AND THAT’S OUT

Over the last weeks, I think everyone would recognise if you’ve read my stuff in the past, I’ve been more philosophical. I’m a fan of comedy and making people smile is a wonderful thing, as I love to smile too but that hasn’t been to the fore.

In 2013, my dad was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a degenerative lung disease which has been slowly causing fibrous scarring to form throughout his lungs and has been robbing him of his ability to breathe.

It’s a topic of discussion which tends to crop up when we think about life with disease. Would you rather have ten years left but the final three be in ever growing pain or would you rather just have five good years and then pass on? It’s a question that we all have to consider for ourselves but the reality of that choice is so much worse than we tend to realise.

Could you live in crushing agony twenty four hours a day just to be alive for one more day?

IPF is a brutal disease that the British Lung Foundation is always looking for donations to help defeat. Please everyone, make the most of all the time you have with friends and family.

My dad died last week.

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FOR THE BEST

When you’re under a huge amount of stress and everything is going wrong around you, are you able to turn all of the negative things that you’re facing into anything even vaguely positive? When you have the crap flying at you, do you feel the need to to start swinging in return?

It’s a method that gets rolled out very often in story telling whereby the characters actions are explained, and often justified, by the external forces that they experience.

Anakin Skywalker is nudged, rather than shoved.

Each and every one of us will be the result of the experiences which make up our lives. A deep rooted fear of spiders may come from that time when you were a kid and the creepy little beasts ran all over you in bed. I’ve been a terrible passenger in cars after I was badly injured in a crash.

But when a great many of the worst type of events line up one after another it could become really easy to let the feeling of ‘why me?’ build up to the point where you would lash out. You snap and do something which is out of the norm just as a way to exert the very barest shred of control. From there you can continue to tumble as the pressure remains and soon, you’ve been behaving in a very antisocial fashion and have been pushing people away left, right and centre.

So could you be smashed down by the worst that life has to throw at you and not turn to the dark side? Could you take all of the horror and turn it to something which is much stronger and lighter?

On the most part, everyone sees themselves as being the good guy. Looking again to Anakin Skywalker, as each of the nudges bumped him, he reacted. He pushed back in the only way he could at the time until, without him even realising, he was clad in black and slaughtering people. Now this isn’t to say that anyone going through bad times will be just one problem away from going on a murderous rampage but rather than they want to have some ability to face the world and push back. So when everything conspires to grind you down, could you turn all of the hurt into an act of kindness rather than violence? Could you still do the good rather than just lash out?

I guess that none of us will ever know until we’re forced to face that choice.

I know that I’m doing my best to stay positive at the moment despite everything and I can feel the benefits. I’m still under the attack that all of the family are under but I’m trying to hold as much positivity as I can rather than just turning to the anger.

We just have to keep on swinging.

REACH OUT

Just how many of us are trying to get our voices heard?

Every day at work, at school, at home and at everywhere else in between, we all want our voice to be heard.

We want to know that what we say is seen as having value. We need to have that feeling of validation. That our ideas, and by extension, us in general are viewed as having worth.

So why do we all need to be clamoring to be heard?

As the world we live in changes and our interconnectedness as a species evolves with the addition of each new way we can share what we’re up to, there comes with it the new horror. If it’s so simple to connect with anyone and everyone, if any talentless wannabe with a webcam and a silly idea can become the greatest sensation the world has ever seen (at least for a minute), how could any of us struggle to be listened to?

The speed that communication works can make us all feel that the torrent of words is washing us away as we do everything to stay afloat. We need to know that our ideas have been noticed as they’re cast into the rushing waters, that someone out there just happened to be looking in just the right place at just the right time and agreed with us. When we see the ‘likes’ flashing up, it goes far beyond just being a fix to an addict, it can become the lifeline to a drowning man. In that instant when the thumbs up or orange dot appear, just for that second, we can know that somewhere out in the darkness that there was someone who didn’t think we were talking nonsense.

But this brings up another issue.

What if just being noticed is the goal and agreement with anyone is irrelevant?

Why do we see so many examples of people putting forward awful ideas just to provoke a reaction? The negative game of just trying to draw as many people as possible just to pay attention to what you say by being as vile or provocative as you can is a tactic readily used to shine a light on a given topic and all of the anger and blazing outpouring of righteous indignation play directly into the plan. So many people then start talking about all of the terrible things said and all of a sudden, the narrative is spread wider than with just a comment about something ‘positive’.

