Saturday, 30 April 2011

| | | 1 drops in the ocean
I've had a bad day.

I slept in, felt lethargic and tired all day, and virtually achieved nothing of any significance (apart from watching doctor who).

You know the feeling?

Sometimes I get so frustrated at myself and the world, myself because I'm so weak, I can't motivate myself to study for the exams I have in a week's time, and sometimes I just feel like a bit of a failure.  The world, because, well, it just doesn't seem to be helping.  There's always something else to do, something to watch, another blog to look at, facebook to look at, a whirlwind of entertainment and pointless rubbish to stuff my mind with while I procrastinate yet more.  It's the old affliction 'Exam-time-cannot-be-bothered-itis', and it well and truly has me in its grasp.

But you know what?

I will not be defeated!

As I was flicking through my bible today (jings, was it that long since I last opened it...?)  I was reminded of a verse that has encouraged me before:  "I am he, I am he who will sustain you..."  (Is.46:4)

Thank God there's Somebody who's succeeded where I've failed.  "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Cor.12:9,10)  Otherwise I don't know what I would do.

So tomorrow will be a new start.  Goodbye Lethargy, my old friend.

Solitude, sun and studying

Thursday, 28 April 2011

| | | 2 drops in the ocean
One of my fellow bloggers recently did a 'handwritten' post, so, feeling inspired, I thought I would do the same.  You can probably tell a lot about someone from their handwriting.

This is about a place I go sometimes to be alone (or to study, away from the gaggles of sunburnt students sprawled out in front of the halls of residence!)

People I would like to meet (dead or alive)

Monday, 25 April 2011

| | | 1 drops in the ocean

Some inspirational people I would like to meet one day:
(not expendable...I could go on...)
  1. Albert Einstein
  2. C. S. Lewis
  3. Sir Issac Newton
  4. Antonio Vivaldi
  5. J. S. Bach
  6. David Tennant
  7. My great-grandfather (a mathematician, and I think, very like-minded!)
  8. Martin Luther King
  9. Mother Teresa
  10. Cliff Richard
Feel free to add some of your own below...

Things I would like to do...

| | | 0 drops in the ocean

Here's a list of things I would like to be able to do some day:
(NB not in any particular order)
  1. Go hang gliding
  2. Sail around the world
  3. Be able to play some of the famous violin concerti (Mendelssohn, Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius)
  4. Be able to improvise
  5. Make real and tangible a difference to a situation/person's life through engineering
  6. Meet some inspirational people (see next list)
  7. Meet a bloke (though not essential)
  8. Aquire the fine art of Time-Management
  9. Learn Gaelic (it is such a beautiful language)
  10. Make it to heaven
That is all.  Happy Monday everyone!


Friday, 22 April 2011

| | | 4 drops in the ocean
So, I just got back from my violin lesson.  One of the pieces I'm working on at the moment is the classic 'Czardas' by Vittorio Monti.  In case you don't know it (but I'm sure you will when you hear it) it goes something like this:

I love how Vengerov and the bassist are trying to outdo each other here...I didn't know a bass could do such athletics!!  However I digress.

What my violin teacher was trying to get me to do today was to try and connect more in an emotional sense with the piece.   Sometimes I find this difficult.  I tend to go into a 'shell' and don't let people see how I'm actually feeling.  Since being at university I have come out of my shell to some extent, and I am very much a different person to how I used to be.  But I will come on to that.

This morning I turned on the tv briefly as I was having my breakfast, and I happened to catch the end of this programme:

and this struck me on a personal level.  I will say now that I have never been through any of the horrors that some of the people interviewed and mentioned went through, and I hope that I will never have to.  It is worth watching the last 15 minutes or so if you have time, as some very profound points are made, ones that can be related to whether you are a Christian or not.

