Saturday, 27 October 2012
I don't think the British are very good at talking about sex. I think many find it embarrassing, awkward, taboo even. I love the subject and I'm always up for a full and frank discussion on what makes people tick. Curiously, I often hear it talked about in a kind of 3rd hand way, as if from a distance. I wonder, what is it about the British psyche that creates such a feeling of unease? I quite often join forums and have discussions on various issues related to the human journey. We really are fascinating, but there is a recurrent inability to be quite as open about sexuality as we are on other subjects. One the one hand I get this; the whole privacy thing; yet on the other I find it just plain vexing. Why have we allowed ourselves to become so shy of expressing what is a core part of our nature? What are we afraid of? I think the culprit is probably our religious heritage; the denial of self and a perception of sex as something sacred and only to be undertaken under certain conditions. News flash; God isn't watching you shag. He's just an imaginary figure that handles the crowd control part of your psyche. A bit like a babysitter making sure you're doing the right thing. Statistic; 95% of men and 74% of women masturbate. I take this to suggest that many of you find sexual feelings pleasurable. Don't worry folks, there's nobody watching you partaking of that hand shandy or tickling the magic bean. Well not unless you've posted videos on YouTube, in which case you presumably elected to do that anyway. Thing is, I just don't get the whole guilt thing, and I think you can let go of that baggage. There's nothing sordid or sinful about sex; no set of rules other than those that secular law has decreed. I think we need to be talking about it more; banging the drum that its ok to be sexual and that we're not subject to some unspoken code of silence. Perhaps you think me uncouth to venture the above? If yes then be all means avoid the subject and carry on as you were. But I suspect there's a lot of people out there prepared to adopt a more matter of fact approach. Sex isn't some divinely ordained thing; it's a biological norm and a part of our nature that we are free to enjoy as responsible consenting adults. So lose those shackles , people, unless shackles are your thing, in which case stop reading this garbage and go chain someone to a bed. Or to a chair. Or whatever. Either way just have fun.
Friday, 26 October 2012
There are times when the question, "What do I want?" is entirely the wrong one. There are times when simply asking"What is the greater good?" must take primacy. This simple distinction has helped crystallise an issue which I've been wrestling with for months. I'm not about to go into detail because that would be saying too much; suffice to say that by asking the right question I hope I've reached the right conclusion. This is going to come at a cost, and change the course of my life in a major way. And if I'm being totally honest the decision reached is one I feel I have to arrive at rather than the one I would have wanted to. All of us need to remember that we do not live our lives in isolation. Our actions, good or bad, have a bearing on the lives of others. If this wasn't the case I'd have chosen a different course, believe me. I don't think I've ever found it harder to be honest with myself; don't think I've ever wanted to change the rivers course quite so much, but facts are facts, and the facts are as follows. The thing I want to do I'm not very good at. I wanted to be, tried to be, and thrown every ounce of commitment and sweat in order to be better. Trouble is, I do not think I've developed as much as I'd hoped, or need to, and as such I've often felt more of a liability than an asset. This, please note, is excruciating from a personal viewpoint. I am used to achieving what I set out to, and I cannot remember the last time I failed to do so. I think my present dilemma is possibly a case of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, which as we all know isn't easy. And here's the crux, my faults do not just affect me. They have ramifications; potentially very wide ones. Which is why I have to listen to reality, and why I can no longer ignore the evidence. Aside from the fact that this is humbling, I'm also left lumped with that horrible "What now?" feeling. You see, the script hasn't panned out as I'd hoped. It needs a rewrite; the next chapter needs to change. I suppose that's the thing with life isn't it? We make our plans, have our aims, and then reality brings itself to bear, imposing itself like gravity, an irresistible force never allowing you to forget that the universe doesn't just revolve around us. Is this what failure feels like? Ok, let's take stock. The last few months have changed me. I've lost some of my natural empathy, and even forgotten why I wanted to do what I do in the first place. I am a person that, by and large just likes to make people's bad days better. I like to help, to reach out and engage. And that side of me has taken a pounding recently; I've found myself caring less, becoming so focused on end results that I've lost the human touch. I see it in others and its ugly as Hell in them; I don't expect it's any prettier in me. So there you have it. It occurs to me that there's a fine line between bravery and cowardice, and I hope it's the former having more influence than the latter. I try and live my life based on the evidence, and the evidence for me has been stark. I don't think I can ignore it any more.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 00:00
Sunday, 21 October 2012
Malala Yusufzai may well prove instrumental in awakening the Muslim world to the dangers of the Taliban. Shot four times for wanting to seek an education she is currently recovering at a hospital in the United Kingdom, presumably under strict security detail. Forgive me for wondering, but why is it that young girls cannot have access to education? This seems to me a basic human right? Not so if you are a righteous Taliban male; not so when you happen to believe you are an instrument of Gods judgement on Earth. You see, Allah doesn't want to see women educated. They are simply breeding machines, of less value than males, and can be bartered and dominated as per the strictest interpretation of the Koran. Frustratingly, the vast majority of peace loving and moderate Muslims have, up until now, proven reluctant to speak out against their extremist brethren. It has taken this act of brutality against an 11 year old to awaken them from a dangerous slumber. It appears that at last we see signs of change, with widespread protest and revulsion in Pakistan where this heinous act took place. Curiously, some Imams have issued fatwas against the perpetrators of these crimes, which on the one hand is at least a clear statement, yet on the other just further evidence that Islam is a backward religion struggling to modernise in a changing world. I want these animals bought to justice, and if they die in the process I genuinely don't care. Thing is, society built on vengeance is a society destined to die at its own hand. Now