I have this great fire in me that wants to reach out to others. I can recognise that the world is a place where you can be left to feel as if you’re drifting alone and I’d love to reach out a hand to any and all who need it.

 

DEALING

When life is tough, we all have different ways that we cope.

When the things start to go wrong, how is it that each of us are able to manage the way we react?

The world can be a beautiful place filled with the most amazing wonders but, in the blink of an eye, can become the stuff of nightmares. Stress can build and as each day passes we can feel more and more crushed by the problems we face until, at some point, we could finally snap under the weight.

The human mind has the ability to bend and manipulate as all manner of stresses and sorrows attack it and it’s here that I want to examine the power of the written word.

When you have a terrible time, how do you cope? What are the things that you employ to help defend yourself, to protect yourself and to push back? We all do it. We come under attack from the external trials and tribulations of the world and following day after day of fighting against them, we get to the point of wanting to put the tools down and have a break from the fight. Helping to unwind your mind after a tough day has been called ‘fire watching’ from hundreds of years ago where a person would do just that, watch that fire burn and crackle. Just not having to think on anything and let your mind wander around the pretty shapes and colours gives you the chance to not actively be driving your mind, rather you’re just coasting down the road making the most of the scenery.

A great many people turn to drink, turn to exercise, take a holiday, make snap shopping choices, focus on work or dive into their hobby. I have two things that help turn my mind off. Watching the nonsense videos on YouTube and books.

Watching the contents of YouTube is great. Cat videos and people falling off or into all kinds of things just makes me smile. There’s never any complex narrative to try to wrestle with and there isn’t any need to expend energy on any kind of comprehension of what’s taking place. I can sit and ‘fire watch’ happy in the knowledge that my mind is on autopilot. I’m watching lots of YouTube at the moment.

The situation with books is very different.

Books offer the chance to challenge the mind to keep pace with the story. Rather than just existing, floating in the shallows but not venturing further, stories give you the chance to truly leave your troubles on the shore and escape. When you crack open a book, you’re no longer in the world where job or money worries, family concerns or health issues can get you. Now you’re flying through space, you’re casting magic spells, you’re hunting for the deranged serial killer and the reality just falls away.

I also use writing as a way to get myself through issues. By throwing myself into the worlds I write about, I can slam the door on the brutality of whatever is trying to rip me apart. In any book you read, the world has been laid out for you to explore but when I write, I grasp the added delight of shutting myself away in truly a world of my creation.

We all have our coping mechanisms when the darkness closes in. Whatever it is you do to help keep you ploughing forwards, no matter how small, can be a keystone in keeping everything together. When there’s something awful afoot, I need to close the world away for a while and that time spent in another world, even if just for a short period, can be a lifesaver.

VALUES

I’m not talking about right and wrong as such but more what it is that each of us finds valuable.

The value of something is governed by outside forces. The rarity of something means that it becomes more valuable. That said, I could draw a picture of my cat, making a truly one of a kind piece of art, but that would never mean that it would automatically become worth huge sums. The rarity of a thing is vital but in line with if other people want to possess it. If a great many people wish to posses a thing, it can mean the lengths that some will go to to actually get their hands on it will increase dramatically.

But that value of things spreads further than just being for things.

We’ve all seen comments in various media about the value of time with family, of how much good feeling comes from the warmth and love which is the family unit. What about the value of a child’s laugh? Or the silence of a quiet night on a camping holiday? All of these things are great under the right circumstances but as with the thoughts above, the rarity of these things and the number of people wanting them still drives a relative value.

But then there’s the understanding that the diamond the size of my head may be worth gazillions and gazillions but if I don’t like it, I’m going to view it as less valuable than someone who adores the aesthetic. But if I owned it but didn’t love it, the value of it would remain as it had, if it was in the possession of the huge fan.

How we value things, I think, therefore gives us a more reliable way of understanding where our choices come from. The rarity of something is still going to be important to understand why we place value where we do but so often, that rarity is down to just not being able to achieve it. The classic greetings card version of the family unit can become priceless to those who may never have had the experience as they grew up. The sound of a child’s laugh can take on more weight if you’re unable to have kids, and the desire to experience the calm silence of a night alone in a mountain retreat is utterly desirable if everything about your lifestyle is fast paced and loud.

We place value on different things, a great many of which we share with so many of the population but there will always be the individual things that set us all apart. Now the value of these things can also be driven by the accessibility we have to them. We reach out to chase the things we don’t or can’t have. We yearn for so many things that we don’t have in an attempt to fill that specifically shaped hole in ourselves. Should we be lucky enough to attain it, we savour and cherish it for the mighty value we placed on it.

