Keep going

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Day two of trying to get through this year with creativity and strong dedication. I am determined to find my voice this year and start using it. Mainly in writing. 
For some time now I keep reading and hearing about how each of us matters and I think I’m finally willing to believe it. That I matter and I can make a difference. I’m not sure what difference exactly. It’s funny how we probably never fully realise how connected we are to the world around us and the impact our existence is making. 

In the past I believed that person’s happiness, or fulfilment depend on how successful they are in life. Mainly financially, as that means they have more resources to do what they want. Again, this is based on my belief that life is about doing what we want as often as we can. If that was true,  going to a mediocre job could be described as a suffering.
We live in a world where the first five days of the week (for most of us) are days where we exchange our life for money which we then invest into having some good time on the weekend, or into holiday getaways. Some might be actually very happy with this way if living, but I’m pretty sure the amount of those who are not isn’t exactly irrelevant. 

Eventually this will suck the life out of us. I don’t mean that this will kill us, but it seems pretty obvious that this cannot be the happiest way to spend our precious time on this planet. 
For some time now, I’m part of this all. Creator of my own suffering. Suffering based on my own perception of reality. Which was based on what I was taught and led to believe. I can’t name all the sources where this beliefs came from, but I guess much of it is based on my own observations. I guess all I have ever seen was a life where everyone just gets on with it. 

Sure, I have also been excited, inspired, amazed, but it never lasted long. And what I’m beginning to realise now is, that it never came from inside me. At least I’m not too sure. It seemed to have been triggered by something external. I mean, I cannot recall a moment in which I was totally grateful for my life here, amazed by my own existence, by universe existence. As if I was just walking through life like a ghost of myself. Without realising my own power. Like somehow I believed I am some sort of aetheric being that cannot shape, or re-shape the material world I live in. 
I want to believe I can. I’m pretty sure I can. The question is:

How? 
Well, I don’t think I know, but I know I want to find an answer to it. That seems enough. 

I guess it’s all about one’s ability to put one foot in front of the other. Day after day. 

I’m pretty sure the dullness of ordinary day jobs won’t disappear without our effort to see our own lives as something more than a slow walk towards our own deaths with an occasional excitement. I think that eventually the blurred perception of reality will disappear and we will see how beautiful we are, how beautiful life is. 
So I will keep going. You, also please keep going. And if you want to read a beautiful story about keeping going, try Rachel Joyce – An unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry, it’s an amazing book. I think you will feel uplifted and somehow, something from it will give you some strange little light that you can use on your dark days. Because there will be some for each of us. It’s part of the deal. So make sure you always carry some light within you.

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Start where you are, as you are 

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​First day of the new year. 

To start (to give you a bait), I’ll borrow an excerpt from one of my favourite books of all time, The two kinds of decay by Sarah Magnuso. (It’s a beautiful book and I think everyone should read it. I’m pretty sure that if the only thing you get from reading this blog post is getting The two kinds of decay, you will gain a lot. But I still hope you’ll like some of my writing too. It however has no ambition to compete with the aforementioned book.) 

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Measuring

A nine-year period began and ended. I measure time by the movement of this planet. As any sane person would. I tend to forget that my measurement of time is designed to distract me from what’s really happening. I tend to forget I’m walking on the surface of a soft mass on fire on the inside, a surface warmed and lit by an explosion taking place ninety-three million miles away. An explosion that started at some point and will end at some point. I tend to forget that I rose out of this explosion and—despite my feeling I am unique from it—will someday fall back into it.

Why nine years? 

Why do I need to read sixty minutes in the morning, and swim twenty laps in the afternoon, and write a thousand words at night, in order to feel that a twenty-four-hour period has been well used?

What are all these numbers for? What do they measure? What do I think I’m clarifying by the act of measuring? What does measuring make clearer?

At the beginning there’s conception, gestation, the growth of the brain in the womb. There’s the crowning, the first breath, the naming. 

At the end, unless you are vaporized in an explosion, the heart stops and the blood still moves in the veins, then the blood stops and the tissues still live, then the tissues die slowly, and at some point the last neuron in the brain dies. How long this takes depends on too many variables to measure.

My Jewish grandmother lived to be eighty-five. She thought she’d been born on December 10th, but when we found her birth certificate, it seemed she’d been born at home on the 8th or the 9th. There was snow in Boston, and the 10th was the first day anyone could get out to report the birth.

I have two letters she wrote to me at summer camp in the 1980s. One is dated Tuesday 6/29, and the other, July 4—Happy Independence Day.

What times aren’t open to debate? What times are clear? 

Wars end at particular times. They end when the document has been signed. They end at the first moment the document can be described as signed. But it isn’t so much that a war ends in a single moment as much as people decide to agree the war has ended in a single moment. And so the measurement becomes unassailable. Not accurate. Just unassailable.

Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it.     

Firing a rifle shot seems to happen quickly, but what about the movement of the trigger finger? What about the decision to fire the rifle? What about all your careful target practice? What about everything in your life that happened before you decide to fire that rifle?

How can you separate the incidental from what was necessary to your decision to pull the trigger?

Nothing happens in an instant. Nothing starts happening and nothing finishes happening. History doesn’t begin anywhere. And it doesn’t end.        

Why is it important to me to know the beginning and end of this particular decay I think I’m writing about—which is just part of my own whole decay?   

And couldn’t the decay be called by many other names—for instance, my life?

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I decided to have a better 2017 than 2016. On the last day of the year I caught myself  thinking how unimportant the new year day is as it is just our society’s construct to give us some kind of mark, a point in time, a point of reference for all our different measurements. Especially time. We’re dependent on our ability to measure the time.

But then, as I was falling for my mind’s favorite bait to trigger a cycle of negative thoughts in my head I pulled the brake. Like if suddenly a short window in which I was able to react in a better way appeared and I had just enough mental power to use it. 
This text is its result. As I said, it has no ambitions to be anything else then just a simple expression of what I felt today. 

Window of opportunity

Somehow I decided, after having a pretty shitty start of the day, and a year, to use what is left of the day (I started writing this at 14:25) to create a better reality. Just to see how capable I am of that change. 
I had big plans yesterday. I finished last year on about 905 kilometers of walking and I wanted to start this year by at least 7 km walk, as early as possible (I was thinking leaving the house at 7, 8 am latest. Dreams we dream.) You probably already guessed that didn’t happen. I started very slow and tired. I slept something like 6 hours and although I wanted to sleep more, I couldn’t. I had to spend morning with Anneke and it required a lot of energy to keep her entertained. On top of it, I spent majority of the time being with her cursing the shitty weather outside, being disappointed how tired I am and how unlikely it is that I will complete my first walk of the year early in the morning leaving me rest of the day for some relax and creative activities.

This lasted until approximately 14.25, when I woke up from a short nap. Anneke was still sleeping and while I was checking Facebook looking at other people’s posts about the new year and saw everyone’s hopes for a better year than ridiculously rubbish 2016, I somehow (have no idea how) wandered off the negative path my mind kindly and perfectly marked for me in the morning into the you-know-what-let’s-try-this area.

Now,

I am not an optimist.

I’m not a a pessimist either, but I am very sceptical and I am full of doubt. (Yay adulthood!) But there were some pretty strong moments in 2016 (some parts of it might have actually been pretty cool) and I did some good work from August till the end of the year. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since August and also did a lot of walking and lost 10 kilograms of weight. Something I didn’t think was possible. Not because it’s something hard, but because I couldn’t find a motivation. I actually still struggle to pinpoint a single factor that triggered the whole thing, but that doesn’t matter. Later on I summarised it into a quote:

“It can’t happen until it can happen.” 

What I mean by that is, that sometimes things need time and some other factors, mainly your ability to review reality and your perception of it and as I mentioned previously, maybe there will be some sort of window in time in which you can make a huge difference to your life. And you either make it, or you miss that moment and have to wait for another opportunity.
An ancient zen master Dōgen said that there are 6,400,099,980 moments in a day, and apparently, you can change your way of thinking in any of them. I can agree that this is technically true, but from my own experience the “windows” in which you truly can change your life don’t occur that often. Basically not every moment of the day is equal. Not every moment of the day carries the same opportunity. So what matters is your ability to be able to recognise the right moments
I could have decided to have a better day immediately after I realised my thoughts are negative. I could have stopped thinking that way there and then. But I didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t, but I simply couldn’t. I can compare it to the moment an archer releases the string. He simply waits for the right moment. I think you kind of feel that window in which the opportunity to do something with your reality exists. Although that moment can be any moment of the day, your mind must be prepared to release the string and that isn’t every moment of the day. Sometimes you just miss it. That’s life.  
So here I am, I have written this and I’ll leave my house shortly. Haven’t checked the weather and I have no idea what pictures I’ll make, but I decided to make at least three photos today. I really want to have a creative year and I am now ready to accept it’s me who has to make it so. 
I am trying to not expect much from today. All I really want now is a little test of how good I  am at this moment at refocusing on my own daily target. I am well aware of my inability to keep focus on my target for very long. But I think I have developed some tools to help me to improve here. 
Some say that being happy is a matter of choice, decision, but I think I am moving away from the desire to be happy (all the time) and I am trying to pursue the awareness instead of happiness. Ability to feel, recognise, be aware of seem to be of more value. It’s the interaction with the world that makes us privileged. No one processes the reality (including its variations) exactly the same. And since no one can truly understand you because of that, why not trying to understand yourself first of all? Why not try to be fascinated by your own existence? 

(This feels like a great place to insert a cheezy quote, here you go >>>) 

¬We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?¬
~ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

PS: What did I try to say? 
One of my biggest problems with writing is that I doubt I have something to say. Because there is so much information around us that to add more to that seems pointless. But then, as it occurred to me today as I was battling the negativity, every writer writes mainly for and about him/herself. It’s not important who else can connect with what me, or anyone else for that matter have written. What is important is that I spoke from my center and I said what I felt was the truth. I think that between the two evils of speaking too much, or of not great value and burying my own voice in doubt and deciding not to express myself because I would believe I have nothing to say to anyone, the later one is much greater. Being yourself might make you enemies, might make people look at you strangely, but ultimately, that is their problem. As much as your mind tries to tell you otherwise. Of course you cannot disattach from that, but eventually if you keep using your voice long enough, you’ll become what you came here to be. And that’s all that matters. Because only you can be you. 
Now, this shouldn’t be a motivational post at all, although after I read it in its entirety it reads like one. 

Take whatever you want from what I have written, but please use your own personal experiences and feelings to build it into your own story. I wish we all would make some great steps towards our own greatness this year and I would like to start making more and more meaningful connections this year. I want to use my voice. Speak, write, create. 
My favourite motivational writer Ally Hamilton ends every single post with “Sending you love”. I mean, every single post, it’s like part of her signature. I don’t think I can come up with anything better, or simpler, or more beautiful. I think that short sentence has it all. I won’t use it as she does, it’s her own, but this time my friends, I’m sending you love. 

Have a wonderful year. 
(Ally, if you read this, I hope you’re OK with me borrowing your words this one time. Thank you. As always. Namaste. )

Koniec nevinnosti

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Koniec nevinnosti

Neustále čítam a počúvam o prítomnom okamihu a o žití v ňom. A s trochou prikrášlenia by som sa mohol nazvať skeptikom prežívania prítomnosti. Teda niežeby žitie v minulosti, či budúcnosti bolo lepšie, ono je to všetko totiž postavené len na našom naučenom vnímaní času. Aj to prehnané zdôrazňovanie života v prítomnosti.

Na krátke vysvetlenie by som si dovolil použiť ukážku z knihy od Sarah Manguso, Dva Druhy Rozkladu.

~ Meranie

Obdobie deviatich rokov začalo a skončilo. Meriam čas podľa pohybu tejto planéty. Tak ako to robí každý, kto je pri zmysloch.

Občas zabúdam, že meranie času je tu aby ma odpútalo od toho, čo sa skutočne deje.

Občas zabúdam, že kráčam po povrchu mäkkej hmoty, ktorá kdesi veľmi hlboko horí, po povrchu ohrievanom a osvetlovanom explóziami vzdialenými deväťdesiattri miliónov míľ. Explóziami, ktoré v nejakom bode začali a rovnako v nejakom bode skončia.

Občas zabúdam, že som vznikla z tejto explózie a – napriek môjmu pocitu, že som od nej oddelená – zase sa do nej vrátim.

Prečo deväť rokov?

Prečo si ráno musím 60 minút čítať, poobede zaplávať dvadsať dĺžok v bazéne a večer napísať tisíc slov aby som mala pocit, že som svojich 24 hodín dňa prežila zmysluplne?

Čo znamenajú tieto čísla? Čo nimi vlastne meriame? Čo si myslím, že objasňujem aktom merania? Stáva sa niečo meraním jasnejšie?

Na začiatku je počatie, tehotenstvo, rast nového mozgu v lone, zjavenie hlavičky, prvý nádych, pomenovanie.

Na konci, ak sa náhodou nevyparíme v explózii, zastane srdce, ale krv ešte tečie žilami, potom krv prestane tiecť, ale tkanivá ešte žijú, potom tkanivá odumrú, až nakoniec zomrie posledný neurón v mozgu. Ako dlho to presne trvá závisí od príliš veľa premenných.

Moja židovská stará mama sa dožila osemdesiat-päť rokov. Myslela si, že sa narodila desiateho decembra, ale keď sme našli jej rodný list, ukázalo sa, že sa narodila ôsmeho, alebo deviateho. Boston bol totiž vtedy zavalený snehom a to bol prvý deň kedy mohol niekto nahlásiť jej narodenie.

Mám od nej dva listy, ktoré mi napísala do letného tábora v 1980. Jeden je z utorka 29. júna a druhý, zo 4. júla ku Dňu Nezávislosti.

Aké dátumy nemožno spochybniť? Aké časy sú jednoznačné? O konci vojen sa často píše s udávaním presného dátumu. Končia vtedy keď sa podpíše deklarácia o ich konci. Končia v okamihu v ktorom sa dá deklarácia považovaná za podpísanú.

Ale nie je to náhodou tak, že vojny ani tak nekončia v tom okamihu, ale ľudia sa proste iba dohodnú ich za skončené v tom okamihu pokladať? A tak sa meranie stáva neuskutočniteľným. Nepresným. Proste neuskutočniteľným.

Vlastne nič sa nedeje v okamihu. Nič sa nedeje rýchlo. Ak sa vám niekedy zdá, že sa niečo deje rýchlo, je to preto že sa pozeráte iba na malý úsek diania.

Výstrel z brokovnice sa zdá byť vykonaný rýchlo, ale čo pohyb prsta k spúšti? Čo s myšlienkou ktorá viedla k rozhodnutiu vystreliť? Čo so všetkým tým tréningom pred tým? Čo vlastne so všetkým, čo sa stalo pred tým než uchopíme tú pušku? Ako môžeme oddeliť samotné stlačenie spúšte od toho, čo bolo nevyhnutné pre to aby sa to stalo?

Nie, nič sa nedeje v okamihu. Nič sa nezačína a nič sa neprestáva stávať. História nikde nezačína. A rovnako nikde nekončí.

Prečo by som teda ja musela nájsť začiatok a koniec tohoto rozkladu o ktorom píšem – ktorý napokon je aj tak len menším rozkladom môjho väčšieho osobného rozkladu?

A nemá celý ten rozklad náhodou aj iné mená – napríklad aj život?

 ~ Koniec

Sú dva druhy rozkladu – môj a rozklad tých ostatných. Toto je len celkom obyčajná kniha o chorobe, niekto sa uzdraví, niekto ochorie.

Tí, ktorí tvrdia že píšu o niečom väčšom a dôležitejšom ako o sebe samých len zlyhávajú pochopiť svoj skutočný rozmer.

Väčšina ľudí považuje svoje vlastné utrpenie za akýsi široko aplikovateľný model a ja nie som výnimka.

Utrpenie skrýva poučenie: sústreďte sa. Dôležitá časť nemusí prísť tak, že ju okamžite rozoznáte.

Nemusíte ani vedieť ako ju milovať. Ale sústrediť sa je milovať všetko. Vidieť budúcnosť ako svetlo.

Čokoľvek sa deje, sa deje len vtedy, raz a naposledy. Vidíme veci len ako ich vlastné svetlo a za tým svetlom už nie je nič.

Nemôžeme sa nič naučiť z pamätania si, nemôžeme sa nič naučiť z hádania.

Jediné učenie je v pohybe vpred, akým sme vpred posúvaný, ako svetlo pohybujúce sa do svetla.

(Kniha Dva Druhy Rozkladu je vskutku úžasná a odporúčam ju.) >>>


Podnetom na napísanie tejto úvahy bolo ono zistenie, že nič sa v skutočnosti nedeje v okamihu. Ako je vysvetlené v ukážke z knihy. Ku všetkému, čo sa deje sa viaže nejaká udalosť v minulosti, často viac udalostí, okamihov, všetko sa teda deje “naraz”. To iba my vnímame čas ako rôzne okamihy tým, že ho delíme na minulosť, prítomnosť a budúcnosť.

Povedzme, že za okamih budeme považovať milióntinu sekundy. Naše zmysly a mozog sú schopné spracovávať javy určitou rýchlosťou, ak sa ale veci dejú príliš rýchlo, nemusíme na ne reagovať v prítomnom okamihu, viacmenej teda vždy reagujeme na veci, čo sa už stali, nie na veci čo sa dejú. Sotva si na niečo pomyslíme, už je to minulosť. Prítomnosť sa proste deje príliš rýchlo aby sme v nej mohli skutočne žiť. Prežívame teda život ako minulosť, prítomnosť a budúcnosť zároveň. Možno je teda naše pátranie po žití v prítomnosti založené len na nepochopení času. Že sa jeho tri zložky snažíme oddeliť.

Je to ako s tou Božou trojicou, nikdy som tomu nechápal. Otec, syn a Duch Svätý. A jeden Boh, ktorý ich všetkých obsahuje. Niežeby som tomu teda chápal oveľa viac než vtedy v detských rokoch keď som o trojjedinečnosti Boha počul prvý krát. Ale ono je to všetko v tom, že sa snažíme veci chápať rozumom, ktorý je síce skvelý nástroj v rukách človeka, ale skrátka nemôžeme ním odhaliť všetky tajomstvá života.

 ~ 6,400,099,980

V knihe Hľadanie prítomného okamihu (A Tale For The Time Being), od Ruth Ozeki, som sa dočítal o učení majstra Dōgena, ktorý vo svojom učení spomína číslo 6,400,099,980. Hovorí, že toľko krát za deň prežívame prítomný okamih, v toľkých úsekoch času vieme zmeniť smer svojej cesty, zmeniť myšlienku, ktorú máme. Svojich žiakov učil navráteniu sa do prítomnosti lusknutím prstov, ak im myseľ zablúdila príliš ďaleko od prítomného okamihu.

Dá sa teda jednoduchou rovnicou zistiť aký časový okamih by tomuto číslu zodpovedal:

24 hodín (86,400 sekúnd) / 6,400,099,980 =

>>> 0.0000135 sekundy!!!

Veľmi krátky časový úsek.

Čiže taká krátka je prítomnosť ako ju vieme prežiť. Neviem či je ale možné žiť iba v prítomnosti a byť si jej neustále vedomý.

No a v rámci hľadania definície prítomnosti som si dal takú úlohu, nájsť bod, okamih, v ktorom dieťa stráca nevinnosť. Niečo ako okamih v ktorom Adam a Eva zistili, že sú nahí. Iste, niečo k tomu všetkému vedie, rôzne predošlé udalosti, ale ono spoznanie vlastnej nahoty sa odohrá v jednom okamihu. No a mňa zaujalo, či je možné ho zachytiť. Možno všetko to, čím prechádzame sú kvapky do pohára, ktorý má svoj limit.

A ako žijeme >>>

kvap ‘

kvap ”

KVAP “‘

Až kým prvá kvapka nepretečie.

Malá má šesť rokov a stále je to nevinné dieťa. Niečo, čo sa oplatí pozorovať, všímať si a z toho všetkého sa učiť. Učiť tej nevinnosti s akou žije. Možno aby si ju človek mohol pripomenúť, spomenúť si na svoju vlastnú nevinnosť, a možno neskôr, i tomu druhému ju pripomenúť.

Ešte stále sa malá nebráni svojej nahote a sotva si uvedomuje, že jej na jej malých chudých nožičkách začínajú rásť chĺpky. Svet je pre ňu jedno veľké ihrisko.

Neviem tú jej nevinnosť opísať, ale intenzívne ju vnímam. V tom ako pozoruje svet a reaguje. Iste, od mnohého je uchránená, ako aj my a iné šťastné deti sme boli uchránení našimi rodičmi. Jedného dňa však zistí, že svet, hoci možno stále ihrisko, občas vyžaduje ísť na dno síl a ani tak víťazstvo nie je zaručené.

Ako teda opísať tú nevinnosť a ako si všimnúť jej koniec?

Je to iskra v očiach?

Chuť zobudiť sa každý deň a myslieť na hry?

Úprimné sa tešenie z malých vecí ako časopis s lacnou hračkou a nálepkami, či sladká limonáda z obchodu na rohu?

Naivná dôvera v dobro ľudí?

A kedy sa to stratí?

Bude to vidno v jej očiach?

Spoznám to podľa jej slov?

Dotyku?

Neviem.

Naozaj neviem.

Sám neviem kedy som prišiel o tú detskú nevinnosť, kedy začalo moje dospievanie.

Možno by sa to dalo napísať takto:

Ako dieťa rastie a dospieva,

srdce pripravuje sa na moment,

kedy pieseň nevinnosti bude musieť dospievať.

A tak vedomý si toho, čo sa nevyhnutne stane, možno viac než striehnuť na ten moment, by som mal počúvať tú tichú pieseň jej malého srdiečka. Kým spieva nevinne.

little feet

How I struggled to remove PayPal from Google Play Store

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So,

in the past few weeks I started to let my 6 year old daughter to play on my tablet, which had my credit card and my PayPal account linked to the Google Play store. And although it is not always connected to WiFi, today, when I saw her pressing a shop button in this game with “in-app purchases” I reconsidered my Google account settings and I decided to delete all my lined payment methods and only use the store credit, which I planned to purchase locally in the shops, keeping my account balance in the area of £5-10, as I don’t tend to make many purchases there (I already purchased the items/apps I really wanted, or needed and there is simply no need to have another connection to my bank account.

So I went and removed credit card, but when I looked in the PayPal option, it all became slightly strange. PayPal wasn’t showing as a method on my Google Payments page.

04 Not showing PayPal

So I tried to purchase an app by selecting PayPal as an option trying to see how it will go and to my shock, after I confirmed the Google password (remember this, not the PayPal account password), the purchase was successful and the app started to download.

I didn’t like this as I was hoping to have a “double security” on my account, where in the first step, every purchase would have my approval by confirming Google password, and then, in the case of PayPal payment, confirming PayPal password. (I will now fast forward and will provide you with what I learned from PayPal employee, which was really really helpful. She said, that there is a MERCHANT on my PayPal account, which is Google, and somehow I must have entered into a BILLING AGREEMENT with this merchant, Google, which means, if I am purchasing anything on Google Play Store using PayPal as a method, I am billed to my linked PayPal account and even the change of the password on that PayPal account wouldn’t stop this billing, as the billing is linked to the account, completely ignoring what password I have on that account. So then she kindly cancelled this agreement, which means Google cannot bill my PayPal account anymore.)

This is what is on Google website about PayPal method:

01 PayPal method

And this is the information they have to assist users with removing a payment method from Google Play Store:

03 Remove a Payment method

So I rang Google and asked them to remove my PayPal account from my Play Store account. After a few emails and phone calls, they successfully erased my PayPal account and it is now showing this method as “blank”.

Everyone was helpful and I experienced top quality customer service from both, Google and PayPal, although the second person I spoke to about my PayPal account was much more knowledgeable tham the first one, as the first PayPal employee didn’t even mention something like “a billing agreement”, which would save me time explaining to Google what is wrong. After the other PayPal employee, Sam, told me about this, within a few minutes I knew what is going on and she simply cancelled it and as Google already erased all my PayPal account details I achieved what I wanted.

Google has verification control process, as below, but the verification in case of PayPal, doesn’t provide user with extra verification by requesting PayPal login details:

02 Verification options

The issue is, PayPal is a very popular payment method. And from the above it seems that its users are somehow mislead (well, at least I was) when selecting it as an option when signing up for Google Play Store services, that this will provide them with usual security (by requiring password approval, I mean PayPal password) when they are making Google Play purchases. But instead, if the user will set up PayPal as a method, and they pay by it, Google Play store will ask for Google password (if set up to ask) and then the purchase will happen. Which means that PayPal password is not requested. (Apparently this is achieved by the “billing agreement”, that somehow the user agrees for Google to take payments of his/her PayPal account without confirming the PayPal account details – PASSWORD. Which I think is a security loop hole.)

 

SUMMARY:

I am coming from a financial background (workwise) and it is all about security and I was always reminded to watch out for any weaknesses in the system. Now this might not be a big issue to some, but as I am longtime PayPal user and I really like using their service (as opposed to using credit card which I hate) and it was really disappointing to find out that if I decide to use PayPal on Google purchases, it will not, like it is normal on my eBay purchases, ask me to loginto the actual PayPal to complete the transaction, it will just PROCESS IT, robbing me of the extra layer of security, which as confirmed by PayPal agent, is what PayPal is for, providing extra secure payment processing.

Please let me know what you think about this. I have escalated this to Google and I hope to have some sort of update in future. For now, I am not linking PayPal to my Google Play store.

Some links that users can try (UK):

Request a call back from Google >>>

PayPal contact information >>>

Learning Excel #3, Designing Math Challenge For Young Children, Template #3

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Hello again,

 

We have finally got some summer weather here in England and although many of you won’t associate summer with Excel designing, I have decided to keep bravely going strong with it even on these hot days. (Correction: The days are quite hot, but the weather isn’t exactly great for outdoor activities due to summer storms hanging in the air, ready to hit as soon as you would delve into some enjoyable outdoor activity.)j

 

This is my third attempt at creating a simple, clean and visually appealing math challenge template for young children and this is the first one where I had a play with automated macro.

 

During the designing process I had to ask my Excel guru for a little advice on handling error messages from VBA (so thank you Gary), but apart from that, it is all my work. Well, mine and Internet’s. But I managed to find all the answers myself. I even found and corrected an error in processing the automated macros, which was causing conflict with the selection of the next field for next user’s input. This is not to show that after a month of designing little Math challenges I am a know-it-all Excel expert, it’s simply my attempt to describe my learning development with as much details as I can, so it’s also a bit of storytelling and contains an evidence of my progress and skills, should someone someday ask my what my Excel skills are like.

 

So what have we got here?

 

1, The idea

 

Once again the aim was to create a visually appealing file for young children (our daughter is almost six) and try something new (automated macro). As I was searching for a way to do this, I came across the following command:

 

Private Sub Worksheet_Change (ByVal Target As Range)

 

I am not 100% sure what exactly it does (many of you surely know) but I used it to run automated macro. (Code to follow.) Since I am learning all of this as I go, I don’t want to give anybody any advice as I myself feel a bit unsure when it comes to VBA and commands, and the logic of statements.

But I will be happy to provide what I can.

During the designing of the long code I had a struggle with the order of “If statements”, but in the end I got there. So I guess I must be doing something right.

 

This time I designed the layout to match the character of Ferda, the ant, and I quite like the red and black Kurt Cobain sweater design of it.

 

The automated macro moves the user from cell where he provided the answer into a cell where a new answer is required until the last answer is provided.

It took me a long time to write the correct code (and sometimes I think there might be errors in it, but as far as I can tell – it works! Yay!)

I have written the code in a way that also allows the user to change the numbers in the equations manually, without breaking what it does (previously I didn’t consider the user’s request to be able to change things in the file, something my guru told me to always consider, and also making the code as flexible as possible).

 

Here’s an example of above:

 If Range(“D6”) = Range(“F6”) – Range(“B6”) Then
    Call Cell3

– This means that as long as user changes pre-populated numbers and keeps the empty space for answers, he can adjust the equations as he wishes.

2, How does it work?

 

~ Checking the answers

Unlike in previous challenge, the incorrect answer doesn’t unhide a picture (at the time of writing the code this seemed to be a lot of work and I wanted to create this file quickly. But this is listed as possible improvement.)

The answers are checked by macro and once the answer is checked, macro moves user to next cell. The macro that checks the answer also lifts the white rectangle cover off the “thumbs up Ferda” if the answer is correct.

 

~ Checking whether all answers are correct

As in previous challenge, this is achieved by calculating the difference between the answer provided by user and between the correct answer checked by Excel itself. If the difference is 0, the answer is correct.

Then all zeroes are counted in a  master cell, which if all answers are correct shows 10, then for some reason I added -10 to get 0. If master check shows 0 a macro enabled button with Show Reward is made visible, in the case that not all answers are correct, button to show reward remains invisible.

 

~ Commands/Macros

 

There’s 10 macros to lift the white background under which the picture of “Thumbs up Ferda” is hiding.

 

Then there’s a long code that calls the macros one by one as user makes his/her way down the challenge. This code is (at least for me), stupidly long and easy to get lost within, but ultimately it can be broken into ten “commandments” consisting of 3 logical statements below:

 

1, If the cell with answer is blank, do nothing, exit

2, If the cell contains the correct answer, call macro to life the picture in referencing cell and move user to next cell where answer is required

3, Don’t unhide anything, just move user to next cell where answer is required

 

Once all answers are provided, user is either rewarded by a “Congratulations” message and picture of happy Ferda, or a message with “I’m sure you’ll do better next time.” is given.

Pictures:

Ferda 1

Ferda 2

Ferda 3

Ferda 4

~ Coding

Here’s the coding for the challenge:

 

> > >  Sheet 1 Code:

 

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)

If Range(“D2”) = Range(“F2”) – Range(“B2”) Then

Call Cell1

End If

If Range(“D2”) <> Range(“F2”) – Range(“B2”) Then

Range(“B4”).Select

End If

If Range(“B4”) = Range(“F4”) – Range(“D4”) Then

Call Cell2

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“B4”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“B4”) <> Range(“F4”) – Range(“D4”) Then

Range(“D6”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“D6”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“D6”) = Range(“F6”) – Range(“B6”) Then

Call Cell3

End If

If Range(“D6”) <> Range(“F6”) – Range(“B6”) Then

Range(“B8”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“B8”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“B8”) = Range(“F8”) – Range(“D8”) Then

Call Cell4

End If

If Range(“B8”) <> Range(“F8”) – Range(“D8”) Then

Range(“D10”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“D10”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“D10”) = Range(“F10”) – Range(“B10”) Then

Call Cell5

End If

If Range(“D10”) <> Range(“F10”) – Range(“B10”) Then

Range(“B12”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“B12”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“B12”) = Range(“F12”) – Range(“D12”) Then

Call Cell6

End If

If Range(“B12”) <> Range(“F12”) – Range(“D12”) Then

Range(“D14”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“D14”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“D14”) = Range(“F14”) – Range(“B14”) Then

Call Cell7

End If

If Range(“D14”) <> Range(“F14”) – Range(“B14”) Then

Range(“B16”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“B16”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“B16”) = Range(“F16”) – Range(“D16”) Then

Call Cell8

End If

If Range(“B16”) <> Range(“F16”) – Range(“D16”) Then

Range(“D18”).Select

End If

If IsEmpty(Range(“D18”).Value) = True Then

Exit Sub

End If

If Range(“D18”) = Range(“F18”) – Range(“B18”) Then

Call Cell9

End If

If Range(“D18”) <> Range(“F18”) – Range(“B18”) Then

Range(“B20”).Select

End If

If Range(“B20”) = Range(“F20”) – Range(“D20”) Then

Call Cell10

End If

If Range(“Y22”) = 0 Then

ActiveSheet.Shapes(“Rectangle 3”).Visible = True

End If

If Range(“Y23”) = 10 And Range(“Y22”) <> 0 Then

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 1”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 2”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 3”).Visible = True

End If

End Sub

 

> > > This Workbook code

 

Private Sub Workbook_Open()

 

Range(“D2”).Select

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 1A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 2A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 3A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 4A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 5A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 6A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 7A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 8A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 9A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 10A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 1”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 2”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 3”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Shapes(“Rectangle 3”).Visible = False

 

End Sub

 

> >> Macros to lift cover pictures

 

Sub Cell1()

‘ Cell1 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 1A”).Visible = False

Range(“B4”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

 

End Sub

Sub Cell2()

‘ Cell2 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 2A”).Visible = False

Range(“D6”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

 

End Sub

Sub Cell3()

‘ Cell3 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 3A”).Visible = False

Range(“B8”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

Sub Cell4()

‘ Cell4 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 4A”).Visible = False

Range(“D10”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

 

End Sub

Sub Cell5()

‘ Cell5 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 5A”).Visible = False

Range(“B12”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

 

End Sub

Sub Cell6()

‘ Cell6 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 6A”).Visible = False

Range(“D14”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

Sub Cell7()

‘ Cell7 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 7A”).Visible = False

Range(“B16”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

Sub Cell8()

‘ Cell8 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 8A”).Visible = False

Range(“D18”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

Sub Cell9()

‘ Cell9 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 9A”).Visible = False

Range(“B20”).Select

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

Sub Cell10()

‘ Cell10 Macro

 

On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 10A”).Visible = False

 

ErrorHandler:

Exit Sub

End Sub

 

> > > Show Reward macro

 

Sub ShowReward()

‘ ShowReward Macro

 

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 1”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 2”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 3”).Visible = False

Range(“A1”).Select

 

End Sub

 

> > > Start Again Macro

Sub StartAgain()

‘ StartAgain

 

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D2”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“B4”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D6”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“B8”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D10”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“B12”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D14”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“B16”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D18”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“B20”).Select

Selection.ClearContents

Range(“D2”).Select

Range(“D2”).Select

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 1A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 2A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 3A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 4A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 5A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 6A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 7A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 8A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 9A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Pic 10A”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 1”).Visible = True

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 2”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Pictures(“Ferda 3”).Visible = False

ActiveSheet.Shapes(“Rectangle 3”).Visible = False

 

End Sub

 

~ Possible improvements

 

1,

Assign an action/macro to run when incorrect answer is provided

 

2, Randomised equations each time challenge is restarted

 

 

~

 

 

Download:

Full Excel file can be downloaded from here >>>

Learning Excel #2, Designing Math Challenge For Young Children, Template #2

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Hello all,

 

As I was pleased with the achievement on the previous Math challenge for young children I have designed, motivated, I immediately went to design a new template.

 

Once again, I set up the challenge with two goals in mind:

– pleasing design with some lovely cartoon character

– interesting layout with some visual verification of the answers

 

I have to say that I really like this template and I hope you will like it too. Please have a read and download the file and try it. (Download at the end.)

 

1, The idea

The idea is pretty simple again.

What I have changed from the previous template is the layout.

This time the file after opening only displays one equation.

Once the answer is provided, the new equation is given by running a macro assigned to a button right of the equation, unhiding row above the starting task and new tasks continue to be given one by one until the last one is uncovered.

 

The answers are confirmed in a form of a picture. The correct answer gets Doc McStuffins and the incorrect a plaster. On top of this, the answer is filled with green, if correct, and with red, if incorrect.

 

And as a final reward for all answers being correct, there is a picture saying “Congratulations.”

 

2, How does it work?

~ Checking the answers

Each answer is checked through a macro. Next to each answer are four pictures laid one on each other, the top picture being a white background hiding all others underneath. The correct answer runs macro that removes the top white square uncovering the Doc McStuffins picture as a reward. The macro that runs after incorrect answer deletes the top white square, the Doc McStuffins underneath it, and also the white square floating above the plaster. So basically it removes three layers of pictures.

 

Both macros then unhide the row above and give user new task.

 

In the cells where answers are provided, conditional formatting is used to give the cell appropriate fill, either green, or red.

 

~ Checking whether all answers are correct

This is achieved by calculating the difference between the answer provided by user and between the correct answer checked by Excel itself. If the difference is 0, the answer is correct.

Then the SUM of all differences is pulled into the master cell, which again, if all differences are 0, means all answers are correct, and in case its value is different than 0, at least one answer is incorrect, in which case the reward picture message won’t be displayed.

 

~ Commands/Macros

Again, I decided to execute the checks by user. So there are macro enabled buttons next to each equation to execute this.

 

Within the last macro there’s also a code that checks whether all answers are correct and unhides the message with congratulations text.

