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…
What the future has in store for us is a point most debated just now given the state of things in the world. What is becoming clearer as the days turn into weeks and months, is that it will not be what we have been used to over the past few decades. Irrespective of the origins of Covid and which side of the debate one falls on, things will be different, change is inevitable.
I fall in and out of love with Russell Brand, who seems to float between his high-ego and higher-self a bit too regularly for my liking, but in general I think he has matured into a person who has the greater good at his core. Although he seems to sit on the fence a lot more these days, he offers up thoughts and themes for us to ponder on, no more so than his latest output on YouTube following the completion of Davos 2021:
It does appear that governments and big business have a flagrant disregard now for smoke and mirrors. The things they say and do are well and truly in the public domain, whether it be awarding contracts without tenders, billionaires updating their personal biographies with a single word which results in huge volatility in the stock markets increasing their own wealth, to some blatant messaging from organisations advising to the public they will own nothing, they will rent everything, and a huge majority will be displaced, but they will be happy.
Fundamentally, it comes down to a binary decision (like most things seem to do these days); does one go with the flow or not. Masks, vaccines, guideline compliance, political alignment and consumerism, we either do or do not. Control and self-control are two key aspects of the human condition, ultimately we either offer up the control of the self to others and have our outcomes decided for us, or we apply self-control and choose our own outcomes (although that too can be influenced by others).
I’ve long admired Steven Wilson and have waited patiently for his new album The Future Bites (annoying the title and the tracks are all in uppercase, a thing this pedant can overlook, just!). As creative output has been very limited over the last twelve months, the album was on repeat for the whole day yesterday, at the end of which I was (as per usual) rather impressed. Wilson continues to depart from traditional arrangements and instruments, and whilst this album uses electronica in most of its songs, its still has that unmistakably Wilson feel to it. It may irk the purists who see him make in-roads into the world of pop-rock and away from prog, but it is lyrically sublime as always, irrespective of the accompanying tune; a very accurate critique of the human condition, and all too familiar to the listener and reader of his post-modern poetry.
At the core, Wilson shares his own view on the rank state of play at present, with an overarching message that we have entered a period of devolution, a period which is seeing us break away from tribes, traditions and a sense of community, and moving towards a world consumed by image, self-worth, mindless consumerism and materialism. There is also a nod to the fact that social media is a plague of its own, a virtual cancer that eats away at compassion and decency. I have not had any online presence (besides this anonymous blog) for over eighteen months now and I’m better for it. Others close to me sometimes share titbits with me, often to my utter horror. Friends I have had since my school days are taking to such platforms to share the most bilious and vile rhetoric and insults, demoting them from friends through acquaintances to people I once met.
Music can be, and often is, a channel for talented individuals to use their prowess and influence to draw attention to the problems we face as a race, putting across to the listener a message (clear or otherwise – and that is the beauty about it, we can take what we want from a song and turn it into something deep and meaningful to us) which can often be more powerful than what is presented by the authorities via their preferred media channel outlets.
For those who have not heard of Steven Wilson, his entire back catalogue is on Spotify (all forty studio albums), which includes his early days in Porcupine Tree and splinter projects and collaborations (Storm Corrosion, Blackfield, No-Man), but a good place to start is Insurgentes, the opening track of his first solo album, and one of his best songs to date).
I have no doubt that the future will indeed bite, but no doubt there will probably be a vaccine for that, too…
Way back in 1965, Peter Watkins wrote, directed and produced a “mock-umentary” called The War Game, a documentary film that depicted nuclear war in the UK and its aftermath, which caused dismay within the BBC and the government at the time, and as such it was subsequently withdrawn from the TV schedule before the provisional screening date of October 1965.
The BBC claimed that the effect of the film was judged to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting.
The film eventually premiered at the National Film Theatre in London in April 1966 to critical acclaim, taking the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1967, but it still didn’t hit the UK TV screens until 1985, the week before the fortieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and the day before a repeat screening of Threads, a TV film which gave another dramatic account of nuclear war and its affects on the UK city of Sheffield, the plot centring on two families as the confrontation between the US and USSR erupted. The film depicted the medical, economic, social and environmental consequences of nuclear war.
I don’t recall either of these pieces (but I did watch The War Game today – incredibly bleak with some potential fallout of what we could go through in a post-Covid worst case scenario) but do fondly remember going to see War Games with Matthew Broderick which was released in 1984 in UK cinemas.
