Yoga ruins your life*

At the beginning of 2013 – spurred on by the knowledge that I was entering my 50th year, and confronting the intimate reality that we are all mortal, due to the passing of my Mum – I decided I needed to do something to improve my health & wellbeing, and to proactively go about the business of doing what I could to extend my time here on Earth.

So, I began my yoga practice.

I started to go to a local yoga class, 6.30 am, 3 times a week, and immediately fell in love with it.

Nearly ten months in, I’m still enthusiastic; the class is reduced from 3 to 2 days, but I want to be there as often as I can manage because I have felt the benefit. I’m calmer and more chilled than ever. I’m ever so slightly more flexible, and I feel this is something for the long haul.

Here’s a vid to inspire!

• Check out yogatone online
Follow my yoga teacher on twitter

*HT to Richard Freeman for the “Yoga ruins your life” vid, and blogpost title

Pumzi – How did I miss this?

pumzi_2

 

Three years ago I became absorbed and excited by the work of a young writer coming out of Accra, Ghana, Jonathan Dotse, through his original Afrocyberpunk blog, and his nascent novel, Accra: 2057. I interviewed him here, and have stayed in contact via Twitter since. Afrocyberpunk has since decamped to a new home, here, and continues to explore Africa, Science Fiction and other related topics

  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered the fabulously talented South African writer, Lauren Beukes, who introduces the BBC radio show “Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?”, which I’ve linked to because it also mentions  most of the other names that I became familiar with through Jonathan Dotse.  Lauren’s brilliant Zoo City will one day make an equally brilliant movie, I’m sure. Buy it and read it!
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered Nigerian American author Nnedi Okrafor, who continues to inspire
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered the fascinating and innovative collaborative crowd sourcing comics of 3bute, which are so ahead of the curve I’m still trying to figure out what the form is
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered –and I’m amazed that this remained under my radar for so long – the work of Wanuri Kahiu – and most particularly the quite beautiful Kenyan scifi short, Pumzi

 

There is so much good stuff coming out of Africa right now, and I have to thank Afrocyberpunk for opening my eyes to it.

 

Welcome to Africa, welcome to the future…

Stephen Hawking on religion

Last night on UK’s Channel 4 News  Stephen Hawking gave a fairly simplistic response to a simplistic question re religion on night.

 

 

Go to 1:46 to hear Jon Snow ask “Do you think religion has been a force for good in the history of man?”

It felt like an easy set up shot, placed delicately to allow Hawking to hit his slam dunk on all of religion.

I would have loved to hear more – more vigorous questions…more of Hawkings views.
Here are a few questions, I would have liked to have heard him consider.

  • What IS religion and why is it so enduring in the story of humanity?
  • How would you distinguish between religion and people of faith – or do you consider them one and the same?
  • Some would say that it is part of the human condition to communally express worship – whether it be God, ideologies, athletes, gifted musicians etc.  Do you recognize that compulsion, and how do you explain it?
  • What is it that motivates and mobilizes people of faith to do good in the name of that faith – particularly in the areas of social justice, peacemaking, and reconciliation?
  • Who do you think Jesus was, and do you have a view of what some understand to be his teaching*?

*If you don’t know any of Jesus’ teaching, dear reader…check this out

 

What would you have asked Stephen Hawking?

 

Check out the new “Hawking” documentary trailer

Huston Smith – the obvious omission

When I made my little list of wise old voices, the obvious omission – for me, at least – was the incredible Huston Smith.

I discovered the currently 94 year old Huston when scouring around YouTube looking for Thomas Merton related material, and came across several short vids when Huston charmingly recalled meeting the great Thomas Merton, the 20th Century Catholic Trappist Monk and Christian mystic.

 

What a fortuitous discovery he was!

Born to American Methodist missionaries in China in 1919, and spending the first 17 years of his life there, Huston Smith is one of the greatest living writers on world religions, as well as hanging out with an amazingly diverse and fascinating crowd of cohorts, associates and life journeyers.

If meeting Thomas Merton wasn’t enough, he was also known to share time & space with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, whilst always maintaining his position as a Jesus Follower.

I love the title of his biography, “And Live Rejoicing: Chapters from a Charmed Life — Personal Encounters with Spiritual Mavericks, Remarkable Seekers, and the World’s Great Religious Leaders”


Wise old voices

tnh-gongAs I get older – I hit 50 in May this year – I’ve been much more inclined to turn towards older people as a source of inspiration.

50 is an interesting place to be – you feel mature – yet live in hope that you are blessed enough to still have many years ahead.

I feel easier in my skin than I’ve ever done, and am less inclined to be put in box about what I believe, who I associate with and from whom I look to inform my worldview.

Although I still am stubbornly orientated MUCH more towards looking forward to the future than looking back to the past, I have increasingly turned to older voices to guide my way to that future.

