Songs That Make Me Think: ‘Time, As A Symptom’ by Joanna Newsom

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I can’t think of many musicians that I would actively call ‘unique’ … I mean, sure! We’re all unique in our own way, and so every musician who plays a G chord on a guitar, plays that chord in a way that is unique to them – no two G chords are the same! But, that being said, G chords often do sound EXACTLY the same, regardless of who is playing it..

Joanna Newsom, though, is one musician – possibly the only musician – that I can bring myself to call unique. I genuinely can’t think of anyone who quite makes music like hers… Her music certainly doesn’t please everybody’s ears, but even those who despise her most would surely admit that there’s something… erm… different! about her music.

‘Time As a Symptom’ is the closing track of Newsom’s 4th album (‘Divers’, 2015), and it is quite the breathtaking finale. The lyrics are clearly conceptual, using the abstract notion of ‘time’ as the main subject. There is one line in the song which acts as a kind of punchline:

“it pains me to say, I was wrong: love is not a symptom of time; time is a symptom of love.”

Now, personally, I find this line to be kinda cheesy … I’m a legitimate Newsom disciple, but this line made me cringe a little bit, I must admit!! Still, I have mulled it over and, in spite of its cringiness, the line has made me think a lot.

The song reminds me of the hypothesis that our existence is a simulation, in lieu with The Matrix movies. The reason for that reminder is due to the notion that time makes up the essence of what we could call reality … time and space, together, contain everything that we humans are capable of knowing. So, in the simulation hypothesis, our experience must have been manufactured by something (or someone?!) in a similar way to the way humans today create computerised, virtually infinte worlds. In this hypothesis, time is, indeed, a symptom of love – because our existence was created, and to create life (broadly, loosely, and perhaps inaccurately speaking) is a loving thing to do.

When we talk about “falling in love,” this often requires time. You could argue that a child’s love for its parents is an example of true love requiring no time at all … but I think the only reason the child loves its parents is because everything they need is provided for them by their parents. Love, therefore, is a symptom of time. It takes time to nurture a child, after all.

So perhaps the narrator in this song is wrong again! Maybe love IS a symptom of time … but then again, maybe the narrator is right as well as being wrong, because time, in theory, is also a symptom of love.

(If you’re not following me, I don’t blame you! Ha.)

What I’m trying to say is that maybe love is a symptom of time; but time is also a symptom of love. It’s like the chicken and the egg theory.

This perspective falls in line with the Taoist philosophies that I advocate so much, of Yin Yang and duality … That is to say, the creatOR (love/god/the mysterious) and the creatED (time/life/the apparent) are one and the same.

This song touches on duality in other ways, too. For example, in this lyric:

“The nullifying, negating, defeating, repeating Joy of life…”

To describe ‘joy’ as nullifying, negating, defeating, and repeating is seemingly contradictory: joy is generally considered a positive thing, while the words used to describe it are generally negative. Perhaps Newsom’s narrator is, in a very Taoist way, pointing at ‘the postive’ and ‘the negative’ as one and the same – you can’t have one without the other, you might say! Even if that same narrator is wrong about time and love (kind of).

Anyway, it’s food for thought… Anybody who is familiar with Newsom’s music will know that her lyrics are very, very open to interpretation, and no one interpretation is necessarily right or wrong. I’ve heard her discuss the perceived “abstract” nature of her lyrics before (“not on purpose,” she responded, with an undertone of guilt … ha!).

Personally, I appreciate lyrics that don’t try to force a specific message down our throats; and the infinite possibilities that Joanna Newsom’s music presents to my mind is the very reason I enjoy her music so much.

I understand why someone wouldn’t enjoy her music. But I hope that, if anybody listens to her for the first time after reading this article, you will not judge her too harshly, or immediately … I would suggest that you allow your pallet adapt to her before you solidify your opinion. Like many people’s relationship to wine, I suppose.

I think comparing Newsom to wine is a fair description. Her music is rich, subtle, and luxurious. And it grows on you as your pallet improves.

The Complicated Beauty of A River Run Dry

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The title pays homage to a lyric from this song by The Veils, written by Finn Andrews.

Life is Beautiful, is Ugly, is Beautiful…

Life is beautiful (that is, pleasing to the senses) in many ways, as is commonly described by many of our preferred poets and artists.

But, equally, life can be ugly (displeasing or foul to the senses). There are times when we are forced to squint or gape at devastating happenings, such as natural disasters or the apparent evil that humans are capable of committing.

Therefore, as emotional experience-ers of this old world, we are prone to floating between the positive and the negative, between beauty and ugliness. We can’t help but bear witness the work of angels and the work of devils, both, at different times in our lives.

Of course, though, what is to be considered beautiful and ugly is highly subjective, as evidenced by the fact that not everybody likes the same music, or clothes, or even food. Everything is probably beautiful from one perspective and ugly from another.

Most of us seek out our subjective beauty in life, though (for the most part). We strive for happiness, desire peace … we generally prefer good health, so we act in such a way that we believe will deliver us good health, in one way or another.

Even when people do things that do not improve their health – like indulging in drugs or alcohol – their purpose for that is often still to make themselves feel better, on some level, even if that only numbs them to the pain (physical or mental) they are feeling.

People generally seek comfort, because discomfort is inconvenient.

Beauty and Ugliness Need Each Other

There is something very profound about the fact that darkness cannot exist without light. There can be no concept of darkness without light to contrast it against. Same goes for hot and cold – we wouldn’t be able to define what ‘hot’ is unless we had ‘cold’ to compare it to.

Clearly the same must be true of beauty and ugliness. One cannot exist without the other.

This truth triggers me to realise that beauty and ugliness are, in fact, one and the same. They can’t exist without each other because they are two ends of the same stick – two sides of the same coin. Beauty is ugly, and ugliness is beautiful. 

Still, we are inclined to prefer our subjective beauty and positivity. What I am trying to express in this piece is that taking such a preference is only capable of causing us a degree of dissatisfaction. The same is true of the (smaller number of) people whose preference is ugliness and negativity. In choosing any preference, we set ourselves up for inevitable disappointment at some point or another. Everybody gets at least a bit of both.

(By the way, I’m not about to provide a blueprint for living a life without any disappointments … I’m just sharing some observations which may be useful to you in some way; because I feel like they have been useful for me in understanding the world I live in.)

Apocalypse

21st Century living undoubtedly possesses dystopian undertones. For example, the eerie similarities between Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, and society today have been pointed out a number of times.

Also, the way in which our climate is changing these days (according to our admittedly imperfect researchers) apparently points towards another kind of dystopia – the apocalyptic type.

I think it’s fair and safe to say that, generally speaking, people find the idea of an apocalypse – and of death in most of its guises – to be disturbing, or ugly. People (again, generally) do not seek death, do not enjoy considering death, and they certainly do not know what happens to them after death (which is probably why it seems so daunting).

In a nutshell: death is ugly; and so, by association, is the idea of an apocalypse.

The idea I want to play with here, though, is the idea that death, and the apocalypse for that matter, is something we should kind of desire … to quote Achilles from the film Troy (2004): “The God’s envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal … because any moment could be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.”

I think there is a deep truth to this quote, and it demonstrates perfectly what I mean by something ugly (in this instance, death) also being beautiful.

The quote also forces my mind to consider this question: if I was immortal, would I feel like a prisoner to life?

The answer, I think, is probably yes. I’m not talking from experience, but I think that I’d be really bored after about 250 years (and I’d consider that to be an optimistic estimation).

With that in mind, it’s fair to say that death is, in its own way, beautiful. It is ugly, no doubt, but it is also beautiful … it gives our lives more value, because we are forced to cherish them more than we would.

How Is A River Run Dry Relevant?

We talk about climate change and global warming, water shortages and an impending apocalypse … This is an ugly topic to think about, of course! In this regard, the image of a river run dry is potent, possessing frightening connotations for the human race.

Still, I can’t help but feel that there is beauty in that too … I sense that the climax of humanity will be the greatest epic poem that was ever told! And yet, nobody will get to hear it told.

