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“Just Relax” “Forget” “Breathe”

Do you ever tell yourself to “just relax” and then continue to do the very opposite? Or tell yourself to “forget it”. Or “frick’n focus!” And then find it impossible? Well that what happened to me today. Then it reversed itself in a way I didn’t expect.

It started with a 75-minute hot yoga class at Y Yoga, my health retreat since arriving in Vancouver. Today was different: a hundred and one thoughts frolicked through my mind — which means today I was not doing yoga. I was stretching, and sweating, but my mind wasn’t connected to my practice which, by definition, isn’t yoga.

Before class I’d been Skyping with my bestie in Sydney, talking through different share-house options for when I return. Taking the tone of a confused dream, thoughts on locations, bedroom/bathroom trade-offs, potential housemates, rental rates, hours I’d have to work for respective wages in different jobs, comparisons to cheap-living Central America; thoughts on research, jobs, boys, publishers…

Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts.

“Think about your breath,” I told myself.

I did—for one breath.

Then the thoughts returned. I gave up. What was supposed to be a “T” shape created by balancing on one foot with both arms in front and the other leg up behind, looked like a wobbly “M”.

As I strolled home, weaving between glass skyscrapers, skipping through puddles, ducking under umbrellas, and gazing out at the boats, water and mountains, I realised something: It doesn’t matter.

None of the scenarios I entertain in my head are bad. Whether we find an apartment with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, or a house of 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, it’ll be fine. Whether I’m in Glebe or back in Paddington, or Bondi, or in Central America, or somewhere else for a while and then somewhere else again, everything will turn out right. The research, the jobs, boys, publishers… It’s easy to stress about things one has to or wants to do, find, buy, sell… there’s always more boxes to tick. But none of it matters right now.

I am not saying it’s not important. It is. Everything is important. But pondering the different scenarios is not. Life seems to unveil itself in its own time. Answers become clear in their own moments. I don’t need to be thinking about all these things in this moment. There are far more rich ways to be spending this moment. Like by actually doing yoga. Or by paying attention to the beautiful city I’m in.

That thought was followed by a small epiphany: What’s the rush?

I’ve spent the last five years living like I’m running a race. Every moment of every day has been put to use. There’s been a sense of urgency penetrating it. My motto has been “life is short, don’t waste it.”

Not “wasting life” for me meant seeking answers to some questions that were burning inside, and learning to communicate the answers I uncovered for myself. I started unable to put my questions into words. I followed a long line of intuitions, and in a way at the end of 2011 with a book finished and an article that came from my masters thesis published, that particular fire was under control. I have new questions, but they are less urgent. I have to finish putting out those little bits left of the old fires, but it’s much easier now. I feel a new energy. A new beginning. A new motto.

True, I don’t want to “waste my short life”, but there’s no point rushing through it either! Now I need, more than ever, to take a big breath in and slowly let it out. What’s the rush?

Alan Watts talks about how we tend to “run from the maternity ward to the crematorium”. Watts tells a bigger story that we’re a part of, that allows us to relax about our individual lives. There’s no rush.

And so, a new New Years Resolution: Do less, but do it better. Give each moment its deserved attention. Don’t stress over decisions — let the right answer reveal itself. Breathe in faith, breathe out fear.

I’m not in a hurry for ANYTHING. I keep changing my mind, so why worry about any of it. I don’t need to know what the future holds. I really don’t. All I need to know is the present. That’s when I realised something: I had relaxed 🙂

Happy new year!


As a New Year approaches it is tradition to evaluate the year past and plan the one ahead. The problem is I find it hard enough to distinguish between a week ago and a month ago, let alone ten months ago from two years ago. This blog keeps track of my life for me. It’s my therapy. It’s my timeline. It’s the closest access I have to how I have felt in my past. It tracks my stories, however I wanted to tell them at the time. So, when it comes to evaluating a year gone by, this blog is where I start.

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New Year, New Food Pyramid: eating for health, longevity and a better future

Before I begin my rant about food, I would like to say a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all! I hope it has kicked off to a better start than mine (7am New Years Day I was at the hospital having barnacles taken out of my feet) and that you had a great night […]

Feel the fear, and do it anyway

The first time I sat on my scoot I trembled with fear. I drove it around the block, parked it, and waited half an hour for the adrenilin to calm and my heart rate to slow. The second time I did some drills with a friend. My thumb hurt too much the next day to […]

Why does a JOKER trump four Kings? On Wit, Wisdom, and Whitehead.

Have you ever wondered why one Joker can beat four Kings. I mean, what does a joker have, besides a funny hat? How does a character based on the Fool, kick all these kings’ asses? I have been considering the relationship between seriousness and sarcasm, peace and tragedy, efforts to conserve and the innate drive […]

Brisbane’s Narrative Wreckage: Cataclysmic Interruptions and Redemptive Solutions

Content in living out your life: work, money, weekends, holidays, home, kids… and then something happens: a cataclysmic event changes everything. Be it a sudden illness or a natural disaster like the flooding Brisbane is now facing, everything you know – everything you care about, everything you have dedicated your life to, everything you imagined […]

Pepsi: when they don’t have Coke.

