Islands of Light

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            I live on a beautiful island. It has a generally sunny disposition, and even the grey rains are welcomed as a necessary part of growth and life. I live in a place far from perfect, but with the advantage of knowing we are far from perfect (and that is far more important to understand than you might think at first glance), and understanding it is with each other we might find our way towards increasing the general happiness of our lives. On this island we, mostly, understand people are different, that people have different desires, different beliefs, and different ways of doing things, and as long as they don’t harm the general public those people are very welcome to just get on and do things, feel things, believe things, pretty much as they like. We laugh at each other, we call each other barmy, we go home and gossip about the wallies we saw today, but we laugh at ourselves at least as much as we giggle at others. 

            It’s been said democracy is a terrible way to govern a people, it’s just better than all the others… What makes democracy so awful is most people haven’t any clue as to what is really, in the long-run at least, best for them, and so they make their decisions with their eyes fixed on short-term gratifications. What makes democracy so wonderful is its ability to put checks and limits on people gaining too much power and putting all the resources of a nation into seeing those short-term gratifications… well, gratified… at the expense of all the other people. 

            There have been times in history when some benign dictator, able to focus the entire resources of a nation into the betterment of his or her people, have raised those people to new heights of achievement, but inevitably someone comes along and wrecks it all… snatching power and once again degenerating that vision to their own desires and perspectives. Power inevitably corrupts… 

            Perhaps limiting what people know, what they can learn, what they can watch, can engineer a society into being… happier, more content (but the word docile does want to emerge), but when you limit experience you remove choice, and when you remove choice you make a slave of a person. Lies by omission, lies by misinformation, are still lies, and perhaps all the more dangerous if there is just no way to ever, not only find the truth, but worse, never know you are being lied to. 

            We face a technologically evolving world where new and exciting items are constantly replacing the older ones, and we are mesmerised by adverts designed by psychologists encouraging us to believe it is very important to have them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this… There has unlikely ever been a time when we didn’t look at our neighbour’s farm and say, ooo, I’d love a fence like that, or at our neighbour’s diving school and say, ooo, I wish I had a wetsuit like that, or… well, you get the idea. It’s going to take a very long time, and a very different environment, to allow people to find satisfaction in the very processes of living (and most of us pretty much giggle at the tree-huggers who advocate it). So, we make the most of what we have, we crave and desire, or we are satisfied and happy, but for most of us it’s a movement between these to points of existence… like everything in life we live in the grey without right and wrong. 

            Democracy allows for this… imperfectly, of course, what is not, but it works… Open conversation and debate, the ability to disagree, to get angry, to wander up and down a street holding a placard saying ‘free the geraniums’, while might not make people happy, seems far better than the alternatives. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m all Platonic in thinking we should actually send our politicians to politics school… I’m all about education… I think that education, open and spanning more subjects than might necessarily buy you that fifty-five-inch telly, allowing for thought and perspective, allowing for invention and debate, is as necessary as a powerful military to protect those freedoms, and I think generations of education is what will eventually save us… if we are to be saved, for today, the daydream seems more and more likely to be treated to a very rude awakening. 

            Authority must be kept in check… dogmatism must be locked in a room until it calms down… The most dangerous threat to a generally liberal and utilitarian way of existence are the people who see things in black and white, and more often than not have thoroughly convinced themselves their unconscious desires make perfect logical sense and the things they say and do are utterly justified and for the best. 

            This is what democracy offers… it steps in and says ‘you’re daft’, and if the democracy is right everyone stands around and has a giggle. It steps in, it might take a little while, but it gets there, and says, ‘ok, we’ve had about enough of you, you can toddle off home now’, and then it tries again, usually with someone or a belief structure pretty much opposite to the last one, and by necessity it keeps trying, as so struggles its way to slow but eventual improvement – there are no quick fixes to existence with each other.  

            We face a world more dangerous than ever… warlords decimating countries, authoritarian leaders imposing their own world view on their populations (and others) through whatever means necessary, and unfortunately democracies being bought and sold to the highest bidder, but there remain a few islands of light, predominately in the older European countries, where democracy still struggles along in pretty much the way it is supposed to. 

            We are, almost thankfully, faced with cataclysmic environmental concerns (one could easily make the comparison to forty days and forty nights and a wiping clean of the slate, although I’m not so inclined), which for perhaps the first time is making our islands of light face issues not simply concerning this generation, but generations to come, and with a little luck the ensuing calamities may check some of the more aggressive movements around the world, although the pessimist in me says it’s more likely to make the bullies snatch what they can from all the weaker participants… 

            The tragedy, the heart-rending, tear jerking horror… we are finally in a position to understand our problems, to address our problems, to work in united concert to actually do something about our problems (ok, perhaps I’m a little of a tree-hugger), and all but a very few of us are doing nothing about it whatsoever. 

            As I said, there are no black and whites, so I find myself in a natural place, a human place… where my hatred for injustice wars with my feelings of inadequacy, my feelings of inadequacy drive me to distraction, and my distractions mostly revolve around a big telly, while at the same time I drag myself away from my big telly to write this short article on democracy and tree-hugging, posting it somewhere no one will likely ever read it… It is the very truths education inspire and democracy allow that allow me to understand what people do is for their own truths, and it is the philosopher in me who understands, unlike so many of them, those truths are perspectival. It is the human in me who feels such frustration at not being able to just sit down with them and persuade them to other possibilities, and it is the brutal realist in me who realises without some large and dangerous soldier standing right behind me they would snatch me away to silence this voice only democracy allows to disagree with them… 

            I hope for the future, I weep for the present, but most of all, for this short moment, I’m grateful to have the ability, the freedom, not only to do these things, but to write about them… 

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The World Turned Left

 

       Do you know what I did the day they told me I had terminal lung cancer? I went home and cleaned the toilets in the house I rented a room in so I could get a little money off my rent each month. You might think I was in a state of shock; they say people go through a series of psychological states like denial, anger, shock, etc… but nope, I just needed the rent to be less, because dying or not I just don’t have very much money.

       Once upon a time I would have turned my nose up at the thought of cleaning toilets and kitchens for a little money every week, but that was several lifetimes ago and a great deal of my arrogance has gone into hiding.

       I’ve heard many times about people finding out they are dying and they go off on grand adventures to make the very most of the time remaining… but then I don’t suppose watching a movie about a guy without any funds wasting away in his room living on cheap food and watching the telly.

       I would lie on my bed – it was either that or sit on the desk chair – and think about endings… One part of my mind thought of nothing but relief. First, there would be no more pain… I have suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for more than a decade, and while much of the time I’m free from pain when the attacks come, I think of little but severing the offending limb; of hacking it off in a glory of self-hatred and spite. The savagery of the unending, unrelenting pain, stretching from hours to days, moving from one joint to another, elongating the torture into weeks, and even months, and perhaps worst of all watching all the muscle I struggle so hard to rebuild between attacks melt away from flesh incapable sometimes of even reaching the toilet.

