Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest...

I remember this place.

I used to take time, writing my story and the way I interpret the world; all in the vain hope that it would make a difference - that people would listen, agree, and change their outlook.

But life has changed - my situation, my perspective, my desire to make change.

What previously felt like virtue, like fervor, now tastes like arrogance and naivety.

Or maybe all the big words and clever phrasing were just an attempt at entertainment. And I don't want to entertain anyone, anymore.

What do I want? Escape. Relief. Forgiveness.

We all do what we think is right, based on our perspective and situation. And in the battle to protect those we love, to provide them the best life possible, we may cross lines we never imagined. We may act in ways that are only an option because to do nothing would result in pain for someone we care about.

I wish there was a clear path to walk, one we could hold our heads high and feel proud for taking. But in reality, there is only those we love, and what we would become to keep them safe - to make them happy.

And I hope I'm forgiven for doing that.

"The law is inside out; the world is upside down."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My wife, my friend, my life.

Yesterday was my wife's birthday.

Birthdays hold a special significance for me, mainly because I never had any - the first 17 years of my life being a Jehovah's Witness blur. In a strange way, I am grateful for having not celebrated Christmas, Birthdays and Easter as a kid; while I missed out on the magic and boundless excitement, I can treasure these special days with a fervor usually reserved for kids.

Sarah and I spent the morning having breakfast at our local cafe, then went home for morning tea. I ended up fitting a gigantic fridge in my sister's tiny kitchen, then we went shopping for some things to make life a bit easier - namely a new laptop (which this blog is brought to you by!) and a new DVD player.

The highlight of the day, however, was taking Sarah out to dinner to a 'grown-up' restaurant. I talked in my last blog about going on 'auto-pilot', and not realizing what you are missing out on - well, I had that same epiphany last night. Not that Scarlett (our daughter) has ever made us 'miss out' on anything; she is the completion of our life through this time! What I remembered is how much I enjoy spending time as a couple, without the billion thought processes needed to look after a baby - not to mention that you cannot do fine dining with very young children!

So we went out to The Chairman & Yip, and tried the Tasting Menu. To say the food was delicious would be like saying Captain Kirk is a little bit awesome...

Yes, you heard me - this food was on par with the awesomeness of Kirk, the guy who beat the Kobaysahi Maru scenario and made a bazooka out of bamboo and diamonds.

So we sat, we talked, we drank expensive champagne, ate outstanding food, and stopped having to be parents for a while. I am always amazed at how stunningly beautiful Sarah is - my heart never fails to skip a beat when I see her, and I get to bask in the reflected glory that is being with a beautiful person.

All this to say I love my wife with all my heart, and I hope she enjoyed her birthday as much as I did spending it with her.

As for today, this is the day I proposed 3 years ago, and I love being married.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jehovah's Witnesses Episode #4: The Empire Strikes Back

 I figure it's about time to continue my insights into the dangerous, perverse, and cruel cult that is the Jehovah's Witnesses.

To start us off again, I give you the current Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. (Go and read Episode #2 again for more detail on where they fit into the heirarchy)

These pictures make me many things - angry, repulsed, ashamed, horrified. But mostly, I just feel pity to the millions of people around the world that throw their lives away for these men.

John E. Barr

Born in 1913, in Aberdeen Scotland. His grandmother Émilie Jewell was baptized in 1908. His father was baptized in 1912.They were the only Bible Students family in North Scotland. As a result, their home became well known to many of the Watch Tower Society’s traveling representatives, such as Albert Lloyd, Herbert Senior, and Fred Scott. Some even came from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, including W. E. Van Amburgh and A. H. Macmillan. Shortly after the end of the World War I, John's mother and sister are the first Bible Students in that area who went from house to house. In 1927, John tells his father that he wants to go with him in the preaching work from house to house. He finished school in 1932 and is baptized shortly after that. Became a member of the London Bethel family in April 1939. Served 3 years as circuit overseer and returned to London Bethel in April 1946. 1960 married Mildred Willett, a long time pioneer. 1977 became a member of the Governing Body at Brooklyn Bethel.

Samuel F. Herd

Born in 1935. Samuel Herd started pioneering in 1958, and from 1965 to 1997, he was in the circuit and district work. He and his wife, Gloria, have been part of the United States Bethel family, where Brother Herd has been working in the Service Department. He was also serving as a helper to the Service Committee.

