with an open mouth crashes into your leg – not a bite, but you feel the teeth, and separately the bump of the nose.

Of course, my first reaction was to jump the fuck out of my skin.

Then it’s hard to order the next few thoughts, but they were roughly:

“Holy shit what was that”

“It’s gotta come back in a second”

“Where’s the fin? Show yourself, mother fucker!”

“Ok Glen, paddle as fast as you humanly can. Faster if possible.”

“There’s a chance this is it if that indeed was a shark – there’s no way I can outrun it.”

“Hang on. Think. I have rubber booties on. Whatever just taste tested me did not give the Master Chef seal of approval” (ok, I wasn’t cool enough to come up with the pop-culture reference on the spot, but the sentiment was there).

“Just paddle strong and smooth – to it you look like a nine foot animal (I ride a longboard) and a not very tasty one at that. You’ll be fine. But let’s just keep the toes out of the water for good measure, eh?”

I was never so happy to have to compete with other surfer’s for a wave when I reached what was by then the last two surfers out at Evo’s. One of them was the last guy that had left Boobs – guess he’d had the same idea as me minus the cannel paddle. “Um”, I started, not wanting to be a fear monger. “I just got nibbled by something.”

He looked at me and said (whether trying to be tough or self reassuring I don’t know) “what, a fish?”

“I hope so” says I, “but maybe it’s time to call it a day”.

I mentioned it to the other guy too, who was a little more openly freaked out and we all waited for the next set then caught one more wave in to finish up what was, in all, a pretty damn good sunset session.

On thinking of the other surfer’s response as I walked home, it didn’t really add up. My silhouette, from the perspective of a creature below the water, is that of a 3 meter paddling animal. Whatever it was had to be big enough and brave enough to think that having a nip at that was worth a try. Then there was the feeling of the force and hardness that it hit me with. I’m in no doubt that if it had wanted to, it could have done a fair bit of damage – at the least caused a pretty serious bite involving me letting quite a bit of blood into a known shark pit at feeding time.

Of more interest to me though, are the mental responses I’ve had to it since then. All surfers are aware that sharks are part of our reality. I’ve seen several whilst in the water. A couple up closer than I would have liked. But they are always an idea that you need to deal with. A vague concept that you learn to put to the side of your mind, at least while you’re in the water.

But the thing was so hard, so solid, so undeniably physical. There was an animal there with me in the water bumping up against my foot like my dog might do, but an animal that was potentially much bigger, and definitely much more capable of doing me harm.

That makes the concept of sharks an all too solid reality.

The other thing that has been in my mind is: what would I do if I had actually been mauled. Been injured badly enough to need to go to hospital, to have felt the pain and the panic that shark attack victims must feel.

Would I be able to get back in the water and surf? I hope so. I think so. I may need some time off, and to ease back into it in much more crowded locations, but I think I would want to surf badly enough to overcome the fear that would accompany such an experience.

As it is, I will be back in the water the next decent swell we get, but I have definitely learnt a couple of lessons:

1. Don’t imagine that the concept of a shark is the same as the reality, or the concept of being seriously injured is the same as the experience.

2. “One more wave” when you know you’re already pushing your luck is a risky business.

3. That I do have the ability to deal with fear and do what needs to be done in a scary situation, and that the beauty of being in the water enjoying nature at its best is worth the mental discipline required to do it.

4. Paddling across deep, sharky channels when it’s almost dark is STUPID.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

there is nothing to find

I wrote this as a comment in a Facebook thread that was in response to a (typically bitingly witty and insightful) article by Catherine Deveny that appeared in the Age.

Heres a link to the article:


A Christian friend of my gorgeous Fiancee wrote that he was appalled that the writer didn't understand that "finding God" could happen anywhere. This seemed to me that he missed the point of what was being said. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the matter...

I have a close friend who is a nurse, and also, like myself, an ex-evangelical Christian who has seen that the beliefs required to be so are unsustainable. The church we used to go to is very much based on the planet shakers “get everyone emotionally involved in the event and experience the holy spirit through it all” model. Lots of awesome worship. (I’m reminded of a character in the animated film, Bolt – Rhino the Hamster – Bolt’s biggest fan, who despite repeated and clear evidence to the contrary, refuses to see the little dog as anything but.. AWESOOOOOME!!!).