It was Christmas 1984 that I got my first computer (ZX Spectrum 48k) and much to my disappointment it never worked (due to it being bought from a bloke in the pub, later finding out that orange juice, with perhaps a double measure of gin had eaten away at its primordial motherboard).
War Games itself was exciting, a nerd proficient in something a bit more advanced than a “specky”took part in a computer simulation called Global Thermal Nuclear War, a game which quickly escalated into a very real and very dangerous exercise when it becomes apparent that the simulator is in fact hooked up to the live nuclear weapons system of the US.
Bizarrely and coincidentally, the very first city that was targeted in the film was my home town of Liverpool. Of all the towns and cities in the UK (and world for that matter), they had to use my town as a test case.
And here we are, thirty six years later and once again, my home town is being used as a test case for an invisible war. Three weeks ago it was the first town in the country to go into Tier 3 lockdown, an experiment to see if tighter restrictions worked (in terms of bringing down the R rate) and to see how the hardened population would react to it (how compliant we are).
Yesterday, it was determined (once again) that Liverpool would be another test case for mass coronavirus testing, with the army turning up in droves to stake out positions across the city to test up to half a million people (a pre-cursor for the so-called Operation Moonshot, mass and frequent testing across the length and breadth of the country costing a projected £100bn).
As it turns out, despite scenes of long queues from tight camera angles, the turnout on Day 1 was relatively poor, and the intense testing schedule is due to carry on for a further nine days, post-which the authorities will see what the R rate is like and how complaint the people have been. The test centre set up in Toxteth remained desolate all day (“Lest We Forget”).
With all of that said, I went for a walk with my good pal “M” this morning, deliberating, cogitating and ruminating on what was going on over the River Mersey and discussing our own views when the testing inevitably makes its way over to us on the world famous ferry, sharing that everything seemed to be playing out like a Hollywood movie and my admiration for the movie War Games which he had never seen.
On the way home, I decided to pen the below, a work of fiction. The piece is not a conspiracy theory that I believe in (fully), it posits how things may be and how they may turn out.
Those that believe in the multiverse and Everts Many World Interpretation will concede that in one of the infinite amount of universes, the content below plays out exactly, and that probability and chance dictates that the odds of this playing out in this one is a value over 0.0%.
Act One : Inception
A group of wealthy elites convene a meeting to discuss the future of Planet Earth.
It is clear that the projected population explosion, fragile geopolitical landscape and degrading biosphere will put at serous risk everything they have achieved (and hope to achieve).
The group decide that a plan of action is required at set out a series of activities that will not only restore the balance to the biosphere, but will put them in a position of power and control for generations to come.
The first action is to create a highly contagious but low-mortality rate virus (<1%) to fit the needed plan. The manufactured virus is a novel coronavirus used as the “primary strain” and is developed from existing pathogens (SARS-COVID-1). The second action is to create a “secondary strain”, which acts as a weaponized version of the primary strain with a much higher infection/mortality rate (>30%) as a backup plan, ready to be released but only if needed.
Create and fund a vaccination programme and roll out plan so it’s capable of being rolled out on a global scale and seen as the only solution to combat the virus. Once the plan has been initiated, be prepared to downplay and shut down any potential treatments (like hydroxychloroquine) and continue to echo that the only cure that is viable to fight this virus is the vaccine. Make it mandatory that the population have vaccinations to attend workplaces, cultural events, travel between regions and countries and introduce biomedical passports.
Create and fund a global crypto-currency to replace the current economic / banking model and introduce a Universal Basic Income with the plan to migrate all low paid workers to it. At the same time, develop a biometric chip which will be administered via the vaccination programme, whereby population movement and biometric / physical data will be monitored constantly, with the population earning credits which are uploaded to their biometric chip, credits which can be exchanged for goods and services.
Act Two: Initiation
The primary strain of the virus is released, with the primary narrative being natural in its evolution, its origin / epicentre being a market where the contamination of the food chain takes places via an unfortunate jump from animal species to humans.
As a back up, the secondary narrative is that the virus escaped from a laboratory by accident, the outcome being the same, a localised infection.
As the virus takes a grip on the local community, downplay human-to-human transmission for as long as possible to allow the primary strain to spread on a country then region then global scale, before any country can lock down respond to avoid initial infection.
Once a country has seen infection in situ, lock down incoming and outgoing travel to keep the transmission within the country, spreading for as long as possible.
Once enough people in a country are infected, enable strict national lockdown restrictions to emphasise the severity of the situation to test initial compliance and resistance.