What a tragedy, eh?

No, I don’t think so.

As I’ve spoken about enough times, there is light within darkness, there is beauty within ugliness. And (as Shakespeare made quite clear) there is comedy in tragedy!

Those people who are most concerned about climate change must surely draw a glimmer of satisfaction in the idea that humanity, who has almost ruined the paradise that he has been given, will get what’s coming to him in the end! I never thought of a better cause for schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from another’s misfortune). The only problem is we ‘laughers’ will be on the receiving end of the violence too (oops!).

But let’s be honest … if the universe is as infinite as it seems to be, then there will almost certainly be life similar to our own out there, somewhere – at different stages of evolution, and with varying levels of success. With that in mind, the end of the human race isn’t so disastrous, is it? Not in the grand scheme of things, anyhow.

Woah! What are you doing with that gun?!

I’m not saying that we should all become nihilists (believing that our life is meaningless, and rejecting any sense of morality). I’m not saying that we might as well go robbing houses and burning down banks, due to the irrelevance of humans in the bigger picture. What I’m really trying to say is this: life can be very ugly, but we shouldn’t let that get us down. When things seem especially bad, we should still strive towards whatever it is we want to achieve.

The same concept applies to when life is beautiful! We shouldn’t get too lovey-dovey by hugging everyone and everything we see. We should carry on striving/evolving ourselves, in spite of the feeling of satisfaction. Change is the only constant in the universe, so no matter how satisfied we are in a given moment, we should continue to go with the changes.

We all have dreams and ideals, on one level or another … Whether they be achieving some career goal, or ticking off bucket list items, or just settling down somewhere … no matter what the weather is, we should keep on striving towards what we want, just to find out if we can do it. We’re all gonna die anyway, so it’s worth a try, isn’t it?

The Problems Posed By Brexit Are Being Sensationalised Unnecessarily

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It feels like whenever I take a glimpse at any corner of the internet, I see somebody explaining – once again – how unrealistic and ridiculous and childish and dumb and stupid of an idea Brexit is. And how we should be SCARED… but should we?

I really don’t need to give any more air to the negative possibilities surrounding Brexit … but y’know what? The anti-Brexit folk certainly have some decent points. The government is so tragically split on the topic that it seems impossible for Britain to find a strong position in negotiating with the EU any time in the next few years. And if Jeremy Corbyn’s silence when it comes to offering a “cunning plan” thus far is anything to go by, it’s unlikely Labour will be any sterner in negotiation than the pantomime villains that the Tories have to offer. Labour are doing a fantastic job of pointing out what the Tories are not doing; yet they aren’t offering any genuine solutions to the problem, as they are a party equally as split as the Tories.

Boris Johnson’s recent resignation as foreign secretary has now provided a bus-load of ammunition for pro-EU commentators to shoot down the Brexiteers. Some people have held his resignation up as evidence that Brexit was a stupid idea based almost entirely on lies. There’s also a common perspective that the lies were told in the favour of certain individuals’ greedy agenda, who are now being ‘outed’ (which in the case of Johnson, at least, I think there is some truth behind).

But Brexit, in and of itself, is not such a terrible idea. Anybody who is convinced that the only reason people voted for Brexit is because of some lies written on a bus are either idiots themselves, or just too set in their ways to genuinely read anything serious about the points of view which oppose their own (a necessary action when it comes to forming a rational opinion on any topic).

The EU has undoubtedly lost sight of its initial intentions, and even the institution’s most avid supporters would surely admit this. The ideal of Europe as a united continent, pulling together to live in harmony, was striven towards by the union; and to some degree it has had success (there hasn’t been any continental civil wars, so that’s a success!). But now, European citizens are growing more and more sceptical, which seems to be pulling the union apart.

On this matter, advocates of the EU have argued that Britain should remain in the union and reform it from within; but Brexiteers argue that Brussels has shown little desire to change.

What actual reasons are there for Brexit?

Some people wanted Brexit because of the EU’s treatment of other countries in recent years – prime examples being Greece and Portugal. Greece’s economic struggles were not helped at all by the EU or its banks. And as for Portugal? The Eurozone actually intervened in one of its elections, preventing an anti-euro, left-wing party from getting into power.

Furthermore, there is an agenda from within the EU to work towards creating a ‘United States of Europe’, which sounds rather unappealing to a lot of people. The reputation held by the world’s most famous ‘United States’ is hardly one that countries strive towards these days, even if ‘The Land of Opportunity’ has achieved some impressive feats in times past. The idea of a United States of Europe sounds almost Orwellian to many, and this surely contributes to the scepticism surrounding the EU.

Ultimately, there is a distrust that the EU has its citizens best interests at heart. And while this is not much different from the UK’s own government right now, it is still a justified distrust. Leaving an institution such as this one is not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, contrary to the popular narrative banding around at the moment.

In fact, during the Brexit negotiations in the last couple of years, the EU has seemed intent on punishing Britain for leaving – which isn’t the kind of institution I would personally like to be a part of, to be honest. As the old saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire; and contempt towards the EU clearly has some legitimate substance.

That Being Said…

There were definitely some naughty lies told by the Leave campaign, so it’s totally understandable that remain-ers are upset by that. But to sensationalise Brexit, like it’s the apocalypse and our island is sinking, is no better than the fear-mongering ways of the Daily Mail regarding immigration and terrorism. It’s the same sensational reporting that so many remain-ers are so against – and it isn’t helpful at all.

Brexit is a process of negotiating new tariff deals, new trade deals, and giving our government more bureaucratic responsibilities. It’s hardly “taking our country back,” but it’s hardly a statement of Nazi-like nationalism either. We will still have a relationship with the EU (if the EU wants a relationship, that is), as well as with the rest of the world (arguably even more so than if we remained in the EU). Besides, England’s football teams will still compete in European competitions, and most British citizens will still identify themselves as Europeans. The country just won’t be in that European institution anymore, that’s all.

And who knows?! Perhaps Brexit will be the turning point for the EU. Maybe the union will take a good long look at itself and start a genuine reformation? Or perhaps it is too late to change the union positively, and the end is nigh.The nationalist undercurrents in the EU’s member states would suggest that the union could very well fall apart in the not-so-distant future.

Maybe the EU’s break up could be the best outcome for everybody here. Perhaps, then, a new union could be established – a union designed with the mistakes made/lessons learned from the failures of the current EU fresh in mind.

I understand that Brexit looks bad right now. But it isn’t looking so bad because the idea itself is terrible … it’s looking bad because the government in charge of negotiation is unable to string a couple of words together without a handful of ministers groaning. Am I suggesting we need a new government? Well, not necessarily. But it is their job to negotiate Brexit, and they simply haven’t managed that in 2 years. The truth is, this task needs a far stronger and more professional government; but I don’t see any realistic candidates for that right now, even if I do believe Corbyn to be a decent bloke.

I know that many remain-ers see Brexit as impossible; but forgive me for thinking that’s a bit dramatic. It’s only a matter of negotiating some deals … that’s it! I know it’s not so straightforward, but it still isn’t that complicated. The only reason the EU is being so hardline in its stance is because it realises that if its members see Britain get a fair deal, they might want to leave too – which would leave Brussels’ bureaucrats in a rather dangerous situation, employment-wise.

But Britain has a population of 70 million people, many of whom regularly buy European products: successfully negotiating a deal with Britain is in the best interests of the European economy. Just wait! In the long term, Brexit will not significantly worsen Britain’s socioeconomic situation any worse than it already is from within the EU (which many remain-ers themselves would argue is pretty bad). And if it does? Then that will be due to the EU’s anti-humanitarian stance of negotiation, choosing to forsake Britain for the perceived benefit of their own business … which is kinda evil, is it not?

What’s my point?

My point is not to say that Brexit is the best option, even if I have spent the entirety of this article defending the idea My point is that the prevailing attitude which is sensationalising the issues surrounding Brexit is not helping the situation in any way whatsoever.

