ashdraw

An eventful week

technology, Uncategorized

I write now in that state of exhaustion and bliss that other dad’s may identify with. 5 Days ago my wife gave birth to Ash Zahra after a heroic 51 hour labor.

Here’s a small rendition of my little world changer.
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She’s lovingly rendered, on a baby of mine of a different nature – an idea that I’m helping to bring into the world.

bbook2She’s a portable whiteboard called the Betabook. You can find out more about her and help support her journey into the world here.

She has many ancestors, iterative prototypes, rapidly born who reproduced to bring us to this phase of development. For those interested in the the origins of her kind, you can find a blog post here or watch the video below.

Thanks to everyone for their kind wishes, and love for both my little babies.

Special thanks to Zeinab for bringing our beautiful bright little girl into the world, and KS12 for helping make the Betabook a reality.

Spaces that inspire collaboration and creativity

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5 years ago I participated in an event called Palomar5. An event that changed my life. Reflecting on it’s impact led me to consider what the common thread has been throughout my diverse projects. Palomar5 created a safe space that enabled participants to explore what projects motivated them. What excited me most about this space was the permission given to change – ourselves, the process and the space itself. The alumni of this project have gone onto achieve many great things and occupy influential positions. It’s not my place to attribute the influence of P5 on their path, but I know that many of them recognise the importance of this experience.

My desire to get back to this type of space, led me to co-found Open Design City with Chris Doering (another P5er), and a host of other makers. I likewise chaordinated many makerlab events – temporary autonomous spaces for making and collaboration. With the Talk to Me Bubbles, I have hacked spaces to create greater interaction and intimacy. In Egypt, I’ve worked with communities to create their own spaces for development. Even when playing devil’s advocate, I have created spaces for discussion through provocation. Spaces are important, gaps are important. In our rush to fill the world with content, we need to create room for ourselves. Undefined spaces set us free.

I’ve come to realise the product we’ve been working on for the last 2 years is likewise a space. A portable space around which people can gather and share their ideas. A whiteboard that you can carry with you. A blank space that allows you to create without distraction. Through this product I hope that we can distribute spaces to share, to engage and better know each other. A space to connect with yourself and the world.

Finally I know what I do ;).

Getting high whilst sober – experiments with Placebo “drugs”

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I’ve been fascinated by placebo’s for some time now, and how they occupy this boundary space between Science, Witchcraft and Shamanism. Placebo’s are as powerful and effective as some drugs when it comes to the treatment of the body (in some cases more effective where no present drug has been found). But what about for recreational purposes?

It has been shown previously that you can get drunk on placebo’s. I was interested to research into whether it’s possible to get “high” on placebos.

I have also observed in Egypt, drug and drink free dancefloors that were more frenetic and active than those I’ve seen in the West fueled by alcohol and stimulants. I was curious as to how much of our behavior is based on permission. The permission to let go is granted through alcohol or other drugs, each with their own spin of expectation (eg. Cocaine = confidence, Alcohol = an absence of shame, ecstacy = affectionate + must dance). These expectations can also create a psychological crutch that is not healthy and creates dependency. Potentially a placebo could also become such a crux, however an accessible and harmless ritual known to be the product of our own mind is a preferable alternative to other “Social Lubricants”. As I get older even a couple of beers leave me with a hangover, so the ability to leave this pain behind certainly has appeal.

I don’t believe in lying or deceit so I was also curious to know whether it was possible for people to get high on placebos even if they knew they were taking them.

I decided to find out this weekend, at the Summer Wonderland festival at Gut Moeglin. I can’t claim it to be a scientific study as it was in an uncontrolled environment and Alcohol was freely available. However the effects requested were not ones that could be provided necessarily by alcohol alone.

I prepared some small “preparations” connected to different rituals of drug taking.

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These were:
An ink dropper, with water, tabasco sauce and vanilla flavouring
Some Dried Field Mushrooms (non magical variety)
Baking Powder
Diamond shaped licorice sweets (aka Black Fs)
Carbon Pills
Thyme Capsules (aka Time Capsules)
Balloons

I wore my wedding Galabeya, bowler hat and carried a cane to create a modern shaman vibe.

