Writing My Debut Novel: NaNoWriMo

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If you knew that November is ‘National Novel Writing Month’ (NaNoWriMo) then you knew something I didn’t know on the morning of 01/11/2018.

But later that day, I did know! So I looked back at a piece I wrote 3 years ago (time flies, doesn’t it?) and decided I would take up the challenge: I decided that, this month, I am going to finish writing my first novel. I will be putting my non-fiction writing to one side and indulging myself into the world of fiction! So far, I’m enjoying it 🙂

For those of you that don’t know, the benchmark for a novel’s wordcount is (according to Wikipedia) is 40,000. The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, though. That’s my personal target too.

I don’t think I’ve written so many words in one go before … but why not give it a go? The idea I am pursuing is one that I found very easy to write at the time, and have been finding very easy to write for the past few days as well. In fact, according to the NaNoWriMo projections of my current word count, I am on course to complete 50,000 words within the time limit! eek…

I don’t know what my plan will be once I’ve finished writing it. I guess I will send it to some willing friends who would like to read it (that could be you, if you get in touch with me!! My email address is on the homepage of this webpage, if you aren’t my Facebook friend or Twitter follower, etc etc, blah blah). It will need some serious editing after a month of tunnel-vision, word count-focused writing … so I’ll do some editing. Maybe even pay somebody to edit it for me? (Or maybe not)

And then? I guess that’s when I will start submitting the novel to publishers! And if I get a good deal? The whoopy doo! If nobody wants to publish it for me? Then I’ll go down the self-publishing route (a route which, in spite of its bad reputation, has given a number of authors a lot of success).

If you are interested in reading the first 3,000 words of my novel, I actually published them on this website about a year ago! Here’s the link (enjoy it!): 

Songs That Make Me Think: ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

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Nick Cave’s life story alone — even without his influential music career, his novels, and his screeenplays — is probably enough to warrant a biopic. He has battled an addiction to heroin, has travelled the world, and has lived to see the death of his 15 year old son. Even without the exploits that make him famous, Cave’s life is intriguing enough.

But the biopic will certainly not leave out the fact that Cave has become an important social figure with his songwriting. For years to come, perhaps decades (or longer?!), people will discuss Cave’s influence on his contemporaries, and his influence on whoever follows in his footsteps. For years to come, people will discuss his legacy.

This article, though, will barely scratch the surface of the phenomenal figure that is Nick Cave. It will focus on ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, the penultimate track from his critically acclaimed album Push the Sky Away (2013). The song is a mere fragment of Cave’s vast discography, yet it is probably possible to write an entire book about it alone.

What is Higgs Boson?

There’s a lot to talk about, but I’ll start with the title. The Higgs Boson particle — also nicknamed the ‘God particle’ — is a subatomic particle (that means it’s really really small). The particle has been discovered to give mass to atoms, therefore allowing matter (things we can see and touch) to exist — thus, the ‘God particle’.

The possibilities that arise from such a discovery are extraordinary. Theoretically, understanding this particle could help scientists to learn more about dark matter (things we can’t see or touch), as well as (again, theoretically) enabling us to create particles of our own …  like magic.

The discovery is arguably the most significant breakthrough in modern science. The implications of the discovery, though, are yet to be truly understood. This lack of understanding is the central theme to my reading of this groundbreaking song.

I interpret Nick Cave’s ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ as the ‘blues’ suffered by Western society in its lack of understanding. Not only our depression in understanding the ‘Higgs Boson’ particle, but in understanding many things. After all, this isn’t a science-education song.

What Is Going On?!

For me, this song serves as a commentary on modern life. In this age of the internet and social media, we are overwhelmed with information. Our access to knowledge is virtually infinitely easier than it was in the age of books and newspapers (an age which, by the way, wasn’t very long ago at all).

The sheer speed at which society has changed in the last decade or two has not really sunk in (for me, at least). We’re all so busy with and focused on our everyday lives that we don’t have the time to reflect on the significance of how much our world has changed.

One thing is for sure: historians will look back on this era as being an industrial revolution of sorts. I don’t know what this technological boom will mean for humanity’s future, but I’d willing to bet that this boom will have historical relevance, 100 years from now (you can get your winnings from my will, if I turn out to be wrong).

The discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, I believe, is analogous to this. It’s too much information at once for us to process/comprehend.

Are We There Yet?

Modern life is, in many ways, like a collage of seemingly unrelated things all squeezed into the same space. On the internet, we can engage with soap operas, Taoist philosophies, and baking recipes simultaneously. We can access everything at once, with the click of a button, or the tap of a few keys.

Furthermore, with nanotechnology, we can hold thousands of books, songs, and photographs into tiny devices (I wonder if the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle will make these devices smaller, still).

In the song, Cave repeats the line “Can’t remember anything at all” a couple of times. Perhaps Cave is unable to attribute a positive message to the speed at which we are progressing.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that in one of the album’s earlier tracks, ‘We Real Cool’, there is this potent lyric: “Wikipedia is Heaven when you don’t wanna remember no more.”

For me, this represents humanity as a species which is progressing, but a species whose individuals are regressing.

I often wonder where we are heading as a species. We can’t possibly know how these rapid developments will affect our living conditions … so what is our mission here? Where do we want to go? Are we there yet? I don’t know the answer; but I’m not sure that the answer is a positive one, if I’m completely honest.

Hannah Montana

Back to the song, where Cave’s lyrics describe Hannah Montana, the fictional alter-ego of Miley Cyrus, travelling the world:

“Hannah Montana does the African Savannah …
she curses the queues at the Zoo Loos 
then moves onto Amazonia, and cries with the dolphins.”

‘Higgs Boson Blue’

Africa and South America (where ‘Amazonia’ resides) are, of course, on opposite sides of the planet. Once upon a time, visiting both places was impossible! Today, however, with cheap flights and globalisation, it’s far from impossible. The ability to jump from one to the other so easily is another reflection of the absurdity of modern life.

Moreover, Cave’s Hannah Montana comes across as a cliché American girl visiting cliché landmarks. Her “cursing the queues at the Zoo Loos” pokes at a lack of knowledge about ‘Zulus’, which is certainly more symbolic than it is literal.

That an average, possibly ignorant Western girl has been afforded such privileged opportunities suggests an underlying cynicism. Similarly to humanity’s inability to understand its technological boom, Hannah Montana doesn’t really seem to understand what it means for her to visit such enigmatic places.

At the end of the song, Cave leaves us on a cliffhanger:

“Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Taluca Lake”

‘Higgs Boson Blues’

It’s unclear to me whether Miley Cyrus is floating dead on the swimming pool, or if she is floating leisurely. This ambiguity, once again, represents humanity’s uncertain destination. Will it be bliss, or will it be apocalyptic?

Final Thoughts

The meaning behind this song is certainly not limited by my thoughts about it. There are many more layers that I’ve left unpacked!

For example, there are many surreal, dream-like lyrics which I haven’t even begun to discuss:

“Flame trees line the street…”

“Here comes Lucifer with his canon law
And a hundred black babies
running from his genocidal jaw…”

“All the clocks have stopped in Memphis, now…”

“If I die tonight, 
bury me in my favourite yellow, patent, leather shoes
With a mummified cat
and a cone-like hat that the caliphate forced on the Jews…”

‘Higgs Boson Blues’

Wow! I love this sort of imagery. Slightly unsettling, yet deeply satisfying! There is, no doubt, a ton of meaning that I could dig out of these rich lines. I love reading them as much as I loved hearing Cave sing them in that sombre tone.

But this article is not really an interpretation of the song; it is a reflection of my reaction to the song. Music such as this is like food for artists. Nick Cave, therefore, is one of my favourite chefs. This song is only a single ingredient in his kitchen.

In a world of uncertainty, Nick Cave has provided this writer with a dose of satisfaction. I am grateful to him for that.

Travelling: An Exploration of the Self

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Tribal territories of Ha Giang province’s mountain ranges in Northern Vietnam, right on the Chinese border.

My short-lived travels

I’m not the most seasoned traveller in this world, but I’ve travelled a little bit, so I’ve naturally thought a few thoughts.

