Category : Personal Development


Beyond Reasonable Doubt

doubtAmongst those things that are hard to define, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ relies on an abstract assumption that there is a point short of proof-positive at which we can close the gap between probability and certainty.

Our legal system rests on the presumption of innocence which can only be shattered by ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. There is no question that it’s better to let nine guilty men go free, than to convict one innocent man.

Our adversarial system of law ensures rich pickings for professional vultures, their black cloaks and anachronistic wigs mimicking the carrion feeders, both species picking at the flesh of carcasses that have fallen foul of the Law, albeit natural or man-made.

A defence barrister can extract the best part of an average worker’s annual salary in just one day in court, a lengthy trial requiring asset sales and second mortgages to secure deliverance from penury.

Liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism come at the price of eternal vigilance, the watchful eye of the law keen to isolate infractions of justice, the conveyor belt of legal process requiring offenders to keep the wheels turning and salaries paid.

Plea bargains and out-of-court settlements serve as an ersatz currency, a black market where litigation conveyancers thrive like dung beetles on a cowpat. Guilty transgressors are able to find endless sources of funding, the threat of incarceration or punitive damages looming large in the mind of the offender, reinforced by the even greater threat of public censure.

In so many ways we live in a society where the only crime is that of getting caught, where ‘there but for the Grace of God, go I’ has a familiar ring, the anthem of those who would ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Any system is limited by its own parameters, the old adages of justice being blind and the law being an ass, testimony to the shortcomings of enshrined practises which had their roots in a feudal system that was suited to a society where the wealthy could ride roughshod over those relegated to serfdom and the death penalty for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family was graciously commuted to incarceration on the other side of the planet.

We like to think we have come a long way since then, however the boundaries of privilege remain and the silver spoon lives on. Even Ronald Biggs, the Great Train Robbery mastermind, decided he had had enough of living in exile in South America only to return to the motherland to face the music. His health suffering, he needed the succour of the NHS so his loss of freedom was traded for much needed free medical care.

bountyAs the mutineers on the Bounty discovered, life on Pitcairn Island was no Paradise. A system, in spite of its limitations, is still a vehicle for orderly dispensation of essential needs and no one timetable will satisfy all desires.

So it goes that the law we have may not be perfect and may be shaped by those who would transgress, however the alternative of anarchy is only a short-lived one-way ticket to our lowest common denominator, where the strong survive, the weak are downtrodden and mercy is an unknown commodity.

Been there, done that.

death by choc

Death by Chocolate

choc bunnyWhen a whole supermarket aisle has essential items like toilet tissue relegated to a far-flung corner to make way for lines of chocolate bunnies, then you know it’s Easter.

The crucifixion occurs at the checkout, where that which is Caesar’s is rendered unto him. The weekend barbecue is the height of the ritual, a testimony to the belief that burning is preferable to the guillotine, as a hot steak is better than a cold chop.

The Tower of London still reels in the tourists to relive the horrors of persecution but why pay for it when you can do it at home for free? Why chocolate has become the new method of dispatch is due to a few good reasons.

Raw cocoa is packed with serotonin, dopamine, antioxidants, flavinoids and magnesium, however commercial chocolate dilutes the health benefits considerably and with sugar and milk added, the final result of overconsumption sees the supermarket aisle restored to its former glory quite rapidly.

Brought to Europe by Columbus and others in the 16th Century, chocolate was highly prized and out of reach of the ordinary person. As much of a luxury in taste and effect, this ultimate comfort food would soon overtake traditional sweet treats to become number one.

The sensuous melt-in-your-mouth seductive qualities made this brown gold the ‘food of the gods’ for obvious reasons. Anything this good must be divine in nature and a natural choice for those entities.

The upstaging of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection by chocolate bunnies reminds us that the pagan element in us is easily exploited by commercial interests, the expulsion of money-lenders from the temple mocked by the sidelining of daily requirements for the brief idolatry of indulgent consumption.

