Friday, 4 October 2013

3 moral values we can take from breaking bad

Everyone we meet lately is talking about Breaking Bad, except for someone last night at uke group who said, What's that? 
My response was, Where have you been hiding?
Reactions are mostly enthusiastic and animated, but there is also a less dominant theme of moral repugnance running through reactions as well which I completely understand.  I'm sure this moral tension has been deliberately designed by the producers, as it provides a large part of the hook which strongly attracts avid watchers of this confronting series.
The term 'moral values' may not fit comfortably in the same sentence as 'breaking bad' but indulge me here. 
Moral Value 1:  Loving your family includes risks, commitment and respect
There's no denying that Walt loves his family to bits and wants the best for them.  He is thinking beyond his own finite existence to the future of his loved ones and taking great risks to achieve them.  Walt loves his extended family too, even though tensions run at varying degrees of intensity.  His sister- and brother-in-law are present at family meetings, medical appointments and are involved in gut level dialogues.  Walt operates his relationships with these people at an interesting level of transparency - in some areas.
Jessie is also considered 'family' in Walt's moral radar, as Walt is there in Jessie's darkest hours.  They are honest with each other through wild and unchartered experiences which challenge the relational boundaries.  But these very experiences lead them each to discover the value of what each other can contribute to the strange relationship between these unlikely partners.
Moral Value 2:  We all want our contribution of skills & knowledge to be valued
Walt's job as a teacher is a worthy and prized role by many, but it doesn't push Walt's buttons.  Walt is over-qualified, bored to death and unchallenged.  An old tension between uni-friends of years before who had taken Walt's ideas and built an empire, leaving Walt out of the picture, has rubbed salt into his wound.  Walt is battling an impending sense of failure.  His family is broke.  His wife is expecting.  He works a second job washing cars at a car wash where many of his students get their cars washed.  The whole thing is humiliating for Walt.
When Walt finds himself cooking crystal meth, and hating himself for it, he discovers something else unexpected.  His expertise is highly valued.  He has a reputation on the streets.  His product is of the highest quality.  His skills are in demand.  This brings Walt an incredible sense of internal satisfaction.  It feeds a hunger in Walt that cannot be denied any more.  Years of demoralising grind and hard work as a teacher have brought him financial hardship and humiliation.  But when he finds an outlet for his passions, Walt is a new man.
Moral Value 3:  Live your own life
In a family conference, Walt expresses his feelings regarding his reluctance to accept treatment.  He had never been able to make his own decisions, he explained.  He had spent his life living other people's expectations.  Now as he faces his mortality, Walt is tasting for the first time what it feels like to be his own man.  He discovers how gutsy he can be.  He can take risks, make his own choices and plan strategies which pay off. 
When his health begins to show promise, Walt feels strangely sad that his reason for cooking has diminished.  Walt is on a journey of self-discovery which is risky, dangerous as hell but also is the most exciting adventure.  Walt is finding his own voice and tapping into his own vat of personal power.  "I'm awake," he tells one person.  Walt is no longer shackled by the template of expectations placed upon him by anyone.  He is starting to live his own life.
Maybe it is a long bow to find moral values in such a series, but hey, don't we just love it anyway? 
Comments welcome.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

the art of conversation

We are losing the skills of being able to have a conversation. The ability to talk to someone - over a coffee or at a bus stop for example - to have polite and pleasant conversation - seems to be rarer than a popular politician. 
What conversation looks like
Person A:  I just got back from holidays.
Person B:  Oh cool!  Tell me about that. Where did you go? 
What conversation does NOT look like
Person A:  I just got back from holidays.
Person B:  Yeah, I've just been to Bloggsville. It was great. They have this place where you....blah blah blah
Person A:  I just got back from holidays.
Person B:  OK.

