Are you aware of your blind spots?

When I was learning to drive, the one thing that intrigued me was being aware of my blind spots. Someone tried to explain to me what these blind spots were but the problem was that I could clearly see what was being pointed at, this made me question over whether they were really blind spots.

In reality blind spots are the spots that you can’t see, especially the part of the road behind the tree or the traffic around the corner. The areas that are beyond what was visible to the naked eye. It requires intuition, experience, and the ability to look out for clues like headlights and the noise a car makes, but for the most part there was a lot of guesswork. Of course, new drivers are not as aware of their blind spots in the same way that a more experienced driver would be.

I’ve just finished reading “Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Bliners to Better Understand the Bible” by E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien, and I am reflecting over what I had read. It’s a book about recognising that cultural differences can cause us to misunderstand a verse or make a presumption about a passage. In turn, I guess it’s cultural differences that can cause us to make incorrect assumptions about someone.

One thing that strikes me as quite astonishing as I go through life, is learning from people of different cultures and backgrounds, whether I am talking to someone from Yorkshire, or London, or the USA, or another country, every time we come to a misunderstanding, I take a forward step in becoming more aware of our cultural tendency and blinders.

This book covers a lot of interesting points about how Westerners view the world.

One of them was over dualistically. Things are true or false, right or wrong, good or bad. I have come across many people who have shown little patience for ambiguity of the unsettling reality that values change over time. 

As English is a subject-verb language; it is actor- and action-oriented. We prefers sentences with a clear subject and a clear predicate, and we like it best when the verb is in the active voice. It is difficult to construct a meaningful sentence in English without a subject.

For example, if we say for instance a boy’s tricycle was broken.  “The tricycle is broken” is a perfectly good Indonesian sentence. The writer asked, “Who broke the tricycle? The question caught them by surprise. Indonesian isn’t set up to express that kind of cause and effect. The proper way to state it was, “The tricycle is broken”

This is why, as we pointed out above, “Blessed are the peacemakers” turns in our minds to “God blesses the peacemakers”. 

Westerners are wired, by virtue of our worldview, to seek cause-and-effect connections in everything. We instinctively ask, “Why did this happen?” When we read the story of Job, for example, we tend to emphasize why these things happened to Job. We may be emphasizing the wrong point. Job never does know why those things happened.

It mentions difference between the Collectivist cultures over honour/shame cultures, and Individualist cultures tend also to be right/wrong (innocence/guilt) cultures. 

There was a topic over the importance of time in Western culture as illustrated by the time-related virtues we celebrate. Efficiency-the ability to do the most work in the least time-is an important Western virtue. So are punctuality, planning and predictability. These have their corresponding vices. Inefficiency, tardiness, nearsightedness and undependability are amount the deadly sins (at least of business) in America. 

There was an example where the Indonesian fishermen friends seemingly have all the time in the world. While we have deadlines, he writes that he can hear his fishermen friends laughing. How can you “run out of” time? In their world, “there is always tomorrow until one day there’s not, and then it won’t matter.” For them procrastination is a virtue. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?  When tomorrow comes, you might find you didn’t need to do it at all. For Westerners, the sand is running out of the hourglass! The clock is ticking!

There would be some confusion if people responded to your “Good morning” with “No, it’s already midday.” when it wasn’t even 10 a.m. Apparently, the time of day may be connected to the temperature, and not the clock. Once the morning had turned hot, in their eyes it was considered to be midday. When it cooled down in the afternoon, it was another time. If it wasn’t complicated enough; they use to use this to mark the starting time for their church service. How do you start church at “hot”? That would make it difficult for everyone to show up at the same time. Evidently, you will find that people wander in over the course of an hour or so. But church never starts late. 

I might take a long time recognise where my blind spots are, or take years to work out the intent of the person I am speaking with. I might even need some support or guidance or clear instructions. But are we all patient enough to do this? Do we have enough time in the day to listen? May you be blessed by God if you at least try to understand.

