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.


copper mining and stuff pt 1

Copper mining it is this week

The last few years I have had a growing desire to become more connected to where my physical possessions actually came from. This computer I am typing on isn’t some magical device that appeared in Curry’s one day, but was mined and refined from raw material taken from the earths crust at one stage.
The device you are reading this on will contain copper. Where did the copper that makes you computing device come from? Was it mined in a way that respected the country it came from? What are the environmental effects of copper being mined? Where is it likely to have come from? Who benefits from the profits?

Perhaps these are the sorts of questions that are important to ask. Even before an ipad gets to the factory to be assembled there has been a vast enterprise of mining and refining of base metals. And this mining a refining doesn’t come cheaply. For instance, of the largest copper mines, Chuquicamata in Chile(the 2nd deepest man made hole on earth) used about 8 times the amount of water as Santiago the capital city. I’m not saying that figure is accurate but only that is a figure I heard mentioned in a video on YouTube.

So maybe a few more copper related postings in the next few days.


the stretcher

How much should you tell your computer? Tonight I don’t care.

Today was not a good day.  I don’t want life to be like this, but it is. It just is.

My girl is upstairs waiting for sleep to come, I know she is hurting, hurting so bad and what can I do? I can do nothing except what I usually do, be me stubborn and angry or angry and stubborn in the wrong way about things I can’t control, probably tilting at windmills, big wind generating windmills that don’t actually generate electricity or spoil the countryside or use more energy to make than they produce in their entire lifetime and there is always something isn’t there?

There was an old man who lived a few houses down.
He walked slowly along the footpath, I assumed on his way to the pub each day. In my head he was called Jim, hop along Jim.  He was lonely, or looked lonely. I knew he was lonely.

So what did I do?
I did nothing.  As usual I did nothing.

‘and at once I knew I was not magnificent’

The police stood outside his house today, then the white overcoats and face mask and on the way back from the shops a stretcher. I didn’t look. H___ wanted me to ask, but I didn’t.

As usual I did nothing. So I don’t know. But I suspect and that fills me with sadness. He was so lonely. Did he have any family?
Worse, you knew this or guessed this and what did you do?

Then there is THE ISSUE.
It’s there.
It can’t be ignored. And Jesus  and God and the Holy Spirit it’s killing us so can you cut me a bit of slack? Won’t us give us a break?

That’s unless of course you don’t really exist because it’s at times like this that it just seems so lonely and silent that I just can’t see it myself.  I tried to imagine you standing in the corner of the bedroom last week, what you actually might have looked like. I couldn’t do it. It was an Obi Wan Kenobi type hologram, a wisp of mist in the corner when what you want is a real and physical, for real flesh and blood, suffering yet risen reality. What I got was a shady corner of my imagination.

Or  a book, or books and letters and versions and exegesis and preachers and church on a Sunday morning with a pipe organ and red hymn book, blue ‘Glory to God’ and ‘The Source’ and cups of instant coffee in a soul less church hall with uncomfortable looking middle class people and  mention (probably) of The Queen’s Jubilee.

This is what we get. Jesus, it’s hard to believe.

How much can you tell the computer?

This much. And there’s more. But nobody will care.  It’s just lonely old men and the money you didn’t earn because you are you and there is no job that is good enough for you or suitable for you and you won’t go and work the production line of Moy Park chicken or something (because you’re busy tilting at big wind generating windmills or something)  and the work you do do is not valued as work because it’s not paid and competition and better train harder or ask the right questions and answer to prove that you are the most suitable person for the opening.

There is the money you forgot to put in the bank to pay for the rent that you remember about on a Saturday night on a special Bank Holiday weekend meaning that you will probably be charged by greedy banker, or something like that.  So you can work hard and still not get paid.

Thing is, stretchers and old men, banks, THE ISSUE, church of clay feet,me being me, entropy is not what I want defining and embittering me, or scaring me,  I don’t want that.

Miracle please…stretcher me through a hole in roof, I can’t do it myself.


don’t leave all the windows lying open…

The Nutella jar lying open, cheese half finished on the bread board, half finished cups of tea and crumbs all over the show. This is a sight frequently witnessed in our kitchen, all over our house. Half finished jobs, the products of a hyper-active being who doesn’t seem to be able to focus.

That person is yours truly of course, the messy pup. But this morning I wondering if this habit of leaving things open and unfinished might be related to the way I use the computer,

Right now as I try to concentrate on typing this I have one window open on ebay, where I am watching an auction and hoping that someone swoops in at the last minute and buys my box of unwanted Penguins,
another window open on a discussion forum about cold radiators as I try to solve our permanently cold bathroom radiator,
below there is a window open with my scanner as I try to scan in pictures of books,
a tab open with postage costs open and a Microsoft Paint window open.

And that is a simplified version of all the balls I’m trying to juggle at once. Normally Facebook might be open, Hotmail and possibly The Guardian website.

If you lived like this for most of the day, with different planes of thought and trying to get jobs done all at the same time but getting none done then why wouldn’t our brains think the same when it comes to the kitchen or the other jobs in our ‘normal’ day?

Maybe the mess of the kitchen is a reflection of the way my brain is being trained by to much computer and internet use. Perhaps I should make it a rule to only have one box open at a time and to do whatever needs done before closing it…

doodle-nt day 1 – Facebook

So I’m going to put my Facebook addiction to bed for at least 40 days and try to use the time for drawing/doodling instead, just experimenting and seeing what comes up. H___ gets a bit frustrated sometimes that I can’t do some nice paintings and sell them but I don’t have the skills and wouldn’t even know where to start.

I find a bigger problem is that the way I see the world isn’t something you would necessarily want to hang on your wall. Sure we all dream of sunsets on the west coast of Ireland but my daily experience is computer addiction, Lisburn on cloudy mornings, damp hedgerows looming over me on the tow path. What I’m trying to say (without offending the good people who call this place home) is that I don’t find this place beautiful and as such it makes it hard to be inspired.

Partly I blame computers and the internet. They might be tools or objects made by men but the amount of information and visual data that pours from the screen seems to have dulled my sight.

My imagination has been captured by the computer and I don’t like it!

moulded by machines

We often change our direction in life and how we would really like to do things to  accommodate our machines.

This became clear to me when thinking about the home recording process. Often I have a melody and clear idea in my head of how I would like a song to be. Yet there is  another involved in the process, the machine.

My banjo does not possess the skill to change the way he sounds, to stay in tune no matter where I go on the fret board and so I change to accommodate him. I must drop the banjo lick high up the fret board and stick to something that will suit him. He has moulded me and my work, my song has been changed. He doesn’t have the capacity to change.

That’s not to say that the end result is always going to be bad, it’s just to be aware that the limitations of the tool colour the sound and feel of the song. It was a partnership, but an inequal one.

What about the computer and the internet? How does it’s limitations alter the way we would like to go in life?
Sometimes the idea that we can connect and network to people around the world seems to offer us endless opportunities, a chance to change the world.

Yet are we being moulded by our machines?Do we realise that we’re being targeted by corporations intent on making money? Or that we’re only really connected to wealthy world?

Are we being moulded into imbalanced human beings, beings that are big on lazy sight and using our brain (to a certain extent) but being denied the touch of real people in exchange for the touch of plastic.

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?