Geoffrey Jackson

Born in 1955. Brother Jackson started pioneering in February 1971 in Tasmania, the island state of Australia. In June 1974, he married Jeanette. They were appointed to serve as special pioneers. From 1979 to 2003, they served as missionaries in Tuvalu, Samoa, and Fiji—island nations in the South Pacific. While in the islands, Brother and Sister Jackson also contributed much to the work of translating Bible literature. Beginning in 1992, Brother Jackson served on the Branch Committee in Samoa, and from 1996, on the Branch Committee in Fiji. In April 2003, he and Jenny became part of the United States Bethel family and began to work in the Translation Services Department.

Theodore Jaracz

Born in 1925. Brother Jaracz was baptized in the 40s. 1951 He was sent to Australia as branch overseer. He greatly encouraged the brothers throughout the country by his zeal for theocratic orderliness and a fine lead in the field. He often took the opportunity to serve circuit assemblies reasonably close to the branch office in the role of district overseer. After some five years in the Australian branch, Brother Jaracz returned to the United States, where he and Sister Jaracz now serve at the Society’s headquarters.

M. Stephen Lett

Born in 1949. Stephen Lett started pioneering in December 1966, and from 1967 to 1971, he served at Bethel in the United States. In October 1971, he married his wife, Susan, and went into the special pioneer service. From 1979 to 1998, he served as a circuit overseer. Since April 1998, he and Susan have been part of the United States Bethel family.

Gerrit Lösch

Born in 1941. Brother Lösch entered full-time service on November 1, 1961, and graduated from the 41st class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. He served in the circuit and district work in Austria from 1963 to 1976. He married in 1967, and he and his wife, Merete, later served for 14 years as members of the Austria Bethel family in Vienna. They were transferred to the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where Brother Lösch has served in the Executive Offices and as an assistant to the Service Committee. He has a varied experience in the European field and has a knowledge of German, English, Romanian, and Italian

Anthony Morris III

Born in 1950. Brother Morris entered the pioneer service in 1971 in the United States. In December of that year, he married Susan, and they continued pioneering for nearly four years until the birth of their first son, Jesse. In time, they had another son, Paul. Brother Morris reentered the full-time service in 1979 as a regular pioneer. His wife joined him when the boys entered school. The family served where the need was great in Rhode Island and North Carolina, in the United States. In North Carolina, Brother Morris served as a substitute circuit overseer, and the boys took up regular pioneer service. Jesse and Paul were invited to the United States branch at the age of 19. Meanwhile, Brother Morris began circuit work. Then, in 2002 he and Susan were invited to Bethel, starting their new assignment on August 1. Brother Morris worked in the Service Department at Patterson and later as a helper to the Service Committee of the Governing Body. Appointed to the Governing Body on August 24, 2005.

Guy H. Pierce

Born in 1934. Guy Pierce raised a family and then with his wife started pioneering in April 1982. He served as a circuit overseer from 1986 until 1997, when he and his wife, Penny, became part of the United States Bethel family. Bother Pierce has been serving as a helper to the Personnel Committee

David H. Splane

Born in 1944. David Splane started pioneering in September 1963. A graduate of the 42nd class of Gilead, he served as a missionary in Senegal, Africa, then for 19 years in the circuit work in Canada. He and his wife, Linda, have been at Bethel in the United States since 1990, where Brother Splane has worked in the Service and Writing departments. Since 1998, he has been a helper to the Writing Committee.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We have (re)ignition...

After a brief haitus, I am returned. A writing funk was upon me, though I'm not sure it has gone yet.... we'll see.

Who knew finding interesting and witty things to document on a regular basis would be so difficult? Not me - interesting and funny things happen on a disturbingly regular basis throughout my day - moreso than most people I know. If I was a fictional character, I'd like to think my persona would be called "The Catalyst". You know the type; the crux of major events, the focal point of fate, the bringer of change through small actions...

In reality we are all exactly that, though it's rarely as glamorous as Tolkien or Rowling describe.

Samwise makes an insensitive comment about Frodo's hair.
Middle Earth is doomed.
Do you believe me - that you are as important and influential as Samwise and Herm-eye-ninnie? Maybe not to the "Saviour of Worlds" level, but thinking that you have no effect on the world around you is ignorant and (oddly enough) rather self absorbed...

Think about it - giving free rein to your actions, believing that nobody cares or notices, shows a complete lack of respect and love for anyone within swinging distance. It is only when we curb our own foul moods, chuck a smile on our face and say a cheery hello to those we meet, that we acknowledge the power we can wield.

