Saturday, 24 December 2016

Me And My Fucking Balloon

2016 is the year when I've learned more than I would have wanted to about limitations. My limitations. It hasn't been easy. Those unfortunate enough to have spent time in my company cannot fail to have seen that physically I haven't been great. I've learnt a hard lesson about the dangers of altruism. I should probably explain. Approximately 3 years ago I was diagnosed with arthritis, and placed on medication that controlled the condition one hundred percent. One of the trade offs was that it meant I had to stop giving blood. I've hated this. I'm passionate about donating and have been following the vampire vans for years. As such, and taking into account that I was symptom free I set sail towards a goal of reducing the tablets to the point where I could get back to donating. From 2000 milligrams, I reduced to 1500, 1000, 500. The process took 18 months and I did so without adverse effect. Further to a discussion with my rheumatology consultant late 2015 we decided that I should try to see if I could live unmedicated, because if I could I would be able to donate again. Long story short, I ceased taking medication late February 2016, and for two months I was doing ok. Only in April I began to notice warmth and swelling in my left knee, a familiar stiffness that gradually increased in severity. I was philosophical, contacting my GP and asking if I could resume taking the tablets. I kind of admitted defeat, and just assumed that if I went back on the meds then all would be well. I had no idea that as the joint became increasingly inflamed it was putting critical pressure on the back of the knee itself. I'd simply assumed that things would settle down in due course. July 2016 was to provide all kinds of fun, not least when I experienced what is known as a Baker's Cyst,which decided to rupture, sending huge volumes of fluid down my calf and into my ankle. The lower leg and ankle inflated to twice the normal size, whilst also causing significant internal damage to an already very badly damaged knee. The result was that there were some days when I could barely walk. Days when routine tasks became stupid wars of attrition. Steroid injections combined with a huge increase in the dosage of the meds have resulted in very limited improvement, and there's no real evidence of any positive change. The medication that had me symptom free before no longer works. This means I'm having to lead a heavily restricted lifestyle. Long walks on one day can render me practically disabled for days after. Stairs are a unique challenge, whilst doing anything more than a slow walk is a bridge too far. So I'm having to learn to live within certain limitations, which isn't a road I've travelled before. I'm having to compromise, to weigh and measure what I can and cannot do on any given day. The condition impacts my sleep, my mobility, and on occasion even my capacity to drive. Add to this a neck problem which has similar costs then as you can imagine this year has worn me down. All of which is to say that if I've seemed a bit sniffy when we've crossed paths then I'm genuinely sorry. I'm probably just a little fatigued, a bit worn down by it all. I'm having to recalibrate on many levels, and I'm keen to arrive at a place when I stop craving the old certainties and begin thinking in terms of new horizons. I'm trying to remind myself of all the things I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot. Long term conditions require a steadfast mindset, an inner resilience, and on the really bad days just plain guts. This bastard condition isn't going to define me. I'm going to do the balloon thing. You know? When you try to squeeze one curve of the surface another curvature surges out. That's going to be me. I'm going to be a fucking balloon. Just you watch me.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Over Sensitive Little Flowers

What we are seeing this year, be it Trump or Brexit, is not only a rejection of the mainstream, it's a rejection of the climate of political correctness and risk averse mentality that makes every controversial topic out of bounds. God forbid a person should be critical of Islam, or aggressive feminism, or dare to make a joke of a sexist or racist nature. You might hurt someone's feelings! You might send them into spasm. Quick, get them to a safe space and get out the smelling salts.
Fuck you. Quite simply, fuck you. If you genuinely cannot tell the difference between bonafide racism or sexism then you are quite simply a colossal cunt. And a fairly dim one, too. And worse, you actually piss all over the graves of the enlightened campaigners of free speech that fought so hard, and whom often paid in blood, Just so vacuous little nothings like you can enjoy the freedoms you are now so intent on curtailing. People, we have existing laws on hate speech, and broadly speaking they work. We don't need some pre pubescent college graduate going ballistic every time someone makes a statement that might cause offence. On many US college campuses there is now such a culture of fear, and such enthusiasm for shutting down difficult debates that people are too afraid to have important discussions on issues that pose genuine societal challenges. It's obscene. It's cowardly. So don't be surprised when Bufoons like Trump rise to power. For all his inadequacies he dared to verbalize the concerns of a silent majority. He tapped into genuine threads of concern and successfully ripped the liberal elite a proverbial new one. If Clinton had been more courageous, and less risk adverse I do not think the world would have found itself in this ridiculous situation. We truly have created a monster, and we've only ourselves to blame. We need to have these difficult and awkward discussions about race and gender and religion. We need to push back against this climate of politically correct non thinking. We need to be confrontational. Confrontational in the right way. And if a few insensitive little flowers become perturbed during the process then I don't care. They can go do one. Perhaps they could spend a little time reflecting on their own fragility, their own glass egos. Or to put it plainly, they could simply grow a pair. If, upon reading this you are offended, then I'd like you to know that I'm entirely indifferent to your indignation. Your soft underbelly isn't my problem. I'm not here to appease you, or to give you a safe space.
The world isn't a safe space. And thank God it isn't. It's a seething swarm of risks and threats, and to lack the balls to confront this simply makes the problem worse. Grow up, look outward. Or just get out of my way.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