       Relief… from being unable to get a job… I wandered the world for nearly two decades excelling in everything I did, headhunted to work, manage and lead companies, and returning to England I’m incapable of even getting a night job in a nursing home… over-qualified for this, not the right qualifications or experience for that… so a mind I know to be cutting and creative wastes away with little but self-analysis, while I drain the country of a few pennies a month of benefits and feel less than a man every time I look into the mirror.

       Relief… from being alone… The love of my life is Chinese, so lives under the encroaching menaces of a terrifying authoritarian regime. WE are kept apart by visa and border for so very much of our time, limited to messages and the occasional cam, waiting for months to see if the next visa application will be refused because this politician has upset that one… our lives, quite literally, in the hands of children having temper tantrums over not getting their own way and screaming the words “I didn’t do it, it’s your fault” in whatever paraphrase that springs to unprepared mind at the time.

       I remain a creature of light, hope and kindness… as soft as a marshmallow, but with a grumpy veneer learnt through years of dealing with lumps of rock pretending to be human. I look to the sun and blue skies and see the moral compass of situations, so this world does little but break my heart, with those rare and beautiful moments when my faith is re-established… A nod from a stranger, an ‘after you’, a ‘may I help you with that’, or ‘would you like my seat’… I’ve lived outside of society looking in for a long time, but I treasure those snapshots of true humanity, when for just a split second our education, our experience, our lives… make it possible to connect with another in a moral fashion, and make the world a little brighter. Unfortunately, there is just so very much more of the opposite, of people taking for themselves with such short-sighted bigotry as to make me weep. The answers are so very simple, but we just refuse to acknowledge them.

       So, yea… relief… but with that relief a pretty sizeable lump of terror…

       Terror… no more of those smiles… no more imagining tomorrow might be a little better… no more adventures across the cosmos on paper or just in my mind, because my wallet doesn’t much allow for adventures across the world anymore, and even if it did, I’m not sure there are many things I would want to explore anymore… the beautiful things are always surrounded by such ugly people.

       Terror… of not being able to think, to talk, to see my friends, my love, my Dog… terror of the end of all things. Only a fool, or someone living in utter hopelessness is unafraid of death.

       What idiot would make suicide illegal…? Religions… of course, as a control mechanism to keep the suffering masses in line – for if heaven is so awesome, and my sixteen hours working in the fields seven days a week just to eat a little awful food, maybe… is so horrifying, I’m going to open a vein and get my arse there without hanging around this version of hell any longer, so they had to make it a cardinal sin – straight to the real Hell for you if you top yourself… Nations, perhaps for similar reasons, although harder to police for non-believers.

       There’s this old saying about the world ending – three men are playing a game when they receive the news. The first says he’s off to see his family (the ethical), the second says he’s going for booze and fast women (the aesthetic), and the third says “I’m going to finish the game” (possibly the authentic), me, now I’ve discovered my world is ending… well, I’ve no friends and family to be with, and no great desire, I don’t have money for booze and fast women, and no particular inclination, and mostly all I do is play games, so that’s kind of a given… What’s your point, I hear your annoyed mutterings? My point is all these stories and idioms, cliches and leitmotifs are nothing but t-shirt slogans, because while ‘shit happens’, that’s not much use to the person it landed on…

       So, the smug remain smug, and complain, and the forlorn remain wistful, and the hungry remain hungry, for whatever sustenance they crave, and all of the little people, who look up to these great symbols we throw around like confetti at a wedding, just get on with dying, just a bit slower than me…

       So, what will I do today… as what remains dwindles minute by minute… exactly what I did yesterday, but with just a little more to think about…?

 

       I made a therapist smile yesterday! I think it’s pretty funny people need some ironic tragedy to occur for them to glimpse at the dark humour of the universe – yea, you morons, that was a pun… and the truth, all wrapped up in a neat little linguistic bundle for most of you to never comprehend… Ha, who am I fooling… no one will ever read this.

       I turned up at the hospital for some tests and really some pills. The pain is getting more than a little uncomfortable now and I’m not [solely] taking them for free recreational usage now. So, the doctor asked me to see a therapist for some sessions to treat what I presume he thought was depression.

       I put some thought into it and have decided the doctor is an idiot. Sure, I didn’t much want to discuss my condition with him, but not because I’m any more depressed than this world most always makes me, irrelevant that today I’m sick, yesterday the world was a dark and painful place – my small contribution to its misery has very little to do with its festering core… the festering sore. This fellow, tall, relatively young, striding around, shoe heels clicking away at the floor like some Gestapo general, being eyed up by nurse and gay orderly alike as they sensed an alpha moving through the herd, craving a little of that DNA to make their offspring just a scratch more successful, smiling at me as he warmly greets me into his little universe of control and power, and without the slightest introspection his very existence was like pouring salt on an open wound.

       This fellow thinks I’m withdrawn and not particularly responsive – I’d have particularly enjoyed responding with a chair to his head, but then I really wanted those pills, and strongly recommended I see a therapist specialising in treating people with my ‘particular needs’. I think my ‘particular needs’, are how I remained unresponsible to his obvious charm, and therefore, at some subconscious level, he believed I was in need of fixing. So, let’s have a look at this fellow… Let’s fictionalise him a life story… bear with me, as I’m going to have a little bitter fun.

       At a young age little Maximillian (it wasn’t his name, but it seems grandiose enough to satisfy), stuck a plaster on his younger sister’s knee after he, and this is the part no one ever knows, and his sister was too young to realise, caused her to have a bike accident. The adults present all marvel at his care and attention and discuss how one day he will be a doctor. Children, picking up immediately on what will maximise their attention, can’t let an opportunity like this go to waste, so from then on, he would declare to all adults in his most precocious voice, much to their delight, he was going to be a doctor!

       At this point in time there were slightly over four hundred million children in the world declaring they were going to be a doctor. Over the next year a hundred million of these decided they were going to be a lawyer instead, because they found they could get away with more demanding, argumentative conversation, over the next few years a few more were distracted by celebrity or sporting personality status, depending on the parents, and so it continued. When it was time to choose their further education path, due to having more money than most, and thus having extra tutelage, and being able to pay for the longer university course a few of the remaining dedicates ended up in medical school, and by studying enough to pass their exams and being potential professionals, they were popular enough to see them to the end of their course. School and background allowed for a pick of one of the better funded hospitals (or perhaps they received more gratification for sacrificing themselves to a poorer community, or even ‘doctors without borders’), in a better location, and then, depending on whether their craving is to feel godlike or chase cash (both entwined are also an option), they either remained in mainstream (National Health), or private medicine… They, of course, wander around, modestly affirming to all it was their determination and singlemindedness that led them to this point, but in reality, it was simply the planets lining up beaming luck rays upon them, and shadowing others so they lost their path along the way.

