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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Snake Oil: make your own rules

Image result for powerball australiaDespite the astronomically small chance of winning the major prize, a massive number of people continue to religiously invest in the dream of future wealth by buying lottery tickets. I think I bought a few a long time ago, but these days my 'gambling' is restricted to an NRL footy tipping competition which doubles as a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Naturally, advertising for the various versions of the pick the lucky numbers game doesn't mention how heavily the odds are stacked against you. It's all about the dream. How your life will change dramatically for the better when you win.

The latest television ad for Powerball is the least appealing one I've ever seen. (I apologize for using the most abused adverb in the English language: 'ever'. I hate what they've done to you poor 'ever'.)

The scene in the ad is a party in a lavish mansion, attended by all manner of unusual and interesting types of people. A song is playing. The repeating line is there's a beast inside you. A guy shows up at the end to deliver the tag, the catchphrase. Powerball: play by your own rules.

So when I am rich, I can make up my own rules? Hmmm...aren't the rich already doing that to some extent? Haven't they always done that? Won't they always do that? Do you want to join them? I want in. I want to be a member of the wealthy and powerful elite for whom money is the answer to every problem. It's probably enough that you can go to fancy parties, isn't it? That's all I need. I need money, and a truckload of it, so I can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, and make my own rules...and go to parties.

Let's all make up our own rules, and hope the values we hold which will necessarily underpin those rules, align at least to some degree with the rules of others. I'm sure they will. She'll be right mate.Let's do away with such anachronisms as rule of law. We live in a post modern age so absolutes are for fools. You decide what's true and what's right, and use your millions to make sure any dissent is extinguished.

Play by your own rules? Sounds awesome. I'm off to use all of my disposable income to buy Powerball tickets. Stuff it. I'll go without food this week so I can buy more tickets and increase my chances of winning. It's only a few days until I get paid again, and I desperately want to play by my own rules. Who's with me? 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

relationDips: junk food and junk sex

Image result for junk food
You know when you've been snacking all day, and then too close to dinner, you just can't hold on so you buy some Maccas? You get home and your wife has prepared an awesome meal for you, as usual, in fact it's your favourite. The problem is you have lost your appetite. Lost is being kind. You actually murdered your appetite by your lack of self control. What your wife cooked for you out of love now seems pretty unappealing because you filled up on junk.

It's a funny situation, isn't it? It's probably happened to every one at least once. Your wife will notice how lethargically you attempt to eat. She'll probably ask you what's wrong, and you'll probably lie so as to not hurt her feelings. Those white lies...aren't they precious? What relationship saviours they are. If she doesn't say anything, you will kid yourself that she didn't notice and that she's not offended. However, she'll store the information. She'll make a mental note.

You know what else is funny? Have you heard the saying: it doesn't matter where you get your appetite as long as you come home for dinner. 'Dinner' is of course a euphemism for sex, and this is something guys say to each other or whisper to themselves when they've spent their day filling up on junk sex. And the men laugh and wink at each other knowingly, enjoying the conspiracy.

Junk sex? Dr. Allen Meyer uses this phrase to refer to flirting, fantasy and pornography (the latter two, either with or without masturbation - that lonely act of self indulgence).

You know what's really funny? That saying is total BS. A complete lie. Don't believe me? Ask your wife. Ask her if she's cool with you flirting outrageously with a beautiful young lady at work, and bringing the hormone surge home and letting it out on her. Ask her if she's okay with you ogling every second woman who catches your eye, then enjoying a few lustful moments inside your head with her. Ask her if she's okay with you masturbating while watching pornographic videos, as she sleeps in the next room. She was tired and didn't feel like making poor thing. You have needs. What's a bloke supposed to do?

Ask her if she's okay with you becoming emotionally attached to other women in your life because you spend more time with them than her.

I'll tell you what: it definitely matters where you get your appetite. I was locked into exactly the sort of behaviour I described above for decades, yes decades. The lie has been exposed. The truth is junk sex is rubbish. Not just second best, but off the chart worst option. It rips you off, and it rips your wife off. Keeping all those dirty little secrets in your mind is poisoning your relationship. Your wife deserves better than that, and so do you. Much better.

You've seen how cockroaches scurry away into dark hiding places when a light is turned on. They're afraid of the light, but they'll be back when the light goes out. You have to kill them. They won't return then, will they? Kill those dirty little things. 

Be a real man by giving your wife everything you've got. Can't control your sex drive? Get some help. Drop me a line if you want to talk about it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Mirror: Three wives

Image result for King of QueensIn a the King of Queens episode I was watching at the today, Doug finds himself with three 'wives'. His actual wife, Carrie, is very busy, consumed in fact, with a work project. Her spending so much time working, even though she's at home, causes Doug to feel a neglected. (Red flag number 1)

The lady who walks their dog needs a place to stay because she has been kicked out of her apartment. Carrie's father, who lives with Doug and Carrie, says she can stay with him in the basement. No hanky panky he says. 

Doug dreads having to have breakfast with this woman, Holly, because he doesn't really know her and he thinks it will be awkward. That changes when she laughs at a story he tells her: the same story he told Carrie the previous day. She didn't laugh, and in fact, was reluctant to let him even tell the story because she was so busy. (Red flag number 2)

It turns out Holly loves to cook, and we know Doug loves to eat. She caters to his every foodie desire and he comes to think of her as his downstairs wife, while Carrie who is always working upstairs becomes guessed it: his upstairs wife. When Carrie needs a break because she's stressed out, she wants to have sex. So Doug gets sex from his upstairs wife, and food and attention from his downstairs wife.

He meets wife number three through a friend of his, and she can get him the best seats at the ice hockey game. She can also get him access to the players. (Red flag number 3)

Now Doug has his three most important needs - sex, food, and sport - taken care of by three different women. Naturally he boasts to his friends about this sweet set up. Two of them are jealous and one is mortified. (Red flag number 4)

Whenever this arrangement is threatened, he manipulates the women to maintain the status quo. (that's number 5)

King of Queens is a comedy. The sum of the aforementioned red flags is decidedly unfunny. If you are a man and you enjoy this kind of fantasy, you won't like what comes next. If you are a woman who doesn't think men entertain such fantasies, you may also not like what comes next.

  1. A man who feels neglected by his wife will become resentful.
  2. An attractive (in any way, not just physically) woman who enters his orbit at this time will become the object of fantasy.
  3. If this woman meets any of his needs, he will begin to attach to her emotionally.
  4. The man will convince himself that what he is doing is okay, and most of his friends will agree.
  5. This man will begin to lie, and practice deception and manipulation in order to keep getting what he wants.

In case you think I'm preaching, I know these things are true from personal experience. I was surprised at my reaction to this episode. Twelve months ago, I wouldn't have written this post. It would not have even occurred to me. Looks like I'm making progress...thank God.

I forget to mention how this scenario ends in real life. It ends badly with pain and lots of it.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Dog's Eye: detach/deconstruct

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Once upon a time I had a wife, a steady job, a mortgage: a settled life. I was busy with family, friends, church and work, but not too busy to enjoy sufficient 'recharge' time alone. I felt somewhat in control of my life. I worked hard to control everything I could. I had plans. I had direction. I knew what I was doing and where I was going. I owned furniture, and lots of other stuff. I had a couple of dogs. I was thankful...most of the time. I thought I was a pretty normal bloke with a normal life.

Somewhere along the way, through a twenty two year marriage, raising two awesome children, studying for a degree and then two post graduate qualifications, establishing myself as a professional language teacher, writing my first novel and having it published, growing as a person, trying to be the best husband, father and friend I could some point in the journey I forgot to be grateful, and I allowed discontent to fester.