democracy ain't perfect, but its a work in progress and the best way of achieving the highest good for the greatest number. We all know it's flaws, but how ever could it be worse than the kind of religious theocracy the Taliban, or even moderate Islam is offering? Happily, in the West more and more are choosing reason over religion. Young people in particular continue to ignore the siren song of false promise and historical falsehood. They don't care about religion. This is fantastic, but there's a whole wide world still caught in its poisonous vice like grip. At the extreme end of the delusion lurks the Taliban, with its warped values and creepy certainty, and we should never forget that these men act as they do in the name of their God. I have no real beef with the moderates, other than to think their views a bit odd. Many live practically secular lives anyway. But there's still a battle to be fought on the ragged edge, where the loonies plot and pray, believing that they are the perfect representation of their faith. These people we cannot give an inch. We must not indulge them, or offer them even the slightest morsel of hope that they deserve to be treated seriously. It's ok to declare something as ridiculous if it is, for want of a better term, ridiculous. Radical Islam is ridiculous. It must be regarded as such, and dealt with accordingly. No kid gloves, no pandering, not a slither of encouragement. The toilet bowl of history is its only worthy destination. And don't forget to do the full flush.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
Her name was Ali. She was 17 and I was 18. We met in what was then the Harrow & Barleycorn pub in Aylesbury, a regular haunt for me and the guys. She was beautiful. I mean just perfect. She is the only women that ever made my heart race from sheer physical attraction. To this day I cannot imagine what she saw in a gormless fool such as I. Actually that's a lie; she said it was my eyes. It usually was, back then. Even now, 23 years on I can recall some of the physical sensation of being infatuated by another person. No women has ever cast that kind of spell on me; perhaps it's a feeling reserved for first love? I can remember the long conversations, the walks, the getting drunk together and the sexual self discovery we made in each others arms. She was a live wire, a fiery character, whereas I was laid back in the way that only I can be. Classic case of opposites attract. I recall aching when not around her, counting the days between getting together, the phone calls and the teasing. Since those days I've become wary of beauty, because experience tells me it can come at the expense of personality. Back then I had no such reservations; she was fucking gorgeous and every opportunity I wanted to jump her bones. I was a teenage guy for goodness sake, and I had the keys to the sweet shop for the first time in my life. Forgive me for indulging, but that's what lads do . I think I've mentioned that I was overweight as a young teen, but lost the flab and discovered all of a sudden that women sometimes found me attractive. That was a rush, to be sure, and to be honest I don't think I've ever really got my head around it. I am, as any women close to me knows, completely oblivious to the fact that I might be appealing; I'm just one of life's social Labradors that gets along with people. It rarely occurs to me that I could be perceived in anything other than a platonic sense. Why am I writing about this? Well, I'm just reminiscing about first love and all that jazz, and I've been listening to music which sent me tripping down memory lane. I am of course happily married to an amazing lady, but that doesn't mean I can't revisit some formative periods in my life. Like everyone, a part of me would love to experience the loss of self that comes from falling head over heels; it's only ever happened once to me, a solitary reminder that I'm capable of feeling such a thing. I'm colder than most people think. I don't find expressing emotion that easy. The words I write are the best I can manage. Oh by the way, I also know that love is a choice rather than an emotion; something you build brick by brick, and its cemented by trust and shared experience. I'm not some giddy teenager pining for a past I can never recapture; I'm a man comfortable with the choices I've made and also the consequences. And this blog is just me framing my thoughts as best I can, as authentically as I can, without falsity and minus any rose tint. You might be wondering what happened to Ali? Well, the relationship went nuclear in true teenage style. A heated argument on a car journey, her alighting the vehicle and storming away, all rounded off by her screaming "Get out of my life." I did. It was agony for a long time. And I often wonder what became of her. I hope she found happiness. I hope she found peace. I know I have.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
People with passive aggressive tendencies infuriate me more than any other. It really is an insidious trait and we should call it out when ever we see it. For those uninitiated, passive aggressive means to act in a way that on the surface seems calm, perhaps even gracious; yet underneath there's a seam of resentment that those around you cannot fail to notice. Give me somebody who throws a wobbly any day of the week over those who just curdle away like some out of date mayonnaise. Surround me with drama queens and people who wear hearts on sleeves rather than the kind that simmer, intent that we sense their dissatisfaction even whilst they lack the courage the vocalise it. You know what, this harks back to my love of genuineness; of people who are flawed but real, vulnerable and brave enough to live with something close to transparency. I wonder how different our world would be if we stopped playing silly games with each other and just said what we really meant? No window dressing, no abstraction; just lay it all out on the table. Better still; wouldn't it be grand if we could be assured that we wouldn't be chastised for doing so? Only this doesn't appear to be the world that we have chosen. We appear to prefer a charade, an idiotic dance around reality rather than a square jawed confrontation with it. Example; who amongst you have been critical of your place of work, only to be summoned into an office and instructed to put reality on hold to preserve the greater good? Perish the thought that any of us should deign to speak candidly about facts when the fuzzy clouds of double talk can be easily deployed. Oh, and in case you're wondering this blog isn't about work; I simply use it as a contextual example. The same ethos can be seen in many areas of society; the way we refuse to speak plainly about any number of issues. What's so dangerous about a sincere opinion? What exactly is it about truth that causes so many to shy away from it? I should probably end there. Consider this post as a cry from my heart. As one man desperate to say it as it is and live in a society where that's ok. Transparency sometimes means vulnerability. And vulnerability requires courage. For those who have ears, let them hear.
