Inside the Mind of a born Atheist

officeathiestOf late, I find myself in very reflective moods. Looking back over past events, present events, my current opinions of the world, and the often contrary opinions of others. The world is an angry place it seems to me. Offence is easily found, frequently given, and deliberately contrived in some circumstances. Extreme ego and over sensitivity in abundance. That is not to say that there isn’t kindness and joy to be found, it just seems a little muted in the noise of everything else.

I am fortunate in that many of my close friendships are largely positive ones, or at the very least, a little distant. I don’t seem to have many extremely angry individuals. Maybe that is a case of judicial subconscious vetting on my part, or that I tend to avoid such environments thus never be in a situation where such connections can occur. So when I make my observations, it is more often than not from an emotional distance from the people involved.

Something that seems to be big news these days, and by big I mean overwhelmingly dominating, is religion and politics; two of the three things you should never argue with, the third being a woman… ever. 😉

ratkinson-athiestPolitics is understandable given the circus going on both in my home country, and in America. Religion is also understandable, considering it is currently being blamed as the source of frightening acts of terrorism. Let me state right now that I do not see religion as being the source of terrorism. Terrorism is the act of an individual or group, regardless of their associated faith, political leanings, race, etc that choose to incite terror and harm to others in order to achieve political, ideological or religious based aims. In short, a person is a terrorist, not an ideology.

Now, as I have stated before in a previous blog, I am not religious. Nor am I someone who once was religious and has since “lost faith.” I have never had, nor needed faith of this sort. And to be honest, I have only recently become aware of the pervasiveness of faith in society. It has simply not been a “something” in my life.

To put this in perspective (hopefully), imagine an orchard which has trees of many different kinds. Each produces different fruits and there are lots of them. Some are variations of a single type, other are completely different. All these different fruits represent the many different religions, and their numerous variations in the world today.

Then imagine a person born so far from this orchard as to be unaware of its existence. The fruits that come from this orchard have never been seen by this person. They grow up without knowing of them, or to taste them, but they have seen others who have eaten the fruits of the orchard. Because he is unaware of the fruits, and only sees the people, he learns only that people are different and varied, and their thoughts and actions were often confusing.

Being unaware of the existence of the fruits of religion, they lived their life without any fruit and where therefore unfamiliar with the various flavours, both sweet and bitter. I’ll equate this to morals and ethics. They learnt about morals and ethics by observing others, advice from anonymous figures of authority, and through personal experiences. I say anonymous figures of authority to denote non-ideological associations. Teachers, parents, the law… absent of religious motivations.

notreligionThis person would be me, essentially, until recently when I began to take a little more notice of the beliefs of others. Unaware and unaffected. I was simply oblivious of the depths that theism went to, and only observed the superficial effects it had. I learned more about being a “good” person by observing the behaviour of others than through any instruction during my youth.

So when I say I don’t believe in God, or Gods, what I’m really saying is that I have never had a need for such ideas. It is the canvas that was never offered, the basket never needed. In computing, there is the concept of the null data set, which means the completely empty set. It is not zero, nor negative. It is simply not anything at all.

And I’ll tell you what I have learnt most of all; kindness, aggression, love, hate, compassion, and insolence are not beholden to any religion, race, gender, or ideological definition. These are all personal attributes. What makes you a good person has very little to do with your faith or outlook on life. It has a lot to do with the choices you make as a person, and the actions that come from those choices.

People are the same no matter what they believe, in that we are all different in what we choose, or not, to believe, and how that belief, or absence of, guides our actions in different ways.

I have met self-confessed religious people whom have demonstrated more scientific appreciation than certain atheists, and atheists that exhibit stronger religious like fervour in their arguments than some strongly religious individuals. I have witnessed the opposite as well. Extreme religious people whose staunch beliefs are unassailable and are quick to aggressively defend their faith, and atheists who are quietly assured in their place in the world.

What I am saying is that a religious belief or lack-there-of cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual. It can be used to “excuse” the choices that people make, where-in lies the danger, on both sides. When faith, or the lack of faith, is wielded as a weapon, as a reason to commit deplorable acts, well that is morally wrong is it not? Anyone can see that.wallen

I once believed that we all need something to believe, have faith, or to trust in because it seemed like everyone around me did, and I occasionally questioned why I did not. These days, I no longer feel that this is entirely true. We are told that we need to believe in something… Except I never was, and don’t feel I need to now. I don’t have faith in anything, believe in anything. I read, question, reason, and trust in the work of many before whom have refined and revised ideas about the universe we exist in. I trust in the repetition of testing, and in the observable interactions.