I travelled for 3 months around the north of Vietnam, including a month teaching English to children in the Ha Giang province (the poorest province in the country), then spending a week in Bangkok, Thailand, before returning home. I planned to travel for quite a while longer than three months, but my adventure was cut short was by an unforeseen even. I dislocated my shoulder after falling off a motorbike, and the attention my shoulder required was cheaper at home (in the UK) than it was in Asia.

I should make it clear that I don’t feel sorry for myself. The dislocation was entirely my fault (falling off my bike in the fashion that I did deserves more than a few laughs at my expense). And I am so lucky to have had the option to go home to the wonderful NHS! I’m now very aware of how fortunate I am, and am under no pretence that I’m hard done by.

As for the experience of travelling that I had? My mind was exposed to new experiences, and I certainly learned a lot from being exposed to different cultures – of course I did. Vietnam is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to go over there, short-lived though it was.

The Universal Applicant

What I want to write about in this article is the reflections I have had since returning home. Interestingly, it wasn’t the differences between my own culture and the cultures that I was introduced to that I remember most. What has really stuck in my mind is the similarities I noticed.

Generally, people’s lives revolve around food, shelter, and security. While the methods of satisfying these basic needs differs significantly from culture to culture, the outcome is always the same.

I mean, obviously English food and Vietnamese food is different … but they all still eat food. Obviously socio-economics differ between both countries … but there are still rich people and poor people. There are still small businesses dreaming of success. There are still homeless people asking for change. And there is still a balancing act for all people between work and play.

Even among the mountain tribes of northern Vietnam, people work to maintain their homes, feed their families, and enjoy a bit of leisure, too (they were regularly drinking a home-brewed rice wine, which they translated to ‘happy water’ … I have since discovered that happy water may have contained opium – ha!). Even people living on the edge of poverty – with no NHS, no welfare, and no state security – still enjoy the same activities that we privileged Westerners do. The only real difference is the aesthetic.

Another similarity I observed, which I think is the most important lesson I learned, was the presence of uncertainty.

There is nobody from any country or culture without flaws. Nobody understands the depths, purpose, or meaning of this life, no matter where they come from.

I don’t believe any culture exists that comprehensively believes they are living in exactly the way that they ought to be. That is to say, in all societies, there always exists a group of people who believe their society could be performing better, on one level or another.

Noticing such similarities between my home and other societies reinforced my belief in the existence of a universality among all humans. In fact, I believe this universal can probably even be applied to all kinds of species.

So why would someone want to go travelling?

Travel is good on many levels. For a start, it is for the species, and for international relations. Different cultures are actively being exposed to each other on a mass scale via travelling humans, and these cultures are blending into each other, too! For example, we see world foods and world music in Western countries; and in my own travel experiences, Vietnam and Thailand are loaded with Western (European and American) influences, while retaining their own cultural identity.

This is truly a groundbreaking time for humanity. In my view, the blending of cultures can only result in more open-mindedness between different people worldwide. By travelling, and travelling gracefully, people are contributing to the building of friendships between nations.

This process is a significant event. Cultures have never been blended like this before, so I have no doubt that one day historians will look back and think “wow, that was an exciting time in history.”

And I’m sure there will be a bunch of people who look back on our time and think: “I wish I was born back then!” in the exact same way that people think that about other eras today.

Travelling to Find Yourself

People who want to travel certainly should go and live that experience – because it really is a great opportunity. It’s a golden age for hermits! And I really think it will be looked back on with nostalgia, and admiration.

That being said, travelling is not going to help anybody to ‘find themselves’ – a notion that is popularly banded around. Travel will not rid anybody of their personal demons. Those demons can only be resolved by the person themselves, no matter where they are.

Trying to find yourself is, in the words of Alan Watts, “like trying to smell your own nose.” You aren’t going to find yourself in any particular place.

The mindset associated with travelling – of letting go, of accepting, of being open-minded, and open to learning – is certainly valuable. If somebody taps into this mindset while travelling, then sure! They will be learning skills which help to heal their identity crisis.

But it is a mistake to believe that travel is the only thing that can open people’s mind in this sense.