I don’t drink Coke except to satisfy the odd craving on a hot humid day like today. My only problem was that the corner shop didn’t have any. But they did have Pepsi. And it did the the job. It also reminded me of the The Invention of Lying, and this awesome (and very truthful) […]

Murphy’s Law Day and a Couple of Lifesavers

Have you ever had “one of those days”, where everything that can go wrong, does? There’s a name for it. Murphy’s Law. Today was one of those days… but thanks to a couple of lifesavers, a Jacuzzi and a taxi driver, it ended on a high note. Let me tell you the story of five […]

The gap between school and real-life

Does school prepare us for life in the real world? Is knowledge passed from academia to public spheres? Are we learning from the past, or do we continue to make the same mistakes? How well do we really understand ourselves and others in our geopolitical, social, and historical context? It seems to me there are major […]

Other Gaps in the Distribution of Knowledge

Last week I wrote about the gap between school and life-there-after, and I gather from the feedback quite a few of you agree.. Well today I’m going to write about some other gaps in our society’s distribution of knowledge that I’m sure many of you have noticed: 1. A gap between knowledge within the university and […]


Yhprum’s Law and a New Moon Wish

Yhprum’s Law is the opposite of Murphy’s Law. As opposed to the idea that “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” Yhprum’s Law states that “everything, that can work, will work.” (Yhprum is Murphy backwards). Tonight is a new moon, the best time to light a candle and make a wish. My wish tonight […]

Who is hot, who is not? Socrates decifers the Truth

I want to kick off a mini Socratic series with a quirky YouTube clip staring Socrates and Plato: Who is hot, and who is not? If I wasn’t studying philosophy I think it’d be quite rare to think “today I’m going to read about Socrates death sentence in Plato’s Apology”… but seeing as I am […]

What makes a life worthy? Optimal trajectory and not fearing death.

I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil,’ says Socrates in Plato’s Apology as he stands by his virtues right till the end. For Socrates, a worthy life is one lived in accordance with (what he would call it had he seen The Men Who Stare At Goats) one’s […]

Parkinson’s Law: Using Time to Your Advantage

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is known as “Parkinson’s Law”[1]. I’ve been testing it out and so far it does seem true. I’m working more jobs than I ever have before: 4.5 days a week between two jobs, plus a part-time research degree, and working with an […]

The Cock Snowflake: Fractals

A fractal is a shape that you can split into parts, zoom in, and discover the same or similar shape, times infinity. It’s almost magic, this pattern which extends outward and inward, seemingly to infinity. I’ll use the Kock Snowflake (pronounced “cock”, hence my cheeky title), among others examples of fractals to introduce to you. […]

Is “God” a Fractal?

When I inside and outside my “self”, I see one thing: fractals. Fractals explain to me the microcosm and the macrocosm that our cells, bodies, societies, galaxies, and possibly universes and beyond, are a part of. […]



The Very Short Life and Times of Me and Kombi Xee

Love is blind. It makes you do crazy things. Spontaneous things. Fun things. And sometimes really stupid things. I think when it hits you you know the pain that lies ahead, yet you jump in anyway. The first time I laid eyes on her I knew. Maybe it was her bright orange skin, maybe it was the way she popped her top on cue, or maybe it was her cute button nose. […]


You, the Anthropologist, tuning your skills

Do you ever sit there, on a park bench, at the beach, or even out of your car window, and simply observe the people that walk by? What are they wearing? What do their facial expressions and body language tell you? Do you ever put words in other peoples mouths? Guessing what they are talking about. […]

Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical Discourse Analysis is a study of LANGUAGE, IDEOLOGY, POWER and SOCIAL CHANGE. ‘Discourse analysis is not a “level” of analysis as, say, phonology or lexico-grammar, but an exploration of how “texts” at all levels work within sociocultural practices,’ says Candlin in the Preface to Fairclough […]

Attempting Politics

Three years ago, before I went back to uni, I voted Liberal. Why? Three reasons: (1) Because my Dad voted Liberal. (2) I wasn’t interested in Politics. (3) I didn’t know the difference between Liberal and Labour (Australia’s Right and Left). Not a good place for any voting citizen to be. And certainly not the best […]

Youtube & The Global Pyramid

I am assisting the teaching of a master’s subject called The Political Economy of Conflict and Peace, at the University of Sydney this semester. My first presentation was yesterday and in the lead up to it I drowned myself in the political economic papers and books I wrote or read over the last couple of […]

The Pleasure of the Text: Sites of Bliss

 “If I read this sentence, this story, or this word with pleasure, it is because they were written in pleasure.” If anyone has written with pleasure, creating sentences that are near-orgasmic for the reader, it is Roland Barthes. The first time I picked up one of his books, called The Pleasure of the Text, I was […]

A small group of people can change the world

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that has.” Margaret Mead. This quote came from the RSA clip below: The Enlightenment in the 21st Century. The two questions I took from this are: Where are we NOW, how’d we GET HERE, and where do we wanna GO […]


Chomsky vs Foucault: On Peace & Justice

Chomsky and Foucault are two foundational modern and postmodern figures in the critique of “structures” of our society – from language to government to institutions – and analyzing whose has the “agency” to maintain or change these structures. This is a debate between the two thinkers, who have very different ideas about structure and agency, […]

“Te” – spontaneous creative marvellous accidents

Have you ever noticed that when you over-think something, it all falls apart? Te explains why. Te is ‘the unthinkable ingenuity and creative power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning.’ Intrigued I continued reading The Way of Zen by Alan Watts. The centipede was happy, quite, Until a toad in fun Said, “Pray, which leg […]

Putting PEOPLE back into Democracy, and Corporations back in their place

Following my rants on the problems with our current corporatist version of capitalism, Annie Lennox does a much better job at summing up what’s wrong with our current “democracy”, and how it came to be that way: The programming code in these entities we call “corporations” needs to change. Corporations are not people, and they […]

