Simplify, simplify

Simplify! Simplify!

I used to live rather light—at least light for a book hound. But those were the days in which I was a poor student and post-student, moving on the average every year and sometimes even more often. But the move I made this year was my first in ten years, and I found that I had found ways to accumulate stuff. Lots of stuff, often difficult-to-move stuff and heavy stuff. (Hundreds of books, for instance, the vast majority of which are still in boxes.)

The task of unpacking got me interested in alternative approaches to stuff. And that led to discovering a fascinating little blogosphere that has practical simplicity as the center of its solar system. Zen Habits by Leo Babauta (and guests) was the first I discovered. I think of it as “The anti-lifehacker. That doesn’t mean I don’t like LH… I do, and ZH and LH not only share an interest in productivity, but often refer each other’s posts. However, I noticed that after I read a day’s worth of postings on the incredibly busy lifehacker, I usually felt a bit dispirited and even tired. “How am I going to afford all this cool/neat/wonderful stuff?” would be a question in the back of my mind. Zen Habits, on the other hand, had me asking a different question to myself: “how much of this stuff do I really need or even want?” And unlike lifehacker, its mental effect was calming and encouraging.

Soon, I discovered Leo’s other blog, mnmlist, a more personal exploration of his life as a “minimalist.” Zen Habits also often refers to Unclutterer, and Ridiculously Extraordinary, Karol Gajda’s blog about using simplicity, writing, and travel. (Yeah, after my stint in Spain, I can say indeed that I likes travel! I likes it a whole lot and I wants to do it more!) On release day of his new book, I also encountered Chris Guillebeau, whose blog (and book) The Art of Non-Conformity are both well worth reading. Mac users will enjoy Minimal Mac as well.

This “simplicity” blogosphere is challenging as well as insightful. The key motivation of the more financially-oriented Art of Non-Conformity and Ridiculously Extraordinary is not so much “save money, go places,” as to become a responsible citizen of the world who learns from, and contributes to, all the places life may take their freed spirit. Unclutterer is eminently practical. And in addition to productivity and simplicity, Babauta’s spirituality shines through his blogs without a single “religious” word written.

Now, I actually don’t have any desire (at least not yet) to become a true minimalist. But I’m astonished at the ideas and potential in less that these writers present, and I’m determined to simplify more, and cut at least some of the cruft out of my life. As always, with me the application is the hardest part. Now if I can just sit down, unclutter, and practice my own zen habits…

The things you own end up owning you.

RockOm, Part Deux

RockOm a social network for music and spiritualityThis is another shameless plug for RockOm.net, a site that my partners and I are continuing to develop. I’m writing this, because if you like what you read at frimmin.com, I’m certain that you’ll love what you can read (and listen to!) at RockOm.net. RockOm is not a mere blog, but a developing social network, focused on exploring the whole realm where spirituality and music intersect, with all musics and all spiritualities, questings and questionings included.

If that sounds like big territory, it is. Our premier issue included interviews with musical personalities as diverse as Grammy-winning Christian bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, to Hindu kirtan performer Krishna Das.
Trevor Harden and Tommy Crenshaw recently finished a coast-to-coast trip to gather more interviews with amazing performers with penetrating insights into the human condition. But, course, we don’t let national borders stop us either. We’ve Skyped across the ocean to interview Joseph Rowe, translator of dozens of books (including The Gospel of Thomas) and an exceptional musician with an emphasis on Sufi music, and we’ll do more to bring together musicians from around the world.

Some of RO’s features current features:

  • RockOm blog: Near-daily new content ranging from music and artists, to questions and musings
  • RockOm podcast: a weekly in-depth interview with some of the most interesting and insightful musicians alive
  • Featured Track of the Week: An exciting new track every week available to listen to from one of our guest artists
  • Featured Articles: Transcriptions and photographs from our interviews,
  • RockOm Forum: The heart of the RockOm community, where we discuss anything and everything.

Following RockOm is easy. Subscribe to our RSS feed to have our blog posts come right into your feed reader. And it’s easy to add the RO podcast feed to your iTunes or any other MP3 player, by following the links on RockOm’s home page. You can also follow RockOm on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Very soon we’ll be adding the RockOm store, offering compilation disks of music from our guest artists, and later on, group pages and other features that will further develop the social network aspects of RockOm.

Now another reason I’m writing: We need your help to continue to grow RockOm and realize our vision. Not money, but support. If you like RO, please help us get the word out.

Do you have friends who are interested in music with a message? Tell them about RockOm. Do you have a blog or site of your own? Please consider adding a link to http://rockom.net. Also, we’d love for you to submit a post for the RockOm blog.

Do any of the songs, podcasts or posts strike a chord? Or not? Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it in the RockOm forums.

