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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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Some Reflections, Easter Weekend

April 14th, 2009 · Posted by Hugo · 11 Comments

(This blog post is mostly me chatting away, the real meat of the matter is in a post I’m linking to at the end in the next post, to be experienced by those that choose to, at a time that is appropriate — though I’m a bit late…)

It was never my intention to not write a blog post this Easter weekend, but I have “procrastinated” up to the point where I have to say “well, I haven’t gone back to work yet, it is still Easter weekend for me”. My plans changed a couple of times, as better ideas came along. In the end, I found the best elsewhere, and will just point there.

Last week Thursday (iirc) I had a brief chat (IM) with a colleague/mentor that is of Jewish heritage. And had myself reminded “Easter” is not the current narrative of everyone in my circle. Passover. Commemorating the return from exile in Egypt. This is, according to my understanding, the primal narrative of Israel. (Primal in all three meanings of the word.) a narrative that shapes lives. I spent some time pondering that this weekend, but know I lack any experience of the Jewish tradition and what meaning and impact it would carry for me, had that been the tradition I was born into.

Friday night I saw Gran Torino. Following the movie, I let my thoughts drift, as inspired by the movie. Of course, they were already drifting before the movie even finished. (It caused the first change of plans: I want to write a bit about the movie… That post remains in the pipeline, but it has a prerequisite that you first see the movie. Now you get some more time to do so. ;-) ) But yes, following the movie, we had some drinks at the Outback Lodge. One member in our group has a Catholic heritage, and went to church that morning. I decided my church sermon for the weekend was the movie, it had more impact than many a church service. Then the conversation drifted in the direction of homoeopathy, “holistic”/”alternative” medicine, and the anti-vaccination movement. Simultaneously entertaining, uncomfortable, and thought provoking. Today, or yesterday, can’t remember, I did some more research on Gardasil, the vaccination against HPV-caused cervical cancer. More on that later.

Saturday, I joined a colleague and some friends for a “braai/picnic”. No, it wasn’t a braai, it was part Swiss, part Russian. During that picnic, conversation drifted in a way that had me sharing a bit about one of my “hobbies” (that which I keep myself busy with when I’m not working). I did not mention this blog, but this blog flows out of that hobby. Saturday night became a late night, I joined friends from the previous night’s movie, to go check out something of the Zurich nightlife. And had my jacket stolen. (And another in our group was also a victim of jacket-theft.)

Sunday I went for a cycle, having not really slept enough. But it was great, a relaxed bike ride from home, over to the Griefensee, around, and back. About 48km. I learned a number of valuable things, and a number of more mundane things. I learned the many different meanings the word “Schmuck” can have (I was cycling with someone who knows enough German and Yiddish).

This Monday evening, I finally came across the inspiration that would provide the meat to this post. I let myself be moved by a “multimedia account” of Ikon’s Easter “sermon” — Ikon is the community in which Peter Rollins finds himself. Being a Jesus- It aims to experience Easter through the perspective of Judas. You, me, everyone, as Judas. When you speculatively place yourself in another’s shoes, your understanding of them really does get fleshed out. More on that in a second post — it’s been a long time since I published two posts in one day. (I’m aiming for before & after midnight though.)

Last Thursday night I had another “down”. Those nice times when you suffer some death-from-the-inside. I have become thankful for those times though, because I know I survive them, walk on resurrected the next day, with new focus on and drive towards that which I feel is important. To me. A couple of months ago it was quite a bit more grim, it used to take longer. The ability to bounce back within a day is a blessing, it takes the sting out of the downs. It truly is in those moments of grappling that real clarity is found. (Despite the vagueness of that clarity. ;) ) From there, I went and had a most exxcellent weekend.

Moving on, some actions, related to the weekend as a whole, not to Thursday night in particular:

Death to the No Notes List

This feels like another brave step for me. A necessary one, that will probably again have much impact internally, while looking like hardly a breeze on the outside.

In life, we play many roles. We get to choose what roles we play. Clint Eastwood got to choose, in a more literal sense. In a fictional sense, his character in the movie chose a role. But we also have roles.

Sometimes it is best that roles don’t bleed into one another. You don’t want to see Forrest Gump bleed into Captain John H. Miller in Saving Private Ryan. And your private life should ideally not influence your professional one.