Getting peoples attention was easy enough, as I slipped into my role promoting Zeinab’s Tarot Readings and taking payments with contributions to our Tarot for Social Transformation project. However the biggest promotion came from my “customers”.

Word quickly spread, despite the fact that I clearly communicated that I was dispensing Placebos. I invited people to tap into their own mental powers over their bodies and themselves. I also told them that placebo’s work even if you don’t believe in them. Something backed up by this study.

I asked people to clearly state their intention, what they wanted the Placebo to do prior to them taking them. This also gave me the chance to pick a ritual and a “drug” best suited to the expected high.

I used Laughter Balloons as a “gateway drug” to the placebo experience. Based on the “Festival Ritual” of Balloons filled with Laughing Gas, I invited people to fill a balloon with their own air and the intention to laugh. Before they breathed back in I told them to let the desire to laugh overwhelm them. This admittedly is a combination of placebo and suggestion – a powerful combination.

We rolled around on the floor in hysterics.

Throughout the night, people brought their friends back and asked me to “sort them out”. I gave some others pills to distribute, and try it themselves. I had become the Placebo Dealer.

The experience was profound, the majority of users reported experiencing the desired effect they intended. A couple of people even came to hug me to thank me for the experience.

What people wanted varied, from the desire to relax, to be grateful, to be calm, to be focused and alert, to more abstract desires of interesting conversations and interactions. I had something for everyone, as I could create on the spot.

For myself I have since been able to “self medicate”. I’ve tried “Focus”, “Alertness”, “Patience”, “Awake” and on the last day “Body Comfort” to let go of my English discomfort of Nudity – after naked swimming, I walked comfortably around naked and took a nude stroll on the hilltop.

Apparently the placebo effect is getting stronger, with Major drugs companies struggling to make drugs that are more effective than Sugar Pills, and even Surgical Interventions are no better than their Placebo Counterparts.

Shamans and Witches have been onto this for years. What interests me is how can we harness it’s power further and make it accessible to all. We should be asking how we can make Placebos more effective, rather than focusing on making chemicals that beat them, but since Placebos are available to all it would mean the death of the pharmaceutical industry – something worth aspiring to.

Perhaps recreational placebos, and rituals can be our gateway experience to self healing and self improvement. Once we become conscious of how to tap into our own minds to pleasure ourselves, then we become aware of how we can also treat ourselves. If Placebos are equal to more expensive medicines prescribed by an expensive system, isn’t it time we explored how we could safely DIY?

Plus we can have a damn good time without danger, and without excluding others on grounds of religion, physical condition, or social attitudes to drug taking (one of the joy’s of this weekend was that I could get my pregnant wife “high” without fear of damaging my offspring). No risks, no hangovers, no comedowns, just a good high you can switch on as you wish.

I hope to take this further and make a larger scale Placebo Party, where there are only Placebos available. If you’re interested to take part or help organise drop me a line.

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Cards for Change: The Tarot for Social Transformation

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For some years an idea has been rattling around my head. Can we create stories of a positive future, a vision worth aspiring to? I see a world in Transition, with forces pulling in multiple directions. Some desire greater control, or would maintain their interests, others work to distribute resource and equalise opportunity. But there is little in the way of vision. However what I have alway struggled with is how to weave multiple narratives. The Tarot (or simply cards) offers the opportunity for multiple narratives and even exploration of new narratives through a shuffle of the cards and engaging the imagination. Note: Whilst the Tarot is our launch point for exploration, Cards for Change may further evolve as the prototype develops.

For some the Tarot will seem an unusual vehicle for exploring these stories. But I urge you to set aside your stereotypes and prejudices as I have, and consider the below as one means of mapping the landscape of our emergent future and a launch point for further discussion.

We are co-creating a Tarot for Social Transformation, and we invite you to contribute.

The idea at it’s core is to collect the Archetypes, Behaviours, Technologies, and Memes that are Transforming our world, and to use them to build a story of Positive Social Transformation. As well as telling this story the cards can be used for Brainstorming, Forecasting, Generating new lines of intellectual inquiry, and mapping change within your community.

Why the Tarot?