For the record, I think that all the paperwork required for Brexit to happen is an unnecessary distraction from the many significant challenges humanity (not just Britain) faces right now. For example:

  • Our transition into a technological, automated society is something we ought to consider. We’ve never been in this situation in our history, so there’s no way of knowing where it will lead us. It would be sensible of us to plan carefully.

  • Poverty still haunts our lower classes, as well as many countries worldwide; meanwhile a small percentage of the population has gathered huge sums of money. I understand that this is a far more complicated issue than simply taking from the rich and giving to the poor … but it’s an issue that needs some focus nonetheless.

  • There are worldwide conflicts ongoing which can only be resolved through genuine international cooperation (Britain can’t defeat growing terrorist threats alone).

  • Immigration, too, is an ongoing human problem (NOT a British one) which also requires international cooperation (read this article from last year for a more in depth analysis of the issues surrounding immigration).

  • And there are environmental issues that we should actively communicate with the global community about. We live on the same planet, after all, so the management of natural resources ought to be a global effort in order to be efficient.

I believe we should be focusing our political energies on these sorts of topics! Not on where we want our glorified receptionists’ offices to be (glorified receptionists is, essentially, exactly what bureaucrats are).

Moreover, Britain’s membership of the EU will make very little difference to how those sorts of challenges are tackled. The issues are prominent regardless; and, as I’ve already stated, Britain alone cannot solve the problems.

It’s not the end of the world that our politicians are so focused on Brexit right now, and it could well turn out positively! But it’s a distracting topic in a time where much more pressing problems are at hand. That’s my two pence on the matter, anyway (that’s right, pence! None of those stupid European cents!! *cough cough*)

An Active Approach (A Modern Day Fairy Tale)

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*

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”

Eckhart Tolle

*

The shop in which Jodie worked was an old, quiet convenience store (convenient at this time only to a small handful of elderly folk), with an uncertain future. It was located on the corner of a residential street in a run-down coastal town – a town whose glory days were all but forgotten.

One day, when business was slow and the weather gray, Jodie was stacking shelves, deep in thought, while her colleague, Abby, swept dust off the floor.

“It’s not fair!” Jodie said.. “I’m a good person! I never break the law, I always pay my taxes … I work hard, day in day out! Why am I still stuck in this soul-sucking shop?! It’s not fair!”

“Well,” said Abby, “it could be worse… you could have no job at all!”

“True,” said Jodie. “That would be worse!” And so she continued with her day, thinking about how terrible having no job would be.

*

A week later, on a tired, rushed, rainy Monday morning, Jodie arrived at the shop, where her boss, Barry, was waiting for her to arrive.

“Good morning Jodie,” he said. “I’m sorry to say this, but business isn’t so good… I can’t afford to pay you anymore, so it’s time for you to leave – to move on.”

Jodie couldn’t find any words. She just stood there with her mouth gaping.

“Thanks for everything, Jo … and I’m sorry,” Barry finished. He handed her a final paycheck and sent her home.

On the way to her flat she decided to stop off at a local pub to drown her sorrows in booze, still dressed in her uniform. She sat at the bar beside a pungent old man, and her arms stuck to the sticky bar.

“This is the worst day of my life! I don’t have a job, so how can I possibly afford my living costs? It’s not fair!” Jodie said out loud.

“It could be worse, erm…” the old man (who, incidentally, was unemployed) said to her, then glimpsing at her nametag, “… Jodie! You could be homeless. Then you’d really be buggered.”

“True,” she said in response. “That would be much worse!” And so she finished her beer, got up, and went out to carry on with her day. All the while, she considered how fortunate she was to have a flat to call home, also thinking about how terrible it would be if she wasn’t so fortunate!

*

Jodie then spent a long week job hunting and feeling sorry for herself. One miserable morning, clothed only by a ragged dressing gown, she was eating breakfast, when there was a knock at the door.

“It’s Tim, the landlord!” cried the knocker; so she went to the door to let him in.

“Hi Tim, what’s the problem?” she asked. As Tim entered, he avoided eye contact, his gaze instead floating around the tatty carpet.

“Jodie, I’m sory to tell you this but I’ve sold the building – there’s been a good offer, and it could be my last chance to cash in. The buyer, though, wants to convert the place, so you’re gonna have to leave within a month… you better get packing!”

Jodie was lost for words. Her jaw was hanging by her belly button, while her eyes seemed to look straight through Tim’s head, through the corridor walls, and into outer space.

“I’m sorry, Jo… truly I am,” Tim finished, then quickly left the flat. Jodie closed the door behind him, and went back to the kitchen to sob into the remnants of her now soggy cereal.

*

After an unsuccessful month of job and flat hunting, Jodie was ready to leave her home of 3 years. She had sold all her furniture, decoratives, and excess clothes, with only a single suitcase of belongings left to her name. Tim eventually arrived to take her keys; and once they were handed over, Jodie dropped her suitcase off at the flat of Abby, her old colleague, who had offered to let her sleep on the couch while she found her feet. Abby, though, was still working at the shop, so Jodie went out for a few hours.

She wandered over to a park, where she sat on a bench beside an old lady; a grin like the Cheshire cat spread across the old lady’s distinct face, which was carved and rift with wrinkles.

“Why do you look so sad?” she immediately asked a forlorn Jodie, who was yet to even perch herself down.

“Because life’s not fair!” she said. after sitting back “I’ve paid my dues! I worked long and hard, always paid my taxes, never broke the law… yet I’ve lost my job, my home, and luck is simply against me! It’s not fair!”

The old lady turned to Jodie and said: “That’s too bad, sweetheart. But keep your chin up! Things will turn out the way they ought to.”

Jodie looked back at the old lady, pulling her face in such a way that appeared stuck halfway between a smile and a frown.

“Aren’t you going to tell me how things could be worse?” she asked the lady. “How I could have no friends? How I could be seriously ill?”

“Oh dear, gosh no! I wouldn’t want to tempt an ill fate like that for you, darling! Things could, and certainly will, get much better for you, I would rather say! You could yet find a new job, a new home – you might even meet some new friends along the way.” She smiled the warmest, most honest smile Jodie had ever seen – the old lady’s green eyes were glowing intensely out of her face.

Jodie, in turn, smiled back nervously. She thought of all the opportunities that were waiting for her, as well as all the infinite number possibilities that life could have in store for her. Then she stood up and marched into town holding her head high and her shoulders back, as the sun shone brightly above her.

*

After that meeting in the park, Jodie was determined. It took a few more days of further disappointments, near-misses, and ‘almosts’; but eventually her luck took a turn for the better. Within ten days, she had scored a job interview for a role in a busy yet quaint coffee shop, and she found a nice flat which met her budget requirements.

The next week, she passed her job interview, in which an attractive confidence oozed from her. She went back to Abby’s flat that night to celebrate, where something occurred to her:

“You know, Abby, when your mind is full of the things that could go wrong, things do go wrong … but when your mind is full of the things that could go well, they do go well!” When Jodie had said her piece, Abby smiled at her.

“It’s true! You know, something similar happened to me..” she replied, “I thought about an old friend from school last week, and how I hadn’t seen them in years! Then yesterday, they called me! How bizarre?! That kinda stuff happens a lot…”

“It sure does!” Jodie said – and they took a sip of wine together.

*

Jodie worked in that coffee shop for just under a year; but this time she left on her own terms.

Instead of spending the entirety of her spare time drinking or browsing the internet, Jodie began finding time to carve figurines out of wood – an old hobby from her childhood that she had stopped by the time she left school. It didn’t take too long before people started buying the figurines from her, so that she was eventually able to setup and run a successful business from her homely flat!

Every morning, to this day, Jodie reads a carved wooden sign that hangs on the back of her front door – she credits it as the cornerstone of her success. The sign reads:

Be careful what you think!”

*

The End

You Don’t Know How It Feels To Be Me

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The title of this article pays homage to this 1994 track by the late Tom Petty … it’s a good song!

“You don’t know how it feels to be me!”

This is a line which rings true for everybody, in every conceivable given circumstance. Nobody knows how it feels to be anybody but themselves, and vice versa. And that truth is part of what separates us/makes us all unique; yet it also, quite ironically, is something that we all have in common. That irony is the very essence of this mysterious thing we call life!

The idea that nobody knows how it feels to be anybody else is a thought that we should all try to bear in mind in our everyday life. To stop ourselves from being judgemental of others, yes; but also because most of us have times of feeling like we are not good enough in one way or another…

of feeling like we aren’t capable of achieving some goal, however big or small…

of feeling like we aren’t worthy of someone’s acceptance (in our personal life or our work life)…

or even of feeling like we don’t give two hoots about things that we feel we really ought to be grateful for (and we think that the lack of gratitude maybe makes us bad people…)

The reason for our mood swings and insecurities, though, is simply that we humans are complex critters! We don’t always act in ways that we would have chosen to act, if we had the time to sit and think those actions through … but the truth is that we don’t have the time to sit and think through every action in our life – instead we are forced to improvise, and ‘wing it’. Most of the time, we actually can’t know what to expect from ourselves (let alone other people).

So when we actively try to organise our mind, improve our relationship with the world, and improve our lives generally, we are still certainly gonna be met by future bumps in the road, or more complications. The point being that we shouldn’t get ourselves down if things don’t work out exactly as we initially hoped. Life is complicated! So are humans, so is the world, and so are you … So cut yourself some slack!

Clean Your Bowl…

Just because humans are impossible to understand completely, and life is complicated, is not to say that we should stop trying to get things straight/get our shit together… because if we don’t get our shit together from time to time then the messiness of our minds will become unbearable!

It’s not so different from washing the dishes… the reason we wash dishes is so that we don’t have mould in our next meal. Moreover we clean our dishes in order to dirty them again (another irony of life)! If we don’t wash the dishes in suitable time, then eventually a huge pile builds up, and they all need to be washed at once.

Same applies to our minds, and our well-being. It’s a good idea to make time to tidy our minds from time to time in order to keep it functioning properly in those oh-so-often-times when we’re required to improvise and ‘wing it’ in life. If we don’t tidy our minds, then we will end up with a very messy mind which, arguably, could require professional help. Check out this article on 5 Ways to Tidy Up Your Mind.

“But It’s Not My Mess!”

Some people who actively try to tidy up their minds, though, will point at other people as being responsible for the mess in their mind (or their kitchen sink, for that matter!)… well, in these circumstances it’s good to remember, again, that you don’t know how it feels to be them! So try not to judge these people; you have no idea why their thought processes work the way they do, or why they act the way they do.

Those people that you think are messing up your otherwise tidy mind probably have their own shit splattered all over the place in their own mind! So they can’t help but hurt you clumsily with their low, and messy consciousness. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but this quote from Jesus, as he hangs on the cross, feels rather relevant here:

“…forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Luke 23-34, The Holy Bible (English Standard Version)

The example that Jesus sets here (whether you believe he was real or a work of fiction being irrelevant) is similar to what I’m saying. People act out in certain ways, because they don’t know any different – in fact, on some level, they probably believe that they are making the right choices.

If you can accept that other people don’t have their shit together, and you can be sympathetic to that fact, then you will be more able to keep your distance a little bit too. And when you keep your distance, their shit will not splatter all over you!

Furthermore, when other people’s shit is not splattering on you, you are then better equipped to focus on getting your own shit together. Your mind will get messy again, soon enough – make no mistake about it. But if you can make the time for yourself to tidy up, then you will be much better prepared to accept other people and their odd behaviours – when you’ve got your own shit together, maybe then you will find yourself in a position to help others get their own shit together, if you’re into that kinda thing…

Remember…

Sometimes we all say and do things that we don’t mean to, because we don’t always have time to think everything through. Life is not straightforward, and nobody ever really knows what the best choice is in any situation … so cut yourself some slack, and cut others some slack too! Life is easier without the drama of a praise and blame game.

 

5 Ways to Tidy Up Your Mind

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We’ve all had the wires of our minds tangled up at some point in our lives, so it’s sometimes necessary to untangle those wires, or just be conscious that this process does happen (especially when you’re not paying attention!!). If your mind is ‘noisy’, and your thought processes cause you to feel even a little bit anxious about one thing or another, then you could benefit from one of these 5 methods of tidying up your mind.

And if you think that your mind is already tidy? Well, doing one or all of these things could benefit you and you mind anyway. Nobody is perfect, after all 🙂

1. Meditation

This is a tried and tested method, passed down by millennia of traditions and generations; it still survives as a practice today because it’s proven to be good for the mind and the body. Meditation is growing in popularity today, with the stigma of it being a bit of a ‘pseudo-medicine’ being gradually disproven … meditation really does work!

How?

The practice of meditation is supposed to relax your mind by teaching us to dissociate ourselves from it’s incessant thinking – instead of being the thinker of the thoughts, you watch the thoughts as they happen, like an outsider. When you do this, your mind starts to quieten so much that you are able to listen to your own breath (indeed, many meditation practices focus on the breath). Most practices encourage sitting positions, but a notable exception is ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (TM), which can be practiced anywhere, from a busy bus to your workplace breaks. The practice involves getting comfortable (but not fall-asleep-comfortable!!); closing your eyes; and listening to your breathing. If your mind starts to chatter, recognise that! And celebrate the process of ‘catching yourself out’. Eventually, with time, practice, and patience, you will be able to detach yourself from your thoughts, and have a clearer, calmer mind.

 

(Watch this talk on TM by Jerry Seinfeld for The David Lynch Foundation):

 

 

2. Exercise

There are many people in the 21st century who work jobs which require little, or even no physical activity; these people would certainly benefit from exercising. Exercise can improve memory and cognitive processes, and reduce anxiety levels, as well as the more obvious benefits of shedding excess energy and weight.

How?

There are many fun ways to exercise:

  • Do yoga: yoga has been proven to increase strength and flexibility, as well as offering meditative benefits.

  • Take up a sport: football, tennis, badminton, martial arts … anything you want! Sports are games in exercise form – everybody loves a game 🙂

  • Take walks in places of natural beauty (woodlands, parks, beaches, etc): fresh air is good for you, and the sight of nature is very calming. Walking is a great option for people who have trouble with their knees, or any important body parts.

  • Go to the gym: for many people the gym is a boring, monotonous place. But for others, it is a haven for shedding excess energy.

3. Clean Up Your Room

Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has become an youtube sensation in the last few years, and “clean up your room” has become somewhat of a cult catchphrase for him.

“If you can’t even clean up your room, who the hell are you to give advice to the world?”

Clip:

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The essence of Peterson’s words could be said to pay homage to another old expression: “a tidy house is a tidy mind.” And there is a wisdom to that expression, too!. If your mind feels messy, and your bedroom/kitchen/living space is messy, then cleaning up could be a good place to start!

How?

From the bottom up. If your bedroom is a mess, then you should pull everything out and clean it. If you have never done that in a room you live in, it won’t feel exactly like home until you do. Like a dog marking its territory with its wee, you need to claim your room! And then, when you put it all together in your own image, it becomes a reflection of your inner-mind. That’s the real reason why a tidy room can be so beneficial: it’s a great way to check up on yourself.

4. Write about it

Writing is usually my personal choice when it comes to tidying up my own mind (being a writer, that’s probably obvious). I will write about anything that arises in my mind that asks for my attention; and getting those thoughts onto paper allows me to see them from a different angle. Similarly to meditation, writing your thoughts down can help you to detach yourself from them, and not take them too seriously.

A great lesson I’ve learned to remember from my reflective writing is this: you don’t have to agree with your thoughts!

How?