And the same goes for things we may lose.

It’s only after a thing has been taken from us that we truly get to understand the value of it. Without it, we now identify it’s absence and only then realise just how valuable a thing it really was.

We all have things we value. We all have things that we perceive as the best or the most. We all exist on a continuum of value, running from the things we don’t have and we value highly as we strive after them, through to those things we already possess which we seem to only comprehend the value of once they’re no longer there.

Maybe we should all spend a bit more time appreciating rather than striving.

What do you think?

FATES

We see in stories, a great deal of versions of the idea of things taking place according to an already written plan. That somewhere, at some time, some kind of all powerful being or beings started to pull stings and move pieces to guide or control all of us measly humans.

It’s an interesting idea, that all of the lives we all lead, all of the choices that we could take, have already been laid down for us by someone or something above and beyond us. From there comes two schools of thought.

It’s either good or bad.

Imagine that all of those tough decisions you’ve ever had to struggle with, the awful times you’ve spent forced to crack your head against an impossible choice. Now imagine that those choices and all of the pain and suffering that came with them, were decided by someone else and there was nothing that you could have done to do anything other than what you did? You were always going to do what you did and all of the uncertainty surrounding the choice was nothing but a waste of both time and energy. In short, you have no power. You’re nothing but a mechanism following a prescribed path and no manner of trying on your behalf will allow you to stray from the path.

On the other hand you truly get to say ‘what will be will be’. You can happily forego all of the stressed thought and go with the first thought that crosses your mind in any situation. It doesn’t matter what choices you think you’re making, they’ve already been made for you so you can just plonk along happy in the knowledge that someone else is doing all of the thinking for you and you can just smile and wave from the passenger seat.

But, if all of the events that take place are already known, that means that someone planned out all of the horrors that crash into you and how they’ll turn out. Someone decided that pain was what your life needed at exactly the worst moment. The illness and injuries. The deaths in the family and every possible nastiness has been put there deliberately because someone just fancied the idea of seeing you suffer.

As a story idea, the powers of fate offer a fantastic way to twist the narrative in any way you fancy but the thought that we’re all nothing but pawns is awful. You were always going to watch your parents suffer a drawn out illness. You were always going suffer the injuries and dark times which battered you down and you know what, maybe I won’t lean on the power of the fates in my storytelling. Giving my characters the knowledge that their lives are simply controlled from above seems almost like making them a step closer to a level of self awareness and I don’t think I could do that to them.

CONNECTIONS

The human experience is one that seems to be defined by so very many different ideals. Money, beliefs, family and community to name a few. But when you review these things and try to come to a conclusion of the worth of a single life, they all land squarely on the shoulders of others.

We can chose what we do with our lives, we can decide to turn left or to turn right, to have the extra scoop of ice cream or not but when all of those things are collected together, it falls to others to make the overall assessment of a life’s worth.

I was told a story from the bible years ago which the person talking used to highlight a question. The story was longer than this but this was the bit that got the questioning running.

‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.…’

Lived for two hundred and five years (!) and all that’s worth noting is that he died in Haran.

Now I understand that there’s more to the story than just that and Terah did do more than that but it does seem a little dismissive that there was nothing more of note to point out. From the time of moving to a location to the time of death is lost. It’s been said before that life is the line between the dates on a headstone but shouldn’t we all be looking to live a life that won’t fit into that tiny space?

I don’t want my life to be scorching through the history books for all of humanity to see but I also don’t want to just be lost to the mists of obscurity.

So how do we go about being remembered?

Now I think I need to point out that I’m not talking about fame or indeed infamy at this point. As a writer, I’d love for my books to stand the test of time and to be read long after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil but I imagine the individuals reading my work rather than faceless swathes of people on sales sheets. Granted I’d love the money that JK Rowling has but I’m not fussed on being the internationally recognisable figure she is. I really enjoy that connection I have with those people who’ve read my stuff and have had a chat with me about it. Of course, I’d love to be successful as an author and I’d love to be able to continue to tell all the stories that possibly go running through my head but my overall legacy, as it were, is going to come down to how others see me.

All in all, I think we all have the same need to be thought well of and then remembered. Maybe all we really need to do is just make sure that the world is a better place for having had us in it. I think when we drill all the way down to the real core of the point, we just want to know that our little entry into the wildly varied writings of human history will be enough to mean that people will consider us worthy of at least a little comment.