From where I am standing

A couple of years ago I used to watch the tv show Doctor Who, and at the time I wasn’t able to watch the show live so instead I would catch up with the latest episode over the internet. Before I watched the show, I would catch up with my sister and ask her of her opinion of what I am about to watch. Occasionally she would tell me that ‘it’s terrible and it’s not worth watching!’, but soon after watching it I would find that it’s become one of my favourite episodes.

So why the discrepancy in opinion? Apparently years before, whenever her opinion was positive I would immediately find myself feeling disappointed because I’ve set myself high expectation from her opinion. So over time she has learnt to tell me the opposite of what she thought, so that I would set myself low expectations.

I really appreciate what she had done for me. She has taught me to appreciate things more than I normally would under my own power.

Today, I find myself looking forward to setbacks and disappointments. That might sounds like a very strange to say, but it’s allowed me to reset my expectations in life. I’ve grown used to disappointments.

It’s helped me to appreciate the rain because I know that it can get sunny. I appreciate being hungry, so then I can enjoy eating. I appreciate having no money, so then I can feel rich when I have some. I appreciate feeling cold, so then I know what warmth feels like. I appreciate that I will one day die, so then it will allows me to enjoy every single day of my life. Sometimes I appreciate pain so then I can feel strong when I am not.

Unfortunately I am aware of others who are in constant pain, such as those who suffer from ME or Chronic fatigue syndrome. Then there’s the days when we only see rain, or only feel the cold, or are constantly living in poverty. I appreciate that there are others who never see the light of day. What I have shared will not give those who are going through that kind of darkness any relief at all.

However, after having said that, there’s a wonderful verse from the Bible that explains why we need to take heart on appreciating the simple things in life, even when our circumstances are impossible.

Matthew 9:4-5 “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Yours sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

The full context of this verse is written below.

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. 

Matthew 9:1-8 (NIV)

It’s far easier for me to appreciate where I am today than it is to change whatever circumstance I am going through. That is not to say that my circumstances will not change, but at least I can take heart that I am giving myself every opportunity that it can, thus making it more likely that it will happen.

Hope is the greatest relief that anyone can have, without it we are cutting our loses and giving up. It only takes a little hope to power us along our day, and it only takes a little hope to transform situations. It’s easier to accept it and when we come through it, we have a lot to be thankful for.

One body, many parts.

At the Salt Mills Gallery at Saltaire, Bradford, there’s a wonderful plaque listing job titles of some of the workers that used to work at the Salt Mills during the 80s. This is part of an exhibition by Ian Beesley.

Sadly, these workers no longer work there and their roles no longer exist at this mill. However it was nice to think that everyone there had an important role to play and that a good work place would utilise individual talent.

My favourite verses in the Bible are generally about unity and how to celebrate differences. The verses that I am referring to are mentioned in Paul’s letters from the new testament, and I can imagine that when they were written, they were responses to churches who had to overcome issues and challenges, with the aim to stop members of their congregation from fighting with each other but to help strengthen them. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to convince people from different ethnicity, cultures and social statuses to work together?

There’s mention of unity in pretty much every one of Paul’s letters, but I am happy to be corrected if this wasn’t the case, but my favourite verses are from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and also from Roman 12:3-8.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. 

Roman 12: 4-6 NIV

There are many challenges that employers have to face, such as making sure that their employees are used to the best of their ability, that they don’t get bored or overworked. It’s easy for employers to sit and just wait for things to happen. Whatever the reason why those job roles no longer exist at the mill, I pray that everyone has learned from their experiences and have gone on to do better things.

You can find out more about the Salt Mill galleries and shops at http://www.saltsmill.org.uk/

So this is Christmas..

Christmas can be a very challenging time for a lot of people. There’s so much expectation from the media, our neighbours, our family and friends. It must be particularly difficult for someone who had lost a loved one during this time of the year. It must be difficult for those that are struggling to make ends meet. It can be a very lonely time.