10 Years On

It is almost 10 years since I abandoned religious belief. The time since has been a story of intellectual recovery, of reviewing much of what I previously held to be true about reality. I can honestly say that despite the loss of several close friendships, I do not regret taking the hard road rather than the easy one. I have been on a journey, a voyage of the mind and I have visited realms previously alien to me. I consider myself a freethinker, an atheist, and remain critical of the value of religious belief. I genuinely hold that it hinders more than helps, stultifies more than it advances, and I worry that it continues to hold humanity captive to notions and modes of behaviour that we should have jettisoned a long time ago. Take morality for example. Morality isn’t complicated in its basic form. If you want to lead a moral life then you need do little more than seek to minimise harm. Seek not to harm others, and see how far that gets you. You’ll be surprised. Religion, I put to you, is good for absolutely nothing. The central claims of all religions are largely nonsensical and disproving the pitiful claims of Islam or Christianity is trivially easy. Better instead to stand with a free mind and appraise this remarkable vista we call existence. Taste it, reflect upon it, be open to the myriad experiences this life offers you. Don’t be held captive by turgid ancient ideology, but plough your own furrow and live a life of experiment and open mindedness. Belief in God is absurd. It is pure Monty Python. Other than making the concept of death more palatable I really cannot for the life of me see what it brings. The amount of time people commit to it continues to leave me open mouthed. And if you want to tell me that sans religion we would have no basis to be good, then I suggest that holding such view says something quite unpleasant about you. I don’t think for a second that the average believer would go on a rampage if they woke up tomorrow faithless. They would probably continue to live broadly similar lives, and if they did suddenly undertake a Viking style rampage of raping and pillaging then I’d have to suspect that they were only reigning it in to begin with. Oh to be sure I am more blunt these days. I don’t suffer fools. And nor do I extend one iota of respect to the kindly majority whom want to believe that Jesus or the Prophet are the only way to true goodness. Plain silliness, people. Use reason as your primary arbiter, as this will help you assess your impulses. I worry that we continue to give such respect to religious belief, and that we continue to give these binary and ancient ideas such credibility. We could jettison the whole religious shit show and we would still have every capacity to build upon the values that have evolved through the course of our ancestral journey. We are better than religion. Better than our tiny Gods. Better than the stupid rituals and dictates and bronze age infantilism. Humanity needs to grow up and grow out of such lowly, anti rational thinking. We can do better. We can be more. We owe it to ourselves to do so.

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Girl And Her Donut

Not a euphemism, by the way. The following is a true story of a little encounter I had a couple of days ago. I was sat next to a young girl when somebody else placed several bags of donuts on the table to her left. Her eyes flashed with desire, and she commented on the smell. I assumed she was referring to the food rather than any unsavoury odour I was permeating, so I enquired as to whether she intended to partake?
"Oh no!" She exclaimed, "I'm going on holiday in November."
Please note that it was October 1st. Showing uncharacteristic restraint I resisted encouraging her to seek medical advice. But let's be honest if it takes your metabolism that long to break down a jam donut then clearly something isn't working as it should. Being the true gentleman I am I scoffed one right beside her, licking my lips and slobbering like Jimmy Saville in a deserted mortuary. I also did my best to lead her astray but must confess to singularly failing in this project. I have to hand it to the girl; she'd got self control. Beyond the comic value of this episode I did find myself contemplating what such vanity says about someone? But then is it vanity? Could she simply be a reflection of the disproportionate value we place on physical appearance these days? If yes then how sad. How tragic that we have reduced ourselves to this. One day this fresh faced young thing will have wrinkles, cellulite, and sagging in all kinds of unwanted places. I can't help but wonder if she's making a rod for her own back. But then perhaps I'm just jealous? Perhaps this flagging arthritic 45 year old secretly yearns for his younger, more finally tuned days. . .
Actually no. I don't want to turn back the clock. Physical afflictions aside I like who I am. I'm way past any desire to fit some pre ordained mould, and if it's all the same to you I shall plod on in my own weary, occasionally cynical way. I'm unconcerned how this world perceives me, and my hope for our donut phobic fair maiden is that she reaches a similar equilibrium. I hope she comes to recognise that being good is far less fun than being real.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Pinocchio Index

The Washington Post has something called the Pinocchio Index, a means by which the truthfulness or falsity of any given claim can be measured. It goes from 1 to 4. Donald Trump has a lot of 4's. This blog isn't about him because he's a wanker, but it is about whether we, as individuals, are actually interested in truth. By truth I refer to measurable and falsifiable facts, not religious truths, which are self evidently made up. The way social media works is often an impediment to getting to the heart of a thing, and it's all my fault. And yours. Well everybody's. We tend to gravitate towards the opinions we want to hear, the one's that reinforce our own biases. That's human nature, but it is also not great for truth seeking. Back when I was a Christian, I read loads of Christian books and listened to loads of Christian speakers and surrounded myself with lots of Christian friends. I loved my life and the people around me and it all kind of made sense. I was pressing all the buttons to hear the messages I already wanted to hear, and in so doing got caught up in a perpetual feedback loop of ignorance. Now ignorance isn't a crime, and I remain ignorant about a vast ocean of things. But the difference between now and then is that my pursuit of truth is done, as much as I can, without stacking the deck before hand. Now there is a German saying that refers to "Finding the hair in the soup", which is to refer to the kind of person who always tries to seek the negative. This isn't me either. I don't set out to be negative, but I'm not interested in what makes me feel good, or secure, or better able to cope, either. I'm just interested in what is true. In where the facts lead. I try to remain emotionally neutral as I do this. Which isn't always easy. Case in point, I'm awaiting confirmation that a have a degenerative condition which, in all probability, is going to require some lifestyle modification. Of the two hundred variants of arthritis on the market I strongly suspect that I'm host to one of its more enthusiastic brands. But I don't know for sure. I'm waiting on the evidence. So whilst I do that I don't see much point in trying to fill the gaps. The facts aren't in, and it is the facts that I am interested in. So to wind things up, I'm a big fan of being open to new information. Of living in an evidence based manner. Perhaps this is why I'm so hostile to the priest's and the imams of the world who claim to know things that they cannot possibly know. The get straight 4's on the Pinocchio Index in my book.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Just A Woman?