Overhype the mortality rate by tying the primary strain to deaths that have little to nothing to do with the actual virus to keep fear and compliance at maximum levels. If anyone dies for any reason and is found to have the virus, consider it a virus death. If anyone is thought to have had symptoms of the virus, assume they have it, and mark it as a virus death on death certificates and national statistics.
Keep the public in lockdown for as long as possible to break the countries economic model, create civil unrest, break down the supply chain, and cause the start of mass food shortages. Lockdown will weaken the immune system of the population due to a lack of interaction with human and environmental bacteria.
Continue to drag out the lockdown over and over again causing fear and unrest which will eventually lead to compliance from further parts of the population, with others standing up to resist. Bring in more powers of enforcement by threatening fines and imprisonment for non-compliance. Increase the amount of, and visibility of, the police and armed forces to further increase the fear amongst protesters, weakening resistance.
Set up detention centres for those that do not comply, introduce enhanced arrest and detainment powers and relocate protesters until they agree to comply and take the vaccine / biometric chip.
Act Three: Escalation
Should the initiation phase fail (due to non-conformity or lack of / delayed progress), move to the primary escalation phase.
Increase the amount of testing in all regions and report a significant increase in the R rate whilst launching a proactive media campaign against anti-establishment / non-conformists and put the sole blame for the current situation on them, turning the population against each other, effectively doing the governments work for them.
Enforce lockdowns at a much more extreme level (6 to 12 months of total lockdown) increasing the penalties for defiance. Deem all travel as non-essential. Increase checkpoints, including military assistance. Take full control of food, energy supplies, and create large scale shortages so that people can only get access to essential products or services if they conform.
If the majority of population go against the inception phase and the primary escalation phase, then initiate the secondary escalation phase by releasing the “secondary strain” (30% mortality rate) on the population as a final measure to punish the minority to conform.
Act Four: End Game
Once full control is in place, initiate The Great Reset by moving the population into smart cities (whilst reallocating assets to the elites), reskill workers, reclaim rural areas, create wilderness zones, restore soil health, reduce global population through control measures and biometric monitoring.
Whilst the planet recovers, society is completely divided into the haves and the have nots.
End state is realised.
Clearly works of fiction make for good books, films, and TV, and whilst the above is more than likely not going to be realised, it is interesting to see how much (if any) of the above comes true.
Let’s hope the only realisation is a global recovery programme which is fully inclusive, a society which achieves the following:
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Let’s hope the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as outlined above happens and we all live in peace, with the freedom to live our own lives without the strong arm of the law calling the shots…
Steve Jobs’ last words. He died a billionaire at 56. He may not have inspired me in life [although I respected his outputs as an admirer of Apple products], but he did in his impending death.
I enjoy the relationships and friendships I have forged at work over everything else. The kudos, recognition, monetary awards, appraisals, promotions and company shares mean literally nothing to me. If I leave my company at some point in the future with a little black book of names, full to the brim peoples names and numbers who have declared an interest to keep in touch with me, I will know that I have succeeded…
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes my life is an epitome of success.
However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.
At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.
Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.
When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – “Book of Healthy Life”. Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.
Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat yourself well. Cherish others.
As we grow older, and hence wiser, we slowly realize that wearing a $300 or $30 watch – they both tell the same time…
Whether we carry a $300 or $30 wallet/handbag – the amount of money inside is the same;
Whether we drive a $150,000 car or a $30,000 car, the road and distance is the same, and we get to the same destination.
Whether we drink a bottle of $300 or $10 wine – the hangover is the same;
Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq ft – loneliness is the same.
You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.
Whether you fly first or economy class, if the plane goes down – you go down with it…
Therefore.. I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth…. That is true happiness!!
Five Undeniable Facts of Life:
1. Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be Happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things not the price.
2. Best awarded words in London … “Eat your food as your medicines. Otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food.”
3. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because even if there are 100 reasons to give up he or she will find one reason to hold on.
4. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only FEW really understand it.
5. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!
NOTE: If you just want to Walk Fast, Walk Alone! But if you want to Walk Far, Walk Together!
Looking back at the output timeline on this blog reveals many things. Intense periods of writing where creative juices are flowing sees posts flying in from all directions, powered by conscious experience and time to document, catalog and share. At other times, relative epochs go by where pen never touches paper (or fingers strike on back-lit keys as it is nowadays).
