why bring an ad into this world?


There was an advertisement on before Christmas that you may or may not have seen.

It used to appear a lot on Youtube just before the video of a juggling cat on a unicycle or some trampoline going off shopping in Asda or the footage of a referee in Brazil getting tickled to death by angry footballers with a baguette after a contentious disallowed goal.

I think it was for Unilever but can’t say for sure as I never actually watched it the whole way through. I hated it.

It starts with some of that  tinkly-emotional-scene-in-a- movie-piano then the words appear ‘Why Bring a Child into this World?’

I hate/d this ad because it assumes that it is an option for the people watching, like deciding whether to buy a new lawnmower or some other consumer product.
It shows little tact for the viewer watching the video who would love nothing more than to ‘bring a child into this world’ but for whatever reason can’t.

Perhaps the single lady watching in the cinema would love nothing more than to bring a child into this world but has never met the right guy, or perhaps circumstances just didn’t work out for the couple watching in the cinema.

Life isn’t that simple for people, things don’t work out sometimes like we like. Have a look at your Facebook friend list and see how many people might struggle , will struggle, have struggled.

Thinking of a family I know I count the numbers. 11 brothers and sisters, 2 unmarried and no kids, 2 married and no kids, 7 with kids and those numbers  aren’t going to change now.

Most people would agree babies and children are wonderful, beautiful, we love to journey with them growing up. I love my nephews and nieces, the kids in the church. We celebrate the joy of families. We love friends and family. We love children.

Still, what is it like to sit through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day in church when you’re not one? Or if you are single  and have always wanted a family and the church is having a Family Day? Baptisms? Singing lines in songs like –

‘How sweet to hold, a new born baby, and see the pride and joy he brings’

What if you can’t hold a new born baby? Shame and despair?

Or if you continually see pictures of happy mums, families with smiling babies on Facebook, scans? You want to journey with people and see kids growing up, new babies, etc but it might be sore for people, maybe for more people than we realise because it is hard to talk about, a taboo subject.

Part of the reason I left Facebook was that I didn’t feel particularly free to say something like this.  Despite Facebook saying that it has revolutionized our social interactions over the past 10yrs it is hard to say that you might be struggling with something whether it is depression or eating or gambling.

Again, this isn’t necessarily about me/us, more about ‘us’ in the larger sense – people for who to ‘bring a child into the world‘ is more than an advertising campaign but may be a struggle and hurt or complicated, an impossibility, or who knows?

Blogging with even a small degree of anonymity helps, even though most of you reading know who I am. If you are reading this and have kids, or are expecting a child I love you and your sprog or future sprogs. I hope you know that as well!

doing something that won’t compute

This day 10 yrs ago Facebook was born and that particular milestone( millstone?) has been making me think about my relationship to the labyrinth.

It didn’t take much reflection.
It is not a particularly healthy relationship. I am an addict.
Some people can’t control the amounts of alcohol they drink, the amount of food they eat, the amount of stuff they want to acquire at a cost to other people.
Some people can control the amount they use Facebook while I can’t.

Bearing that in mind it seems like a good day to leave.It’s not meant to be a big drama, yet it is hard to pull the plug.
I suppose because I’ve invested in it.  Having a comment on something I’ve posted might have lifted my spirits when I was feeling low. Reading other things that people have posted have provoked me. There are lots of other things which I have appreciated.

Some of the negatives.
To often my identity over the past (7?) years has been tied up in my relationship to Facebook. It feels like a very close relationship, almost like it is part of me. Yet then things start verging too much into Google Glass territory.  I am not a robot. I am a human being, unpredictable and wild.
I do not want to live in a world where I am recommended books I might like based on what other people who liked similar books liked. I want to go into a second hand bookshop and fumble around before picking something because I liked the cover. I don’t have the same vision of where Mark Zuckerberg and other would like to go in the next decade:-

‘Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.’

No thanks Mark, not for me!
In a way it echoes what Ed Snowden said about the NSA:-

‘I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.’

I don’t want to live in that sort of world either Ed!
And because I don’t want to live in that sort of world I need to learn how to stop doing the recording of myself and feeding them to computers data banks or whatever holds my information.
I don’t want to be processed and rated by computer programmes designed by technicians. We are more than that!

