Tag Archives: Discussion

A humbling experience.

I feel tired, irritable and I’m dreading work today. I’m at the bus stop and the bus isn’t due for ten minutes, so I sit and take out my kindle. I had been reading I bed last night but I was half-asleep so I have to skip back several pages to where I actually remember having read. I’m just about to get stuck into the story again when an old man walks up to the bus stop and stares up at the digital display.
“The next one’s due in eight minutes”, he says to me. I nod politely but hope he gets the hint I’m not in the mood to talk. He sits next to me. “I can’t get the hang of this new timetable”, he says to me with a chuckle. “Me neither”, I say whilst raising my kindle up to make sure he sees it. He’s oblivious to it though. “I gotta go into town to get the fast train to Oxford. Can’t be doing with the slow train. I go every Friday, to take food to my nephew…” I nod. “…he’s an alcoholic you see”. I fold up my kindle.
I turn towards this man now. I realise this is a big deal to him and here I am, more concerned about reading a story that, so far, hasn’t even been that good.
“I can’t give him money”, he continues, “he’d only spend it on drink. So every week I take him food. If you met him you’d think butter wouldn’t melt, but he’s lost everything to drink and now he’s just in a horrible little flat. He’s been evicted three times and I’ve pleaded with the council to let him stay where he was but it’s the drink, it makes him so angry, so violent”. I feel a bit stunned that this man is telling me all this but ask “Has he done rehab”? The man smiles sadly, “We’re trying to get him a place, but we’ve been trying a long time. Comes down to money in the end”. I nod again, not sure what to say anymore. “I’m all he has now, he’s got no-one else but me. My sons have a go at me for helping him, they think I should leave him well alone. See, his mum – my sister – she asked me to look after him for three weeks because she couldn’t cope…”.
Then he looks me in the eye with a sad smile. “…that was twenty four years ago. I’m eighty one, he’s fourty five. He should be looking after me”!
We both sit in silence for a while. I’m thinking about how I’ve begrudged having to give for other people lately, how selfish I’ve been in comparison – even trying to avoid giving this guy some of my time. And twenty four years! Twenty four years of being let down – cos that’s what happens again and again with addicts. After a long pause he looks at me with that sad grin again and says:

“Everyone needs someone to look after them”.

The bus is coming, we both stand up. I signal for him to get on first. As he goes through the doors, he turns and says, “have a good day anyway, young’un”!
Then he goes straight up the stairs, despite the fact several of the usual ‘pensioner’ seats are free downstairs.

Bringing people together.

This artist, Luke Jerram, is placing pianos on city streets and spaces around the world.

As it says on his website, which you should visit btw:

“Located in skate parks, industrial estates, laundrettes, precincts, bus shelters and train stations, outside pubs and football grounds, the pianos are for any member of the public to enjoy and claim ownership of. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community. The pianos act as sculptural, musical, blank canvas’s that become a reflection of the communities they are embedded into. Many pianos are personalised and decorated.

Questioning the ownership and rules of public space ‘Play Me I’m Yours’ is a provocation, inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.”

I happen to think that there’s more this, in that I expect that some people will be surprised at finding out another person’s hidden talents. I also think that if you look at the photos, people are coming together and possibly singing along whilst someone plays. I love the way things like this bring communities and people together; it just demonstrates that people do want to have community and that life gets in the way sometimes. Such a simple and original idea.

streetpiano-luke-jerram.3

Beautiful and Provocative

I found these pics about a week ago via stumbleupon. I knew I wanted to post it but I’ve been mulling over it all week, trying to work out what I felt and thought about it. I’m still not sure but I’m keen to hear what other people’s initial and considered responses are. Right click the image below to see it in full.

Raoef_Mamedov-The_Last_Supper_Down_Syndrome_Full_Large

So, I work with young offenders. And one night, I take a young person, who is working out their reparation, to a club for children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Whilst there I met a young lad, of about 16 years, who ‘suffers’ with Downs Syndrome.

Now, I grew up in a deaf family. My hearing is fine, so I am aware of what it is like to be deaf and what it is like to be hearing around deaf people. I grew up frustrated with people’s immediate presumptions about deafness. I saw people treat my family members as though they are stupid just because they can’t hear.

What I am saddened about, is that I made those same presumptions when I met this lad. I had very low expectations for what he might be capable of, or what level we might communicate at. However, after he ridiculed my pool playing and then thrashed me at pool, we then discussed football and loads of other stuff,and I felt an idiot and a hypocrite. What’s more, it’s not like he’s the first person I’ve met with Down’s. I KNOW that I shouldn’t just presume anything.

Raoef_Mamedov-The_Last_Supper_Down_Syndrome_Left_End

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So, what are your first thoughts on these images? My first thought was that they are beautiful, but straight away I thought ‘Why’? Why pick actors/models with Down’s Syndrome? Are they being exploited? Why have I just wondered whether they are being expoited? Why do I feel a bit embarrased at or for these guys?