What is the No Notes list? It is more than just a list, it represents an attitude. So I’ve now been in Switzerland for 7 or 8 months, depending on how you count. Upon moving here, starting a new job, my first job, I had a rather weird mix-up of that role-separation going on.

I had decided to “keep things separate”, one symptom of which was that I created a “No Notes” list on Facebook. This was to avoid advertising this blog to friends I added to that list, since this blog represents a side of me I didn’t want to show to everyone I had “just met”. For two reasons. One, I didn’t want to be misunderstood. (Judas, misunderstood? Still, he played the role he had to play. “Had”, which meaning? “The role he had”? Or “Did what he must”? Both?) Two, I’ve experienced the challenge of writing for a diverse audience. It can be gruelling, because for different audiences, you would choose a different writing style. And now I’m adding yet another audience.

But Two is in a way just an externalised rationalisation of One: “I’m a chicken”. I enjoy writing for a diverse audience, and I often revel in not being clearly understood. The greater point here is not for me to be understood, whereby I’m placing myself on a pedestal that is a blog, saying “See? This is me, the world deserves to understand me! Watch! Make me feel special!” The point is to encourage people to think, explore, learn, be challenged, build bridges, seek peace in diversity. For that, I really don’t need to be understood. So the only thing holding me back is “pride”. Not wanting to be badly misunderstood. (Lacking the faith of Judas? One interpretation. See the next post.)

And besides, we each need only really need to be understood by a small group of people, and I’m very fortunate to have already found such a group of friends that understand me, even if we don’t all have contact very often, even if we’re very far apart. I still am, like any blogger really, a schmuck with a podium on which I prance. A vain, egotistical, self-absorbed narcissist. Who minds not using a tonne of tautology. :-P And I should go to lengths to avoid excessive navel gazing, and return the favour others have shown me: to seek to understand them, for who they are. Enough with the navel gazing. Let’s move on. (And I should give myself some credit, this paragraph does exaggerate, in order to highlight.)

Role separation… There is role separation, and then there is role separation. Living a lie is extremely unhealthy. I’ve experienced this already, I know this. My first experience at explicitly outing myself, as a “secular humanist” at the time, in 2007, was extremely scary, and extremely liberating. And the world just continued turning. ;) And views continued drifting, and I was able to approach things from the other side, from where they all started to make so much more sense. But I digress again.

The point: I emerged a healthier, more “holistic” person. Fragmenting myself yet again is downright stupid. And doesn’t accomplish role separation anyway, that kind of fragmentation could even be the cause of one aspect bleeding into the other, in a detrimental way. Embracing things together, I seek a healthy balance.

Additionally, 8 months in, I’m much more settled into my new role, I understand it a lot better now. With that better defined, the feeling of “this needs more explicit separation” is undermined.

Another interesting tidbit: the path I started with the “No Notes” list lead to the removal of a couple of links as well, since links also advertise my blog. (Duh!) I’ll restore those links, and probably return to my previous level of random organic search traffic. Joy. I have a love-hate relationship with that traffic. ;) See “Commenting Policy” below.

Community

Recently I re-tuned my Facebook and Google Reader. The aim: to be able to more regularly read the things I want to read. (Mostly: tuning “home pages” to show feeds I’m interested in.) Thereby: more attention towards the people I care most about, and the blog feeds I find most value in, the most challenging and “mind expanding” ;) , given my context.

Just over a week ago, I read Not that it’s a competition, but… – and got all woozy about cool communities again. Are there any communities like that here, in Switzerland? In Europe? I would so love to check something like that out! Or something like Ikon? Some other emergent guys in Europe? Switzerland? Curious, I’ll have to search. I’d enjoy getting involved in either.

Alternatively, I may remain the nomad, the anthropologist, investigating things from a slight distance. There are a number of traditions I’d love to check out, experience, but it would depend on whether they’re open to… um… “tourists” like me. I will continue chatting with people, aiming to experience their tradition from their perspectives, understanding what it means to them.

And of course, challenging things in some sensible fashion, extending invitations to think more broadly, when I find something that seems harmful. Like anti-vaccination attitudes. (Nothing to do with religion in the specific-sense here, though in the broad-sense, sure.)

Commenting Policy

And, of course, my little community here. I’ve not forgotten you all, even if my posting frequency has suffered. ;) And mengelmoes, my software-in-the-pipeline to solve all my “commenting policy” and community building concerns, remains… uh, well… in the pipeline. More efficiency to my use of free time. More dedication and focus. We’ll get there.