The Tarot has at it’s core a story of Personal Transformation – the Fools Journey. The Archetypes the Fool meets and events that befall the Fool on his way result in his personal growth and spiritual transformation. Despite this linear narrative however, the shuffling of the cards, or conscious use, combined with the opportunity for interpretation of the images, allows for multiple narratives and paths to emerge. The cards offer a point of provocation for us to create patterns and pathways for Social Transformation.

Many stories are being told of our future. These Meta Narratives are mostly either of Technological Salvation, Financial Collapse, Ecological Destruction, or outright Armageddon. It is necessary for us to find new stories, stories that are both positive and inclusive if we are to create a world worth inhabiting.

The Tarot offers a good working structure to help create new narratives and explore these in a distributed and non-linear manner. The associated rituals also provide a fun and meaningful framework for telling stories of our future.

The final deck will be offered for download under a cc-by license and maybe printed and offered for sale, however if you do profit from the cards and their use, please donate a portion of the profits you consider to be fair towards a socially beneficial project of your choosing.

The final deck will not be edited or curated by us, where cards are duplicated you can choose which you want to include. You may also choose to exclude cards, although first we invite you to consider carefully how you would interpret the card, and if it should really be excluded from the deck (as an example when I saw the “Castration for Rape” card I had a strong urge to remove it, my wife pointed out it was created by an Indian Woman. The card now represents for me Mob Justice, Violent Retaliation, Oppression of Women, Violence Against Women and a whole host of complex interconnected social issues that should not be ignored in any transition narrative – we must recognise the dark sides of our nature if we are to embrace the light).

So please contribute to the discussion by:

Download and print the template, or upload into a draw program (although we would rather you engage your hands).
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Create a card – please only draw in black and white (for some consistency of aesthetics).
You may create your own Archetypes, Behaviors, Technologies, Memes, or anything else you consider necessary for consideration in the path to a better future.
If you wish to use the existing tarot for a launch point, generate a random card here, consider it’s meaning and how it translates to social transformation.

Finally send us your card here and we’ll add to the deck, feel free to share online #cards4change

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Note: We have prototyped this exercise at DMY with mixed results, you can find the first cards here (we will clean up for deck printing later). I would like to see more archetypes relating to real world archetypes, and emerging trends in the deck, but some are already a good start.

See gallery below.

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Update: New additions and second event

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It was our pleasure to participate in a festival at Klien Hundorf, a small community in North Germany. You know you’re in Paradise when the food served is picked from plants within 5 minutes walking distance. There weren’t so many participants, but those that did were worth it. See below for the latest additions.

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Update. At present the project is on hiatus, whilst I focus on Betabook.co.

We’ve collected at least 20 additional cards to process. Here’s a couple.

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Stewardship, by Lauren Lapidge

Who are the stewards of the future?

Who is responsible for the resources of the future?

What can we learn about the past and now on ‘stewardship’?

Orikaso

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So Cory Doctorow just posted about some products that I designed, sourced and distributed years ago.

I then realised, there is nothing that remains of the company website and where to source the products commercially. This was in part due to my need to distance myself from what had become a painful experience – closing a business you built over 7 years feels like a death in the family, I cried, I let go, and I moved on, creating a new story of self as I did so in Berlin – I was Orikaso Boy for 7 years it featured in nearly every conversation I had and it’s death was slow and emotionally stressful.

But now I’ve moved on sufficiently to be proud again of the product itself, I was always in awe of the stories people would tell me, and that my baby had traveled further and higher than I will ever, interacted with more people and even started conversations between strangers. I will never know every story, but it’s a joy to know it’s still out there and bringing a smile to peoples faces.

Likewise the journey these products took me on has shaped my life ever since. My experiments with Chaordination, and Spaces of Exploration came from the realisation that Control had made me a prisoner of my own miniature empire. With the death of the business I was free.

Anyway I digress.

Here’s the products as described by others.

For those who want amounts in the 1000’s rather than the small quantities available at amazon, please contact intro sino in Hong Kong as I believe they still have stock.

The above products were developed over a few days in my room with a scalpel and some PP sheets. Bringing it to a globally distributed business was the big challenge. I’m now working with friends on a new product which is developed in a similar manner, but now the world has changed and I can develop products without being in control. The infrastructures I dreamed of as an inventor, are now in place. It’s possible to profit and be free, and develop products without speculating about how many the world might need, as the world can now tell you in advance.