When I was at school I was not popular.  I was one of those people who would be routinely ignored, and if group-work came up, I was always amongst the 'leftovers'.  If I said anything, I was quite often laughed at, so I decided it would be best if I just kept my mouth shut and my head down and plough on.  Which I did for the most part.  And it seemed to work.  The trouble was that I had no-one to talk to.  As such I kept it all to myself.  I didn't even talk to my parents, much.  A typical conversation as I came through the door at the end of the day would go something like this:

"And how was school?"

Then I would depart to the recesses of my room, dump my bag and try not to think about school.  Here I will not go into too much detail as there is no point in reliving these memories again.  When recalling them one has to put oneself back into the old state of mind.  I have since moved on.

What I came to realise though, is something that has changed me in a deep way.  Something that resonates deeply with the theme of Easter and those radical words:  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". 

Throughout my years at high school I reacted to bullying (although I hate that word, as it implies 'victim', which I also don't like, because I wouldn't see myself that way; perhaps because it suggests a sense of helplessness and weakness - which most definitely is not me; I can't really explain but I'm sure you see what I mean.) by closing up.  I would put up an emotional barrier and close in on myself, thereby not letting anything or anyone get to me.  I clung on by a tenuous thread to my faith, weak and small though it was, and that was what kept me going.  I became hard-hearted and gradually more callous.  This in turn had a negative impact on my relationships with people, perhaps more with my parents, and I became self-conscious and introverted.

When I got to university everything changed.  I suddenly found myself amongst other Christians, and I can't even begin to say how happy I was to be making new friends and moving on.  I began to come out of my shell, and I found that in the process of opening up I could come to terms with the past.  I started to realise that I was still harbouring bitterness and anger at others, although I thought I had let go of it.  It was then that I discovered what it means to forgive, and be forgiven.  It is a letting go, a moving on, an embracing of life in its fullest.  And what a relief it is.

Expressing myself in music has always been one of the ways I have come to terms with things and let go.  The Czardas by Monti is an interesting piece - full of sharp contrasts and different shades and textures.  It starts with a sad, dramatic opening melody, and then the mood changes to something quite different; a fast bit in the minor key before a victorious climax in the major key, getting more so until the triumphant last notes.

Forgiveness in many ways I think is a bit like that.  We can choose to harbour bitter emotions and angry thoughts, and let them destroy us and suck the life out of us, or we can let go of them and emerge victorious, into the sunlight.  For some it takes longer than others.  And no-one ever said it would be easy.  But isn't it better to clean wounds sooner rather than later, before they fester?

I challenge you.  There is always a choice.

Ps - I know this isn't the best bit of writing ever, there was a lot more I wanted to, and could have said.  In a much better way.  But there we go.  Some days the words just won't come out right...

Imaginings of a Daydreamer I

Thursday, 21 April 2011

| | | 2 drops in the ocean
Well, the last week or so has been a bit hectic, what with (busy) holidays, my flat being flooded and being moved out and in again (that's student halls for you...*sigh*), coursework etc etc.  So it's time I caught up with a bit of posting.

I daydream quite a lot, and always have done.  Have you ever looked at an inanimate object and imagined a whole story around it?  Or found within it an analogy to something that has been puzzling you for a while?  Here is one such imagining that came to me as I was sitting at the kitchen table...

What do you see?

Like distant galaxies,
Amidst a vast canvas of space-time
Its lines bending and warping around them,
Pulled and twisted by their gravity
In an eternal dance of celestial bodies.

And look
A nebula,
Its dust all that remains of a star
Once in its prime.
Those knots...
Perhaps they are the lost dimensions
Curled up in far corners of space...

I have recently been reading Hawking's 'Briefer History of Time' and also Brian Greene's 'The Elegant Universe', both of which are written for the non-physicist, so are easy to understand, and well worth reading.  Both left me in awe of the beauty and complexity of our universe, as well as the recent BBC series 'The Wonders of the Universe'.  I might have written more had I not left my original notes at home...maybe I'll add to it later!

Blogging: Escapism or ....?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

| | | 7 drops in the ocean
Since joining the blogging community I have learned a lot.  Even in the short week or so that I've been here.  So to that end I want to share something that I was thinking about last night, and I would be interested to hear some of your views and opinions on this too.  I know this has been covered a lot in various other corners of cyberspace, but I hope it will still be interesting to read.