Image result for possessions in car boot photoFour years after I left my wife, I am still suffering the repercussions of that choice. Since immediately after Easter, I have had no fixed address. Between house sitting gigs, I stay with a good friend of mine. I own no furniture. My possessions fit in my car, with room to spare. I'm in debt, and uncertain about the future. I know what I want, but I am relatively powerless to do anything to achieve it. I don't know when things will change, when my life will turn around. I feel unsettled, anxious, uncertain and at times a little fearful.

The house I'm staying in now is a beautiful family home. Although the dogs are good company, I'm alone, and looking at all the family photos reminds me of what I don't have. They are echoes of what I used to have, and what I wish to have once more. I'm experiencing loneliness like I never have before, and I'm aware of the lack of gratitude I feel: focusing on what I don't have, instead of what I do have. I recognize this attitude is partially what brought about my down fall, and the end of my 'normal' life.

To top it all off, I am one love sick puppy. This lady, who I believe will become my wife, is a genuine gift from God. A clever and independent woman with a strong mind and a soft heart.The right person for me. Exactly who I need, and consequently the woman with whom I want to share the rest of my life. We've been in a long distance relationship for three and a half months. It's a tough gig. We haven't seen each other for six weeks, but we are committed to each other and learning to be patient (me not her).

Through it all, I see God's hand: his mercy and grace. I feel his hands deconstructing me, ripping away my self reliance and my need to be in control. He's removing all my worldly attachments, burning away what I don't need. Teaching me to really trust him. Drawing me closer. Blessing me in spite of my resistance to change. In my struggle, I feel his strength being perfected in me.
I will choose gratitude every day. I will choose purity. I will choose integrity. My heart quavers, my stomach rumbles, and my mind wearies itself with the battle. I feel uncomfortable and unsettled, but I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and God is with me. I have the promises of God's word on which to stand, and I choose to stand. I choose life. I choose love. I choose hope.

Image result for I will never leave you or forsake youOnce upon a time I thought I knew stuff. I thought I was in control. I thought I was on the right path.

Glory to the God of endless second chances.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Mirror: A Titan in the skyline

Image result for the titanOver the past couple of weeks I have watched two very different science fiction films. The Titan and Beyond Skyline. I enjoyed both of the films though neither of them were what I would call great - I'm pretty easy to please.

As you may have figured out, if you are a regular reader, I analyse things. I'm always searching for meaning: the message. I want to take something from every conversation I have, every film I see, every book I read.

Many action films, including science fiction, are humanistic. That is they present a human saviour. Mankind is under threat, or doomed and a man must save them. A group of people will assist in this process, but in the end, one person will be called upon to make a sacrifice of some sort, usually their own life, in order to save everybody else. I'm generalizing here, of course, but this is a blog post not a book.

The general idea is that no matter what happens, or how bad things get: no matter what danger we face, people have the brains and the courage to solve the problem.

Image result for the titanIn The Titan, the problem is the resources of the over populated earth are severely depleted and  we need another planet. The Earth is the Titanic and we need to get off. The solution is to resettle on Titan. Further complication: people will need to be genetically modified in order to live there. Enter a mad scientist with a mega billion dollar budget. Add a select team of military personnel upon whom said mad scientist will experiment, using what he calls forced evolution. What could possibly go wrong?

In Beyond Skyline, hostile and technologically superior aliens attack earth for some reason. A small group of freedom fighters resist them and ultimately, with the assistance of another group of aliens, defeat them and usher in a new era of human alien cooperation. Lovely.

Image result for beyond skylineThe Titan is a very serious, focused drama which champions the humanist cause. Beyond Skyline is a sloppy, action packed film with some very cool battles, especially the martial arts scenes in which the aliens show remarkable skill. Pleasingly for a sci-fi and action fan like myself, it also offers quite a few nods to well known films in the genre. It was a bit of tribute film in some ways.

These were two very different films, but in the end people save themselves, overcoming insurmountable physical suffering with courage and determination. The human spirit always triumphs.

