The Cycle…

Seven years ago, I completed the first draft of my meditation manuscript, entitled “The Power of Se7en”, its central tenet has numerology at the core.

Twenty-Fourteen saw me evolve to the next stage of evolution really, become more aware about what the Universe was and what it wasn’t. What it wasn’t was meaningless, what it was, was becoming clear after forty-two years of human experience.

When one becomes more aware, more awake, synchronicities (or breadcrumbs as I have called them) appear with increasing regularity. It was being more alert that brought about the number seven and its increasing significance and abundance. Seven colours, seven musical notes, seven chakras, seven deadly sins, lucky seven, seven wonders of the world and the Buddhist cycle of seven years, which infers that one goes through seven times seven-year cycles and at the age of forty-nine, we depart our “childhood” phase and mature to the “adult” phase of existence, and with that enter into a period of spiritual growth, focusing on non-material values, gravitating towards the ethereal, the esoteric, the eternal.

With that in mind, I had planned last weekend very carefully, last Friday being my forty-ninth birthday, which, as it turned out, could not have been better.

The most magical place I have ever been to in the UK (probably the world) is Glastonbury, the Isle of Avalon. My friends and I have been going there on and off for the last three decades and over that time, I have connected with the place on a deeper level each time. From campsites to hostels and now AirBnB’s, all have given me a place to rest after tapping in to the towns vibe, a majestic current of consciousness that runs through everything.

And so it was, that the dawn of my forty-ninth year commenced. At four in the morning, slightly tired still from the chaotic travelling the previous day, my eyes opened to commence their second cycle of existence, and with that a dawn jaunt to Glastonbury Tor. My internal GPS system kicked in as I made my way through the dark streets heading north out of the town centre, through the even darker tree-covered lanes which led to the Tor. Thankfully, and as I would have hoped, there was not a cloud in the sky. I bimbled my way over styals and through the greenest of paths until I reached the steps up the concentric and circular hill the Tor sits atop.

The first step gave me another breadcrumb, indicating that my previous two posts of Duhkha and Suhkha were on point, Yin Yang, balance is the key.

I could already see a few people were atop the hill as I ascended, like-minded folks who were also seen the sun rise over the Isle of Avalon, each for their own reasons.

So I took my lotus perch and sat patiently waiting for the sun to rise. The moon was also playing its part, sitting just to the right of the rising sun, in a perfect crescent, plainly clear to all just how it gets its interstellar luminosity.

Then it happened, the first glimpse of the sun as it appeared over the horizon line, the first time I’d ever seen it from this position as most of the time spent at the Tor in years gone by was at night, partying mostly, home in time for bed before our life-giver made an appearance.

Grand Risings…

Clearly all that witnessed this majestic site where in awe of the sheer beauty of the vista before us, and with that a surge of energy hit me hard, energy from the invisible ley lines, that meet at Glastonbury Tor, the Tor acting as one of the major nexus points in the UK.

As the accompanying plant-medicine kicked in, my being became very small in the sheer vastness of time and space, and for the first time in a good while, I felt at one with the Source.

As the sun rose further and the dawn turned into day, I took a few obligatory camera shots, exchanged a few pleasantries with my consciousness comrades and made my way back to town.

When I got back, my wife was waking from her slumber, so we took breakfast and I shared my experience and photos with her. A short while later, we got our things together and headed over to Goddess House, for a treatment I had booked us both into, to celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary. What happened during those two hours confirmed just how magical and powerful Glastonbury really is.

We were greeted at the door by our two therapists for the day, who guided us through the many rooms of the old manor house and explained what our treatment consisted of, namely a ninety-minute aromatherapy massage followed by thirty minutes of healing.

The treatment started with a blessing and some words of love and wisdom from the Lady of Avalon, a spirit who still resides over the place and entwines her energy with that of the therapists and on through to the clients. The aromatherapy session was relaxing, and then the hands-on reiki healing took place. I have had reiki many times before, but the surge of energy and warmth was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Somehow, the energy was going straight to all my “duhkha points” without me having to explain where my grumble zones where, as if guided by invisible hands.