Finally, we appreciate your prayers, intentions and wishes for our continued growth and success. Thanks, and RockOm!

This is big

So big, in fact, that I put off posting this for days. I can’t quite process it. Perhaps you my friends, can help me to do so. Since childhood, I’ve been a science-fiction fan, and as someone who grew up with the privilege of being able to look into fairly clear desert night skies, I’ve never been able to believe we’re the only sentient life form in the universe.

But I’ve always shied away from UFO-ology. I’ve been better able to accept aliens “out there” than “right here,” especially after thousands of reports of abductions supplanted the image of ET with something much more sinister. And there always was the possibility that psychological displacement, optical illusions, astronomical phenomena, or secret R&D was behind it all. In a nutshell, I was comfortable filing the UFO phenomenon under “interesting,” and letting it go at that.

I can’t stop at that point anymore. The cover is being blown from a number of sources simultaneously: astronauts Edgar Mitchell and Buzz Aldrin are talking about their knowledge of UFOs, and in Mitchell’s case, his knowledge of the cover-ups as well. The governments of Brazil, France, and the UK have all declassified their documents on UFOs within the last four months. Possibly in response, the Vatican published an article entitled “The Extraterrestrial Is My Brother” (!) in L’Osservatore Romano in May.

So, although I’ve never had a UFO experience myself, here’s the evidence that’s made me a believer in the last few days:

Dr. Edgar Mitchell on Kerrang! Radio:

CNN reporting on the above interview:

Buzz Aldrin discussing a UFO encounter on Apollo 11:

Dr. Edgar Mitchell discussing the Roswell incident:

UK National Archives: newly declassified files available for download:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos/

Washington Post article on the French declassification:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/22/AR2007032202132.html

Brazilian government comes clean:
http://www.rense.com/general65/braz.htm

Vatican Diplomacy: English summary of the L’Osservatore Romano article “The Extraterrestrial Is My Brother:”
http://vaticandiplomacy.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/vatican-astronomer-says-believing-in-aliens-does-not-contradict-faith-in-god/

Complete original text of the May 13 article in Italian:
http://vaticandiplomacy.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/vaticano-per-padre-funes-lipotesi-sullesistenza-di-extraterrestri-non-contrasta-con-la-fede/

Some governments still value the secrecy of their UFO knowledge, however.
Wired magazine interview with Gary McKinnon:
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/news/2006/06/71182

So. A lot is changing, and very fast. I’m more than a bit curious as to why so much, and so suddenly? Are we on the verge of an announcement from the UN? What do you think is going on?

Back from Montréal

I’ve just returned from a trip to Montréal for a joint conference of the United States’ and the Pan-American Esperanto associations. I had a wonderful time, and my only regret was that I had to leave early for travel and work considerations. It was a wonderful experience. In the year since I began seriously studying Esperanto, I still hadn’t met another Esperantist (they’re hard to come by in Norfolk!) and now I was completely immersed in Esperanto, surrounded by hundreds of speakers, mostly fluent, from not only the whole Western hemisphere, but from as far away as Japan.

The whole experience was a blast. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a great desire to travel, and other cultures, languages, and belief systems have always fascinated me.  Here I was having “three-language” days, speaking with the other attendees in Esperanto and with the locals in French and English. (I tried to use French as much as possible, and to switch to English only when necessary—it usually was … my French is very limited).

Although some of the presenters were sometimes challenging for me to understand, it was mostly because of their poor public speaking abilities rather than a matter of language itself. In conversations, I could understand everyone almost perfectly for the duration (with one notable exception!) and I only “crocodiled” for a very few, short instances (krokodili is Esperanto slang for speaking your native language with with other Esperantists). Ninety-nine percent of the time I spoke and listened in Esperanto, and I now feel I can truly consider myself a bilingual person.

Esperantists often speak about the “internal idea” (interna ideo) of their language. The entire reason for the existence of the language is for people of all cultures to have common access to an extremely powerful, descriptive, and fairly easily-learned means of communication, that belongs to no one culture or country and so, puts none at a disadvantage. Somewhat ironically, the desire of a planned “universal” language is to protect linguistic and cultural diversity. The conference exemplified the internal idea quite well, as its theme was diversity and sustainability regarding ecosystems, languages, and cultures.

The “internal idea” has other names outside of the context of Esperanto: love, compassion, tolerance. Interestingly, the more we realize universal truths, such as the fact that everyone of us is simply embodied Spirit, just as every other one is, the more we can appreciate the uniqueness of every wonderful soul.

The Quieting Blogosphere

OK, I’m blogging less, and I’ve admitted it. But what about you? Out of my formerly blog-active friends only Carl and Bob keep on at their impressive posting paces. It seems to me that most of my blogging friends have slowed down, just as I have.

