Life

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I guess I exaggerated a bit 3 months ago when I wrote that the changes were settling in… they were just getting started 
For a while I thought I’d found another outlet for the mass of ideas and trivia and connections that I have instead of neurons. So I didn’t write anything other than work stuff.
It was horrible 
I had no time (an exaggeration!) and when I did have time the sorry excuse for a laptop struggled even with Open Office (since when did I become so dependent on a word processor?). But you know that habit people sometimes have when they give diaries and journals as presents? Does any of you actually have one tucked away in a corner? I found three  So one evening when the entire situation had become unbearable (I am right little so-and-so when I don’t write) I picked up one of those journals and I put real pen to real paper… and didn’t stop, it was wonderful! Of course, to my embarrassment, I wrote a short story linked to Harry Potter. It was clear why, don’t get me wrong: the little one has adamantly refused to read anything but Harry Potter for the last two months, so you could say I am steeped in the magical world (I can’t wait until she is old enough to get her started on Lord of the Rings… maybe start with the Hobbit?).

My hand hurt from writing, so I also got over myself already and bought a computer so I can type the short story up  But I hope I learnt my lesson – write, for goodness’ sake, in whatever form you can!

Also during this period I have re-done several fun personality tests – I can report that I haven’t changed much, even though some of my tendencies have solidified over the years. I find it very interesting to re-visit things like that after sometimes a decade… for curiosity’s sake – and for those who haven’t realized that yet, curiosity never killed the cat, probably saved a few of its lives though! Some of those tests (like the 16 personalities one – the zodiac of personality testing 😛 ) were scarily accurate. Others, like the DOPE (Dove Owl Peacock Eagle, not that plant!) were more interesting because of the scoring system than anything else. And here’s the interesting part: we use these tests for employment purposes (not so much here) because we are too distant from each other to actually get to know ourselves and those around us. There are also so many of us and in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for the knowing of ourselves, let alone the others.

See, my mind is nowhere near where it should be… but I am getting there, and that’s such a relief! Having my type of brain working only in the shallows of life is uncomfortable to say the least, but I can still use those times to sort out things for my convenience, so I can get back into the depths I like to swim in…

 

 

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Change, again

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Almost 6 months of changes are slowly coming to an end. There is still more to come in this batch, but the bulk of changes is settling in as we speak. Some changes were gradual and anticipated, others sudden and surprising. Some of them for the good, others for the loss. So instead of gently teasing out information, round it up nicely in words of rhythm, finding the metaphor that would please the heart and put it all in a coherent 1 page blog article, I have been hoarding the information, watching bits of trivia sharpen themselves on spikes of stress and exhilaration.

I am truly made for this, I know, even as I put the brakes on reckless behaviour in the aftermath of change. Much as I enjoy safety and security and stability (and I need them, too, for me and others) I need to row as well as steer. I need to be a leaf floating on the water as well as the stone making up the river bed. How else will I know how strong I am if I am never tested? Heck, that sounds, even to my ears, ungrateful, and yet that’s the last thing I feel. I am not such a dunderhead that I am looking for trouble, that I tweak life out of boredom or a craving for adrenaline. I am not challenging life to put obstacles in my way, I am not asking to leave what I have built to start again just for the sheer adventure of it.

But I do know that life is not just endless cycles of home, work, hobby, sleep. Or, rather, it can be, but I am not meant to do this forever. And isn’t it ironic (systemically tragic, more likely!) that there are many who would be happy to do this forever, who would say that they have a good life? Some of them because they’ve wanted it, but so many more because they truly believe that this is how it’s supposed to be… again, I feel ungrateful, especially as I am thinking about the alternatives I see on the news whenever someone turns the dratted thing on. But I am grateful, looking at places in the world where human life is worth less than a handful of dirt. I am grateful that I have life and freedom and peace and dignity and options, when so many don’t.

It’s just that… well, if we always compare our lives with those who struggle, our expectations of ourselves and our lives diminish. If our lives are stable and secure and safe, then surely that’s as good as it can get?

And yet, for me, that is just the beginning. Necessary, but just the beginning. Because we are so much more than automatons. Because we feel so much more than comfort. Because we can so much more than bread and circus.