The only question I had was what did the world really need, and what could in benefit from. The answer has a small impact, but I can’t wait to share it, and see what new stories it creates.

Watch this space.

Paper Oppression, Faith, and Freedom

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Disclaimer: Many on reading this have skipped “potentially” element in this sentence and assumed I am somehow in some kind of trouble. This is not to my knowledge the case. I am safe and well. It is not a deliberately malicious system that I fear, it’s badly designed systems where abstract data becomes automated and people become criminalised by words attached to their names or even their names themselves. In the future if we continue on this path these are the things we must guard against. It could be that your face resembles that of someone on a watchlist, your name is similar, or your religion, beliefs, facebook links, or whatever data becomes clumsily defined as our “Protectors” expand the net, always addressing the problem at it’s end and never the cause.

In short I am no more under surveillance than you are – we are all vulnerable to incompetent use of powerful tools by those whose job it is to expect the worst from humanity.

First of all I write this to the British and American Government, as you’re own Bureaucratic Systems of Surveillance have potentially put data against my name that could in future be misused or misinterpreted, what with me just converting to Islam, and my writing about Anarchy. In light of your treatment of others in my position, I write this to make my position clear with respect to both ideologies.

For clarity and in summary:

I come in Peace, I live in Peace, I take actions to promote Peace, Peace is the higher power I believe in. Peace can only come through Peaceful means. To do otherwise is like trying to promote silence with a heavy metal concert.

If this threatens you, then you are the biggest security threat the world has ever faced. Detain yourself.

Secondly I write this to the Egyptian Government and every Government who seeks to control a population through it’s bureaucratic procedures as a compliment to it’s more obvious forms of Oppression.

Paper Oppression

Yes I converted to Islam. I am now a “Paper Muslim”. I did this as the Woman I love is also a Muslim on paper. She was defined by birth as a Muslim, however this no longer reflects her beliefs. To marry her I must become a Muslim on paper. When we have children if we wish for them to have Egyptian Nationality (presently up for debate), they will have to be Muslim on Paper.

What right does a State have to prescribe who can marry who?

What right has the State to prescribe a religion to the new born?

Whilst I have met these concessions in order that I can be with the Woman I love, this is merely a practical concession. In our hearts we are already married, but I have had to lie in order to be with her in Egypt, for her not to suffer the judgement of society, and more importantly to appease the legal system that represses lifestyle choices.

For me this is a small concession I have to make, for people attracted to the same sex it is even more complicated. Somehow you and many other Nation States in the world believe that it is your job to decide who can fuck who, and who can be with who. Whether Man can be with Man, Woman with Woman, Muslim with Catholic, Atheist, or Jew (or Jew with Christian, and every other combination that doesn’t fit with your own tiny world view of what is acceptable).

Even if these laws were created by the consensus of public opinion – what right does a collection of minds have to dictate the lifestyles of others?

It’s none of your fucking business.

Through Paper Oppression, Laws and Bureaucratic procedures, you require us to conform at least on Paper to your own beliefs.

But where this Paper Oppression really starts to bite, is where you devalue an entire Gender, that 2 women are required in place of one man for any point of law. That you don’t recognise my wife as an equal, or anyone else of her sex. We even looked for ways to hack this, so as not to completely reinforce your twisted views in the ceremonies and rituals that we begin our life together.

In the end we decided instead to flow and not fight, although we held hands throughout the ceremony, a small concession. But to really fight the paper would be to give credence to this Bullshit.

So we lied, something I also abhor. We lied about Faith (and some other more personal issues which I wont go into here). I bought my wife for a pound (dowry), borrowed from a friend. Then she bought me back.

But my point stands. Neither you or society had any right. Our Love is our business.

We must now invent our own rituals on which we can found our future together, and forget the lies you forced upon us at the beginning of our lives together.


Faith

I don’t write the above as a critique of Islam, but as a critique of State. However where anyone prescribes how others should live I take issue.

In the majority of my experiences I have found Muslims to be peaceful, and I find the fact that I should be flagged for being one, regardless of whether I share their faith is a mute point.

To use faith as a tool for identifying Terrorists is just flat out ridiculous. If you want to catch terrorists screen by the following means:

Have they experienced violence (note this violence can take many forms, from direct attacks to “acts of charity” that destroy livelihoods and economies) at the hands of your country?