What followed next is difficult, almost impossible, to describe. When we entered the room earlier, we had seen crystal bowls used for sound healing, and neither my wife nor I had ever had a sound treatment before. Even though I have tinnitus, I was keen to give it a go, to see if the frequencies of the singing bowls could give me relief from the constant noise inside my head. Amazingly, the bowls stayed in their position on the other side of the room, but with eyes closed, the therapists played the bowls, at which point the material Universe dissolved (for me at least). There was no body, no thoughts, no time, no space. Just sound, reverberation and pure energy. I was sound, I was energy, and it was good, very good, yet another step closer to the Source.

After the bowls stopped singing (however long that was I couldn’t tell), the therapists then resumed the reiki healing and gave a final blessing from the Lady of Avalon, and it was at this point where all the negative emotion I must have had locked away came out all at once, tears streaming down my face, accompanied by uncontrollable chin-wobbling.

After the treatment finished, I opened my eyes to gaze upon my therapist through waterlogged-peep holes, and there she was, smiling at me, softly saying, that “she is here, she is love, she is healing, she does that”.

Relaxing in a side room after we said goodbye to our goddesses for the day, we sat and drank herbal tea and took red fruits before heading back to town, and when we did, I felt light, so light, due to physical and meta-physical burdens being lifted from me (for a while at least). For the first time in aeons, I felt cleansed, unblocked.

I now start the second cycle of my life, a cycle that will leave behind materialism once and for all, leave behind the broken society and attempt, in my own way, whatever that way becomes once I have acquired the skills, to heal others in the manner I had been healed during what can only be described as a rebirthing ceremony.

Glastonbury, you never fail to disappoint me, I am forever yours, forever connected to you…

Suhkha…

“In darkness, look to the light” is a line from the Dungeon Master, for those of you old enough to remember the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the Nineteen-Eighties, a line I’ve carried with me through the last four decades.

Whilst my last post outlined and detailed the current dissatisfaction points in my life, that of course is just one side of the coin.

My wife read my post yesterday and whilst holding back on the many other problems she sees from her position (no doubt), she asked me what gave me satisfaction, what gave me suhkha, suhkha being the opposite of duhkha, those things in life which keep our wheel in kilter, spinning perfectly.

The list below is a definitive one using the same categories and clusters from yesterday, and although no doubt others could argue against a few of those, this captures the things that please me, that put me in the PMA zone (Positive Mental Attitude) and allows me to function at my best;

Work

◦ I am well respected in work as someone who works hard and achieves greatness

◦ I mentor and nurture others to help them realise their potential

◦ I am liked by my work colleagues

◦ I am paid very well for what I do, and have a good work/life balance

Health

◦ I am fit and healthy for my age

◦ I have optimised my weight and BMI

◦ I am in tune with my health and can listen to my body, adapting my habits when required

◦ I like to take alternative therapies to keep my balance (mind, body and soul)

Mental Well Being

◦ I am happy compared to others I know

◦ I can recognise when I am under stress and have the right tools to decrease anxiety

Relationships

◦ I have friends for life, not many compared to some, but loyal and honest soul mates

◦ I like spending time with friends and they like my company

◦ I am a good judge of character and don’t suffer fools / waste time on pointless relationships

Society

◦ I like being a part of my local community / tribe

◦ I like it when people I know and like do well in life

Hobbies

◦ I like reading

◦ I like blogging

◦ I like music and live concerts

◦ I like the arts, film and theatre

◦ I like time spent in nature

Being

◦ I love my family, my family loves me (my ikigai)

◦ I am liked by friends, neighbours and colleagues

◦ I am seen as fun and energetic by others

◦ I believe in life beyond death which settles me

◦ I am wise and see the world how it really is, not how it is presented by others

◦ I am kind

Life is all about balance, good vs bad, light vs dark, day vs night, but such things are not conflicting or fighting against it’s opponent, it is complimenting it.

If we do not have opposites in play which bring the balance, how can we truly evolve as individuals if everything we have or do is positive.

I have spent this weekend in one of the most magical places on Earth (in my opinion), the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury, where I am penning this blog from now, the majestic Tor sitting atop its ancient mound in view from my temporary bedroom window.

I have been coming to this place for the last twenty-seven years, and every time I visit I feel closer to The Source.

Adding what happened this weekend would not do justice as a footnote here, so I will save that experience for another post, but I will leave you with a pictorial reminder the both duhkha and suhkha exist, and it is our challenge to find the right balance, so we become balanced, which for me is enlightenment…

Duhkha…

“I got nighty nine problems but a bitch ain’t one” is a horrendously offensive line from a rap song from the ultra-materialist Jay-Z, but the origins of that line go back millennia.

Whilst I may have personally been impacted by the pull of the brace of supermoons recently, and unconsciously by the pandemic, there is something not right at my core. I feel like there is a huge fatberg in the sewers of my mind, building up quickly now, and with it a huge pressure on the entire system.

Why I gravitated to the dusty tomes in my loft this week I don’t know. As I have been off work this week enjoying the sunshine, I took some time to rearrange my personal bookcase in the bedroom, with the four quadrants of my Billy bookcase organised from left to right (History, Science, Noetics and Nature). Alas, one book was missing (and I didn’t even know I was looking for it) in Steve Hagen’s Buddhism: Plain and Simple.

Eager to reread, I recalled buying it on iBooks several years ago, so spent some time this week refreshing my memory on the content, whilst the physical book remained hidden somewhere in the attic.

The book explains the concept of duhkha, not easily translated into English, but can be attempted by saying dissatisfaction or as the book puts it, those things that puts our wheel out of kilter.

The extract below details quite accurately explains the human condition today and how none of us really want any problems to deal with:

Once upon a time an affluent farmer approached Buddha with great hope. He prostrated before the sage and sought his blessings. Buddha raised his hand in benediction.

“O Venerable One!” the farmer said, “I have a major problem and I know only you can help me.”

Buddha kept quiet and the man went onto narrate that his good-for-nothing son was troubling him and that he was mad at his wife because she supported her son over him.

The man said, “Do something so their minds change and they realise how much I’m doing for them.”

“I can’t solve this problem for you,” Buddha replied and lowered his eyes again, in a meditative state.

The farmer told Buddha how he was worried about the upcoming harvest as the weather didn’t seem too favorable and the monkeys were destroying his crop.

“I can’t help you with this one either,” Buddha said calmly.

Still hoping in the powers of Buddha, he told him that many people owed him money and he was having hard time recovering it from his debtors. And that he too owed money to lenders and creditors. He asked Buddha if the sage could give him any remedy or amulet.

“Hmm…” Buddha said, “I can’t solve this problem for you.”

“What good are you then?” the man yelled. “Every one says you are the enlightened one and here you can’t solve any of my problems. Is there absolutely nothing you can do? I’m tired of my terrible life.”

“You see,” Buddha said patiently, as if he hadn’t heard the man’s tirade, “at any point in time, you’ll always have 84 problems in your life. The 84th is the key.

If you solve the 84th problem, the first 83 will resolve themselves.”

“Please solve my 84th problem then,” the man said, going back to being humble. “How do I do it?” he added.

“First, we have to identify your 84th problem.”

“What is my 84th problem?”

Buddha smiled and peered deeply into the man’s eyes that were full of desire, doubt and anxiety.

“Your 84th problem is,” Buddha said and paused, “you want to get rid of the first 83 problems.”

So whilst I understand that we can’t solve all of our problems, and that if we do pop a few off our list, inevitably a few new ones will be added, I felt it was time to actually document all of the things that cause me duhkha right now, and see if any (or all of them) are significantly increasing the size of the fatberg that grows within.

The process is the same as Step Four from the 12 Steps to Recovery programme those with serious addictions go through, and it was quite cathartic jotting those down and reflecting just how much each one was impacting my being.

The list below is a definitive one, and although no doubt others would add a few more, this captures enough for me to cogitate on for a while. They formed natural clusters once the list was complete, so it felt natural to categorise them:

Work

◦ I don’t like the ethics of the company I work for

◦ I don’t feel in control of my own career

◦ I don’t like my job

◦ I don’t trust my chain of command

Health

◦ I don’t like the ringing in my head (tinnitus)

◦ I don’t like the pain in my “man pipes”

◦ I don’t eat the right things, too much processed food

◦ I drink alcohol but I don’t like it’s effects any more

◦ I don’t exercise enough

◦ I don’t walk the dog enough

Mental Well Being

◦ I don’t relax enough

◦ I don’t do yoga enough

◦ I don’t do meditation enough

◦ I don’t speak nicely enough (curse too much)

◦ I don’t want to be stressed

Relationships

◦ I don’t have enough like-minded friends

◦ I don’t spend enough time socialising / connecting with friends

◦ I don’t spend enough time with my sister/niece

◦ I don’t speak to my parents

◦ I don’t like how I am too self-righteous and judge others on their actions/inactions

