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Life

A great blog post on Barriers by Jeb Dickerson made me reflect on the wonderful journey that life is if we embrace its possibilities. If we don’t become ‘fenced in’ or start “treading water up-stream while foregoing the offerings of the open ocean” as he so beautifully expressed it.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote some time ago with a similar theme, so I thought I’d unearth that poem and share it here.

River and RapidsLife can be
sometimes
a river of motion,
a remorseless current.
We’re swept past changing scenery,
through rapids that terrify
and leave us gasping,
amazed we’re still whole,
undrowned, undefeated,
surviving to move onwards.
Temptation
is a quiet backwater
where we cling to safety,
to familiarity,
and retreat from the flow
of living.
A brief respite
can be healing.
But wait too long
in the shallows,
and life will pass us by
leaving us
unchanged,
unmoved by its glory,
too frightened to plunge
into its depths
once more.

And I’ll echo Jeb’s invitation … “I’m ready to swim. You coming?”

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Category Feeds with WordPress and Feedburner

(Note: This is now an old post, as you will see from the WordPress version mentioned. I am not sure how well these steps will work with more recent WP upgrades. We also changed to FD Feedburner plugin rather than Feedsmith and no longer use individual category feeds.)

I’ve been working today on re-organising and configuring my partner Chris’s blog, Chris Chats. He needed RSS feeds set up for individual categories – and I learned that this is NOT an easy thing to do if you are using Feedburner, as we are!

I’d set up Feedburner and Feedsmith for both our blogs – which are self-hosted installations of WordPress 2.7. This was a relatively painless process that worked very well for the main blog feed and comment feed.

GRRRR Moments with the ComputerHowever, as we then found, Feedburner & Feedsmith don’t ‘play nice’ in the sandbox with WordPress if you want separate feeds for different blog categories or tags. Every feed must be individually set up in Feedburner – and at first I just couldn’t get this to work at all!

Extensive web searching, lots of WordPress tweaking, much growling and many ‘DUH!’ moments later, I finally worked it all out, and the new system is now operational.

In case the tips and steps I learned along the way are handy for any other newbie bloggers like Chris and myself, who are also using Feedburner, I thought I’d share them here.

  1. Click on “Permalinks” in the WordPress admin area and change this to one of the available settings.  The default WordPress setting doesn’t use permalinks and URLs look like something like this: http://chrischats.com/?p=34  These links won’t work to create feeds in Feedburner – each category requiring its own feeds needs its own permanent URL – ‘permalink’ in WordPress.
  2. Check out Using Permalinks on the WordPress.org website. This was the most useful resource I found to explain how the permalink structure works and how to make relevant changes. I chose the setting /%category%/%postname%/ which was recommended on several sites.
  3. If you already have one permalink setting in WordPress (as I did in my own blog), and wish to change to another without breaking all the links you have so enthusiastically shared elsewhere on the web, the Redirection plugin is a must-have. :)
  4. After establishing a suitable permalink structure for your blog, visit the category page(s) on your blog for which you need to create a feed. Copy the URL and enter it into Feedburner with /feed added to the end. For example, using the above permalink setting, Chris’s category for his Tai Chi Posts became http://chrischats.com/category/taichitips/  which I then entered into Feedburner as http://chrischats.com/category/taichitips/feed
  5. Install this Feedburner Feedsmith plugin, which includes a fix that allows configuration of individual category feeds within WordPress itself. A process that’s easy for non-techies, such as myself – particularly when compared with the various .htaccess or .php modifications I read about elsewhere. :-)
  6. Hung Out To DryGrab the category feed link that you created in Feedburner, return to the  plugin in WordPress, and enter that URL against the relevant blog category.
  7. Finally, you may like to consider either the Category Specific RSS Feed Subscription plugin or the Extended Categories widget. There may be others out there, but I found either of these worked very well to provide the list of category specific rss feeds in the widget sidebar.

Voila! All done, dusted and hung out to dry. And that’s easy for me to say … now! :-)

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A Breath of Kindness

As with other forms of writing everywhere, it can at times be a little nerve-wracking to post to a blog.

We take a deep breath, hit ‘publish’ and trust that some folk will enjoy reading our outpourings, while others will at least be constructive in their criticism. :)

Even with brief ventures into the written word, such as as updates to Facebook or tweets on Twitter, we may sometimes click ‘send’ with a slight catch of breath.

‘Who will read it? Will anyone read it? And if they do, what will they think of what I’ve said. Or of me?’

Of course not everything we write causes a nervous flutter. Sometimes we launch our thoughts blithely into the public arena without a single tremble or backward glance.