The title could be perceived as insulting if the motivation for choosing it is not explained. So explain I shall. Just the other day my older sister used this quote to describe a social situation she had found herself in. The very words bothered me straight off the bat; their implication being that she accepted herself as somehow less. I told her to cut that shit out. I told her she didn't get to play that card anymore. Now please do not misunderstand me. I know in the battle for equality we still have a way to go, but for a woman to self define in such negative terms is hardly going to move the project forward. I think it is so important that the prevailing mood music continues to change, and my particular gender has a massive part to play in this. I respect and admire the female gender, in many ways more so than I do my own. I see the contribution made to the planet by women and it seems overwhelmingly positive. Compare this with the erosion and destruction wrought by men, and it only adds to the urgent need to speed up the global trend of female empowerment. Parents need to be instiling in their daughters that they are powerhouses, forces to be reckoned with. And we need to be teaching our sons that they must have the deepest respect for the females in their lives. Mutual respect breeds mutual empowerment. Now of course I understand that individual relationship dynamics may differ; lets face it and acknowledge that there is usually a dominant partner within a relationship. Coup!es have to be free to choose how their respective dynamics work, but that's a separate issue from the wider panorama. I'm just saying that a society that cherishes women, that releases them to reach the highest personal altitude is going to be a better society for all. If I was going to venture one critique towards my fellow denizens with the two X chromosomes, it would be that you could sometimes be braver when it comes to expressing expectations and enforcing standards. A cursory glance at my Facebook feed will regularly contain the tearful complaints of women wronged, women who's partners have walked away, or failed them. All too often I read updates that evoke the victim mentality, and I quietly wonder whether these women have allowed themselves to be dictated to? Or just plain disrespected? I think ladies that you need to own that shit and take it upon yourself to impose yourselves more. You can be both feminine and powerful; in fact you might actually find that you become more beguiling to a smarter breed of partner. If you keep adopting the same behaviours you're going to be getting the same outcomes. Understand this. More than that, learn to harness and focus your own strengths. Don't be a victim. And don't adopt a victim mentality. To me that's plain self harm.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Can you see it? Can you perceive it? No image has effected me as much as this one for a very long time. Look at how they relate to each other. The eye contact, the acceptance, the inate way one perceives the other. As I appraise them the first word that comes to me is fortress. Their relationship is a stronghold, a bastion, a lighthouse facing an immense ocean. Beneath those lines, those etchings of timeless experience is something strong. Something deep and enduring. In their gaze I see victory, experience, deep knowledge and connection. More than that it inspires me, makes me dare to dream that a day may come in the deep distance when I can share such a glance with my Joy. What must it feel like to reach such an age having weathered life's slings and arrows? Emerging connected, bound, effectively a single organism comprising two parts. I do not fear death, but the men in my family are not particularly long lived. As such I may not be privileged enough to enter deep old age with my faculties intact. God forbid, I've spent most of this year coming to terms with the limitations of my own body. I'm struggling, to be quite honest, and there's some repairs needed to the hull. As Christopher Hitchins observed, it is only when it rebels against you that one learns that you don't so much as have a body, but rather that you are a body. Still, a man can dare to hope, can't he? And my hope is that Joy and I move into our vintage with a sustained desire to create and innovate when it comes to our relationship. We're good at discovering new elements within each other, and we're not afraid to step outside convention when we know it will make us richer. Isn't it the case that in any relationship the goal should be to seek to become the truest versions of ourselves? To shed the fear and hesitancy? To dare to be vulnerable?
As a man, being vulnerable before my lady hasn't always come naturally to me, yet when I do the rewards outweigh the risks so massively as to render trepidation sheer folly. Joy knows things about me that give her tremendous power, and I've had to trust her with this. But trust is the lifeblood of any relationship isn't it? Is it even possible to sustain a relationship without it? I don't see how? But as always I digress. When you finish reading this just look at that old couple again. They were young once, with appetites and inner conflicts and all the rest. Can you sense how far they've come? Can you comprehend the epic, sweeping scope of such a journey? I'm awestruck. I'm captivated. The image has seized me by the collar and it keeps drawing me in. And here's the thing; the more I look the more vibrant it becomes. Its sheer humanity compels me towards seeking to emulate it. At least to try. See the warmth, sense the enduring connection. And dare to dream.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Koran And Fireman Sam

Seriously! Apparently the producers of Fireman Sam have offended the religion of peace by showing an episode during which a character appears to step on a page of the Koran. This has apparently caused "offence" in some circles, and has led to the episode itself being pulled from the schedules along with suitably groveling apologies ventured. Do you know what offends me? Jet aircraft being flown into skyscrapers. Trucks being driven through crowds. Mass shootings. Executions of innocent clergy members. Those things offend me deeply. By way of contrast, if our beloved firefighter was captured on film slipping on a copy of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, as an atheist I would take no offence. I would likely chuckle. Not so some adherents of the religion of peace, which incidentally continues to tread all over modern culture like a child that has trodden in dog shit. You see, denying a woman basic human rights is seemingly ok, as is murdering homosexuals whom dare to live out their true natures. But tread on their comic book, or speak of it with anything other than deference and the consequences can be startling. You can rest assured the production company in question will currently be undergoing various safety briefings, and the Metropolitan police have probably already attended to give appropriate safety advice. That we have allowed the vapid ideology of Islam to have such an automatic respect in modern culture is astonishing to me, as is how we pander and bow the knee all in the idea of not offending certain sensibilities. Now here's the thing; not all ideas are created equal. Not all ideas are worthy of respect. And I happen to think its high time we actually stood up to this creeping erosion of our personal liberty. Dear Muslims, please believe as you see fit and cherish those beliefs if that is what inspires you. But do not seek to impose your ideology on those who want no part of it. And if you really want respect then a good start would be to develop markedly thicker skin, and quit playing the religious hurt feelings card. It makes you look like a schoolchild scowling in the playground, bottom lip protruding and pony tails flapping in the breeze. Let's just say its not an impressive sight.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How It (mostly) Works Around Here

