the road to hell is paved with good intentions…


Hilden Indian Summer and Cassiopeia

Thursday night was so mild that I was able to sit outside and look up at the night sky from my backyard. Directly above was the distinctive little star formation that looks like a ‘W’. For years I have noticed the ‘W’ but never asked for its proper name.

Until this morning that is.

The beautiful ‘W’ in the sky is called Cassiopeia (after a beautiful but vain queen in Greek mythology).
The star at the bottom of the 2nd V in the W shape is over 500 times brighter than the sun and 230 light year away.
Imagine that.
If we had entered a rocket that could travel at the speed of light 230 years ago (the time William Pitt the Younger was entering Parliament) we would be only reaching the star now.

The night sky could simply blow your mind up.

Facebook, Narcissus + 115th Psalm

Yesterday morning I spent an hour or so staring at the laptop screen with Facebook on and scribbling a bit in my notepad wondering why is it so easy to stare blankly at Facebook?

I don’t really know why.

There is point just before you turn the laptop on when it acts as a mirror of sorts, you dimly see your head reflected back towards you. Then your image is flooded and overwhelmed by the screen lighting up, there is something bigger and more important than you (or your image). There is the computer and being connected to the www, there is the possibilities of Facebook and having your brain stretched by a blog.

I’m still reading a bit of Marshall McLuhan, but to be honest I’m not sure what he’s talking about half the time. However every so often a bit does make sense (just a bit mind), like this bit he is talking about Narcissus

‘The Greek myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with a fact of human experience, as the word Nacissus indicates. It is from the Greek word narcosis, or numbness. The youth Narcissus mistook his own reflection in the water for another person. This extension of himself by mirror numbed his perceptions until he became the servomechanism of his own extended or repeated image……Now the point of this myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves’

Later on in the chapter McLuhan points out the similarity between the Greek myth and a part of Psalm 115.

3But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.
4Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
5They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not.
6They have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not.
7They have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat.
8They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them.

Well all that rings true for me anyway. Numbness is a good way to describe my brain state while I’m floating about on the internet/www. It’s like I’ve been drugged. It’s like Narcissus staring into the pool, except I’m staring into my reflection in the screen of a laptop.

More importantly, from the point of view of someone with Kingdom values what am I to make of the warning that those who make idols, or trust idols become like them?

If Facebook (amongst other things) is an idol and I’m worshipping at its church with my friends what do I and my Facebook friends become?
How do we reflect the ‘glory’ of Facebook, or technology?
Do we want to become like our technology?

the medium is the message + glass + drawing

This whole ‘medium is the message’  train of thought has been making me think the last couple of days and mainly in relation to drawing and sketching.
First up, I’m not really sure that I understand the phrase in the first place but its fun to play away with anyway…

Secondly, over the last couple 0f years have found it increasingly hard to draw or doodle.
There seems to be a couple of components to this.

Number One, I increasingly find it hard to ‘see’ what to draw.
It’s not that my eye sight is ‘failing’, yet in another sense it has been.

What if using this laptop (my poison of choice)  has been training my eyes to ‘see’ in a certain way that makes it harder to draw when out in the open air or focusing on a vase of tulips?

When someone uses the laptop for hours on end their eyes are  focused on a glass rectangle no more than a few feet away, a glass rectangle that is spewing out light and bright constantly.

Hour after hour, day after day, year after year focused on a rectangle of light no more than a few feet away with your head neither turning left or right.

Does this type of daily exercise train our eyes in certain habits and ways of expecting to see?

For instance if go into Belfast to do some drawing will my eye automatically try to see the world of Belfast in a rectangle shape,no more than a few feet away and slightly pointed downwards? Will it be harder to see the things outside that square and take more effort to concentrate on them?

The other thing to say is that using a lap top trains your hands and fingers in certain movements, especially if you only use a touchpad mouse and keys.

Generally you can rest the bottom of your wrists on the laptop and leave them there for hours on end and still do your work. It requires very little movements, and any movement there is tends to be back and forth jabby little movements.

If you use a laptop for hours on end, day after day, year after year then your hand movements will be trained in certain ways that will come into play if you go to doodle or sketch. For instance drawing longer lines from your elbow may seem like a foreign world because you don’t really use that movement much. When you pick up your pen the pen marks will probably start reflecting your hand movements when using a computer.

Back to seeing the world. If the medium is the message, what sort of message does glass give?
This has only hit me but glass is the common medium of the digital screen. PC’s, Apples, ipads, mobile phones, TV’s. And of course its there in our cars and buildings, glasses etc.
It’s like the medium that we don’t notice but is always there. I actually have a good example of this from where I’m writing this.

  My window is open and around the edges I can the world unfiltered through glass and filtered through glass.

At the top of my window there is a gap where I see a starling with a beak full off worms for the nest. The sky behind it is blue, an outdoor blue.
Directly below it through the glass of the window the sky is blue but slightly less blue. It seems to a different sort of light coming through the window and the are specks of dirt and bird poo from the starling nest on the window.

The thing that is noticeable though is that my eye seems to be automatically drawn to look through the glass and window at the outside world. Partly this is because it takes more effort to raise my head a bit and look through the gap, but also because the level of light coming through the window seems more in keeping of what I expect from the world I inhabit and naturally suits my eye.
My eye almost expects to see things through windows, glass and screens like that is the natural world.

In one way it seems easier to see things to draw when looking out a window at the natural world, like in a coffee shop out on to a street that in drawing in the open air.

Another aspect about drawing is that when it comes to looking at the paper my eye is in another foreign world.
Paper does not look glassy like a computer or mobile phone screen, the sort of light involved is different and my eyes feel like they are working harder to use it. It’s another unatural world.

This has come into play when it comes to reading novels. A few years ago I read novels but now I find my brain can’t concentrate properly and gets tired a few pages in. Originally I put this down to using the www too much and flicking from one web page to another.
But what if its not the flicking around on the www so much, but the glass on the digital screens that make it ‘harder’ work to read a book? Perhaps that is why the Kindle is so popular. Not that you can store all your books on it, but that it’s more in tune with the message our eye and brain, hands and fingers have been picking up the last number of years?