       Don’t misunderstand me… I fucking hate this guy, but understand why I hate him… do me that small courtesy… it’s NOT because he’s successful, women want him to impregnate him, he drives a nice car and gets invited to parties, or even rarely interrupted when he’s talking (must be nice to get a turn and finish whole sentences) – good for him, I bet that’s awesome. I fucking hate him because he thinks he did it all himself, that I, or you (depending on who you are), could have been where he is if we’d been a little more determined, a little more self-sacrificing, if our drives hadn’t mastered our reason and restraint, and all that superior crap he’s likely not even aware of.

       However, I’m pretty used to these people, and I really wanted those pills, so when he ‘suggested’ seeing a therapist, I nodded at his sage wisdom, allowed him to make me an appointment – and wouldn’t you know, the therapist was free at that exact moment (not having a waiting list of desperate neurotics banging at his door suggested something as to a. the stoic nature of the British people, and b, maybe something as to his ability… I wasn’t optimistic – yes, that’s a fucking joke too). Fixing something I hoped was a smile of gratitude, but noticing the look of faint revulsion flicking briefly over his face I thought I more likely looked like I was snarling, I snatched up my prescription, left my test results on the desk and headed straight for the pharmacy.

       Twenty minutes later, and feeling a little floppy and a lot less caring as to the idiots around me, I found myself being ushered into an office by a secretary who probably wasn’t nearly as attractive as my newly rediscovered fuzzy attitude towards the world suggested.

       Oh my god… he actually had curly hair. It took a moment for me to notice the proffered hand as I had to drag my eyes of curls so tight, I was having an internal argument as to whether they were natural or he’d been sitting with the girls for a perm?

       Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t intentionally make this fellow happy, it was an accident. He was an amiable enough fellow, not tall, a little flabby, wearing pretty normal clothes… He asked if I wanted a drink and never one to refuse a free beverage, I had a cup of pretty good coffee from a machine in his office I think he had bought himself (it’s about the quality… instant from the supermarket just doesn’t have quite the same… well, anything).

       He started to ask me a series of questions… and here I began to get annoyed. He was asking a series of questions about me he hadn’t written like the checklist a pilot might clear before taking his plane into the bright blue skies. So, how did he get these questions…? Some group of prats who believe they understand the myriad complications of billions of individuals have sat down and thought themselves terribly clever by coming up with a list on non-invasive informative questions designed to give the patient/client, whatever the current pc is, a baseline from which the therapist has something to work with. I resisted answering for a little while as my lovely mind, floating in an ocean of chemically induced lapping waves of thought, could gather itself and I showed him how it was done… I stood and wandered the room, deep in apparent thought but really just having a nose and a poke around…

 

Patient: Why did you buy the coffee maker; wouldn’t the hospital provide one.

Doctor: Ah, you noticed… well, I though my clients might like something a little better than the pretty awful stuff the hospital provides from the machines.

Patient: So, you’re treating them?

Doctor: Err… it’s not really like that; more that we’re enjoying something tasty together as we get to know each other.

Patient: Do you think most of the patients you see here, I mean it’s not exactly a world-famous hospital in the spotlight of research and success, drink this when they are at home, or they have something a little more alike to the machine stuff.

Doctor: Well, I’m not really sure, I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed coffee with my patients… I mean, clients…

Patient: Not on your checklist?

Doctor: What?

Patient: Doesn’t matter… This is your wife? And this one your daughter? Why don’t you have a picture of them together?

Doctor: Those are my favourite pictures.

Patient: Your favourite pictures are about the way they look, not the family union? Them being together doesn’t make them more attractive, because of the feelings of love biasing your imagination? Your daughter, she’s very young, what four, five…?

Doctor: Oh no, she’s older now, I just like that picture.

Patient: How old is she?

Doctor: She’s about to turn seventeen.

Patient: So, you don’t have any more recent pictures of her? Is she very pretty and you’d rather your patients don’t get any funny ideas, or is she really ugly and you’re a little ashamed of her looks or weight – or both?

Doctor: I think we’re drifting off the topic a bit.

Patient: Ah, a sore subject – sure we can move on. Don’t you like normal books?

Doctor: What do you mean?

Patient: Your bookshelves are filled with textbooks on psychology and a few semi-related intellectual texts, don’t you like normal books?

Doctor: I do like normal books; those ones are here for my reference.

Patient: So, what do you read in your lunch hour, one of these?

Doctor: Err… no, I usually have lunch with my colleagues.

Patient: Is your workload pretty busy?

Doctor: I see clients through most of the day, yes… you were quite lucky to find me with an opening in my schedule.

Patient: So, when do you ‘refer’ to these books?

Doctor: …

Doctor: Would you mind sitting for a moment so we can get back on target?

Patient: Sure, what’s next on your checklist?

Doctor: I’m wondering if you’re trying to deny or avoid the topic, we should be talking about with all this clever misdirection…?

Patient: It’s a little difficult to deny dying when you’ve just been picking up your pills from a doctor who immediately refers you to a psychotherapist to help you deal with your situation. I’m angry all the time, but I was angry long before I was told I didn’t have very long left to be angry, I’ve nothing left to bargain, I get through depression at the dark ironies of the universe with hilarity rather than insanity, and I accept I’m going to die, but I’m not leaping in a coffin or on the funeral pyre yet… What I would very much like to know is what ‘help’ you can offer me, apart from asking me a series of questions some fellows in a room a thousand miles away who have never met me thought up?

Doctor: I can see you’re a very clever man, and some of your tactics are quite ingenious…

Patient: Sorry to interrupt you doctor, but you don’t know me… and that’s a pretty quick assessment to make in a few minutes. To be honest it feels more like you are trying to get on my good side by complimenting me and so we can begin to build a rapport, but can I ask you, again – what good will that actually do?

Doctor: Ah… you think these questions are a bit of a joke, you don’t think I’m capable of being your friend, as we’ve just met and I do this for a living, you probably came here under some [imagined] coercion, and you’re either playing with me or intentionally trying to upset me?

Patient: So, not a total moron…?

Doctor: Not entirely…

Patient: Put the list away doc, look at me – what do you want to ask?

Doctor: Alright… how do you feel?

Patient: Not a bad question, not what I would have asked, but could be worse. How do I feel? I’ve been told I’m going to die… I’ve known that since I was about seven, I’ve just been provided with a timetable. I’m sad at the thought I’ll no longer be able to grasp and appreciate the few bright moments in this dark world, and I’m terrified of not being anymore, of the ending of my conscious – of the end of me, but really, who wouldn’t be?

Doctor: Well, you’re facing your mortality, you’re having an existential crisis…

Patient: Doc, I’ve been having an existential crisis since I was seven. I’ve got to ask you a question… you bouncing back thoughts at me I’ve already had… is that going to save me? Will I live forever and never have to fear losing myself into the abyss, of never experiencing again?

Doctor: No, of course not, but having someone to talk about these things with can provide some relief. Holding them all inside, renumerating over and over with no outlet can act much like a steam cooker with no hole to release the pressure.