Get yourself a pen, some paper, and write whatever your hand decides to write – even if it’s complete gibberish! Get comfortable writing, don’t judge what you have written, and see where it takes you. I tend to naturally start writing strong thoughts from the day, and reflect on the relationship between my reaction to something and the thing itself (often my reaction is far more to do with me and my disposition than it is to do with the thing itself). I often find that the problems I have in a certain period of time are kinda analogous to each other (that is to say, most of my problems in life share the same roots). For example, if I’m having difficulties in my relationship with certain people, there is often some significant similarities between these two separate instances.

If you start writing something completely fictional, though, this could be beneficial too! Who knows? It could even be the start of humanity’s next great story.

If this doesn’t satisfy you, you could benefit from writing a list of things that you are grateful for in your life … this will help you to consciously notice the things that make you so lucky!

So write, reflect, and accept yourself – warts and all! And not only yourself, but your environment/situation too. If your writing sucks, then be proud of it – because nobody can write in exactly the same way you can … your style is unique to you.

5. Talk about it

Talking to someone can be a great medicine for an untidy mind. Getting a second perspective on something that is a big topic for you in a period of time can help to give you greater perspective, and a clearer sight of the bigger picture. It might be, too, that you’ve gone too long without talking to someone about the workings of your mind… On an evolutionary level, humans have always been social creatures (up until now, at least); and so it would make sense, biologically speaking, that a lack of social connection could take away one’s mental clarity. There are plenty of other things talking can help with, too.

How?

Ask a friend, family member, or partner if you could talk things through with them. Some of those closest to us, at least, will surely be willing to do such a favour, and they might even feel like sharing something with you, too. Having these kinds of conversations can strengthen your bonds with people in your life, and, by association, your relationship to your environment. This is a great way to decrease anxiety; but be aware of negativity! If you can, try talking with people that make you feel good. If there’s nobody like that in your life, then find some new people (if you want to, that is).

Another way of talking could be by getting some counselling. This way you could also be taught valuable reflective skills by someone who is an expert in such matters, which can then improve your ability to cope on your own in the long term.

Don’t Have the Time?

Well make the time! You owe it to yourself to be as happy as possible in your life, and these methods will certainly go some way to helping you on your road to happiness. If you go too long without taking care of yourself, then your mind is going to overwhelm you. It’s worth remembering that we humans are capable of overcoming extremely detrimental circumstances … to quote Friedrich Nietzche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” So accept the ‘how’ for reaching happiness, and make the time to improve your mind – and enjoy your life, while it lasts!

Other Methods Include:

Arts and crafts, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, decorating something (a room or an object), reading a book, casually hang out with friends, cook meals with healthy whole foods, bake something nice.

There are countless ways tidy up your mind. You should work on finding a way that works for you.

Sunburn? After Millennia of Evolution? Sheesh

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Why should we need sunscreen now? Is it because we have moved from an outdoor lifestyle to an indoor lifestyle? Has the thickness/durability of our skin been rendered thinner/weaker by our ability to build shelter from the sun’s rays? Has evolution  decided that we don’t need any new physical advantages, with regards to UV rays?

What about our primate fur, way back then? (like, hundreds of thousands of years ago…) What happened to that, eh? I bet that used to protect us from burning. Is it that the climate started getting hotter, and we started to go bald because the fur was making us too hot and sweaty? Lets be honest, compared with other animals we humans are pretty bald, aren’t we? Well, compared to the other monkeys we are, anyway… Why haven’t they shed their fur? If we shed our fur because of the extra heat, then this sunburn malarkey is kinda ironic, isn’t it? (Alanis Morrisette-ironic, at least…)

Do hippos get sunburn? They’re rather bald, aren’t they? A quick Google search has told me that hippos ARE susceptible, but that they have this red sweat thing that stops them from burning … why hasn’t human evolution developed a superpower like that? Pfft.

Hippos have their very own protection from UV rays in their sweat… that’s not fair, is it?

 

Google also told me that freshly sheared sheep are in a bad position, sunburn-wise, when it’s hot. It reminded that there’s a flock of sheep in a field close to where I live who were shaved recently, and this week has been roasting. I wanna go see if they’ve gone pink! Poor sods.

Apparently the Ancient Greeks would use olive oil, back in the day, to protect themselves from the sun. The science today says that olive oil offers between 7-8 SPF factor protection, and that coconut oil is similarly protective! In my Google journey, though, a few people claimed that if the sun is too hot then the oil will just heat up and burn our skin even worse (which is the fake news?).

When Did it All Begin, Then? (Sunscreen, that is…)

Well, historians only really know as far back as Ancient Egypt (anything before that is considered ‘pre-historic’). It is believed that Ancient Egyptians used ingredients like rice, jasmine, and lupine as sunscreen, so the notion of sun protection goes back as far as historians have managed to figure out, at least.

But what about before that? I mean, there must have been a time when we didn’t need to protect ourselves… surely?! Evolutionary theory suggests that we used to be reptiles once upon a time, so our scales would have protected us back then… And later in our journey it was our fur… so why do we no longer have a protection? What’s that all about?!

I think the indoor theory is a good one: we spend so much time indoors that we aren’t acclimatised enough to the environment of the outdoors. So, when the hottest day of the year comes around, and we all suddenly decide that outside is the place to be, our sheltered skin simply isn’t prepared for the heat.

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It’s Prim Up North

The North-West of England has been bloody beautiful this last month! We had maybe one week’s worth of rain and wind; but other than that it’s been glorious, summery conditions – foreign country style, summery! There are very few people up here who don’t appreciate the sun turning up like this for longer than a day or two … and it seems so rare that summer works out this way for us that I, personally, can’t help but appreciate the heck out of it 🙂

A sublime summer, sure … but us Northerners will always find something to complain about (thus my bitterness surrounding sunscreen, I guess). Nonetheless, it’s a stunning time of year for us.

I do have this inkling feeling, though, that England’s inevitable elimination from the World Cup (let’s be honest!) is going to coincide with a rainy end to the summer. Now that would give us something to complain about!!

But forget about that for now – and pass me the sunscreen! We should make the most of this spell, however long it lasts; and when the memory of it is washed away by the autumn rain, we can just retreat back into our 21st century caves…

The Death of The Tree of Life

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When He pressed those sticky buttons

on that old melodion

and the stars peaked through the cloudy night …

well, I was nothing more or less

than a fox in the late spring.

My industry was one of mere instinct —

of sight and smell.

Walt Disney and his cronies would’ve been

Happy

only in the knowledge

that the yin to their yang was locked

outside the secure gates

of their estates.

Lost!

Dazed!

Confused!

yet satisfied with the scraps of those feast pigs

(after all, Walter never ate the bacon)

I was, and am

faster than the bin man

Returning to the hillside

is a big relief after being exposed

and stranded in the desert.

Still, there is very little shame

in colouring those mountains red & blue

Particularly when their thorny exterior

cannot really hurt you.

Don’t you realise that there has been —

on at least two or three occasions —

orange autumn leaves that have survived the winter?

don’t ask me how… just consider it

Figuratively.

Wigglesworth, Grindleton, Tosside,

and bastards, and brawlers, and brats …

there was once a time

when the earth was nothing but dry desert:

and I can guarantee you

that history will repeat itself

in this case.

However, this deserted episode

in the earth’s unwinding tale

does not fall under the bracket of “history,”

for “history”

only covers a certain fraction

of humanity’s brief journey —

it is only his story

that these plain, sorry words

are capable of expressing (apparently).

And no funeral service

or jewell-studded coffin

is gonna pacify the explosion — the inevitable finale!

He can’t escape the chaos

that must ensue,

even with the craftiness of a fox.

Summer is coming!

Winter is over …

and eventually

we will never see Him again.