Over the week, I’ve thought more about the fact that the artist has chosen to do Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. I have no idea why he did, but I like this because there are verses that talk about Jesus as plant in dry soil, possibly being unattractive and stunted. The bible says that there was nothing attractive in his appearance. I love the fact that ‘Jesus’ in this pic has a pair of glasses sat beside him, if I lived before Jesus’ time and had to desribe what I thought the messiah would be like, I sure I wouldn’t have listed “short sighted” as a quality. I love this as a piece of art because it seems more real, more human and more challenging than the stupid blonde haired, blue eyed portraits of Jesus – the good looking Gentile that he was!!

I am keen not to have this post, and blog, feel like I’m preaching! I just stumbled across this and was desperate to share it. I really would like to hear people’s views on this and maybe get a discussion going. Share your first thoughts and maybe come back a while later and add if you have had more.

I’d love to hear from you. And by the way, I found these pics here. there is a discussion thread on that page which is very interesting but be warned, some comments are offensive, so please don’t go there if you might be offended.

Barrie

Charity is more comfortable starting at home…

My local supermarket, Waitrose, has this great scheme where once you have paid for your goods, they give you a green token. On your way out, there are three boxes in which you can place your token. Each box represents a local charity and after so many weeks, the charities are changed. The tokens inside the boxes are counted and each charity gets an amount of cash proportionate to what was left in the box. It’s a great idea and should mean that local charities are benefiting from local people.

But that’s where it fails. Waitrose, being a ‘finer quality’ store is too pricey for a whacking great number of residents in my community. Most people I know don’t go to Waitrose as we have a Tesco and Asda nearby as well. I would guess that the average consumer at Waitrose is middle class, white and middle-aged upwards.

Even if I never entered the store, you can tell this from the boxes of green tokens and how the tokens are distributed. Today for example, there is a box for arthritis sufferers, dementia sufferers and a box for volunteers teaching young children to read. Both the first two boxes have double the amount that the third has and this has been repeated time and time again. Charities that work with children and  young people, especially teenagers,  have done badly against the charities that I guess the shoppers can see themselves needing at some point! Which seems to me as taking some of the ‘charity’ out of the giving.

I’m not saying that arthritis sufferers don’t deserve a lot of help – they do. What Iam questioning is whether this scheme is flawed because what may be a priority for the local community might not be reflected in this system because waitrose draws in people from a huge area and they are mostly of a different social class to the local area.

I am trying to work how whether this can be improved. I don’t think it’s a bad scheme at all – in fact, I think it’s very good. I don’t know whether they should place similar charities together so every now and then at least one young people’s charity will do well – any suggestions would be lovely as I think I might pass them on to Waitrose.

Any ideas anyone?

Barrie

Living in 360 degrees.

Right then!

I found a clip that sums up what I think I was trying to say in my recent U2 post. I was talking about not feeling the need to go evangelise the world or be something I’m not, but rather enjoy my life –  and I think that I’m more likeable and nicer to be with because of it.

Well, if you watch this guy you’ll know what I am talking about! At the end a lady exclaims. ‘how did he do that!?’ It was by being himself and enjoying himself…

Barrie

U2 360°

So, my wife and I were given a pair of tickets to see U2 at Cardiff Millennium Stadium last Saturday. Phrases like awesome and breathtaking are used all the time, especially by me (!), but this was breathtaking and on a scale that was hard to take in at times.
The stadium itself was fantastic. You can’t really see it until you are at it’s gates and if you look up it seems to have been wedged in between office buildings. Our seats were dead centre at the top of the stands and I couldn’t have been more pleased with them. The view of the packed stadium as well as the stage was just great. I say we were central, the band did face our direction generally but they played in the round and the stage allowed for a 360° view.

I was going to add pics of the stage but none of mine came out well, dumb phone. I highly recommend a quick google image search to check it out if you can. It was so impressive that whenever it did something, like drop down or expand,  you could hear the entire crowd say ‘Wow’ over the music. The screens meant wherever in the stadium you were, you were fully part of it and clearly a massive amount of thought and design had gone into it.

The thing that has stayed with me the most was how spiritual the gig was. Any fan of U2 would know they started as a worship band and their faith, and struggles with faith, aren’t hidden in their lyrics. However, they are written in a way that people connect with them, whether they believe in God or not. They aren’t cheesy, corny lyrics, neither are they some thinly veiled attempt to evangelise and preach.
My wife said to me at one point, ‘It’s like Bono is doing it for us, for all of us’. And I think I know what she meant.