The advent of my online social life, predictably, began with facebook.  It was just over a year and a half ago, and I was halfway through the first semester of my first year at university.  I had more or less settled in, I had met a whole load of new and wonderful people, and I wanted to be able to keep in touch with some of them.  People kept talking about facebook.  My new flatmates talked about it frequently: 'oh, so-and-so just said on facebook that they just did such-and-such', or 'have you seen so-and-so's relationship status?'

Naturally, I was curious.  It seemed this was the answer I had been looking for.  I could keep in touch with people who I had met but didn't necessarily know very well, and find friends who I had long since lost touch with, but wanted to find out how they were getting on.  I went through a phase of cautious fasination with this, adding people and posting occasionally, trying to make my posts meaningful in some way, yet all the time the temptation was there just to post the first thing that came into my head, and I tried, for the larger part, to restrain it.  I won't say too much about it.  Although facebook provided an interesting insight into the day to day lives of my 'friends', I grew a sudden aversion for it and it's shallowness, and only a few months in, I made up my mind that I would delete it.  It was a waste of my time, I told myself.  All people ever post is mindless rubbish, I thought, and I really can't be bothered with this.  I have much better things to do with my life.  Having made it clear via a status that I would be off, I asked people to contact me if they wanted to keep in touch.  I think about two people actually did...

So, my facebook remains, and since then it has just been a place for communication with people I have no other way to communicate with, seeing pictures friends have put up, and keeping in touch with family and other events (it seems facebook is always the first to know about these things..)

In a quest for an interesting picture to stick in somewhere around here, I came across this article, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't:


And that brings me on to my main point.

Escape from reality turns human being into wild animal
A picture of the online social life?
From what I've seen in my early days as a blogger, the blogosphere seems to be different.  The majority of blogs and bloggers I have come across so far seem to be about expressing themselves, and sharing some real meaning and perspective on subjects on a much deeper level than facebook.  Blogging allows people to be anonymous, thereby allowing you to publish your innermost thoughts without the fear of being judged by anyone you know, and thus giving you a sense of freedom.  It is a way to 'let go' of thoughts that bother you and write about situations you are in, giving you a sense of relief and unburdenment from them. (yes, if I can't find a word for something, I will invent one...)

But what about the impact of blogging and the online social community on 'real life' relationships?

I believe there are two ways the blogger can be drawn.  This mainly applies to introverted or socially slightly shy people (like myself).

The first situation:  the person is going through a particularly tough time, and being fairly introverted, feels unable to talk to anyone about it.  He (or she, but I'll just use he for simplicity.  I'm not being sexist in any way.) needs a break from it and is drawn into the blogosphere in order to express his feelings about that situation and get away from it for a time.  He finds security here, where he doesn't have to face up to his situation and can converse with people in similar situations, all the while not having to deal with people face to face.  As such he becomes ever more estranged from 'real life', almost in a state of denial about what is happening outside of cyberspace, while all the time it is still niggling at the back of his mind that he should really face up to it, yet he feels increasingly unable to.

Before I go any further here's a note:  here I am putting 'real life' in inverted commas, because the blogosphere is real life too.  I think (as someone mentioned recently) people sometimes forget that real people reside behind all the binary and computer code connecting their thoughts with the rest of the world.  Also, I hope nobody takes these comments as applied to them; these are just general observations.  Perhaps you can relate to them; perhaps not.

The second situation:  the person is going through a particularly tough time.  The same as above applies: he does not feel able to talk it out with someone.  He decides to start blogging in order to express his feelings about the situation, and discovers people who have gone through similar situations.  In the process he finds it easier to express himself and his feelings.  It is almost like a kind of therapy for him.  His confidence in general increases, and finds that his communication skills in the 'real world' have improved greatly, and as a result of this, his relationships with 'real' people flourish, and his quality of life in general improves.  After a while he may not feel the need to blog for a sense of security any more, but may still do it in order to help other people who have had similar experiences, or just for enjoyment.  Cyberspace has done its job in acting as a stepping stone to his final state of self-confidence and enduring relationships.