Yeah yeah, I know you already know this. I also know how easy it is to simply auto-pilot our way through the day! We get into a routine, dance through the day with practiced steps and scripted conversations. While we are not being nasty to anyone, we are certainly operating in a large 'grey area' of non-effect. But is being invisible to everyone acceptable?

Nope. If left alone, the world continually drifts downwards into depravity. We rely on each other to put some lift into our wings - a passing (genuine) smile, an unneccesary 'Thank you', or maybe just shouting someone a coffee.

BEHOLD! My coffee mug of +∞ Awesome!
For that is exactly what happened to me this morning. I took a detour from my usual routine, and a good friend sat down and shouted me a coffee. I knew he was in a rush, and that I didn't really have any value to add to his day, but we sat and we talked. I observed the way he was consistently cheerful with everyone around him, despite the fact I know he has more stress and complications to deal with than any of them.

It made me look back over the last couple of weeks, and realise that I was auto-piloting through everything - worse than that, sometimes I was downright grumpy. And despite all of the things troubling me, there is no excuse for radiating my stress onto others. In fact, it's my duty as a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle, and as a Christian to always put forth the best version of myself possible.

So cheer up, losers. We can be the catalyst for a glimmer of joy in someones otherwise bland day. Let's call it the Butterfly Effect (1)....

(1) My god that was a terrible movie. I laughed like a drain when Peter Griffin from Family Guy herds his family into their Panic Room...

[Lois]   "What is this Peter?"

[Peter] "Oh, it's a Panic Room. I got the idea while I was watching that movie..... the Butterfly Effect, and I kept thinking "Man, this movie is terrible! I wish there was somewhere I could escape to - somewhere this movie couldn't find me..."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On a note on my windscreen...

Work was hard today.

Perhaps I've been pushing too hard with the exercise regime - swimming in the morning, gym in the afternoon, and a walk up Mount Painter in the evening with Sarah. It leaves me feeling lethargic the next day, to the point where you feel like you're walking through molasses.

That is how I felt this afternoon - it was hot, it was late, and I was bone tired. So when we headed to the shops to gather comestibles for dinner, all I wanted was to get in and out quickly; however, something strange happened.

*blip* Pause story, narrator enters from stage right...

You know what is wrong with the world today? Nobody breaks the mold. The vast majority of people simply exist, auto-piloting their way through the working week only to greet the weekend with drinking and T.V.  We are encouraged to look after ourselves, doing what is necessary to get the maximum from the least amount of effort.

And do you know what the product of this environment is? Nobody speaks up. Nobody is different; unless they are, and then everyone attacks them like an immune system on a virus. In our haste to not stand out, we keep our heads down and eyes firmly shut.

A group of teenage boys attack another kid, while the adults in their suits keep their phones to their ears and keep walking.

A 16 year old girl is sexually assaulted on a train full of passengers, while everyone keeps reading the paper.

An pensioner is mugged in a crowded park over $10, with the culprit walking away unchallenged.

Why? In what world do these people get to act with impunity? It could be that everyone is scared of litigation, so terrified that they will be destroyed in the courts for defending themselves or others. It may be that men are not allowed to be men anymore; instead, being forced into an 'easy to control' caricature of metrosexuality - one that frowns upon anything that isn't fashionable and completely accepting.

Who knows! All I know is that everyone is so scared to be separate from the shuffling masses that they refuse to help anyone in need, refuse to ACT when the situation calls for it.

*Story resumes*

As we pulled in to Coles, there was a lady struggling to push her trolley to the car. She had her daughter asleep in her arms, a very young son trying to help push the trolley while she led the front with her spare hand. It looked extremely difficult.... so I jumped out of the car and asked if I could push the trolley for her.

The look on her face is what makes my blood boil; she looked shocked first, then scared, then suspicious, confused, relieved, and finally thankful. We had a good chat on the way to her car, and I got a high five off her son.

Are we not all ashamed of ourselves, given her reaction? How can we not feel we have failed somehow?

It is MY fault that her first thoughts were of mistrust and fright. It is my fault, your fault, and everyone's fault, because we do not stand up and ACT when we need too! Every time we have walked past somebody struggling, ignored someone being abused in public, been too scared to object to bad behavior, we perpetuate a world in which everyone is afraid, and nobody is responsible.

What is the worst that could happen? Well, to be honest, it could be quite bad. You never know who is hiding a knife, who is unstable and violent, who is right or wrong. But refusing to do the right thing because of fear of retribution is pathetic, cowardly, and shameful - and I for one will not be confined to the "politically correct" mode of living.

