On Compassion

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
—John Donne, excerpt from Meditation XVII

Sometimes the lengths cishet homophobes and transphobes go to, justifying their views “for the sake of [their] children”, remind me of this poem. The fact is, we are all interconnected and nowhere does it become more apparent than in the case of “invisible” markers such as sexual orientation and gender identity. You probably already know at least one LGBTIQA person, even if you don’t know it. Somebody you love or care about, someone who may be a friend or a friendly colleague. The children in whose name you justify oppression may one day grow up to be so much more different from you than you could have ever imagined. (Or maybe not that different after all.) Perhaps they may grow up learning to fear you even as they learn more about their own selves.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing a child I spent my life loving and protecting was so scared of me that they went through months or years or even a lifetime of agony and inner torment, desperately trying to hold on to my love (which was never so weak as to be lost) by suppressing who they are.

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Death and the Philosopher

Death and What Comes Next

A Discworld short story

By Terry Pratchett

Copyright © Terry Pratchett 2002

When Death met the philosopher, the philosopher said, rather excitedly: “At this point, you realise, I’m both dead and not dead.”

There was a sigh from Death. Oh dear, one of those, he thought. This is going to be about quantum again. He hated dealing with philosophers. They always tried to wriggle out of it.

“You see,” said the philosopher, while Death, motionless, watched the sands of his life drain through the hourglass, “everything is made of tiny particles, which have the strange property of being in many places at one time. But things made of tiny particles tend to stay in one place at one time, which does not seem right according to quantum theory. May I continue?”

YES, BUT NOT INDEFINITELY, said Death, EVERYTHING IS TRANSIENT. He did not take his gaze away from the tumbling sand.

“Well, then, if we agreed that there are an infinite number of universes, then the problem is solved! If there are an unlimited number of universes, this bed can be in millions of them, all at the same time!”

DOES IT MOVE?

“What?

Death nodded at the bed. CAN YOU FEEL IT MOVING? he said.

“No, because there are a million versions of me, too, And…here is the good bit …in some of them I am not about to pass away! Anything is possible!”

Death tapped the handle of his scythe as he considered this.

AND YOUR POINT IS…?

“Well, I’m not exactly dying, correct? You are no longer such a certainty.”

There was a sigh from Death. Space,de he thought. That was the trouble. It was never like this on worlds with everlastingly cloudy skies. But once humans saw all that space, their brains expanded to try and fill it up.

“No answer, eh?” said the dying philosopher. “Feel a bit old-fashioned, do we?”

THIS IS A CONUNDRUM CERTAINLY, said Death. Once they prayed, he thought. Mind you, he’d never been sure that prayer worked, either. He thought for a while. AND I SHALL ANSWER IT IN THIS MANNER, he added. YOU LOVE YOUR WIFE?

“What?”

THE LADY WHO HAS BEEN LOOKING AFTER YOU. YOU LOVE HER?

“Yes. Of course.”

CAN YOU THINK OF ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE, WITHOUT YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY CHANGING IN ANY WAY YOU WOULD AT THIS MOMENT PICK UP A KNIFE AND STAB HER? said Death. FOR EXAMPLE?

“Certainly not!”

BUT YOUR THEORY SAYS THAT YOU MUST. IT IS EASILY POSSIBLE WITHIN THE PHYSICAL LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE, AND THEREFORE MUST HAPPEN, AND HAPPEN MANY TIMES. EVERY MOMENT IS A BILLION, BILLION MOMENTS, AND IN THOSE MOMENTS ALL THINGS THAT ARE POSSIBLE ARE INEVITABLE. ALL TIME SOONER OR LATER, BOILS DOWN TO A MOMENT.

“But of course we can make choices between-”

ARE THERE CHOICES? EVERYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN, MUST HAPPEN. YOUR THEORY SAYS THAT FOR EVERY UNIVERSE THAT’S FORMED TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR ‘NO’, THERE MUST BE ONE TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR ‘YES’. BUT YOU SAID YOU WOULD NEVER COMMIT MURDER. THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS TREMBLES BEFORE YOUR TERRIBLE CERTAINTY. YOUR MORALITY BECOMES A FORCE AS STRONG AS GRAVITY. And, thought Death, space certainly has a lot to answer for.