I believe that communication skills are essential for the maintenance of any solid relationship, whether in cyberspace or the real world.  If blogging or journalling or whatever it may be helps one to communicate, then that's got to be a good thing.  But I believe there is also the danger of becoming completely isolated from reality, and forgetting how to do 'real life' relationships.  I suppose the answer in part lies in where you find security.  At the end of the day there there is no substitute and nothing like the satisfaction that can be gained from building strong and reliable physical relationships with people.

the trip that never was...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

| | | 2 drops in the ocean
I cannot even begin to describe how I'm feeling just now.

Something I think which is a turmoil of anger (mainly at myself), disappointment (mainly in myself), disbelief (at my own stupidness), guilt at having let everyone else down, and something resembling an air of defeat.

I had been looking forward to this for so long.  I did some research into the destination, had everything sorted in plenty of time and even looked up a few Italian phases to be armed with.
Having packed and readied myself for the trip, I got to bed at a reasonable hour and set both my phone alarm and my bedside alarm for the unearthly hour of 3:45.  I didn't sleep for a while.  My brian was too busy whirring round with arrangements, connections, and thoughts of the place we were visiting.  My flatmate was going in and out of the kitchen, banging the door.  About midnight I decided enough was enough, and put some earplugs in, in the hope of getting some sleep, and knowing full well that I had two alarms set, and that I was easily awoken, on most days, by at least one of them, even with the things in.  So, I'm sure you have guessed by now what happened.  I woke up, having slept like a baby through BOTH alarms, and panicked.  Several phone calls, and much (unsuccessful, though I probably don't need to say that) internet-flight-surfing later, and I'm still here.  Feeling like a complete and utter eejit.

I suppose it's not the end of the world.  I suppose we all feel like failures from time to time, but we just have to learn to grit our teeth and 'carry on', and learn from our mistakes...  At least I can console myself with the fact that other people have made far greater mistakes in the past...
Maybe it was providential that I didn't go?  Who knows?  But one thing is for certain: I'm not going anywhere, at least for the next couple of days, anyway....

Ciao Italia!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

| | | 4 drops in the ocean
It's a beautiful day here and I'm in high spirits.  The sun is shining, it's a Saturday, and it's nearly the holidays.  And... I'm going to Italy!   So I have lots of reasons to be excited:
  1. It will be my first time abroad
  2. It will be my second time flying (that is, if you don't count a spin in a friend's homemade plane, which wobbled somewhat when the prop was spun round, but thankfully held together in the air)
  3. I love Italian food....
  4. I get to see some pretty awesome engineering stuff whilst I'm over there, too (as I'm going with some folk from my department)
so, the last couple of weeks I've been buzzing round buying a case, 100ml bottles, and plenty of euro to see me through (I was dissappointed to find that they are much like pound notes, only these ones are nice and crisp and new...), etc etc.
I went on one such shopping trip today, and then remembered, as I played the dodging game, weaving in and out of the throng of dozy shoppers, why I don't usually go shopping on a Saturday... There were numerous buskers out, as usual, and as I meandered round the shop, I was serenaded by some pipes outside, playing such tunes as 'we will rock you', 'if you're happy and you know it', and countless other tunes I didn't even know it was possible to play on the pipes... another piper further down was giving a rendition of 'amazing grace', (in tune, for a change)...and someone else was playing blues.
Anyway, as I was wandering along, it occured to me that, for once, I didn't feel constrained by anything - no deadlines or worries, and I was immensely thankful for that.  Coming from a small town, the pace of life in a city sometimes gets to me, and I need to remind myself every now and again just to stop, slow down, take a deep breath and stop worrying about tomorrow.
So, after a long semester, I am looking forward to a bit of a break from the city and (after Italy) time to recharge again ready for the exams...