It was like Bono was singing words that made it ok for people to feel what it is like to worship, praise, have that ‘feeling’ that believers talk of, connect with each other and something more – but it was safe, non-threatening and fun. The lyrics speak to something inside and people get it. I know this all sounds a bit over the top – but that is how it felt.

I was in a band when I was younger and looking back, I wish we’d just played for the heck of it. I say we, it was me who pushed the most for us to be a band that ‘reached the lost’, (and I’d never say that now by the way). The pressure to not only write and play well, but also to have a spiritual impact took all the fun out of writing and performing for me.

Two of the lads in the band went on to another, better, band and they did it right; the band wrote great songs and had fun. The lyrics had religious themes running through them, the band are all Christians, but they weren’t overt and people loved them.

This is kind of where I’m at today. There was a time when I wanted to ”be on fire for God” and everything was about saving souls and evangelising. Now, I just want to be me and enjoy life, enjoy my family and friends and enjoy my work. Running through all of that is God and my faith but it’s not so overt any more and funnily enough, the only people who don’t find that acceptable are the overt Christians! 🙂

And just to wrap this up just like a terrible preacher would, (as though I’d planned what to write), it just hit me that my life is viewed in 360 degrees. Stay with me here, stay with me..!

I have a wife, a daughter, a ‘church’of sorts, friends and colleagues… different people have different views of me depending on how they are related to me – I’m a husband, dad, colleague, mate etc. I’m much happier being me and not having to project that I’m alright all the time because I’m trying to use my life as a demonstration of a best case scenario of Christianity. Life’s not always great for anybody, Christian or not, so what’s the point in pretending it is?And I’m not always a nice person, and I don’t always believe in God. If I try to show my colleagues that I have everything together, my wife will see that I’m lying! It’s easier to know everyone in the stadium is going to see me and just enjoy myself.

Anyway, I’ll stop there! I was only going to say how great U2 were and what a lovely time I had with Lisa.

A huge, huge thank you to our friends who gave us the tickets – you know who you are.

Barrie

Milkshake

In response to this:

I found this here and cracked up.

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I don’t have a scooby what that song is about by the way – I’m sure it’s probably unadulterated filth…!

Barrie

The Power of Visuals (Part II)

This guy, Chris Jordan, confronts us with statistics about modern life in a graphical way. Maybe not the first time it’s been done, but probably few other methods have been executed quite as well.

In his own words:

Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2008

Here’s a sample of some of his work:

Light Bulbs, 2008
72×96″

Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.). Light1

Ok. Let’s zoom in to get an idea of numbers:

Light2

And again:

Light3

Still more:

Light4

Again?!:

Light5

So – just to remind ourselves, that’s EVERY MINUTE in the States alone.

What about this pic:

Plastic Bottles, 2007
60×120″

Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

Bottles1

Zooming in:

Bottles2

And right in for the detail:

Bottles3

Wow. Five minutes worth of plastic bottles.

It gives me some sort of sense of just how big the world is but at the same time a sense of shame at my contribution to this junk.

This guy has done quite a few more like this, but kids PLEASE DO NOT FOLLOW THE LINK. There are some upsetting images that you don’t need to see.

Barrie

The Power of Visuals

I recently stumbledupon  two artists. I was waiting to post the first artist and before I did, I found the second. Both have produced really powerful images that speak of today’s culture, society and injustice. They both use what are essentially simple ideas to convey massive statements – in a way that anyone should be able to understand.

The first artist is Icaro Doria and I found his stuff here. This is a series called meet the world, using a country’s flag to convey statistics about that country. I’ll add the second artist in my next post:

Angola:

angola

Brazil:

brazil

Burkina:

burkina

China:

china

Columbia:

colombia

Europe:

europe

Somalia:

somalia

USA:

united-states

Amazing thought

I learned today that scientists believe that the original ‘kernal’ or ‘seed’ of matter that blew up and give birth to the millions of galaxies in our universe may have measured 1cm to the -26th power (I think that’s how you write it), and would have only weighed about 8lbs.

I find this amazing for two reasons.

Firstly, how the heck did all the matter in the planets and stars etc. come from something only weighing 8lbs?!I guess something that small weighing 8lbs is pretty dense!

Secondly, who does this math – and if you’re that clever, how do you cope with inferior minds like the rest of us. ‘Real life’ must be so trivial when you’re wrapping your brain round stuff like that!

I also learned that if any piece of matter was condensed enough it could, in theory, create another universe by way of a tiny black hole . So, I could in theory squash an m&m in my living room if I had the technology and open a tiny black hole, the other side of which would be another universe which I might be able to visit but could never return from.

Awesome!

I have lots of Christian friends and am a Christian myself – if anyone, Christian or otherwise, fancies responding to this i.e. how this stuff fits in with their faith I’d be really interested. This personally does not cause any conflict for me and increases my sense of wonder at creation but then again, I don’t believe in a literal Genesis account of creation. What do people think?