Sunday, 23 November 2008

Fete Accompli, Fayre Game

I've just finished the book "A Fete Worse Than Death". I found it to be a humourous social commentary of the Jubilee summer, but can't shake the feeling of being disturbed by the country it describes. I've no doubt that the social divisions in Britain, and in England in particular, are very noticeable, but what disturbs me most is the way the author describes two groups, the haves and the have-nots. There has always been a rich and a poor, but in the book there is so little interaction between the two that either could be forgiven for failing to recognise the existence of the other at all, they appear to exist in total isolation to each other. One group strives to protect the status quo, the established order, tradition, the other sees no value in any of these, and rejects it all. There is no common ground.
I have bad memories of the playground, "are you my friend or theirs? you can't be both, choose", and I hate the culture of cliques, where you no longer have a relationship with an individual, purely one with the group identity. And yet..
There are two photos of me which are treasured, and both are of groups of friends sharing happy times. What makes them different is that they are not groups with an identity, but groups with a purpose, hands joined together but facing out of, not into, the circle, reaching out to others not excluding them.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

First Life Eternal

"nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace looking someone in the eye"

In these days of artificial intelligence and global communications it is rare to speak to someone and look them in the eye, how many more times do we say "Email me", or "Send me a text", unaware of the amount of information we will not be sending. There has been a growing trend of "internet relationships", the internet can bring the world to your fingertips, so why not personal contact too?
There is still a section of society wary of any electronic communication, but are they so wrong to look with suspicion at stories of love (or indeed whole lives) online?
I've tasted online life, and found it tempting. You can create your avatar to suit your own desires, you can live free of weakness, free of fear, free of suspicion. There are good things in the immediacy of finding other people in a lonely world, but there are dangers too. Just as you can choose how you wish others to perceive you, so they can lie, deceive, mislead, and ultimately hurt you.
There was a story this week of a couple divorcing, over infidelity on Second Life. The cause was perhaps addiction, temptation, the feeling that this infidelity could never be unearthed by the partner. Presumably the act of infidelity, even online, was a source of pleasure, of satisfaction, maybe even personal contact, but in involving someone other than this individual's committed partner, however unsubstantial the act was it has caused a deep wound.
Doubtless there are places where this could have happened outside Second Life, but could it have happened with so little consideration for the consequences?
What worries me mostly is that the wronged partner has now found another love through online gaming, and my concern is that this person lacks the confidence to step out from behind the avatar, and could find that to others the game is just that.
There is no substitute for looking someone in the eye, hearing their words, and seeing their thoughts made manifest, and any electronic communication must serve as a prelude to this, never as a replacement. And we must look within ourselves, beyond our avatar, and ask for the courage to face up to what we are and improve.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Insight, On My Mind

"I can't believe I got here
Or how long it took" (Mike Scott)

Sometimes a journey from A to B can take you through Z. And sometimes B wasn't the place you expected to end up. I'm finding the most logical explanation is that it is how it is meant to happen, and that, inevitably, there will be something discovered along the journey which is needed at its end, perhaps something which makes sense of the end.

In my mind's eye I see myself filling in a jigsaw puzzle, and each person in my life hands me a piece, sometimes more than one. To start with, like most jigsaw puzzles, it doesn't seem to fit together, I don't seem able to judge the dimensions, decide which way is up, or tell what it's going to look like when finished. Finding the corners was the first task,and then building the frame of the edges. Those pieces need to hold together firmly, fence in the mess of pieces which will be needed to complete the picture, give it strength and form, but they are not enough to be able to identify the final result, they are the essential groundwork.

Now I'm beginning to realise that every person is giving me a piece with a picture of themselves on it, they are all part of me and all part of what I will find at the end of my journey, as well as sustenance of spirit, peace, love, energy, faith, and hope. Enough of the pieces are now in place for me to see what I am to become, and to see how small and great a step it is from where I started.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Who do people say I am?

One of the main things I remember from academic study of human behaviour was the need to approach from three angles; what people do, what people say they do, and what people think they do,beautifully summed up by INXS as

"What you do
and what you say
Do you know the difference

Doing and saying are things which are easily evidenced, imagine a courtroom prosecutor "Do you deny that on the night in question...?", what people do and say might be witnessed and recorded, but what they think is quite a different animal, and not so easily expressed, despite the wonderful story of the footballer who asked the referee the immortal question;

"What would you do if I said you were a cheat?"
"I'd send you off"
"What would you do if I thought you were a cheat?"
"I can't send you off just for thinking"
"In that case, I think you're a cheat!"

Speaking with forked tongue has become so ingrained in our nature that total honesty is the preserve of the very young, very foolish, or very tactless. We even find it hard to be honest with ourselves, that asking the question "Who am I?" can elicit a tall tale.

So it's time to go back-to-basics, write down all the things I can possibly be, and then cross out the ones which don't fit. In the interests of simplicity I have chosen to take a gender neutral approach, avoiding anything which is specific to either gender.