Chocolate crucifixes would deprive the ubiquitous hot cross bun of its glory, so a harmless bunny rabbit could appeal to the masses without upsetting the applecart.

money lendersSeafood being the vetted substitute for carnivores, chocolate fish would detract from that bumper earner so the marketplace is well tailored to ensure that wallets are emptied as much as possible.

Perhaps the revenge of the money lenders will continue until the second Coming, maybe we’ll end up reverting to loaves and fishes when our pagan roots are exorcised and the profit motive is replaced by a greater Prophet whose deliverance from all things golden will restore the natural abundance we have been given, unless we have rendered our planet unsustainable by then.

If that is so, we’ll need every miracle we can get.




Got a light?

imageHelios, Ra, whatever they called it since Antiquity, the Sun has been our source of life. Worthy of worship and pagan festivals, our perfect dance with this celestial furnace has sustained our planet and our life on it.

To burn the Earth as fuel is the ultimate blasphemy in light of this Gift. Not only is light the perfect, free and boundless energy source but it’s use in fibre optics for data transmission is unsurpassed, not to mention the many useful applications of lasers. We are still living in the Age of the Dinosaur and will travel the same path if we do not react quickly to the threat of climate change by eliminating our burning of the Earth, not just from fossil fuel usage but also from land clearing and forest fires.

Apart from being a vital ingredient of the marine food chain, algae such as plankton provide over half of the world’s oxygen. They also harness sunlight to do this but are being destroyed by the acidification of the oceans from carbon dioxide.

Florence Nightingale was also known as the Lady of the Lamp for bringing relief to wounded soldiers during the night. We are on the verge of harnessing solar power in outer space and beaming it back to Earth, giving us round the clock access. Our reprised Lady will be a collector dish twenty thousand kilometres away.

Necessity may once have been the mother of invention but invention is fast becoming maternal protection in our hour of need. We may well need every trick in the book to mitigate the inevitable effects of global warming which we are already witnessing.

In just over 100 years we moved from being earthbound to enabling aircraft to fly, weighing hundreds of tons. This was made possible by the discovery of the Bernoulli effect, which by making the air above the wing travel faster than below it, created a pressure differential or lift.

imageThe same principle applied to space-time may enable us to travel at close to light speeds, perhaps that barrier may be exceeded in the same way that the sound barrier was overcome.

Apparently the three things that give us the edge in survival are 20/20 vision, having an opposable thumb and using language. That was up until now, as we have largely become the source of our own undoing.

Let’s hope we see the Light before then.




FedEx my Feelings to FutureWorld

imageThe latest model of this machine can now outrun the fastest man on Earth. Drones deliver death from armchair comfort and our cars will soon drive themselves.

Mobile phones have only been around for a short time but have now become more than just a phone. We have driven technology to a point where it is driving us.

Not that it’s a bad thing in itself if used positively. The implications for our way of life, however, will be far-reaching. We are now in an era where computers actually learn, becoming smarter with time. They now learn like humans, through example and repetition.

The more data you feed into it and the more you allow it to learn, the smarter it becomes. With 2.5 billion gigabytes of data produced daily on our planet and the ability to translate and understand human speech, machines will become a very familiar part of the landscape.

It will be a re-education for us all, the hole-in-the-wall and ’60 seconds or it’s free’ mentality being replaced by the instant gratification offered by FutureWorld.

How we adapt to our new-found freedom will be interesting, surely none of us would object to more leisure time. Maybe. Some will be at a loss to know how to utilise it but most won’t. The idea of not having to work presents its own challenges.

Golf sounds good. So does travel, etc. The weather may not be the best, however, the full effects of global warming being sheeted home, just today a cyclone tore through Vanuata at 340 kph in some places.

The ocean has absorbed over 90% of the heat generated so far and is turning to carbonic acid from absorbing carbon dioxide, killing marine life and destroying oxygen sources. The consequence is hard to contemplate, a wonderland turned into a wasteland.