Lopsided conversations end up with either:
- one person doing all the talking
- one person trying to get blood out of a stone
Come on people! A proper conversation is a beautiful thing. It involves the skills of both listening and talking.  And it's more than just shutting up long enough  for the other to stop talking before you jump in again with more info about you. And it's more than spilling the random thoughts in your head.  Take the time to ask a question and demonstrate that you're interested in what the other has just said.  Allow the conversation to progress to a point where eventually, the same opening question about the holiday (for example) gets asked of you - And what about you? You've been away too haven't you?
The balance shifts to the other foot for awhile.  And so it goes.  Both parties get to share. Both parties get to listen.  It's balanced.  Although there will always be times of long talking and long listening sessions, overall the pattern of a conversation should have some balance to it.
Sharing skills
As we develop these skills of sharing, we get better and better at it. And we actually allow others to get to know us. There are skills to learn in both being willing to share ourselves to the point of vulnerability, and of being able to articulate yourself clearly and succinctly. Being able to say what you mean is a practiced skill.  When someone asks about you, they are giving you the opportunity to share something of yourself.  Willingly.  Giving one word answers, ignoring or shrugging your shoulders using as few words as possible will not encourage anyone to spend time trying to get to know you. If you want to be known, then learn to share yourself. 
Listening skills
Way more than shutting up long enough for the other to stop speaking, listening involves focus, concentration and active interpretation, non-judgmental body language, clarification, summarising, probing questions. Deep listening is a beautiful gift for anyone. It takes effort and is a very active and necessary contribution to any conversation.  It is the non-verbal communication of saying "I'm deeply interested in you".
Things that can stuff up a conversation
Judgment, opinion, interruption, trivialising feelings, jumping into problem-solving-mode, insensitive reactions. These are valid and important things in themselves, however can kill a conversation if not used wisely. Learning the foundational skills of polite conversation will provide a basis for building the more advanced skills of negotiation, conflict resolution or presenting a case in opposition.
Things that help a conversation
Tuning in to what the other is saying.  Laughing about a joke together.  Building trust through open questioning and accepting body language. Being comfortable with a bit of silence - some people need just a second to gather their thoughts.  Listening actively without judgement - make it safe for them to share themselves with you.
Why don't you try having a conversation with someone this week? When Joe Bloggs mentions his weekend tomorrow (Monday), ask if he did anything exciting. And take the opportunity to listen and ask a few questions. Who knows, perhaps he will tell you and then ask about your weekend! Before you know it, you'll be having a conversation!
Comments welcome.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

a stunning array of firey delights

Look at this stunning array of dragon's teeth! So shiny and RED! We've strung them together with a needle and multiple layers of cotton threaded through the stalks. Very easy to do.

Last year Meyles took seeds from a supermarket chilli and planted them in our garden. He did this because the plants we got from the nursery were always different chillies to what we wanted. So the only way to ensure we got the right plant, was to grow it yourself from seed taken from the actual chilli.
Here they are hanging in the laundry window where the sun comes in. They will dry out here (hopefully) and get used at our leisure. Next weekend we will probably have another string full!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Life of Pi_my thoughts

I knew very little about this movie so didn't know what to expect except that the idea of being marooned on a lifeboat with a wild tiger was going to be a good story. One reviewer of this movie says:

Don't expect to leave this story behind as you leave the theatre. Life of Pi has something to say.

I agree. But WHAT is it trying to say? Where comments on Google mention the visual cinematics, special effects, rah rah rah (which are fabulous, BTW)... I think it's sort of a modern day parable in that a story which may not be completely factual, illustrates a spiritual concept like the nature of belief.

Pi v Pissing
The big theme of the movie is a spiritual one. The first clue about this is the name "Pi" itself. It is shortened from the unfortunate name of "Pissing". The name 'Pi' represents a mathematical mystery which is never resolved or finished - similar to mysterious spiro-themes. This is a much preferred name to 'Pissing' wouldn't you agree? So each person who meets Pi, must choose whether to think of him and refer to him as "Pi - the mystery", or "Pissing".

Survival @ Sea
The factual evidence of survival at sea in a lifeboat during storms, hunger, thirst and fear with a wild tiger, orangutan, hyena and zebra is also called into question at the end of the movie by the Japanese insurance representatives that wanted to hear a story that was 'believable'. So Pi told them another story which involved people rather than wild animals. So the insurance boys have 2 stories. In parrallel.  One is involving more 'believable' behaviours of humans in survival mode, the other is a somewhat fanciful but beautiful animal story. 