I am a child
I am a sibling
I am a friend
I am a colleague
I am a member of a faith
I am a responsible person
I am a reader
I am a writer
I am a photographer
I am a dreamer

Jumping off the page at me are the three groups that the list can be organised into, those definitions which are reciprocal, those which are complementary, and those which are individual, and it is interesting to see how many fit into each category. My grandmother taught me that "To have a friend is to be a friend", it is an equal and mirrored relationship. "Thou smilest not and he's gagged" tells us that it is the nature of the artist and poet to seek an audience, the responsible person to have charges in their care, it is only possible to be a parent to another who is the child, again there is synergy, although the dynamic of the relationship may not appear equal. But the last two on the list do not fit, I consider myself a photographer and not an artist, the major purpose of my photography is not to display or raise comment, but for personal pleasure, and my dreaming (I was tempted to write the somewhat misleading term "lover") is often not reciprocated or fulfilled by another. Love, sadly, is not dependent on return, although to blossom fully it must be. But in itself, like photography, it is evidence of a very different kind of relationship from the reciprocal and complementary relationships with other human beings, if anything it is evidence of a relationship with the world, or creation,and with the one who created it. And for the human being to be genuinely fulfilled a relationship with the created order is as important as relationships with others, it is a grounding of a benchmark or an anchor point we define our location from, without it we are merely drifting.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Ordinary Time

I'm taking time out for reflection.
I can't say my reflection has ever really been of great interest to me, it looks at me in a slightly accusing way, and does the opposite of whatever I do.
Perhaps it is just naturally contrary, I'm not sure that I'm always right, but I'm sure that I'm not always wrong, so it can't be always left, surely?
I don't think that's the only reason I don't much like looking in the mirror, I can't say "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" even in jest, I get the feeling I wouldn't like the answer much. I don't feel that the mirror is there to give me answers so much as it constantly questions me, sarcastically and not at all constructively. So I choose to look for my reflection in other surfaces, specifically in the eyes of those around me.
I've had some good times lately but I can't help wondering if I've made all that I could out of them. I'm looking for ways that I've grown as a person over the last year, and hoping I don't find any ways in which I've withered as a person.
I came so close to achieving what I thought I wanted, before seeing that I was pushing a square peg against a round hole. However much I'd like to see an end to these cycles of hope and loneliness I can't be with someone whose world view runs counter to mine.

"Strawberry Man
at the end of the day
you and your van
need somewhere to stay..
take my car keys
keep my shoes
someday I may need
a favour from you" (Mike Scott)

I count the things that I've done for other people today, and I count the things other people have done for me. And the world doesn't owe me, I owe it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

the light within

"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place,
neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick,

that they which come in may see the light." (The Gospel according to Luke)

It seems to me that we define ourselves by "doing" much more easily than by "being"
Actions speak louder than words, perhaps, but it is still a form of speaking, and just as
what we say differs from what we do, so what we do differs from what we are.
The reason this verse "speaks" to me is in its use of perspective, it begins very much
framed in the "doing" albeit as a negative "No man", but then it quickly changes into a
"being". We like to think that we can do the right thing, but here is the challenge to be
the right thing, for it is the lot of the Christian to be not the lamplighter but the candle,
fired with the love of the spirit and set as a beacon to mankind with the energy of human
flesh and soul. To be in the world as a guide to others, that the flame may pass from one
to another and there be no dark secret places. Our faith and hope are not made for our
benefit, but for the benefit of "they which come in", known to us and unknown.

Believing, being, belonging is the current catchphrase, and belonging is by far the hardest
part of Christian life. The differences in belief are well-documented, easily exacerbated,
and deeply troubling, but the unity of Christian churches worldwide is easily forgotten.
One God, now and forever, Our Father in Heaven

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Unlucky charms, perhaps?

"I believe
I met beautiful twice. She was trying
Both times (so I thought) not to laugh"

But that we had the gift be given us, to see ourselves as others see us (Burns)
The lines in italic are from Philip Larkin's poem "Wild Oats", and to me they
strike the deepest chord of any part of that poem.
He writes of two contrasting experiences with women in his life, the attainable
and the unattainable. Quite simply he is besotted with the embodiment of his
dreams, but lacking the courage to face up to possible (probable?) rejection,
he settles for the safe harbour of her rather plain friend.
Their relationship is a rocky one, finally ending with him admitting that he
cannot commit of himself to "love", all the time keeping close to hand his vain
hope of romantic liaison with his dream girl. It is a classic scenario, he grows
to despise the girl he professes to want, because she becomes the object
separating him from his dream,and perhaps his addiction to the dream denies him
any chance of happiness with someone attainable.
By refusing either to act on, or to put away, his fantasy he has become bitter,
against both women and against his own self, and doubtless he has caused much
upset for the girl who either loved him or was at least prepared to settle for
what he could offer in the way of love.
There are many unanswered questions in my mind, such as was his obsession with
the unattainable beauty known to the plain girl, and was success with the
beautiful girl really so far beyond anything he could hope for.
It is the cruellest twist in life that there are some people whose love we cannot
find it in ourselves to reciprocate, whether that be the most shallow level of
physical infatuation or the deepest loving of another's soul. And facing up to
the fact that we love someone who cannot love us is humiliating and belittling.
But it is life.
Love is not physical attraction, it is not a desire to possess, it is a wish to
make two lives into one being, a living love.
Some are lucky and have found love which can be requited, but I wonder how many
settle for a watered down love, and come to despise it for being the barrier to
a richer experience of loving. And if they do, how many are haunted by their
"unlucky charms" too?