The one-directional arrow of time (if there is such a thing), never appears to change, seconds, minutes, hours and days when objectively measured will confirm that. Subjectively however our perception of time periods can change, periods of joy may render time to be fleeting whereas pain appears to elongate time.
The pendulum of the human experience seems to swing between two points (order and disorder; low entropy and high entropy). I only have to review this site’s content to realise that extended periods away from the keyboard herald high entropy, disorder and chaos. Twenty Twelve (my original annus horribilis) was equally as light as Twenty Eighteen in terms of posts, both years extremely challenging for different reasons and I’m glad to see the back of them.
Twenty Twelve was the year that I did everything for myself and forgot who I was, Twenty Eighteen was the year that I did everything for everyone else and forgot who I was.
We all strive for a life of balance, a physical and metaphysical equilibrium so in-sync with each other that we function at optimum levels. When things slip beyond the median point, they slip so very quickly and migrate away from harmony and onto discord, more often than not due to the ineffectiveness of our metaphysical state.
Change does not help and although change is constant and inevitable, too much change can turn a shoreline wave lapping peacefully on the turning of the tide to a mega-tsunami heading straight towards us with no obvious means of escape. Avoid it we must and avoid it we do, learning lessons from it to review where things have gone wrong and what we need to do to move the needle back to the centre point (until the next time).
I’ve pledged to my other half (for the second time in the lifetime of this blog – things really do seem to go around in seven year cycles as the Buddhists say…) that Twenty Nineteen will be one of adventure and positive experience, only today we sat down and soaked up all Thirty days annual leave that I have, planning to explore places old and new, ancient and modern, with and without our children.
So in the immortal words of John and Yoko “… Happy New Year, Let’s hope it’s a good one, Without any fear …”
“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a Samsung television with cinema sound. Choose a range cooker and integrated appliances, a Mazda CX-5 Sport, iPhones One through X and Sauvignon Blanc wine chillers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and a manageable Body Mass Index. Choose a tracker mortgage. Choose a timeshare. Choose a move to the capital and an affordable pied-a-terre. Choose a minimalist wardrobe in fifty shades of grey. Choose three different waistcoats in a range of fabrics. Choose listening to Radiohead on your meditation chair. Choose watching thought-provoking Netflix documentaries about Di-Methyl-Tryptamine. Choose Lego building days. Choose retiring from the rat race at the end of it all, enjoying your last years without listening to the demands of shareholders. Choose your future. Choose your friends. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? Actually, I do choose life. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got love…”
We are all, to some extent, subsumed and consumed by capitalism and consumerism, seemingly perma-fixed into the cyclical behaviours society deems necessary for us to function properly. Life it seems, continues to devolve on a daily basis as we move away from marvelling at the wonders of Life, the Universe and Everything to being preoccupied with treading a path of materialism and the possession of things.
There comes a time during most white collar careers (being it fleeting or perennial) when the daily slog around the corporate treadmill becomes too much to bear and the dream of quitting the “rat race” becomes a desired outcome, a desire in fact over everything else.
We define the concept of “rat race” as a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power in an endless, self-defeating and pointless pursuit. This exhausting, repetitive lifestyle leaves little quality time for enjoyment or spiritual fulfilment and ultimately leads to stress, anxiety and eyes fixed on the nearest exit sign (via any means of escape).
I’ve been there many, many times over the last twenty five years of employment. On several occasions, I have come to the conclusion that a life less hectic away from the corporate ziggurat and into a new career would bring the required level of happiness and satisfaction (whatever that level is), yet each time I have chosento stay on the same path as I have to consider not only myself in each decision, but those around me who rely on my support.
As time goes by, responsibility diminishes and with that the realm of creative opportunity opens up so that alternative careers and lifestyles become achievable.
A retrospective look over the last two and a half decades has seen that things have worked out for the better each time a major life decision was to be made based on informed and sound choices and taking chancesthat bring about positive change.
From experience, there are two key questions that need answering before any major life decisions are made:
1. What realistic and alternative choicesare there?
2. What are the chancesthat changescan bring about positive outcomes?
Those who believe in free will or self-determination will concede that there are seemingly infinite possibilities in life and the choicesthat we make (to paraphrase quantum physics parlance) collapse all other available pathways so that outcome of such decisions produces what we know as consensual reality (created without external influence).
Then there is chanceand probability. If there are seemingly infinite possibilities in life, then there is a certain probability attached to each choicewe make, which although subjective, determines whether the decisions we make will bring about a better (or worse) experience for us.
Changeoccurs only once we have committed to making a choicebased on the best chanceof likely positive outcome.
Ultimately, each and every choicewe make is ours and ours alone to make as we act out those decisions both physically and meta-physically, but a significant amount of decisions are influenced by third parties. Family, friends, colleagues, organisations and legislation help and/or hinder those choicesand our life-journey is shaped accordingly.
The choiceto surround ourselves with those who have positive influence in our lives is also ours.
When I look back at my life thus far, I have removed those who exerted a negative influence (fear) on my choices and instead surrounded myself with positive people (love), and whilst certain decisions have brought about shock and horror to some, my life and the life of those I care for is richer and better for it.
Life is an adventure, a joyous adventure and if we do only get one crack at it (well one that we can remember) then we must always make the right choices and with chanceon our side we can changeourselves, those within our immediate vicinity and eventually the wider world for the better.
Ouroboros. Kundalini. Eliade. Reincarnation. Cyclical time. All of these are antiquus terms to describe the eternal return, in that Life, the Universe and Everything recurs until the point at which the soul (or self depending on your outlook) has matured enough to understand the true meaning of existence and no further lessons need learning.
And so it is with me. This year was always going to involve significant decisons and marked change. My position and the physical office I was attatched both became obsolete due to a strategic change in policy, meaning that staff had to relocate to London, Bengaluru, Den Hague or Houston or face redundancy (albeit with a golden handshake).
Earlier this year (as this blog advised) I had resigned myself to moving on to pastures new, paying off a significant portion of my commercial and financial committments and finding a new position in a new company. That decision in itself came with the stark realisation that our long term plan (the wife and I) of retiring at fifty-five and leaving behind the conglomerates and corporations to venture out across the globe in search of peace, love and understanding was dead in the water.
Not only was that a rather depressing thought after making abitious plans, but also was the actual reality of finding alternative employment at a significantly reduced rate of pay (due to the fact that this country is still very much London-centric and the concept of a “Northern Powerhouse” is simply a hollow promise from a woeful and totally inept government).
So too was the realisation that I would most likely have to go contracting again until another permanent position came up, which in itself would mean that I would have to travel again and with that the uncertainty and insecurity a life of short term job hopping brings.
The alternative was of course to change career and lifestyle completely, giving up on the broken capaitalist system we all find ourselves in today by downscaling our operations; selling the family home and car to something more affordable and green, reducing the monthly overheads and finding a job with less pay and a spiritual uplift but that “hippy path” would bring with it so much change and resistance that I had no doubt that the family unit as a whole would not entertain that, not even for one second (and perhaps I’m not even ready for that, yet).
Then something changed. My manager left the company mid-year and was replaced by one of the most inspiring leaders I have come across in a long time, who managed to convince me that I was a valued member of staff and would continue to be so should I change my mind and relocate to London.
After some serious contemplation and family discussion, we decided that I would move. From a personal perspective, the decision was arguably the most difficult one I have ever had to make. Here we had a carbon copy of the position we found ourselves in when we came back from Malaysia; the family in the North and the father farther South, two hundred miles away from his spiritual epicentre. Geographical displacement is one thing, spiritual disconnection is something quite more significant.
As I have scribed on many occasions, my wife and I drifted apart last time, almost to the point where we were no more. Only the finest and brittle of filaments existed and it took months if not years to turn that thin strand to a bond of steel once again as it is today (I hope). In project parlance, the change we now face introduces a significant risk which we are trying to mitigate by putting firm actions in place to make sure the same thing does not reoccur.
If that was not enough, our situation has now become identical, an exact facsimile of time gone by. When we returned from living aboard we tore down the walls of our house, stripping everything back to the bare brick and starting over, whilst at the same time I had to work in London every week. Last week a sink hole appeared in our kitchen and once I peeled back the layers of flooring, a great many things were revealed. First was the stench of old things, rotten to core. Then it was the darkness I was staring into, a deep and vacuous void that exists underneath. Then it was the stress and chaos of putting all of the broken things right.
So here I am, a Scouse version of Phil Connors, staring directly at the groundhog pleading for guidance and moral support, pleading that I did learn the lessons from last time so I don’t repeat the exact same self-centred mistakes of yesterday today…
The Human. The Man/Woman. The Husband/Wife. The Father/Mother. The Son/Daughter. The Brother/Sister. The Uncle/Aunt. The Friend. The Citizen. The Worker. These are but a few of the roles we act out on the world stage but are they a true reflection of who we really are? Have we been coerced into such archetypes by others, too afraid to change and reveal who we really are? If we were to strip all of the roles away until only the basic elements of existence was left, bound by no rules or expectations, what would be revealed?