“Was that sarcasm?”

ACTUALLY, NO. I AM IMPRESSED AND INTRIGUED, said Death. THE CONCEPT YOU PUT BEFORE ME PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF TWO HITHERTO MYTHICAL PLACES. SOMEWHERE, THERE IS A WORLD WHERE EVERYONE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE, THE MORAL CHOICE, THE CHOICE THAT MAXIMISED THE HAPPINESS OF THEIR FELLOW CREATURES, OF COURSE, THAT ALSO MEANS THAT SOMEWHERE ELSE IS THE SMOKING REMNANT OF THE WORLD WHERE THEY DID NOT …

“Oh, come on! I know what you’re implying, and I’ve never believed in any of that Heaven and Hell nonsense!”

The room was growing darker. The blue gleam along the edge of the reaper’s scythe was becoming more obvious.

ASTONISHING, said Death. REALLY ASTONISHING. LET ME PUT FORWARD ANOTHER SUGGESTION: THAT YOU ARE NOTHING MORE THAN A LUCKY SPECIES OF APE THAT IS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEXITIES OF CREATION VIA A LANGUAGE THAT EVOLVED IN ORDER TO TELL ONE ANOTHER WHERE THE RIPE FRUIT WAS?

Fighting for breath, the philosopher managed to say: “Don’t be silly.”

THE REMARK WAS NOT INTENDED AS DEROGATORY, said Death. UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, YOU HAVE ACHIEVED A GREAT DEAL.

“We’ve certainly escaped from outmoded superstitions!”

WELL DONE, said Death. THAT’S THE SPIRIT. I JUST WANTED TO CHECK.

He leaned forward.

AND ARE YOU AWARE OF THE THEORY THAT THE STATE OF SOME TINY PARTICLES IS INDETERMINATE UNTIL THE MOMENT THEY ARE OBSERVED? A CAT IN A BOX IS OFTEN MENTIONED.

“Oh, yes,” said the philosopher.

GOOD, said Death. He got to his feet as the last of the light died, and smiled.

I SEE YOU…

Via The L-Space Web

On 12th March 2015, author Terry Prachett passed on surrounded by family and his cat. His final tweets, posted 4 hours ago now, put it simply:

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

This or That: “Valuable Content Marketing” vs “Blog, Podcast, Google, Sell”

My parents are successful doctors who worked their way up on the basis of–here comes that golden word–merit. For 22 years of my life, the only “real” job was in Medicine or its orbit. (Here’s looking at you, Dentistry!) Everything else existed in gradations of its similarity to Medicine and Business in particular was a mysterious realm on the fringe of reality, possibly inhabited by dubious characters who moved around money not unlike turning fistfuls of sand into towering mountains. In other words, no good could possibly come out of such sorcery and it would be best to stay as far away from it as my salt o’ the earth breeding could carry me.

ado7f

Fast forward to 2014, and here I am. A former dental student, freelancing online as a content manager, SMM, SEO monkey, marketer, webmaster–whatever you throw at me. And writing (or hoping to write) on the side. I am in that shadowy place. And I’m staying.

But old habits die hard. Having been raised to believe you must read a LOT of books and pass a LOT of exams before you can even begin to call yourself competent, let alone practice, the Barefoot Bookworm found herself perpetually racked by guilt on account of I HAVEN’T STUDIED THIS SH*T. This coupled with bibliophilia and nerdy genes perfectly explains the buying spree I went on wherein I ended up with a number of books to give myself a crash course in everything I ought to know to do my job. Knowing full well other people either attend 4-6 years of undergrad school + internships or spend years in apprenticeship or both. (Refusing to let that intimidate me–I know my own drive and intelligence well enough.)