Patient: Haha… oh doc… what’s wrong with pressure cookers exploding?

Doctor: Well, they may cause harm to yourself, perhaps even to others?

Patient: I’m not sure what more harm can occur to me after being informed I’m dying, and are these sessions supposed to be for the benefit of the patient, or so he or she will fit more docilely into society as they quietly fade away, not drawing to much attention to the raging horror awaiting everyone just one heartbeat away – are you trying to turn me into a cattle animal, doc? Am I supposed to wander quietly to the abattoir like a good little ripple and cause no tidal issues to the gentle lap of our social pond?

Doctor: I’m here to try to help you adjust to the psychological stress information like this can create?

Patient: Are you sure doctor… are you not simply fulfilling a social or political role manufactured or evolved to keep the herd mentality peacefully chewing on its cud? Can you honestly tell me people shouldn’t be angry at the universe or God depending on your taste and neurosis, that it should create us and then rip everything we care about away until eventually all that is left… ‘I’ follows all the rest into the abyss to be forgotten for eternity? Why would you support people suppressing that rage, the horror at the injustice? Shouldn’t you be encouraging people to leave here screaming at the heavens and setting fire to anything nature or God might treasure in a final act of spite?

Doctor: It’s a very interesting perspective…

Patient: One of many… do you want to here the one about dedicating the last few drops of time to making the world a better place, or the one about taking the fight to the terrorist in some glorious vent of justice, or the one about running for political office on the back of your illness relying on the sympathy vote in an effort to actually make the system adjust a fraction…. I can come up with speeches for any you like?

Doctor: You’re playing with me?

Patient: Doctor, all I have left is a few grumps to grump and games to game, and none of it makes much difference…

Doctor: Our time is up… but this chat has been… fascinating; would you like to come back?

Patient: Would you like me to come back, doc?

Doctor: Very much so…

Patient: Bit starved of conversation at home, eh…! Sure doc, if I have time I’ll come back and entertain you some more; I have to come get these pills anyway. Oh doc, when you go home take a new picture with your wife and daughter together sitting somewhere they love, and put that one on your desk in a nice frame…

 

       He stood and ushered me to the door, smiling with… perhaps genuine fascination and warmth – I hadn’t expected to make a friend today, least of all a fucking therapist, but that’s life, right… it just turns left.

       There was a fellow in the waiting room, scared little eyes darting pleadingly to the doctor, impatient jigging knee stopping the moment he set his eyes on his saviour. Perhaps they were right… the herd do need a little placebo before the blade falls…

 

       I was sitting in the park yesterday. It was a nice day, a little cold as we come out of a bitter winter, the sky a marvellous blue without a single cloud to blemish its perfection. Most everywhere there was green and here or there an early flower added a little touch of rich variation.

       It was a Sunday, some kids and their dads had set up a couple of goals, kicking a ball about and crying foul. A few people played with dogs, some more gossiped and off to the left a fairly respectable climbing area for small children, accompanied by mostly mums and a dad or two.

       I sat alone, quite naturally; I knew no one here, shit I only knew maybe two dozen people in the whole country. On a bench with a clear view of the whole park I relished the warm sun, sheltered from the slight chill in the wind by an ancient English Oak.

       I listened most intently to the sound of children laughing. I enjoyed the sound very much. A long time ago I used to be around children for work, and found it less tedious and hateful than most of the chores we are forced to suffer, accept, and eventually persuade ourselves we enjoy, to survive this world and its endless demands.

       The pull of entropy is strong… an injection of energy must come from outside the system or it will come to rest. Have you ever spent much time asking people if they like what they do? It’s a particularly personal question… why…? It’s because we know they probably don’t, and so all we would be doing is forcing them to squirm and stutter as they tried to make a brave face, but I used to have a job where I was forced to talk about such things, and not with one or two people, but over the years hundreds, if not thousands of people across the planet, and I don’t really remember ever listening to someone chatter on about their work as if it were their very lifeblood; at best you'll get a “Oh, it’s so so…”

       We watch them though… those pedestals, glittering so brightly we can’t even make out the horror or delight of those we’ve perched up there. Those glamorous jobs… I don’t know what they are for you; a lot of my old friends, especially the girls, would have liked to be a celebrity. Me, when I was a boy, I wanted to be a stuntman. There was this old show on television, well, not old when I was a boy, about the adventures of a stuntman who kept getting involved in people’s problems and helping solve them – he was so cool. I would throw myself about in the back garden ‘hardening’ myself in preparation for this utterly cool job – hanging around all the stars, but then taking over and doing all the dangerous crap they were too precious to attempt.

       I was giving a speech at a university once, and I asked all the kids what they had wanted to be when they were young. I received some splendid answers… one had wanted to be a poet, another a zoo keeper, another a carpenter like his dad, but when I asked them what they were studying at college, almost to the soul, they replied something to do with business and finance.

       It breaks the heart we live in a world where money is the driving force, the competitive score we use to retain our self-confidence and dignity, and how we defend ourselves from the endless insecurities we normal folks suffer from – a crutch so easily kicked from beneath our feet.

       Being around people like this is becoming addictive; a weakness of my own… my desire for solitude seems to be slipping, but I remain incapable of approaching anyone, and for fuck’s sake I don’t want to go to those therapy ‘group sessions’, my knew buddy has suggested – I’m not sure I could take it if they were all breaking down, and if they weren’t, I’d probably just hate them all the more.

       I find I have to change my location pretty often… be quite funny if I’m arrested for loitering outside a school, a victim of the social paedophilia neurosis the news and papers have managed to instil through the whole country, perhaps even most of the West.

       Introspection, most all I have left, has led me to the conclusion being around people, when you’re alone and dying, is like eating particularly spicy food… If someone tells you they ‘like’ the flavour, they’re full of shit – you can’t taste much of anything after a few mouthfuls. So, why eat it? I’m pretty sure it’s for the sensation… to feel something… It’s a little akin to self-harming, hurting oneself for a mixture of punishment and sensation. Why…? The sensation is pretty easy to understand – we don’t feel so much these days… just look at the TV. I watch a TV show, just a normal show about some federal agents solving crimes. It’s not late night showing, or parentally advised, but in every episode, there are awful murders, torture, rape, violence, guns, though remarkably little affectionate sex. It’s one of the longest running shows and most successful in history.

       I watched an episode where a young girl had been blackmailed into sexual favours by some wanker and I couldn’t help myself – I just threw up, and no it wasn’t [entirely] due to this god-awful medication (not my favourite little pills, but another), the fuckers have put me on to ‘prolong’ my life. How many of you fucks watch things like that every day and feel nothing but a little interest in the part it plays in the larger plot (I won’t even start on those who get a little awful excitement from such things) – it broke my fucking heart, and somewhere there’s a writer who thought it up, and somewhere else there’s a group of producers who passed it into production, and then there’s a load of technicians and actors who made it happen, and then there’s the people controlling TV content, rating content, who allowed it on during prime time, and even higher there are government groups saying what those people controlling the content can and can’t allow (very little these days – it does make you wonder at the pros of an authoritarian government controlling the way we think through our media…) …! If that’s not a slap rather than an alarm clock then you’ve become so desensitised your sleep is unlikely ever to be interrupted.