The Yellow Brick Road isn’t the only way to Oz

In the movie ‘My Dinner With Andre’ (1981), the character Wally asked Andre this question: “isn’t there just as much ‘reality’ to be perceived in a cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?”

There’s something very profound about that question. After all, people often travel in order to have new, ‘real’ experiences which do away with the monotony of their life at home, or their routines.

I think many travellers would agree that it is often the interactions with other people that makes travelling so special. Of course, the landscapes of a foreign land are mesmerising! And the exposure to other ways of life is educational … but still, interactions with other people are often the most memorable moments. I find it fascinating that arguably the richest experiences of travel involves something that exists in our home life. People!

I’m reminded of an excellent George Carlin quote: “Every person you look at, you can see the universe in their eyes if you’re really looking.”

The yellow brick road isn’t the only way to Oz. Mount Everest isn’t the only place we can experience reality. And we can expand ourselves with, and learn about life from anybody we meet – even those boring, predictable people we see in our lives everyday.

Home is a Microcosm of the Universe

Living in the same town for your entire life is not necessarily restrictive. The key to living a life that feels free is that mindset associated with travel – of letting go, of accepting, of being open-minded, and of being open learning. With this mindset, we can live rich and fulfilled lives without needing to explore all the corners of the world.

If you focus a microscope on near enough any piece of matter, you will discover there are a virtually infinite number of levels of life. If you focus in on the skin of your arm, for example, you’ll realise that it’s made up of all kinds of molecules and tiny microorganisms. It’s likely that there is even smaller organisms than our science has even managed to perceive in existence, too.

My point is, it is possible to learn as much about the universe by staying in one place as when you are travelling the world. Of course, travellers, more often than not, are more cultured and well-learned than people who haven’t travelled … but it doesn’t change the fact that travel alone is not what makes these experiences happen. These experiences depend entirely on a certain frame of mind.

Given what I’ve said about underlying similarities among different societies, I think this is all fascinating. No matter where you are, or who you are with, you will always be able to learn something new (if you are open to it).

In conclusion, leaving is easy…

I think people who travel are achieving something deeply significant. There is a lot of value in, and there is certainly a lot of knowledge to be gained from experiencing new places, new people, and from eating new food.

In terms of self-improvement, travelling can definitely help many people – and for some people, perhaps it is necessary!

However, I think travel is a luxury that our generation is very lucky to have. It is not of any grand importance that people travel. Furthermore, I don’t think that people who are well travelled are necessarily better placed to answer any of life’s big questions.

It is true, though, that exploring the world is an exploration of the self. Yourself and your world are interconnected! Two ends of the same stick. By exploring one, you are exploring the other.

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and I’m sure anybody would benefit from travelling. But it isn’t travel in and of itself that improves people. What improves people is that frame of mind which doesn’t force anything or expect anything.

We improve by learning from the contrasts we experience in everyday life, whether we’re on the top of Everest or in the supermarket.

The Qur’an And Islam Are Not Infallible

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A Split of Opinion

There’s enormous controversy surrounding Islamism – about the Qur’an, about the religion’s prophet, Muhammad … there’s a huge split of opinion, and there’s an enormous animosity between the two sides of this split.

On the one hand, there is a significant group of people – Muslim and non-Muslim – who describe the life of Muhammad as that of a true religious prophet. They promote him as a pacifist, a messenger of peace, and a good, noble leader. Their opinion of those who blame the Qur’an/Islam for the global terrorist phenomenon is that they are bigoted and at least mildly racist. There is certainly some justification for those opinions, too, as there have been a number of racially-driven acts of violence against Muslims.

On the other hand, you have a group of people who deeply criticise Islamism, and make some very serious (although often out of context) accusations. They describe Muhammad as a warlord, which it seems there is at least some truth behind. They also accuse him of paedophilia, which could technically be interpreted as accurate, given that he potentially took a 6 year old wife while himself being older than 40. But it is important to remember the historical context there, because (culturally speaking) having a wife of that age was not uncommon in that time of history. The criticism of Islam which is difficult to argue with, though, is that certain passages from the Qur’an can be – and have been – interpreted as justification of the actions of terrorist organisations, particularly ISIS.