The good thing is, I can now say which books were rubbish and which weren’t. I spent my money so you don’t have to. Presenting, my first book smackdown:

ValuableContentMarketingvsBlogPodcastGoogleSell

Specs

Title: Subtitle

Valuable Content Marketing:
How to Make Quality Content the Key to Your Business Success
Blog, Podcast, Google, Sell:
The Complete Guide to Making Online Profit

Author(s)

Sonja Jefferson;
Sharon Tanton
Cresta Norris

Publisher

Kogan Page Kogan Page

Year/Edition

2013 (probably reprint) 2012; Indian

Pages/Format

234; Paperback 170; Paperback

Price (in PKR; may vary)

Rs. 995 -20% online discount Rs. 595 -20% online discount

Retailer

Readings Pakistan Readings Pakistan

Currently in Stock?

Yes No

Pros

Both books target the same audience: mainly businesspeople, particularly DIYers and those with small businesses. A broad adjunct aim is to be a good stepping stone for fledgling digital marketers, with a focus on content marketing. Pages aren’t littered with jargon and abbreviations aren’t casually thrown around: the aim of the authors is NOT to make themselves sound smart but to pass on what they genuinely believe you should know. So far so good

Valuable Content Marketing is organized well and each chapter is rounded out with quotes, tips, bullets, examples plus the hows-and-whys of content marketing. The language flows along smoothly and never gets too dense, while still managing to convey information most professionals would appreciate. There’s a lot of solid advice here despite the fact this was written somewhere in 2012, and a number of best practices. The book is unapologetic in its approach and you can expect a few dearly held assumptions to be ripped apart. The book quotes a number of digital marketing notables, asking their advice and adding value to material you wouldn’t find online unless you devoted months to trawling archives, reading newsletters, infographics, case studies and whatever made-for-professionals material you could get your hands on just so your feet could hit the ground running. (Like I did. But the letters “ROI” still give me sleepless nights.)

My advice to someone else starting out now? Save yourself the time. Get a good, comprehensive book. (Then keep learning unless you want to be a digital marketer for exactly 2 months.)

Blog, Podcast, Google… is not much different in terms of organization but it is more condensed, with several different things collected according to the stage when you need to focus on them during the process of establishing your online business. This makes it easier to read as an action plan for the uninitiated.  The text seems crammed on to the pages at times, but the author makes an effort to keep it as simple as possible. She also includes tables, checklists, the whole shebang and a LOT of in-depth case studies–with a special focus on small (sometimes very small) businesses. For example, there’s a heartening one about the woman who sells mulch (and worms) and found success by tapping into her niche audience. Unfortunately, for the great number of companies that don’t sell crap (at least they say they don’t ;P ) and don’t have the advantage of a sharply defined niche plus low competition, this doesn’t really help much.

Cons

Valuable Content Marketing is written by two authors, one of whom runs a digital marketing enterprise geared towards serving professional firms; the other is a copywriter with cross-platform content/communications production experience and, as the blurb says, “a background in telling stories”. Blog, Podcast, Google is written by an online marketer who has mainly content production experience with the BBC. The difference shows.

Blog, Podcast, Google provides nothing you wouldn’t be able to find online for free. It’s also, understandably, guilty of oversimplification. I love websites but it’s 2014: you DON’T have to devote entire sections to explaining what they are or that you can use them for business. I already know I can use the Internet for business–that’s why I bought the book, right? Additionally, a number of statements the author makes are not quite true in practice: I wish visitors always landed on the home page first, but the way the Internet works, they’re more likely to hit whatever random page Google deemed good enough or got a couple of hundred shares. This can increase or decrease depending on the nature of your business/online presence but unless you’re a household name, you have to make sure all your pages are independently optimized to coax visitors further along your sales funnel. THAT is why you need to drop the idea that the homepage is where your visitors start from, unless you want people clicking away before they even reach it.

Verdict

Get this:-

valuable-content-marketing-cover-image
Click to Visit the Authors’ Website

Either way, Kogan Page makes money. But you come away with a guide to the big bad world of content marketing that you can use as a base for years to come.