I think it’s important to remember all those who neither have the money nor the family to make it a joyous time.

So what is Christmas about? Non-Christians tend to think of this time as a time for family. Is that what this is all about?

Recently, along with some church friends, we studied up some verses from the book of Matthew 4:23-5:16. This is the part where Jesus went up the mountain and gave us the Beautitudes. He blessed the ‘poor in spirit’, ‘those who mourn’, ‘the meek’, ‘those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’, ‘merciful’, ‘pure in heart’, ‘peacemakers’ and ‘those who are persecuted for righteousnsess’ sake’.

Like some people, when I think of Christmas I think about the birth of Jesus Christ, but more than just his birth, I think about all of the wonderful things that he’s going to bring to the world. I think about the world he lived in and how much he has changed us, if not us personally then the culture he has changed because of his teachings. But since reading those verses, I want to think about those whom he blessed, those who were ‘poor in spirit’, ‘those who mourn’ and all those who either need encouragement or those who are kind.

It’s all too easily to think of ourselves or even feel disappointed that we are not meeting up to some expectation that either the media or someone has taught us. So if you’re ever feeling the pressure of Christmas or even the aftermath of Christmas, please give some thought as to why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In this sense, we should be celebrating Christmas everyday.

Unfinished Journey

As we grow older and wiser, it’s easier to look at someone younger and less experienced and feel a little frustrated.

We desperately want to give them a helping hand or even just throw the answer over to them.

An example I had in mind was handing over a finished crossword puzzle to someone. There’s no fun in looking over someone else’s answers. There’s no fun filling in the squares with the answers from the back.

Life is the same, while we want to give them all of the answers, there are some answers that are more fun when we work them out ourselves. Of course, if we know they’re never going to get to the answer then maybe we should assist them or give them a nudge. It would be cruel not to.

Think of all the gags that slowly built up in a sitcom, or the suspense that was built up in a drama. It wouldn’t be very nice if someone told you to hurry up with your guesses or someone was frustrated if you haven’t got the answer. You would be as bad as the person who told them to look at the answers from the back.

But we don’t have to be young and inexperienced, we could easily be old and experienced and not understand something that someone with bright young eyes can clearly see. We can also be held back by our own transgressions and prejudice that stops us from seeing the obvious.

In summary, all I am asking is to give people a chance and let’s be a bit more patient with everyone, and smile as you realise that they’re going through the same journey as you did yourself.

Blinded by the light

My dad looked at one of my paintings and said ‘the white needs to be whiter’.

I rolled my eyes.

I understood what he meant but I know that it was not possible to make the white any whiter than it already was, but I could make the surrounding area of the white darker.

You see, the brain plays tricks on the mind and assumes that the white is whiter when it has something darker to contrast with.

In many ways you can also play tricks on the mind by doing the same thing with anything. You’ll feel richer when you surround yourself with poverty, and you’ll feel happier when you have gone through a sad spell. You’ll feel that you can conquer anything when you set lower expectations.

Everything is relative.

We seem to have an inbuilt function in our head that tells us that we must strive to be better than we were, we are constantly looking to improve ourselves or at least maintain our standards, and eventually this catches up and makes us feel miserable.

I used to run the Parkrun and I was utterly useless with average times of 40 minutes per race. I tried to encourage others to run with me, or at least run pass me, and they insisted that their running days were over and they couldn’t run as fast as they used to. I promise you that they would have easily lapped me several times over. However they were comparing their times to what they used to do and I had no comparable times to compete with.

I know that as I grow older I will lose a lot more. I will lose my sight, my ability to think as quickly, my ability to be as changeable and adaptable. We will suffer with a lot less and our standard of living is expected to become worse. Fuel prices are going up and the cost of living ever higher with less and less income to support me in my old age.

So it’s important to remember that it’s still all relative and I have to remember that I cannot compare what I will have to what I once had.

My happiness depends on it.