“A ship in harbour is safe. But that’s not what ships were built for” (J.A Shedd, 1928)

Energy

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I was completing an assignment yesterday on metabolism, as one does

If there was one thing I took from that assignment (ok, ok, it was quite interesting, so maybe not just one thing!) was that life requires energy. In the absence of energy there is no life. Maybe life is energy… I don’t know, not going there at the moment.

But we need it and each drop of it is parsimoniously eked out to make it last and drive as much activity as possible. The body even uses the waste product (heat) to maintain energy production and storage. The body is also more efficient at utilizing energy than anything we’ve been able to come up with.

So far so obvious. Now we come to the nitty-gritty: how in the world do we mobilize all this energy to serve our purposes? Oh wait, do we have a purpose? Quick, get back to the drawing board and get thee one

But other than being cheeky, it’s not just the purpose that we need energy for – I use enormous amounts of energy for waiting!. The body uses most of the energy just to stay alive (you know, allowing our big brains to control breathing, heart pumping, digestion); in contrast, we use most of our energy for the little things in life, for the non-essentials. Or rather, we have set up our world so that we need to perform lots of non-essential activities in order to maintain said world. Let’s see, we need to use a lot of energy (dig some ore to make into components of a car and the roads, work at a particular job) that will allow us to drive to the supermarket to buy something like food which we then need to store, prepare and cook in order to eat. The last bit is the only one truly essential. The rest is inefficient at the best of times. We have less leisure than the animals we don’t want to compare ourselves with. We ruin our health by specializing more and more when I believe we were meant to be generalists. We also think this is normal and pity the ones who don’t have the “conveniences” we do.

And yet we dream of the simple life. Which wasn’t that simple, as it was brought home to me by reading to the little one about prehistoric life.

Because I am not really complaining as such… my rant is more around the wastage of energy. So maybe what I am looking for is a simpler life. Yeah, I want to have my cake and eat it, too! I want to spend less time (oh, the links between energy and time need another blog article for sure!) for the basic needs ; that means having shelter, water and food close to home, being knowledgeable about health care, paying taxes for the systems I use. Basically I want to arrange my life so that I have most of the conveniences but not so much of the consumption.

So that I can concentrate more on being human…

Shield

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For once, this word is not derived from Latin. I know, amazing, right? 🙂

But oh, the meaning! Ah, the meaning! Yes, protection, but actually it means to divide, to separate. So result aside (protection), the intent is to keep the distance. It may seem I am making too much of it, but my infamous defence walls have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I need them, but the idealist in me rues that need. In my struggle for connection, how could I not regret (note, regret, not resent) the very thing that protects me? The mask, the quick quip, the attack, the logical analysis… so many ways of saying “I do not trust you to take care with my soul” therefore “you stay away, there where I can see you and watch your every move” because the alternative is to get my soul damaged by the same carelessness with which I raise these walls… wait, what?

Hmm, yes, I guess that makes sense, that we all have walls. It comes I think from the loss of innocence which then translates into a certain cynicism regarding people in general, although we do try to define the breadth of that mistrust.

From the Platonic halves to the Babel tower, we have struggled with the separation, with the difference, with the mistrust. We have found ways around the worst of it, too, in enlightment, in agape, in religion. Using them as shields. Unable to overcome the separation, we have built bridges and crossed them when at all possible. We have learnt to accept the separation and, in the course of a normal life, many of us don’t even struggle anymore. After all, what can be the point, when this is how it is, when there is no point to fight, when this is what we are fated for?

We have built our societies around it. We praise the separation and teach our children to respect it. Because, I assume, of death. Which we have demonized as the final separation (although even then we have attempted to build bridges).

Is this, then, the best that we can do? Love, learn, pray, then succumb to death? Build walls so that the words of our loved ones don’t harm too much? Struggle to keep our selves (bodies, but spirits, too) intact because we cannot even contemplate the alternative?

Hey, wait a minute!

Hey, wait a lifetime, you mean! For we are not born with those walls, yet few go out of childhood not having them. Those we call simple, naïve or angels. That innocence, again. I struggle with it.

And yet I am no stranger to the one thing that makes those bridges possible, that looks at separation and, if we but let it, has us trying again and again to cross.

I am talking, of course, of hope.

It is one of those things (like life, and freedom, and learning) that would look mighty strange were it extinguished.

