Friday 28 March 2014

Words describing an interesting week

Complicated, a simple thing made more complex for reasons you are yet to understand.
Clarity, a state of having an understanding about why.
Confidence, a state of being emboldened to do something right.
Confusion, the absence of clarity exacerbating a lack of confidence.
Chaos, when clarity, confidence and confusion are leaning in the opposite direction of everything you want to do, that is really complicated.
Calm, when you walk away.
Character, when you return to bring calm to the confusion and calm by seeking clarity and acting on that understanding with new confidence by simplifying the complicated.
Concise, writing about a long week in retrospect.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Alan Turing: Victim of Prejudice, Champion of Modern Expression

My country of acceptance
As I left a Starbucks Café on Sunday, I saw two men sat quite close together in a posturing that could only mean they were at a rendezvous and they were probably lovers.
I felt gratified to live in a country of liberty, tolerance, acceptance, accommodation and understanding. This was a country quite different from 60 years before.
A great and different man
To a man, we owe much and yet he was different, persecuted and prosecuted but a genius, a gift to our world lost because the establishment frowned on an expression of himself that in no way affected the abilities he brought to his vocation.
To him we owe much for his contribution to the war effort during World War II for which he was honoured and as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, the Time Magazine had this to say of him, “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.”
For Alan Turing is today, a man, pardoned, celebrated and appreciated as the father of Computer Science.
Celebrate humanity above all
We all have needs and in all of us is a sexual expression acted upon by reason of our sexuality which in essence does not deduct from our ability to perform with excellence in other spheres of life to benefit humanity as a whole.
And as I trekked back home, I stopped by at Sackville Park where I also paid my respects to Alan Mathison Turing, 1912 – 1954, who as a victim of prejudice with the knowledge and expertise he brought to this world gave us the democracy of expression.
Choose acceptance
I would not speculate as to what else Alan Turing would have done with his far-thinking genius and ability if he had lived for longer, but we now know that the world we had 60 years ago is far different from the world we have today.
For we have the capacity for understanding diversity to accept difference and the ability to exercise tolerance for the greater cause of our humanity, if we choose to be better than what age-old beliefs and traditions have constantly taught us to do.
We must happily or grudgingly come to a point where we are able to express gratitude for our shared humanity, where we would not prejudge before we understand or castigate before we embrace – we all have a duty to be examples regardless of our beliefs, of tolerance rather than bigotry, whether we would rise to that challenge is for each individual to decide.