But sometimes it’s more deeply personal than that. We recognise we’re actually sharing a piece of ourselves when we write. And in that moment of clarity, our hands may pause over ‘submit’ or ‘send’ and we’ll feel a shiver of anticipation.

Not that we want everyone to agree! After all, it’s from different perspectives that we gain new insights or understanding. But if others don’t like what we’ve said or don’t agree with it, we hope they’ll attack the ideas – not the writer. :)

Here’s a poem that was first published in the novel A Life for a Life by Dinah Mulock in 1859. A long time ago and a very different world from ours!  But I think its words still ring true in our fast-paced, networked world:

Sift What is Worth KeepingOh, the comfort —
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

 

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Beauty

As Joseph Addison, British poet and statesman, once said several hundred years ago:

There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty.

We can miss seeing true beauty because we are taught to ignore everything but its most superficial face.

Movies, advertisements, TV shows and magazines bombard us with ‘beautiful people’. They try to convince us that only the slimmest, sleekest, glossiest, purest or most perfect specimens can be truly beautiful.

Anything less is simply ordinary. Anything much less is a target for laughter, raised eyebrows and even scorn.

We may not accept these ‘rules’ intellectually. After all, this is simply prejudice, is it not? And of course we aren’t prejudiced, are we?

But the intellect can be a fickle thing, betrayed by gut reactions and fuelled by stereotypes. As many folk who are ‘much less’ than perfect – so ‘much less’ than beautiful – can no doubt attest.

Then sometimes there comes a wonderful watershed moment, a glorious battle cry to challenge our society out of its comfort zone of negative judgements.

One of those moments was when Susan Boyle sang on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

To sing is to love and affirm, to fly and soar, to coast into the hearts of the people who listen, to tell them that life is to live, that love is there, that nothing is a promise, but that beauty exists, and must be hunted for and found.

(Joan Baez)

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The Gods We Honour

I’ve been reflecting on some of the archetypes prevalent in our society, particularly in relation to ‘mythological’ connections. Even more specifically, in relation to the pantheon of gods in Greek mythology.

Greek God 01If we have any mythological connection at all these days, it seems to be with spirits of Apollo (the god of reason and the clear light of day) and Prometheus (the god of production, crafting and technology).

These, if any, are the gods we honour and the myths we live by. Many – if not most – of the other gods are relegated to our community shadow.

Drawing on Jung’s psychological theories, delegation of any quality or trait into the shadow part of the psyche will cause its influence to explode elsewhere in more unconscious and damaging ways.

The gods we dishonour make their influence felt in pathological ways, and leave us off balance and out of harmony with our place in the world.

Just as the ancient Greeks knew that a balanced life involved honouring a pantheon of different gods, we need to invite other forces and myths back into our society to regain our balance.

A good start might be to re-establish our connection with the qualities of Eros or Dionysos. The positive aspects of these gods are among those crucial to our successful negotiation of our path forward in this modern world.

The myth of Eros is that of creativity – the life-impulse. He is the god of relationship, and we experience him in both the pain and delight of real intimacy. Bringing more of the Eros influence into our organisations and social structures implies improving relationships and interconnectedness.

What’s more, Eros ‘pathology’ – the shadow aspect of Eros – is certainly evident in many areas of our society, in its levels of irresponsibility, self-indulgence, and rampant individualism. Eros is the puer or eternal youth, and unless consciousness recognises and honours this element, unconsciousness can produce an unwillingness to grow up.

Dionysos brings fun, impulse, ecstasy and the irresistible irrational into our lives. He is the ‘great loosener’. Eccentricity, improvisation, personal satisfaction, joy, ecstasy, choice, and laughter are all the realm of Dionysos. He is the god who warns us against taking ourselves or life too seriously – and can provide a much needed balance to the ‘heavier’ aspects of Apollo and Prometheus.

Greek God 02Dionysos’ imprisonment in the shadow is revealed in many pathological expressions of his influence in our society. Where people seem to be achieving personal satisfaction or goals at the expense of those around them, where eccentricity is carried way beyond the bounds of social acceptance, or where the search for joy, fun and excitement turns to self-harm – in all these and more we see Dionysos shouting for recognition.

Perhaps the drug ‘Ecstasy’ was not named by accident – it is a very appropriate symbol for the destructive powers of Dionysos dishonoured!

In the end, Eros, Dionysos and all the other gods will need to be invited to join Apollo and Prometheus as the guardians and designers of our modern destiny. Without them our development – and our psyche – remains out of kilter.