Tautological Times: Endgame

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I started up this website, ‘tautological times’, two or three years ago. I didn’t really have much of a plan for it — actually, I didn’t have any plan whatsoever!

Naturally, such a disorganised endeavour has not resulted in profit for me (at least from a monetary perspective); but it has enabled me to put together a portfolio with examples of the kind of things I like to write. For that, I will not forget ‘tautological times’: it has been a good stepping stone for me in the journey towards monetising my hobby of writing.

That being said, it is time for this chapter to come to an end.

It’s fair to say that ‘tautological times’ isn’t the most memorable of titles. In order to turn my portfolio’s website into something that could one day host some traffic, I have decided I should rebrand. I have a few ideas for naming my new website, and am looking forward to building it.

Another problem in my current approach: people may read some of my articles, or stories; but unless they are my Facebook friend or follow me on Twitter, they are unlikely to ever stumble upon any of my writing again.

Therefore, along with the new website, I will be working to build up social media pages which I hope will help me to build a following of people who enjoy some of (if not all) my writing.

So that’s it! I’ve learned from a number of rookie mistakes I’ve made over the last few years, and now is time for me to correct those mistakes. I’m looking forward to the process, and am more confident now than I’ve ever been.

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far in one of my boring update blogs, you will be interested enough to follow my story some more. If you are, then keep your eyes peeled! There’s more to come from me.

Tom

My Ambition of ‘Being a Writer’: Is It Serious?

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Photo by Rebecca Yates

I’ve wanted to be a professional writer for a rather long time – since I was about 15 years old. I’m glad that I haven’t yet sacrificed that dream, and still hold out hope.

But how seriously should I take such a dream? Should the success of my life be measured by my success as a writer? I don’t think so. But as a self-reflection, I want to explore that question anyway.

Was My Student Experience Worth The Debt?

To give some context to anybody who doesn’t know me that well: I finished my degree, in English & Creative Writing, about 4 years ago with very few ideas about how I would profit from writing. Since graduation, when I achieved a grade of 1st Class (with honours), I’ve been paid, all in all, about £50 for writing services … the equivalent of about £12 per year. Hardly a great turnover for 30 years worth of student debt, is it?!

That being said, nobody told me that undergoing a degree geared towards a career in the arts was ever likely to be profitable … and I haven’t ever complained about those debts because I happen to believe that I have already been rewarded for my 3 years as a student.

That reward is the perspective I have been afforded from the time I spent as a student. The perspective partially came from the lecturers and tutors I paid so much (£8,500 per year, no less) for. Mostly, however, that perspective came from the conversations I had with the people I met along the way (not least the lifelong friends I made), and from the time I spent sitting around, thinking about things, and writing about things.

Of course, nobody needs to pay so much money to learn how talk to people, or to learn how to sit around doing nothing but thinking, reading, and writing!!! Anybody can do that, make no mistake.

But how many people actually do? It isn’t even true of all students – as far as I could/can tell, many students spend their spare time clubbing, drinking, and nursing hangovers … and in fairness, who could blame them for spending their time that way?!

I will confess that I spent a significant amount of my time as a student smoking marijuana and slobbing in front of laptop screens, watching movies and documentaries.

Nonetheless, I spent an equally significant amount of time exploring some of the myriad corridors of my mind, as well as reflecting and meditating on consciousness as an infinite, immortal, yet tangible concept (explaining what I mean by this – without sounding too much like a new age, hippy-dippy melt – would probably require another article entirely).

Furthermore, since I was fortunate enough to meet like-minded people, I had this great opportunity to discuss, in depth, topics such as: the purpose of our lives as individuals; the purpose and direction of mankind as a species on Earth and in the universe; the causes of joy and satisfaction; and the inevitability of death.

If you want to know the answers that I have found to these questions, you can ask me yourself!

The Perspective

But before you do ask me such questions, reader, you should know that I won’t be able to tell you the purpose of your life as an individual; what mankind ought to do next; how to find eternal satisfaction in your life; or what happens when you die.

What I can tell you, though, is this: thinking about and discussing these impossible topics has, and continues to significantly help me develop a worldview, or perspective (fair warning: I’m going to massively overuse this word), that I enjoy.

The perspective has significantly improved my life quality.

When the chips are down, the perspective saves me a whole lot of energy by preventing the process of dwelling on negativity from happening at all. Rather than focusing on arising problems, I will instead focus on potential solutions – perhaps that seems simplistic and obvious, but I know for a fact that many people do waste a lot of time and energy focusing on problems in their lives. They don’t have the perspective.

To be fair, though, there are some ‘problems’ which have no solutions. For example, if you happen to break your leg, there’s nothing you can do to fix your leg other than wait. The perspective helps you relax enough that you can accept, and move forward in spite of such bleak circumstances.

The perspective, in fact, is the very reason that I still want to write. I want to share the perspective. The fact that I enjoy it so much must mean that other people will derive some value from it, too. So, if I can somehow reach those people that could benefit from it, then I think that’d be really nice 🙂

And Here I Am!

Six months following my most recent blog post, I am still trying to write myself into a career with an extraordinarily narrow market.

Incidentally, that previous blog post was written as a boastful promotion of my debut novel, which I claimed would be finished within a month … to cut a long story short: that didn’t quite happen. Ha ha.

In my defence, though, a novel is a significant challenge, and while I have been taught how to write ‘well’ (‘well’, that is, according to academic people in universities, who are often considered to be out of touch with ordinary, working class people) I’ve still never written a piece any longer than 10,000 words A novel, meanwhile, traditionally requires at least 50,000 words.

So, with the huge scale needed to weave together a novel, along with my lack of experience in that form, it is taking more time than I expect to finish my debut book. On the bright side, I have made significant start on that novel back since writing that blog post, and I’m confident of finishing it this year.

That novel, by the way, is my excuse for having not written any blogs for so long. I’ve been busy writing that, and haven’t yet found a balance between writing a book and writing some blog posts. Hopefully this post will be the beginning of the end in that regard.

Having Fun

Writing this novel has been a real, lengthy challenge for me. Moreover, I may never be properly rewarded for my efforts financially.

Nevertheless, I am having a lot of fun in the process. If I manage to write as much as I have written this last year every year for the rest of my life, then I will consider myself a lucky man – regardless of any financial benefits. I love writing! And to be able to do what you love is a reward in and of itself.

(By the way, that doesn’t mean I don’t want anyone to pay me for my writing … I definitely want to be paid for my writing, and will insist upon being paid when writing for someone else’s website/publication!)

Is It Serious, Then?

No, it’s not serious. Obviously. The perspective makes me fully aware that, should I never be paid for the hours (and hours) I spend writing ever again, it wouldn’t need to be deemed a failure. I will still have been successful in the sense that I have enjoyed my process so much … I’ve been successful at finding the time to do what I really enjoy doing.

After all, enjoying ourselves is the best thing we can do in life, is it not?

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