So who is right, and who is wrong?

I’m afraid to say there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question, as much as I wish there was. There are enough quotes from the Qur’an and from the Hadith (a record of the words and actions of Muhammad) that could be easily interpreted in the way ISIS interpreted them.

That is not to say that this interpretation is correct, nor is it to say the Qur’an is a book which actively and inherently promotes terrorism. But to dismiss that interpretation as plain wrong, and to defend Islam as nothing more than a “religion of peace,” ignores a far more complicated reality.

A balanced view

There’s a fantastic essay by Ali A. Rizvi which poses the following question: if verses from the Qur’an were written about Muslims instead of ‘non-believers’, what would the reaction be? I will present the example Rizvi gave:

Version 1 (taken from the Qur’an):

“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are those who have disbelieved, and they will not [ever] believe –

The ones with whom you made a treaty but then they break their pledge every time, and they do not fear Allah.” Qur’an, verses 8:55-56.

Version 2 (taken from Rizvi’s essay):

The worst of beasts, in our view, are the followers of Allah—those who believe in Islam. They’re the ones you make treaties with, but they break those treaties every time because they have no fear of the law.”

If Version 2 was published in an anti-Muslim book, it would instantly (and rightly) be branded racist, hateful, and unacceptable. But, because the Qur’an is a significant historical book which leads a huge religious following, it is protected from the kind of criticism that it arguably deserves.

Out of context?

Rizvi even counters the argument (successfully, in my opinion) that violent quotes are taken out of the context of the book as a whole. While that argument is valid, dismissing the interpretation of the Qur’an as a violent book lacks some substance.

That isn’t to say that Rizvi’s criticism is limited to Islam, though; it is a criticism of many religious texts. The Bible, after all, must shoulder some of the blame for the justification of the many years of slavery. In this day and age, though, the Bible is not protected from criticism in nearly the same way that the Qur’an is. Nor does the Bible influence the same levels of violence.

But is criticism of Islam still harmful?

It might be true that an article such as this one I am writing could be used as a stick for racist, “alt-right” types to beat peaceful Muslims with. But that is not the intention of this article – at all. I think that violence against someone for being Muslim is stupid to the extreme. The intention of this is to add to a dialogue on a difficult topic which possesses an underlying degree of fear. And it also intends to add some clarity/reason to the ignorance on both sides of the debate.

In truth, though, no amount of logic or reasoning will convince future movements akin to ISIS to change their ways. That organisation arose in response to the violence of the West on their homelands (from air-strikes and military invasions). If that violence continues, we can’t expect their violence to stop, either. In either case though, a movement like ISIS would not listen to reason. If we were to stop attacking them, it’s highly unlikely that their violence would stop.

The ideology that drives them targets world domination, not revenge. That ideology can probably only be stopped (or halted) by more violence. Sadly, that only adds to the seemingly never-ending cycle of war which has been set in motion for hundreds, if not thousands of years (and is not limited to humans, it should be pointed out). Moreover, even though ISIS has been defeated, you can bet your last penny that their ideology will rear its head again.

What do we do now?

There is no easy solution to this problem. Still, I think it is of great importance that the right to free speech is protected. I understand how controversial criticism of Islam is, and the connotations of criticising it are, indeed, racist and bigoted (thanks in no small part to the violent/hateful acts associated with that). But how can this problem be solved without looking at the bigger picture? Criticising Islam is necessary when it comes to an objective review of the situation.

While there are a huge number of misinformed people out there, it is still important to try and include them in the dialogue. If they can’t be convinced of a more balanced perception of Islam, how could groups such as ISIS possibly be convinced? In any case, if we are going to protect the right of people to read and worship a book with violent, and genuinely dangerous passages, then it would be hypocrisy not to defend the right of people to criticise it.

There are many Muslims throughout history who have inspired generations of great people – Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Zinedine Zidane, and many more, no doubt. But we can’t ignore the devil in the details: there are two sides of every coin. Sadly, the other side of the Islam coin (so to speak) is a genuine problem. Denying this is equally as ignorant as viewing all Muslims as evil.

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:

.

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.