Carbon trading: the devil is in the details

Who benefits from carbon trading? Wall street??? De ja vu… Annie Leonard, my favourite “make it simple and tie a bow around it” chick, reveals the “devils in the details”: Three problems: 1. Free permits to big polluters 2. Fake offsets 3. A massive distraction It’s like going on a diet to lose weight. We […]

The Angst of Preparations, Decisions & Goodbyes

Soon I am off to Europe followed by the United States, with a very big question mark surrounding my return date. I’m booked to leave 9 weeks from yesterday and be home just in time for Christmas… but I really have no idea what my future holds. Exciting as this sounds, when it comes the […]

Follow the bliss

‘I don’t believe life has a purpose. Life is a lot of protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being… but each incarnation, you might say, has a potentiality, and the mission of life is to live that potentiality.’ Joseph Campbell is an incredible storyteller, spiritual guru, philosopher, academic (comparative religion & comparative […]

Open the Door (a poem about why I care about our future)

I am one, I am many, I am part of something more I dream, I wake, I laugh, I cry I see a door, and I imagine… – A shift, A new direction From hierarchies, pyramids To systems, patterns, webs – From unchanging objects To dynamic relationships From “ego” to “eco” Farewell fear, embracing […]



Have you ever picked up the phone to call a friend, only to find your friend calling you? Do you notice the moments of “synchronicity” when everything you do happens with ease, green lights all the way, the right song on the radio at just the right time? What does it mean to be “in […]

A curious boy and a curious old man: the voice behind The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 “The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970: 21) Paolo Freire wrote about […]

Juggling too many balls

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? Does your mind and body ever get to that stage where it feels so limp it hurts? Are you juggling so many balls that they all come tumbling down? Yesterday was one of those days. Actually until I left for a run about an hour ago, that was […]

Weaving my world back together: a weekend at Camp Coorong

Have you ever weaved a basket? I hadn’t… “Life’s too busy for arts and crafts…” or so I used to think. I was wrong. Weaving was more than relaxing and therapeutic, it embodied a metaphorical connection I was in dire need of. I learned so so much during my weekend at Camp Coorong. I travelled […]


Time to scratch one’s head

“Give yourself time to scratch your head,” advised Prof Stuart Rees on one of our CPACS sailing trips down in Jervis Bay. These last few months I did not listen to this advice. I have lived the last few months in a mad rush. I have packed up my life and put it in my […]

Losing my Identity (Scandanavia)

Imagine a world where being 180cm, 60kg, with long blonde hair, makes you AVERAGE. In Scandinavia, for the first time in my life, I felt short. It was a strange feeling. Used to towering over people and always kind-of standing out because of my height, blending into the crowd provoked a new stream of thought. […]

A Lesson in Anarchy (Christiania)

Even in Europe I seem to be drawn to South American cultures. Some hippies from Bolivia and Venezuela, as well as the Canary Islands, were selling jewelry on the street. Before long we were playing music, drinking beer, and joining the hippies and a crazy American family on an adventure to the anarchist town of […]

Positive Conflict (In Transit)

Daisy chains and love hearts are great and all, but most of us love a little conflict. Our books, movies, politics, religions, and even our conversations, are based on conflict. The stories we live and tell are based on the contradictions, the tensions, the heroes and villains, the differences of opinion, stories about the good […]

What is Life? (Krakow)

“What is Life?” Ho hum, where does one start to answer this question? The What is Life? conference in Krakow, 24-28th June, which aimed to bridge philosophical, theological and scientific insights to this question. I started with what I see to be at the roots of our understanding of life: our stories. We understand life […]

An Encounter with Evil (Auschwitz)

I hate the word “evil” for two reasons: (1) because of its religious connotations and (2) because its definition is relative and constantly changing. Same goes with “sin”. Two words with definitions that change depending who is in power. Every culture, every civilization, every person, defines evil in different ways. Evil is whatever the people […]

Micro-nations & mickey mouse money (Dresden)

I hadn’t heard of a “micro-nation” until I got to Dresden. As you probably guessed, a micronation is a miniature nation within a bigger nation. Apparently I’d visited one – Cristiania back in Copenhagen. And “New Town” in Dresden was my second – well had I been there 20 years ago it would have been. […]


October-fest in July (Frankfurt)

Student life in Germany is another world to student life in Sydney: free travel, small fees, and for the most part a rent and allowance paid by one’s parents. At least that was life for my friend and his student friends. No part-time job and no living at home – lots of time to and party. […]

Brownies, Bicycles, Birthdays and Babies (Amsterdam)

Amsterdam greeted us with wide-open arms. The sun was shining, the people smiling, “coffee shops” inviting. I immediately felt a sense of belonging. I guess because my mum is Dutch. Elderly women reminded my of my Oma, elderly men reminded me of Opa, and the language – while I don’t understand a word – reminded […]

The good, bad & ugly (Paris)

It was my fourth visit to Paris. The city of lights. Allegedly a city of love. Just not my love. On my first visit, as 2006 opened, my five-year relationship ended. In front of the Arc de Triompf. Champs de Elise will always carry memories of that moment. My second time in Paris, a few […]

I Barcelona

I love Barcelona. I love it, love it, love it! The arts, the energy, the colours, cerveza, cops on scooters, the boys, the beaches, the bumble-bee taxis, tapas, the sunshine, the shopping, the street music, the dancing, the people, paella, pick & mix candy shops, live statues, the language, the list could go on. Last […]

Epics, Tragedies and my Saturn Returns (Rome & Greece)

 “No single life story is pure tragedy or pure comedy. Rather, there are narrative mixes.” [1] I don’t know about yours, but that’s certainly true for mine. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher of the 4th century BC, wrote in Poetics that tragedies are enactments whereby human suffering brings about the audience’s pleasure, or a catharsis – […]