So to steal few lines  from my favourite Wendell Berry poem:-

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.


As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


ImagePerhaps I read The Guardian website too much but all this Edward Snowden whistle blowing stuff troubles me.
So many people live their lives online. So many people conduct their business online. And all that time their information is being secretly monitored and recorded by machines and men we know nothing or anything about. We are being watched by snowdrones.
If you ring some companies they will tell you that the conversation is being recorded ‘for training purposes’. Or if you are  in a public library it may say that images are being recorded on CCTV. Presumably that is to let us know that you are being watched as it is important to know that information as a citizen of a free country.
Yet what Edward Snowden has been revealing is that information and data you thought private isn’t private because the US government can see it in the privacy of your own home. And not a word of warning!

‘If you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about..’

If Stalin had said that it would sound menacing and threatening as Stalin could determine what was right and wrong according to whatever he felt was right or wrong. If he didn’t like you and thought you a threat he would have you shot or shipped off to the Gulag as that was wrong according to Stalin.

Am I supposed to think it less menacing as the NSA or US Government are the ‘good guys’? Do we think the NSA, CIA, MI5, GCHQ  are less corrupt or tempted to misuse power than those in the Stasi or the Chinese authorities?
From a Christian point of view the hearts of all men and women are ill and broken. Do we think that the heart of an American government official or contractor is less corrupt than an Iranian or the baddies or terrorists?
Yet these secret technicians and computers are secretly collecting a flood of information that reveals so much about us as people and that seems to be OK with the US President and most of the government. The amount of information that the NSA could find out about me from my online activities is absolutely frightening. And it wouldn’t take some men with a van breaking into my home and bugging it. Presumably someone like Edward Snowden could tap a few buttons and find out something juicy. Maybe PRISM would be as easy to use as Amazon or Spotify.

‘If you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about..’

But who is defining ‘wrong’? And what is their definition of ‘wrong’? What will their definition of ‘wrong’ be in the future?

In the future could the government  see what you are doing online to see if an unemployed person is spending a certain amount of time at home online looking at appropriate job websites? Could they take away that persons benefits if they don’t send x hrs per week looking for work?
Or if you just don’t like the government and start kicking up a fuss online could they censor you? Could they see who you have been talking too as well and keep them quiet if they kick up a fuss. Who is going to define who is a threat to a countries security? Some secret people in secret intelligence organizations that we are supposed to trust?

This isn’t science fiction. Perhaps we have been blinded and dazzled into thinking that the internet is a tool of freedom without how we could be enslaved by it by the powerful. If you think you can trust the good guys, look at Google, Apple, Facebook who maybe we can’t trust as much as they say we can.


problems with some of the problems

There is an article in this month’s Reach Out that caused me to go all dissenting Presbyterian,  get the old pen out and underline certain bits in disagreement and wondering if that was all quite true.
It was taken from a book called ‘Will You Be my Facebook Friend?’  by Tim Chester and explores the problem with Facebook from a Christian point of view.

This is what I reckon, which may or may not be true, just throwing it out there.


‘One reason Facebook is popular is because it appears to allow me to create my image using my words. I type in a version of the person I want to be.’

Is this true?
Is this not just me as I am typing?
This isn’t a ‘false’ me typing, it’s really me as I presently am. When someone puts something up on Facebook they are they projecting an image of themselves as they really are or of who they hope to be?


‘On Facebook you do not have a conversation, you have an audience. Your life takes place on a stage and you are your own playwright, creating or recreating yourself through your word’

Maybe you can have more of a ‘conversation’  with someone on Facebook, Twitter or a blog than you can have in a magazine article such as the one I read,  or in your book?  You have more of a captive audience with a book  as people have to sit and take it in with no easy way to engage in conversation with the author. In the old days people used to write letters to famous authors and they might have replied. Now I can do  this sort of thing


‘The genius of Facebook is that all your friends come to you and all their friend come to them. So we all, simultaneously, inhabit our own little worlds, each with me at the centre…’

But is that not just human nature?
I used to be told that ‘sin is a small word with ‘I’ at the centre. Humans have always been selfish have they not? Have we not always believed that the world spins around us?