1853 Gallery, Salt Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire

Someone had remarked that some of my paintings were painted in the style of David Hockney. That was quite an honour, especially as I have heard that one of his paintings was sold as the most expensive piece of art by a living artist. In truth, I’m sure that all paintings look familiar in their unique ways but I was very flattered by his comparisons.

I don’t know much about David Hockney. I had to google his name, and I only found out recently that he was born and bred in Bradford.

It was a good excuse to spend a little time at the 1853 Gallery located in the Salt Mills in Saltaire, Yorkshire, where they hold the world’s largest permanent collection of David Hockney’s work.

Salt Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire
1853 Gallery

I can safely say that Bradford is very much my spiritual home. I was born in the district, brought up there and went to four different schools in the area. Although I do not live there anymore, not since I was a little boy, and I have very few memories, I still get goose pimples and flash backs whenever I am nearby. I have long lost my Bradford accent but I am strangely drawn to anyone who has one. As there’s something brutally honest and gritty about it.

The Bradford district will be my point of reference as to who I was and where I am from. In the last year or two, anything Bradford seems to have brought some sense of purpose in my life and I am grateful to God that he’s guiding me to whatever that end goal may be.

Matt Barlow, the CEO of CAP, gave me a wonderful analogy. As I was describing my life and my excitement of working in Bradford, he summed up my experiences as a ‘factory reset’. Whenever something has gone wrong with your computer or device, it’s possible to fix the problem by setting the computer back to it’s original ‘factory settings’.

God has guided me back to my ‘factory settings’, and it’s comforting.

The People’s Painter

The Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate is running an exhibition on the work by William Powell Frith. He’s well known as ‘The People’s Painter’. The exhibition runs until the 29th September.

William Powell Firth

I was struck by this painter’s storytelling abilities through the painted medium. These are paintings from a period which we may not have a lot in common with, especially when we consider how much has changed nearly 200 years ago.

However there were these series of paintings and drawings towards the back of the gallery that was much more human in nature titled ‘The road to ruin’. I found myself staring at this one picture.

Struggles

From the painting titled ‘Struggles the first thing I noticed was the lady from the left holding onto this piece of paper looking rather distressed. It was also clear that everyone in the picture was also affected and clearly anxieties were filling this picture.

Seeing pictures like this had put my life into perspective. I wasn’t going through what these people were going through. I was immediately filled with a feeling of empathy and that guilt of staring into these character’s lives whether they were real or not.

I’m grateful I am not struggling, but also slightly disturbed that I understand that it’s all too easy to fall into that situation.

Dancing in the rain

The Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) is underway with events popping up everywhere around town.

Despite the rain which was forecasted there are people holding onto their umbrella and having a good time. I can imagine that attendance is probably lower than expected because of the weather but the atmosphere was still positive.

The main attraction today was the Carnival which lead crowds to the Valley Gardens for more activities, but there’s another non-HIF event going on at the Crescent Gardens which some people may have missed.

On the band stand were musicians from the USA playing their part with the festival despite the main attraction being around the corner.

HOPE NOW is a charitable event sponsored by a number of local churches and lead by what looks like the Calvary Churches. All for a good cause as donations go towards sponsoring Ethiopian Orphanage.

On the fence..

I was unemployed in the month of September 2018 and was looking for ways to make good use of my time. Rosemary was kind enough to offer some chores for me to do around her garden.

She had an unfortunate situation with her backyard, a tree had split and fallen over her hen house. It needed cleaning and the fallen branches needed pruning. I spent a day or two tidying up and it was then that she asked if I could paint her fence.

The fence was originally blue and I had painted it yellow. The colour had blended a little and at times it had looked a little green. While I was painting I said to Rosemary that maybe I should paint something on it, like a chicken. She thought it was a good idea.

It was May 2019 when she asked me to paint a mural on her fence. She asked if I could paint something woodland, with bluebells. I added a few little birds that can only be seen close up and it turned out quite well.

%d bloggers like this: