Category: Miscellaneous (page 1 of 2) review

Summary: great product, but expect huge delays, complete incompetence,  boiling-of-the-blood indignation, no call-backs, and even blame for the company’s fuck-ups.   

I love my Crocs – by this I mean the brand of slip-on sandal I have been buying for about 12 years. Each pair lasted me four years. I wore each pair everywhere. I walked over numerous mountains with each pair too. One pair completed the final day of the Amatola hiking trail TWICE due to blisters I developed on both occasions of the epic six day trail, and the sandals are still usable.

So of course I was always going to purchase another pair. In fact, two pairs, because increasingly I have been battling to find the slip-on style I like. I had always bough straight from shoe stores, but in January I ordered three pairs online from – two pairs for me, one for my partner. I placed the order on the 11th and paid for it via electronic bank transfer immidiately. There were no online offers or specials when I placed my order.

The website is very clear about dispatch and delivery details. “Please allow up to 24 hours for processing of your order once payment has reflected prior to shipping.” And “Once the parcel has been dispatched, it will be delivered in 4 working days…”. Okay, I thought, worst case scenario is one week. My old pair was falling to pieces, but I’d manage one more week.

But 7 days passed. No delivery. I checked my order history online but nothing had changed since I placed the order. With the exception that a crocs sale had started. I could have saved R150 I had placed the order 7 days later than I did. Oh well, my bad luck.

Okay, this is Africa, so I decided to give it another week. 14 days in total passed, and nothing was delivered. Weird, I thought, so I logged on again to get the customer ‘care’ number (and by ‘care’ I mean absolutely nothing denoted by the actual dictionary definition of the term). A different offer was now on – a Valentine’s Day special where orders over a certain amount get R200 off. I would have qualified for this.

I called the number given at the site. Straight through to the lady who deals with online orders. My order, it turned out, had not even been processed yet, never mind dispatched, due to a stock take. A stock take that was not yet complete. I asked her to call me back to tell me when I could expect delivery. She took my number.

The day passed and no call-back. I became really angry. I called again. Same lady. No excuses, just blasé disregard at my indignation. She will call me back, she said – what is my number, she asked. I replied, saying she already has it from the day before – please read it back to me. She read me the wrong number. I calmly cracked and said please cancel the order and refund me immediately – remember, a special offer was on for R200 off – I’ll just re-order, or so my thinking went. Okay, she said. Keep in mind that this is 15 days after I placed and paid for the order.

Day 16. I received an email to say my order has been processed. Processed, not cancelled, and that the parcel will be packed and shipped on 30 January. I was flabbergasted – 19 days to dispatch the order??? Lesson learned – never use again, but at least I was to be getting my crocs. Had I waited a week, I would have saved money due to the online offers, and presumably have received my crocs around the same time, but damn, some battles are not worth fighting.

But 12 minutes after the first email, another one came through saying that the order will be cancelled. No mention of when or how a refund will occur. I couldn’t trust this company to refund me, I thought, so 36 minutes after the second email I typed the following reply from an old Nokia dumb-phone that has rudimentary internet access:

Hi, can you still make this order happen? I’m desperate for new crocs despite being super angry with the company, would be nice if you charged the brown cloggy pair at the special rate. Thanks, david

Okay, said the person in a reply.

31 January came and no word. Surprised? No. Angry? Yes. I emailed, asking what is happening. Two days passed with no reply. I emailed again, no reply again. Two days later, the parcel arrived.

Yes folks, that’s a TWENTY-SEVEN DAY wait.

I remained indignant, so I emailed with the following, which I am sure you will agree is completely reasonable:

Hi there

I ordered 3 pairs of crocs from the online store on Jan 11th, almost a month ago. They arrived today, after I was messed around a lot and ignored by employees who I spoke to via telephone. The website clearly describes a much, much quicker dispatch and delivery time, hence my indignation and desire for some kind of ‘making-of-amends’.

For the inconvenience of having to wait almost a month for the crocs and the disappointing service I was exposed to, could you please be so kind as to refund me R200 as per the valentine’s special, seeing as I could have waited before placing my order and bought all my crocs on special a few weeks ago or now on the valentine’s special. Now the valentine’s special is running, and considering I spent well over R750, this seems just and fair to me.

My bank account details are XXX:

Thank you for your understanding…

The reply came quickly this time:

We apologize for the delay in reply.

We cancelled your order because you said that you wanted a refund and then u asked that we rather send you the parcel instead of refunding you, then only we re [sic] dispatched your order and this is the reason as to why it took longer.

I believe that your parcel has been delivered after a long wait and once again we do apologize for that.

So, folks, the delay, apparently, is my fault. Not-a-flying-fuck-it-is. Thirty-six minutes out of 27 days, and it’s my fault? A bigger red flag could not have been waved at this bull.

So I replied and said either you refund me with the money I would have saved via the Valentine’s offer, or I will write a review on my blog. No reply. Hence this review.

Hope it helps. Certainly helping me – very cathartic.

March against Monsanto: my thoughts (video)

Elon Musk on the Tesla PowerWall (Video)

in case you haven’t seen this:

General update after extended absence: autumn equinox 2015

December and January: living a little!

At the end of November last year, after a very busy end to the academic calendar, I looked around the homestead that Emma and I had been creating for 2-and-a-half years and suddenly realised that there was no more ‘building’ that urgently had to be completed (or, more aptly, started from scratch) for the first time in, well, 2-and-a-half years! So I spent the first two weeks of December focused on my Ph.D research, gradually getting used to the notion of simply living in the place, as opposed to constantly working on it.

Mid December came and I stopped even the academic research and writing and took it quite easy. Several good friends were ‘down’ from out of town or abroad; they visited us, we went to the beach together, and the general festive season spirit generally kept us going with that flow. I had been on holiday a few times since my return to SA in mid-2012, but there was always driving or camping or hiking etc. involved. During the past December-January holiday, however, there was a considerable amount of ‘taking it easier’ at home – and this certainly further established home as home, to me at least.

It was during this time that I decided to abandon the computer for all but essential tasks, and I never really found myself rushing back to it. Academic writing had to be done here and there during the holiday, and pretty much constantly since February, but this is the most severed I’ve felt from the internet for many years – and it is a good feeling. Hence not posting anything for ages, other than a final bit to chapter 3 of my research, which preceded this post.

Hike and more meditation

In mid January we did do a hike – the Otter Trail, along the garden route. A very beautiful hike and highly recommended (I believe it is rated as the top hike in SA; I see why – beautiful and relatively easy and accessible). It set the scene for a peaceful and tranquil state of mind I was lucky enough to keep nurturing when, after the hike, I went off to Worcester to serve at a 10 day Vipassana meditation course.

This marked a year since my first meditation course, which I sat as a student. It was great going back and doing 4 – 5 hours of meditation a day, and then still being ‘practical’ in the kitchen, where servers obviously have to talk. This seemed more realistic as a preparation for meditation in the ‘real world’, where innumerable distractions can linger in one’s head when going off to meditate after a busy day. 10 days of mindfulness and awareness about how one responds to ‘kitchen logistics’ is remarkably helpful at bringing a meditative state of mind into ‘normal’, day-to-day awareness.

Academic progress

I returned from the meditation course and had to get straight to teaching first year philosophy again, a job I really do love. I share the work load with my friend, who happens to be professor of Philosophy at NMMU (and therefore my boss!!). Next semester I’ll do as I did last year and solo-teach the second semester philosophy module, something I also look forward to. The move back to SA from the UK definitely paid off work-wise for me, seeing as I get by on a completely manageable amount of part-time work.

Of course, my income from the part-time work is supplemented by an academic bursary, which is certainly an opportunity not afforded to many people. Yes, maybe luck played a role in getting the bursary. But looking back, the hard work started in first year university, during which time part-time informal work led to part-time formal work, then to further studies and for a long time two part-time jobs at once, followed by full-time slavery in the UK, followed by very frugal living back in SA, during which time I wrote a proposal on top of everything else documented in this blog while working more part-time jobs, and then applying for the bursary, and only then did the bursary come about.

And the study is progressing nicely. I have just finished the fourth of eight chapters, though admittedly it is a draft in a very early phase and needs a few weeks’ more work. So it’s not really half-way! Nevertheless, I am celebrating the completion of the draft with this blog entry!

Emma and the garden

You may have read between the lines and gathered that I’m not doing too much ‘plot work’ lately. This wouldn’t be entirely true: just living here is constant daily work, like making rocket stove fires, washing dishes, doing hand-washing (though this is not a daily task luckily), dealing with the compost toilet every week, and making compost every 5 or 6 weeks (which is always quite a task). But yes, I have stopped with the building/wood-work and raised-garden-bed making that largely defined my contributions to ‘plot-life’ for so long here. My energy since the start of February has so far instead been mostly on academic commitments.

Emma, on the other hand, has not been teaching for the first term this academic year – her contract for teaching first year Sociology at Rhodes University starts again in 3 weeks or so. She has been a star in the garden though – we’re eating at least a few veggies and/or leaves from the garden daily, which makes all the difference to a vegetarian diet. Obviously it takes loads of attentiveness to plan, maintain, and ‘rotate’ a vegetable garden, so she is doing a fantastic job – especially for someone who 3 years ago hadn’t done any gardening to speak of. Her knowledge of what grows when and in what conditions is staggering, something that has come with experience and dedication and having hands in the earth. She has also just registered for a PDD – a permaculture course that will enable her to teach PDCs, permaculture design certificates.

Custodians of an acre of land

Last year we became custodians of an acre of land in an area I visited a lot and became fond of in my early-twenties. It is a hundred metres away from a beautiful gorge that contains some cascading pools accessible within an hour’s walk. There’s a lot of walking to be done in the area actually. The plot itself is on a gentle slope, and contains mainly indigenous bushes at the moment. We have so far only visited this ‘gorge plot’ for observation purposes, and will continue to do so until the path forward there presents itself to us.

We were able to pay for the land outright – as far as land prices go, this acre was very affordable. Of course, the frugal living and minimal expenses of the previous 2-and-a-half years meant that we could save money and add it to savings from previous years to make this kind of move. Hardly land barons, but it is still difficult to come to terms with the notion of ‘ownership’ of land – hence thinking about the role as custodianship rather. It was important that we didn’t get ourselves into debt for reasons to do with our views on the banking system, so we went with a small and comparatively cheap piece of land using money that we had saved over a long period of years, versus taking out a loan.

What was immediately clear was the need to cut paths into the plot so that one can get into it. After a lot of research I ended up buying a strimmer/weed-eater, heavy-duty, quite expensive, but a good machine. This was a big move for me, because I’d prefer to have acquired a scythe and avoid fossil-fuels, but realistically it would not have worked with the bush being so dense on the plot. I take refuge in the notion that it is a necessary tool that can be used for a greater good – namely, the creation of a permaculture food forest homestead. And of course, it depends on how one uses the tool – mindfully.

A set rhythm

At this stage of our time living ‘rustically’, it has become clear that rhythms develop over time. If, like me almost 3 years ago, one enters a scene and wishes to impose an idea of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, one will likely suffer from the huge shock that the world does not work like that. There were huge ebbs and flows of energy and activity along the way, but with the groundwork now done at the current abode, the routine of previous months has been fairly consistent.

This is definitely something that one needs to be aware of when starting a venture like ours. A rough plan is obviously needed, but if starting from a blank slate like we did, then the initial stages are going to be tough and ‘hectic’. But there will come a point when the groundwork is complete, and a base develops on which to establish patterns of activity and behaviour. I think we’ve only been in the latter phase for a few short months. It’s interesting to think that, after 2-and-three-quarter years, these are still early days!

Who cares about all of the above?!!!

I suppose I post the info above for various reasons. Most importantly, between 3 and 4 years ago it was reading blogs like this one that partly helped me make up my mind that serious change in one’s life is not to be feared but instead encouraged – especially if the change is from a constricting lifestyle to one of comparative ‘freedom’. It took me a while and a lot of pointless worrying initially to really believe this and see it as true, so I hope to allay the fears of others by being able to say hey, look at the blank slate that was there to be worked with at the start, and look at all that has changed since then.

Then there is the necessity of recording information for journalling purposes. I’ve tried keeping paper journals before but I’m no good at it. In a few years, I imagine I’ll be able to look back and see the person I used to think I was and reflect on the changes – seeing as change is our only permanence! And of course, for my Ph.D I said I would keep such records for reflection upon in the final chapter of my study!

Still grappling with the broader context

Finally, I still frequently find myself pondering the broader context where, ecologically, things are certainly deteriorating, and I try and make sense of what we’re doing here, i.e. on the ‘alternative-living’ mission. We have made considerable moves to a lifestyle that, I believe, is very in-tune with the sustainability song. But, while typing the above, I received an Azaaz email reminding me that our oceans are dying. Last week I attended a talk by the chief NASA scientist who reminded her audience that there will be no ice at the both poles (possibly Greenland too) by 2050. I look around the city and see endless expansion. Business as usual prevails.

I could write a list of all the things that we don’t do and don’t have and it would be a formidable list that shows a resistance to the consumer capitalist lifestyles of instant gratification that seem to be the norm in ‘advanced’ industrial society. But even we now have two laptop computers in order to affectively do our academic jobs. We have a car, and a motorbike (we use the latter more due to fuel-efficiency), both of which use fossil-fuel, and both of which are constituted by resources that were mined at the expense of the environment; the same can be said for many of the resources that constitute parts of our humble abode.

I suppose the point is that it feels like a bit of a losing battle when looking at the broader context. I still believe that one must, as an ethical imperative, fight the fight (not that I see it as a fight, but rather an ethical venture) whether or not it is going to make that much ‘broader’ difference in the long run. When I first decided to embark on this mission, it was about making a difference in the broader scheme of things, hence a kind-of depression when I realised that people look curiously at what we’re doing, acknowledge its relevance, but simply go about business as usual. And then, of course, I still buy into (albeit marginally) aspects of the system of which I’m very sceptical. I think we’ve achieved a considerable ‘freedom’ in doing what we’re doing, and that combined with not being huge parts of the problem seems like it will have to be enough, for the foreseeable future at least.

Or maybe, as I’ve already mentioned somewhere above, these are still very early days, and in a few years the path will involve ‘broader changes’. Who knows?

My Ph.D; This Blog

Update: the structure of the PhD changed since this post was written. I won’t have the space in the PhD to review journal entries, so I stopped writing them! In Chapter 6, where permaculture principles were used to reflect on ideas that appeared in previous chapters, I do incorporate information pertaining to the rustic permaculture lifestyle. The content below appears ‘for posterity’s sake’!

Last year I spent 2 months writing a proposal for a Ph.D. called Philosophy and Permaculture. Thereafter I applied for bursaries, which took me another month or two of form-filling. At the beginning of this year (2014) I found out that the hard work had paid off – I am being funded via 2 different bursaries, essentially enabling me to be paid to study. This is not uncommon – people are paid to study all the time – but I do find rather cool that I happen to be one of these people! This post is not about the details of the Ph.D. – those will come later. Instead, this post is to announce how the Ph.D. has consequences for future content and structure of this blog, to articulate what intentions I currently have for the process with regard to the blog, and to suggest that all of this does have some ‘motivational relevance’.

My official proposal for the university’s theses review panel is due in soon – it is in a completely different format to the one I wrote for bursary applications. I’m happy that I have had to rewrite and restructure it, as the articulation of initial ideas becomes more focused during the reworking process. During feedback from one of my fantastic supervisors, a certain issue about methodology was raised. Specifically, I proposed in my final chapter to review a variety of local permaculture sites and do so in light of the philosophical theory that would constitute the previous 6 chapters of the study, but how I was going to do this was vague (to say the least).

My supervisor asked a few questions, and eventually the fact of this blog’s existence arose – a blog that already has some record of the implementation of ‘my’ small permaculture site, and which has the potential to have far more such records. We decided that reviewing random permaculture sites was a bit of a can of worms, whereas a reflective literature review of what I’ve written (and will write) on the blog is more feasible. This was great synchronicity, as I had been wondering how to go about keeping content regularly appearing on the blog considering how much other work I have; now part of my ‘other work’ will involve regular journal posts.

How these journal posts will look, however, is as yet undecided. I have a few ideas: for one, permaculture theory certainly has to be included – eventually! This will force me to brush up on my permaculture principles and the theory behind the practice, which I would have to do sooner than later for Ph.D. purposes. The journal entries will also have to include as many details of the lifestyle I/we now live, as well as ideological aspects that drive the process and also result from it. This is great, seeing as I have often felt like I fail to provide detailed information in this regard, which readers may want to access if they are ever thinking about transitioning from a ‘normal’ home to a low-cost, low-impact permaculture abode.

So the site will have a new page added to it called Ph.D. and new sub-pages will gradually be added to the page drop-down menu. One of these will obviously be for journal posts, but on other sub-pages I will post the proposal when it’s done, as well as sections of the research as it arises. I also wouldn’t mind having a sub-page for readers’ ideas. We’ll see how it goes. For certain are the up coming journal entries: I plan to write 1 per week, or every second week (we’ll see how it goes), for the next 2 years, starting next week.

This is all rather exciting for me, as things are really coming together. I took a huge leap of faith last year when I spent three months writing the first draft proposal and filling out bursary forms – this took time that I could otherwise have spent expanding at the plot or looking for other employment opportunities, but I stuck to what felt right at the time despite the little questioning voice in my head trying to derail me. I remained open-minded about the process and put out the right intent into the ether – and it worked.

I suggest giving it a try: send your own intentions out into the universe. If you are just waiting for something to happen to change your life, then all you will get is more waiting. Rather decide that you will change your life; that you have become receptive to new ideas that you will have as a result of increased optimism and awareness; that you will develop personally, and live as a sovereign human being. Looking back on my life journey, it is clear that this Ph.D bursary is the culmination of more than a decade’s work; so it took a while for me to get here, but it was well worth it.

Ditch the ‘Bitches’: Save Stacks of Money… the (Radical) Permaculture Way.

In a previous post I said I would explain in a future post how one could save heaps of money and thereby decrease financial stress, even to the point where one could conceivably work far less or change to a lower paying job (or reconfigure notions of employment altogether) due to having minimal expenses. I aim for such an explanation in this article.

What I offer below is in one sense quite radical, in that it is based on my ‘extreme’ experiences of (almost) completely ditching the common consumer lifestyle of instant gratification. I understand that most people do not want to do what my partner and I did, namely put put up a couple of tents on friends’ land and build a home from mainly recycled materials, largely liberating ourselves from the ‘conveniences’ of what has become common domestic lifestyles. However, many of the suggestions below can be implemented by anyone and everyone in most situations – nobody has to be as extreme as we were/are.

Note that I am making no claims here that permaculture ‘requires’ one to take steps such as the ones I discuss below. Permaculture can be implemented in a variety of different ways, starting from steps as tiny as making a small raised garden bad in a yard for the growing of mixed herbs, or catching some rain-water in a tank from a roof. Both these steps will save a person money; not loads, mind you, but some. At no point does permaculture have to become a kind of ‘living activism’, as it has become for us; we take permaculture to an ‘extreme’ end of the spectrum, and the points below are mainly formulated on the basis of such an approach.

Okay, intro and disclaimer over, let’s summarise the main theme of the approach by referring to the commendable lyrics of a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song: “throw away your television”. All the steps offered below are focused on eliminating specific items and practices familiar in the common household that everyone could do without. Indeed, should do without, because in my experience not only will you save money by ditching them, but far more importantly, you will liberate yourself from the opinion that they are necessary. Instead you will realise that they are choices, choices that you have been duped into believing are ‘the realities of life’ by the propaganda machines of ‘free’-market consumer capitalism. And by ditching them, you begin to play an active role against ecological disregard.

Ditch the TV. You do not need a TV. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the television. You paid for it; you pay for TV licenses; you pay for satellite feeds. Selling your TV means making some money; not needing a license or paying for subscriptions means saving you money (dah!). Furthermore, you spend time watching the TV when you could be doing things like growing vegetables, exercising, reading, starting an ethical business, etc. – all things that will save you money directly or indirectly, and possibly help in liberating yourself from the rat race.
And anyway, what do you get when you watch television? Less brainwave activity than when you’re sleeping. So you passively absorb the (mediated, agenda-set)’norms’ you see in sitcoms and series, the competition in sports, the trivia of game shows, the despair and distress of the news… and then you believe that the world is really like this, and you impose this belief onto the world, perpetuating the ‘norms’, the competition, the trivia, the despair and distress.

Ditch the meat. You do not need to eat meat. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without eating meat. Meat is stupidly expensive, so not eating it means saving money (dah!). It is often packed with hormones and antibiotics, which makes you unhealthier in the long run, so by not eating it you save again because you will get sick less and stand a stronger chance of avoiding chronic illness; clearly, this means saving some money on medical bills, but the healthier life in the long term is invaluable.

The meat industry is also largely responsible for the deforestation occurring in the Amazon area, and in smaller green areas around the world: indigenous forests, which act as the lungs of the earth, are cleared so that soya or grain can be grown mainly to feed cows that will be slaughtered for your culinary enjoyment. Think of the transport-miles associated with national and international food transit and realise how much oil is involved, and the consequences this has economically for a global system where oil is becoming scarcer. The millions of happy, healthy vegetarians and vegans around today, as well as the endless recipes for vegetarian food online, are testament that the meat bitch can definitely be ditched.

Ditch the milk. You do not need to use milk. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without using milk. Obviously, you will save some cash by not buying milk (dah!); use water instead. The ‘other’ factors in the case of meat above, however, are also relevant – health, deforestation and oil-reliance. And if you haven’t tried going without milk for a while, do so and see how you feel. Many (dare I say most) people report a de-congestion in the mucous realms and a freer sense of respiration.

Ditch the fridge. You do not need a fridge. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the fridge. You’ve ditched the meat and the milk, and with a little adjustment, you can change your approach to food so that you consider what you need for the next few days only and avoid buying for, e.g. meals that you will only prepare in five days’ time. Leftovers can become something to be eaten ‘the next day’ as opposed to ‘the day thereafter’. There are plenty of ways to make cold storage areas where the fridge used to be. So sell the fridge and get some cash back, and save money on electricity bills (dah!) – the fridge is a massive power-drain.

Ditch the sugar. You do not need sugar (dah!). It is highly likely that you will be be better off without sugar. By not buying sugar you will save cash (dah!). Sugar is increasingly linked to ill health; not using it may mean being healthier, which will mean decreased medical bills; never mind the increased quality of life. You will also start actually tasting things, and not the sugar added to things, when you ditch sugar. This means more variety of flavour, and variety is the spice of life.

Ditch the constant hot water supply. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the constant supply of hot water. The geyser / boiler is one of the biggest users of electricity in the common household, so at very least, turn it off for most of the day. Not using as much electricity in this regard will save you some cash (dah!). You will probably use less water, because it won’t be hot all the time, so you will less likely fall for your old hedonistic way where you use hot water as-and-when you feel like it. Instead you work your hot-water needs around the geyser’s on-time, and you thereby become more disciplined, which is also invaluable (filtering into other areas of ‘saving’).

You could also get a solar geyser with the money you’ll save from ditching the other ‘bitches’ mentioned in this article and save energy and water in the long run. And in the ‘extreme’ case, hook up a coil of black plastic pipe to the mains, secure the coil to the roof, and use hot water only when the sun has heated it up ‘naturally’. Sure, you’ll have a cold shower every now and again, and your dishes may accumulate a bit more than you’re used to, but these factors are easy to adapt to.

Ditch the flush toilet. You do not need a flush toilet. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without a flush toilet. Not everyone will take to this point easily, but a compost toilet negates the need for water-flushing (save money on water bills – dah!); it produces compost in which food can be grown (save money on food bills – dah!); and it radically changes a person’s awareness of our systems – flushing fertility away is just plain stupid. Get a compost loo going and learn how to make humanure compost.

Ditch the microwave oven. You do not need a microwave oven. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the microwave oven. Sure, it’s easy, just like many of the things I’m here suggesting could be ditched. But it uses unnecessary power, which means you can save some money by not using it (dah!). Eat things cold; you’ll get used to it. Get a rocket stove and a supply of scrap wood or twigs and thereby cook or heat food.

Ditch the ‘regular’ oven. You do not need a regular oven. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without a regular oven. For the same points as above. Use a rocket stove. You’ll see your electricity bill almost disappear by this stage.

Ditch the two dozen light bulbs. You do not need two dozen light bulbs to light your home. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the two dozen light bulbs. You save on the energy bill (dah!) and you save because you don’t need to buy as many as you once did (dah!) but you also find a new respect for light in general. You put lights on and off where needed rather than leaving them on constantly, obviously saving you money, but heightening your awareness of your energy-use in general. Then you consume energy less and less, saving you money (dah!), but you also become less inculcated in the planet’s destruction so concomitant with consumer capitalism.

Ditch the gizmos and gadgets. You do not need gizmos and gadgets. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the gizmos and gadgets. They cost money to buy, so you will save money by not buying them (dah!). They tend to be built to break, so not getting them in the first place means less rubbish to end up in landfill. And they tend to distract from the important things in life, which are luckily not the topic of this particular article.

Ditch the take-away foods. You do not need take-away foods. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without the take away foods. They tend to be expensive; save money by not buying them (dah!). And no, it is not as expensive to make your own equivalent food – it depends entirely on what you are making; do some research into inexpensive healthy food. Take-away food generally tends to be unhealthier; this may mean more medical bills in the long run; reduced medical bills means saving money (dah!) never mind the invaluable improvement in quality of life.

Ditch the shorter car trips: you do not need to drive to the corner shop. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without driving to the corner shop. You will save petrol by walking to destinations within 5 km from the home, which means saving money (dah!). Walking is exercise, which keeps you healthy; being healthy means higher tolerance to illness, which means not having to rely on pharmaceutical drugs, which means further savings (dah!), never mind the increased quality of life.

Ditch the bad habits: You do not need to cling to them. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without clinging to the bad habits. You will save money if you stop smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, having several cups of coffee a day, buying and eating sweets and chocolates (dah!). Not having these things will make you incomparably healthier, meaning you won’t fall victim to the pharmaceutical industry’s evil ways of dealing with the consequences of such bad habits. So you will save money in the long run (dah!) but you will also liberate yourself from the suffering associated with such bad habits.

Ditch the mask of frivolous consumerism. You do not need to consume frivolously. It is highly likely that you will be be better off without frivolous consumerism. I acknowledge that we all consume things: food, water, energy, etc. But this is not consumerism. Capitalist consumerism is an ideology of reductive materialism that advocates a complete disregard for the planet and her people, and thrives off of making commodities out of everything. You are not even really you when you consume frivolously; the real you is a flesh and blood sovereign being connected intimately to a physical and non-physical dispensation in which your actions matter profoundly.

We are all beings of incredible potential – we can elevate our consciousness to resonate at higher frequencies and thereby explore exciting, inspiring, uplifting, progressive layers of conscious existence. Yes, you will save money by overcoming frivolous consumerism, but such financial saving is just a small consequence.

IN CONCLUSION: You have many, many options if you really need to save money or decrease your expenses. You might not want to make the changes suggested above because you’re addicted to your hedonism, but then you don’t really need to save money in the first place, do you? If you needed to, you would make the changes. Bare this in mind when you next complain about expenses or a lack of money. But if you make the changes, the result will be far greater than mere financial savings; a de-conditioning begins to occur with each step, and you slowly reconnect with a sustainable lifestyle, one far more in tune with the way human beings lived for millennia.  So throw away your television.

Song Lyrics by Cog: “I don’t listen to the government”

Considering it’s a voting year in RSA and that people still think that putting an X in a box constitutes political ‘action’, I thought I’d draw attention to a cool song called ‘Swamp’ by the band Cog; listen to it on youtube if you can:

“I don’t listen at all to the government
I just say ‘no, why do you hate?’
I don’t listen at all to the government
The government has gotta go, oh yeah

I don’t listen at all to the government
I just say ‘no, why do you hate?’
I don’t listen at all to the government
The government has gotta go

They’re getting in the way of
(The smoke they’re blowin, all this strain they’re showin)
They’re getting in the way of
(The smoke they’re blowin, only our way)

I don’t listen at all to the government
I just say ‘no, why do you hate?’
I don’t listen at all to the government
The government has gotta go

Getting in the way of… only our way
(The smoke they’re blowin, all this strain they’re showin)
They’re getting in the way of
(The smoke they’re blowin)
This time the government has gotta go

No doubt, they’ve sold out
But right now we can end the game they’re playing.”

THE University of Life? One? Really? (a.k.a. Changing Jobs)

I begin the following article with a story of a conversation, reflecting on aspects of it along the way. There is a moral, maybe more than one, to the story – at least I think so!

Very recently, a person close to me made a comment using the phrase, “the university of life.” It popped up in a conversation between the two of us, and the way in which it was used, considering the context of the conversation, really surprised me. I’ve been reflecting on the conversation for a few days and I found that it had a lot to offer as a tool for broadening perspective on certain matters.

We were talking about people we know, specifically one person whose main theme in life is how much work is stressing her out and wearing her down. Based on some of my life experiences, I know that a person can always change her situation – people have done it everyday throughout history (whether they wanted to or not is a different topic), continue to do so, and will always do so. I articulated this knowledge to the person with whom I was chatting, and that’s when her next actions and words surprised me.

She looked away from me with smirky smile on her face, shook her head, and after a pause expressed the typical pessimistic point, which is that there are no jobs and money is scarce; a person can’t just ‘up-and-go’ from a job. I tried to continue by saying that those points are not true, that they are fragments of a limiting mindset, and certainly express a limited view on the choices that people have in life. However, I was interrupted with the following: “You don’t know what it’s really like in the world; I know, because I have graduated from the university of life”.

The old me, at that point, would have promptly left the person’s company for making such an opinionated, self-obsessed, purely-subjective, judgmental, incorrect comment. By ‘the old me’ I mean the purely debate-and-argument focused critic who had not learnt how to practice compassion. I did feel the heat start to tingle my spine, but I simply observed myself, observed my breathing, my pulse, my thoughts. Let me point out here that I felt, and still feel, no sense of judgement towards the person, and indeed rather a sense of gratefulness for having initiated a thought process that has further contributed to the positive state I’m experiencing lately.

But what she had said was a negative judgement of me, and a massively inflated positive judgement of herself. After a moment, I asked, “which university?” She said, “THE university of life – there is only one.” Now, this particular person, as dear as she is to me, had made the egotistical assumption that so many people I know have made – unsurprisingly, people whose lives are filled with so much suffering – which is the assumption that they reached a point somewhere in their lives where they had learnt it it all, experienced it all, and that nobody and nothing else can teach them any more.

Two massive paradoxes are immediately evident. A seemingly infinite amount can be said about life, most of which is up for debate. What is difficult to deny – dare I say impossible – however, is that everything in life changes. Change – or better – impermanence, is a fundamental ontological principle. Yet the person was trying to argue that one cannot change jobs, based on the ridiculous claim that her education at the ‘university of life’ taught her so; which is highly unlikely, because if a university of life had even the faint ability to detect fundamental principles, change would be one of the few on the list. To condense this paradox into one sentence: a ‘university of life’ cannot be a ‘university of life’ if it does not embrace change, yet the person in question was not embracing change.

Then there’s the notion that ‘the university of life’ offers an education that eventually leads to a cognitive stagnation – i.e. a belief that all has been learnt and experienced. How would it have ever been possible to acquire any information in the first place if such a state of mind were ever to be endorsed – i.e. a state of mind that does not allow for learning? In other words, if one wishes to claim that they have graduated from ‘the university of life’, then it is impossible for that person to believe that that they have learnt all there is to learn and experienced all there is to experience, because the very notion of a ‘university of life’ requires an (ultimately ongoing) receptive state of mind in a person in the first place.

Consider further this person only ever worked for a few years in the town in which she was born – the town she never ventured far from either – and that her life was entirely confined within the borders of materialism, consumer capitalism, patriarchy, domestic family values, racism, and fundamentalist christianity. Is this what the university of life is about? Are these discourses not crashing and burning, thankfully, in a manner they deserve?

[If you think that the above-mentioned discourses aren’t crashing and burning, take a look at the rate at which we as a species are ploughing through resources, and eliminating life-supporting biodiversity, with complete disregard for the spirit of the planet. Such action (among so many other detrimental types) is directly justified by the named discourses; and with an exponential population, exponentially consuming resources in a way that will eventually cause immense survival challenges to all members of the human race, two main courses of action are likely: either we continue with business as usual and hit the wall, so to speak, or we actively change the rules of the game for sustainability. Either way, the named discourses will crash and burn – if it continues, the former ‘course of action occurs; the latter ‘course of action’ requires the named discourses to be eliminated. This is probably the topic of a later post!].

I don’t ordinarily think these kinds of thoughts about the person in question, but remember, in the conversation I’ve referred to, she explicitly made a judgement about me – it was said that I do not know how the real world works, and that my life journey has nothing to do with the ‘university of life’ (surprising, seeing as my range of experiences is off the cart compared to hers, a statement that can be supported by fact, i.e. it’s not opinion). It has taken me the kind of process evident above to see what she meant by ‘the real world’ and ‘the university of life’ in a calm, equanimous way, and her conditioned response reminded me of some important points.

One of these points is to have compassion for each other. Sure, I initially detected a taste of anger, but observed it and let it subside; controlled the breathing; calmly continued the conversation, and left on good terms. The person in question is, after all, an unquestioning product of her social conditioning – i.e. she is a victim of the named discourses that are crashing and burning around us. In not reacting, I managed to maintain happiness – I have not had anything but positive vibes since the chat, whereas the old angry me would have replayed a debate over and over until a future confrontation – living in the past, living in the future, missing the present.

Another point is that everyone is constantly involved in some kind of education, whether they know it or not. Impermanence – i.e. change – is a fundamental ontological principle, so even if one spends 17 years working the same job and not ‘developing’ much, that situation will change, even if it’s right before death. The 17 mundane years might be very necessary in order to learn a certain lesson, even if it does not feel like it at the time. In the same way, the person in question is actually still learning, but does not know it. She will have to confront her limiting beliefs at some stage, as we will all have to, even if it’s on the death bed.

Which brings me to the person whom the conversation was about. Her job is partly the cause of her suffering, but it’s really her inability to embrace change / impermanence, never-mind direct it, that is truly the cause of her suffering. The same is true of the person with whom I had the conversation – her life is also full of suffering, and she too has placed an embargo on the concept of impermanence and change. So the person working what feels like a job that is the cause of all her suffering has been in such a place of suffering many times before, and will be again if she continues to apply the same blame game.

When I said to the person with whom I was conversing that the person stressed by her job can change the situation, I only touched on a massive series of topics that require one to look at factors like intent, motivation, meaning, inspiration, happiness, self-fulfillment, spirituality, mindfulness, etc. I won’t touch on any of those topics now, but will instead work to a conclusion here by making a few practical points. Note that these points are all focused around the scenario of a person seemingly stressed by a job in which she is employed by a higher-ranking boss.

First, if the problem is perceived to be the suffering the person is experiencing from the job, then how certain is it that the person is not causing some of the suffering herself? Is the person smoking cigarettes? Dependent on alcohol, caffeine, or sugar? Unhappy in her relationship? Not exercising? Oversleeping? Yes – all these things partly cause suffering, and if you are offended to hear it, know that you can alleviate suffering by changing these things – and trust me and millions like me, if you are doing these things, you are suffering, because a far higher quality of life and consciousness can be experienced by dropping them. One can ‘blame’ a job, in this instance, for suffering, but until you have made active steps to eliminate yourself as the cause of suffering, then it doesn’t matter what job you work, you will always find yourself suffering. Making such steps to work towards the elimination of suffering is… tada… change! Change yourself, change the situation.

Then, other than pointing out again and again how stressed she is, what has the person actually done to change her situation? Has she put out her CV and been rejected repeatedly? If not, put out the CV. If one cannot do this, has the person been actively communicating with the kind of people who are likely to be able to link her to a network where jobs are likely to come up? Has the person considered self-employment, considering that she could have established herself as a crucial link in, for example, a supply-demand business? Even one step in any of these directions would be an acceptance that change is at least likely, not something to fear entirely – even though change is unavoidable and fearing it is like fearing the air around you; but baby steps are better than nothing.

Has the person actively tried to change the ballgame at work? Has she approached the boss and had an open and honest conversation about the things that are stressing her out? Has she thought of solutions that she can offer to the boss, ones that will benefit both her and the boss?

What limiting beliefs is the person replaying in order to believe that she cannot change her job or he stressed disposition? Is she repeating the mantra, ‘there are no jobs out there; we’re in a recession; money is tight’; etc.? By doing this, she would just be focusing on the negative, while even a small self-experiment involving repeating positive mantras will show such a method to be highly effective – even if the results defy the intuitive ’cause-and-effect’ laws that people so often rely on but which tend to be mainly associated with the dominant materialist paradigm – there are plenty of alternative paradigms that raise the consciousness of people. Start small and repeat basic positive mantras.

Finally, how repetitive and mundane is the person’s life? Is the job the main thing that she does? Does the person have a hobby or hobbies? What kind of books is the person reading, if she reads at all? Is the person watching television? Does the person venture into the outdoors, like to the beach, a mountain, a park? In other words, how is the person spicing up her life? If she is not, then the world is her oyster, because she has many options in this regard.

I have written about only very accessible, practical actions that can be taken in order to control some of the ways in which one’s life can change, with specific reference to a job-stress scenario. These have all been mentioned due to their relevance to the conversation I had with the person who blurted out the cliché of the ‘university of life’, and their relevance to person who is stressed by her job. In a future post I will take the notion that you can always change your situation to a different level and focus on radical changes that have specific financial consequences.

Need one say more?

Need one say more?

nice sky…

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