‘..These people are by definition my ‘chosen people’. In the Bible the ‘chosen people’ are God’s people, graciously chose by Him.  When we come to faith we find ourselves part of a concrete expression of God’ s chosen people in our local church’

I am not really sure about the connection between chosen people and having Facebook friends.
And I’m not really sure about the connection between Facebook friends and church.
Some of the people who are my Facebook friends actually chose me. Is there any difference between sending some you like or a feel a bond with a letter or postcard or sending a friend request over Facebook?


But social media allows us to play God and create our own chosen people. And we are at the centre of this chosen circle’

You don’t need social media to allow you to play God or create your own chosen people or those you would prefer to hang out with,  that is our fallen nature and broken heart. Go to any church and you’ll see that most old elderly people  hang around other elderly people or teenagers around teenagers.


‘One pastor told me ‘The people I know who use Facebook most are those who are most self-obsessed’

I’m not sure how a pastor could measure such a thing. It might appear they are the most self-obsessed but that is only because they are more openly self obsessed and letting it all hang out there. In a way it is more honest as they aren’t hiding or burying their self-obsession. And maybe those people who are self-obsessed are equally insecure or frightened that they aren’t accepted?


‘Notice, too, from who I am seeking approval….Our overriding concern should be what God thinks of me. But instead my concern is what other users of social media think of me.’

Not necessarily true.
Many bloggers see themselves as publishing something for the general public to read but not necessarily enjoy or approve of .
If someone can publish a Christian magazine article or book to challenge faulty thinking (even if that is unpopular) I see no reason why a blogger, someone on Twitter or Facebook couldn’t do the same.


‘People can ‘Like’ something you have written. But there is no option to ‘Dislike’. So to get a response you have to phrase things in positive terms. No one is going to click ‘Like’ to ‘Had a miserable day at work’

There is no option to ‘dislike’ but people can leave a comment such as ‘I’m sorry to hear that, you should go home and put your feet up’. Or they could send a private message if they don’t want others to read.


‘So everyone’s Facebook face wears a smile – whatever the reality behind the mask. We are all spin doctors, presenting upbeat, propaganda, versions of our lives’

But you don’t especially need Facebook to wear masks or present upbeat, propaganda versions of your life. I remember we used to talk a lot about this in Queen’s about people being false and wearing masks, especially with regards to church. That was long before the age of social media.  It a funny sort of way because it’s more out there perhaps it’s easier to challenge?

before I disappear

I’ve been contemplating giving up Facebook for Lent.

That this thought should be so much of a wrestle or even an issue, that I think that I should blog about it says everything you probably need to know about Facebook (and Twitter, blogging). It’s an idol for me, something that has been created by the hands of men that has often taken the place of God.

There are two quotes which I took note of yesterday from The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations that stuck in my mind

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’

That is one of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws and maybe explains part of the problem. The www and internet seem magical. They dazzle you and bewilder you and seem so effective compared to a God who can appear silent and distant. Ask Google and an answer appears in milliseconds. Ask God and………

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy”
Ivan Illich

Facebook is a consumer product that thrives on us consuming it.
They want me to be addicted to their product, to consume  it in larger quantities.
And all that consuming makes me envious.
I read what others are telling me (even if it’s only partially true), I see their sexy lives and how they can do things I can’t do because they have more money than me, or have more drive, or are more_____.
I become embittered that everyone else seems to be having an easier time of things than me and wish I was more like them.

There is also the truth that we become like what we worship.
How am I becoming more like digital technology?
Vinoth Ramachandra suggests:-

‘…it is not surprising that those who worship technology eventually develop machine like personalities: emotionally under-developed, shallow in their relationships, driven by a desire to control and quantify every situation, unable to appreciate beauty and value in anything outside the artificial’

I can see that from the way my eyes have changed.
The more I’ve been hypnotized by the computer screen over the years the harder it’s been to see beauty outdoors. It’s now more appealing to draw from the computer screen that to do doodle outdoors.  It’s like the natural world is becoming the unnatural world and that really is unnatural.