Unreasonable

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I want to find that one person who understands me at each and any moment in my life. Never mind that I sometimes need years to understand myself. Never mind that I have so many people who understand a part of me, because, after all, we are not living each moment to its fullest and when we need to talk we usually limit ourselves to one part of who we are. Nevertheless, yes, unreasonable of me, I want to find that person.

I want to listen to your words and know who you are. Never mind that I see your actions and they speak true. Never mind that I have enough understanding to know that your words can be a lot harsher than your thoughts ever are and as far away from your actions as it’s humanly possible. I know, unreasonable of me!

I want to see your beauty in all its difficult glory. Never mind that you think yourself ugly, silly, dumb and difficult. Never mind that you travel to exquisite places and the beauty doesn’t lift you because you feel it is so far beyond your reach. I will get impatient and tell you off for hiding under conventional standards because yes, unreasonable of me, I want to see your beauty!

I want to feel everything. Never mind that I am out of practice, never mind that there are some things I cannot feel for various reasons. I am made to feel, I am made to experience the retreat of reality under the weight of feelings. Never mind that in the routine of life feeling like this is dangerous for peace of mind and for peace in general! Despite all this, unreasonable of me, I want to feel everything!

I want to reach out and take what I need without apologizing, without even asking for permission. Never mind that life isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if life was like that, the world we live in isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if the world we live in was like that, asking for permission is always a good idea! No, I don’t want to come back to reality! Unreasonable of me, I want to take!

I want to share with you. Never mind that there are no words for the first buds on the tree opening up. Never mind that there are no breaths deep enough for the sky disappearing into shades of clouds above the mountains. Never mind that there is no heart rhythm enough for that book, that movie, that concert. All this notwithstanding, unreasonable of me, I want to share with you.

It should come as no surprise that the only constants are you and me…. and my unreasonable entitlement!

Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

Pleasure

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Latin again? 🙂 Well, yes, although English just mangled a French version of it. But oh, just the research of it was indeed its name. I have read about Hedonism, Schopenhauer, Buddhism and I have just scratched the surface of a word expressing something that is so intuitively normal that one has to wonder at the amount of paperwork that exists in order to analyze, explain, opine or otherwise debate the subject. Basic or elevated, frowned upon or exalted, pleasure has baffled many and upset even more 🙂

And isn’t it ironic that what I heard about people like Schopenhauer, while remaining true or at least truthful, comes nowhere near the begrudging agreement with some of the ideas of the man himself 🙂 Out of my comfort zone? Well, yes, I am an agnostic, compassionate, cynical humanist, of course some of those ideas take me out of my comfort zones. It is easy to call him a mysoginist when I was born so deep in my century that I have no idea about his world. Anyhoo, back to pleasure…

Besides being normal (not only in the absence of pain) pleasure is of course individual. De gustibus… and all that. And I have always enjoyed hearing about but have never practiced the list making of pleasurable things, to be taken out and explored when the road ahead of us is rough. I never practiced it because I seem to just do it. Like the baby of the zodiac that I am, I do not have to learn to be in the moment, because that is where I am 🙂

If you have been in pleasurable contact with babies and animals, then you know all about the luxurious stretching, the trusting floppiness that signals impending sleep, the silly expressions and strange positions that seem to give them an inordinate amount of pleasure. But even for me (self described as happy) it is easy to differentiate between happiness and pleasure. Different ends of the spectrum, different stage of being, different intensity and emotional involvement… really, more differences than similarities!

Bone tired and snuggling into a warm bed is so pleasant I wriggle about trying to feel it with all my body. But learning a new thing or having old things rearranged into a new scenery raises that pleasure into happiness.

A song heard for the first time and immediately liked can keep me humming for hours, even days. But a piece of music that reminds me of a friend, of times of joy, of love requited, albeit lost… ah, that is treasure indeed, and so much more than pleasure.

The little things that children do, making something with my own hands (jam, a scarf, a puzzle), a plant that was almost dead but in the spring pulls through, “these are a few of my favourite things” 🙂

But seeing the little one grow, writing a poem or cooking my own produce… these I put on the same level as those dreams I have of travelling and absorbing art and walking with a friend through rain and wind while discussing the state of the world as we know it…

I guess what I am trying to say is that pleasure can make life bearable. But for true living, it is not enough, not even nearly…