I've never really craved vast wealth, or a massive house, or flashy cars, although I wouldn't say no to them if they came my way. The truth is, in order to afford the high life you have to work really hard. Now call me vulgar, but I just do not want to. I don't want to spend that long at the coalface. Call me lazy if you wish, but I'm just being honest. I've always tried to strike a balance between putting in a good shift at work, and then stepping away and distancing myself. I don't live to work, but instead work to live. In actual fact the term I use is that I work to subsidise my other interests. My job doesn't define me. No one thing does. We live in a small but happy home, with a very small mortgage that doesn't cripple us. We're not in debt, we've got a cash buffer, and I would describe our position as cautiously comfortable. If we wanted more I could do overtime, or Joy could go back to teaching and we'd be even wealthier. We would also be miserable. And time starved. So you can keep the cars and the expensive holidays and all the rest. There is a little sign in our little house that says "It's not how big the house is, It's how happy the home is." I think those words are bigger than the sum of their parts. Like any family we have issue's, and like any couple we go through challenging periods. But I've always known that at root both Joy and I want a relationship that works. That's a solid base. And from there it's about calibrating and recalibrating, figuring out the best way forward. More than that, It's remembering to do the stuff that makes those memories. Both as a couple and as a family unit. I'm no expert on any of those things, but I don't think you necessarily need to be. So me and my imperfections plod onward, as does Joy with hers. Add a smattering of teenage daughter and preteens daughter and you just know that from time to time the rug gets pulled from underneath your feet. So going back to the original topic, which I think abandoned somehow, I think on balanced that the freedom that time brings offers more than the freedom that more money brings. And that's the basis of how things work around here.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Christianity. An Intellectual Turd Factory.

Interesting conversation this week. With someone I respect. I got to see up close how thinking Biblically is really just short hand for turning one's brain off. The issue was about sexuality, and how this person would feel if they realised their child was gay. Now I've already said to both my girls that I don't care who they love or how they love, just as long as they have love. Their sexuality is their business, and nothing that could negatively influence my feelings. This person with whom I was in dialogue with confessed that they would struggle to feel as I do on the issue, and you've already probably guessed why. Of course, its the good ship Christianity swooping in to derail reason and logical thinking once again. Concerning sexuality, or in fact most moral issues one need only consider the following; namely is what I am doing or considering doing likely to cause real harm in the real world? That's all that is required. Think morality, think in terms of harm. The rest will sort itself out. Alas, a mind pickled and marinated in decades of biblical thinking cannot see beyond what their religion tells them to see. Back in the days when I was a believer I got to hear a lot of trite throwaway lines on the issue of homosexuality. Phrases like "It's less than God's best", or of course, "It's not how we were made to be." There were other's, but they all rolled off of the intellectual turd factory known as Christianity. Complete inability to think in terms of the harm principle, a dreary addiction to what scripture says. And oh boy does it have something to say. The Old Testament in particular uses terms such as abomination, and Leviticus 20, verse 10 makes clear that if man should lie with another man he should be put to death. Cool, Lesbian sex still good to go! Apologies, I digress. At this point the average well meaning Christian will tell us that Jesus bought a new revelation, only this directly contradicts what Jesus says himself. He makes clear that not a single stroke of the old law should go, but rather he states this;

“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:18-19
“It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17)
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17)
“Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law” (John7:19)

So, the figure of Jesus was just as monumental a twat as his bipolar father. To conclude then, when a person of faith speaks into matters of homosexuality they can and should be roundly ignored. No defence can be made against such hate speech. My sadness is that so many otherwise lovely people; people I consider as friends continue to regard this toxic mush of imbecilic nonsense as some kind of guide to modern morality. To that I say only this. If you are gay, transgender, or have a form of sexuality that is unique to you then stand proud. If what you do causes no measurable harm, and if your actions with others are safe and sane and consensual then celebrate your uniqueness. To close, when I was a young teenager I watched a film called My Beautiful Laundrette. It contained an intense sex scene involving two men. It helped me to realise that I was heterosexual and that was that. I never struggled with my sexuality in that regard. As I have aged I have discovered different aspects to my sexual persona, and I have wrestled with some aspects. But I have never been persecuted. Never been told that I was not normal, or that I would go to Hell for my inclinations. I urge all readers of this blog to think in terms of the harm principle when it comes to pretty much every moral issue you face. There's nothing said in scripture that hasn't been said better and with less accompanying baggage elsewhere. And as for Christian's there is nothing for me to say as I am clear that you will not be swayed. As such I pity you. Genuinely pity you. You live in a very small world.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