But I digress.

A couple of years ago, the nurses’ union in Victoria and nurses from across the state campaigned for what they deserve – better working conditions and pay that reflects the vital and tireless role they play in our medical system. At the time, my friend attended a mass union rally at festival hall. She described the event as eerily like the feeling she’d always been told in church was “the presence of God”. And the realization (bleedingly obvious when you think about it) is that the emotions can be affected by community, music, a common cause and feeling part of something that you define as significant. This feeling can be then defined as whatever the people controlling the situation wish to define it as, and people are likely to follow. I’m sure the same feelings of camaraderie and importance were felt by those attending the rallies of both worthwhile (thinking Obama’s calls – “Yes, we can”) and deranged (thinking the roars of the crowds in footage of Hitler calling for German unity in the 30s) world leaders throughout history. What it shows is that just because many people share an emotion and even a strong belief, doesn’t preclude the possibility of abject delusion.

My point is this… I think that one does not “find” god, one is lead to whatever definition and idea of a god that is in line with current emotional needs, cultural inheritance, power, guilt and fear, or the (I grant, sincere) beliefs and leadings of those with the perceived mandate to influence others however they can. There is no objective reality to find – only subjective hopes and ideas about what one will find and what it might look or feel like - and that is open to the interpretation of the seeker. I note that when people have visions of god, they tend overwhelmingly to do so within their cultural tradition. People from Christian cultures and upbringing tend to have visions of Jesus or Mary, people from Muslim cultures tend to have visions that fit within Islamic tradition, people from Animist cultures tend to have vision of animist spirit guides and so on. What you expect to find is what you will assume you have found. That does not give it any objective reality.

Whether this happens in a stadium rock worship service, a traditional church, an esoteric experience, or any of the myriad of culturally diverse manifestations of this across the world, I would argue that what a person experiences is something within the situation, and within their own needs at the time, and that in order to believe that it is a supernatural experience, that person must find the mental trick to make themselves believe what goes against the evidence of their senses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughts for Outlet

Ok, any of you who are photographers, visual artists, designers with graphicy type materials... If you've heard heaps of times that people love what you do, but would like to get it "out there" into the world, why not actually take that step and publish some work. There are lots of ways to do it (and I know I'm preaching to the converted to a lot of you), but I thought I'd just mention a few of them.

Of course, it is a huge thing for any creative person to see their work on a gallery wall. While exhibiting solo can be expensive, a lot of cafe galleries (and daguerre's in chapel street is a good one for photographers - http://yourrestaurants.com.au/guide/daguerres/) can be cheaper and expose your work to a lot of people. It works for everyone - the cafe wants art on its walls, and you don't have to staff a gallery for a couple of weeks.

Group exhibitions are also a great and not so intimidating way to exhibit. I posted a link the other day to the Brunswick Street Gallery. They have a fantastic photographic exhibition each year which acceps work from anyone - established artist or not... I'll be entering a few images this year, and entries close at the end of August, so why not join me and we can live it large at the opening in September!

Another option is one of the many online spaces for artists. If your creative endeavours are quite developed and ready for sale, Etsy (www.etsy.com) provides a vehicle for you to find a market, deal directly with customers and control your creative business. If you are a little less cashed up to do all of your framing and production yourself, you could look at something like red bubble.

Red Bubble (www.redbubble.com) is a space where artist (photographers, graphic artists, painters, whatever) can display and sell their art. You can have a simple gallery, and make your work available in a range of formats. People order directly from Red Bubble, and they do all of the printing and production and give you a percentage of the sale (you get to designate what percentage markup you take).

Red Bubble also has a section for people to order really funky and individual t-shirts. If you have a design that you think would look great on a t-shirt, post it and then people can order from the site, specifying the style, colour and size of t-shirt they want it printed on.

I've just opened a gallery of some of my images, which you can have a look at here if you like: http://bartong.redbubble.com/

And while we're on shameless self promotion, c'mon Justin Stephens - where is your self promotion?!?! You're never one to shy away! I'd love to see a link to your Red Bubble t-shirt design gallery - some of your designs are awesome.

