Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My 60 Second Psyche - Unabridged Version

I've no particular desire to be a good man. Or a bad man for that matter. I don't define myself this way because I'm really not wanting to pigeonhole myself. For me life is too complex to allow for such easy (lazy) classifications. But if I was going to have a crack at summing myself up it would probably go something like this. Generally speaking I try to make people's bad days better. Unless you're a bad person, in which case I might try harder to make yours worse. I'd rather make people smile than frown, and would prefer to make the lives of others easier rather than harder. I'm honest to the point of offensive, which is to say that I'm probably not going to mince my words to appease your ego. I'm drawn to unconventional intimacy and creativity, and your opinion about me on this front is white sound. Boredom to me is a fiend to be beaten into submission, where it can fester with the many dull people of the world with whom I don't really wish to engage. And if I ever hear you say you're bored I'll challenge you to explain how that's even possible. Bored? On this planet? During these times? No hope for you. I love to consider issues of sexuality, of human morality, of societies big and taxing questions. I loathe the regressive left and despise the piety and moral aloofness of the far right. We’re all used goods, bruised and sullied, and I've never met a single person whom I'd put on a moral pedestal. And My God I love the company of interesting people; love it when I hear people say things I haven't heard before. As a species we're chronic recyclers of ideas, many of which I don't need reminding of. I'm absolutely convinced that to empower women is to give society the best possible chance of flourishing. I adore women who have standards, who consistently apply them, and whom explore their own creativity and who can beguile using their intellect without having to rely on aesthetics. Caveat; most of the really attractive women I've met are really boring. Why is that? Having good genes doesn't mean you don't have to try. I also reject traditional monikers of masculinity, in particular physical violence. Whilst not a pacifist I regard violence as a tacit admission of defeat, a failure of imagination. Actually speaking of imagination; do try to use yours. It's really quite something to step into a space, psychological or otherwise, that you haven't inhabited before. All kinds of strange shit happens. And now for the obligatory contradiction; I'm not as adverse to the traditional as you might think. I just draw clear lines between tradition and dogma. On the subject of God; it's probably all in your mind. Regular readers will note I've covered this already. In depth. On death; I'm not a fan, but I accept that I need to make way at some point. On dreams unfulfilled I don't have any; nailed the lot before I hit 40. Wrote a book, saw the world, married and made little people. I'm on bonus time; it's all just surplus coolness. On sex, I'm having more fun in my forties than I could have hoped for, and I'm all in for continued discovery and exploration. I do wish more people would open up to this massive, wonderful part of whom they are and allow themselves permission to experiment and innovate. And the future? Well I can't wait. For me the future is tomorrow. And tomorrow is an unopened box choc full of the weird and the cool. Bring it on.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

When The Past Stares Back

I find looking at old photo albums a good way of regaining perspective. I don't do it often. Probably not as often as I should. It's like glancing back down a railroad, seeing how far I've journeyed, and it leaves me melancholy as I'm reminded that I cannot go back. Seeing my daughters as young children, joyous and full of wonder is both a delight and a sadness all at once. As they grow I can see how the world begins to place additional burdens upon them, squeezing out the childlike wonder and seeking to make them conform. I hope they find the courage and resolve to be the women they want to be and not simply a generic cut and paste of how they think they should be. I'm reminded of what a beautiful, joyous thing a happy and secure childhood is. I was fortunate enough to have this; I hope when they look back they will feel similar. As for me, these old images, these snapshots of my past exist to remind me that I've much to be proud of. Much to be thankful for. I've been so fortunate to have met an amazing lady who's commitment and dignity has given our home stability and safety. In my work I see relationships flounder and oftentimes witness the ensuing destruction. Families torn apart, childhood innocence shattered. It angers and saddens me at the same time. Now I don't know whether I'm a good dad; in fact I'm sure I could be a better one. But I love my family and consider it my duty and privilege to provide for them, shelter them, and create a safe space in which my girls can discover who they are. When I'm old I hope they laugh with me as well as at me. I hope they'll smile and hug me when they come visit, and perhaps they can tell funny stories to their children. I'd love that. It'd make me happy in my heart. I'm not the wisest of men and I'll never be the font of all knowledge. But I hope they'll understand that I wanted to give them stability and safety and a harbour when the storms came. Should add that I'm not really trying to say anything particular today; I just wanted to splurge my thoughts down in the moment so to speak. I have no great wisdom to venture other than to encourage the dads reading this to have some sense of what a privilege it is to raise daughters and son's, to see them grow from tiny acorns into mighty oaks. And if I was to measure my success when I reach my final days, a big part of my estimation would be based on how I did as a parent. Was I steadfast? Did I communicate just how much I loved them? Was I consistent and generous and affirming? If they can answer in the affirmative, then I know that I've done something of which I can be proud.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Other Worlds

