Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Ideology of the Individual

Where do our beliefs come from? To begin with, during childhood, our belief system is likely to be based on the belief systems of our parents, after all, they seem to manage to exist in the big wide world following those beliefs, they must have some idea of what they are doing, surely? This idea that we need to look to others to form our beliefs, particularly in early life, is reinforced by the fact that children, as a rule, are not really listened to or believed as often as they should be. Any beliefs I held as a child were considered, by the adult population for the most part, to be naive or fantastical. I think this is because children are not really considered reliable sources of information, because any real beliefs, from an adult perspective, must surely be learned through years of arduous trial and error. That idea is, I reckon, a half-truth. The beliefs we have developed as adults tend to go through a process of change and renewal as we experience more and they are put to the test, time and again. But we must not forget that children view the world in a far more honest manner, they tend to call things as they see them. That is something we train ourselves out of as we mature, for the sake of other people's feelings or differing perspectives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could serve to remind us that children should be listened to. Their perspectives are not necessarily wrong, but without the prejudice of years under their belts.

Friday, 25 October 2013

‘Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary’*

I am at the top of a rollercoaster. I mean figuratively of course, not literally, although that would be cool. I have that feeling in my stomach that you get just before the drop, because that’s where I am, just before the drop.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

‘It’s impossible to be unhappy in a poncho’

I never have been a dedicated follower of fashion. Even when I tried to be, when I was much younger, I was always two steps behind. Or I found that whatever the fashion was, it didn’t suit me, so I couldn’t carry it off. I mean fashion as a concept across the board here, rather than just clothes. So to be more specific, by ‘fashion’ or ‘fashionable’ I mean whatever is popular or current. I long ago learnt that the only comedy I could watch was that which made me laugh out loud, the only music I could listen to was that which spoke to me, the only clothes I could wear were those that suited my figure and my style, even if all of the above were decades behind the trend.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Kaijus, Jaegers and a distinct lack of spoilers...

I have planned to write a post about Pacific Rim since I saw the film, a few weeks ago now. I wanted to recommend that you see it at the cinema, in full 3D Imax glory whilst it was still running. Unfortunately I think I may have missed the boat on that one. I left it too long, and as time passed, whilst my love for the film remained, my argument as to why you should see it above any others became a bit hazy. Try as I might, I just wasn’t feeling this one. The only way to write a post like that is to do it with a fire in your belly. Being the dumbass that I can be sometimes, I left it too long and the fire receded to a smoulder. I had effectively boxed myself into a corner, I promised myself I’d make it the topic for the next post and I even referenced it in my last post. I’ve written other posts in the meantime, and held them back (still holding, it’s nice to have a few arrows in the quiver!) I thought the moment had truly passed, that was, until I saw Kick-Ass 2, and then I remembered what my argument was all about.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

'I give a little to you, I give a little to him, I give a little to her' * Making a Connection (also known as Falling in Love)

Amongst all the other weird and wonderful things that have been going on recently, I’ve been thinking about two things that I keep coming back around to. The first thing on my mind has been the role of an artist, the impact they have on the world around them and the impact that the world has on them. The second thing is Iain Banks, or more specifically, the recent passing of Iain Banks. The latter is something that I’ve mostly put to the back of my mind, because, quite frankly, the thought of it makes me feel sad. I didn’t know the man, I was once lucky enough to meet him, but it was a moment just like thousands of others for him and on no level do I claim the right of grief that people who actually did know him will be experiencing. But I can’t escape the fact that Iain Banks was, is, one of my literary heroes. If you have ever read my blog before you will know this well enough. So, because I don’t see it as a personal loss or upset that I have to bear, I’ve just opted not to think about it. I thought this was the best way to deal with it, or not deal with it as the case may be.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

All the Small Things...

The devil is in the detail as they say, and whilst that is true, the joy is in the small things, always, even if you can’t see it. Often the reason why you won't see it is that you're too focused on the bigger picture, aren't we all most of the time? The overriding stress and annoyance of the day in, day out generally makes us immune to the moment because we're never in it. But it really does do you good to stop and smell the roses once in a while, to focus on what is in front of you and enjoy it for what it is. Of course we normally only end up doing this on special occasions, holidays, parties, birthdays, trips out. The rest of the time we're thinking about the next thing we need to do or what will happen as a result of that thing we did the day before. But worry can be a good thing...

Only in context, only when it's necessary and important. And really, we know when shit matters and when it doesn't don't we? When we need to act, we act, when we have to make a decision and stick to it, we do. However, when a situation arises that is not as important we project meaning onto it, we overestimate, overanalyse, predict and anticipate. Then we usually find out that the worry was either completely unfounded or wholly unproductive. I'm beginning to realise that I have a choice. I could choose to worry about the things I can't change, I could try to second guess people and shape the world ineffectually using my anxiety as some kind of blunt instrument to distribute unnecessary strife, and I could spend the rest of my time on this earth making myself miserable during the precious moments where joy is present and there for the taking. Or, I could just not, and choose to be happy during the times when life allows me the luxury. So here's an exercise...

Think of ten things that make you smile. Genuinely, unselfconsciously grin. Five is too few and twenty is too tedious. Don’t worry if you can't think of all ten today, tomorrow or the next day, but try to indulge and think of them around and about whatever it is you’ve got on, because it’s a worthwhile exercise, trust me.

Now, I'm not talking about your family and friends here. They are awesome and essential to your happiness but we all have those support systems and we still don't walk around carefree of heart and giddy of step all of the time. In fact often our adored family are the cause of much of our worry and strife, as much as we love them. This is most likely because we love them. Don't get me wrong, they can be the biggest reason in your life to smile, and you should try to remember that, but remembering to appreciate the little things will help you to appreciate them more too.