Life will change in many ways but we will be increasingly reliant on our knowledge base to learn, repeat and adapt as well. Machines can replicate but there is still a long way to go before they can create a new way of thinking.

warmFrankenstein is still a fantasy but for how long we don’t know. As long as there’s a Mr Hyde, we won’t see too much of Dr Jekyll. Until then, it seems as though we may be in for a challenging time. Each new answer will kick up several new questions and so learning continues.

One day we will graduate and tea will be served.






Do you take cash?

cash1In these days of email, eftpos and tap’n go, cash will go the same way as a postage stamp and become a vintage relic. Welcome to Gulag, where the sign of the Beast is inscribed on your forehead in the form of your bank card number. No escape. Until now, governments have introduced income tax, goods and services taxes, business tax, etc to pay the bills.

All based on the premise that if you don’t get it at the source of exchange, tax evasion will breed black market economies. The basis of this argument rests on the non-accountability of cash but with financial transactions migrating to electronic debits, a far simpler and more equitable debits tax of 1% would not only eliminate all other taxes but encourage consumption which is good for the economy.

At present, when we earn money, we get taxed on it. Then when we spend what’s left, we get taxed on it. This soup of the soup approach is both archaic and self-effacing in its stupidity, a way of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

The driver of an economy is consumption which should be rewarded and not penalised. The Dickensian tone of ‘how dare you ask for more’ needs to be replaced with ‘eat your fill’.

As a local burger joint displays ‘Come in and eat before we both starve’, Nature provides Bounty regardless of whether it’s consumed or not. We have the ability to be amazingly prosperous if we discontinue shooting ourselves in the foot.

Fear, greed and power are the shackles that bind our mindset in the collective sense. Surely a business is better off paying 1% on debits instead of 30% on corporate profits. The fringe benefits and slush-funding would soon disappear.

Not to mention the benefit to the poor and disadvantaged who for the first time would actually have some real disposable income, which would further fuel the economy.

The more we focus on lack and scarcity, the more we bring that reality into being and we only have ourselves to blame. We are capable of building a world where abundance is the order of the day, our unique ability to transform being the key.

debitTo achieve this Utopia requires vision and benevolence, no wonder we are so far away from reaching it whilst our political representatives preserve the status quo.

Not that we should give up hope, however. The first step in getting out of prison is realising you’re in it. The more an alternative is promoted and the benefits are demonstrated, the more that people will insist on change.

Please share this post with your network if you, too, can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Lost Interest in Villa Costa Lotta

gfcFor most of us the single biggest purchase and financial commitment we undertake in our lives is the roof over our heads. The recent Global Financial Crisis was triggered by the abuse of the housing market. Greedy lenders cashed in on unwary buyers with no-money-down offers as bait on the one hand while collecting insurance payouts from defaulters on the other. Nice while the music played until the Fat Lady sang. We all know who picked up the tab after that.

The worst thing one can do is to buy the house of your dreams with a mortgage, the word itself derived from the French word ‘mortir’ meaning ‘to die’, so mortgage means a debt until death. If you spend all your working life away from the house paying it off, by the time you get to enjoy the fruits of your labours with a meagre pension looming, then five-star poverty has arrived.

There is a simple rule that can prevent this from happening. It’s called the ’10-10-10′ principle whereby property is purchased with no more than 10% deposit, no more than 10% interest and at least 10% below market value. This provides a workable buffer for downturns as the equity will balance the interest so that a default won’t result in bankruptcy. At 10% interest in one year on a $500,000 property, $50,000 in mortgage repayments won’t even have reduced the loan by $1. Scary stuff, but we saw housing loans at 18% in the late 1980’s.

In the same way that we saw retirees superannuation accounts decimated by so-called financial planners, putting all your eggs in one basket with a massive mortgage is a bit like Bruce Willis standing in the middle of Harlem wearing a sandwich board declaring ‘I hate blacks’. A disaster waiting to happen.

