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The metaphor of life as journey is common. When we talk about ‘two paths’ that ‘diverged in a wood’ we know that Frost was talking about the life journey and only incidentally narrating a stroll through the woods.

I have been reflecting on that journey for the last day. And I find myself wondering about the metaphor. I find the metaphor troubling. Troubling because it is too comforting. Life as journey wraps the experience of living in an unsatisfactory cocoon of certainty.

When we think of journeys nowadays, we experience them as they exist now, transformed by the certainties of the modern age. We have certain starting points, fixed end points, mapped roads and ready built airports. We have real-time communications with our destinations. A modern day journey is as adventurous (in the first world) as slicing bread. As a result, they are on average as uniquely unchallenging as journeys have ever been in the history of human travel.

We have banished the uncertainties that made a journey akin to life. We have not (alas) banished the uncertainties of life.

If life is a journey, then that journey must now be understood by parable. Travel has always historically been capricious and changeable. The closest parable to that journey that I can find is the Israelites wondering through the desert for forty years in search of the promised land.

A journey where you are alienated from everything left behind, the present is the hostile ever present risks of being stuck in a desert, have only the vaguest idea of where you are going, are seduced into worshipping false gods and where death heralds the entry into the promised land is a profoundly honest reflection of the true nature of life’s journey.


This is a quiet prayer. A quiet prayer for all those who are (just) holding themselves together. Those who come across as calm, self-assured and confident. Those who laugh, smile and celebrate for others. Those who open their hearts to share the weight of someone else’s burden. Those who tread the world with a lightness of step. Those who bring joy into our lives.

Those who know that all of this is possible only because of a frayed thread that holds out a brave front to the world. Those who worry constantly about the fresh fraying that might break that brave front. Those who know all the heavy cares held back by a single stitched line of bravery.  Those who want to go back make impossible changes so they might not have to put on such a brave front.

I know that feeling. I know that fraying. For you, all of you, all of us, this is a quiet prayer.

I like having rules. These are some of my rules for using Facebook:

  1. Make a friend request only to friends or family. Friends means people I like and spend time with. Exceptionally, people who pass the first limb but not the second may be granted an exemption.
  2. Accept friendship requests from known people. This includes people who I’d make a friend request to, but, isn’t limited to them. Not all liking is reciprocal and not everyone uses Facebook the same way I do.
  3. When someone’s presence starts to irritate you don’t block them. Simply remove them from your news feed. It’s more satisfying to erase them then remove them and has the same effect.
  4. Read the news feed with a generous benefit of the doubt. It is all generated by a machine. People are used to having a context and the chance to provide an explanation. Facebook won’t give either.
  5. Be careful about your news feed. Things, once posted, cannot be undone. Especially not in a world where people will Google you and then search for your Facebook profile.
  6. On a similar note, try not to judge anyone by their Facebook profile. It’s the ultimate manifestation of judging books by their covers. This is impossible to achieve but is a worthy goal.
  7. When invited to an event, prevaricate. Nothing is gained by responding to an event early. Always wait until the last possible moment to decide what to do.
  8. Don’t invite people to an event. Anyone you want to invite is someone you already know. There’s probably a human way to get in touch with them.
  9. When reminded of a birthday by Facebook, always send your felicitations using Facebook. If you didn’t really remember the birthday don’t pretend you remembered by using another means of communication.
  10. Be generous with the like button – everyone likes a little interaction.
  11. Be sparing with comments. Things said are very hard to unsay. Especially after we’ve stopped meaning them.

I love reading press reports about daily fluctuations in the stock market. No other journalists strive so sincerely to provide a false sense of security.

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After many years of bright orange and black, it was time for something different. A move to the other extreme; that I did not foresee. Yet the choice has been made, the dice cast, and I have a new blog theme.

I have great faith in the power of blog themes to influence reality. Changing theme has bought on a powerful bout of introspection.

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Suppose humans were born with magical buttons on their foreheads. When someone else pushes your button, it makes you very happy. But like tickling, it only works when someone else presses it. Imagine it’s easy to use. You just reach over, press it once, and the other person becomes wildly happy for a few minutes.

What would happen in such a world?

You could imagine that everyone in the world would be happy just about all the time. People would make agreements with each other to push each other’s buttons on a regular basis, thus guaranteeing the complete and utter happiness of all humans.

No, I can’t imagine that either.

via Scott Adams Blog: Happiness Button 04/05/2010.

Beautiful thought experiment played out by Scott Adams with some crisp insight into the human condition (and incidentally a parable about sex).

The compass is so true that it is hard to be anything but enthused by his moral clarity.  It is refreshing to encounter such a firm purpose, so in tune with both the ethos and the actions of the saviour in who’s faith he garbs himself.

In the grey twilight before dark thoughts, I see there is more to the compass’ story than unearthly alignment.  The compass knows evil.  It gnaws itself in self-doubt at critical moments.  Its triumph is because weighing the two alternatives, he unfailingly chooses to remain true.

In darker moments, I admit disillusionment.  Such purity of purpose is naive.  To navigate the world with nothing to call to your aid but a belief in the goodness of God, a good heart and the love of good people is reckless. It is insanity.

Or so I tell myself. The truth is I would surrender heaven and earth to possess a share of that moral courage.


From here.


A word cloud of the Jessup problem this year, generated using the nifty Wordle. I’m very impressed with how the revolution in information graphics is changing how we deal with information. Yet I suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg. As we get access to richer and deeper datasets, it’s anyone’s guess what the pictures will tell us.

There are two ways to approach any issue, and two mind sets when an issue is identified – problems people and solutions people. These reflect different characters and different approaches to the world. They represent alternatives and we get to choose which alternative we make ours.

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