Returning to life

These last few weeks I disappeared in more ways than from this blog. I’ve tried to put my finger on how it happened. It happened so slowly that like a frog in hot water, I came to realise it only at boiling point. It was too late. Some essential part of my “self” had gone. Was […]

Building more bridges… backbends in Europe

As I travelled Europe, my “bridge” art project was on my mind. As a result, some fun shots, some (of what I think are pretty) great shots, and some memorable stories that lie behind most of them (which I will have to tell some other day). […]

Getting real: promising population stats & pending challenges

Hans Rosling gives an illuminating TedTalks presentation on one of my greatest ecological concerns: over-population. Let each box = 1 billion people. In 1960 it was relatively accurate to divide the world into the “First World” and “Third World”, the “rich” and the “poor”, the “developed world” and “developing world” or the Centre and Periphery. […]

Do you know the secret? The “Law of Attraction”… what the bleep?!

“Do you know the secret?” I was surprised when, at Hickory Tavern, I met a CEO of a engineering-programming company who, while talking up his black porche and high-paid profession,  brought it up. I thought only hippy and hippy-wanna-be’s like me were into this stuff. “What’s the secret?” asked my friend, accepting their kind offer to pay for our food and drinks, and get another round. […]

20 Essential TED Talks on Peace

A chick working for Online Colleges contacted me to share the following collection of TED Talks for Peace Studies students. I’m working my way through them and thought you might like to watch some of them too. Just click on the heading and the TED talk will open in a new window. […]

Welcome to Hickory, North Carolina

“Hey y’all! Welcome to Hickory!” bellows a thick Southern accent. “What brought you to Hiiickory???” So I have landed myself in the “Bible Belt”, the heart of the “hospitable South”. An authentic American experience. A deep insight into the psyche behind the democratic public of what many consider to be the global superpower of our day. […]

Telling stories…

So this semester, in Hickory, I’m teaching “Storytelling”. How does one tell a story? What distinguishes a great story from a poor one? What is the role of stories in our lives? How do stories reflect our identity? How do we use stories to create our identity? […]


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell looks at myths and psychology – showing the connection between the stages of the “monomyth” seen in religion, movies and the journey of each of our lives. I’m using this book along with some other Joseph Campbell books and videos for my class… “The mythological hero, setting […]

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for? What do you want? If you don’t know, how will you know when you have it? This was a problem faced after eating a mushroom in Amsterdam. We were walking around aimlessly. We didn’t know what we were looking for! My friend through up her arms, “How are we going to […]

Attention and Ignore-ance

Did you know that Eskimos have five words for snow while the Aztecs had one word for snow-rain-hail combined? That which we do not have the vocabulary for, we tend not to notice. Those things which we notice, we create a vocabulary for. Through the processes of noticing, vocalizing, pondering and comprehending, we build up an understanding of the world in which we live.

The woe of efficiency

Inefficiency is a good thing,” a wise friend informed me six months ago. I must have looked confused. “When I said this to a room full of corporates, you should have seen the horror on their faces!” My face would have read pretty much the same. Inefficiency is good??? “How?” I asked in almost disbelief. […]


Where do good ideas come from?

“Art is the imagination at play in the field of time. Let yourself play.” [1] Do you ever wonder where your good ideas come from? Have you ever tried tracing them back to their source/s? When you have writer’s block or the equivalent, how do you deal with it? How do you regain your creativity? […]

Ten ways to change the world

Recently learning about the occupation of Wall Street, I thought it worthwhile to re-post my two cents on ten ways to change the world: Legally: 1. Change corporation law – redefine “corporation” so that they are NOT treated as separate entities in their own right that can be declared bankrupt in and of themselves. Corporation law […]

“Occupy Wall St” – bringing down The Pyramid?

What is #OccupyWallSt? Who are the 1%? Why did it take the media so long to report on it? What do protestor’s want? Are they trying to bring down The Pyramid? Will they succeed? I am teaching a class on the Philosophy of War and Peace in North Carolina, with a specific focus on the […]

“Occupy Sydney”

If you’re not in Sydney (like me) or can’t make it to protest, you can still spread the word about this peaceful protest to change the rules of our global capitalist game. Stop banks and corporations: – reducing humans to commodities – controlling media – funding both sides of wars – destroying the environment SATURDAY […]

Occupying DC

In DC on Tuesday 18th October, I had a chance to observe and talk directly with protestors, learning more about what they are really about. Camps and protests have been spreading throughout the city, I came across two of them. Each were occupied by a mixed age group, mainly students, retirees, and unemployed. Some had […]

“Shareholder Capitalism” VS “Socialised Capitalism”

Why did our political leaders bail out banks (who caused the GFC) rather than the public (who lost wealth and jobs as a result)? Why did governments spend trillions of dollars repairing a system that, in the well-known cycle of booms and busts, is destined to crash once again? Why are they bandaiding problems caught […]


How do you “know” something? How do you know it is “true”? I have been going through old diaries, intrigued by the development of thoughts and ideas through time. The following is a little rant I had in 2009 about knowledge and truth… From the origins of humanity, life and our universe, to the possibility […]

Evolution not Revolution

I’ve been thinking about the idea of a “revolution”, and wondering why exactly one would want to “revolve” to the beginning, completely start again? What would be the point of bring down The Pyramid, only to have to build one up again? Revolution may not be a dirty word, but it does seem kinda stupid. […]