What can you expect in return? Not much - a 'thank you' here and there, an occasional sneer for opening a door for a lady, and will generally go unnoticed. And notes on your windscreen...

It may not seem like much, but to have a lady take the time to write a thank you note, return to my car, and express her gratitude really made my day - and it also means that Melody knows that next time she is struggling, somebody might just help.

They might feel silly, exposed, daunted, or shy - but they might just break the mold, and start making a better community.

You next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Operation "Adonis" may be the death of me...

It's scary to think I could be unfit for the rest of my life...

... because there is a strong chance I will die this afternoon.

My 'Fitness Appraisal' at the gym went well, with Ollie (my Fitness Instructor) displaying the correct amount of compassion and disdain to urge me on to healthiness. We agreed that I needed to improve my endurance and general fitness through some cardio work, and wrote down a routine for me.

I assume working with the overweight/lazy/ignorant all day would drive one to find amusement wherever possible. This would explain his delight in prescribing marathon level(1) workouts on assorted equipment, every day. Or he is an extremely blood-shy assassin, trying to trigger a heart attack.

My circuit is thus:
Run, Solo. Run.
  • Cross Trainer - 10 minutes at Level 5, staying above 60RPM.

    Never used a cross trainer? Me neither. Essentially, it allows you to endure the pain of running without the pleasure of ever getting anywhere. To compensate for the low impact on your knees and ankles, the Cross Trainer has two handles that constantly try to break your nose.

    The 'level' signifies the amount of resistance - 1 being normal running, and 10 being encased in Carbonite.
  • Rowing Machine - 4 x 200 meters. Under 2 minutes each, with 1 minute break.

    My legs feel like jelly, so a machine based on upper body strength sounds good. Unfortunately, 2 minutes is not long, and 200 meters in a boat is ages. Especially without an engine. I mean, really; who rows boats anymore? With an entire peleton of stationary cyclists watching, I began rowing my way through the gym.

    Thankfully, my technique got better as I went along, and my times improved - the last stint was finished in 1:57, but then my arms fell off and burst into flames.

    •  Stationary Cycle - 10 minutes @ Level 5, 30 seconds at 110rpm, 30 seconds at 70rpm alternating.

      Like the Cross Trainer, this instrument of pain keeps you staring at a wall while you desperately try to throw yourself through it. I spent my time here debating whether sitting on a cactus would be more comfortable than the oddly shaped seat; this helped distract myself from the twin pillars of pain that were my legs.

      My heart rate peaked at around 135bpm on the bike, which burst several important blood vessels. Judging by the roaring noise in my ears, I suspect my eardrums also exploded.
      Stationary Cycling - It's nothing like Tron.
    • The Meat Grinder - 10 minutes @ Level 5, 2 minutes at 60rpm, 1 minute at rest

      I actually have no idea what this contraption was called, but 'Meat Grinder' seems the most appropriate. Basically, you stand in front of an oversized fishing reel with two handles, and attempt to spin them. Think of riding a bicycle with your hands - except less comfortable.

      Again with the Level thing. Level 1 being easy, Level 10 feels like trying to reel in a Cargo Ship. About 30 seconds in, I started using my body weight and hips to help twist the accursed machine. I cried my way until 5 minutes, then admitted defeat.

    On the upside, my eating habits have cleaned up significantly and I have way more energy. Huzzah!

    Coupled with swimming in the morning, and going for a longish walk at night, I should be in the clear soon enough.

    (1) Perhaps not a proper marathon. Definitely more than a movie marathon though...

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Jehovah's Witnesses Episode #3 - The Clone Wars

    Alright - so we have the basic structure of the Religion. From here I will try and describe my upbringing in the Church, expanding on teachings as I go.

    My mother came from a religiously split family - her mother became a JW whilst her husband remained cool and awesome. When they had kids, they were taken to church from Day 1 and taught as JW's - The father had no interest in religion, and just wanted to fish.

    My fathers family became JW's when he was about 16 after receiving a knock at the door from evangelists. My dad was entranced by the amount of young girls in the congregation, and went along willingly.

    By the time I was born, they had already been married and served as Baptised Publishers for years. Any relationships from before their conversion were long gone, and a massive new network of friends inside the church was in place. One needs to understand the mindset of the JW's in this concern - the way they view the outside world is important.

    There are no walls, no compounds (apart from Bethel) - there is simply a perspective similar to Islam, but without the hatred.