I'm a geek. I won't apologise. Give me a great book, great movie, or a great computer game and I can be gone for hours. I like to inhabit other realms, to transcend my own experience and step into the imagination and creativity of others. I'm particularly intrigued as to what this year's crop of virtual reality equipment is going to offer. I've been monitoring this with ever increasing interest, and the potential for Internet beating virtual experience is closer than we could have imagined. Ever since I was a kid I've loved sci-fi and fantasy, the 80’s being the decade when I evolved from chubby kid to creative young adult. Oh God the movies I consumed, the books I read. And I'm from the original stock of people for whom computer games were an obsession. One of my particular bugbears is when I hear people saying “It’s just a game”, and whenever I hear that canard I immediately file the speaker as an ignoramus. The amount of artistry and creativity that goes into some software truly blows my mind, and I'm not in the least surprised that gaming is now the largest strand of the global entertainment industry, outstripping film and music and literature. For almost four decades I've used this medium to visit and virtually experience things I shall never do in the real world. I've raced grand prix cars, I've hidden from the alien from the iconic Ridley Scott movie, and walked post apocalyptic landscapes in search of ancient artifacts. What I love about gaming is that it is the one medium where you get to be the hero (or the villain), and that the world responds to your choices and actions. For me it's a richer and more engaging experience than just watching something, even though I also adore a good movie or well made series. As an aside, I spent some time a few years back getting quite good at Go-Karting. I was genuinely pretty good, and if I'd had money or time I'd have loved to pursue this further. Just the other day I was playing a Karting simulation with a force feedback wheel and pedals, and the experience was eerily similar to the real thing. That's a good example of how far the technology has come. It felt almost real, from the feedback through the wheel to the nuanced responsiveness of the pedals. And that's but one example. Add some 7.1 headphones and you've got 360 virtual surround sound making the experience even more authentic. I've been a gamer since I was 12-13 years old. I'm now 44. I enjoy the experience more than ever and it's been cool to see this medium rise to prominence. That's not to say that a good book cannot be just as all consuming because I've read too many great books to dare suggest this. But for me I enjoy the complete aural and sensory immersion of a well crafted piece of creative software. I should also add that I'm also a huge fan of TV shows like Game Of Thrones or Homeland, and House Of Cards is also magnetic viewing for me. In fact to heck with it; I love it all. Anything that lights up my neurons and takes me out of the day to day. Not that I don't adore reality too, because I'm actually just as happy up a hill or walking around a lake or negotiating the perils of a coastal path. Oh fuck it I'm into everything, and I haven't even discussed the bedroom yet. In fact I'm not going to. If you've the stomach, or too much free time, I'm afraid that's one story you'll have to concoct yourself.