This mightn’t apply to you of course. Some people might struggle with other addictions or be a slave to something else, technology mightn’t be the thing that is out of place in your life but it’s something that often doesn’t have it’s proper place in my life.


lost in a cloud

I’ve just finished reading ‘What You Really Need to Know about the Internet’ by John Naughton and the main thought ringing in my ears is about the physicality of the internet, especially with regards to cloud computing and what that might mean for the environment.

Naughton writes
‘if you had an idea of cloud computing as something engagingly wispy and ethereal, think again: this is an industry with a heavy, industrial-scale environmental footprint’

I suppose that is the thing that I don’t often appreciate when I’m blogging or fooling about on the internet.
Whenever we upload a picture to Facebook or a video to Youtube that video/picture has to be saved in some physical loaction somewhere in the world.
Or whenever I write this blog and post it, it will be saved (as well as the autosave versions, any pictures etc.)in some physical location somewhere in the world.

The picture I have in my head is of a giant PC box hundreds and hundreds of feet wide (like a mega version of the one I can see in front of me right now) in various physical locations throughout the world. It is something that has escaped my attention as I’ve blogged, sold stuff online, Facebook’d, digitized so much of my life and uploaded it. I haven’t just been using my computer at home or the library computer with the energy demands of using those, but using data farms in different mysterious locations throughout the world.

For example Facebook are building a huge server farm 60 miles south of the Artic Circle in Sweden.
The reason? To be close to a large hydroelectric electricity source and because the Artic temperature is ideal for keeping the building cool. So it’s not just a case of me plucking stuff beautifully from the cloud and using it, it’s not just a case of it being clean, easy and quick. No, there are hidden mounted racks in vast warehouses that had to be extracted from the materials of the earth using dirty fossil fuels and then powered (and kept cool in many locations) by vast amounts of energy (and how much of that is renewable?).

As our mobile devices seem to get more beautiful and powerful we can be seduced into thinking that there is no dirt and cost involved. But the cost is there, it’s just hidden behind the cloud.

Surprisingly (well at least to me) Ireland has quite a few of these data centres. Google are building a major one in Dublin, Amazon and Microsoft have ones already and are looking to expand them.
The last time I checked Ireland wasn’t exactly a renewable energy hub, but maybe things have changed in the three years I’ve lived up here.
Perhaps these huge data centres are using Airtricity or something, but I’d be surprised if they are or even could. And that means the more people put stuff on Youtube or use Google+, the more pollution is released into the atmosphere and the more we contribute to global warming. Which means that even as I finish this post about how we contribute to global warming I’ve juist contributed to global warming. Time to think.

don’t be a l.i.a.r (Low Information to Action Ratio)

(Clearing out some notebooks and scraps of paper…sorry, loads of posts coming all at once, probably in bit and pieces to make it easier to tag and categorise…trying to tidy the study)

Neil Postman talks about people having a low information to action ratio. Me defined I guess.

“The tie between information and action has been severed. Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold, or used as a form of entertainment, or worn like a garment to enhance one’s status. It comes indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness; we are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don’t know what to do with it.”

Being informed doesn’t make you wise

matt/gloss/easy on the eye

Looking across the platform at Derriaghy train station it feels almost as if my eye has to go to the other side and carry the light back across.
The colour of the leaves, the rust on the rail track, the damp of the concrete and matt grey of the stone seem to absorb light and become dull making it more of an effort to see. The eye becomes tired with the effort of fetching light and colour. Same in the house late at night.
Dull means eye effort means tiredness means gloom.

So much of our modern life is spent staring into sheets of glass. I’m staring into a sheet of glass typing this.
Light from glass seems magnified and bright, it seems to carry itself to the eye without the eye having to fetch or carry it back.

Gloss means bright means less eye effort means less tiredness means happy associations.
Looking into glass screens for light and a good time is easier than looking at concrete or winter trees for a good time.

My favourite seats in coffee shops are near big sheets of glass. I much prefer the light levels on the train to the bus. I love the reflection and light from the sea.

I’m addicted to the internet, to Facebook, to blogging.
But perhaps it is something else altogether.Perhaps I’m really just addicted to the light source, to the gloss and shine and the way it seems to run into my eye instead of the effort needed to love at the matt things about Lambeg. Glass is dangerous, time for a walk in the dark.