Here's my ten things, some of which are very ‘of the moment,’ some transcend all the moments.

1. The smell of the spring air

2. Putting my feet in comfy socks after a bath

3. That nice glowy sort of tired you get after a day at the beach or exercise

4. Enjoying an alcoholic beverage in the sunshine

5. Writing something for the fun of it

6. Reading an awesome story

7. Watching new episodes of one of my favourite TV shows

8. Listening to music on the way home from work

9. Cooking something yummy

10. Playing a board game with my friends

Nothing life changing or awe inspiring but the little joys that I have control over and that I can enjoy. We all have busy lives and obligations, we all have genuine concerns and life will always bring the next serious issue which is worth your worry but I tend to lose sight of what is important and what's not if I'm busy worrying about things I can't change or creating problems out of situations that need not be an issue. Focusing on the little things, enjoying them for what they are, in the moment, elevates your mood and helps you to recognise and appreciate the things that make you happy.

To quote a favourite author of mine ‘Give the future enough thought to be ready for it – but don’t worry about it. Live each day as if you were to die next sunrise. Then face each sunrise as a fresh creation and live for it, joyously.’*

Because mostly, I'm tired of getting wound up over things that either turn out fine anyway or turn out inevitably awful but I haven’t changed the outcome through worrying about it. Even during the really stressful times, the serious times, you still need coping mechanisms and a way to switch off, as impossible as it may seem. If you've managed to establish a method of doing this in the everyday, then it at least gives you a chance of doing so when things turn to shit.

I like being happy, and we don't have enough hours in our lives to spend them being unhappy. Happiness doesn't come out of selfishness or at the expense of other people but through our ability to take a step back and see things for how they are, through retaining that childish joy of delighting in things for their own sake, and ideally sharing that joy with the people you love.

Crazy as it is, I really do forget sometimes that all of this, all of it, is just a journey** and that it's okay, it really is okay, to enjoy it whilst it lasts.

Right! That is enough pontificating and philosophising for now, I know the last few posts have been a bit like that. It’s just that I've been that way out recently and you've got to write what you know, as they say! But next time, I promise, aliens, body horror, Michael Bay style needless explosions, time travel, zombies, yeah, something to that effect. Or a heartfelt film review or suchlike. Could go either way really... ;)

I was trying to think of an appropriate song to link to at the end of this post, and honestly, as cliché as it may seem, it can only be this one...

*R. A. Heinlein Time Enough for Love (1973 pg 46)

** I’m sure many have said it before, and many will say it again, but my referencing the journey was inspired by Mr Hicks and I have to give a nod to him because when he said it, it made me think.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Use it or lose it (your brain that is...)

Resting on my laurels, it’s been so insidious that I’ve barely noticed it happening, because it’s so lovely to be comfortable. After so long of not feeling comfortable, in my work, in my thought processes, I have indulged in the brilliance of laziness. I don’t mean physical laziness, in fact coincidentally I’ve been doing more exercise than usual recently, I mean metal laziness. It’s not that my new job is mindless, far from it, it’s quite cerebral at points, all logical thinking and problem solving. But I’m not being pushed to my limits anymore, the limits of my patience, limits of my temper, limits of my tiredness. The pressure is off. The pressure is finally off. I’m getting more sleep, more money, and whilst I wouldn’t change it for the world because the benefits of this change far outweigh the losses, I didn’t realise how much I was able to let those experiences fuel me, challenge me, make me think and re-appropriate. If this was reconciled by a challenging and interesting mental life outside of work then it would be balanced out, I would be being challenged and influenced in different and considerably less ulcer causing ways. But I’ve drawn myself into a trap. Because I can sleep more, I am sleeping more. Because I’m no longer faced with the boredom of commuting anymore, I’m not reading like I used to (despite a groaning pile of books waiting to be read next to my bedside.) I’m curling up in the evenings and watching programs that are comfortable and familiar (despite being awesome) and reality TV that does nothing to improve me and only makes me feel weirdly superior about my own life and choices (considerably less awesome viewing notably.) In short, in a mere six months, I’ve gone a bit soft. I’ve lost my edge.

Monday, 25 March 2013

20 Books that Made Me, Part 2

Hey my blueberries! (And a fist bump to you if that phrase rings a bell!) Hope you’re all refreshed and relieved and ready for more. So without further a dally, here’s the rest of the list…

20 Books that Made Me, Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I’m drawn to certain story lines and certain genres for writing, and I think the answer can soundly be found in the books I’ve read. But it’s not just the books I’ve read, because I’ve read many, many books, and not all of them have influenced me and affected me to the same extent. The more I thought about it, I found it was possible to pinpoint those texts that have actually helped to form my thinking, not just about writing, but about my life, the universe and everything around me. None of them I’ve found to be the ‘answer’ to any of the big questions, it’s all just different perspectives and opinion, but they’ve helped me to develop and review my thought processes through connection and reflection. The result of all of this thinking is the list below, 20 books that have helped to create the writer, and more interestingly, the person that I am. I was going to list only 10, but I found that number to be far too limiting, mainly because to give a clearer idea of how and why these texts affected me, it made sense to put them in chronological order of when I read them, so that you get an overview of how my thinking developed as I grew.

Not all of the books listed below also make it into my favourites list, although many of them do. But sometimes a book can affect me in a significant manner and it’s not one I could bring myself to read again, or that I even enjoyed reading in the first place, but in reading it, it became a catalyst that helped me to move forward, or inspired me, or humbled me. The text became important because of the meaning I ascribed to it. I’m sure we all have books which have done that for us. So here I go with my list (please forgive the fact that I have included plays in the list, as I read them also as texts and in some cases studied them as such, they were too important and relevant for me not to include)

Deep breath, and here we go…