Sunday 23 March 2014

!Audacious Church, Manchester

A wonderful life
One of the things I do when I move into a new city is look for a place for spiritual comfort, and since I am Christian, I look for a church.
My beliefs which are sometimes accompanied with serious doubts and the self-flagellation of not being what I hope I can be, have sustained me through many difficult times in my life, through cancer and other privations.
If I ever got to write my story properly, I guess I can safely say I have seen my share of amazing success and lamentable adversity all of which I would put down to an eventful life, whenever the end of it comes.
Audacious, it is
Over a month ago, I wrote to the pastor of my old church in Amsterdam, C3 Amsterdam, seeking a character reference and I informed him that I had been attending the sung Eucharist at Manchester Cathedral which sets services by Anglican Church standards.
In his response he informed me of !Audacious Church in Salford. It is evangelical with a Pentecostal leaning and I dare say, quite different from many churches of that genre that I have attended before.
The name of the church alone is audacious and it is audacious too to break English grammar rules and put the exclamation mark before the word rather than after it.
It might be a trend of sorts, but since 2001 I have attended evangelical churches that seem to have an Antipodean provenance. Christian City Church which became C3 Global in Amsterdam and London, Hillsong London and now !Audacious Church all seem to have Australian roots.
Rocking my comfort zones
I guess I am attracted to the broad global diversity of these churches wherever they have broken ground and the liberal embracing community spirit that the church leaders preach and act out. You cannot but feel welcome in the atmosphere of these places. My C3 family was ever so supportive in hard times, love, compassion and grace abounded.
Whilst in the Anglican Church I would have been comfortable with the solemnity of Rock of Ages cleft for me, !Audacious Church praise and worship time does challenge everything about my Englishness, the music is loud, the words uplifting – the lead singer is wild, by my standards, the lights are low – I must eat more carrots to see in the dark, and it is almost like I am in a rock concert.
In the 4 services I have attended already, my 48-year old bearing with a cane sometimes wonders if I have strayed off into a place where I should not be seen. The youthful liveliness of the church is both exuberant and enthusing, you are quite tempted to exert yourself with that daring of someone half your age until you think better of the idea and sway with dignified posturing.
I can stay here
It takes a while for me to commit to a church, I guess for me, I try to find a place. In smaller churches, this is quite obvious and as it grows you already know where you can extend yourself. However, when you walk into a much larger church, it is quite easy to be invisible and whilst we, the English, would easily make conversation with anyone, making acquaintances that then turn into friendships is a much involved process we have nowhere near mastered – I speak for myself in particular.
Most of my friends, I have known for at least 20 years, I’ve become like the Dutch I once castigated for not easily widening their circle of friends beyond those they have known since the year dot.
As questions arose in my mind, the message today seems to have been spoken to answer many of my questions about committing, belonging, engaging, supporting within the church.
I know it would not happen suddenly, but I think for as long as I am in Manchester, I can make !Audacious Church my church. I am getting comfortable, but like we were always advised at Hillsong London, “Just keep coming back.”
The other questions that linger would eventually find answers, and where the conflicts remain, the ability to adapt and have as much sense as an old cow is the way to go, I’ll eat the hay and leave the baling wire.

Thought Picnic: Giving up easy pleasures for lasting happiness

Confused into conflation
How we have lost the meaning of the pursuit of happiness by thinking concatenating a stream of pleasures constitutes happiness.
The pleasure is however just for a moment, in fulfilling a need, a desire, some greed providing some sort of sensual gratification.
We are pleased to see, to touch, to feel, to taste or to hear, each moment as momentary as it is fleeting, coming and going as a series of events that we react to or chase after, but are never fully satisfied because it cannot be sustained.
Pleasure cannot last
Pleasure is a lustful pursuit and lust needs not be overtly sensual, but it comes with temptations, it exercises the weakest parts of our will and feeds on the things we too easily succumb to as it accentuates and exaggerates places where we strive to gain control and have purpose or direction.
Some pleasure comes with excitement and then the novelty of it wears off leaving us seeking the next thrill. Immediacy and impatience usually gives pleasure scope to bedevil us. Essentially, pleasure is not happiness.
Happiness is what you decide to have
Happiness is a state of the mind, a state of well-being which can have some pleasure. The words can be synonymous but the reality is happiness is lasting.
You can decide to be happy and with that might come some pleasure, however, how we please ourselves would necessarily mean we are happy.
It is when we confuse happiness and pleasure that we begin to depress ourselves, worry unnecessarily and vacillate between satisfaction and dissatisfaction that creeps ever so menacingly into every area of our lives.
The pleasure that ruins us
It gets to a point where we begin to abuse ourselves in the quest for pleasures that we think make us happy in ever increasing desperation to repeat the old pleasurable moment, yet we fail woefully at recreating the same feeling that draws us deeper into unhealthy choices and ruinous addictions. We become lascivious lacking all restraint and reserve.
When we learn to do without the props of ephemeral pleasures and still retain an outlook that is wholesome, positive, expectant and hopeful, we lay the foundations to the greater influence of happiness in our lives without being driven to either pleasure ourselves or please others in a downward spiral of despondent, depressing, dejected and damaging thoughts that fill us with misery.
Whilst you can be pleased, seek to be glad, be yourself rather than try to be something else, have your own voice and use it with confidence and watch how believing in yourself and what you can do brings you happiness that you can build upon and use to change your life for the better.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Thought Picnic: Let companionship make you blossom