Have people they care about experienced violence at the hands of your country?

Have they been formerly trained in sociopathic tendencies and methods of manipulation and violence by your country?

Are they insecure, vulnerable and hormonally manipulated young men?

Are they un-Loved, or raised in an un-Loving environment?

Are they hateful?

Have your agents infiltrated their dialogues to provoke them to further violent acts or even assist them?

What are the key causes of Terror, what are the real commonalities? What if this violence is the result of regional and global securities you are continuing to create?

Consider addressing these causes. Consider tracking them. All violence is the result of insecurity. Violent acts make more people insecure.

My encounters with Islam and Christianity in Egypt, have caused me to question Faith. To empathise with the Faithful I must have a Faith of my own.

I have Faith in the prospect of Global Peace. I believe that one day we can all live in Peace, and that this can and will be brought about Peacefully – indeed it is the only way to Peace. Unless we can develop a shared capacity to believe this, there is little point or hope for our fragile existence.

An Irish Catholic girl once reacted to this with. “Are you out of your feckin mind, that’s ridiculous”. It felt good be on the other side of the fence. Defending my Faith. She started to refer to Darwin rather than God as justification. I explained that Survival of the Fittest actually meant at the time Survival of the Best Adapted. Likewise, given that we are actually a composite of organisms collaborating, we are ourselves an adaptation. Society is an adaptation. Our present society is poorly adapted. The best adaptation to our continued existence on this planet, and subsequently others is to live in peace, and in symbiosis with our surrounding environment. Harmony. We must adapt to survive. Still even with Logic, looking at the state of Humanity, belief in a Global Peace requires great Faith.

Freedom

So to return to those originally addressed in this text. I hope you can see that I come in Peace. When I talk of Anarchy, I talk of Freedom, and an Anarchy based on the goodness that Humans carry within them, not the Angry Anarchy of the Sex Pistols. I am no fan of the systems and structures of Oppression, Surveillance and Inequality. But I see no point to fight them. We’re too busy building something better, I just hope that you will allow us to do so without interference, learn from what we are learning, and observe that Peace comes when people feel secure (emotionally, physically and psychologically).

Perhaps one day you will even consider how you can assist people to be more secure, and undermine terrorism by promoting peace and showing people how to live abundantly. To use your infrastructures to create secure foundations rather than put holes in hearts and nations.

I have faith that you can do this.

Peace be upon you ;)

Jay Cousins

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Reflections on a year. Living, Learning, Loving

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Living

Last year I scribbled down some key insights. It felt like I’d broken through some imaginary mental barriers and the rules had changed. I had learned to define my own rules.

I stopped seeing Money and Meaning, the choice between helping myself to thrive and grow and helping others to thrive and grow ceased to become mutually exclusive. I refused to take jobs or work that only addressed one. I insisted on both. Key insights from this can be found here.

From this solid uncompromising foundation, I have found myself increasingly in a position of strength of negotiation. I don’t have to take work. It’s up to my client and collaborators to convince me. I am secure in myself and my finances. I still can’t believe I get paid to do what I do. I do what I love and what I feel is right.

I began to push these factors for a better life for me further. I spent most of the summer in a hammock reflecting on what I was doing and where I wanted to be. I relaxed and let untold years of no holiday or downtime drift away. To redefine my own joy, to find peace, to take time for coffees with friends. Develop ideas without time frames or stress. Develop projects in the gaps through conversations, finding overlapping passions.

I found that once again I was tapping into an emergent zeitgeist of Unbusyness. As I witnessed more people rejecting the stresses of start up or business cultures, or reflecting on the insanity of the bustling and hustling man, who has no time to think whether the path is right. Admittedly I witnessed and encountered many oblivious to their hustles, who wore how busy they were like a badge of honor. I began to respond to people telling me how busy they were with “Sorry to hear it”, as we shouldn’t encourage this meme to develop further than in has already.

At the same time I was too comfortable, I needed a shake, stimulation. This came in the form of my apartment. My perceived stable foundation was quaking beneath me, but it led to a healthy re-evaluation of what I considered to be a stable foundation (and if I really wanted the permanence of place I thought).