So, in purely alphabetical order, here are a few voices that have been whispering in my ears…

  • Alice Walker – scraping in at a mere 69 years, Alice Walker is most famous, I guess for the Pulizter Prize winning novel, The Color Purple. Alice’s life & work is so much more than that one piece, and has all kinds of important things to say about words, race, activism, women’s role in society…the list goes on.I’ve resolved to watch this movie as soon as I’m able

  • Jacque Fresco – is a good deal older, as at the time of writing has reached the age of 96. I don’t agree with great chunks of what he says, but I am impressed with his energy and intellectual alertness. Jacque has a very particular view of the future, and a broad background in structural & architectural design, cybernetics, energy efficiency and holds strong views about socio economics
  • Jimmy Carter – stands as representative in this list of elder voices as one of “The Elders”, an independent group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to work for peace & human rights. Beyond that, Jimmy seems to me be an amazing example of how to forge a role in the world that continues to thrive and flourish for the benefit of others, even after having probably the biggest gig in the world when he was POTUS and I was in my teens
  • Nelson Mandela – no introduction or explanation required
  • Thích Nhất Hạnh – is a relatively new voice to me. I was drawn to him because of one of his books, whose title – Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothersintrigued me but I’m yet to actually read. (I have a “to read” list a mile long). I’m glad to have discovered this eminent and much revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen Teacher, though, and will doubtless explore some of his writing. A copy of his “Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings…” has already made it into Casa Laird
  • Desmond Tutu - is a long term hero – and so esteemed that his is the quote that I use in my “Who Am I?” page on this very blogWho are the wise old voices for you?HT to Shambhala Sun for the pic

     

Gearing up again

imagejohnnylaird.net the blog has been more than a little dormant for a long time now, but it’s time to write again.

It’s been a very long hiatus, caused in part by a change in life patterns and life events

The return to a much appreciated steady job in the industry I’ve been part of for almost all of my adult life has seen me shift from a fluid and flexible workshifting paradigm – bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop, and pulling the occasional overnight-er to a more disciplined office based gig somehow impacted my ability to make time to write much more than I would have guessed.

Combine that with a more seismic shift; the loss of my dear Mum – a full 12 months ago – meant the blog simply went on hold.

I simply wasn’t ready to write.

Now, I am again.

So, with new resolve…and a kindly kick in the pants from JD Blundell to inspire me…the blog is on!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

HT to William Shakespeare for the quote ;-)

Support Bone Cancer Research – for a dear friend

In 2009, I took to fairly serious running, for a very serious reason.

Inspired by others, and most importantly the plight of a very dear friend from childhood days – Andy - who had very cruelly hit by Bone Cancer.

At the time, I blogged about my Abject Stupidity at agreeing to run, fully aware of my limitations, being then something of a couch potato.

Andy_C6

Since then, I and many others  -  collectively  known as Andy’s Angels –  have done a little bit to earn some cash for the Bone Cancer Research Trust
first in support of Andy…and latterly in memory of him, as he lost his courageous battle later that same year. We celebrated his life in a beautiful uplifting service, but the pain of loss was almost unbearable.

So, after taking a little time out from sponsored events for nearly two years, the running shoes are going on again – and I’m appealing for your support as I stagger around the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October

What can you do?

  • Firstly – the most obvious thing is to go straight to the Andy’s Angels JustGiving page and sponsor me
  • Beyond that, if you could even share this blogpost on Facebook, tweet about it, tell others, generally get your Social Media mojo working on my behalf, I’d be extremely grateful.

With love to Andy and Sara and the kids…

 

More on running for Andy on johnnylaird.net

The Salvation Army & Homosexuality – One Salvationist’s important contribution to the conversation

Swedish Salvation Army Officer, Patrick Olterman has produced a series of blog posts that represent possibly the most comprehensive personal view of The Salvation Army and homosexuality that’s available anywhere at the moment.

It’s a big read –expansive (12 individual blogposts…and counting), in-depth, personal yet highly relevant for the movement in general and possibly with some important resonances for other Churches exploring their relationship with and response to the LGBT community.

The posts have appeared for the first time an English translation, I believe, in two places almost simultaneously.

You can read them at Patrik’s own blog, “Warcry – An Epic Love Story Played Out on a Battlefield”, or alternatively at a niche site for Former Salvation Army Officers that is run by Sven Ljungholm, who is responsible for the translation from the original Swedish into English. By all accounts, people are saying that Sven has done a great job in translating Patrik’s series of posts.

The reason I mention both is that I’ve found it useful to refer to both versions. Patrik’s blog has a clearer, cleaner aesthetic that’s easier on the eye and scans well as you navigate through it.

However, at the time of me writing this post very few people have left any comments at Warcry.

Almost all of the dialog and comment from others is on the FSAO site, where the comments are being used quite robustly, so it’s been good to dip into the posts there too – although if you’re unfamiliar with the site, or indeed The Salvation Army it can be bit of a trawl to find your way around.

Taken as a whole, Patrik’s writing is definitely worth taking some time to read, but if you can’t give it the time, you might want to check out a shorter post on the subject here…

HT to Patrik for the pic

Missiome Possible

Online buddy, Martin Thompson, who blogs at Missiome and was one of my early points of reference when starting on my own blogging journey is going through a rich vein of form at the moment with a quick succession of really good honest and exploratory posts about faith.

Martin’s thoughts have a lot of resonance for me, so I thought I’d share the posts in order just to give others who may not be familiar with Missiome to discover what he has to say.

HT to Martin for the image, and for articulating stuff that I’ve thought about, but never really put down in any readable fashion and adding so much more to the process

More on Missiome at johnnlaird.net

Dare to be different?

I’m not sure I’ve even worked out quite what this ad is saying to me, but I’ve found it in equal parts funny, intriguing and slightly moving.
It’s making me consider what it’s like to step out of your comfort zone, whether I would rise to the challenge of taking a seat, and also how – thankfully – I tend personally not to be freaked by what people look like.
Your impressions?

Another booze ad that made me think

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