They bolstered me
Sometimes I wonder about the power of relationships, companionship and love that helps people be more complete than they could ever be as individuals.
In the few significant relationships I have had, I realise that beyond the broadening of my perspective to things I would have never experienced before, I have been my most productive and creative by reason of their support, their love and their companionship.
Then again, when we broke up, I found that a part of me died, I lost focus, perspective and verve, the mourning period distracted me from a purposeful existence as I tried to gather what was left of a broken heart, broken communion and broken communication.
Eventually, I got beyond it, but in retrospect I have begun to respect, cherish and honour the significance of each of the partners in my life and for that I am both grateful and thankful.
Oneness to completeness
I once said to a friend when he was about to get married that the oneness of the union is more than the ceremony, the identity or the copulation. As he lamented his inadequacies, I challenged that perception of things with the argument that a partner is to augment and to make up for where one is lacking, the togetherness in thought and spirit would always produce an unbeatable team.
They are both coming to the 11th year of their relationship and in my view, I have never seen a better complementing couple in a long time.
Basically, we cannot afford to let conflicts simmer in relationships because that is what stifles the dynamic of supportiveness and augmentation that fuels the daring to extend beyond ourselves to do what we as individuals would have considered impossible. Companionship is more than essential, it is the life of creative expression to our partners first and then to the world.
They see more than we see of ourselves
Our partners recognise and inspire in us what we fail to see of ourselves, they accommodate and accept our imperfections in order to give the better parts of our humanity a life and purpose.
Yet, not all partnerships are perfect for all sorts of reasons, we sometime tire of each other, lose the ability to rejuvenate or rekindle that spark that brought us together, can drift apart even if we are in close proximity and end the friendship that for all honest reasons should not end.
When a person has shared of your life, they already have a part of it, the relationship might evolve but we are lesser of ourselves if we allow it to deteriorate to the point that we can no more stand each other. Yet, we unfortunately, lapse into such situations, dying a little more than we should in the process.
Love makes you excel
Watching the biopic about Yves Saint Laurent reawakened the joy and fulfilment one can find in love, what it does to eliminate peripheral turmoil to allow you to concentrate on what you know to do best, be it creative, productive or fulfilling.
Yves Saint Laurent celebrated as one of the most gifted couturiers of the 20th Century probably would have been recognised eventually, but he had the greatest support of all of his partner Pierre Bergé who pulled him through hard times and helped create his eponymous label when Christian Dior broke his contract.
What I saw in them was the power of relationship, the power of companionship and ultimately and most significantly, the power of love and how that gave Yves the impetus and drive to explore and create, despite the demons that haunted him.
Give love a chance
It also reinforces my belief that the union in any relationship between consenting adults irrespective of gender pairing is a dynamic of personalities and affinity, oblivious of what others might think.
Whether straight, gay, bisexual or other, if you can find love, love and love well, the pursuit of happiness is yours to grasp with all you can, we have just one life to live we all have the creative ability to find happiness and in that also have someone to share it with.
Yet, some of us will remain single, but we must not if love and companionship comes our way deny ourselves the joy of it, just because of our experiences before. Even I think I can love again. I guess I am a hapless romantic, deep down.
Give love a chance and watch it better your life.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Thought Picnic: Frustrate your frustrations and live well

Don’t let it
Over time you learn that the last thing you to be hampered by is frustration.
Yet, there are many things to frustrate you daily in all endeavours that you need to put things in perspective.
Perspective comes from knowledge of what you can control, what is out of your control, what is open to negotiation and what is not.
Do let it
Each situation is a test of your resolve and outlook, if you are able to keep your calm or find an outlet for the pent-up emotions, you are probably on to a winner already.
How you choose to express yourself to others in speech or writing can reveal a lot about you and your mind-set.
Taking a break from that environment for a walk and some thinking time might well have you back, the better and confident that you can handle frustration and whatever else might accompany it.