I’m not sure I am a modern atheist either. I certainly fit the accepted and original definition, but the modern usage seems to have changed. Just like the term feminism started as a call for gender equality, today it is used more to highlight extreme women rights movements. It is used as a term of negativity when its concept was one of neutrality. The modern usage does not match the definition. It seems to me that a modern atheist is one who not only does not have faith, but also opposes faith.

I feel that where I stand is something different. I have no need for faith in a religion and I do not oppose the right for another to choose faith. I do not see faith as a problem, only the people that use it immorally. I see humanity as simply different people finding different ways to get through life. Some choose kinder paths than others, and it is the choices we make that heal or destroy.

I have no name for what I am. I am just me.

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Clarity of Believing

The comment made on my recent blog about my atheistic nature had me thinking. The argument made was that as an atheist holds firmly to a non-belief, ipso-facto they must believe.

I feel this sort of missed the point of my post in that religion was never an issue. It wasn’t presented, addressed, or even required. It was not a concept that had any intellectual substance that could be believed in. I didn’t consider a disbelief in a God any more than I considered a belief. It wasn’t a matter that I every really pondered, until recently.

It simply wasn’t a part of my awareness. I had heard biblical tales and such, but there was never a requirement that I should or should not make a choice as to their relevance to my life. Neither the act of disbelieving or believing was something I actively did day-to-day. I simply… lived.

I certainly didn’t lack leadership, having witness both good and bad leadership. Teachers I saw as role models, or as monsters. A father who frightened me, yet inspired me. Peers who I would find connection with, and those who rejected me. In none of these experiences was religion, nor God, a feature. Neither was the rejection of religion, nor God. It was simply life; unpredictable, and evolving.

Nor was non-belief forced upon me. I was never told what I should and shouldn’t believe. I was never told to believe period, and by this I mean religious belief.

What is Belief?Now I believe in things. I believe that my daughter is bloody intelligent. I believe that she is possibly the most happiest person I know. I believe she will have tough times, and I believe she will survive. I accept the common term that is belief in something. To me it means possibilities. I believe it is likely that something is, or will be, but I acknowledge that I do not believe absolutely.

What life has taught me, what I have taken from my experiences, is that nothing is absolutely certain, and the void that we do not yet know is where we project possibilities. This unknown can either be an end to the road, or inspiration to look a little further.

So if I believe in anything, it is that one day we will know things better. Not with absolute certainty. With a degree of confident certainty.

As for religion, it is not something that has ever played a part in my life, either through faith, or active denial. I have lived most of my life without any need to contemplate. It was not until my daughter asked “What should I believe in?” that I even felt it was worth contemplating.

What is Love?

This was the last item that my concerned commentator asked. Love is nebulous. It is a little mysterious, and sure, we don’t have any clear definitive explanations for where this comes from, nor the other human emotions. Not that love, hate, joy, depression is exclusive to humans, as we can see demonstrations of similar physical presentations in other life around the world.

Yet I have heard philosophical concepts for love that utilise evolutionary or biological concepts, as well as more spiritual, and religious concepts. They are possibilities based on either things that we have discovered to date, or concepts that are, for now, beyond the realm of proof. I feel a large reason for this uncertainty is that the definition of love is itself vague and often a matter of personal opinion.

But I, for one, am more intrigued to find out what it really is, than to attribute it to something I have no reason to contemplate, which is my I associate with an absolute belief.

Which presents a problem. As I have no true religious experience, can I really comment of what it means to be religious? Not really. Therefore I can’t really “judge” another person’s belief. As I have said in previous blogs, I choose not to judge a person based on the choices and beliefs they have. Each person has the right, and the power to choose for themselves.

As I see it, the experience of Love is not the same for everyone. Some people may even fear it for various reasons, and this is before you account for traumas and damaged psyches. To attribute Love as God, I would feel inclined to asked, then why does God not make it a consistent experience for all? And if God is Love, do other deities exist for the other mysterious emotions?

I am not trying to be facetious with these questions, it is just questions I have asked  myself in my own little thought bubbles.

I do not know what causes feelings of Love, but I do consider that these feelings have, from an intellectual standpoint, beneficial evolutionary associations. That we love, means that we are socially inclined to find like individuals, and co-exist with them for a period of time, which helps increase chances of survival. This would be useful in an environment where survival was less certain otherwise, something which is not so relevant today… so does that mean that sometime, in the distant future, we may not love any-more?

These are just the questions I ask myself as I ponder what it means to be me.

Born an Atheist

AtheistBornI have been reflecting a lot recently, on a variety of things. One recurring theme through many of my personal blogs is the idea of freedom of belief, yet I haven’t really delved into what are my beliefs, or if I have any. It’s a dangerous field it seems, causing rifts and contention almost everywhere one looks. There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to the debunking of either side of the argument, and I have been watching a few lately.

In the beginningquote-all-children-are-born-atheists-they-have-no-idea-of-god-baron-d-holbach-53-52-18

According to my birth certificate, I was born under the Church of England, an Anglican branch of faith, yet religious education and enforcement was utterly absent in my childhood. My parents, as I recall, were either not big on the whole faithful devotion thing, or were non-believers. As such, I never had reason to question religion because it simply was not there. It was had a few Bible Study sessions at school, but it was never something that I considered more than metaphoric, or abstract. For much of my childhood, I was never given the motivation nor reasons to “have faith” as it were.

I grew up with electronics, math, mechanics, english, geography, and computers. Tangible and logical studies that encouraged investigation, study, research, and a rational that there is always something more to learn. My awareness of religion as a larger entity did not come until much later in my life.

Burgeoning Awareness

I think my first true and most impacting experience with religion was a youth religious group that I was invited to by an old school friend. Now, I’d been to church once or twice before for things like funerals, weddings, and on behalf of a family member, but I had walked away from those experiences unchanged in my awareness. It was not something that was a part of my life. This experience was something else entirely.

The devotion, focus, and dare I say, mania that I saw was disturbing. To me, it felt dangerous, and I slipped out at the first chance I got. I felt that I had seen extreme form of religious fervour, but it left me feeling a little apprehensive about entering other places of worship for anything other than weddings and funerals.

Let me be clear, not all services that I have attended have been anywhere near as bad as that experience, but until that point in time, I was not aware how extreme it could be. I have since learned, as we all have, that extreme faith can have distressing consequences.

Prior to this first experience, religion to me was just something that some people believed in. After this, I knew it was something more to some people. As a result, I began to notice that I was a little unique among my friends.

Alone in the FaithlessAtheist1

It became apparent that many of my friends had some degree of religious faith that gave them personal comfort and direction. Interestingly enough, I don’t think anyone tried to convert me, apart from that one scarring experience. Then again, I tended to lead a rather isolated life-style, maintaining a few good friends, so maybe there just wasn’t much opportunity.

In fact, I was, and still am, surprised to find a few good friends that I have either studied or worked with fo years reveal they had religious leanings. It was simply that religion didn’t enter into my personal life or consideration of others. I never judged people for their beliefs, because they were never relevant to me.

The same cannot be said for others however. Generally speaking, I have personally not experienced much negativity with people of faith, but I have witnessed plenty. I have gotten to know people before being aware of their ideals, which meant I struggled, and still do struggle, to understand why others have difficulties with this. It was sad that some of my friends missed the chance to know some wonderful people because of simple differences in ideology.

Who knows, I may lose some friends with my revelations above.

What Am I?AtheistDog.jpg

So I have been wondering recently, in terms of belief, what exactly am I? Reviewing the various definitions and arguments for faith, or lack of faith, you have a multitude of religious faiths, and then you have Atheists or Agnostics, and there is even some variation in that too.

I don’t believe in the existence of a God, of any faith, although I acknowledge that much of our modern society is founded on the belief in such things, dating back to the dawn of language. Gods have come and gone over the centuries, and the legacies of many linger today. Thursday is named for Thor, the god of Thunder for example.

And I am not hedging my bets, just in case, so I am not Agnostic. You either acknowledge the possibility of a God or gods, or you don’t. Agnostic it seems to me, is a non event.

As an Atheist, one can still believe in something having some sort of controlling power, or point of creation for humanity. It could be aliens that brought us into being, or a general supernatural power, or energy. Now I do entertain such ideas, yet I hold little worth in said ideas for the lacking or contradictory evidence, and this is a key point.