    By choosing God's rule, they qualify to be put on the "right hand" of Christ as he separates "the sheep" from "the goats." In his prophecy about the last days, Jesus foretold: "All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left." The sheep are humble people who associate with and support Christ's brothers, submitting to God's rule. The goats are stubborn people who reject Christ's brothers and do nothing to support God's rule. With what result? Jesus said: "These [the goats] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones [the sheep] into everlasting life."—Matthew 25:31-46.

    Only those who support God's Organisation are at God's right hand; a position of privilege!

    But what of those outside? The descriptions of 'Wordly people' are a mixture of pity (for being so misled) and fear (for being directly influenced by the Devil). I was taught to view the world's population as a shambling mass of blind and ignorant people.

    Below is an illustration used to depict the 'world' outside the JW's

    Herp derpa derp...

    Of course, you are bound to meet people along the way that are clearly not ignorant or blind - and here we introduce The Devil.

    Satan was originally an angel, living up with God and his peeps. When God created the earth and humans, Satan felt the need to mess God's plan up by challenging his sovereignty by misleading Eve. That horrible woman managed to drag Adam down with her.

    In a rather convoluted bunch of reasoning's, we are taught that after the Garden of Eden the entire world was given to Satan to govern as he chooses, and he was kicked out of Heaven with all the angels that supported him. This amounted to "a third of the stars of heaven", so significantly more than 20.

    If, after an agreed period of time, the devil managed to turn everyone against God, he gets to keep it. And God has to do a nudie run around the pool table.

    Hence, Satan and his cronies kick about, confined to the Earth and it's people with the express goal of corrupting them from THE TRUE METHOD of serving god. Because God has taken a holiday to the Pegasus Galaxy, he plays no part in what happens down here.

    Therefore, if we meet any non-JW who seems to be well-reasoning and grounded - BE WATCHFUL! It is most likely the Devil attempting to coerce you into doubting your faith. Here are some quotes from the JW publications:

    The Bible makes it clear that Satan is not "an aspect of God" but an enemy of God. (Luke 10:18, 19; Romans 16:20) He defies Jehovah's sovereignty, and his intentions toward humans are hardly "loving." He heartlessly vents his wrath on God's earthly servants. He accuses them before God day and night!* (Revelation 12:10, 12, 15-17) Satan is intent on corrupting them at any cost. His merciless persecution of the righteous man Job exposed his callous attitude toward human suffering.—Job 1:13-19; 2:7, 8.

    "An Angel of Light"

    It should not surprise us that the Devil can make divination appear beneficial, even angelic. The Bible says that Satan "keeps transforming himself into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) He can even fabricate portents and then make them come true, deceiving onlookers into thinking that the omen is from God. (Compare Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.) But all of Satan's works—no matter how virtuous or how sinister they may appear—serve one of two purposes: to turn people against Jehovah or simply to blind their minds so that 'the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ might not shine through.' (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) This latter method of deception is often the most effective.

    Consider the Bible account of a servant girl in the first century. Her predictions brought much gain to her masters. For many days she followed the disciples, saying: "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who are publishing to you the way of salvation." Her words were true. Yet, the account tells us that she was possessed, not by an angel, but by "a demon of divination." Eventually, Paul "turned and said to the spirit: 'I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And it came out that very hour."—Acts 16:16-18.

    Why did Paul expel this spirit? After all, it provided much income to the masters of the demon-possessed girl. With supernatural powers, the servant girl may have told farmers when to plant, maidens when to marry, and miners where to look for gold. Why, this spirit even moved the girl to speak some words of truth, publicly praising the disciples!

    Nevertheless, it was "a demon of divination." As such, it had no right to make proclamations about Jehovah and his provision for salvation. Its complimentary speech, perhaps uttered to lend credence to the servant girl's predictions, distracted onlookers from Christ's true followers. With good reason, Paul warned the Corinthians: "You cannot be partaking of 'the table of Jehovah' and the table of demons." (1 Corinthians 10:21) Not surprisingly, first-century Christians destroyed all their books that were associated with divination.—Acts 19:19.

    This is the environment I was born into - a 'theocratic' hierarchy spoken to directly by god and therefore beyond questioning, coupled with a xenophobic mindset of anything outside the religion, viewing 'normal' people as innocent pawns in a demonic creature's rampage against me personally.

    It was awesome. Imagine being so elite! We were swept up in the fervor of battle, fighting daily against demons and their corrupting influences in order to rescue as many people as possible before the End of Days.

    Only now do I see that those so-called demonic attacks were simply people trying to rescue me, speaking plain logic and reasoning about the aggressive cult that I was part of.

    Questions? Statements of shock and disgust? Donations of over $2 are tax deductible...