I Made A Mistake Today

I made a mistake today. I attended a Christian family event. Went to support Joy really, as I knew she quite liked the idea of us going as a family. I got up in the morning with a best foot forward ethos, vowing to be on my very best behaviour. Vowing to be courteous, and something close to respectful. The trouble is that there is nothing about the doctrine of Christianity that convinces me that it is anything other than an atavistic yearning after an imaginary friend. And when I'm surrounded by dozens and dozens of believers, all singing and praying and solemly listening to the generic youthful pastor it strikes me as a wasteful, woeful experience. It isn't that the patrons aren't kindly and generous, and I believe they are truly seeking to be better versions of themselves. It's just that looking from the outside in the experience is weird and disquieting and just so far removed from my own personal experience. I honestly could not wait to drive the two hours home, to clear my head of it all. Perhaps much of this is to do with the fact that I shed my evangelical skin over a decade ago, and in the years since I have rebuilt my life, rebuilt me. The process is ongoing but today reminded me that there's always residue. The past always leaves a mark. And of course there remains the fact that many of my closest family are bible believing Christian's, delightful people on a journey so far removed from my own. Just how do I reconcile this with my instinctive need to value reason and evidence above all else? It is a challenge for me because I love truth. Even when it is blunt and cruel and indifferent. Seeking truth irrespective of how it left me feeling was a game changer for me. It meant that I had no excuse for self deceipt. I wonder if that is at the root of my discomfort? This suspicion I have that religion, in every shape or guise, is the ultimate expression of self deceipt. How do I even say this without causing offence or hurt to those I love? When I get too close to formal religion I just recoil now; I just cannot cope. Which is why my exposure to it will, from this day on, be limited to weddings and funerals and carol services. The week in week out stuff is just bewildering to me, and I came away feeling like I had forayed into an alien world. I deliberately spent the service attempting to surf the net on my phone, but even then you cannot help but hear some of the generic canards. All this talk about God being in control. About how he knew the result of the referendum. The generic preacher talk just kept on coming. I wonder if there were any amidst the congregation going through the transition that I underwent so many years ago? That desperately futile attempt to square the circle, to convince themselves that they don't have to walk away, that if they just pray enough, believe enough, some semblance of faith will return. I hope none of what I have written here comes across as condescending? These are just my very human musings on what was a genuinely weird day. I feel utterly detached as I write this, and I am trying to chart some path that allows me to have some level of respect for those who hold such views. Perhaps it is a weakness of mine that I even struggle in this regard?

Saturday, 25 June 2016

A Beginner's Guide To Self Harm

After yesterday's epic act of unprecedented national self harm, here's hoping that today is a quieter one. Aside from everything that occurred, the overwhelming realisation for me is that we need to create a society where education doesn't end at the school gates. Where mature adults are taught to disseminate facts and see beyond vitriol and their own cultural biases. When you study the break down of who voted where I was so saddened that the older a person was, the more likely they were to vote out. That tells me that education isn't simply for the young. It is a lifetime project. When I reflect on the ramifications my heart bleeds for the younger generation, seventy five percent of which voted remain. How desperately sad that we would be so quick to hurt our children. I do not think for a moment that this was intentional, but it illustrated that as a society we need to be just a little bit more capable of putting reason and evidence before jingoism. All that said, I still adore the democratic process and hold no ill will towards those who think differently. More than ever, in light of what is coming we need to be brave and willing to endure challenges. So perhaps on the back of a dark day, we British can evolve into a wiser and warmer culture. Irrespective of a persons country of origin we are not so different. We are just people sharing this fragile planet together. Just human beings. Here's to the day when we can see beyond cultural or religious divides. Where disagreements do not lead to conflict or discord, or isolationism. May it dawn soon.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Omar Muteen

So, Florida gunman Omar Mateen saw two men kissing in public a while back and it offended him. At least this is what his mortified father has disclosed. Perhaps this was another ingredient that crept into his delusional and sub par mind prior to his public demonstration of high caliber weaponry in a gay nightclub. Not being a fundamentalist renders me ill equipped to comprehend what informed his murderous agenda, yet we can probably predict with some confidence that his religious inclinations were front and centre. When I stop and think about this I don't make it too far down the road before I encounter a contradiction; on the one hand he would likely proclaim full confidence and absolute certainty that his version of the truth is the only one worthy of acceptance, yet he is also so lacking in confidence that he wishes to eradicate those who represent another way of life. It's a tough balancing act isn't it? Claiming to have all the answers yet terrified by voices of dissent. I cannot be bothered to further examine how easy it would have been for him to obtain the weapons he deployed with such zeal. America has made its own bed on the issue of gun ownership, and until it wants to wake up we shall continue to see mass shootings. Truth is, I'm not sure what makes me despair more; the lunacy of the gunman or the lunacy of a nation that makes such events not only possible but probable. Religion will always subvert reason and prostitute itself on the alter of nonsense, for this has long since been its default. And America seems committed to continue to lack the moral courage to legislate sensibly on the matter of gun ownership. What a perfect storm this whole thing has been. What a cluster fuck case study we have on our hands. I realise that I have not mentioned the victims yet. We shall hear their names and pay our respects in the fullness of time. Exactly what business did Omar Muteen have interfering with the life choices of the club patrons? God's business, I expect he would answer. And once more I roll my eyes. Dear religion, by all means practice your faith; celebrate it and share your convictions, even. But do so in the knowledge that we live in a society that more often than not say's no thank you. More than this, understand that we are not obligated to automatically imbibe your truth claims. I am not a Muslim because I happen to think that Islam is a nasty and bigoted pile of festering horse manure. I think its claims are absurd and its doctrines inane. I reject your truth claims. I want nothing to do with them. And i'd really appreciate it if you'd see your way to understanding that my choices will differ from yours. And America, for God's sake can you reach tipping point when it comes to gun control. Stop this madness. Be brave. This isn't the wild west any more. To close, I want to extend my condolences and sadness to the families and friends of the deceased. I stand beside you. I want to recognise and acknowledge your pain and bewilderment and immense sense of loss. Please know that you have the love and tears of billions at this moment. I also choose to celebrate the sexuality of every person on the planet who seeks to explore who they are and has the bravery to live this out. To live true to oneself is to live genuinely. To ignore societal pressure to conform is a testament to your strength. Never apologise for who you are. Never give an inch. You are beautiful, and you have a special place in this beautiful world. The likes of Omar Muteen are ugly scars, pustulant blisters of violence and bigotry. We will brush them aside and live on, live strong, by values of tolerance and dignity that his kind will never understand.

