Touching the Void

Just come back from watching Touching the Void (also available as a book. It’s a superb film, leaving me exhilirated to be alive. The trailer hadn’t appealed to me, but a friend had told me the whole story in great detail over lunch. She recommended I see it anyhow, and I’m very glad I did. Today of all days, it was good to put things in perspective with a film like this. The human mind is capable of wonderful things, as I know from my practice of tai chi. Observe it all around – circus performers, athletes, scholars – anyone at the peak of their humanity is capable of extending this tapestry of life that much further. Joe did the impossible, hauling his body through unimaginable agony and extremes to survive, in part because of his stubborness and his technique of breaking down the impossible large task into small steps. While the whole seemed impossible, by aiming at a single rock, giving himself 20 minutes to get there, he achieved it.

Although brought up Catholic, Joe had lost his belief, but there were interesting snippets of an awareness of something greater – a voice commanding him to move, the presence of Simon behind him. Similar to the trance awareness of different parts of the mind, the awareness separate from the doer, Joe’s awareness was separate from the voice commanding him, another part of himself. I see an individual as a continuous part of a whole (If you had to pin me down, I’d describe myself as Taoist), our conscious mind providing a limited level of awareness. More developed individuals are more conscious of what is beyond the individual, more empathetic and likely to act when others suffer, or when the system itself is suffering. At the same time, in extremes the consciousness is reduced, as it can get in the way of other forms of awareness. So people in a trance state can have revelations that were drowned out in the everyday conscious chatter. But to get to the point, to me the question whether that voice is part of Joe or not isn’t relevant, as we are all part of Joe. At that point it was separate to the watching mind, but then so are all of our thoughts if we actually had to watch.

Happy birthday Perl

Perl turned 10 on the 17th of October. I’ve still got a fondness for the language even though I haven’t programmed in it for years. An internet course I developed around 1998 had Perl as the core, and I had great fun teaching it to people who’d either never programmed, or had limited programming experience. Quite scary how little I knew at the time, but they say the best way to learn is to teach, and I’m glad to say some of them are now much closer to Perl-guruhood than me. One particular student used to mail me often with Perl problems. At first I could help him with a quick glance at the code. But sure enough to me his queries soon came to resemble an unreadable mystery, and he was on his own.

Freshmeat has an article discussing Perl 6, written by Shlomi Fish. I tend agree with the consensus amongst the responses though, especially that of Schwern.

Why blog

I’ve been thinking, as many new bloggers seem to, about why people blog, as I mentioned briefly yesterday. I haven’t got around to formulating my own views (perhaps I don’t have one), instead I’ve been reading some others. Most discussions aren’t very satisfying, but here’re a few that are:

  • Riba Rambles:`MORE Musings of a Mental Magpie
  • Jennifer’s weblog, which turns into a discussion on blogs versus wikis

    Another reason for me is to keep in shape. I used to write a lot, from late evening to sunrise, long manic ecstatic sessions exploring all sorts of aspects of myself. Since I have a child and an ‘ordinary’ job, that’s been difficult, though just how ordinary is a 3-day working week, and a 4-day weekend?. The 4-day weekend started about a month ago, so it’s time for new things, and reconnecting with old.

Neverness – first entry

Finally, I have set up my blog, and am making my first post. As is my wont, I’ve thought about this a long time, and delayed, wanting to do it properly. I tend to find reasons to delay things forever.

Blogs fascinate me. One part sees them as egotistical, unimportant waffling written by insignificant people. But I’ve realised I still attribute to much energy to controlled forms of media. The recent case of indymedia being closed down again shows the danger of central control. Most of our newspapers write nothing but corporate and political press releases. Much of what is ‘important’ is what others believe is important. Blogs let us make up our own mind. And having started reading more of them recently, I’ve been impressed by the jewels in the mud. Blogs, Open Source, Open Content such as Wikipedia are rapidly changing the way we see the world. Most bloggers are under 25 – there’s an older generation of people who don’t understand the tremendous social changes we’re witnessing. Misunderstanding Open Source software where their understanding of business is that intellectual knowledge must be kept secret and used for enrichment. Not grasping how encyclopedia content in Wikipedia can at times be more enlightening than that in Brittanica.

I have ordered this blog in quite an artificial way, according to the Chinese 5 elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. Metal for technology, Water for personal, Wood for spiritual, Fire for social and political, and Earth for anything else that doesn’t quite fit, perhaps humour. My interests include literature, technology, in particular open source and its effects upon society, tai chi, spirit, environment. Hmm, I could go on – in a good space, like a child, everything should be fascinating. My difficulty has always been choosing what to focus on. Let’s see what happens!