Then Pi asked the insurance reps a question,
"Which story do you prefer?"

And that, ultimately, is the point that the movie is trying to make - that belief in God is connected strongly with the story we prefer.

have your say
Have you seen this movie? Or read the book? What do you think the movie was about?  Come on tell us.

Monday, 24 December 2012

tis the day before christmas

Tis the day before Christmas and all through the hood
Aromas of great cooking are smelling so good

Gifts are ready in pretty green wrap
We've survived the shopping, the crowds and crap

His Majesty is sprawled in his favourite chair
Unalarmed by the kookaburra’s call in the air

And Meyles in his sunscreen and sensible hat
Is tending the veggies to make them grow fat

The neighbours have put their Christmas lights on
And pressure to conform is second to none

Theirs twinkle and blink with syncopated passion
While ours sort of cough in a half working fashion

Our neighbours are louder and friendlier now
And we’ve scored some invites to barbies and chow

The Olds are coming in a while to stay
I’ll make up the bed in the spare room today

The Ole Lade will drink coffee and fall asleep in a chair
While Bull will watch cricket and the TV will blare

We’ll meet at the Swamp for Christmas day lunch
I’m making a salad with lots of nut crunch

Cooby’s made pudding with sixpence money pieces
And trifle and ginger balls will arrive with the nieces

We’ll swap gifts together and share some cheer
And miss those who couldn’t make it this year

We’ll eat till we’re nearly ready to burst
But not without singing grace together first

So have a good time with your family and kin

A safe and merry Christmas from Cardinal Cyn

Saturday, 8 December 2012

the true story of bill and vera

A couple of starry-eyed teenagers once found themselves on the deck of a ferry. The year was 1948 and the place was Western Australia. They were college buddies who were in the very first stages of romantic interest.
This is that couple, 63 years later, at the
wedding of one of their grandsons.
He was amazed and delighted at her willingness to talk and be honest and open with him. This was a direct contrast to his previous girlfriend who would pout and give him the silent treatment on a regular basis. But that was over now.

And then she said something which pierced his heart with its beauty, and which, 63 years later, he still closes his eyes and recites with all the memory and emotion of that magic moment 63 years before. It was a beautiful poem -short, precise and articulating exactly the desire of both their hearts. It went like this:

If I knew you, and you knew me
If both of us could clearly see
And with an inner sense divine
The meaning of your heart and mine
I'm sure that we would differ less
Would clasp our hands in friendliness
Would look each other in the face
And find therein a truer grace
Our thoughts would pleasantly agree
If I knew you, and you knew me

This is my parents' story and one I heard for the first time a week ago. It's beautiful isn't it!

<< And this is their beautiful grandson and his happy bride.

Do YOU have any romantic stories from your parent's era?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

buskers and random people of melbourne

Hoop-Girl performed a great act, adding ever more hoops to her routine. She was very watchable as she attracted a huge crowd for lunchtime shoppers in the Bourke Street Mall.

A man sits at a firmly closed church door. Quite a statement.

I snapped this couple who were waiting for their meal to arrive in a cafe.

You are lucky to find a table at one of the De Graves Street cafes. The outdoor tables are covered by umbrellas while heaters help to keep customers warm on chilly days.

This rabbit busker attracts a crowd. He demonstrates great skill on that there gui-tar. He emits great 'happy vibes' with his costume, jig and  happy tunes.
A harpist positions himself in the Botanical Gardens in the surrounding tables at the cafe. His gentle strains are peaceful and calming.

A passer-by chats to the horse-driver until the next passengers arrive on a Saturday night.

Amazing friends we haven't seen for years. How good to see them again.

A stylish accordian player adds atmosphere in the Centre Way arcade for breakfast time patrons.
Hungry and colourful customers wait for a table to become vacant in De Graves Street.

Oooh a sneaky photo I tried to take without being caught. I loved this guy's sense of style.
I've tried to capture the essense of what makes Melbourne an attractive and interesting place to visit. Do you think I've succeeded?