 

~ Coding

Here’s the full code for the challenge:

Macro to delete pictures based on answer being either correct, or incorrect:

Sub Delete_White1()

‘ Delete_White1 Macro


If (Range(“F16”).Value = 9) Then
ActiveSheet.Shapes.Range(Array(“Pic 3A”)).Select
Selection.Delete
Range(“G2”).Select
Rows(“15:15”).Select
Selection.EntireRow.Hidden = False
Range(“F16”).Select
With Selection.Interior
.Pattern = xlSolid
.PatternColorIndex = xlAutomatic
.Color = 5296274
.TintAndShade = 0
.PatternTintAndShade = 0
End With
Range(“F15”).Select

End If


If (Range(“F16”).Value <> 9) Then
ActiveSheet.Shapes.Range(Array(“Pic 3A”)).Select
Selection.Delete
Range(“G2”).Select
ActiveSheet.Shapes.Range(Array(“Picture 43”)).Select
Selection.Delete
Range(“G2”).Select
ActiveSheet.Shapes.Range(Array(“Pic 3”)).Select
Selection.Delete
Range(“G2”).Select
Rows(“15:15”).Select
Selection.EntireRow.Hidden = False
Range(“F16”).Select
With Selection.Interior
.Pattern = xlSolid
.PatternColorIndex = xlAutomatic
.Color = 255
.TintAndShade = 0
.PatternTintAndShade = 0
End With
Range(“F15”).Select

End If

Rows(“15:15”).Select
Selection.EntireRow.Hidden = False
Range(“F15”).Select
End Sub

And this is macro that uncoveres the Well done! message:

Sub WellDone()

‘ WellDone Macro


ActiveSheet.Shapes.Range(Array(“Picture 101”)).Select
Selection.Delete
End Sub
Sub HideAll()

‘ HideAll Macro


Rows(“2:17”).Select
Selection.EntireRow.Hidden = True
End Sub

 

Sample pictures

doc mc stuffin math 1

doc mc stuffin math 2

correct incorrect

doc mc stuffin math 4

doc mc stuffin math 3

 

~ Possible improvements

 

1, It was suggested that instead of deleting the white background pictures covering the pictures I want to display I could use a True / False statement code to make whichever of the two I need visible, or invisible. (This wouldn’t make a difference for user, but would be easier to write and would give possibility to restart the challenge.)

 

2, Randomization of the equations automatically as soon as the file is open

 

~

 

So,

 

this is my second attempt at designing a Math challenge for young children. I might have explained this in previous post, but I will explain it again (just in case). The idea of designing these challenges comes from a chat with my Excel guru, who cleverly suggested that the best way is fine learning Excel is to play with it. Now to play with it, it’s probably good if one can have some challenge on mind. So to give myself a motivation I decided to kill two birds with one stone and I set up a target of creating a few math challenge templates for young children, including my daughter, which, in the end, could be used by any user who wants to teach his/her children math and computer skills in a simple, but visually appealing way.

 

I also wanted to create a little Excel portfolio of my own designs to be able to give anyone about idea about my Excel skills. So that’s why this blog.  And I also want to have a little platform for sharing creative Excel ideas with others.

So if you have any, please get in touch.

 

Download:

Full Excel file can be downloaded from here >>>

Learning Excel #1, Designing Math Challenge For Young Children, Template #1

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Hello all,

It is a long time since I have written something and I kind of miss writing and while I am waiting for some brilliant idea for some short story, I decided to create a little section on my blog where I will be writing about my progress on learning new Excel skills.

One of the reasons why I am doing that is my obsession with documentation of what I do and also, to have some platform where I can get some feedback from more knowledgeable folks. Because I’m only a beginner in visual basic and it takes me a while to get appropriate advice from forums. Plus, apparently, journaling is good method of feeling good about one’s life.

That should be enough for brief introduction.

Now let me present you my first work. A simple math template that I have created for my daughter.

1, The idea
The idea is pretty simple. Although to execute it took me quite a while. But I learned a lot during the process.

The template is based on 10 simple equations, each of which has got a reference cell to show whether the answer is correct, or not. The correct answer gets a green smiley face and an incorrect answer gets a red frown face.
On top of that, if all 10 answers are correct, a nice picture is displayed as a “reward”.

2, How does it work?
~ Checking the answers
Each answer is checked through the conditional formatting. If the answer is correct, the cell with answer is filled with green, if not the fill is red. Next to each cell with answer is another cell into which a smiley, or frown face is pulled from a hidden referencing column. In those cells, again, conditional formatting is used to give the cell matching filling, again, either green, or red.

~ Checking whether all answers are correct
This is achieved by calculating the difference between the answer provided by user and between the correct answer checked by Excel itself. If the difference is 0, the answer is correct.
Then the SUM of all differences is pulled into the master cell, which again, if all differences are 0, means all answers are correct, and in case its value is different than 0, at least one answer is incorrect, in which case the reward picture won’t be displayed.

~ Commands/Macros
I decided to execute the checks by user. It was suggested to me, that I could have had an automated check run as soon as the last answer is provided, which I have to admit, was a relevant suggestion. I however wanted my daughter to get used to using a mouse and check it herself. I also wanted her to be able to restart the challenge manually. So there are two macro enabled buttons to execute this. One that checks the answers, and one that restarts the task.

~ Coding
Here’s the full code for the challenge:

Sub Check_Answers()

‘ Check_Answers Macro


Columns(“G:G”).Select
Selection.EntireColumn.Hidden = False
Range(“E14”).Select
If (Range(“L12”).Value = 0) Then

Columns(“K:K”).Select
Selection.EntireColumn.Hidden = False
Range(“E14”).Select

End If

End Sub
Sub Start_Again()

‘ Start_Again Macro


Range(“F2:F11”).Select
Selection.ClearContents
Columns(“G:G”).Select
Selection.EntireColumn.Hidden = True
Columns(“K:K”).Select
Selection.EntireColumn.Hidden = True
Range(“F2”).Select
End Sub

~ Pictures to give idea

image

image

image

image

image

image

~ Possible improvements

1, Automated macro to check all the answers and display the final result as soon as the last answer is provided

2, Randomization of the equations automatically as soon as the file is open

~

So this is my first post about my learning using VBA and designing in Excel. If you have any comments, or suggestions please let me know in comments.
Please remember that I am not an expert, but I hope that at some point in future, I will be. I couldn’t imagine Excel being fun, but surprisingly it is.

Download:
Full Excel file can be downloaded from here >>>

Who are you?

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Who am I?

Recently, my brother asked me this (seemingly) simple question – Who are you?
Same question that a caterpillar asked Alice in the famous book by Lewis Carroll.

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’

I obviously didn’t go through anything like Alice in the book about her adventures in Wonderland, but this rather important question (because does not all knowledge start with self-knowledge?) still leaves me puzzled and I promised to my brother, that I will come back to him once I figure it out.

It seems that the trickiest part is, that we are so many things, sometimes at once. Although I am sure that underneath of all the things that we are, is our true identity, something that doesn’t change, something that always is. And ours is the search for the master key that unlocks not only all the doors leading to this true self, but also the final door opening the chamber where our self resides.
I can tell you honestly, that I am still not in possession of my master key to my self. I recognise my roles sometimes, but it seems that I am not what I do, or don’t do, what I feel, or don’t feel, those things are something I experience through being (myself), but I am not them. So, would it be easier to start putting down the things that I am not and whatever is left after I found what I am not, must be what I am? It could be an interesting investigation, but there definitely is more things that I’m not than those that I am.

By the worldwide recognised agreement of identification I am Slovakian male, born on 15th February 1978 and I am pretty sure many institutions know a lot about my work, life, financial situation, browsing habits and so on. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could probably imagine that somewhere our there, there is my file with information about my person. But again, I am not that file. If such file exists, it barely touches the surface of who I am. I am probably just a number to them. But as I said before, it’s not about what they label me as, it is all about what I see myself as. (I think I am good at avoiding answering questions I don’t like answering. But I found this one to be very interesting and so I decided to write a bit more about it.) And that is something I am trying to understand.

I just remembered how we were told in a philosophy class on the high school, that one shall know his self. The search for self-knowledge was already common in the ancient Greece.

The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; also … σαυτόν … sauton with the ε contracted), is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek periegetic (travelogue) writer Pausanias (10.24.1).

But to know one’s self is a never-ending task because one’s self, same as the proverbial river is never the same.

But why is it important to know who we are? And could it be that there would be time when we know exactly who we are and then, something happens and we no longer know? As little as I know about myself (how little I don’t know, but let’s say that agree with Socratic view that to know is to know we don’t know anything), I still appreciate my own consciousness, able to observe and be aware of itself. How sad it must be to completely forget who we are? And yet it happens.

