Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Digital Dilemmas

OK, I admit, I am not a boffin, or even remotely in the clan of "geek". The lapse in posts often has to do with the technical challenges I face in just getting programs to "get along" with each other. This morning, both my iPod and my Antivirus program were not liking Windows XP, and as such, they were totally uncooperative. 3hrs later, we are all in better shape, not without considerable frustration, and some totally incomprehensible messages from our beloved Microsoft, about what I shoud and shouldn't be doing. I re-booted a dozen times now, and think we are all go. Can't we all just "get along" now, so I don't have to spend mornings following help tutorials?

A nice piece by Al Gore if you are so inclined..

Living on an island does make one a bit more self sufficient, as I would normally have taken the phone and just rang one of the local providers of PC troubleshooting services, but it is a bit embarrassing when they end up just doing what I could have easily done myself. Kind of like ging to the doctor and getting a prescription for antibiotics, when I know thats what I need.. why not just skip all the chit chat and get it straight from the pharmacy?

Anyway, I am working on getting some pictures online in a more efficient way, something regular, etc., but in the meantime, here are a couple of essays for other projects I have been working on, and hope you enjoy the flavour:

April 2006

I live on a small island near Auckland in New Zealand. It is in a protected gulf of islands, an archipelago of sorts, and home to America’s Cup racing. Only 10 miles from the city, it feels often like it is a long way from anywhere. Many of the neighboring islands are sanctuaries and reserves, and are very popular with boat lovers for obvious reasons. Waiheke is a bit of a refuge for those leaving cities behind them, and I am definitely not the only one from another country. In fact, there are times when it seems like native-born New Zealanders are in a minority. Immigrants from the U.S., Britain, India, China, and all over Europe are assimilating at an escalating rate. Then of course there are the neighboring Pacific Island immigrants, which make Auckland the largest Polynesian city in the world. About the only place one does not see a lot of people arriving from is nearby Australia. They must like it there.

I came to New Zealand when the first Bush was president. That does seem like a long time ago. I had been traveling around the South Pacific for a couple of years, and spent time in both Australia and New Zealand. Although it is a small island in a very large ocean, which makes for some unpredictable weather patterns, New Zealand has the warmth and natural beauty I could not resist. Upon returning to the States after initial travels, I was eager to get back. There was no single incident, or extreme political-refugee type identity crisis, I clearly saw a better life for my family, and over the course of the last 18 years, I believe my decision has been borne out. I collect rainwater from my roof and it tastes delicious. I walk along isolated and pristine seashores dotted with small cottages, and run into only a handful of people. I listen to birdsong, collect driftwood, and watch yachts cruising the gulf. I work on the land, and write at home, looking out over the sea. Friendly greetings await me on my errands in the village, and the community is both diverse and cohesive in the face of any threat. The island has only 7000 residents, but that swells to 20,000 in the summer with tourists coming for the beautiful beaches and wineries. I travel into the city by ferry (35min ride) to see my daughter or take care of other business a couple times a month. In short, it is a simple life.

What makes this island, and this country even more appealing to me is the distance, not only geographically, but politically, socially and philosophically from my country of birth. The government is a Parliament System, not unlike Britain, which I see as both more responsive and representative. The environment is a magnet for tourists, and sincere efforts are underway to preserve it from damage whilst still making it accessible. There is a “back country hut system” which allows hikers and campers to find shelter in the mountains for a nominal fee. The economy, whilst inextricably linked to the America’s, is small enough to make changes quickly, which are sometimes necessary. The culture is not celebrity/scandal-driven, in fact the opposite is true. People “too full of themselves” are often put in their place. And yes, there are a lot of sheep. Most apparent to me, upon my return from annual trips back to the States, is that I have imbibed much of the culture as my own. I feel as much a foreigner in America as anywhere now.

Steady immigration to New Zealand over the last decade has given the culture here many of the “melting pot” advantages, with few of the disadvantages. Fear is not foisted on the public at every opportunity. An appreciation of the natural environment is woven through the fabric of the society. Entertainment and the arts are starting to see a real homegrown movement, after years of “cherry picking” from British and American artists. The concept of “pace” gives me time to live a life without so much of the clutter and pressure to buy a certain thing and to be a certain way. Individuality is almost a birthright here. Kiwis, long used to isolation, have made ingenuity and innovation hallmarks of their culture. I like that. I don’t think anywhere on earth is ideal in every sense of the word. For the many American ex-pats living around the globe for their various reasons, and for the many sure to leave still, our adopted homelands serve as a constant reminder about our decisions. The great country of United States of America seems not only a long way away, but getting farther away all the time. Changing populations and demographics make it impossible for countries to be all things to all people, and yet the divisions seem to be growing wider all the time. It is like a great ocean liner, and upon needing a change of direction, it takes a long time to turn around. New Zealand is more like a small speedboat – very maneuverable.

In this fast changing world of bandwidth and gigabytes, I like the equanimity and perspective that the simplicity of island life brings. I also like the flexibility and tolerance of a young society and culture that has begun to find its way amidst the modernization of an often forgotten part of the world. A unique combination of Polynesian warmth and dynamic creative synergies that inspires rather than dominates both its citizens and neighbors

This I believe (NPR)

I believe in the power to serve. I only feel truly fulfilled when I am giving or helping others. I do this in an effort to enhance the unique qualities of life we all share. I do it to develop my humanity, and feed the planet that supports me. With so much taking, a balance can only be restored by giving something back. That can be as simple as a smile for a sad face, as complex as disaster relief, or as important as listening to one in need. I can see clearly that many others are much less fortunate than I am. I have the ability to help, and to pass that up is a wasted opportunity.

For me, to serve is to give from the heart. Expectations of reward dilute the true altruistic nature of love in action. I want to give because it helps both giver and receiver understand purpose; and helps me keep my life simple and in perspective. I believe we are here to help each other.

On one of my many visits to the fascinating country of India, I witnessed penniless people walk for miles just to sweep a sidewalk or wash a wall. Not for any reason but to make a contribution to their community. They did their service, said nothing, and returned home to their villages. I understood then the power of action. Money is useful in helping others, but there is no substitute for time. What makes it so valuable is that it is definitely limited, and I, like everyone else, have no idea when it will run out.

When I plant a tree, help a child fly a kite, clean up a mess made by others, or sit and chat with a lonely person, I am learning how to become a better human. I am sharing the most valuable resource available to me with others. If I can make a difference in their lives, in the wider community, and the planet, then I am serving a higher cause than my “self”.

When I put my effort into helping and serving others, I have an opportunity to stand outside of the ego, dramas and stories that take up so much space in my life, and replacing them with the power of goodwill. I believe there is no random accident we are here on this earth with each other in such close proximity. It is an uncertain future with a clear choice: Fight each other for the dwindling resources of our planet, or realise we are all in this together, and start giving, sharing and serving each other. This I believe.

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