The more roles we adopt (choice or otherwise) the more complex our game of life becomes. With added complexity comes conflict and conformity; conflict in terms of competing requests from others and conformity in terms of abiding by the rules that come with the roles we play. Gluing all of our roles and rules together presents the outward facing “I” to others; an amalgam of all of the various parts that make up our personality.
However, what we present on the outside is invariably not what we are at the core, our true self often remains hidden because at times it is easier to play by the rules of the game of life and adopt a path of least resistance. If we were to truly function from our inner self rather than the multi-faceted ego we have created over time, it would reveal who we really are.
I recently questioned my role of “The Worker”. I have been forced to change roles recently and whilst I have always welcomed change in the workplace, this temporary downwards step has revealed a certain unhappiness in me which has brought into question (not for the first time) my “being” within the company. It’s safe to say my journey over the last thirteen years has been somewhat bi-polar in that my one-hundred-and-fifty-seven month tenure thus far has seen incredible highs and ridiculous lows. I know that in all likelihood I will be leaving the company at the end of this year yet felt somewhat reluctant to tread water presently as the role is bringing boredom and value-less activities to a whole new level.
Here’s is where the “roles rules” kick in. Do I speak up now declaring a vocational epiphany and risk being kicked out of the company earlier than I would have liked? Do I pretend to like the job I’m doing on the off chance I may get a stay of execution beyond the planned leaving date? Do I tread water until the end of the year and take the money and go and find something beyond which may enrich my game?
Here’s is where the “roles complexity” kicks in. Do I do what the inner self is guiding me to do or do I let the influence of characters within the game of life (some of which listed above) dictate and influence what should happen next?
So last week I made that decision and told my manager to release me as soon as possible. I have grown very tired of life within this fractured organisation satisfying the needs of a few people with tasks that have no benefit to me or my “career”. People tread water and put up with things for far too long in life, too afraid that change may be bad and maintaining the status quo is the right thing to do. The right thing to do, those words when put together are seldom subjective, they always seem loaded in favour of external influence. What is truly the right thing to do, only we can decide that for ourselves and we should not follow blindly what society has programmed us to believe in its version of the right thing to do.
So I have taken a leap of faith that will change my situation for the better or worse. Financially I will owe “the man” a lot less after paying off a major chunk of my mortgage and with that comes a freedom to explore opportunities which may not pay as well, but may be far more enjoyable than what I am currently doing.
Remember folks, it’s just a ride:
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while.
Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family.
This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride.
And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.
Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride.
Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.” – R.I.P Bill Hicks…
Magnum opus or opus magnum, from the Latin meaning “great work”, refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of an artist.
Taking a snapshot of history, many figures have produced their magnum opus: Shakespeare has his Hamlet, Da Vinci has his Mona Lisa, Brando has his Godfather and Bon Jovi have their Slippery When Wet.
Recently, I pondered on the phrase magnum opus and whilst I am not an artist, I took time on it to reflect on what (if at all) my magnum opus would be and how it came to be. I’m no writer, no painter, no actor, nor musician, but what I regard as my masterpiece thus far is my children (and my wife takes fifty percent of the credit of course).
Modern life is such a complex thing, adding three children into the mix could herald additional dangers to leading the “perfect life”, but with risk comes great reward as the following will document.
I met “J” when he was just two years old in a chance meeting around the renovated docks of my old home town. Trying to blow away the memories of a Friday night down at the club, the cool and chilly sea breeze coming in off the Mersey seemed to be doing the trick. After walking for a while I bumped into what was to be my future bride with a pushchair in hand, trying to shake off a guy who she had unfortunately swapped numbers with whilst under the influence the previous night.
I was a single person at the time and had been living alone for over a year, and for a serial “relationship-ist” a year was long enough. At twenty seven, one comes to terms with the fact that future partners may or may not have children and once I had passed the quarter century mark that didn’t really concern me (although it may have others).
When our eyes met, there was a something; some metaphysical gravity instantly fused us together and it was not long before we had our first date and although there have been rocky roads in between we are still together seventeen years on, as strong as ever.