I am (amongst others) reading a book by Oliver Sacks “Man who mistook his wife for a hat” and there, in almost every story, is an ever-present sense of forgetting who one once was. Probably, the same we are dying every day a little, we forget every day a little. Probably it’s all just shedding layers of who we aren’t until there’s no more to shed and only who we are remains. And I guess until I have shed all the layers of what I am not, I will not know myself fully.

Recently I read an obituary of my big inspiration Zina Nicole Lahr, where it said Zina Nicole (Gambitsky) Lahr went to see her Lord. I try not to bee too religious, although I do believe in God, but something in that short sentence made me realise that it might as well be that we the will never know who we are until we meet our Maker. And it is probably good this way.

PS: “Dear brother, look how much I had to write to find out who I am? But right now, after I deleted the last paragraph, I got an idea of who I am, and I can honestly say, that I believe it. I am a soul on its way home. It might not be the answer you are expected, but you probably know by know, that sometimes, well more often than not, life doesn’t give you what you expect.”

~ I will be intrigued to hear from you who you think, or feel you are. Please comment or email to: thequietfurnace@googlemail.com

On being human amongst human

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A re-view of a journey there and back

16-17. February 2015

Last three days (from 13th till 15th February) have been really interesting for me and I am unsure how to describe their magic in words. I feel like I can only miserably fail in attempting to do so, but I will try anyway. Although I’m not a fan of cheesy motivational quotes, I will use one now, it’s from Bob Proctor and it’s actually a good one (and not too cheesy either):

“If you know what to do to reach your goal, it’s not a big enough goal.”

So, here’s to attempting the impossible…

On Friday, the 13th, on the way home from work, I mind-travelled back to the moment I learned about Zina Nicole Lahr as it would have been her 25th birthday that day and after reading her essay Contrast And Catalyst (Click to download pdf. It’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and as far as I know it has disappeared from internet ) for about tenth time I felt the same connection to her as I felt back then (The only difference was, that this time I had a conscious knowledge of who she was and I was desperately trying to figure out why do I feel connected to her and why she occasionally comes to haunt my day dreams with her fragile, aetheric, otherworldly beauty.)

I wanted to celebrate her birthday, but I didn’t know how. (Not long ago I met a girl who told me to fucking forget about Zina and to concentrate on the real life instead. In a way it felt like an insult, like if she didn’t understand that every thought we think is real and that a person can be dead and still be a catalyst, an agent that provokes changes and actions and we should not be judged if we somehow found ourselves attracted to such being. Because what if each life silently continues after it disappears from this world, where we can witness and measure it? It might go unnoticed, unobserved, unsung, but so what? It might as well be, that it is simply us who don’t pay enough attention to what goes around us, after all who knows? … )

In a painful moment of realization that I will never meet her, I sort of promised myself to remember her through creativity. Through manifestation of myself via any act of creating, whether it’s writing, drawing, photography, or a paper modelling. And it was shortly after all this happened that I found another beautiful American, Jennifer Pastiloff. Once again, my moth like personality felt attracted to her flame immediately. It too happened through her writing. But this time it wasn’t as much about what she has written, or how (although its beauty and power is undisputed and I loved everything she has written). It was the courage with which she has written it. The rawness of her essays. The willingness to look the pain in the eye and the humility which shone through her after she came victorious from what must have been exhaustively tiring staring contest. I just love female warriors. I decided I must meet her. And talk to her, like one human being to another. I wanted to see her, not visually, I wanted to witness the poetry of her being.

And soon she pulled a workshop in London and although the yoga bit and the seemingly feminine character of it all scared me, I booked it immediately. That was in November 2014.

~

“No agenda, no conspiracy, no manipulation. Just work, work, work. The Great Work. It is not a safe place. But it is the safest place that has left for us on Mirrodin.”

~ Shaan, Mirran refugee on The Quiet Furnace

~

During that time I created this blog, The Quiet Furnace. Finally, after years of trying to come up with the idea of the virtual world, where I could create and manifest myself, I got the name for my domain. A name I loved and that I felt describes my deepest beliefs. Once again I had a reason to write.

So I followed Jen and I began to wonder what it tells about me. It appeared that no one from my friends understood what I felt to her and I started to doubt myself in my silent, almost obsessive, observation of her activities. Although I always believed in trying to tell others about the way we see the world and sharing each other’s stories, it seemed that no one listens. But that is when we have to keep going and believing. When we lose the reason to go further. It is then when we discover the truth behind ourselves. And who we are. The motive behind what we do.

During Christmas I got lost. Totally lost. I suffered from insomnia and everything seemed dark. It was then when I felt like a Void Stalker (if I will ever form a band, it will be called The Void Stalkers). But I was reminded, that not all who wander are lost. So I accepted, that I am just a wanderer.

There were hundreds of quotes I read during January and early February, but they didn’t resonate as much as their creators intended to. I got fed up with them, with all the attempts to tell me to be happy. I, as everyone else, want to be happy. We deserve that, sure. But I don’t believe in some sort of switch that you just turn on and voilà, you’re happy. Although it was said in the workshop I attended and I am going to describe it later on, there’s one thing I would like to tell you right now, it is human and perfectly fine to feel sad for a while every day. Even every single day. It is the contrast between the happiness and sadness that moves us forward. It felt so refreshingly liberating to hear this. That the moment of sadness, each and every day is ok, because it fucking is.

~

“I was there when they asked him about the refugees. I have seen his hesitation and the pain the question have caused him. But what he said after three days of thinking about it, didn’t surprise me at all. I believe he already knew his fate and that even if he decided the opposite, it would make no difference. It was then when I witnessed his truest leadership and majesty.”

~ Hezrig, The Furnace Chief Designer on Urabrask’s Decree

~

The day of the workshop finally arrived. Since I am an anti-Valentine and I hate the stereotype that is associated with February the 14th, it felt wonderful to be able to do something random and unrelated on this day. I left Nottingham at 8:50 and the journey to London was nice and peaceful. The event page on Facebook started to fill up with comments from those who were attending and I felt I am becoming a part of the tribe. This might be slightly against me, but I have to confess that I always adored the tribes led by females. Even in Magic The Gathering (the card game I love playing), the only male character I was really able to connect with was Urabrask. It was always the angels and elvish female warriors I felt strongest about. Is that wrong? Well, judge me if you want, I don’t feel bad about it. It seems that when a woman decides to stand up against something with a weapon in her hand, it is a not because she wants to conquer, or enslave, but it is because she wants to protect and preserve. That’s the only fight I believe in. Men and weapons, that’s completely different story if you ask me… And that’s why I love Urabrask, despite his monstrous appearance and terrifying, deadly power he is not an ultimate killing machine. His true task is not to fight and kill, but to work, work, work. Tirelessly and efficiently. I can connect with that.

I arrived to London at 12 o’clock and I managed to find the studio where the workshop was to be held at shortly after 1pm. I decided to spend the time until it starts in a near pub, Hammersmith Ram. Sitting in the comfy leather chair, drinking local ale, I began to feel really alive and on a journey. I forgot how good does that feel! To go out of the door and into the unknown.

This started to feel like a journal entry, rather then an essay (but I am not going to apologize for that dear reader), which is what I was going to write, but I hope you will enjoy it nevertheless. It’s pretty simple story and you might find it boring, but maybe, maybe when you look deep into your own soul you will, same as I did, decide to go somewhere, meet someone and let the life lead you out of your comfort zone. Because it seems, that that’s where the best things are happening.