Sunday, 14 October 2012
I am a geek. I tick every box. I love technology, live it, and can always justify my next hi tech purchase via some absurd sleight of hand. It's a wonder that Joy puts up with me; she's married to a child in an adults body. Phones, computers, games consoles, TV's; I'm like a kid in a sweet shop. Right at this moment I'm considering laying down a large sum of money for a phone that I don't need, which would replace one that's working perfectly well and already better than most others on the market. Idiotic, I know. But that's the thing about being a proper geek, a hard core geek; if we let practical considerations get in the way of our lust for new tech then we wouldn't be geeks would we? Drop me in Comet, or Game, or PC World and I could amuse myself for hours. I should really invest in a grubby beige coat so I look proper dodgy. Terms like hard drive, Ram, and anti aliasing spring from my mouth like some dead Aztec language. I suspect people see the strange maniacal look in my eye when watching a video review on YouTube, or when un boxing a new toy. I really am a peculiar contrast, because on the other side of the coin you can drop me in the middle of the country, miles from the nearest power source and I'm also happy as a pig in muck. I see wonder everywhere, beauty of a different kind, and just as complex and remarkable. You could sit me on a hillside and I'd stare out into the distance for an age, observing, imbibing, being. Now I reflect, I'm just a boy who finds miracles in pretty much everything. It doesn't take much to get my proverbial juices flowing, and I don't suppose I shall change unless circumstance dictates. I'm quite harmless, just to assure you. There's no maniac lurking under my bonnet. Heck, I outed that fella years ago. I'm just into life, into living, into exploring horizons both old and new. I've come a long way from the working class country boy who tried too hard and achieved too little. I've learned from mistakes and built upon the positives, and I don't think I begrudge anybody anything. So please excuse me if I'm a bit quirky; a smidgen eccentric, or occasionally just a plain loon. Besides, if you were looking for conventional you'd never have read this far in the first place. Anyways, I've an early start. Up with the lark and all that. Later dudes
Thursday, 4 October 2012
The time to be yourself is now. You can defer it if you like, and try to conform to whatever societal cage you've chosen, but it'll still be there when you turn out the lights. In the quiet moments you'll reflect, and what you are compared to what you want to be will curdle inside you and leave an unsettled feeling in your gut. Come the morning such feelings may fade, but its like silt at the bottom of a stream bed; it takes only a little to mix everything up again. This year has been formative for me. I've come to terms with who I am and opened myself up in ways that once would have been beyond me. I'm a guy, and as such it's ridiculously, some might say unnecessarily hard to be vulnerable about anything, but I hadn't counted on being married to pretty much the best female in the world. My wife has been a safe haven, and I can honestly say that I have a stronger and deeper love for her now than ever. Not bad given we're now in our fifteenth year together. But I digress; what I'm saying is that whatever you are feeling, whatever makes you who you are is an important question. Perhaps the most important question. I hate the way society tries to impose invisible stereotypes; and dislike even more how easily we let it happen. Should and oughts, must and must not; invisible walls that cage and suck the vitality from us. I hate it. I reject it. And if you feel caged in the way I did then ask yourself the following; are you happy? Is what you are satisfying? Are you genuinely being the person you want to be? I expect many of you are not, and if so I can do no more than implore you to shed those shackles. If you've people who love you be honest with them; but more than that be honest with yourself. Only therein lies the problem; we're so good at hiding the truth from ourselves, or trying to sugar coat reality into something we can cope with. Yet isn't this a sorry way to live? What a charade? What a lie. And for why? Who loses? As if you didn't already know the answer to that.