How to Be Happy

One of the problems that naturally occurs when a light is shone on pain and suffering is that those who are looking at this picture are overwhelmed by pity.  This might seem like a good outcome – surely if we are sorry for someone we’ll try to help?  Well the answer to that is not a definite ‘yes’.  Sometimes when we feel sorry for people we also feel angry, or resentful or superior or confused.  We wonder how this can happen and why they can’t help themselves just like we have to do and if they have some inherent shortcoming that precludes them from building a wholesome and sustaining life for themselves… Continue reading

Relax – it’s all part of one big pattern

Patterned by Nature was commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences ( for the newly built Nature Research Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The exhibit celebrates our abstraction of nature’s infinite complexity into patterns through the scientific process, and through our perceptions. It brings to light the similarity of patterns in our universe, across all scales of space and time.
10 feet wide and 90 feet in length, this sculptural ribbon winds through the five story atrium of the museum and is made of 3600 tiles of LCD glass. It runs on roughly 75 watts, less power than a laptop computer. Animations are created by independently varying the transparency of each piece of glass.
The content cycles through twenty programs, ranging from clouds to rain drops to colonies of bacteria to flocking birds to geese to cuttlefish skin to pulsating black holes. The animations were created through a combination of algorithmic software modeling of natural phenomena and compositing of actual footage.
An eight channel soundtrack accompanies the animations on the ribbon, giving visitors clues to the identity of the pixelated movements. In addition, two screens show high resolution imagery and text revealing the content on the ribbon at any moment.
Patterned by Nature was created by
Plebian Design –
Hypersonic Design & Engineering –
Patten Studio –
Sosolimited –

Stranger Danger

Have you ever sat into a stranger’s car by accident? 

I’ve done it lots of times.

I spent most of my life thinking it was commonplace – thinking that it happened to everybody – until I told my sister a couple of years ago. She explained – between screams of laughter – that No. Everybody doesn’t sit into stranger’s cars. No. No. No. She has never done it. And no it isn’t commonplace.

I was surprised.

Even though I know they’re not reading, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those unsuspecting and terrified looking men behind the wheel of the many cars I have jumped into – uninvited – over the years. All those men innocently sitting behind their own steering wheels, after children’s football matches and in supermarket car parks and outside small shops parked on double-yellow lines. I now realise that the look on their faces and their white knuckled hands on the steering wheel were not to do with the cold weather or gentle surprise but rather because they thought they were being hijacked by a (very) strange woman. Sorry.

In this conversation with my sister I also discovered that it is also not all that common to sit into the driver’s seat of stranger’s empty cars in filling stations. That – to be frank – was a real killer.

I once sat into a very swanky car in a crowded filling station after paying for my petrol (gas to my American friends). I sat in and struggled for a few seconds to get the key in the ignition. Then I realised my mistake and had to get out and walk back to my much humbler vehicle while the people filling up their cars with fuel looked on in amusement. Some of them even laughed. I flicked my head and acted like I had meant to sit into the swanky car. Such a rebel. Such a joker. Such a daredevil. Such a felon. Nobody was fooled.

I have done this sitting-into-the-driver’s-seat-of-the-wrong-car-after-paying-for-my-petrol thing lots of times, but the weidest of all was when I sat into a car and my knees hit the steering wheel. I am a tallish woman (5’8″ – or 1.73 metres to my European friends). Did I think – “Oh no, I must be in the wrong car!”


I am embarrassed to say that exactly what I thought was – “Who moved the seat in my car for goodness sake!”

Which proves to me that my default position in the world is that I am right.

I come from a long line of people who think they are right (including that sister by the way even though she might deny it). Engage any of us in conversation and we’ll tell you that of course we know we aren’t always right. That we know we can make mistakes. That we are fallible and always learning.

But you know what they say – what does being wrong feel like? The same as being right – until you realise that nobody moved the seat of your car and in fact you are sitting into some other (probably) woman’s car and if she sees you she’ll think you’re trying to steal her car. Even if it isn’t very swanky.

Who’s Sorry Now?

The topics of loving our enemies and seeking justice naturally bring with it another idea – that of forgiveness.

Traditionally, forgiveness is seen as a passive and almost negative quality and has, throughout history, often been portrayed as a last resort – albeit a noble one – when all hope of change and progress is forsaken.

It is, generally, seen as a position of the high moral ground.  Forgiveness is where a victim makes a loud statement to ring in the ears of the person who has caused her or him pain.

This statement says, “You think you are better than me and that you have the power to hurt me but I have news for you, I am better than you because I forgive you and that means you can’t hurt me.”

Naturally that isn’t true – no matter how much we might like it to be the case.

If someone hurts us – it does hurt.

Often we seem to think that if we acknowledge the blow and the pain we feel, this leaves us with only two options –

a) Scream out in pain and nurse the wound and resentment against the perpetrator forever.

b) Try to render the perpetrator powerless by saying it didn’t hurt.  The playground tactic – ‘Ha-ha – you are so insignificant that no matter what you do it doesn’t hurt me.’

These approaches are problematic as:

Option A leaves us nursing an open wound – forever.

Option B is – well, it’s simply not true – some things not only hurt, they hurt quite a lot.  When Nietzsche remarked that anything that doesn’t kill us makes us strong, he was also implying (necessarily) that some things do kill us.


Is there an Option C when dealing with our pain?

And if there is, might this option be buried somewhere deep in the concept of forgiveness?

