Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is it ever good to be gullible?

Who wants to be thought as naive or gullible? Not many. But I find two laws at work in me. Firstly, there is what experience has taught me: that all people lie and deceive to some degree (however small). Secondly, that I wish that it wasn't so.

This can be illustrated by something that happened to me many years ago. On my way to work, I was approached by a complete stranger who claimed to have locked himself out of his flat and had left the oven on with food in it. He said he needed money for a cab fare to get to his sister's house to pick up some spare keys. He promised to repay me, but of course I knew that there was a high probability that he was lying. But I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that I was being a 'good samaritan' and that I was helping someone in their hour of need. As I pressed the money into his grateful hands I wanted to tell him that in his hands he held my faith in the good of humanity. I wanted to tell him that I was no fool and realised I would probably never see him again. On that occasion I choose to be willingly gullible in the hope that he would prove my cynicism wrong. Unfortunately he didn't.

I hoped that my extension of trust, my willingness to take a chance on him would pay off. I held this hope because I felt that if in my hour of need, I reached I might find someone willing to help me. Of course as he purchased his drink or drugs or whatever he spent the money on, he probably laughed at the fool he'd so easily duped. Would I do it again? Would I help a complete stranger in need? I would like to think I would.

I would like to say my life experience has taught me that the majority of people are honest. Sadly, experience has taught me that most people will take what they think they can get away with – and if others are silly enough to allow themselves to be conned or to make a mistake – then they deserve it.

I would suggest that in most people there are two laws at work. There is the desire to do good and be honest, but there is also the desire to take what we can for our own advantage. Essentially, it comes down to this: are people basically good or basically bad? I guess the answer changes depending on what standard we measure with or to whom we compare ourselves to. Despite this, I would still like to be able trust people; to take them at their word. Perhaps that makes me gullible and naive? Perhaps I'm just a silly optimist? Perhaps that's why I'm such a 'fan' of God? After all, Jesus said that "no one is good – except God alone." And so even when we trust people and they let us down, when we try to help people and they rip us off, there is One who will never fail, never lie and never con us. And He is good. He is God. And because I know He loves me I find within myself a strange desire to love others – even though I fail so very often.

So is it ever good to be gullible? Probably not. But is it bad to want to trust people, even if you know that by making yourself vulnerable and trying to help, you may be taken advantage of? Probably not. Because within reason, that's not being gullible, that's just being kind and gracious; and along with honesty, that's two things this world is very short on.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis was a man of great insight and understanding. He was one of those rare men who can make great mysteries intelligable. Here's one of my favourite quotes:

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

(C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Centenary Press, 1940, 81.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An ipain in the ibum.

I dislike ranting in blogs because it's boring and achieves little. However, I feel the need to rant. So I will. But promise to keep it short, if not sweet.

When I bought my top-of-the-range imac two years ago I was very excited. I had saved hard and finally it was delivered. It's been brilliant. Loved it. Awesomeness in the shape of a 27" screen – get the picture? However, it does have a fault. In fact, it has two. Firstly, ever since I have had it when it goes into power-save mode the screen begins to flicker. It's annoying and to be fair I should have sent it straight back, but I was too excited and that would have been a pain. The second problem is that during a certain period of time Apple used some dodgy hard disks from Seagate. They are now recalling all the Macs that used them and replacing the disks for free. It was only by chance that I stumbled across a thread that led me to discover this.

Apparently Apple are contacting everyone who is affected by this issue... yeah right! After entering my serial number into the Apple website I was told I am eligible for the replacement. Okay, so why wasn't I contacted? Oh no! Wait a minute – two minutes after I've entered my serial number into their website I get an urgent email from Apple telling me about the problem and that I need to take me computer in for maintenance and should not delay. How kind of them to alert me to the problem. So they advise me to contact my local Apple store and direct me to the phone number. Going well so far. After waiting over thirty minutes to talk to someone at the Kingston Apple store, I'm told that I need to google the Kingston Apple store and book an appointment online (can you just not book me in? No?). Great. And will they be able to replace the drive on the spot? No, apparently that will take between 7-10 days. And what will I do without a computer for 7-10 days? "Sorry, Sir, I don't know." Funny – BECAUSE NEITHER DO I!

So, just to clarify. I spent over 30 minutes on the phone, had to then book the appointment online, am going to have to waste a morning carrying 20kg of computer from my car to the shop (and presumably another morning picking it up), and then make do without a computer for over a week (baring in mind I work from home). And if I am not mistaken, I have to restore all my data and applications myself. And is any of this my fault? No, because let's face it, companies don't recall products unless they really have to. So since Apple are to blame, you would expect the least they could do was: arrange to pick it up; send out an engineer to do it at my home; be able to do it in store while I waited; or provide a suitable computer on loan. But no, Apple like to 'think different'.

In fact, they've just launched a new imac. The little tag line reads "Performance and design. Taken right to the edge." Well they've certainly taken me to the edge... and I kind of get the impression that if they could, they'd give me a little push – then they wouldn't have to mend my Mac.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ooooh it hurts.

Team High Hopes
The day of the race finally came. It was freezing; I mean frost on the windows of the car freezing. Nevertheless, off we set at 6.30am. We arrived in plenty of time, tested out the portable toilets (no explanation needed – these are universally disgusting), and then stood by the roadside slowly 'chilling' whilst we waited for the race to start. As it happened we left it too long and so ended up quite far back from the finish line.

Bizarrely, a completely unknown female competitor asked me if I could check if her rear pocket zip was closed (just above her, er, bottom). So, numbed by the cold, I observed her lift the back of her top to show me her rear pocket. I couldn't see very clearly, and feeling slightly stunned by her request, I found myself reaching out (what was I thinking?) to try and rearrange the pocket to get a better view. I gave the zip a gentle tug before realising this was probably not what she had meant and quickly retracted my ice cold hands before mumbling something to the affirmative. It felt awkward. Anyway, I have digressed.