The point, as always, is to try to give everyone a voice, while finding a way to “gently encourage” them to use it in the most useful way possible. Reward the valuable and useful. Not like this guy, bob, who commented on Don’t Consider Christian Fundamentalism “Violent”, of all posts:

You guys are stupid as hell. God isn’t real. America needs to become more like Europe. We need to be free from the shackles of religion and move on as a race.

Who on earth was he talking to, anyway? He had no idea how many in that discussion were really religious or Christian, who were skeptics, humanists… or Americans for that matter (one?)… And there most certainly weren’t any stupid people commenting on that post. Except, of course, maybe by bob’s bizarre definition of stupid and smart.

I left his comment in the moderation queue. The ideal: any comment should be able to see the light of day. In some way anyway. (Consider the “-1″ score on the Slashdot moderation system, for example.) Furthermore, people need to be encouraged to learn how to express their sentiments without being a schmuck about it. You know, get smart, learn how to have an intelligent discussion. (They need to stop taking cues from the likes of Bill Maher, who seems to think humiliation, and apparently lies, is a good way of communicating ideas?)

The way you say things often carries more weight than that which you are trying to say.

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11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 From the Eyes of Judas // Apr 14, 2009 at 12:48 am

    [...] Blog | Comments ← Some Easter Reflections [...]

  • 2 Ben-Jammin' // Apr 14, 2009 at 2:32 am

    a prerequisite that you first see the movie.

    Watch a movie? Sit still, without the kids around, for >1 hour? Ummm….. :)

  • 3 Hugo // Apr 14, 2009 at 2:35 am

    ;) You don’t have to read the blog post, of course. Or spoil the movie and get some of the background for the post by reading the plot summary somewhere, but it’s just not the same. I’ll just be writing from a perspective assuming readers have seen it. In part also as part of the effort to discourage people from reading before seeing, if they will ever see, because I don’t want to spoil anything. I went into that movie having absolutely no idea what to expect. And I’m quite glad of that!

  • 4 Hugo // Apr 14, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I remembered where the “Death to the No Notes List” came from: someone subscribed to my friendfeed. (Friendfeed: meh.) That pointed out that there’s just no way to do it “properly” anyway. So instead of fighting it…

  • 5 Pieter // Apr 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I really liked the link about the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. Sounds great. Time to scope out some local groups.

  • 6 Hugo // Apr 15, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    It actually had me wondering: what does it take to *start* a community like that? Could I do it?

    I think it would take a lot. And I wonder how I would shape it, I would want to appeal to secularists (i.e. make a humanist gathering), and see how much interest I can pull in Switzerland, while also trying to draw from my own inherited tradition. I wonder how that would go down.

    And I can’t help but wonder if the interest in a “secularised country” would be lower than in a “religious country” that is otherwise identical. (How’s that for an impossible hypothetical.)

  • 7 Pieter // Apr 16, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Start small with something like a book club? Or focus around an activity, contributing to society in some way. Doing always so much better than just mouthing :)

  • 8 Paul // Apr 16, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Dit klink na ‘n lekker naweek.

    Ek’s ge”interesseerd in die verskillende betekenisse van “Schmuck”. Buiten die ‘slang’ negatiewe betekenis, is dit nie soortgelyk aan die Duitse woord vir juweliersware nie? En wat beteken dit in Yiddish? Vir een of ander rede laat dit my dink aan ‘n soen…

  • 9 Hugo // Apr 16, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Hehe. In Engels is dit ‘n algemene negatiewe term. Wikipedia verduidelik die oorsprong daarvoor (o.a. die Yiddish betekenis). Dit is ook ‘n van, en dit is ook “juweliersware” in Duits ja. So die winkel in Bahnhofstrasse, “Uhren & Schmuck”, verkoop juis horlosies en juweliersware, terwyl ek gedink het dis ‘n van.

  • 10 Paul // Apr 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Dankie. So daar is ‘n seksuele betekenis, maar minder onskuldig as wat ek gedink het. Klink nie na ‘n lekker van om te h^e nie.

  • 11 Kicking Into Gear // Dec 12, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    [...] so now I’m considering reinstating the “No Notes” list which I had removed back in April. If I do, it would be with a different attitude, so “Death to the No Notes List” did [...]

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