If there is an Option C, it is likely that we need to re-evaluate our understanding of the concept of forgiveness in order to recognise it. Scary as this might be, we’ll have to forget the traditional face of forgiveness – the wimpy, weak, long-suffering image it has cultivated in the past. But we’ll also need to forget the modern, formulaic ‘just do it’ face we now use for forgiveness. Instead we’ll need to reassess it entirely.

But maybe if we do that we might see something new in this concept that can really help us to heal our wounds? It strikes me that there must be something powerful in forgiveness as it is a principle in every religious tradition in the world since ancient times.

Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Alláh should forgive you? – Islam

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned. – Buddhism

Where there is forgiveness, there God resides. — Sikhism

Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand. – Judaism

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. – Christianity

…let your adorning be forgiveness and mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. – Bahá’í Faith

Forgiveness subdues (all) in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries the sabre of forgiveness in his hand? …Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness.  – Hinduism

The way of the master is fidelity and forgiveness – Confucianism

I don’t know how forgiveness actually works but I imagine if it has any chance of it being more than a superficial slick of niceness then the very first step has to be to acknowledge the pain – small, medium or large.

Don’t minimise it or explain it away or say it doesn’t matter.

This might be just personal to me but I can’t bear being told something painful doesn’t – or shouldn’t – hurt.

If it hurts it hurts.

It didn’t help me to be told that when I was a child.  It doesn’t help me as an adult.  The sole judge of how much something hurts me has to be me.  Nobody else can feel it so they can’t definitively know.

As that is true for me, I assume it is true for others and so I try to let them be the judge of their own pain.

I probably don’t always succeed but I think I should always try.

After that, though – I’m not sure where to go next.

How is real forgiveness built?

Does it have essential components if it is to be substantial?

If I forgive can I actually forget?

Can you fake it ’til you make it?

Answers on a postcard…

Feet of a Dancer

I hope you find the feet of a dancer,
I hope you can sing in the rain,
I hope you find all the easy answers to your pain;
It won’t be easy, what can I say,
There will be trouble along the way;
‘Round every corner there’s terror and fear,
Always remember that we’re here.

Charlie McGettigan – Feet of a Dancer

I love this picture.  I love everything about it, but I especially love the expressions on their faces.

I don’t know who took the photograph, or where it was taken, or when.

But I love it, anyway.

It’s on the One Human Family Facebook page here –

“Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance

to a mysterious tune intoned in the distance

by an invisible player.”

Albert Einstein

Miss Guided

Recently I’ve been thinking – and talking – a lot about how women are portrayed in the media.  I’ve also been thinking about how women are seen in society – and in, particular, how they see themselves.

Yesterday I watched the aptly titled, MissRepresentation, a documentary that explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America in particular, and the role the media plays in this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching.

There is no denying that women used to be seen as possessions for the convenience and entertainment of men.

There is no denying that that is possibly even more the case than ever.

Women are increasingly packaged as sex objects and everything is now sold to everybody, using women’s bodies.

I am not suggesting that women are to blame for this phenomenon.  I don’t think it’s caused by hormones or cattiness or any of the other rubbish accusations designed to disempower women.

But I am suggesting that women stop supporting it.

Stop believing the illusion that tells you that being thinner, younger-looking, compliant and presented like a sex-object will make you happier.  It won’t.  It can’t.  And when you aren’t happier even though you are complying it isn’t your fault – you’ve been sold a big, fat lie.  Even if you have to wrestle with yourself until you retrain your psyche – do it – that might actually make you happy.

Don’t buy the handbags or the magazines or perfume or clothes that are advertised by women portrayed as objects of sexual fantasies or with distorted, unnatural body-images.

Don’t watch the films or TV shows that reinforce the stereotypes.

Do watch the films and TV shows that don’t.  One of the interviewees in the movie (a man) makes the point that in the cinema of the 1940s and ’50s, women could get to play real people in movies – bitches, saints, moms, murderers, adventurers – not so nowadays, shockingly.

Stop believing that you have to be like a man – or be liked by a man – in order to make a success of your life.  Let’s face it, men are not any happier than women and have, largely, made a very unfriendly, unhelpful, unsafe and unsatisfying world for themselves as well as women.

Don’t get me wrong – men need to get on board with this boycott as well.

But women – come on – let’s stop waiting for the men to come along – maybe they’re not the early adopters they think they are?

How about we just stop supporting the system and stop accepting the stereotypes and stop conforming to the ‘way things are’ and try to create a new way for things to be – a way that is good for everyone, not just women (let’s not make the same mistakes as men).

Worst case scenario, if it all blows up in our pretty little botoxed faces we can always go back to what we have now…

Justice v. Vengeance – A Work in Progress?

What is the difference between justice and vengeance?

Does it really matter?

Won’t vengeance redress the karmic balance anyway?

Surely an eye for an eye or tit-for-tat = reciprocity?

Won’t that suffice?

What does vengeance bring us?

(It must bring something or we wouldn’t still practice it so extensively)

What problems does it cause?

Do justice and vengeance ‘feel’ the same?

Does justice offer us something different to that which vengeance offers, or is it much the same?

How often do we dress up vengeance in a ‘justice’ costume?

Does it matter?

What kind of a lens do we need to use so that we can tell the difference between justice and vengeance?


Spread a Little Happiness

This is a simple and sweet story of a man who is offering a wonderful expression of love.  I especially love the simplicity and earnestness of this gesture and admire him for uncompromisingly opening his heart in such a wonderful way.

Once again thanks to Bowl of Miso for originally posting this –