Life can be tough. It can be tiring and frustrating. In striving for any goal we face a road of trials. At times its too hard. We throw our hands in the air and shout “I give up!” How do you know when to push through? How do you know when to persevere? How does […]

Life is short, break the rules…

 “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch […]


Chicago, Rednecks & Reading the Signs

Forty minutes into the 12-hour drive to Chicago I was yelling “STOP!!!” with my hands on the dashboard and a frozen car getting closer and closer BANG!!!!!! We hit. The car crumbled. Totalled. Thanks to some guardian angels that (thank God) seem to follow me around the world, no one was hurt. The next thing […]

Life is a Game: Alan Watts & Happiness

I have noticed that in times I’m feeling down, reading or listening to Alan Watts makes me happy again. Why? His deep bellowing laugh and sense of humour? Maybe that’s part of it. But really it’s his philosophy, it just “clicks” with me. It makes me feel good. Life is a game, says Watts.  When […]

Philosophy and Poetics: Aristotle

‘All human beings by nature desire knowledge.’ Opening sentence of his book Metaphysics. For Aristotle, it is the desire for knowledge at root of what it is to be human. Aristotle wrote on Ethics, Politics, Poetics, Physics and Metaphysics. This gives you a funny introduction, but by no means gives a good overview of his […]

Poetry, Creativity and Storytelling

For my Storytelling class today we experimented with using Spoken Word Poetry to inspire students’ creativity and as a fun way to tell some stories… Sarah Kay set the scene: Then I asked students: 1. Write down ten things you know to be true 2. Share and see what you learn from others’ lists (optional) […]

Poking Fun at Society’s Stories

Today I’m looking at the Social Construction of Reality How does society construct our reality? Comedians do a good job at pointing it out… George Carlin: The American Dream Chris Rock: Can White People Say Nigger? Eddie Izzard: Do you have a flag?

Social Construction of Wealth and Happiness

Wealth isn’t only socially constructed. Neither is poverty. Are wealth and poverty only about stuff? How about being wealthy or poor in time? Or in spirit? Pleasure? Love? Friendship? Does the pursuit of wealth in purely monetary terms cause us more problems than the benefits it brings? George Carlin on Stuff to start it off: […]

Social Construction of the “Self”

Alan Watts’ ‘Briefly, the thesis is that the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of sin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East – in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. This hallucination underlies the misuse […]

Social Constructions of Beauty

 “Anata wa chisai atama!” You have a small head! — a compliment in Japan. So much to the extent that some Japanese wear a five-pound Small-Face-Make-Belt around the head while sleeping. Apparently it helps your head shrink over time. A good example of the role of society in constructing one’s idea of beauty. Behind “beauty”: […]

Education, Work and the Social Distribution of Knowledge

How do you know anything? What is the role of society in that knowledge? ‘Men always love what is good or what they find good; it is in judging of the good that they go wrong.’ Rousseau. ‘If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’ Henry […]

Tips for Communicating Inside Conflicts

While developing a handout for my conflict resolution/mediation class I came across a number of communication tips that I thought worth sharing. They are good for communication in general… although I will note I find them easier to say than do! Focus on behaviour not the person Base feedback on direct observations rather than inferences […]

Conflict Resolution Techniques

Today I’m teaching my class some conflict resolution techniques & tips… so I thought I’d share with you. The aim of Galtung’s method is to transcend, to go beyond, the original conflicting interests, to achieve more than each party’s stated goals. Not either/or, but BOTH/AND… Mediation is usually done with both parties present. For deep […]

A Critical Perspective of the Media: Reading between the lines

Johan Galtung says that it’s not so much what is being said, but what is not being said. Today my class will be reflecting on the use of language and stories in the media. Discussion questions: how do stories in the media impact our understanding of the world? how can we learn to “read between […]

Psychology of Violence and Peace

Posting for convenience for a class I’m teaching… I’ll add more later. Stanley Milgram Experiment and Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment: Zeitgeist Moving Forward (2011) part 1 – Human Nature From 9min-40min. Share this article Facebook Twitter Delicious Digg Google Buzz StumbleUpon Add to favorites Email RSS


An Encounter with Being and Time

At the close of last year I had a mini freak out. “Where did 2010 go?” This year is another story. “Is 2011 every going to end?” It feels like three years since last Christmas. How does that work? What is the connection between external time (or cosmological time) – earth’s rotations – and internal […]

Prayers and positive meditations, please…

On Tuesday I leave Hickory for two weeks traveling through New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and home to Sydney. After all the mishaps this year, I have a request… I would really like to make it home safe, in one piece. No more freak accidents, please! If you have a moment to say a short prayer […]

Chemistry, Timing & Ted’s Colour Criteria

What’s the difference between a “modernist love” and a “romantic love”? Is it only fools who fall for the latter? Is one more destined for failure? Let me illustrate with episodes 1 and 2 from season 7 of How I Met Your Mother – which is what inspired this line of thought… Ted compares two […]

New Moon Wishes on Xmas Eve

Have you ever not known what to wish for? Last night, the 24th of December 2011, was a new moon. Making wishes on a new moon is a tradition for me that started with two friends in Sydney right before we travelled to South America. We wrote a list of dreams, looked up at the […]

What Difference Does It Actually Make? Attempting to Compare Individual, Corporate & Military Emissions

When it comes to the big scheme of things, comparing our individual actions to the actions of corporations, government and military: what difference does it actually make? I want to know where I should be putting my effort: is more effective for me to cut my personal Read more […]

2011 in review

This year started with some great highs — a scooter, a kombi, a lot of work upgrading to PhD, a trip to Europe… It peaked then crashed, literally, when I was thrown off a scooter in Greece. I would have suffered a heart attack or broken arm better than I did having the skin ripped from my leg and arm. I am so relieved it has healed as well as it has. In the months that followed that accident, I’ve continued to be in a warzone: good luck vs bad luck… I received a large dose of both.