       When was the last time a romance made you cry with joy, but we still might weep at the tragic end of a hero – it’s the pain that cuts through our thickened skins, joy just tickles a little…

       What of the hurt though – why do we eat food that causes something akin to pain…? Somewhere between listening to miserable music and cutting ourselves with kitchen knives – mediocre pain, why… because we have failed in our own eyes, but we’ve repressed it. Those pedestals are so painfully bright, they blind us… we have to turn our backs, and all we see is the darkness of our own shadows, empty forms of ourselves, and we, like those poor bastards eternally trapped in Plato’s cave, believe those shadowy forms are the real thing, not realising the miracle each and every person truly is, and thus obliterating the possibility of miracles.

       How many other subtle and accepted ways do we find to hurt ourselves…? Is the gym, for some at least, another form of self-harm, is working longer hours than we need to, cheating on our partner, wearing controversial clothes, or for different people, wearing conventional ones…? For each and every complex and complicated individual there are probably a thousand conflicting drives for pain and pleasure, unknown to ourselves we are all self-harmers one way or another.

       So, I sit here, and at the coffee shop on the pedestrianised shopping street, and in the shopping centre, and sometimes at the fucking bus station – how pathetic is that, sitting at the bus station with nowhere to go, and I live this bittersweet pain – I watch the kids, before they’ve had all that hope and possibility obliterated by the adults and their programmed attitudes, by the world and it’s impossibilities; I watch the kids as they dance in the infinity of imagination – and there’s the most horrifying paradox….as we get older our capacity to imagine grows, but the possibilities shrink, and so we find that most splendid of capacities being wasted or used up in worry… I sit here and hurt and laugh and weep and scream, and not a drop ever shows on my face… and then, much like today, the pain gets to me, maybe I throw up in a bag I take with me especially for the fun activity, try to make the act as discrete as possible, surreptitiously wipe away any blood, take a few of my silly pills and try to get home while I can still walk straight and remember my name, and then I sit in front of the telly, numb to pretty much everything and watch all that horror, with the occasional glimpse of joy peeking through a veil decreed by ratings…

 

       I was in a particularly shit mood today. I was sitting outside a coffee shop on the pedestrianised shopping street nursing this cup of crap they charged me three pounds for. This guy, behind the counter, who seemed to have a smile fixed so rigidly to his face I had to wonder if he any longer could make other expressions, had asked what I wanted. I told him a coffee, and with infinite patience he’d indicated the badly written rainbow of chalk nonsense behind his head listing about fifty different types of coffee. Has no one heard of Occam’s Razor anymore… the simplest solution is pretty much always the right one – if I asked for a coffee that means a cup of black shit with an option of some milk and sugar – do you know I couldn’t even see that on the menu! Containing what was already a bad day – the pain was pretty bad today, but I just couldn’t face another day of fucking reruns, and if I was going to vomit, I’d much rather try to project onto some prat thinking he’s important because he’s wearing a suit, at least that way I didn’t have to scrub my own toilet again – I tried to ask, with all the patience I had remaining, what I wanted…

 

Grinning prat: What can I get you, sir?

Dying wanker: I’d like a coffee.

Gp: Err… could you be a little more specific, sir? Have a look at the selection…

Dw: Umm… err… what is… ah… why would you twist lemon into… fuck… Look, I want some coffee with some milk.

Gp: Oh, I see; you want an Americano…?

Dw: A what? No, nothing South American, just a straight, normal, coffee.

Gp: Yes sir, that’s an Americano

Dw: They didn’t invent coffee in South America

Gp: Err… that’s just what it’s called, sir

Dw: Well, why don’t they call it fucking coffee so people know what it is?

Gp: I’m terribly sorry, sir, most people do know what it is.

Dw: Alright, alright, just get one of those.

Gp: There you are sir. That will be £3.20

Dw: You’re having a fucking laugh, right?

Gp: No sir, I assure you, I’m not having a laugh.

Dw: Your boss is having a fucking laugh then matey; I hope they’re paying you well…

 

        What puzzles the shit out of me is why that guy doesn’t burn the place down after he finishes a shift. What do you think he’s earning… about £9.50 an hour, serving a person every minute or two, people ordering for themselves, their friends, a cake or two, a refill… busy time of the day you think they’re making a couple of thousand pounds an hour… The ‘latte’ – apparently a shot of expresso with some steamed, skimmed milk - £3.50, but another shot of expresso is just 20p… do you think the boss is losing on that second shot – not a chance, so the first shot is costing him considerably less than 20p…

       I was at the cinema a couple of years ago, wanted a coke, forgot to buy my own and smuggle it in so wanted to buy one at the desk. At least this guy had the good sense to look like he hated his job. He says to me £9.50… for a coke… I used to be a barman, a million lifetimes ago, and I know that stuff is like a syrup that comes in a plastic bag, just gets watered down with carbonated water, costs pennies - £9.50… one cup of that shit is likely more than he makes in an hour, and you wonder why people don’t take much pride in their work…

       Anyway, fuck it – it’s a sellers’ market, so I paid the money, enough to feed me for two days, and sat in the sunshine watching the busy Saturday afternoon street…

       The first thing I noticed was this guy in a wheelchair. This cunt had positioned himself right in the middle of the street – ha! I watched people deep in conversation, people staring at shop windows, people munching on ridiculously priced hotdogs, all suddenly notice him too late and have to swerve or leap out of the way.

       The hilarious part was they all offered him apologies, and smiled, and nodded, and greeted… We British people are pretty lovely, but at the same time a bit naïve in our liberalism. This guy didn’t park there by accident, he was just causing trouble, and taking some perverse delight in upsetting these happy shoppers. Why should they apologise to him… because deep down they were pretty decent people, and that’s what I love about this country – while we have our fair share of wankers, and yes, I include myself in that group, the quiet majority remain steadfast in their naïve arrogance, but what they lack is perspective – what they lack are imaginative options…

       They treated this guy with respect, pity, and even a touch of polite friendliness, but they didn’t know who he was… I knew a little about him – he was causing trouble, the kind of trouble attracting attention… so what, he’s lonely, who knows, but that’s as far as my speculative insight can reach. What I don’t know is who he’s been?

       How many people have you been? Have you been a hungry student with radical views, have you been a boss with responsibilities and demands, have you been a rich capitalist revelling in your monetary glory, a drunk dragging himself to the bathroom once a day to vomit and wash the stench from his pits, the centre of attention headhunted while surrounded by friends, and lonely old man dying in utter solitude, and a hundred more… or have you remained pretty much just one person your whole life – a continuity, and consistency of soul?