Thought Picnic: Your virtuality may not be my reality

Distance acting
We all enjoy to some extent, the comfort of abstraction, a little distance from the reality of things, colouring our perspective and affecting a deeper expression of empathy.
Information Technology does not make it any better by offering virtual proximity without the experience, we are deluded into thinking the keyboard and screen is the new reality and hence we are fully engaged with the situation.
None of this offers the truth of walking a long hard mile in the shoes of another which might be ill-fitting, uncomfortable and not suited to our uniquely shaped feet. Reality is always a different world.
Try a little understanding
We cannot always find the means to sympathise or empathise, but we should at the very least be willing to learn and understand so that we do not fall into hubristic omniscience thinking we have full knowledge, second-guessing the circumstances and thereby acting foolishly where our senses or our limbs have had no tangible interaction.
Be it drawings that would never get off the board, road signs crafted light-years away from the traffic, advice given to a circumstance we are completely oblivious of or projecting unto ourselves experiences we have never lived, we slowly lose the integrity of our humanity when we deign to extend beyond ourselves and extrapolate imponderables.
Learn first
That way, we open the door to the unreasonable, the consequences of which might be quite dire for others affected by what we do.
If you have never lived it, learn first before you command or commend and do not let your virtual insight rob others of their stark reality.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Thought Picnic: Those dastardly complicators of the simple

I am not indispensable
In all my working life as a techie of sorts, I have always desired simplicity and ease. The simplicity of getting things done and the ease of seeing those things work along with the simplicity and ease of being able to get others to carry on from where I have left off.
I have never considered myself indispensable and God forbid that I have ever crafted solutions that would make me indispensable. Rather, I have earned the accolade of building things to last.
The reason why those things last is not because what I have done is inscrutable, but because I build in the ability for people to understand what I am trying to achieve and they can see how things work without having to peer into a magical black box of intricate workings that befuddle and bamboozle.
The bastardisation of projects
Sadly, not many in my field see things in this way. Their inclination is to complicate the simple and encipher the legible to the point that if it breaks, it requires just their presence and expertise to resolve.
In my view, it is the misuse of knowledge and genius, it is both narcissistic, uncharitable and utterly selfish, much as it is expensive to maintain as the organisation is somewhat forced to retain you, not so much for your ability but for the fearful risk that without your knowledge this might have a catastrophic outcome.
Manage the seemingly unmanageable talent
In the main, such a situation is avoidable, but it comes down to management, the management of the expertise and the management of expectations with the view of reducing complexity and complicated systems to maintainable processes accessible to other experts without having to climb steep learning curves.
There are sometimes reasons why bespoke solutions are necessary, however that should also be properly documented with flowcharts, workflows and the essential algorithms that would enable another in that field to understand and manage that process in the absence of the architects of that solution.
Simplify the complicated
This also appeals to a broadminded perspective to things, openness and accessibility making the understanding concepts and solutions easy and simple.
I know this is a challenge to some, but it is left to the organisation to decide whether complicating the simple is the way to go or simplifying the complicated is the best way to reduce cost, assure maintainability regardless of personnel and enforce industry standards.
Break free
I have seen too many black arts solutions, works of genius at the very least but at the same time, they are an atrocity of imposing the difficult presaging the unmanageable.
After so much has been invested in this kind of thinking, when the organisation finally gains the courage to break free from the people and this thinking to embrace open, simple, manageable and industry recognised standards, it can only be the best business decision they have made in a long time.
The question is, can they break free?