Certainly the three best things that happened this year are:

(1)  Thanks to my American, two weeks ago I finished editing my book My Brazilian and a kombi named Betty down to 98,500 words, and sent it to the literary agent that requested the reduction (from 250,000 words) late 2010. This brings to completion of three years of writing and editing. The feedback from my first real reader couldn’t have been more positive. Fingers crossed my potential publishers and future readers have the same experience…

(2)  I discovered a love and skill for teaching. The Storytelling course I created a curriculum for, and taught at Lenoir Rhyne university was a great success. I cried when I read my student’s feedback comments. An incredibly rewarding experience.

(3)  Throughout the year’s travels and traumas, I have grown in ways I couldn’t have if I’d stayed in Sydney. My perspective feels deeper and somehow more real. Paradoxically I feel weaker but stronger. I feel more fragile and more afraid of death than ever before, but with this fear comes an appreciation of every day I’m alive. I feel less optimistic, but still possiblistic. The world is in a terrible state, yes. The power of foresight means there’s a chance we can evolve structures to make the good more easy, enticing and exciting than the destructive, and hence innovate and create a more promising future. Will we do it? I don’t know. But the possibility is there.

2012 and beyond…

Now I’m now in Vancouver, relaxing and recovering, and figuring out my next chapter. I can’t yet imagine what 2012 has in store. I suspect it will be quite different to 2011, including this blog — that it will drum to a new beat. A little birdie told me 2012 is destined to be a fun and successful year… let’s make it so!



Prayers and positive meditations, please…

On Tuesday I leave Hickory for two weeks traveling through New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and home to Sydney. After all the mishaps this year, I have a request… I would really like to make it home safe, in one piece. No more freak accidents, please!

If you have a moment to say a short prayer or breath in and out a positive meditation for me… I very much appreciate it…

Thank you 🙂









Poetry, Creativity and Storytelling

For my Storytelling class today we experimented with using Spoken Word Poetry to inspire students’ creativity and as a fun way to tell some stories…

Sarah Kay set the scene:


Then I asked students:

1. Write down ten things you know to be true

2. Share and see what you learn from others’ lists (optional)

3. Go outside and write a poem

4. Practice with a friend

5. Share with the class


Raving success! Using poetry every student shared a story about themselves, their views of the world, experiences of life, childhood, dreams… a VERY inspiring 75 minutes!!!

It’s well worth checking out some others’ poetry from Sarah Kay’s playlist:

More info on spoken word poetry and Sarah Kay:


Chicago, Rednecks & Reading the Signs

Forty minutes into the 12-hour drive to Chicago I was yelling “STOP!!!” with my hands on the dashboard and a frozen car getting closer and closer BANG!!!!!! We hit. The car crumbled. Totalled. Thanks to some guardian angels that (thank God) seem to follow me around the world, no one was hurt.

The next thing I knew I was in the front seat of a cop car. Not in trouble for anything, I’m way too goody goody for that. The cop gave us a lift to the car wrecker yard in a town sporting a single taxi, who was out of town for the next couple of hours.

Desperate to get back on the road, and with the nearest car rental shop still 40 minutes away, we paid a stranger to take us – a dude with a neck wider than his head, and a belly so big it had its own gravitational pull.

About 10 minutes into the drive he looked in his rear view mirror. Seeing my ghost white face he said, “A-I-scar’in-ys?” pronouncing only the vowels. Is he scaring me?

“Nooooo,” I stammered as he almost ran up the back of another car. His truck broke down twice. It was hunting weapons in the backseat that scared me the most. “He’s seen our iPhones. God please don’t let this redneck’s friends come rob and kill us…”

We made it to the rental shop. By this time I was so completely anxious and emotionally tied up in knots that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep going. Another 11 hours on these highways seemed like a death wish.

So many bad things have happened on this trip, from the scooter in Greece to this car accident, and many things in between. I’m struggling to “read the signs”. Is The Universe telling me go home? Or challenging me to push through?

I pushed through. So long as I was the one driving, I felt ok. When someone else took the wheel I kept my eyes on the road and on the maniac truck drivers, and prayed many-a prayers. I was a backseat driver from hell, but we made it to Chicago in one piece. I had a great time roaming about the city, university, eating and drinking with my new Latino friends, shopping in Macys, protesting Wall St (yes, I do see the irony)…



Two days later flew to meet my Dad in DC. I was relieved not to have to drive back to Hickory on the highways, at least not for a few days yet…

Occupying DC

In DC on Tuesday 18th October, I had a chance to observe and talk directly with protestors, learning more about what they are really about. Camps and protests have been spreading throughout the city, I came across two of them. Each were occupied by a mixed age group, mainly students, retirees, and unemployed. Some had been there a couple of days, others a couple of weeks. Some supporters I met who have jobs join the protest even if just for an afternoon, to show their support.

At the first Occupy camp I visited, the protestors had laid their signs around a statue in the center of the park. They pretty much speak for themselves: (click on one to open a slideshow)

At this camp I met “Bear”, a more revolutionary protestor, who told me an elaborate story of his teeth being knocked out in the Egypt protests, many countries having warrants on his life, and his wife being in a prison in Morocco. I must say that seeing a man like him shed tears of passion when envisaging the future of America, was a moving sight. Whether or not his story was true, it certainly was true for him.