◦ I don’t like the way I judge others on how they look and not how they are

◦ I don’t do enough for others

Society

◦ I don’t like having a big mortgage

◦ I don’t like the way I spend too much money on things I don’t need

◦ I don’t like the way society is (broken) but do little to change it

Hobbies

◦ I don’t read enough books

◦ I don’t blog enough

◦ I don’t spend enough time learning the ukulele

◦ I don’t spend enough time with nature

◦ I don’t do enough sports

Being

◦ I don’t want to live my life without being enlightened

◦ I don’t connect with my higher self

◦ I don’t always make the right choices

◦ I don’t react well in conflict situations (too quick without thinking)

◦ I don’t like the way I want to control things beyond my control

◦ I don’t like acting upon my cravings rather than acknowledging them

◦ I don’t like feeding the addictions my ego desires (sugar, alcohol)

◦ I don’t always make the right choices

◦ I don’t like other people controlling what I do, how I look

It’s quite some list, and likely not unique either, I’m sure most of us have experienced some, most or all of them over time, and perhaps continue to do so.

The more serious ones, the ones impacting my mental and physical state of being, do need to be addressed now.

Acknowledging our duhkha list is, in my opinion, the first step to recovery and unblocking the sewer, just how we do that depends on many factors, but the overriding one for me is courage, courage to make difficult decisions or to change deeply engrained and programmed habits and behaviours.

To have that mindset, that ability and willingness to change, often needs a catalyst, and that will be the topic for my next blog.

Enter, The Ice Man, Wim Hof!

Ubuntu…

Let’s rip up modern conventions and start again.

In a world that is riddled with disparity, zealots and false philanthropy, it is difficult for some to see that there are alternatives out there. Such alternatives go completely against how our controlled society operates, but they do exist.

This week I open my door to Ubuntu. No I’m not wiping my hard drives of all Apple and Windows operating systems in favour of Linux (although the penguin is mega cute). I am, for the uninitiated (and I included myself in that up until last week), referring to the concept of Ubuntu philosophy – which is a collection of values which allows for human authenticity, with honest, ego-free individuals coming together into tribes, communities and micro-societies, with the emphasis on caring for others in the belief that a universal bond of sharing and supporting each other connects all humanity, free from power, greed and control.

“I am because we are”.

If we are to believe that we are one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, and everything in the Universe is interlinked, then having a set of core principles which brings us closer together (not fragmented further, more isolated) gives us a chance to become more in tune with the cosmos, and with each other.

My recent foray into a more sustainable and agrarian way of life at a local communal / cooperative allotment collapsed spectacularly recently, much to my disappoint (for many reasons I won’t go into). Here we had an opportunity to do something different, to put the middle finger up to the way standard society operated, but alas it wasn’t to be.

Bill the Wise…

Maybe it’s because we have had two super moons in quick succession (the last one happening tonight with a lunar eclipse). Everything is energy, including matter (which is energy condensed down to a slow vibration – another Bill Hicks quote in case you missed the first one above), and I really seem to suffer when such cosmic events take place. I have been all over the place the last couple of months, not being able to focus much on anything, a world away from the clarity and serenity I usually have. This will change from tomorrow as our closest celestial body buggers off back to where it belongs.

So why ubuntu? Well, the Universe moves in mysterious ways and quickly it seems when it sees an opening. A comrade and I took a herbal tea last Friday in our local cafe and chewed the fat over the sad demise of the allotment, at which point he pulled out two pieces of paper. Now time is a funny thing, as is energy. What happened next as he reached into his pocket was quite profound, and much resembled a video recording set to slo-mo. It took a long time to fetch the paper, almost double that time to unfold the two pieces wide so that I could read them. As he did (in what seemed like time out of space), the flow of energy into my being was something I’d not felt for quite sometime, what ever was about to be revealed was going to have some sort of positive and uplifting effect.

No shit! As I took hold of the parchments, the electricity surged around my body to awaken any cells that were still in “morning sleepy mode”, and with that a required focus. The pages are below:

The Time Bank…
The Activities…

Here we had a special moment, a vision of what I had been trying to find for some time now, like-minded people who want to push aside the norms of the day and operate in a way which levels everything.

Imagine, if you will, the middle-class IT consultant who banks two hours of time fixing a computer for someone who cannot afford the service fees, and exchanges that for a one hour basket weaving course by a bloke who lives in his van, and a one hour ukulele lesson from a local artist, both for his daughter without the exchange of a single penny.

The above is a real example of how it works, and for me is ubuntu. We all have skills, different skills, but have become accustomed to demand the exchange of money for such. That model clearly isn’t working, as it is breeding so much greed, power and control for the few (not the many), and so if we are to evolve, truly evolve I mean, then that system needs to be deconstructed, starting off in local tribes / communities.

The age of Aquarius is upon is, heralding significant change. I do hope that our local tribe tests out the Ubuntu model here and succeeds, my community is strong here so it stands a good chance if enough time and focus is given by the participants, and conflict or the current broken paradigm doesn’t play a part.

Mandela’s take on Ubuntu is below, if I can’t convince you, perhaps he can…

Life 1.0…

What is the meaning of life? What happens after we die? Is there an afterlife?

These questions (and many more) continue to remain unanswered and even unasked by the vast majority of the public, even more so given the current state of affairs.

Most people I know are queuing up, begging in some cases to be injected with what is (and will remain, until January 2023) an experimental and synthetic chemical on emergency licence. Whilst I have no view on individuals on whether they take or do not take the vaccine (the decision is entirely theirs to make, I hope), what has come to the fore is the fear of death.

I have looked after myself in more recent years, and as I approach the half century next year, I feel as if I have listened to my mind, body and soul to make the right decisions on my health and well-being of late.

I have already “lived a life’s that’s full” and “regrets I’ve had a few”, but as I near my twilight years, my physical form is in good working order, with an optimal weight / BMI, relatively balanced diet and exercise regime. As a result, I will not be taking the vaccine, on the basis that it is still in the experiment phase and any viral load I take in will not significantly increase my chances of mortality.

I do think that for some, the pandemic is a wake up call to look after themselves more, several conversations I’ve had over recent weeks have highlighted to many that their current condition needs addressing and that if the prediction of future pandemics becomes a reality (perhaps with more deadly strains) then now is the time to act. Of course the talking is easy, the doing is much more difficult, especially after such a long period of isolation mixed with the opportunity for socialising upon us (life opens up again in the UK tomorrow) and the habitual addictions still firmly rooted (sugar, processed foods, alcohol, prescription medicines etc).

One thing has become very apparent however, is the total fear of death from some. Some people I have spoken to our petrified of dying, too afraid to leave their houses still, as if expecting the reaper to be there waiting for them, scythe in hand as they open their front door.

Why is that? Is it because they are too young, because they haven’t done enough yet in life, because they have too many commitments, because of the fear of what comes (or what does not come) next? I suspect it is all of these and more.

As I have shared on this blog over the last decade, my fear of death has diminished to almost zero. Clearly when I do pass, I’d prefer (like everyone else) for it to be pain-free. Also, I’m not done yet, as I want to see my daughter grow up a little more and see her set foot on her own path (much like her two brothers have already done). Anything beyond that really is bonus time, my ikigai remains, and always will remain, my family, and once they are fully independent, my main life’s work is complete.

Bonus time for me is anything beyond fifty five (I do hope there is a lot of it!), which will coincide with the year I leave the corporate world, perhaps sooner. Once that happens, my intent is give back. I realise that I have probably done my fair share of take over the years which has not been counter-balanced by enough give (on the basis that time has been lacking somewhat), but with the distraction of work and bills to pay gone, the thought of what happens next excites me greatly.

I will look for a life polar opposite to what I have today, satisfying the need of my tribe and my community (in whatever form that takes – healing, support, training, wisdom) over the needs of my business and my shareholders.

And when the final day comes, I will embrace it with open arms, as I’m still a firm believer that life is not the opposite of death, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal…

Existential Epiphany…

Two weeks away from the organisation I work for has given me the opportunity for some serious contemplation time. Clearly I’ve always known that their bottom line is to make as much money as possible and provide its shareholders with the highest dividend-related pay-outs in accordance to the current market conditions. As time goes on however, its raison d’etre is becoming a bitter taste in the mouth, cleansed only by a glass of sulphate-free natural wine.

Maybe it’s because I am moving quite swiftly towards a new and more ecological path nowadays, that as each day passes, my attachment to the organisation becomes more meaningless, more pointless.