The Undiluted You

I don't deliberately change my mind about things. I don't shift viewpoints to be trendy or in tune with the zeitgeist. I do so for genuine reasons. I didn’t reject Christianity because I got bored, but rather because I came to understand that I was wasting my life on absolute bullshit. Neither do I intend to insult people when I state quite honestly that people bore me. They just do, and I avoid production line cardboard cutout people because if I'm going to interact with another human being I'd like it to be an engaging and gregarious encounter. I suppose we could exchange pleasantries about the weather, but look close enough and you'll see the glazed look in my eye. For goodness sake people at least try to be interesting; at least value your existence sufficiently to be true to what truly motivates you. Perhaps that's why people like David Bowie get so lauded; it's refreshing to see a person be an authentic version of themselves. But isn't that option available to most of us? And perhaps that's why I struggle when I look outward and see a room full of tedious stereotypes. Now I might be all wrong about these people, and on the quiet they might be up to all sorts of mischievous shenanigans, in which case I doff my cap and apologise for my lack of judgement. But, and perhaps again I'm wrong, I continue to wonder how many of us live lives of self imposed inertia? Wanting to be something different but lacking the courage to claim it. I say this because that person used to be me; knowing I was one thing but trying to be another. Denying my true self, the most authentic version of myself, the fun part. I regret spending so many years as a clone, dancing to some nebulous social construct when life could have been way more fun. God I loathe the limits we put on ourselves; the sheer face of crippling fear, this false shadow. I bet some of you reading this aren't living as you'd like to, and perhaps some of this is out of your control. But I bet there's a lot that isn’t , elements you could change, enhance, unleash. Things that would bring you a little additional sense of your true self. To you I say don't be afraid, and I implore you to ignore the negative voices, be they external or just part of your historic inner narrative. Life will rarely be perfect, but it will be a little less imperfect if you can shed those shackles and unlock the purest, most undiluted version of you. I get that society can be a nagging and constricting voice, and perhaps you're one of the many that fear that if people knew you, and I mean really knew you, they'd run a country mile. And you know what some will, in which case you've done yourself a favor and jettisoned one further negative from your life. And the thing is, the ones that stick around are the ones that get you. And what's more important? The number of friends on your Facebook profile or the few genuine souls who'll walk the murky road and enjoy sloshing around in their wellies with you? Only you can decide that. But know this; one day you're going to be too old to do many of the things you'd like to, so perhaps it's time to fast track the undiluted you. Just saying.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

From The Lips Of Mr Fury

Many of you have probably heard of Tyson Fury. Many of you won't. For the unenlightened he's recently become a boxing world champion, and for that I applaud him. However, that's where the positives end. As a member of the travelling community he has a unique take on society; many might add an outdated view. He appears to be quite the homophobe and also a bit too keen to utter phrases such as “Women should know their place”. Now you don't need me to articulate that these positions appear, to put it charitably, a bit neanderthal. I think as a society we are doing a reasonable job of ceasing to define a person by their sexual orientation or gender, give or take a few hundred million religious zealots and small sub sections of society such as travellers. Point is, I don't need to talk you through why such views are dumb, but I do need to strike a note of caution as to how we deal with them. Critically, I don't want such views silenced, because as an advocate of free speech I do believe that people have the right to talk out of their arse. Just as we have the right to point this out. I consider the free exchange of ideas to be fundamentally critical to sustaining a healthy society. You can criticise me, and I you. And lo and behold we disagree, and then go get on with our lives. Concerning the traveller culture towards women I am not a fan. I happen to think that the empowerment of women and the removal of obstacles preventing this is key to making the planet a more peaceful and prosperous one, but I can't compel everyone to think this way. I recognise also that there are many women who enjoy being in a position of submission to men, and it isn't for me to deny them this desire. Concerning Mr Fury and his silly talk about homosexuality, I actually regard it as useful. Useful because it illustrates, albeit in binary terms, how archaic such views are. So what I'm saying is that we can put away our pitchforks. Let him speak. Let him wax lyrical. And then let's point and laugh at him, before getting on with our day. I want a society where all views are heard, because society is the engine room of enlightenment. We pull and tear at the good and the bad, hopefully moving forward into a world where we have a clearer idea of what constitutes goodness and harm. So let's allow these people a voice, and let's chew the proverbial fat. To do otherwise, to seek to silence such inanity, seems to me more of a backward step than a forward one.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Question I Don't Ask Anymore