“Pack your shit, folks”

The Diary of Harry Richter

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My name is Harry Richter. Im 25 years old and I live with my parents (mum is dying) and I work at a video store and Im working on a new book which I will probably be releasing soon. My spelling and stuff usually is pretty good but not always. All views that I write in here are mine only

Tuesday 19th June 2012

I decided to start keeping a diary. Ive been having some pretty sweet thoughts of late and I think that I could be some sort of genius or something. I wish Id started taking a diary earlier than today because I had some really good thoughts last week that I cant remember now

Anyway.. I started writing a book about a month ago. I quite like the idea.. its pretty powerful. Its about a guy who is depressed… like, hes sick and tired of his life. He has no friends he hates his job … but eventually he gets put into a consentration camp (Im gonna say Aushwitsz because although I know there were others thats the only one that I know the name of). This really pisses him off at first and he feels even worse than before. But then he meets a woman in there and they fall in love and have a really good time together. In fact she is pretty depressed as well and they both have the best time of their lives in the camps.. until the end when they die together in a gas chamber. I think its a good idea because it shows how love can prevail anywhere… like I said its pretty powerful.

I saw something today on the internet about a writing workshop in Lincoln. Ill need to get on the train and the journey will take about an hour but thats fine. It would be good to go and get some feedback for my book idea. The workshop will be 25th June which is monday. Im quite excited for it. Im gonna be a bit like a big fish in a little pond of writers

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 21st June 2012

I was thinking more about mum today. Im sad that shes gonna to die but that makes me feel guilty because she keeps telling me that she is looking forward to dying now. Her and dad are always saying that people dont look at death in the right way… they tell me that people are afraid of dying when really they should be excited for it, because it sets you free from suffering. But how do they know that they wont suffer after they die and suffer even more? I dunno but they seem pretty convinsed of themselves.

Dad said that dying is as beautiful as birth. He said that its a normal part of life and we should celebrate it. Him and mum … theyve been drinking champaine and wine all week because mum says that she wants to enjoy the end of her life as much as she possibly can. She said that she wants her last days to be like her funeral because when she was younger she decided that she wanted to go to her own funeral. I feel bad saying it because shes my mum and shes dying and I do love her … but I think shes an idiot. The doctors said that they would be able to cure her and help her to stay alive for at least a year or two. But she says that she would rather just die because shes tired of being a sick old lady. I guess that makes sense but I think its pretty dark. Mum is quite brave

And I know death is just what happens in life and that I shouldnt be afraid of it. Im not looking forward to it though … thats too weird.

I finished work early tonight. People dont rent dvds anymore because they go on netflix.. I think the shop might even shut down soon.. nobody ever comes in ever. Maybe I should start looking for another job

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 24th June 2012

I have the writing workshop tomorrow. Ive been wondering what its going to be like!! Im quite excited really. I have this idea in my head where I will tell them all my idea and they will be really excited and someone will tell me they wanna publish it. That would be pretty frigging sweet

Mum talked to me about dying again today. She said that death is a natural and healthy thing and that we shouldnt feel bad for people who have died. Then she said that shed rather die peasefully in her sleep tonight than die in two years time in a hospital with doctors putting volts through her. The nurse is at the house everyday now though and shes always filling mum up with painkillers. Mum must want to die comfortably and in as tidy a way as possible.. I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 25th June 2012

I went to the workshop and they hated my idea.. They HATED it!!! They told me I was being insensitive about the holocaust and that consentration camps were loveless places and that my story couldnt have happened because men and women were seperated in the camps and they couldnt have even met.

Writing the book is a waste of time. Ive got half way through it but Im gonna stop writing it now because its wasting my time and the idea sucks. Im on the train home now and Ive got this notepad that Im writing my diary in and the big notepad Ive been using to write my book in. Im thinking about destroying that notepad but then again I might use it to write something else in there. Im just gonna keep hold of it for now and see what happens.

Im really pissed off. FUCK! It really sucks that they hated my idea so much. I dunno what Im gonna do about it. Maybe there wrong? Maybe there not on the same wavelenth as me? But if men and women were seperated in the camps then the idea is pretty screwed to be honest

*

I completely forgot about it today but I had a counselling session tonight. I was almost late but arrived just in time. Lucy was surprised to hear that Id started writing a book … she said that the workshop not liking it shouldnt stop me from though. She says that my story isnt completely rubbish and that I should give myself a bit more credit and maybe try to improve ir. And then she said that I seem to have enjoyed the process of writing the book and that it wouldnt do any harm if I wrote the book without showing it to anybody. Its a pretty good point and I did have fun writing it … but its a waste of time. Whats the point in writing a book that nobody is ever gonna read? Its a waste of time. I may as well do something useful but I dont know what

I spoke to Lucy about the holocaust as well. She said that the holocaust is kinda like a symbol for all the shitty things that people can do. So when we remember the holocaust we really remember all the bad things that people have done in the past… so nazis gassing jews and all of that stuff. Lucy said she thinks that maybe the reason people didnt like my idea was because people think that putting love in one of the camps … it kinda makes the camps seem not as bad. People feel sensitive about that and they think its important to make sure we remember just how bad humans can be so then we can try and stop anything like that happening again.

But its not as if newspapers and tv news dont remind us over and over about how bad people are is it? There must be at least one murder reported every frigging day.. I dont think theres any danger of us forgetting how bad people can be.

I told Lucy that it was confusing for me. Because my mum is dying and I keep getting told to feel okay about that when its hard. But then we talk about the holocaust and Im told to feel really bad about people dying there. Is that not two different things? I mean.. I should feel bad about the holocaust but not about my mum? I dont know. I dont even have anything to do with the holocaust. Lucy did tell me this though…. in the camps some of the prisoners would tell jokes and read poetry together. Some of the prisoners even laghed together a little bit.. in the consentration camp!! Thats pretty nice to know. I mean.. I could be in the shittiest place of all time and still I could be able to lagh. I might not lagh … but I’ll be able to lagh. And thats good to know.

And it reminds a little bit of my story now that I think about it. About love still existing even in one of the camps … its similar to that thing about people still being able to lagh in there. Because laghing is good and so is love! Still.. if men and women were seperated then the idea doesnt work. But what if I made it a gay couple? People would still think its insensitive to the holocaust I reckon

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 29th June 2012

I havent written in my diary since monday … Mum died on tuesday morning and I didnt really feel like writing. Well the idea of writing didnt even cross my mind. Its been quite a hard few days but I feel better now. The funeral is on Sunday morning. It will be a small little thing with just dad and me.. she is getting cremated.

Except for when I was at work I spent the last few days with my dad and I think we spoke more in these few days than we have in my whole life. He said that hes happy for mum because she is free (Im still not quite getting this) but he misses her. He has been really happy though! He hasnt been depressed or nothing … we went to the pub together and he asked me to tell him about my book. I didnt wanna tell him but now Im glad that I did.

He actually really liked my idea. He thinks its intresting. I explained to him that I couldnt write it though because people are sensitive when it comes to the holocaust … but he disagreed. He told me about Martin Luther king.. dad said that he cheated on his wife which I didnt know. Dad told me that Martin Luther king is a symbol for pease and community but that doesnt mean we cant ever know about the bad things that he has done too! And in the same way consentration camps cant have been completely without love … thats just unrealistic. Thats what dad said anyway… but dad doesnt really know a lot about writing and things.. so I dont really know what to think about that but it has definitely made me feel better about writing my book.. even if I dont show it to anyone I think I could have some fun writing it. Why not? Its a good way to keep busy and it distracts me from being sad about mum.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 2nd July 2012

We have an urn with mums ashes in it. Its very nice looking made out of gold and with loads of cool things engraved into it like fairylooking creatures and stuff like that. I think mum and dad had been saving up for it for quite a while before she died. Its quite creepy having it hanging around the house.. its like shes there but at the same time … shes not. Its weird but thats okay. Im already kinda used to the fact that shes gone because Ive known that she was going to die for quite a while.