To say “J” was a handful at the start was putting it mildly, our first true meeting was on a train for a trip to Newcastle and I’ll always remember the very first words he said to me after settling into our seats for the next four hours. Looking deep into my eyes and with incredible force for a young boy he exclaimed “You’re not my Dad!”. Ouch…
His tantrums were legendary. He was a floor dancer, every time he didn’t get his way he would drop to the floor, kick and scream and run around his own head whilst prostrate, a skill Homer Simpson knows only too well.
In time things began to settle down and mum and him moved in with me, stability in his own home life reflected in his mannerisms and by the time a new addition to the family came along, he was great. He took ownership of the big brother mantle and gave it is all, taking his first steps into being responsible for something and he did it very well.
“J” was very bright and did well at school, going to his mum for reading and me for maths and his progress was solid (especially maths and science). He also started to develop a passion for martial arts and quickly started to progress through the coloured belts in Taekwondo until I had a call from the new boss who asked me if I would like to take up an expat posting in Malaysia for three years. After some serious consideration (family & friends versus opportunity), we decided to take on the challenges South East Asia cared to throw at us and left.
Before we left, his grandma on his father’s side pulled me aside and expressed her deep gratitude to me. Taken aback slightly I asked her why, and she said that the love and support I had shown for “J” in a society which often treats step-children and lesser mortals had made him into the remarkable young man that now stood before us, those words humbling me deeply.
“J” took a little while to settle into his new school, forgetting books and equipment on a regular basis and initially falling behind as change is something he continues to struggle with (as do I; as do we all). Once he had settled in though, he started to deliver and deliver well. The international school he went to was at the time in the top twenty international schools in the world (now ranked second) so the education and opportunities it gave him mixed with travelling to far off and exotic places and continued support offered by his mother and I gave him (in my opinion at least) a solid foundation in life and what can be achieved through drive and positivity.
When our three years were up, we came back to the UK, back to the old house, back to the old Taekwondo School and “J” was accepted into grammar school where he shined and excelled as predicted (acquiring his black belt in record time too). Deciding that college was not his thing, he instead took up an apprenticeship where once again he attained top of the class status and he continues on well today in the workplace, already off the family payroll.
As previously stated, some children can be a handful when they are young and some can be angelic. When “L” was born, he was the later – a polar opposite to “J” (noting the obvious behavioural changes would follow and they did, oh the drama…). He literally slept like a baby; he was charming from the outset, never cried at all, never played up and was a happy baby. It was apparent very early on that not only from a behavioural perspective, personality wise “J” and “L” were also dichotomised. “J” is very structured and academic, whereas “L” is chaotic and creative, and that came out early on in school.
“L” was always performing whether it be in class or on small productions, and some of those performances came home with him too which we quickly got on to and dealt with. Whenever there was an opportunity to get on stage or grab the limelight he was always first to raise his hand. He dealt with the move to Malaysia probably better than all of us put together, settling in to his new class and making friends very easily. He did well academically, but again he shined in the school plays (acquiring the role of Harry Potter in the last performance before we came back to the UK).
Once again “L” settled back into his old school very easily, regaling his old (and new) friends of tales from far off lands and countries most had never heard of. He also took up a place in the local drama club (which he quickly outgrew) and moved instead to the premier drama school on this side of the Mersey and whilst there he went from strength to strength, landing actor of the year two years running (awards from UK film director Mark Heller and UK actor Celyn Jones). Once again, he felt that he needed to move to further stretch himself as a budding thespian so joined Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where he continues to excel today. He has also appeared on UK television as an extra in Hollyoaks, getting a real buzz and insight into full televisual performance and what goes on behind the scenes.
In school “L” is also well liked and is not far behind “J” now in terms of academic performance, again his focus on working hard and being positive about the things he does will no doubt bring the associated rewards.
If there was ever a time to redress the gender balance in our family, Malaysia was the time. My wife could not have worked even if she had wanted to as she was only given a “Spouses Visa” which meant she was subjected to three years of sun, relaxation and coffee mornings so we had the opportunity to try for the girl she had always wanted and as if by some divine magic (or flip of a Cosmic coin) out popped “K” two years into our expat stint.
“K” was very much like “L” in terms of her baby and infant behaviours; sleeping well and never throwing any tantrums. Much like “L” she took to school very well and again was always first in line to perform, never shying away from the opportunity to stand up and narrate, dance, act or sing (and has since joined her brother at LIPA as it’s “buy one get one half price”).