       This guy they were apologising to… perhaps a decade ago, before some bullet pierced his lower spine, or his car was wrapped around a lamppost in a bank robbery getaway, or he was poisoned by his gang lieutenant, if they’d bumped into him, he’d have taken a cudgel from his pocket and smashed their brains in for the slight… So, who is right – there’s a bigger picture here, and there always has been – should we be what the world makes us, or should we retain our own code?

       What a pile of puke, I hear you mutter, and you’d be right… people don’t think in those terms, and the world most usually makes us what we are, but in the end we all act as if others aren’t real, but reflections of ourselves – and it’s exactly that remiss which causes our traumas, because suddenly the world simply doesn’t make sense, and I mean that in the strongest sense of the word – it just turns left, when it should be right.

       Our lives have taught us when we interact with others there’s some civil return, when we purchase something, we get something back, when we walk home, we will arrive without being stabbed, when we treat people with respect, they will return the courtesy, and so on and so forth… well, that’s our world here, for the most part, and then something comes along not fitting into that pattern.

       When something happens a little to the left of that straight line we can compensate, we can squeeze and play with the facts a bit until they once again fit neatly into our world view, when something is a little more extreme, we can, for the most part, simply ignore it, but finally, when something comes crashing in from the side, hurtling a cataclysmic movement, driving us from our well-worn path into utterly unknown territory, we’re simply incapable of absorbing the differences, of realigning ourselves to our new situation, and we find ourselves lost.

       For the most we’ll adjust, slowly, and eventually merge the two as if there was no break, but in reality, we’re now a different person, living a different world, where we use the same labels, but what we are naming are no longer the same; our paradigm shift is complete, even though we have gradually repressed the break.

       We love our dogs in England… We don’t usually mamby pamby them like in some of the countries I’ve lived in, where they knit them little costumes and booties for the winter, but there’s something pretty obvious about the British personality that adores those faithful, loving happy creatures. There’s always a shit load of dogs (yes, pun intended), to be seen… they’re padding along the streets beside their masters, they’re getting thrown treats, they’re straining outside shops for their owner to return, and all they time they just offer that unconditional love.

       I must admit, in moments of weakness, I have thought about getting a dog for this last period of my life, but what the fuck would happen to the poor bugger when I was dead?

       Most of the time I deride myself for my weakness, there’s nothing to be done, feeling sorry for myself won’t do any fucking good, but even I have my off days, when the ceilings of my small room seems to lower, when the repetition of the same telly filled with successful impossible people living lives I have never desired, but now find myself hungering for, drooling for, when I play games and those far away places, places I became bored of when I actually had to live them, now call to me, but most of all when I have something to say and no one to say it to.

       You know the blackest of comedies… having friends and a love I can no longer communicate with… It’s become impossible for me to talk to my friends – they’re dotted around the world living lives far more complicated than mine, with dreams and wishes and potential, and all I have left is a very short road with maybe a bend or two but no more branches.

       I watched someone quote something famous the other day – I can’t remember exactly, but it went something like ‘At the end of his life he’d left behind all they possibilities and cemented into a real person’, now I’m not sure what the originator meant, but the show I was watching quoted it as if it were a positive thing – fucking morons… becoming a concrete thing is dread…when you have all your maybes slowly shredded away until all you have left is ‘is’. This is the end, this is the finish line, and there’s no going back, there’re no rewrites available. Hope has ended, and that’s the tragic nail in the coffin hammering out the very last note of the composition.

       How can you communicate with others at that point? Conversation and communication involves hopes, dreams, interests, desires, disappointments, fury, disagreement, and so much more, with the other, and every single one of these comes from possibility… when you have become ‘concrete’ then all layers of potential have been filed away, scraped and gouged out, smoothed and hardened into an immobile, impenetrable object; no longer a becoming, but a being – how could such a thing respond to the lives of the becoming?

       Sick of the coffee, which was especially crap, sick of the wanker in the chair who seemed to be enjoying himself, sick of the people ignoring their loving dogs, I chose my moment carefully and rising was sick on a pair of expensive looking shoes of the dick who’s been sitting next to me talking about some promotion he’s expecting for working with less effort or imagination that a builder on a site.

       I mumbled “cancer”, and staggered off knowing he wouldn’t say a word – it was a small comfort as the pain chose that inopportune moment to ravage through me. I couldn’t contain a scream, collapsed a few metres later and woke up a day later in hospital…

 

       I love trains. I hate cars. I used to like bikes. I hate cars because if you have to drive, unless you are doing so just for the pure pleasure, then you are wasting your life – I knew this a long time before I knew how very much of my life I’ve wasted. I used to love having a car, the feeling of control, of freedom, but when I began my long travels around the world I realised the feeling an illusion (that’s pretty debatable, can a feeling be an illusion – it’s true enough when you feel it; you can’t fake a feeling), or rather just perhaps something we’ve been programmed with – to feel this potential to break free from our mundane lives and just go, but then hardly any of us ever go anywhere – perhaps the illusion is a necessary, or better, a grateful relief, from that trapped repetition… When you want to go somewhere you just can, the car just allows for solitude or particular company.

      I loved my bike, until I couldn’t ride it anymore. I was a demon in the insane traffic of foreign countries… running lights, jumping curbs, driving up hills, racing motorbikes, getting in fights with taxi drivers because they cut me up, and long rides with acid filling exhausted but resolute legs. Now I watch people riding… sedate and sensible in their mushroom hats and their glowing clothing – I know it’s for the best, but I can’t help feeling they’re missing out on something pretty special. I would have some fantastic, uplifting rock or indie in my ear, and exult in my virulence. Now I just mostly try not to pay much attention.

       I have always loved trains… You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to talk to people, you can gaze out of the window, lose yourself in your own thoughts, you can chat to a stranger if you fancy, and you just know you are going somewhere. I remember, maybe thirty or more years ago, riding a train to London, and coming out from a tunnel and seeing the most beautiful blue flower, sitting all alone on the embankment. I can’t have looked at that flower for even a second, but it was one of those memories that stayed, embedded, etched forever in my mind, when so very many others, when almost all the others, have vanished. I’ve tried to make some connection, to understand why it left such an indelible impression, but for all my exploration can’t find any relation to any part of my life then… a mystery that will remain unsolved.

       I was riding a train today. I couldn’t really afford it – I’d booked a return ticket to nowhere and back, which would take me about eight hours, and with prices as they are for public transport in England it had set me back a pretty penny, but it was worth it.

       My girl had broken up with me yesterday. My girl… ha! I was feeling a bit bitter, but I understood, and couldn’t really blame her. We’d been separated by country and circumstance for more than a year, and for the last few months I’d been dying. She loved me, I didn’t doubt that for a moment, but I had been withdrawing, and I think she was protecting herself from what was coming. She was a lot younger than me, more beautiful than I deserved and as kind as the universe is harsh. She had a whole life to build, to explore, to adventure – and I prayed she did adventure, not just obey the social demands of her country and settle for something less than mundane, but still… where I thought I had been close to cracked before, now I was shattered.