The last one I'll mention for now is a website called Momento. There are others out there that are similar but it's one Ive used, and can be pretty creatively satisfying. If you have a bunch of images that you'd love to see printed (for a coffee table book, a folio of your work, whatever...), but don't feel that you're ready to approach publishers, or if you just want to present some of your photos of a holiday or a baby or anything really in a really beautiful format, then something like Momento might be worth looking at. It's a website that allows you access to free software that enables you to lay your images out in a book, and then you pay the company to print copies in a hard cover book.

Their website is www.momento.com.au

The areas for creative outlet I've mentioned here can be anything from a bit of fun and a satisfying artistic expression, through to the beginnings of a viable business platform for your art. The sites are also great to just look through to see the sorts of things others are doing, and be inspired by this.

I'll add links to the websites I've talked about here in the web links section of Outlet, and hope you find some fun and inspiration having a look through them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

back to the office...

A couple of thoughts about work/life balance…

For most of my adult life, I have been a social worker. This has been, at times, variously rewarding beyond belief, frustrating, heartbreaking, inspiring, disillusioning, mundane… and the adjectives could go on and on. Social work is a varied field, and my jobs have been equally diverse – from event management for youth music events, to one on one AoD counseling, and diverse also in their level of satisfaction. My last position for a certain national mental health organization should have been one of the most rewarding but was instead an example of the truth that management incapability and internal politics can hamstring an organization with even the best intentions.

And so it was time for a change.

For the last 9 months or so I have been working in 2 jobs – one part time social work “back to grassroots” job assisting people living with HIV with housing and accommodation issues (in which I rediscovered the satisfaction of working one to one with another human being in order to try and effect a positive change in their situation), and one which has been totally different.

I’ve never really considered myself “handy”. If there was a competition about who could be the most blokey, I’d lose. I love cooking. The kitchen is MINE. I love reading and art and acting and discussing philosophy and can’t abide football. And yet, for the last 8 months I have been wearing a tool-belt, swinging a hammer, a rake and a shovel (not all at once), building shit, planting shit, stepping in shit, and seeing dead spaces come to life and beauty.

I am a landscaper.

Well, ok, I’m not – although I am learning and there are aspects of the job that I’ve grown to feel very comfortable with – but really it’s my mate that I work with who’s the design genius).

Doing this has kept me fit, suntanned in the summer and clad in flannos in the winter. And I’ve loved being a tradie.

I now want an old Ford F-100.

But I still can’t stand footy.

However, there are new moves on the horizon. Myself and my love want to be near the ocean. I have missed the water hugely, and can’t wait to start a salt water life with the woman of my dreams. But rents are higher, and there is the possibility of new humans on the horizon, so chances are that the most economically sensible plan is to return to being a professional in my area of training.

And it leaves me asking myself what are the things I will and won’t miss about working outdoors, what are the things I need to do to keep the balance of physical and mental work that I’ve had these last months?

Well, I will not miss trimming ivy off walls in the rain on close to freezing winter mornings. But I’ll miss the sense of creativity and satisfaction of making something look like a place that people would want to sit to inspire their souls. And I’ll miss the feeling of physical exhaustion but knowing that you have been making your body stronger (but not this niggling shoulder injury I’ve picked up that’s stopped me surfing the last two months).

So in order to maintain these things, I will (after resting the shoulder until it actually heals properly) get back to the gym, surf more and run with the dog. These are all things I love, and being near the beach will provide more opportunity. I will ensure I don’t leave my camera sitting on a shelf, that I spend time with a guitar and the incredibly talented love of my life and her voice, that we take the time enjoy the water and the community of a smaller town.

That is, until the situation changes again, as I hope it will with the advent of suggested new humans, and sleep deprivation makes the thought of running intolerable. But then a whole new focus and journey, rewards and challenges, will start.

But for now, I get ahead of myself. What I’m looking forward to is sea air, exercise, a new life with my favourite person, and hopefully a social work job that provides as many of the rewarding aspects of the profession as I can hope for. I might even build a garden now that I'm all handy and know how.

And a few of those incredible winter dawn sessions down at winkipop – maybe even a couple of the rarest of the rare – being alone in the water as the sun creeps over the horizon and glassy lines of swell emerge from the fog.

Fuck, I love the reefs at Jan Juc.