I had a counselling session with Lucy again and I spoke to her more about dying. I told her that the reason people feel so uncomfortable talking about the holocaust is because of all the death and people are just uncomfortable with death. But Lucy didnt agree. She said that it isnt the death but the manner of the death that makes people uncomfortable talking about the holocaust. Strangely this made me feel pretty good because I felt happy that my mum was able to die in such a happy way. I realised that dying really is a natural and even healthy part of life and its something that happens to everyone. Mum died in a really nice way now that I think about it. Especially when I think about the camps … what a horrible way to die! But Lucy said that death set those prisoners free. The pain and torture of the camps … fuck! I dont even wanna think about it. But when they died… all of that suffering stopped. The nazis could take everything away from the prisoners down to their shoes and socks but they couldnt take away their death and they couldnt take away their laghter. And those survivers … Dog gunnit! They must have felt so good when it was all over and they left the camps. I can only imagine. But then… I think how much I miss my mum… the survivers must miss a lot of their friends quite a lot. And maybe some of them were still injured after? Maybe… probably even!

But it still seems a little strange that we think it is so important to remember the holocaust. I remember Brian telling me at school that the holocaust wasnt the only time in history where loads of people were killed for no reason. But why do we remember the holocaust and not any of them other ones? I don’t know any other things like that… like.. Genoside! That’s the word I was looking for (Lucy said it today). I dont know of any other genoside other than the holocaust! If Brian was telling the truth and there have been other genosides … then its really strange that we choose to remember this one rather than any of the others. What is so special about the holocaust? Hmmmm! I dont know.

*

Theres something really nice about writing like this… just writing whatever comes to mind. Its kinda like counselling where I let myself say whatever comes to mind. I told Lucy about me writing this diary and she thinks its a good idea . Thats nice for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 3rd July 2012

Dad says hes going to go to travel round India for a few months… he asked me if I wanted to go but I dont wanna so Im not gonna (go to India). Dad always tries to have fun at every minute. I dont understand how he manages to stay so happy so much! I cant do that. Im glad for him that he can though. I was a bit worried that he was going to be upset about mum for a while but hes really strong.

At work tonight I thought about getting some dvds about the holocaust.. Like schindler’s list or something. Ive never watched anything about it except a bunch of documentaries on the tv about nazis. There was one about Eichman… Cant remember his full name (keep thinking hes called Adolf but thats Hitler). There was a guy talking about him and how he wasnt evil he was just really stupid. He wanted promotions and things like that and ordered loads of jews to die not because he hated them but because it was his job. I dont think that this makes me feel sorry for him… he still did evil stuff. But maybe if people thought for themselves more instead of just blindly taking orders then things would be better. I dont think the video store will ask me to kill anybody any time soon though so I shouldnt worry about that.

It makes me wonder though.. are people born evil? I mean if Eichman did it because he was taking orders and he wasnt really evil… well what about Hitler? It was his idea so maybe hes the evil one.. but he cant have been like that his whole life can he? So when he was a baby… was he born of a jackal or some shit? I doubt it. I bet he was a cute little baby just like I was.. but how the heck did he turn out so bad? I watched a documentary about Hitler once too… apparently he was a vegetarian! Maybe that wasnt a documentary actually… I think a friend told me that. But apparently he was a vegetarian and an animal lover which makes no sense when you think about what he did (nice to animals but not other people)

And when I think about myself… I mean I havent killed anyone but I used to kill ants when I was little and I eat meat which I guess is quite mean. Maybe Hitler wouldve thought I am evil? Whos to say? But still.. I dont understand how somebody could do that. Its a tough one… I just dont think it is so simple to be able to say that someone is good or evil.

To kill another person though.. it seems stupid. I mean how can someone think that another person should die just because of what they believe or what they look like? Thats stupid. I wonder why Hitler hated jews so specifically… Hmmmm. It just seems stupid to me.. but what can I do? Kill all the stupid people? No because thats stupid. Maybe we should get better at teaching people.. If everybody was taught about the holocaust in school would that be better? I dont know. Teaching people to be less scared of death would be good… but maybe then more people would start killing themselves? I dont know. I think that learning about the holocaust would be good but I just dont get why its the holocaust that Im obsessed with!! We should learn about how good and evil isnt so straight forward I think. I wonder if teachers and people like that even talk about this kind of thing? I wish I could see Lucy today

The Brexit Series, Episode 1: Immigration, Donald Trump, and The Incredible Human Journey

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Immigration – The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country: ‘a barrier to control illegal immigration from Mexico’ (source: Oxford Dictionary online).

It was one of the key issues raised by the Leave campaign in the lead up to the E.U. referendum; but immigration is clearly a controversial topic, and one of the main dividing lines among the electorate. So what can an independent Britain do about immigration?

The Politics

Trump’s Travel Ban

It’s probably best to start, given the popular narrative at present, with what Donald Trump is already beginning to implement. He has taken a list of 7 countries identified by the Obama administration as ‘countries of concern’ and refused entrance into the U.S from natives of those countries. Although mainstream media outlets are reporting it as such, this is not necessarily a ‘Muslim Ban’. In fact, none of the top 5 Muslim countries in the world (by population) are included in the ban. What Trump’s policy intends to do, rightly or wrongly, is prevent any more potentially dangerous people from entering the country.

But is this practical, or fair? There are likely already numerous ‘dangerous’ people within America (and Britain, for that matter), and the majority of terrorist attacks in the U.S since 9/11 were not committed by people from the countries Trump has refused entrance to. So will preventing the entrance of people from this list of countries affect the rate of terrorist attacks in the U.S? Probably not.

But in the case of Syria, at least, there is a large pocket of the population who do sympathise with ISIS, and so allowing refugees in from Syria could open the door to more of these kinds of people. However, even this is not sufficient explanation for Trump’s plot. Locking Syrians out of the country won’t achieve much in terms of tackling the core root of terrorism (which will be explored later in this article), nor will it make America any safer – neither would a similar approach in Britain.

The Refugee Crisis

Nevertheless, in spite of the flaws in Trump’s proposals, America or Britain allowing thousands of Syrian refugees into the country will not necessarily help with the refugee crisis, nor will it help with tackling the bigger picture of world poverty. In time, allowing such influxes could increase a country’s population into impractical numbers, which would likely not be a positive change for anybody. For example, Sweden currently find themselves with an immigrant problem having allowed too many people in; and Britain itself already has a budding population of homeless migrants. So how can Britain expect to adequately take care of refugees, on top of the immigrants already coming in annually? I believe it is possible to take care of everyone; but with current economic practices, I can’t picture it in the near future. And even if Britain were to let in a few thousand refugees, it wouldn’t change the fact that there are millions of displaced refugees in Syria – there is a far bigger issue at hand here.

But what can Britain do to help refugees? Leaving them in Syria only condemns them to frightening and unpredictable territories. So what can we do to help them? Well we could start, perhaps, by stopping bombing the shit out of their countries, and encourage the U.S (certainly the biggest culprit in this) to do the same. It would surprise me if Trump doesn’t follow a similarly vicious tactic to Obama’s tactics, if not more aggressive judging by what he has said already on that matter; and it would appear Theresa May’s government will be supporting any of Trump’s ventures, given her recent state visit to the U.S. But there is no evidence that engaging in warfare defeats terrorism in any way. If the Iraq War 2003 has proved anything, it’s that fighting fire with fire will only produce more fire. It doesn’t take a linguist to realise that ‘the war on terror’ is a contradictory expression: engaging in warfare on foreign turf and killing thousands of people is precisely what terrorism is. Obama’s orders resulted in the deaths of far more people than the actions of ISIS so far, and I’m convinced that Trump will act in a similar manner. But is anyone – on either side of this war – genuinely playing the good guy here?

The Scrutinisation of Government

It seems to me that there is, as Jiddu Krishnamurti put it, “a crisis in consciousness.” People are attempting to tackle issues through the means of politics – an ill-equipped problem-solving method through which bias will always have its input. We’ve seen many people protesting against Donald Trump lately, and I don’t disagree with people who stand up against the political establishment; but why is it that people are angry with Trump, yet were not equally as angry with Obama when he was bombing the countries Trump has locked-out? And why such anger against Trump’s declaration to build a wall along the U.S-Mexican border? There has been an armed barrier on that border since 1994; why has it taken 23 years for people to voice their anger about it? It seems contradictory, and suggests that we have an electorate which is misled by the narrative of the mainstream media. Still, for people to feel pushed to protest, they must be aware that something in Western politics has gone wrong – even if they can’t define what it is.