And as each day passes, more and more synchronicities are occurring giving me hints that I need to move on, almost like an esoteric and invisible elbow is nudging me in the ribs and towards the door. An unusual cloud formation, a lyric in a rock song, a conversation with a stranger are all pointing my compass needle away from its current direction.

Founding Fathers (and Mother) of Neo-Liberalism…

During the last few months, days and weeks, I have also come to the realisation that democracy is truly dead, globally, not just in the UK. I’m not well-read on the matter, but my current understanding is that the catalyst for our current state is the advent of neo-liberalism, defined by Wiki as the following:

“Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with economic liberalism and free-market capitalism. It is generally associated with policies of economic liberalization, including privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society”.

Naturally, perhaps, this led me to the door of Noam Chomsky, a name I had heard from in the past but hadn’t really had the opportunity to dive deeper.

Noam knows the score…

From what I have read and watched thus far, the neo-liberalist slippery slope began in the US in the 80’s, which moved society away from democratically elected constructs and nationalised industries and towards unelected big business calling the shots, all of which was introduced by Ronald Regan and Milton Friedman, with Margaret Thatcher (my anathema) as their evil and twisted counterpart on the other side of the pond.

It all starts to make sense to me now. The power that the current elite billionaires yield is so much more than that of governments, and just a quick glance at the pitiful corporation taxes companies like Amazon and Facebook pay globally effectively means it is they, the unelected upper echelons of society that are controlling the system, not elected officials who allegedly represent the greater good of the people.

Then we have the current batch of Tories, who have abused their elected powers for total cronyism, handing out billion pound contracts to their party funders, no doubt increasing their own personal wealth in the process.

So here we have a situation where the world is effectively run by big business, underpinned by corrupt governments, neither of which have the health and wealth of the people at heart, only personal wealth and power over others.

So knowing that no one has our back and there are no real alternatives out there at present, what real choices do we have. It is difficult, but we do have choices, and I have started to make those choices.

Humans only need five basic things to survive, clean air, clean water, food, shelter and sleep. The air where I live is free (at the moment!) and clean, the water I have to pay for (which I can’t really avoid just now) and includes various chemicals all of which I filter out before consumption, most of the food is sourced from local farms, butchers and dairies, my house is well-kept (although I am still mortgaged to big business which I hope to pay off as soon as I can) and I sleep well (all things considered).

Anything beyond the basics falls under comfortable living, but non-essential to sustain life. We have clearly evolved over the last few thousand years to do more than just exist, to have fun and enjoy the time we have here, advancing the species in the process. Sadly, not many of us have enjoyed the last eighteen months for the obvious reason, but for me and some of my new friends, we have come to the realisation that we can make a break for it, and leave the chaotic world behind.

That all starts with a reversion back to tribes. Our new cooperative is starting small, but is already bringing together strangers as friends, all with a common middle digit erected to the UK government and big business. Not only will our collective produce organic food for group consumption, it will act as an experiment to counter neo-liberalism. Clearly our collective aims are the same, but I guess we are all at various stages of enlightenment (socio-economic enlightenment as opposed to spiritual enlightenment), but I think as one “micro-movement”, we can look to the implementation of a different lifestyle, one not beholden to power-wielding constructs.

Naturally, this existential epiphany is leading me to conclude that an exit from my current organisation will happen sooner rather than later, I don’t think I can wait until my retirement in five years, my tenure is really is starting to grate on me too much.

Wish me and the wider cooperative luck…

Seaspiracy…

How much do we really know about industrial fishing and its impact on the environment? The answer is probably not much.

The common understanding is that there are a lot of plastics and micro-plastics in our oceans, put there by humans one way or another, which is having a negative impact on our aquatic ecosystem and that the fishing industry take out too many dolphins when trying to catch tuna.

Most of us are also probably aware that one can purchase “sustainable” fish products by reading the label on the tin (when it’s in a tin of course), and that there are several companies out there that sign up to sustainable fishing or that what you are about to purchase is a dolphin-free product.

But peel back the layers a little and you may find that the story is quite different.

Seaspiracy: A Netflix documentary…

I watched Seaspiracy this weekend, a new documentary on Netflix which follows a roving reporter whose initial scope was to find out how plastic discarded from humans was impacting our largest bodies of water. It quickly turns over some startling and sobering facts about where the vast majority of plastic comes from and how large scale industrial fishing severely impacts the health and well-being of the seas, its inhabitants and the environment in general.