People are resilient, intelligent, resourceful and courageous, generally speaking. They are pretty damn tough. Not indestructible or incorruptible, but impressive nonetheless. Most of the aliens who encounter our species come away with new found respect for us, and we respect ourselves as well, and rightly so.

If only we faced material problems and physical threats, we could confidently rest in our heroes to save us. However, the greater challenges in our lives our spiritual and emotional. What we see is only a reflection of a deeper struggle within. Everybody needs a saviour. To be more precise, what we need is The Saviour: Jesus Christ.

Look around: nothing but Band-aid solutions, fantasy and hubris.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Dog's Eye: peacemakers

Image result for anzac day imagesToday is ANZAC Day. It is a national holiday and arguably Australia's most important holiday. It is a commemoration of all those people who have served our country in war: particularly those who died or who were permanently injured. On this day we honour bravery and sacrifice.

Image result for anzac day service imagesThis morning I attended an ANZAC Day march and memorial service in Palmerston. In one part of the ceremony people bring wreaths and lay them at the foot of the memorial. Towards the end of this procession of wreath laying, a man walked forward with, I presume, his three young sons. He was carrying a large sign which said Palmerston Islamic Centre. 

Many Muslims have a hard time in Australia. They are a somewhat controversial group of people who suffer from very negative stereotyping which is perpetuated to a large extent by the media. This man's action, in identifying himself as a Muslim, was a brave statement of peace. He was saying to everyone present at the ceremony, that although he is a Muslim, he respects and honours Australian tradition. Most likely he is an Australian citizen. He may have even been born here. In effect he was announcing his love for his country: Australia. I believe this man is a peacemaker.

The values we acknowledge on ANZAC Day are universal values, but I wondered what some of the other people in the crowd thought about this man publicly declaring his religious faith. Many people think religion is the major cause of war. ANZAC Day is not a celebration of war. Most of us want peace, but many people are trouble makers rather than peacemakers. The Bible says we should do everything we can to make peace, and to live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18) On the surface this looks challenging, perhaps even impossible, but in our spheres of influence we can make a difference. We can be peacemakers.

Being a peacemaker requires action: courage, sacrifice and humility. Lots of people talk about peace, but few do anything to make peace. This man's actions at the ANZAC service this morning inspired me to redouble my efforts to be a peacemaker. By sharing this, I hope to inspire at least some of my readers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Snake Oil 2: Dentist Messiah

Image result for dentistDentistry is a hard sell in Australia for two very good reasons. Firstly, it is outrageously expensive. I've lost count of how many people have told me they would rather fork out for an airfare and include some dental services in their holiday plans than have the work done here. Secondly, visits to the dentist involve some degree of physical pain and discomfort. Many people don't go to see dentists until they have to, and even then they may choose not to.

A good smile is said to be a desirable thing and, at least superficially, a good smile is said to require good teeth. Some are born with great choppers while others are not. In the latter category are those who shell out for a makeover: cosmetic dentistry, while others, either by choice or necessity, deal with the enamel coated cards they have been dealt.

Image result for smilesAccording to the ad which inspired this post, smiles are good for health, and good for relationships. In fact a smile can change the world. However, to really make an impact and to be happy and have a better life, you need a beautiful smile; not just any smile. You need an amazing, brilliant smile. Such a smile equals confidence and confidence means power.

It's hard to deny the attraction of a good smile, the eye-catching brilliance of straight shiny pearly whites, but I'm not sure you need good teeth to have a great smile. Generally, I think smiles are beautiful, but do you need good teeth to have a good smile?

I've thought about having my teeth done. Coke-cola and cigarettes have taken their toll so if money wasn't an issue, I'd probably give it more serious consideration. But what would it really do for me? Are immaculate molars, capital canines and incredible incisors really the key to a fantastic life? If I'm to believe the snake oil salesmen, then obviously the answer is yes. Would you consider cosmetic dental work? Have you already had some done? How did it impact your life?