Anyway, at least people are starting to scrutinise their government. Because it’s through the lack of scrutiny that we have been led into a world where “President Donald Trump” isn’t just a joke from The Simpsons.

The Bigger Picture

The Beginnings of Human Migration

Looking at an issue such as immigration through political lens’ – regardless of political orientation – is always problematic, because politicians will always consider their short-term careers before considering the bigger picture. To adequately understand the issue of immigration today (in Britain and the rest of the world) I think it’s necessary to understand the objective reasons behind human migration. I will begin by discussing the earliest ever human migration.

It is widely accepted among anthropologists that the evolution of modern humans has its origins in Africa. In a 5-episode BBC documentary, The Incredible Human Journey (2009), Dr. Alice Roberts explains the evidence for the Out-of-Africa theory, and also touches on the Multiregional theory in its second episode. The documentary serves as a fascinating introduction to the ongoing anthropological study of the origin of our species, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. Knowledge on this topic is limited, and anthropologists are learning new things all the time (for example, recent research has found Neanderthal DNA in modern humans, despite Neanderthals being originally thought as an evolutionary rival). Still, the science tells us it is safe to assume that modern humans are ancestrally tied to Africa: today, from this perspective, every human outside of Africa is, by definition, an immigrant.

The reasons for the early humans emigrating from Africa remain unclear. It isn’t impossible, and the romantic inside me would love to believe that they simply wished to explore the world, to delve into the unknown! The more convincing theories, however, suggest that they were looking for better living conditions, either due to drought or some other change in climate. But the reasons for the migration of humans today possesses a different flavour.

Modern Immigration and ‘Vacation Culture’

Immigration into Britain has been met with hostility throughout modern history. Whether it be the Irish, the Jewish refugees, Indians, Pakistanis, Polish – you can be sure that they’ve been welcomed by at least a dash of hostility. Today, the hostile pockets of the population will sometimes exclaim that ‘Enoch Was Right’, in reference to Enoch Powell’s 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech. In the speech, Powell warned about the violent potential of multi-cultural societies. However the results of multiculturalism would tell us that immigrants have successfully settled down in Britain, and it’s not at all unusual to see people of different race and ethnicity getting along with one another.

Furthermore, we live in an age where ‘taking a vacation’ is a common, almost entitled aspect of 21st Century living. Through vacation, people enjoy travelling the world to experience different cultures, different climates, and different ways of life. Vacations/holidays can be considered a modern invention – as can careers – but nonetheless they have become an important, healthy, and educational facet of the modern global community. This invention has brought humans from all over the world much closer together, and when we consider the ripe young age of the vacation culture, it is truly exciting to think of what the global community may look like later on in the still unfinished story of “the incredible human journey.” In the age of the traveller, one would think that immigration should not be considered even a slight issue.

That being said, Britain is a small island. If the influx of immigrants continues at the current rate for another decade or two then cities could potentially become jam-packed; and, in an ideal world, cramming so many humans into such a small place on such a big planet would not be considered logical, would it? Ideally, we’d like to spread out – surely even the most avid claustrophilics would agree.

But this isn’t an ideal world…

Well, not in political terms! However in astronomical terms ideal is precisely what this world is. In relation to the sun, we are in exactly the right spot – not too hot, not too cold – with resources adequate enough to feed and home all humans (even if we haven’t yet achieved that). If that isn’t an ideal world, I don’t know what is.

But in terms of humans ‘spreading out’ … from where we’re standing, in the current human condition, it’s not so straightforward. When the early humans were migrating from Africa for better living conditions, their task was to find land which was rich enough to feed them. Today, people are are still looking to improve their living conditions; but instead of searching for rich or fertile land, they search for those places where they can earn the most cash, one way or another. The focus is on where there is money, not the tangible resources. Humans’ relationship to money could be compared to the relationship of flies to faeces: they bunch into the proximity, they buzz around, and claim every nibble they can manage to get their teeth into. And seeing as though large amounts of money pools tend to get crammed into a few bank accounts, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when rich countries attract foreign opportunists who could smell the piles of money. If human economy focused on scientifically objective resources rather than opinion and speculation, we would see swarms of humans migrating back to Africa, where there is acres upon acres of unused, fertile land.

“in astronomical terms ideal is precisely what this world is. In relation to the sun, we are in exactly the right spot – not too hot, not too cold – with resources adequate enough to feed and home all humans (even if we haven’t yet achieved that). If that isn’t an ideal world, I don’t know what is.”

What Britain can do

Clearly immigration isn’t a problem that can accurately be defined as ‘British’. It is a worldwide human problem, and can only be addressed by a turn in degree of economic focus away from money and towards resources.

So what can a small island like Britain possibly do? Physically, within the current political climate and economic system of global monetaryism, there isn’t anything Britain, alone, can do to resolve the issue. But Britain, as a nation with rich culture and a proud, renowned reputation on the world stage, it could take a stand to the other world leaders. To solve these problem requires all the leaders of the world to come together and say, “hey, we could really do with working together to manage our resources in such a way that benefits humankind. That way, immigrants won’t need to come over to our countries.” But its very difficult to imagine Theresa May standing in front of the U.N and saying anything to that effect. She may claim to believe in a vision for a ‘shared society’ but, when it really comes down to it, is she really prepared to do what it takes to help people in need? If she was prepared, she would have funded specific projects in places that need it most, such as Syria; such as Iraq; such as Africa; etc.

But Theresa May would probably argue that the problems posed by terrorism means that helping those who need help isn’t so straightforward. Yet terrorist groups are not to blame for the current human condition – world poverty existed before Al Qaeda. I can’t justify the actions of terrorist organisations, and I can’t deny that it is a genuine issue. I haven’t seen the beheading videos from ISIS, but hearing about them was certainly unsettling. Unsettling, yes … but not altogether surprising. May has vowed to stand with Donald Trump’s aggressive stance towards the Middle East, yet history tells us that this is not the way to combat terrorism.

When we consider the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the hell that was unleashed there under the masquerade of a hunt for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (weapons suspiciously similar to those weapons that we openly claim to have on standby), is it really so surprising that rebel forces have formed in the Middle East? Western governments ordered the absolute obliteration of parts of the Middle East; but they have also armed some of the rebels they claim to be trying to neutralise. I can’t help but believe the terrorism problem can be solved much closer to home than in the Middle East. The so-called ‘war on terror’ is completely contradictory: war is the very definition of terror. To play fire with fire and expect anything other than fire is delusional; centuries of warfare haven’t defeated terrorism up to this point in history, and there’s no evidence to suggest that it ever will. To take Hegel’s famous quote: “we learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

Moreover, according to government statistics, there have been 53 deaths by cause of terrorism in Britain since 11th September 2001. In contrast, according to NHS figures, more than 70,000 people per year die from heart disease, yet our doctors and nurses are still forced to struggle due to lack of funding. It would surely be more beneficial to invest the enormous figures spent on failing warfare missions into projects that tackle bigger issues.

Thus, In Conclusion…

There are many things an independent Britain can try to do about immigration; but there is very little it can do to objectively address the issue at its core – the living conditions of certain foreign countries. It is a human problem, not a British problem, and so Britain cannot tackle it alone. This, however, is not necessarily an anti-Brexit argument: the E.U is not an institution void of corruption, and tackling global issues is certainly not dependent on such bureaucratic matters. Brexit could be seen as an opportunity for Britain to take a step away from political corruption and to set a positive, quasi-revolutionary example to the rest of the world. It is an opportunity to begin forming genuinely positive international relations, the likes of which are not possible as members of the E.U (without the E.U having its own, internal revolution). Whether or not the state chooses to take such an opportunity, though, is another question entirely.

On the topic of international relations, I will close this article by introducing you to the upcoming second episode of ‘The Brexit Series’: Trade.