It is alleged that almost half of the plastic in our seas is due to industrial fishing, that bottom trawling decimates wildlife and the seabed on a scale much higher that deforestation, and that the deaths of other wildlife being caught in the process known as bycatch (dolphins, sharks, whales and sea birds) is both huge and wasteful.

Bycatch, a bi-product of commercial fishing…

I literally had no clue about any of this and have never given a second when purchasing fish. I knew that commercial fishing probably had a negative impact on the seas ecosystem, but not to this extent.

Clearly one cannot just take the word of a single reporter and that of Netflix as gospel, fact checks (as far as one can do that) are required and there are of course several anecdotes and counterclaims bringing into question the validity and accuracy of the data and insights presented.

So much in the same way I did for Cowspiracy and the rather biased Planet of the Humans (sponsored by Michael Moore), I found that whilst some of the film making and segments may have been taken out of context and subsequently refuted by interviewees, I still came away with the notion that we have a big problem here and we need to make some informed and personal choices when buying fish. Like other sustainable goods and services (cars, energy, meat etc), the buck starts with the consumer and works backwards. If we make the decision to purchase or acquire a specific product, then the rules of supply and demand will kick in, as long as we are in a fortunate position to choose, sadly some are not.

Who’s line is it anyway…

I intend to do just that from now on. I typically only eat salmon, trout and tuna so going forward I will look to only buy line-caught products as advertised. I know this may not be the whole truth and I will pay more for the privilege, but I’ll take that chance. If I do eat such, I will look to have it endorsed by those affiliated companies (again on the basis that something is likely better than nothing).

A final thought did occur to me. In my youth I was an avid young angler, but only course fishing so catching carp, tench and the odd pike for sport.

My wife always said that firstly it was a boring sport just sitting there waiting for hours on end (which I counter-argued on several points), secondly it hurts and could potentially kill the fish (agreed) and lastly why did I not bring it home for the plate (those fish mentioned above you wouldn’t typically eat).

Fly Fishing (by J.R Hartley)…

This got me to thinking that once again, the only person I can trust in this crazy world is myself. I have been fly fishing twice in my life, and it is quite majestic, the art of casting and the chasing trout/salmon in pursuit of dinner that evening an exciting one. I also live two minutes away from the sea wall, which is fully occupied by anglers when the tide is high, all catching for their supper.

So in an effort to confirm that my fish are indeed line-caught, I will take it upon myself to catch them personally, thus taking another baby step to off-grid living…

Seedling Sanctuary…

Alas, the “Cabin in the Yard” project was cancelled before the virtual ink was dry on the graph paper (excel). The Dragons Den pitch to the wife was a solid one I thought, but the to-be space and light constraints were all too much for her and our rather tiny patio garden.

The decision was made after I had already ordered and paid for some new power tools that very morning, much to my disappointment, frustration and decreased account balance.

I guess on reflection it was the right decision, so the eco-lodge prototype for the eco-retreat will have to be built elsewhere, most likely the new allotment (so not the worst result).

So with a day off yesterday and unboxed tools screaming from their cupboard under the stairs to be used, I took it upon myself to test them out by building a seedling sanctuary / mini greenhouse, which will also get me some Brownie points with the “er indoors” as our internal living space will free from propagation units which will now be housed outdoors.

I have a new best friend, let me introduce you to the Dewalt Cordless Circular Saw (this is neither product placement nor marketing campaign – just an honest critique of an excellent tool). Why has my life been without one of these beauties for so long!

Dewalt 18v Cordless Circular Saw

I had already alerted my neighbour to a “period of intense swearing / cursing” as is customary when I do DIY. But after a full day of working, not a single expletive was uttered, except those targeted at B&Q for only providing lengths of 2.39m 2×2 and not the regulation 2.4m, which threw my measurements off (only realising this after I had cut a lot of the wood already).

The circular saw was so fast, easy and accurate, and very quickly the frame was up, with the other bits soon to follow:

Ready, set, go…
Frame up in record time…
Slats in…
Doors on, poly carbonate on…
Voila!