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Thought Picnic: When your child is very different from you

Genealogies of uncles
Watching television programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? On the BBC sometimes fills me with some regret, the regret of poor documentation in Africa that means there are few or no archives to be researched for detail about the lives of my forebears and ancestors along with another more personal one.
That being the fact that my life is somewhat documented but if anyone of my relations would be interested in a future time, it would not be through my children but through the offspring of my siblings.
The plot of my lot
Now, as I have written before, I have made peace with myself quite conclusively after chemotherapy that the matter of bearing children is done, though it has never really been a pressing issue apart from the encouragement bordering on harassment of my parents in their desire for grandchildren, and they do have many.
Yet, as I watch the continuum of life in people raising children, not only am I fascinated by the miracle of life, but also the interactions between parent and child along with the attendant responsibility that refocuses perspectives of guardians in relation to their wards.
A child is always a person apart
It is a wonderful thing to be cherished, and I hope that the more parents appreciate the individuality and uniqueness of their children, resisting the tendency to mould them into something they are not, they can help them in the pursuit of their own happiness which might not be fully aligned with their expectations. Parents might find that diversity is a lively thing and more so a greater blessing to them as it is a reaffirmation of the personality of their child.
Most parents in their heart of hearts mean well for their children, and when met with great difficulty of accepting some unexpected and somewhat unpalatable truths about their children, I hope they would be protective, loving, understanding and supportive parents first and well above what they think they are to their community and in society at large.
Think as a parent
It is sometimes a big ask of parents, but some things are just as they are, and what would you do despite all they you know and hold dear when you learn that you child is gay?
Will your humanity allowing for acceptance despite the painful realisation it portends for a while, adjust yourself to accommodate the difficult or would you allow yourself to be overcome with depression and the indifference of strangeness and apathy leading to rejection?
Think as a parent should think – your child needs you more to face the world, do not throw your child to the dogs, in selfish anger.

Monday 10 March 2014

Thought Picnic: Manicured talons of keyboard dread

Coping with anger
As I have written many times before, anger is an emotion I try as much as possible to avoid. Well, I avoid it when it requires that I express myself vocally.
It takes hold as a trembling leading to a possible loss of my voice as it goes higher in pitch before it completely trails off. One place you never want to be in is where you suddenly cannot talk where there is much to be said.
In essence, I have decided that when I am so angered, I would rather leave the room and find a place to cool down before I return to apologise later than I could not continue with the meeting.
Fingers on the keyboard trigger
Now, very few things anger me, however, none do so as much as being at the receiving end of rank incompetence or incomprehensible bumbling.
My patience is so quickly exhausted by those situations that whilst I would not be caught blurting out an expletive to express my displeasure, I should not have a keyboard to my fingers because I would be parting with a piece of the mind I do not want to retain.
I suffer fools gladly to a point where my expression in words would both be damning and excoriating without being abusive.
Saying it nicely
When people waste my time, they had better be ready to be wasted with the coolness of expression lacking in any kind of commendation, but short of calling the person an idiot.
Yet, idiot would be the closest term of endearment and that would be effusive with praise. I have work to do and others have their work to do, when either of us shirks in doing what we are supposed to be doing with efficacy and efficiency, you can be sure someone would be so seriously pissed off.
You do not want to be at the receiving end of a pissed off letter or email, penned so daintily by my manicured talons of dread, no you don’t.

Friday 7 March 2014

Thought Picnic: What was I afraid of?