To see the quality of family life eroded by a brick mausoleum is an unnecessary tragedy, the original objective having turned turtle into becoming a crushing weight instead of a boon, a dream stressturned into a nightmare.

In our consumer-driven society, food labelling laws and warning signs on tobacco packets are a tilt at providing some consumer protection, perhaps our front doormat should read ‘Caveat Emptor’ instead of ‘Welcome’, the risk of outstaying that greeting being too great.

Rather lose interest in the house than on it.


Give us this day our Plan B

plan bIf the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then maybe the definition of imperfection is something that’s just a six-pack away from being perfect. The surest way to fail is to adopt the belief that it’s not ok to fail. Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

By having a Plan B we are acknowledging that failure isn’t fatal if we are prepared for it. We can also learn from our mistakes so that we become better at what we do and undertake in the future.

It is important to strive for perfection but it is more important to accept failure and react positively by having an alternative that compensates for it. Many of our most remarkable inventions were discovered by accident or the failure of an intended outcome which revealed an unintended consequence of real value in other ways. Penicillin, viagra and dynamite are some examples of this.

The key to survival is adaptability as demonstrated in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Adaptability is being able to change our approach to success by accepting failure and moving on. The law of natural selection rewards those who can implement this strategy.

Your entire life is comprised of a series of choices. Who you are and what you have accomplished is a result of those choices. Assuming responsibility for those choices is what separates the winners from the losers. How we react to circumstances determines the impact they have upon us and blaming the world only leaves us with the weight of the world upon our shoulders.

Admittedly, it is not an easy thing to do, requiring determination, perseverance and humility to respond to situations that require us to change our habitual pattern of reaction. If we don’t, however, the price may well be more than we can afford, with cynicism, apathy and depression being the reward. Not only do we suffer but those around us will suffer as well.

disasterIf somebody tries to rescue a person who is drowning, they are still a hero whether or not they succeed. We all recognise effort as an action requiring sacrifice, fallen soldiers are regarded as heroes even if they lost the battle.

We must learn to forgive ourselves for not achieving Plan A. Plan B may not be what we really wanted but it’s better than giving up all together.




A Sliver of Silver

imageIn the medieval paintings depicting those of royalty and ‘high birth’ it is quite noticeable that their skin has a blueish tinge.

Silver has very strong antibacteriostatic and antiviral properties. This has been known since early days and those born with ‘a silver spoon in the mouth’ usually ate and drank from silver utensils and cutlery.

Regular intake of silver causes the skin to adopt a blue or green tinge, known as Argyria. As medicine often contained silver, only the aristocracy could afford it. They were called ‘bluebloods’ for good reasons. The term ‘silver service’ came from this background of the elite and was reserved for the privileged. Today, with the merging of first and business classes on airlines, the line has become blurred but the essential divide remains.

We all require a little silver service ourselves from time to time. It is important to celebrate achievements and accomplishments and afford the luxury of indulgence, life is too short to be stingy.

‘Happiness is having something to do, something to look forward to and someone to love’ is quite true and when the moment has arrived to reap the rewards of the efforts put forward, then ‘silver service’ is quite appropriate.

imageA little known but handy tip for keeping an open bottle of champagne as bubbly as when it was opened is to use a silver teaspoon with the handle inserted into the neck. Although the contents are exposed to the air, the effervescence remains for several days.

Silver possesses the highest electrical conductivity of any element, the highest thermal conductivity and reflectivity of any metal. It may not be as celebrated as gold in its appeal but has many practical uses that make it a valuable friend.

If every cloud has a silver lining, maybe our task is to look for the silver or the opportunity for growth that is inherent in every obstacle. We may not be able to turn lead into gold but turning a situation around to work for us instead of against us is true alchemy.


Houston, we have a problem

imageAmongst the landmark sayings of our time the title of this post is in the same league as ‘one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind’, made famous by Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon for the first time.