As I’ve stated, my joy comes from different things these days. The sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has been replaced with calmer and more sedate activities of late, yet I get the same dopamine highs from gardening and building things as I would have thrashing out to death metal, drinking myself stupid and getting laid (with the added bonus of not having a hangover, tinnitus spikes, black outs and possibly / probably upsetting people).

“The times they are a changing”…

Amazon Anonymous…

Me: “Hi. My names Infinity and I haven’t purchased any goods or services from Amazon in three days now”.

Group: “Hi, Infinity!”.

Where do I begin here. I guess at the beginning where most things start. I set up my Amazon account back in 2007, with my very first purchase being a copy of the RPG game Diablo II, which was ferried to my parents address in the UK during my summer leave and lovingly bubble-wrapped for the 7000 mile journey back to Kuala Lumpur where I had taken up residence.

The new AA…

Little did I know back then that this was start of something big. Big in terms of a shift towards online retail, but more a shift in the way marketing and consumerism was to take a hold of me as the years proceeded.

Of late, I have been sickened to the core apropos the exponential wealth growth of the likes of Messrs Musk, Gates and especially Bezos, as I was pretty sure that I was contributing to his Cheshire Cat grin as he bathes in dollars (digital or otherwise).

“Public” Enemy Number One…

Amazon don’t make it easy for you to obtain your own data, there is a convoluted process and Service Level Agreement of one month, whereas the data they have on you and your retail profile is there for their data, analytics and insights consultants at the touch of a button.

So my “big data” came through today, I could not believe just how big it was. I knew of course that I had been spending more and more money lining Bezos’s pockets as the timeline went from left to right over the years, but 2018 saw a huge spike in the amount spent. Why was that? Was it that I needed more things? Was it that those goods and services were no longer available on the high street? The answer was simply no I’m all fronts.

I had become an addict, a shopaholic, and impulse buyer without knowing it. Just like any addiction, it crept up on me until it was too late. Around that time, it is no coincidence that online marketing and social media profiling really took off, and I would say like most others I have been a victim of those aggressive “you must have this now” campaigns, like those “coincidental adverts” that come up on Google or Facebook for the items or things you were only just discussing with your friends and family.

The graph below is absolutely obscene. I knew I had spent a lot over more recent years, but just how much really knocked me for six:

The real need for AA – Amazon Anonymous…

Here we have a real trend, Christ I even have my very own Covid Gompertz curve!

That really is the power of advertising and consumerism right there. Clearly the machine got to me, or I allowed it to get to me. A grand total of over fifteen thousand pounds has been spent since I first set up that account, the vast majority of it since the Covid Lockdown first started in the UK exactly one year ago this week (23rd March 2020 – during which period I spent £9200). Covid has been a lucky break for the elite billionaires hasn’t it.

Looking back on my purchase history (briefly, as there are too many line items), not a great amount of goods or services have been for essential living, the vast majority have been gizmos and gadgets, most of which have been used, abused, broken and discarded no doubt.

Where most Amazon purchases end up…

So today, I deleted my Amazon account, the last hook I have in cyberspace (with the exception of this site and my also-anonymous YouTube account), and set up several donations to UK-based charities close to my heart (MIND, RNLI, Barnado’s and Shelter).

If I need things (I mean really need things) in the future, I will acquire them by other means (local means from local businesses), come up with alternative solutions or simply go without.

Lining the pockets of the richest man in the world whilst so many people are suffering should not sit well with any of us, it’s time we recognised this and did something about it…

The Plot Thickens…

Our communal and agricultural experiment has got off to a good start. When a collective forms of six individuals (and of course family members and to-be active players), it brings together people from all walks of life, each with their own backstory and points of view.

I can honestly say that it’s been a joy to converse with people on the exact same frequency as I am, all of us thus far intent on finding out successful methods of growing ones own healthy and organic food, keeping those pesky processed sugars at bay.

The 2D Plot…

One of our group had already sketched a plan for our plot before I jumped on board, so with my new found love of Minecraft (hey it’s not just a kids game right?), I took it upon myself to “3D-ise” the blueprints he had put down on graph paper so that we could all visualise what the plot could look like and where each component would be best placed for optimal use of the land.

I was very happy with the final output, which I’ve uploaded below.

The Plot Thickens…

We will meet up at the weekend to agree the final plan and start to order the poly tunnels and greenhouse, now that all of the compost has now landed and the temporary raised beds are under construction.

Looking forward to the next steps…