       The pain was with me all the time now, and where I had found some kind of bleak pride in my stoic fatalism, now I felt scared. I’ve been scared a lot in my life, feels sometimes like I was born scared, but I’ve mostly faced those fears and managed to hide my anxiety as I ventured into stranger and stranger lands and encountered situations and horrors many people would have perhaps been unable to cope with, and now I was terrified. I was terrified and had nowhere to put it, no way to unload it, it sat, filling me, and there was just no way to vent it – I’d say it was unbearable, but what choices do we sometimes lack…?

       I jumped at slight noises, I shied away from people looking at me, I carved my face into stone to hide the mixture of endless pain and dread, but I’m sure it shows in frightened eyes. So today, I rode the train with almost the last of my money and stared out of the window, and remembered my girl, and remembered my life, and tried to ignore the pain as I reminisced through half remembered and probably much corrupted flashes of wonderful and terrible memory, poking out from all the years of failed recollections.

       I stared out of the window and hoped with all my heart to see that flower again…

 

       The pain was mostly gone… that was so much of a relief it nearly defeated the clawing terror clutching my mind, the shivering tear-jerking awareness the end was but a few breathes away. Many times, over the last few months, and a fair few over the long years, I’ve craved the end… just relief from it all, but now it was here, there was no sense of impending relief, only gnawing horror that this thing I called ‘I’, was soon to be gone, obliterated from a world that cared not even a little if I simply ended.

       I was leaving nothing behind, but a few written words, a few smiles on the faces of children who have long forgotten me, and maybe a friend here or there around the world I hadn’t talked to in a very long time, most of which probably never gave me a second thought.

       I watched nurses, from many different countries, working for our health service, giving me care, and hated the intolerance some showed them. I heard somewhere someone say ‘they grew up in an age where people where intolerant of many things’, and asked forgiveness, but I knew one thing, the only thing I’ve ever been intolerant is unkindness. Tell the truth, lie if you like, be whatever colour you like, fuck who you like how you like, and sacrifice chickens to the lord of the pit or waffle about forgiveness, but just don’t fuck people over.

       The world reeks of intolerance, and it’s just you soft middle class liberals that make it worth living. We need the wolves to protect those sheep, and we need those sheep to give meaning to the lives of the wolves, and now and then… just now and then, there’s an eagle for all of us to gaze upon as it soars heights the rest of us dream over or despise.

       In my life I’ve been all these things… a sheep hoping for kindness and understanding, a wolf raging at those trying to deprive sheep of their choice and their innate compassion, and an eagle… soaring untouchable above the world delighting in my own powers, oblivious to the world of wolves and sheep, but there’s one more creature I never really factored into my philosophy – perhaps the cat… the creature scared all the time, the creature who hunts and kills just for fun, the creature that takes without ever really returning, and these souls, they are the ones who would control and manipulate those wolves and sheep, and murder all the splendid eagles.

       As I lay here, I marvel at their pointlessness – their obsessions, to bend life to their views, whatever they might be, so terrified of what is different they will go to any lengths to change this world into an image they feel safe and comfortable with. If I had one more wish, a spot of strength, and the saliva spare, I’d spit in their faces with the last breath in my body, that would be a well spent end, but that’s not going to happen. In a few more breathes I shall be gone, and I’ll leave nothing much to show for it…

       I’ll stop dictating this now, I can’t go on – to anyone who ever reads this, treasure what you have and spit in the face of cunts…

 
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Caritas

 

       I would like to begin this piece with a question… How to address a topic like unconditional love, without sounding… soft… but, still avoiding addressing people in a cold, academic fashion? A challenge indeed, but one which pales in comparison with the subject.

 

I might wander around a bit, so do bear with me as I work through these things myself…

 

       Today, the word ‘charity’ is a word we encounter all the time. We walk along the high street and we see homeless people sleeping in the entrances to shops. We enter or pass by charity shops selling second-hand clothes and items. People approach us on the street and ask us, honestly or under the guise of ‘sponsorship’, or somesuch, to give them some of our money. Companies that have acquired our data call us, email us, post adverts on YouTube, etc…showing pictures of starving, half-naked children, huge eyes crying streams of tears.

       There are so very many more… You have seen them, you know them, you have encountered them, you have surrendered to them or defied them…

       You may give a few pounds to a fellow on the street, you might shop in charity shops, not through necessity, but because you want to, but more likely you will take some of your better-quality items and donate them, especially if you have suffered a loss in the family. You might sponsor an eight-year-old German Shepard in Brunswick, called Phillip, you might even have a standing order sending £10 a week overseas to help those crying children. Perhaps you have your friends sponsor you once a year as you run for cancer, or heart disease. Perhaps you don’t do anything.

       Mark Twain, in What is Man, argues altruism, pure altruism,  is impossible, as with every good deed there is either a reward, or the avoidance of punishment – I’m walking along the street with my girl or boy, he or she is shivering in the cold, I wrap my coat around them – Ooo, but I know that warmth might be repaid with interest a little later in the evening (nod, nod, wink wink), or, I shan’t have to wander the street, snug in my coat, but wretched as I dwell on how my own warmth is more important than theirs.

       There are varying degrees here – it is so very easy to get locked into right and wrong, into good and bad, but for those of us who have experienced a little, who have, perhaps, had a little help in understanding, who have encountered impossible situations, where there just isn’t an easy box to throw the decision. Offering that person you care about your coat might be easy, what about offering someone you don’t know very well, what about a stranger, and what about thinking you might never get your coat back – these are… what… steps of separation; let’s think of them like that. Offering a coat on a chilly night might be easy, but what about in a storm, in the snow, what about in a place where the cold will last much longer (let’s go with Finland in February), and what about if without the coat the conditions are so extreme, you will die – these are… what… steps of severity (they can then, of course, be combined – giving your coat to a stranger in conditions that without a coat you will die).

       Just to make matters even worse… let’s go back to that Twainian reward – perhaps a coat is worth a little nookie… perhaps the snowstorm might win us a month of pampering, a PlayStation for our birthday (no hints, you know who I’m talking to…), perhaps even the catalyst creating a reaction sealing two elements together for the rest of their lives…

       Whether these considerations are occurring unconsciously; that passionate part of our mind (fully in charge according to David Hume), dictating our actions before we have a chance to dwell too much on consequence, or whether like some Machiavellian creature, you are calculating these rewards and punishments, factoring them into your actions, using them in a shrewd fashion, isn’t really important… Some might suggest they are simply the separation of a more thoughtful human vs someone who acts more on impulse, or another way to describe it might be a clever person vs a stupid one, but most of us realise ‘cleverness’ isn’t a state of being, it’s just a particular set of experiences at a particular set of circumstances within a specific time.

