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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

Skills, eh? Where would we be without them? When I look back to the time when I was eight, I'm horrified at the sheer narrowness of my range of talents. No wonder I was morose when not only was I not able to make a mushroom risotto, I wouldn't even have been able to tell you what a risotto was (though I was aware of mushrooms, which I knew came from Croydon).

It's reassuring, then, to discover that the internet is suffused with websites falling over themselves to help us acquire the skills we need to survive in a world of terrorism, food price inflation, melting ice caps and embarrassing pauses in conversation.

For instance, I had to look no further than the homepage of How To Do Things ( to find out not only 'How to choose an outdoor fireplace' but also 'How to do a self-directed retreat'. Now if I am in social situation and experience an embarrassing pause in conversation, I can fill it with talk of fireplaces and my inner self until the other person loses consciousness and I can move on to the attractive young woman playing with the poetry fridge magnets in the kitchen.

Though useful in the short term, even I admit that such skills will not kit me out for the long haul that is eternal existence. Thus it was that I found myself whipping 'God' off the fridge and into the How To Do Things search box. Intriguingly, 'How to believe in God' was listed before 'How to search for God'. I suppose if you're an agnostic and you screw yourself up to believing in God it gives the search more of a treasure hunt feel than a wild goose chase, which must give the seeker some heart. Unfortunately, I got stuck on the second point of the advice on how to search for God, viz: 'A self-slayer is one who does not realize Atman'.

Over at the headquarters of eHow ( they wouldn't dream of not realizing Atman, zed or no zed. Their top ten eHows were a mite offputting, eHowever. I find it unlikely that of all the talents we English-speaking humans might thirst to acquire, 'How to brush your dog's or cat's teeth' is unlikely to be the second most pressing of the moment.

Still, I persevered, despite the stale odour of cat food breathed over me by young Nipsy, and was gratified to discover that eHow offers not only a means of finding God but also sure-fire methods of obeying, trusting, pleasing, waiting on (you should never stack at the table apparently), praying to, interacting with, hearing the voice of and, perhaps most importantly, choosing one's God.

But it's the finding that most interested me, so I was relieved to learn that: 'Religion has gotten a bad rap due to flawed people, not a flawed God.' Of rather less value was the news that finding God 'only requires belief and faith'. So, easy-peasy then. Skills - they're not all they're cracked up to be, you know.