What makes “K” is her endearing nature to others, be it friend, family or animals. I know I’m biased as all parents are, but in terms of all-round-loveliness she really is a model young citizen of Planet Earth. She has been selected many times already by her peers as School Councillor and instead of asking for gifts last birthday she asked to sponsor an animal (Sumatran Tiger) at the local zoo.
I guess it’s a little early to tell what life will throw at her and what path she will choose, but so far it’s working.
Life is balance. Balance is life.
Having the right balance in life is the most important thing. The Yin-Yang principal holds true with bringing up children too.
It is the balance between nature and nurture. It is finding the happy medium between doing things with the kids and doing things for the kids. When the balance is out of kilter on the “for the kids” front, a lack of independence can very easily lead to what I have coined “barnacle-ism”, creating that invisible rod for your own back by doing too much for the kids so that they don’t have too. Much in the same way, doing too much “with the kids” and not giving them the freedom to develop their own interests and relationships can very easily lead to what I have coined “crutch-ism”, making it difficult to choose their own path without have the parental support to guide them.
Looking at my three children, I think they have the balance in the right proportions at present, which sometimes means a nudge from me or my wife when the scales of justice start clanging heavily in one direction.
I look at my kids passions and they are twofold. Some are shared passions with me (music, film, theatre and some sports) and some are not shared passions (martial arts, amateur dramatics).
As they get older the shared passions we have dissipate somewhat as they find their own way in life and that’s already starting to happen.
Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher
During one of our many weekend trips to the mega-malls of Kuala Lumpur, one day I noticed a huge billboard on the side of the road with a quote from Oprah Winfrey:
At first glance, I was taken aback. OK I understood that Oprah had a pretty horrendous time when she was younger but to only surround yourself with positive people was surely not a reality we all live in as many individuals in our lives have issues and as result, negativity attaches itself to both them and to you by proxy.
That comment lay dormant at the back of my mind and every now and again popped up and my answer was always the same, I simply did not agree. That was until a few years back, when I saw for the first time just exactly the message that Oprah was trying to get across.
When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, like everyone else who is associated with it, your world changes. All of a sudden the happy path of life branches off down a dark and as yet untrodden path and there is little you can do to avoid it. Cancer does not discriminate. Yoga, meditation and reiki cannot help the victims of cancer; only materialism can, by means of synthetics (chemicals) or surgery.
So here we had a situation where negativity was forced upon us, and we were floundering. At that time, both my aunt and uncle were also diagnosed with cancer (albeit more aggressive and terminal in nature) and as a result (being a positive person) I spent as much time with them as I could before the reaper took them, whilst at the same time looking after my own.
Sadly, my own extended family did not offer the same level of support to my wife and I either pre or post-surgery, we were left to deal with everything alone which didn’t sit well with me, but deal with it we did and as this blog has well documented over the years, we nearly never made it. Ultimately this resulted in a “contract termination” with my extended family, but not due to the lack of support during those dark times, but due to the negative influences they had on me and my own.
After rekindling my search for enlightenment, I have looked to alternative sciences for answers, Buddhism and consciousness studies have kept me well entertained and pondering the meaning of life over the last few years now. More recently, I have looked to justify my decision to walk away from the bloodline to see whether it was (and still is) just.
From a parental perspective, I see them wholly as very negative people behind the scenes. The personas they portray to friends and family are polar opposite to what they truly are. I have deconstructed my early years recently and come to the conclusion that their negativity has influenced me. Alcoholism, Atheism, drug use, infidelity, corporate fraud, misogyny, racism and a lack of support and morality are the true causes of negativity during my formative years, all of which were kept very much behind closed doors.
Thankfully, I had the (as yet unaware) foresight and wherewithal to know at the age of eighteen that this constant was grinding me as a person down and as a result I left home. Sadly, my sister was younger than me and suffered the same fate as our parents. It really was a tough decision to run for the hills but something inside me said that it was the only way to break the circle of despair and even today I live with that decision.
Even though times were a little grim for me growing up at times, they were of course not as grim as some other folks I know. Over the years I have truly tried to reconcile things with both parents and sibling but their pattern is ever-concrete.
I know I get accusatory looks and comments from friends and excommunicated family members who judge me as a person for deciding to walk the path alone, and leaving behind the chaos and bloodline responsibility. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of them (or in more recent times unconsciously dream of them on a very regular basis), but what I have to ask myself is do I want my children, my magnum opus to be surrounded by chaos and negativity all because society deems family unit cohesion sacrosanct and unbreakable irrespective of circumstance.