Reviewing life
As I made for work this morning, I read a news report in the Metro News free newspaper where William Shatner, Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame was interviewed.
At the end of that interesting interview of a man of 82 good years of excitement they returned to what he proposed as his epitaph, “What was I afraid of?”
Indeed, one does ask, where Captain Kirk travelled light-years on futuristic spacecraft at warp speed, meeting civilisations that fuelled the fantasy with imagination, the real life William Shatner declined an offer to travel into space because he was afraid.
Breaking away from hindsight
It is unlikely even if he has overcome that fear now that he would be considered travel worthy of a space odyssey, however, a greater lesson is available to us.
We must ask now, what we were afraid of, what we are afraid of or what we might become afraid of, for all sorts of reasons and do well to overcome the terrifying bondage of fear and release ourselves into the beauty of expression, the exhilaration of adventure and the joy of fulfilling relationships.
Breaking away from my fears
I see that in myself, the fears, the worries and the concerns that burden me by reason of experiences bad and horrid of my past, that moderate my current outlook and sometimes prevents me from launching out into the amazing wonder of enjoying my life as best I can, living to the full.
As I make do rather than make out, survive rather than thrive and restrain rather than let loose, let go and fly free, innately, I am afraid of many things, unspoken and undone, waiting for some opportunity or situation that may never come as I prepare myself for avoidable regret.
Break free from fear
One must talk to oneself, because the freedom we grant ourselves in refusing to be gripped with fear, the fear of people, the fear of society, the fear of shame, the fear of fear itself might yield a new kind of person, one you never knew you were until you let go.
The question when the reckoning is done, if we get to be interviewed like William Shatner is not to be faced with, What was I afraid of? We must from now begin to change that to, “I was afraid of nothing, I lived life to the full.”

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Thought Picnic: Push Right Back

Review, reassess
To a head they have come, the issues which should give you sleepless nights and having you losing your head along with others, but calm must reign.
The desire for order in the maelstrom of chaotic trickle-down requirements with no form or structure can be as distracting as it is confusing that you can easily lose the plot.
Order is possible when you can arrest the agenda and make your own. We have been pawns for too long in a political game of pressures that others have taken on and desire so earnestly to offload on us.
Push right back
We have to push back with reality and realism, adjusting what can be realised with the real truths of the situation. Honest and frank and let the chips fall where they may, but what should be known would be known.
There is no point enduring pressures of fantasies that the reality cannot accomplish. It is the precursor for stress and worse. We have become the dogs keeping the thieves away from the gates when we should have had dogs doing that for us whilst we slept soundly indoors.
What needs to be done will get done, it would only take a little while longer, and when it is done, we can be sure it would do what it supposed to do. Projects just need to get a sweet long dose of stark reality – Pretty Damn Quick.

Monday 3 March 2014

Thought Picnic: My Identity

To the point
“What is your birth country?” She asked. That for me was a different way of asking that question and probably the best way of asking it. She sat next to me on a flight from Paris to Manchester, she being on the last leg of a long journey from South Africa.
I have always has to tackle the rather bizarre question of where I am from or rather, where I am originally from because a majority of those who ask that question probably have not concept of the kind of origination I belong to.
My identity is related to my nativity as it is to cultural influences that are as a result of where my parents took me and where I have myself gone.
I come from many places
In essence, I do not have the traditional constructs of roots and definitions people expect me to have. I am proud of the product of the parts that constitute my identity and can conveniently espouse the many strands of who I am with pride and no sense of lacking a heritage.
My birth country is England, my parents are Nigerian; my mother-tongue is English, my mother’s tongue is Yoruba; I have spent more than half my life in Europe, and I identify more strongly as an Englishman than I do British, I find common cause with Nigeria because some of the fondest memories of my childhood were in Nigeria.
A multicultural construct
Besides, having lived outside England and Nigeria by living in the Netherlands for over 12 years, I have found both my Englishness and my Nigerianness accentuated and heightened as I appreciate more the profound influences of both my birth country and the country of my ancestry on my outlook to life and things.
I belong to that growing exclusive group of people called Third Culture Kids, we celebrate rather than repudiate who we are, we are a new kind of world citizen, well-travelled, quite exposed and difficult to fit into conventional identity pigeon-holes.
This group is growing
The more there is global mobility, there more you will see people like me and the sooner you begin to realise that we can choose to belong anywhere we choose to belong by reason of birth, heritage, residence or passport, the easier it would be not to have to ask where we are originally from.
That is because, we are originally from, anywhere and usually not where you think we should be from.
For the record, I am an Englishman of Nigerian parentage, when I have the choice, I am Black English than Black British, I do not have to explain why I feel I have more in common with the English than I do with the Welsh or with the Scots. That is just the way things are.