When I heard Jennifer’s voice walking upstairs into the studio, I had a moment of hesitation. I didn’t want to turn back, but it was then when the reality hit me.

I’m here. It is happening.

And the I saw her and she was every inch as beautiful and charming as she was in her Don’t be an asshole posts. (For those who don’t know me, I have a history of following celebrities and I sort of travel to see them. I think of it as my own little social experiment to prove that underneath all that gold and glitter is the same human fragility as in the rest of us. And when I see that the person, who I admire, or respect, already knows this and shows no superiority over the others, I feel connected and I move on knowing I met a beautiful human being. I guess in a way this is how I train my sense of feeling connected, exposing myself to a situation where I either realize I was following a total idiot, or someone who is truly worth my attention. There seems to be no middle ground.)

It felt good to be able to greet Jennifer as an old friend. I am not saying that that’s what we are, we are friends, at the time of writing this, I feel like I can say we are very good friends, but I fully understand that our lives are different and we won’t be hanging out together frequently. But that’s not the only thing that friends do. They inspire, encourage and motivate each other. Then there’s trust, openness, freedom. And work, work, work. On improving what is. Especially one’s self.

After the greeting with Jen I changed into my shorts and went into the room where whatever it was that we came there for, was going to happen.

It was one thing to greet Jennifer and another thing to meet another forty other women. I surprisingly didn’t panic at all. Although, I was a bit nervous. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But it felt good. I felt accepted. Although I couldn’t help to feel like a visitor, an observer, rather than the true part of the tribe. I felt like an explorer who discovered a new species of birds and had a rare opportunity to watch them closely, very closely. They danced, they sang, they laughed, they cried. But most of all, they manifested the nature’s strongest message – be who you are and be proud of it.

~

We all know what the F word is, right? But in this workshop I learned that it actually isn’t Fuck, if that’s what you thought. It is…

F E A R…

We all realized that it is fear that is stopping us from being who we truly are. We also discovered, that fear is not going to go away. It is imprinted onto our hearts and souls. The trick isn’t to fight with fear, the trick is in accepting it and doing things despite being afraid. So the fight I was getting ready for all this time isn’t necessary. It’s consuming, tiring and futile. We cannot conquer our fears. (If someone thinks he, or she can, that’s fine. I don’t think I can, or want to.)

I think giving up fighting the fear will give us more power and energy to focus on life and its beauty instead.

I believe in beauty hunting. I truly and passionately do. Beauty will not come to to you and disclose itself. You have to hunt it. Imagine if a game came to a hunter and lied down solemnly to be shot. That’s bullshit, right? It is the hunter who must go and find it. In this sense, I am a beauty hunter. It is a tribe I am proud to belong to.

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~

So what else happened in the workshop?

Well, I guess we were telling stories. We were listening to each other and oh, happy birthday was sang to me with Jennifer sitting right next to me, whole room sang me the happy birthday song. That was pretty awesome. Thank you.

I have seen the beauty in everyone around me. Each one of us trusted the rest. When we were told to write a letter to ourselves from someone who loves us, Jennifer told us, that it will be intense and we might cry. Fuck that, I thought. Boy, I couldn’t be more wrong…

I chose to write this letter as if it was my daughter Anneke who was writing it. Two minutes after my pen touched the paper I was sobbing. So was more than half of the room. I tried do fight it and then gave up. So I cried in front of, or better, amongst forty-fifty other human beings. It felt good. Strange, but good. Relieving.

After the workshop, there was wine. It was all so unconventional. I think Jen’s only rule she politely gave us at the beginning of the workshop was:

“Do what you want, just be human.”

We ended up in the restaurant right next to the studio and we had a little bit of food and some drinks. I made some new friends and with one of them I left and wandered the night streets of London. She accompanied me all the way to the Victoria Coach Station (we managed to get lost, thanks to my ridiculously poor navigation skills and we had to be saved by a Spanish girl to which I am eternally grateful for not missing my coach) and we had a quick beer in the near pub.

I haven’t been capable of understanding the importance of what I have been to, but even in my mildly intoxicated mind I knew I have witnessed beauty. An extraordinary beauty. I normally reserve the word beautiful for children and the fascinating manifestations of nature’s creativity, but I feel like I could actually use it to describe everyone who came to the workshop. It would feel right. Oh yes it would…

~

“Never let your child come this close to me again Mirran! I have no intention of killing any of you, but I also won’t let any of you to halt even the smallest of my works. We work, we don’t fight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t kill.”

~ Urabrask to unknown Mirran refugee

~

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PS: Thank you to all who turned up. I am glad I could have been part of it. Jennifer, I am not sure if I deserved to be called an angel of this tribe by you, but I will resist my urge to prove you wrong. If that’s what you think and feel, I might as well try to live up to your high expectations of me.

 

Here’s to attempting the impossible…

I am a worrier, not a warrior

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I think one of my weakest (if not the weakest) points is worrying. I worry a lot. In Slovakia we have a beautiful metaphor for worrying (or for thinking negatively) – to paint a devil on the wall. If there would be a competition in painting the devil on the wall I’ll be probably getting the first prize without much of an effort. I’m so natural in this highly unappreciated craft. Oh God, I probably painted a whole hell over the years of worrying!

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse (because we can get used to almost anything, so I got accustomed to my obsession with worrying), it did. I don’t remember that moment precisely, but it felt so unbelievably dreadful when I read that what we think creates our reality in return. I immediately found myself in one huge vicious circle:

I worry >>> it creates negative reality >>> negative reality makes me worry >>> so I worry and it starts again…

Almost every book about improving life I read since then says: “Change the way you think and your whole life will change”. I believe that this is the way to go, to change the thinking. I’m just not sure how exactly. Sometimes I feel like a fish that was told that the only way to enjoy the beauty of the world is from the above. And that fish somehow believed that and instead of focusing on improving its watery life, concentrating on enjoying its beautiful surroundings, it speculates about getting up there so it can make its dull life meaningful, because nothing worth living for hides in the cold depths of the waters it inhabits.

Now of course that’s a bullshit. But just because something is a total bullshit, it doesn’t mean that someone will not fall into believing it. And I don’t think it is about being stupid, naive or uneducated. As I was finishing the last sentence and I wasn’t sure how to continue a picture came into my mind. It was an idea of a parasite infected mind, which after being intruded simply needs some sort of host to survive, it needs some sort of belief that it can hold onto, suck it. I dwould want to hope that symbiotic relationship between mind, body, spirit and the world of ideas does exist and it’s possible to build and maintain, but same as in the outer world, such relationship requires almost ideal conditions. Of which there aren’t many for no species on this planet.

Even now, after reading the draft of this post I feel slightly pessimistic about my writing. I almost wanted to close the file unsaved, asking myself what is the point of all of this? It is as if I was constantly doubting myself and needed to be assured that what I do matters. Somewhere deep, in the place where the roots of whatever parasite my mind was infiltrated by haven’t reached yet, I believe that what I do matters. That this writing matters. I might not know exactly how and I might not be capable of appreciating it fully, but the idea of reaching out to the world of ideas and trying to bring some of them into this world always intrigued me and I always felt truly alive after I have been there and back. So maybe every text anyone has written is a memory of some vaguely remembered travel into the world of ideas and same as with travelling here, what will we discover and what stories will we bring back depends on how well we are looking around us and how far (hight, deep) we dare to wander.

This morning I saw a post on Facebook saying “Overthinking is the biggest cause of our unhappiness.” Well, it seems to be the same thing as worrying. It robs us of the present. And it eventually creates a future we didn’t want. I think I painted more than enough devils already. It probably would be impossible to erase them all, to wash all the walls clean, but I could try to re-paint them with some more positive pictures.

I think it sounds like a plan…