       There’s even more… I was born on a Monday and so raised a single child, my father had a very good job and worked a lot, my mother never worked and doted on me; I was always her treasure. I was conditioned from my earliest moments to think of myself as the most important thing in all creation – will I give away that coat, even for someone I love deeply, if I know it will be the end of me…? I was born on a Tuesday, and raised as the third of five children. My mother and father struggled to feed and cloth us, we watched as others always had more… they had better clothes, a bike, were bought a car on their seventeenth birthday, their father helped them get a job, helped pay for their first home, while I struggled to hold down a job… what do I think of myself…? Perhaps on the surface I’m bitter, but down beneath, swirling in that mass of conflicts we call our unconscious self? In that bitter snowstorm, with the one person who I love, for all my inadequacies, freezing to death, do I not willingly sacrifice my life for theirs and die happy[ish]?

       Am I suggesting suffering makes you a better person…?

       Indeed I am… but not really in the way I just described above – both are still living that Twainian template, simply following through their conditioning to the ultimate end – those Freudian, Pain and Pleasure Principles simplifying our actions to a few words and a simple understanding. My understanding of encountering suffering and joy in others is related to empathy, and empathy can only come from experience. Simply put – if I have never been really hungry, I can never feel sorry for someone who is really hungry, and if I have never really rejoiced, I can never celebrate when I see someone else rejoice.

       So, how do we come to an understanding of the eight billion human conditions changing with every moment of experience? OK, stupid question, but made for a point – we cannot, and I’m not suggesting you starve for a week, have a baby and watch it murdered because you follow a different faith, live under constant surveillance afraid to speak your own mind, live from birth under circumstances that condition you into a certain belief, and on and on and on… BUT we can apply a little of what it means to be human… we can use our imagination.

       I doubt there are very many of us who have not… suffered, or rejoiced… in some ways, and these can be… exaggerated, transformed, blended, into something that, to us, may feel something like they feel.

       A fellow called Ekman, in 1992, suggested there are six basic emotions: sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise and happiness. There are different thoughts as to why we have more negative ones than positive ones, but one thought is we tend to ruminate more on negative moments – we think when we are sad, we regret, we wonder what we could have done differently, but when we are happy we do not disturb the moment, we just live it… I think that, and most of the others, are just twaddle… I think, because we are sad more than we are happy we’ve given rotten things more names (this is using the example above, but only on so much as our rumination leads us to more description). I think that for the majority of human existence we have suffered. We were hungry and cold, we watched those close to us die, we were made to work, we were punished for not obeying others, we were enslaved, we were treated with hate and disgust, pain and torture, for being different, and we still are… For the privileged not getting what we deserve is suffering, and for the rest… the vast majority… life mostly just sucks (unfortunately, most of the people who could ever read this are those exact privileged – and even privilege is a matter of perspective – the man protesting on the streets that he’s too poor, that his skin colour or his sexual orientation are creating hate, that his daughter has had to wait for a hospital appointment when the rich can just go and see the very best specialists on a day of their choosing… well, he doesn’t realise that only a few thousand miles away he would have been locked up, fined, and perhaps even ‘re-conditioned’ or murdered for even daring to voice his anger).

       While we’re wandering around interesting concepts, I’m not sure we’re getting to any particular point, and perhaps we won’t perhaps the very nature of this piece is just to have a little think…

       Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and cried?

       Depending on your world – authoritarian, brutal, liberal, understanding, compassionate, desperate… depending on your upbringing – generous, caring, abusive, violent, hungry, scared, confident, indulgent… depending on your current circumstances – luxurious, poverty-stricken, painful, numb… well, you get the idea, you may or may not have experienced this phenomenon (shit, you may not even have a TV), but I think the majority of people who might read this (and therein lies the absolute tragedy – if you are already reading this you already likely have some idea of love, not love for you partner, husband or wife, but extended love, a feeling of sympathy bred through an understanding of suffering – compassion, whether you act on it or not is for you, but you likely have some understanding…), will be able to relate…

       Think of an example… For me, especially when I was younger, it was heroic self-sacrifice; maybe I read too many books with noble heroes as a youth. A real example to get your teeth into – Saving Private Ryan, after the director has used a lot of time to build up characters (I think why the film has to be so necessarily long), and then, for the sake of a loving mother, for the sake of their brothers, and for the sake of redeeming themselves (whether religiously, spiritually, or in the case of the leading ‘teacher’, perhaps even intellectually), they lay down their lives, the lives of many, for the sake of the one (a delicious contradiction to the Utilitarian social belief that the good of the many is more important than the good of the one – more memorably utilised in a Star Trek movie – and if you remember it, you’re getting pretty old…). I would, and still do, wipe at tears smearing my eyes, and savour that heady emotion (I’ve never taken bullets in an impossible fight, watching my best friends die for a complete stranger – how could I empathise with such a moment…but my conditioning has taught me the value of life, and thus to sacrifice it for a cause, a noble cause, is an act worthy of meaning and feeling), that comes with… feeling.

       However, as I grow older, I find myself tearing up, or at least reacting emotively, at more and more examples… now, those base emotions we spoke of earlier: sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise and happiness, mostly, if they are conveyed well enough by good actors at the competent hands of a talented director, with enough money to shoot great shots (hmmm, the television of today has absorbed so much… psychology… they have us hanging by their threads, and they do like to twitch those strings), can be awoken… The loss of a loved one, a soul in absolute terror, the horror of what humanity is capable of, rage at injustice and intended pain, shock at the twists of fate, and joy at some reunification, at some noble victory…

       I have become more experienced, I have suffered more, I realise the rare and unique nature of happiness and the more pervading horror that stalks the Earth, and, like any enlightened privileged fellow I can now wallow in my emotional responses, because to feel… surely is better than to not.

       With feeling, with empathy, comes [an often unrequited] belonging… not just with the one at my side, my family, perhaps even my neighbourhood, my nation, my culture, but with humanity, and when you see humanity as your family, each stranger as the distant uncle or aunt your mother talks about before the emigrated to Australia or Canada, then compassion, caritas, or universal, unconditional love, becomes a state of being (at present a highly dangerous one as so few others share it)…

       I’m not blind or foolish – we need our sheepdogs (a term I heard and enjoyed recently referring to our own, trained and obedient wolves), to keep the wolves from the sheep. We need our sociopaths with guns and tasers, and we should treasure them all the more for the sacrifice of their caritas for the good of the herd, because our privilege blinds the sheep to the avarice, to the hate, to the ignorance (usually engineered at the hands of the insecure leaders – a matter for another paper), of those who still worry more about food, warmth and shelter, than what they will do at the weekend – that directed rage, directed by those leaders we just mentioned, because without those leaders… those authorities – after twenty years of living in many of these countries – I truly believe – we’re all just folks…

       I think I shall stop now. There are many topics I haven’t covered, and things touched that need further exploration, but perhaps there are a few things here worthy consideration.

 

Individuality may ofttimes be selfish, may be inconsiderate, but it’s the only way to find your own answers…

 

Authority is a double edge temptation…

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