So, just curious:

  • Is it my imagination, or are you blogging less?
  • Is it just my circle of friends, or is this a broader phenomenon?
  • What’s the reason?
    • Too busy?
    • Said it all already, nothing left to say?
    • More real-world and "wetware" activity?
    • More online community / social networking activity?
    • Changing interests?
    • Lack of interest / comments from others?
  • Assuming this is a trend, what is it’s implication for the Web? What takes its place? Is it a negative phenomenon or positive?

Talk to me!

 

Thomas Merton Square

The Louisville Metro Council last month named the intersection of 4th and Muhommad Ali Blvd. "Thomas Merton Square," in honor of Fr. Thomas Merton’s epiphany.  To my knowledge, this is the only occasion of any government recognizing an event related to awakening. The occasion was reported in the Lousville Courier-Journal, .with some excellent writing that actually understood Merton and the meaning of his experience.

As Carl McColman at The Website of Unknowing observed: "It’s rather neat to see a landmark named in honor of a mystical experience!" I’ll say! And I’ve never seen a secular newspaper report so well the meaning of a mystical experience. The times, they are a-changin’! Thanks, Carl, for letting us  know about this wonderful news!

We Manipulate God for YOU!

OK, I grew up (mostly by choice) in Evangelicalism, and when I started branching out from that I became aware of the abuses of that kind of religion, as well as of religion in general.  To put in bluntly, I’ve seen a lot. So much so, that I didn’t immediately get that this is a joke site:

Christvertising takes a whole new approach to marketing your brand. We skip the strategic deliverables. We pass  on the matrices, the payoffs and the metrics. We ignore any viral functionality. We focus on the ultimate end-user: God.

Christvertising manages a network of creative, innovative, and pro-active believers, who will help you, through intensive prayer, improve your brand in the eyes of the Lord. If God loves your brand, it will become stronger and more successful. Christvertising helps you access the power of brand-targeted prayer (BTPTM) using our unique, isoceles approach to marketing: Reach, Connect, Pray.

On another page, the good doctor claims to "have 1,664,000 people ready to pray for your brand," but another page tones that down to choosing a "brand-prayer alignment" and a "targeted and structured prayer channel."  Finally, his "Where" page challenges you to ask yourself if your brand "is in God’s good books?"

This is a great parody, in fact, a little too good. Design maven Andy Rutledge was fooled by it as well. Later I realized how similar the tone was to the award-winning Santability site, that I realized it’s a joke. (April Fool’s on me early!).

Here’s a Christvertising video that’s a little more obvious. And J-Walk explains it all.

Filed under Jesus/Christianity, Humor, Seen on the Web, and bad use of the word "isoceles."

One Word

 

1word screenshot

 
 

Proving reincarnation among human beings is challenging and controversial. However, proving reincarnation (redigitalization?) among blogs is much simpler. Case in point: Eternal Awareness, one of the wisest and most beautiful blogs (or even websites) that I’ve ever come across, is now deceased. Its recorded bits and bytes are slowly going the way of all data, to fragmentation and decay as the server endlessly spins, satisfying the incessant requests for information to manifest in the blogosphere.

But… a new blog has appeared on the spinning wheel of the world-wide Web! It’s called One Word, and carries the same spirit, written by the same author. One Word is unique though, just as every person is unique. Where Eternal Awareness was sublime and serious, One Word is playful and funny, but no less insightful. It’s a cyberspace Shiva enjoying his divinity and merrily dancing on the demons of ignorance.

In this incarnation, Shiva answers to the moniker of my friend Mark Warner, whom many of you know from reading Eternal Awarness. Mark decided to revitalize his blogging through a digital death and rebirth, and revitalized it is. One Word will blitz you with blasts of creativity, humor, art, insight, and joy at brisk intervals. Enjoy!

 

I succumbed!

It’s Darrell’s fault. And Trev describes it. I’d almost describe myself as allergic to the oh-so-trendy social networking stuff, particularly online communities… MySpace strikes me as a kid’s crayon drawing on the wall, Zaadz is nice, spiritual and, well, boring.  But Darrell invited me and the former WisdomReading group to join a Facebook group he started. Although I was certainly not expecting to like it, Facebook really impresses me. One thing that surprised me is that it automatically searched my Gmail contacts for Facebook members and invited them to become my friends… in couple of hours I had more contacts on Facebook than I’ve acquired on Zaadz over the last year or so.

One thing I like about Facebook is that it seems to understand some people might want a SN site to complement, not replace or substitute for a personal website or blog. And my Facebook profile now lists this site, my techie site, my Esperanto group’s site, and my Zaadz site all on the main page!