Monday, 6 June 2016


I've been flip flopping. Then I asked myself why? It came down to wanting tighter border control and concerns over national infrastructure. Only then it occurs to me that these aren't actually great reasons. I welcome all overseas nationals whom want to come to our shores and make a better life for themselves. I count many of them as colleagues. And if this helps the national coffers to grow then this to me is positive. Concerning infrastructure, I already think government should be doing more so I can't pin this on overseas workers. We already had social housing issues and an NHS choking under its own weight. Without realising until late in the day, I think I was being influenced by a subtle xenophobia, and having identified this I think I'm seeing a little more clearly. Europe isn't perfect. Democracy isn't perfect. People, irrespective of creed aren't perfect. This is just the way of the world. So to conclude I'm voting in. And doing so because I don't want to succumb to tribalism, and also because I think unity is preferable to seperation. All that said, I remain respectful towards those who think another way.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Reflective Mood

Last night I met with a group of friends. It was such a lovely experience, yet it left me kind of melancholy. I was surrounded by people I have nothing but warmth and affection for; people with whom I’d been very close to before my rejection of evangelical Christianity almost a decade ago. I have no regrets over the choices I made back then. In fact I’m proud that I was able to act on conviction despite the massive emotional cost. I’ve written before that it meant walking away from a lifestyle, a safe haven, a group of friends whom I adored. I was a toxic brand, actively speaking out against beliefs dear to them. It was never my intent to cause people pain. I just had to act with personal integrity and be honest with myself and the wider world. I no longer believed any of it. Ten years on there are no wounds, but I do sometimes feel the undertow of sadness that our lives went different ways. I suppose that will always be there. I’m also acutely aware of how my decisions influenced Joy’s life and that of my children, all of whom still hold to religious views. My absence from that environment was a grieving process for her, and many things we once would have shared we no longer can. I do not inhabit that world. The real miracle of it is that as a couple we have rebuilt our relationship into something else, an ongoing process that has required honesty, often brutal honesty from both of us. But then who said relationships were easy? In fact nobody ever did, as I recall. However close you are to a person you’re still coming from a different point on the map, so I suppose the skill of it is to communicate in a way that enables you to chart a path together. I think we’ve negotiated a few rocks along the way, and we have learned things about each other, about ourselves, that have surprised us both.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Trump Card?

The biggest danger facing America now is thinking that Donald Trump cannot go the whole way. The 2nd biggest would be failing to recognise that he has tapped into some of the nations arterial concerns. Is he the answer to the issues? No. Should he be given a little credit for having the bravado to raise them? I think yes. We live in a world where to say the wrong thing at the wrong time is to risk swift retribution. I dislike this climate, because whilst it intends to make the world a gentler place it actually creates the kind of space where the Trump’s of this world can rise from mediocrity and command a level of attention otherwise unthinkable. People tend to play it safe, treading a line that ensures the horde does not dissent, and for me this breeds a social timidity, a culture of fear reminiscent of ages past. It was only a few hundred years ago that to speak against the church was to risk some unpleasant consequences, and whilst we may no longer burn dissenters at the stake I do sense a troubling drift towards a climate where to speak the unpopular aloud is to risk incurring a status of social pariah. In my vision we would create a climate where people understood that disagreement does not have to equal discord, where to speak in controversial tones is perfectly acceptable and just a consequence of living in a free and democratic society. I cannot honestly say that I feel as free as I would like to. I have some strong views on a number of social issues, many of which I have blogged about, but there are some topics that I have to step back from. For example, I have a raft of things that I would like to share on the behaviour of the Traveller community, but if I venture even commonly accepted statistics then I would expect my employees would take me into an office and censure me. Same goes with some of my attitudes towards Islam. To speak my mind here is to risk transgressing some unseen code. There appears to be a politically correct bubble expanding ever further into the public consciousness, choking the life out of free discourse and in some cases strangling the free exchange of ideas. Speaking as an atheist I am used to being perceived in derogatory terms in some religious communities. This is ok. I’m not offended by such opinions. I welcome living in a space where my detractors can speak freely and I want this to persist. And the reason why Donald Trump commands such a following, however ill judged, is that he speaks into people’s concerns. It doesn’t actually matter whether there is any validity to the concerns themselves, but at least he gives voice to them. Would I prefer that the public discourse was a little more refined? On a personal level yes. But would I ever wish to inhibit free speech, or render it difficult, or foster a culture of fear? No. Of course no. Always no.