Finally the waiting was over. The air-horn sounded and the crowd surged forward. Phil Sapey, my running mate, and I weaved through the crowds, determined not to get caught up with all the slower runners – this involved a fair bit of effort, but worth it. We ran the first mile in 6.30 minutes and we pressed on hard.

I have to confess that I suddenly discovered a strange desire to actually come first. I kept seeing other runners ahead and to be quite frank I found that irritating. But I guess you have to know your limits. So how did we do? Phil, managed a time of 56.22 minutes and I came in just 11 seconds later at 56.33. That put us in the overall positions of 36 and 40 respectively. And out of over 750 people I think that's not too poor.

The amount that the six of us have raised is now over £700 and is still growing. Plus, I attained my goal of running the race in under an hour. So it's all good – except that everything aches. But it's a contented aching :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1 day to go...

25 days ago, I blogged about The Race. But now that it is almost upon us it's hard to put into words how I feel about it. So far, thanks to many kind friends we will raise £462 (£568.75 including gift aid) for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, in memory of our friend. Not too shabby.

As for the actual race, I think I'm looking forward to it. Over the last three weeks, two friends and I have run 10k (6.2m) every Saturday, managing to cut our time down to 46.02 minutes. I think that's reasonable, but it's not good enough. My personal goal is to achieve the 13.2km (8.2m) in under an hour. Currently we are running a seven and a half minute mile. This means that if we can maintain that speed, we will finish the race in 61 minutes. However, considering I have never actually run over 10k, this could be challenging. Perhaps I shouldn't worry. Perhaps it doesn't matter – the money will still be raised. But it's a personal goal kinda thing.

So on the eve of the race, how do I feel? Excited and nervous, but determined. Tomorrow I will run. And I will run fast. I will run it for our friend Claire; I will run it for all of those who sponsored us; I will run it for all those still suffering with CF. But I shall also run it for myself. And come Monday morning I shall ache – but if I come in under an hour, it will be a contented ache.

To sponsor us, visit out team's fundraising page. Check back here or on Facebook tomorrow – I'll report on how we did and will no doubt include some unflattering, red faced and sweaty looking pics of us all. The only downside is that it is forecast to be 4ยบ when we run – so maybe not so much of the sweat :(

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Acrostic love.

I think it's love.
Perhaps that's too much?

How can I resist the beauty of your form?
Or how simple you make my life?
No complications, just fun and no strife.

Everyday you are there for me.
Failing not, and full of energy.

I've never had another like you,
Vying for my thoughts and time.
Everlasting love? Is that a crime?

Friday, October 5, 2012

If I were a woman...

Now let me be very explicit. I have not now or ever had the desire to be a woman, not that being a woman is bad – it's just I'm a man and am totally comfortable and happy with that. But a curious thought occurred to me today: if I was a woman, what kind of woman would I be? A slightly strange thought perhaps, but let me explain...

I was on the train into Waterloo and sat opposite me was a girl in her twenties. Since I was engrossed in a game of Words with friends, my eyes were focussed on my phone. Unfortunately, this meant that they were also pointing in the direction of the legs of my fellow commuters. And what I couldn't help but notice was that the aforementioned girl had decided to wear a very short skirt. I don't have any particular issue with the length of people's skirts, but as she stood up to exit the train, I couldn't help but feel that it was rather a bold move on her part. There was nothing wrong with her figure, but it did set off an interesting train of thought (the skirt, not her figure). Why did she choose that skirt? Was it simply because wearing it made her feel good? Or was she wearing it in the hope that people would look at her legs? Was she heading off to an office somewhere with a particular prey in mind? Of course, it would have been inappropriate to enquire, but the seed was sown. This led me to consider the question, if I was a woman, would I wear such as short skirt? With the next logical question being: if I was a woman, what kind of woman would I be? (This of course works in reverse as well).

Let's start with the mind. Would I actually think in the same way as I do now or is my very thinking controlled by my sex? And if my thinking would be different, would that stem from nature or nurture? Obviously, one would assume that I would be attracted to the opposite sex, so indeed my mind and desires would have to be severely modified. Would I develop a strange love for shopping? Would I suddenly find myself feeling strangely incomplete unless I acquired those boots and the matching accessories? Would my inability to keep in contact with friends improve? Stereotypes, perhaps – but they are just that for a reason. But since I've strayed into the clothing arena, let's develop that thought.

When choosing my clothes for the day, what would be my driving force? To feel good? To impress men? Both? Would I even be aware of the effect my choice of clothing would have on the opposite sex? I guess I'd have to be naive not to. So what kind of clothes would I wear? Would I have any taste in choosing clothes? I fear I would be useless. But to bring us back to where we began, would I have the guts to wear a short skirt? To be honest I guess that depends on my age and figure – but presuming both were favourable – would I do it? To be honest I've only grappled with this quandary for a few minutes, but with all things considered and in the right context (I can hardly believe I'm writing this) I think I might. Okay, I'm shocked at myself. And to be honest thinking like this is like trying to get my mind to run the wrong way up an escalator – it's just not comfortable. So we'll leave it there.

I'm sure my fellow commuter had her own motives for choosing her clothing today. But one thing I'm pretty sure of, was that she'll have no idea of just where it led my thoughts (and not in a lewd way). Perhaps in the future I should just stick to playing Words with friends – my head is beginning to hurt, and it makes me thankful that I'm a man.

Addendum: This article should be taken in the spirit in which it is written – one of playful, explorative and inquisitive thought :)