Perhaps the essence of the Houston statement is the breathtaking reaction of ‘how do we solve this one?’. How do you fix a problem hundreds of thousands of miles out in Space?

The incredible resolve and ensuing success of the ground staff in tackling the problem is now legend and well documented. It required ingenuity and teamwork to deal with a situation that seemed terminally irretrievable.

We can learn from their example. There are times in our lives when we are confronted by a seemingly impossible situation, one that threatens to upset the whole order of things for us and where the solution seems to be out of our reach.

This is when a corporate approach is required, where the problem is broken down to each of its components that are delegated to specific teams co-ordinated by Team Leaders who report to the Executive in charge of Problem Resolution.

Essentially it’s a process of ‘divide and conquer’ whereby the problem can be addressed at the ‘grassroots’ level. Many problems can loom larger in our minds because we don’t fully understand the cause, which is the key to successful resolution. The quick reactions of those on board Apollo 13 in shutting down systems that presented danger and transferring to the lunar orbiter Aquarius saved their lives and the tireless efforts of the teams on Earth enabled their safe return. The makeshift solutions put into place to achieve this dealt with the problem at the source and made it possible to work around the limitations that would have otherwise ended in disaster.

To be able to deal with our problems in a similar fashion requires us to disengage from the emotional response to one of detached coolness where we can make level headed decisions about our situation. It also requires the resolve to find a workable solution. By analysing each aspect of the problem independently we are able to establish a priority order for solving each aspect so that the imagemost important requirements are met first.

More than likely we will find that a compromise of some sort is necessary for the solution to work, so that of least cost in the overall sense will be the one chosen. Water is a soft substance that can wear away rock by flow and repetition, even the most seemingly insurmountable problem can also be mitigated in this way. It may take time but persistence and application will work its way through to establishing the real underlying cause which is the first step in finding the solution.


Beyond The Castle Walls

imageIn astrology our ‘ascendant’ is the persona we present to the world, attired in the armour needed to bear the ‘slings and arrows’ of daily life.

Each person’s coat-of-mail is slightly different, reflecting individual strengths and weaknesses from past experiences. Without it we are at the mercy of those who would exploit our softer side, so we keep our vulnerable feelings locked safely inside our castle of Content.

imageOur deepest feelings are the most closely guarded, often kept under lock and key from even our most trusted allies, such is the importance of them to us.

Betrayal is one of the most hurtful disappointments, ‘once bitten, twice shy’ being a natural reaction. The ability to voice one’s personal drama is celebrated through songwriting, poetry and prose and is seen as a courageous act.

Our vulnerability is, however, our redeeming quality. It makes us what we refer to as ‘human’ with regard to fallibility and sets us apart from machines in that we can accept paradoxical arguments that they can’t.

We find it possible to love someone even though we may hate what they’ve done; a machine can’t reconcile that. Our emotions often make us do things considered ‘irrational’ by a mechanical mindset.

Our deepest feelings define us in our sense of identity, belonging and security. They are crucial to our sanity and sense of well-being.

Some of these can be so intense and deep that we even lock them away from ourselves because they are so overwhelming. Trauma and abuse are but two of these that can be too difficult to deal with.

‘A psychotic builds castles in the air, a psychopath lives in them and a psychiatrist collects the rent’. Admittedly that’s putting a rather fine point on it but it does illustrate the power of our innermost feelings.

Having someone to talk to who will listen to us is so valuable because by externalising our thoughts and emotions we can see them more clearly and through doing so can often find our own solution.

imageEven an inanimate object such as Wilson, the basketball in the movie ‘Castaway’ with Tom Hanks can serve as friend and confidante when there is no other human to fill the role.

That ‘no man is an island’ shows us we are all part of a homogeneous blob called humanity and share the same source, the rivers of our lives ending up in the same ocean. Perhaps the recognition of our mortality keeps us humble and able to relate to our fellow man with love and understanding, without which we’d all be lost.