Something has just occurred to me. Once upon a time, whenever faced with a terrorist atrocity I would find myself asking “Where is God?”
I've just realised that I haven't done that. And I'm delighted. It means I've shed the poisonous delusion in its entirety. I've come to realise that it's a non question, a sub standard question. It doesn't help to combat delusion with delusion. And whilst religion was clearly foremost in the minds of the Paris attackers, along with its promises of fast tracking to Paradise and more Virgins than they can shake their proverbial sticks at, I can't say I've heard a great deal of people ask the “Where was God?” question. For me this is a positive. It's the kind of question that takes up intellectual space. All I know is that if I was God, and if the people of Earth were my children and meant anything to me, I wouldn't be relying on the infamous free will defence to explain away my inaction. If I saw evil descending upon my children I would intervene. I would intervene because I exist. God does not intervene because he does not exist. And if he did, what should we make of such a creature that sits back in his celestial armchair and watches as armed goons unleash heavy weaponry upon terrified crowds? I don't doubt that there are a great many persons of religious persuasion that have been trying to square this circle, but I can save you the trouble. That belief that's so foundational to you, the thing that gets you through the rough stuff and gives you peace. A fabrication, I'm afraid. One you've spent years invested in, but one that is empty. Now it's not too late for most of you. You don't have to keep up the pretense, and let's face it you've wasted more than enough time already. As painful as it is to accept you have wasted years on a myth, on a zero, on the greatest lie of them all. This must be painful, perhaps terrifying to contemplate, but it is what it is. And in 2007 I walked the road myself, and it was a hard one. But my goodness, looking back now, jumping ship from religion to reality was the best leap I have ever taken. It meant turning away from friends, from a way of life and of being. And it took a very long time to fully extricate myself. But I have. And I survived. And the air is clearer because I don't have to defend the absurd anymore. Life is an incredible tapestry of experience, a rich banquet from which you can taste freely. You don't need religion to do your thinking for you. You never did. And as I write this, and as saddened as I am by the recent atrocities, I take comfort in the knowledge that there is one question I do not have to ask anymore.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Letter To My Younger Self

Now there's a question. Instruction one would be to simply tell the arrogant and verbose younger me to be less of a cunt. I probably could have used a slightly less colourful word but none would capture the reality of what I was back then. Instruction two is predictable and would have been simply to value education, because I treated my entire school life as an inconvenience to be endured before I could find fame and fortune as a writer. As things turned out I made enough from writing to feed a couple of hamsters for a couple of weeks on the assumption that they ate conservatively. I should have listened more. End of. Instruction three, try to live your life without doing so at the expense of other people. I think I've apologised to most of the people I wronged during my school years as I felt genuinely bad about my behaviour. All but one were incredibly gracious and mature, and the one who was unable to forgive had good reason. Instruction four, try not to live your life as an apology, and don't get hung up over how others perceive you. I've mentioned before that the wait for universal popularity is a long one, so you might as well shed that skin before it makes you paranoid. Five, don't be afraid of who you are, unless the things that define you are likely to cause others harm, in which case get help. If you pose no such risk then experiment and enjoy learning about those shadowy corners of who you really are. Six, never be afraid to change your mind if that's where the evidence leads. You're probably not the genius you think you are so have a little humility and be prepared to think differently, even about the things you'd prefer not to. Seven; in this life you are going to be wrong about a great many things. Deal with it. Don't be proud and arrogant and oblivious to your own fallibility. That's a one way ticket to Stupidville. Eight; try curry. Curry’s great. This one requires no further exposition. Nine; don't worry about changing the world. You're doing that already by simple virtue of the fact you exist in it. You change the world every day. Ten; all that money you pissed up the wall from the age of 17-20 could have been spent doing any number of amazing things. Travel, or save; just don't let it all wash away. Eleven; don't get in that van with Craig Dawkins. He’s hammered and that van is going to end up on its side on a ditch with glass and sparks popping all around you. Twelve, just because you were a chubby kid doesn't mean you have to lack confidence with girls. They actually quite liked you once you stopped trying too hard. They like your sense of humour, and your big brown eyes. What you were doesn't equal what you are. Thirteen; value your relationship with your dad because he's going to be gone long before you hit 40. And realise sooner that he survived perfectly well without your advice before you began sharing your dubious teenage wisdom with him. Fourteen; stand up to bullies. You may win some and you might lose some, but the thing about bullies is that they love a soft target. So don't be soft target. Fifteen; those karate lessons you take once you've left school; when you fight the bigger guys get close to them. It's far more painful talking a full punch from a 17st lump and if you can get inside them you can cause all kinds of problems. Sixteen; learn that you're naturally a pleaser, and that it's OK to take pleasure in giving pleasure to others. And yes, I am talking about sex. You're already battling with this one ; give up buddy. It ain't going anywhere and somebody you'll meet this incredible lady who knows exactly what to do with what you are. It doesn't make you less of a man to want to put your lady first. Quite the opposite. Seventeen; that ability you have to laugh at yourself is going to be one of your defining qualifies. Never lose it. Eighteen; just because you never managed to earn a living as a writer doesn't mean you're not a really good one. Have confidence in your ability to communicate your thoughts, because someday you're going to have a blog that's read by people in over 135 countries, which when you think about it is really kinda cool.