Monday, 25 April 2016

One For The Ladies

I blog on impulse. That way I get something raw and real and unsanitary. Its the undiluted me. When I read some of my older posts I see when I've held back because these are the least engaging. Its when I share what I really think when the wheels get greased. Today I am reflecting on the canard that the genders are equal. This is to say that our respective qualities perfectly balance each other out to create a harmonious synchronicity. All I need do is glance at the amount of gender inequality in the world to know that this is bullshit on a quite spectacular scale. We are not equal. We have fostered a patriarchy that has prevented women from equal opportunity for as long as I can recall. When I take pause and consider, honestly and without fear, whether I think one gender has superior qualities than the other, then as hard as I try I always reach the same conclusion. I put to you that women are better creatures on the whole. More capable. Less prone to wanton destruction and acts of pride. I spend a lot of time ashamed at my own gender. At the violence, at the lack of perception, at the wasteful inanity. At the simple inability to listen. I find women to be more refined, more together, better equipped to facilitate and bridge build, and I do wish that more of them recognised the power they have within. I also wish they would appreciate that they are sometimes guilty of allowing traditional imbalances to persist. Now I do want to say that there are a lot of very capable men in the world, those of mental and physical strength, with presence of mind and of creative disposition. Listeners, thinkers, reflectors. I just doubt that there are as many. I've often noted that males are not always great listener's, and I consider myself a sinner here. I wish I used my two ears and one mouth proportionately. Perhaps then I would make fewer mistakes. On a different tact I suspect that many women, dare I suggest the majority of women have no idea just what powerful beings they are, and how they have the ability, should they choose, to captivate and influence a man in ways that would greatly enhance their happiness. It saddens me when I see Facebook posts from people I know that recount how the latest male has walked all over them, treated them poorly, failed to respect and honour them. Yet at the same time I just know that if these same women had greater awareness they would, at the outset, set the tone of the relationship and make clear that they have a level of expectation which any guy needs to aspire to. These women, I'm loathed to say, appear to be natures doormats. Too accepting of the traditional, going in with low expectation. I am of the view that with a little escalation in self awareness, combined with just a smidgen of self confidence, many women could enjoy more successful relationships. And they would attract better men because they would be more attractive themselves. Know what you want, set your standard, shape the mood music. You'd be surprised. And the more capable men will be drawn to you. And finally a brief word on the phenomenon of the "New man". He's a boring creature invariably trying too hard to be sensitive and ends up being a cardboard cutout. Real masculinity is strength under control, strength refined, strength channelled. It can be funny and raucous and ever so frisky but it is essentially a force for good. Now it isn't for me to pick you a partner but you'll be better off with this kind of guy, a man who represents the best aspects of the male gender. Hold on in particular to the words "Strength under control", because this kind of guy isn't the wet blanket new man that I personally despise so much. He's got way more to offer. But I digress. Without wanting to preach I would love to see a world of strong and confident and expectant women, because this would make for an amazing world. Go make it happen.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Reality Check

I’ve been a strong critic of faith. I rejected a deep personal faith nearly 10 years ago. From time to time I like to take pause and reflect on where I am, what I think. Just to forewarn you, this blog will not mark the return of the prodigal son. But nor will it be unduly harsh or condemning. It has always been the case that the primary reason I am no longer a Christian is simply because I do not think that the claims about Jesus Christ are true. Nor do I presently think that there are any particularly good arguments for the existence of God. Yet, and this is something that’s hugely important to me; I never want to reach a point where I would reject new information out of either pride or dislike of the ramifications. I’ve always maintained that many of the finest people whom I have ever met have been persons of faith. I’ve experience their kindness, their forgiveness, and their hospitality. And I confess that I do sometimes find it hard to be so condemning of the convictions of people whom I value so highly. When I consider whether there exists the possibility of a supernatural realm, whilst I see no evidence I do regard the question as an interesting one. Wouldn’t it be cool to have our understanding thrown on its head, to have to recalibrate all of our pre-established reference points and take on board new possibilities. The closest thing to the spiritual and the numinous I feel is when I look up at the stars, which is something I try to do often. From my back garden I see a vast black sky laced with ice gems, these tiny glints which are in actual fact celestial bodies of a magnitude I cannot comprehend. It awes me. My stomach goes light. Nothing else gets me like that other than perhaps a magisterial view from a coastal path or from the top of a mountain. I recognise our very existence is inexplicable, and immensely improbable, and I try to live in recognition of that. And whilst I do not think I am a creature destined for eternity I do love the day to day joy of simply being. I cannot for the life of me think what could persuade me to embrace any religious worldview, all the more so when I am so well versed on the central claims. It just doesn’t persuade me. It does not seem worth wasting time on. It seems mired in contradiction and, dare I say it, has a very man made vibe about it. Once again, I don’t want to critique when I’ve done so much of that before. I just want to reflect on where I presently stand. I appear to be a humanist, an atheist. What is important is that I never become so entrenched in what I am today that I am blinded to the new ideas of tomorrow. I am a man that has changed. I am a man that can change. I do not fear change. I fear intellectual paralysis far more. I’m not beholden to one ideology and I am as proud of that as I am any other facet of my personality. My body is middle aged but my mind is young and frequently inspired to entertain new concepts. I hope that I have plenty of opportunities to grow and change some more. I’m not ready to be put out of pasture yet. I don’t think I’m that kind of beast.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Dildo And The Dullard

Sarah Palin is, in many ways, a perfect repository for all the worlds bad ideas. Global warming denier, Creationist, Evangelical, rabid right wing Republican. If there’s a perfect storm of intellectual inanity then there you have it. And it’s a vessel perfectly designed to beguile the credulous, all heels and hose and power dressing, the hair and make up the work of a crack team. Get the lighting right, chuck in enough Stars and Stripes, and American exceptionalism has its poster girl. Now I’m not having a dig at Americans here, but rather the cultural climate that creates the conditions for these kinds of individuals to reach heights of power way beyond their mental pay grade. Would you really want this woman anywhere near the White House? I frankly wouldn’t even let her empty my tumble dryer. She is a dangerous ideologue, cranked up to the max by a ground swell of the disillusioned who like their God front and centre and their country music loud. It all lacks nuance. It doesn’t appear to recognise that the devil really is in the details when it comes to life’s deeper problems. Talking of devils Mrs Palin would have us believe that there really is one lurking out there in the shadows. I wonder, is he also responsible for cursing all those American Christian female’s with an addiction to dildo’s and masturbation? That last bit was a reference to my favourite article of the last week. A US evangelical by the name of Mac Major (Who sounds to my ear just a bit like a porn star) has suggested that women are in the grip of a demonic addiction to masturbation and sex toys. To listen to his perspective is to envisage a state of play where every flat surface in every US household containing a female is crammed with sexual aids and things requiring battery operation. Oh God, it’s enough to make a cat laugh. Does this guy really think that the devil is encouraging all humans with two X chromosome’s to get intimate with enough plastic to fund a new oil boom? It appears yes. On a slightly, but only slightly serious note, isn’t it alarming that a man feels that he can speak so boldly into this private area of a female’s life? It all sounds a bit controlling to me. But then isn’t that religion in a nutshell? It’s the perfect concoction of coercive control, all gently wrapped as a free gift, but embellished with more small print than you’d find on a loan shark website. But I digress. Suffice to say that this week has been one where the dullards of the world have had plenty of airtime. And I guess I’m ok with that. At least insofar as that I want a society where all have a voice. Even those I find barmy, or distasteful, or deluded. And at least I get to choose whether I get to turn the proverbial volume down.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Fear And The Fury