At the second camp I was lucky to arrive at the same time as a journalist, who I joined in a short interview with retired police-officer Stephen Fryburg. Stephen had been camping at the site for two weeks, continuing his original pledge to “protect the people of America from injustice.”

Stephen had several interesting things to say:

– “we need to be looking 7 years ahead, not just acting for today”

– “we need a return to the public commons, to valuing the community”

– “we need a Department of Peace” – rather than so much money going into the Defense budget, a Peace budget would work proactively to prevent the defense being required in the first place.

– “we need more of the feminine in politics – too often by the time women get to the top they are acting like men. It would help if more women were in politics and if those women acted like women.”

– “we need to hold politicians accountable for their actions”

The protests have most commonly been criticised for not really knowing what they want. I think this is wrong. The protestors seemed to know exactly what they want, even if they don’t know the legalities and logistics that surround such outcomes.

The journalist asked Stephen “what would success look like to you?” 

Stephen replied a clear answer: “above anything else success is the stopping of corporate control of our political parties.”

A year from elections, with Obama having raised 1 billion dollars for his campaign, it seems to be a cause worth fighting for. I have learned from friends here that in America “money is a form of speech” and therefore “speaking” (bribing) by paying for politicians campaigns in exchange for certain policies, is ok. This, the protestors demand, must change. People want their voices to be heard above the voice of money. Power to the people.


“Occupy Wall St” – bringing down The Pyramid?

What is #OccupyWallSt? Who are the 1%? Why did it take the media so long to report on it? What do protestor’s want? Are they trying to bring down The Pyramid? Will they succeed?

I am teaching a class on the Philosophy of War and Peace in North Carolina, with a specific focus on the Arab Spring. Yet here in America I might be witnessing the greatest revolution of them all: the “OccupyWallSt” movement, and its children.

When I showed RapNews to students a few weeks ago, I had no idea that it would become prophetically true:


People have been camping out in Zuccotti Park (formerly “Liberty Plaza Park”) for almost a month, and yet the media in America only started reporting on it just over a week ago. Why?

What is “OccupyWallSt”?

OccupyWallSt (and OccupyChicago, OccupySydney, OccupySeasameSt etc) are peaceful protests against the foothold that corporations have over the state of global affairs including economic injustices, environmental destruction, providing weapons to both sides of wars, controlling the media and making politicians their puppets.

Like the Arab Spring, the demonstrations don’t have a leader. It began with 1000 people walking down the street,and 100-200 sleeping in the park. The idea was originally proposed in an Adbusters (an advertisement-free, anti-consumerist Canadian magazine), who suggested protesting against the lack of holding Wall St responsible for their actions re the global financial crisis, global poverty and their pervasive influence on democracy.

Why did the media take so long to report?

Because the media is owned by corporations, of course.

What do protestor’s want?

I will be able to answer this question much better in a couple of week’s time, after I visit Chicago and Washington DC, and even more so after Thanksgiving when I visit NYC… but for now, this is what I can gauge:

Protestors are holding signs like:

“I am a human being, not a commodity”

“I will believe corporations are people when Georgia executes one of them”

“Money for jobs & housing NOT banks & war”

“We are the 99 percent”

Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Madrick (former economics columnist for the New York Times and author of Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America) recently spoke with Wall Street about what caused the global financial crisis. On Australia’s ABC, Peter Lloyd interviews Jeff Madrick click here. Despite the mainstream media’s attempts to make out the protest is “inefffective action”[4], Madrick says that “The fact is the gut feelings of these people or the informed feelings of some of them because there are a lot of educated people there, are essentially correct. They are correct that Wall Street was the principal cause of the great recession, that greed and outrageous pay was a principal cause and that Washington has not properly dealt with it…”[5]

There is talk of the protest being the left wing response to the “Tea Party”, with one big difference. Madrick notes “These people don’t march to one drummer like the disciplined Tea Party. These people think for themselves, have independent frustrations, have independent agendas.”[5]

Who are the 1%?

According to the Washington Post the top 1 percent are those American households who “had a minimum income of $516,633 in 2010 — a figure that includes wages, government transfers and money from capital gains, dividends and other investment income.” [2] Their average wealth was $14 million in 2009 (down from a $19.2 million peak in 2007).[2]

Documentaries like Inside Job names and shames some of the 1% who were responsible for the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).


Who are the 99%?

The rest of us! Anyone who makes less than $516,633 a year.The 99% are the ones who paid (and are still paying) for the GFC. The 99% want to work, and there’s lots of work to be done, but there’s no money for them to pay one another because the greedy 1% have sucked it out of the system and put it in their pockets.

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post breaks this down further: “the bottom 60 percent earned a maximum of $59,154 in 2010, the bottom 40 percent earned a max of $33,870, while the bottom 20 percent earned just $16,961 at maximum.” [2]

What influence does money have on politics?

For a simple explanation check out the “Story of Stuff”:



“Story of Citizens United v. FEC”:


The Pyramid: Laws, Population, Poverty & Ecology

My Master of Peace and Conflict Studies taught me that global politics, economics, military, society and psychology are intertwined and extremely complex. My attention has been drawn to the intersections of growing population, poverty and the ecological predicament they create: (1) For global population to stabilize we must help people at the base of the pyramid out of poverty; (2) We need six Earths to sustain 7 billion people living like Americans and Australians do; (3) Technology will only solve this problem if the people at the top invest in it.

In short, a sustainable habitat and lifestyle for humans requires the priorities of corporations need to change from the legalized goal of profit for shareholders, to the moral goal of improving the lives of people in the world today and in the future.