Excited and energised I left for Egypt, feeling like I was postponing a dream. Only to discover the components of the dream emerging before my eyes. I had envisaged a space to develop a nomadic community space on the river.

Within 2 weeks I was living here.

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Exploring how we could create a space for Mutual Development with the local Community.

Now, there are multiple stories I could tell as to how such things Manifest. I don’t know whether this is due to an awareness of what you want, tuning your awareness to finding it, or just “magic”. The rational in me is inclined to the former, the spiritual in me the latter. Regardless, in principle knowing what you want is the first step in getting it.

I’m now working to create opportunities to return to Aswan and live well on the Bank of the Nile, for 3-4 months of Winter each year, hit me up if you want to be a part of it. Many Opportunities listed here.

Learning

I’ve spent the last 4 years experimenting with letting go of control, creating Anarchic and Enabling spaces and environments for people to explore within and discover their own capabilities. I’ve also been thinking about how we complicate our lives with Technology in order to simplify it. We are constantly designing new tools to help us better connect with other Humans.

Living in a Nubian Community has blown my mind and my assumptions about the latent capabilities of community and the abilities of networks for problem solving, sharing of information and disaster response.

Talking to one another is still the ultimate social tool and most effective way of getting shit done, and mass communication (what’s important is translated and spreads). There is no process needed, but empathy sure helps. Despite the simplicity of this operating platform I’m still continuously astonished by how many people have forgotten to engage with each other as human beings, instead adopting masks, roles and behaviors that would set them apart and create barriers in doing so.

Whilst the insight isn’t new to me, the continuous practice and observation of a lower tech/hyper-connected community constantly astonishes me. I will share further insights here in the future on this topic. Alternatively if anyone wants to interview me, on the topic it”d make it easier for me to solidify my thoughts.

On the control side, the Felucca Festival forced me to let go of the last faint urges I had to help things on their way. Without language, understanding of the island community, or the social culture we were operating in, I had to let everything flow. When goats eat your agenda, and there is no pre-existing organisational framework for events you have to break, just doing something active and positive and seeing what happens is the only way to roll.

Loving

Forgive the gooey ending, but I can’t write a review of the year without the highlight.

In case it wasn’t apparent from this….

“The most attractive thing anyone can be is themselves. You wont attract everybody, but you will attract the ones that will love you for who you are. For them you will shine, and they for you.

If instead you adjust yourself to the perceived expectations of others, together you will construct a prison of interpreted will. A prison nobody wants, but they all maintain in silence from the fear they are alone in their longing to be free.”

I fell in love.

It was quick, deep, and easy.

Up until this point I’d always been afraid of commitment, skeptical even. However I realised that it’s easy, when it feels right. When you feel comfortable with someone, at once burning and passionate, at the same time secure, safe, and connected. I’ve never been more sure or more at ease.

We spoke with candor, I let go of all analysis or strategy. I’m all in. I think it’s the only way to love.

To trust, to give all.

I proposed on top of Mount Moses on New Years Day at Dawn, I made the rings from silver band and rainbow opal (connected to another magical story from our short history), with a pair of pliers whilst visiting my family across Europe. Every day she amazes me.

I never saw myself before I met her as the commitment type, being very independent in my thoughts and quite different in my approach to life. Yet the day after we got together we were already talking marriage and I wasn’t freaking out.

This year now appears to be the year of the lovers, with friends all over the place finding the one who compliments and helps them to grow.

Socially there are many challenges to be overcome before we are married (she’s an Egyptian, and Muslim by birth although not belief), but we are meeting these with smiles and open hearts.

We will now explore together how to live well and live good, in a way that suits us. I have found another as keen as I am to prototype a better life. This relationship isn’t settling or a compromise, it’s a power up. She supports, she inspires and she is her joyful self without compromise.

Anyway, hallas. Zeinab I love you.

May you all find freedom this year, may you all find love.

On Attraction

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The most attractive thing anyone can be is themselves. You wont attract everybody, but you will attract the ones that will love you for who you are. For them you will shine, and they for you.

If instead you adjust yourself to the perceived expectations of others, together you will construct a prison of interpreted will. A prison nobody wants, but they all maintain in silence from the fear they are alone in their longing to be free.