If I lived in Bangladesh, or in many other Islamic countries, and openly declared my atheism I would be killed. In some of these countries it would be state sponsored, in others it would come courtesy of a lynch mob. If ever I need assurance that I am on the winning side then this would be it. When people are so fearful and ignorant that they seek to silence opposing voices it says something about what they stand for. It says also that they are brittle, fearful, and lacking in basic decency. I consider myself a rude and brassy atheist, the kind that will not tolerate your attempts to share your particular vintage of truth. Oh, and note the choice of wording here. Vintage. A cursory appraisal of religious history will reveal that the branding tends to undergo various revisionism on route to the current day. Not that this bothers me unduly. It's just a product afterall. A product vying for attention in the marketplace of ideas. I happen to think freedom of belief is very important. If you want to build your life on a religious idea then do so. I simply ask that you extend the freedoms you enjoy to those who think different. On paper it sounds so easy, but this is where the fear comes into play. In fact fear is somewhat important in the land of the righteous. Fear of sin, fear of God (Which is apparently the beginning of wisdom), fear of missing the Heavenly Express as it winds it's way to the pearly gates. It's all just a bit tedious and tiresome to my ear. Working as I do in law and order I know a thing or two about coercive control, and belief in God would appear to be a perfect example. Oh they'll tell you they came freely, that they see salvation as a free gift. Yet once claimed just sit back and watch the hoops that the devout continually leap through to keep up their end of the "free gift". Beneath the raised hands and the happy clappy and community is a culture of fear. Fear on an industrial scale. Rarely voiced, yet a tacit everpresent. In particular I feel for the many women who grew up in the faith, knowing no other identity than alignment with a fiction so self evident that it, excuse the pun, beggars belief. They are unwitting victims. They would consider themselves free. I'm not convinced they'd recognise true freedom if it were offered to them. I've seen the way they battle with balancing the requirements of faith with a sense of self identity. The inner feuding to reconcile animal appetites with the ways of the righteous. In contrast I am free. Free to experience life without limits. I can tread my own path, getting it wrong and getting it right, trampling and pirouetting in equal measure. I can face mortality with, if not comfort, at least the sense that I do this thing on my terms. I wonder whether such freedom is a terror to those who raise machetes towards those who refuse to align themselves with the absurd? Towards those whom actively agitate against it? Fear that such as me will pollute, sour, poison the wells of salvation? Have you seen the common theme underpinning this? Fear. Cold fear. Cowardly fear. And I think this will continue as long as religion has any semblance of power. I for one will happily share the planet with those who think a different way. I don't mind our differences just so long as we seek to do no harm. Sure I'll speak out. I'll mock and laugh and critique. But you won't die. And you can return the compliment. Neither of us has to end up in the gutter with our brains splashed all over the road. Which was the fate that befell the free thinker whom inspired me to write this blog.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Land Of The Pitchfork

I wouldnt say I enjoy offending people. But I dont usually waste too much time concerning myself if the occasional ill judged statement emerges before it undergoes my own, admittedly loose, editing process. I'm relieved that I am not a public figure, though, as I fear I might incur the wrath of those pitchfork brandishing arse wipes that seem to lurk in every nook and cranny online. And this is really saying something, because there are a lot of nooks and crannies out there. But trust me, you really dont have to do much more than fart these days and somebody will take umbrage. Every day I sit bewildered as some minority group ascribes itself martyr status in the wake of some perceived slight. I often think we've allowed thought crime to enter once more into the public domain, and we have become so sensitive, so petty and easily confused that we've let our skins get way too thin. By way of example consider the following phrase, which if you're from Buckinghamshire you might have heard. "You're about as much use as a one legged man in an arse kicking contest". Innocuous once upon a time, but now it's discrimination, and you can be sure some oaf, whom probably isn't disabled themselves, would be quick to identify and point out my egregious error. We've decided that everything must be sanitized, everything must undergo vetting and pass some vigorous litmus test before it's fit for public consumption. God it's tedious. Tedious and bewildering. Are we really incapable of seeing the difference in spontaneous humour and underlying prejudice? Do we really want to live in a culture where we are literally hostage to the prevailing winds of opinion? I don't think many really want this, so why do I sense the creeping extension of moral policing wherever I turn? Perhaps I'm imagining things? Overreacting and over analysing? Perhaps I'm just at the age when things don't seem such a big deal. All I know is that I tend to avoid forums such as Twitter because I'd find it too much of a challenge to reign it in. I'd get in trouble. Before I know it I'd be dragged into an office at work and told how inappropriate my comments were and how I'd mortally wounded the sensibilities of some person who they'll never identify. Ok then have it your way. Let the glass ego rule supreme. Let the thought police do what they do. Just don't complain to me when we've created a culture so risk averse that people no longer actually say what they mean.

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.