Let me recap a useful metaphor: The Pyramid. In Preserving The Pyramid: Why things are the way they are I proposed that things are the way they are because they have been designed this way: poverty, religion, education systems, health-related issues – all of our problems are (at least in part) designed to preserve “The Pyramid”.

Changing laws and priorities isn’t easy, particularly when The Pyramid has guardians around all its walls, protecting the wealth and power of the elites at the top.

Are protester’s trying to bring down The Pyramid?

I don’t think so. It seems to me these protesters are using non-violent conflict to demand a more mobile hierarchy of power, a global social and economic pyramid that doesn’t exploit the people it is supposed to protect. That makes them my heroes.

What can be done?

The power in The Global Pyramid today lies with the bankers and stockmarket – people with a license to print money or make  money from nothing – shuffling papers, or giving letting others shuffle papers for them.  If shareholders invest to make profit, then companies will continue to put profit before people and our planet. Even if shareholders personally care more about life than money, the system has become bigger than it’s parts.

Madrick gives some more specific suggestions: (1) “get over this obsession with austerity economics”; (2) “reinvest in this economy in significant ways”; (3) “we really need a different regulation scheme for Wall Street”. Unfortunately this latter suggestion, Madrick suggests, “will be very difficult to do given the power and money on Wall Street.”[5]

How can the rules that govern Wall St be updated to prioritize life and our ecosystems over monetary profit? Which laws need to be changed? How can the economy be stimulated without needing to fund both sides of wars? How can Wall Street be better regulated?

Will the #Occupy Movement succeed?

“Can I say this will end in complete victory?” Madrick asks, “No, you can never say that. But it may begin to change public opinion enough to give Congress people in Washington the courage of their own convictions. Many of them are disgusted by what’s happening and can’t get any traction for their own ideas and maybe they will begin to get the courage to come forward… The American establishment has the courage to ask one fundamental question: what is Wall Street for?  Do we need a Wall Street that takes 40 per cent of American profits? No way. Let’s rethink that. But the American establishment seems anyway afraid to ask that question and we have to start asking that.”[5]

The protesters give me hope. They are turning words into action, demanding their (and our) basic human rights, they are making peace a verb.


[1] ^ What’s behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, September 29, 2011; accessed September 29, 2011





Welcome to Hickory, North Carolina

“Hey y’all! Welcome to Hickory!” bellows a thick Southern accent. “What brought you to Hiiickory???”

So I have landed myself in the “Bible Belt”, the heart of the “hospitable South”. An authentic American experience. A deep insight into the psyche behind the democratic public of what many consider to be the global superpower of our day.

“You’ve seen a Western movie right?” asked my friend. “Well that’s America. Cowboys and Indians. Cut throat. Last man standing.”

Learning of the division between rich and poor contained within the country, slums in every city, 20% unemployment in the town I’m in, the lack of public health system, which is in part due to individualistic pride caught up with the dominating capitalist ideology that considers sharing of public commons a form of communism.

There are A LOT of churches, almost one on every corner. There’s a crazy number of massive empty parking lots. And there’s drive-through EVERYTHING, from Starbucks to pharmacies to laundry mats. The only think you can’t drive-through is bottle shops (which ironically is the most common drive-through in Australia). Go figure.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only Australian in town, and most likely after one month I have a reputation of being the weird tall Aussie that walks a WHOLE 30 MINUTES to the supermarket or work… sidewalks are sparse but enough to get around. Sometimes they just end.

Still mainly via foot, though sometimes in the cars of my generous friends, I’m getting to know the town – the bagel shop, the Lowes supermarket, a healthfood shop and local farmer market (thank GOD!), the YMCA gym, a cinema with $2.50 movies, the pubs, darts & trivia nights, and most of enjoying a taste of all the famous “southern hospitality.”

There are many things that will take time for me to adjust to: communication, for one – people talk with a lot of colloquialisms, and slang I can’t understand. There is a tendency to talk over or at people rather than with you. It’s just a different way of communicating – something I’ve been taking notice of in different cultures, particularly since my “having a yarn” with Indigenous Australians. A calm exchange of stories over a little weaving is the polar opposite of American culture where, at least when you’re in a group,  no-one gets to finish a story, and short attention spans entice a ping pong style bouncing between an eclectic array of topics. Cell-phones trump face-to-face communication, at least for the most part.

The food is greasy, and even healthy food seems to taste processed. Apparently they add MSG to a lot of foods. Even the water tastes different. At first I couldn’t drink it it tasted so chlorinated, but in time my taste buds are adjusting – I hardly notice it anymore.

I have spent this first few weeks living in a roomy house with a crazy Colombian zumba teacher who on special occasions cooks up her “Arepas” – a Colombian corn-cake – that tastes like, hm, kind-of a healthy sweet but savory corn-chip/tortilla cake. Made simply by kneading together corn flour, water, cheese and salt, and frying it like a pancake. Delicious!

Her Colombian energy was contagious: late nights, early mornings, siestas, exercise very day, music… I love the South American way of life.

Overall Hickory is green, hot, humid, quiet and quaint. This last few weeks I have had time to read, to write, to edit, to think, and to revamp this blog.

Over the next few months, besides teaching a humanities subject “Storytelling” and co-teaching a philosophy/political science subject on War and Peace, I hope to finish a lot of projects that Sydney’s social and work distractions have kept me from.

In the sports clinic the other day, where the most lovely sports staff are helping the repair of my legs (still from the scooter accident), I read a poster that said:

“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

I thought it was a nice reminder to, where we can, share life’s journey and successes with each other along the way.