My world is based around what I can either demonstrate personally, or have seen enough evidence, research, and tested theoretical propositions to provide a structured basis for understanding. According to what I have read and seen, this makes me a Sceptical Atheist. While I have a few odd ideas about what could be, for example, a global consciousness of sorts, I am not committed to this idea, because I have insufficient proof, only anecdotal theories, to be mostly certain.

Sherlock Principlesherlock.jpg

In very general terms, religion seems to take a concept and then configure the evidence to match the desired result, discarding what doesn’t support the ideal. Science usually starts with the evidence and works toward determining a concept.

The former would appear to have a rigid guide to what is acceptable. The latter seems to invite questioning, and uncertainty.

Explaining what you don’t understand as a higher power, unknowable by definition, all-powerful, stops further investigation. What would be the motivation to push further, expand, develop, and progress, when the perception was that there was nothing further to find? This is the argument that doesn’t work for me. I was brought up to question, to not be satisfied with what I do know.

I’d like to point out here that I realise not all religious people think in such black and white terms, and there are some who have been able to reconcile scientific endeavour with religous faith. I do use the extreme variations as examples here only.

Sometimes, in science, you have a theory before you have the evidence. Rather than accepting the theory, a scientist will try to prove the theory wrong in order to prove it right. This is done in a few ways, which boils down to either;

  1. prove the theory is flawed or false, or
  2. show that alternate, and more easily verifiable theories can exist.

If you look at all the evidence, and cannot do either of the above, then the theory must be true. However, this assumes that you can become aware of all the possible ways of testing a theory at once. This may not be true.

Until recently, many criminal cases remained unsolvable, or falsely solved, due to the inability to test for certain things. The knowledge and technology did not exist at the time that would have helped solve the case to a near certainty. This is science. It evolves and adapts. Theories are tested and re-tested. It is never satisfied with the last discovery. It is never satisfied with an utlimate answer, although it is the pursuit of the ultimate answer that drives it forward.

It is, for me, this ever evolving cycle of discovery and learning that excites me. As a Sceptical Atheist, I see questions to be answered every where.

The call of Nature

Following on from my most recent blog of a few days ago, I am reminded of a project I did back in my university days. My final year thesis was an investigation into the feasibility of teaching a subject on Creative Reasoning within scientific studies, and one of the points I discussed which was the value of right and wrong.

It is interesting how both my theatrical interests influenced some of my research, and how some of my research has influenced my theatre. This came into rather interesting clarity when, recently, I was discussing the complexities of character development with some nice young people, after one of my Quiz Night gigs.

The concepts of right and wrong are uniquely human. Echoing my previous blog, they are not natural. In fact, the concepts of right and wrong can actually be inhibitive to creative reasoning, which tends to work better when encouraged to break the rules. Creativity general works better with a measure of worth, rather than fixed points of success and failure.

One of the biggest struggles I have had to face as an actor is how to convincingly portray a character who is so completely opposite me in belief, and moral direction. Pantomime villains is one things, but real villains… that is hard. I don’t like paying simple lip service to a character, and hoping that will get me by. I need to make the character believable, and that means relate-able. I have to be able to understand the motivations if I am to convincingly portray them.

I believe it is the exceptionally rare individual who is able to see themselves as evil, and relish in that knowledge. Most would rather admit that they have done some pretty bad stuff, but that they are able to justify their actions somehow. How valid that justification may be to others is questionable, but to the character, it is enough.

You see, what is “right” and “good” is subjective. It is an opinion. When enough people believe in the same concepts of Right and Good, then it becomes a standard, or moral. Yet that does not make it ultimate Right or Good, because in reality, neither exist. Deeds that one may see as utterly evil, another may see as a necessary step towards an ultimate “good” according to their perceptions.

In nature, we see many examples of processes or actions that, under a moral code, would be deemed evil, nasty, or bad, but if you change the moral code, they can look very different. Humans, with the higher order brain matter, and the need for language and labelling, are the ones who create the codes, and therefore define what is evil.

But where do these perceptions come from?

This links back to early blog posts where I talk about choices and perceptions. The choices one makes in life construct the path that influences their future. Our choices are the decisions and reactions we make when faced with the effects of the world around us, and those we interact with. Sometimes, these choices can be subtle. Then again, they can be monumental.

In a world where there is no right or wrong, just one’s perception of it, anyone could be anyone. Had I not made certain choices in my life, I would be a different person. Maybe subtly different. Perhaps completely different.

As an actor, this is huge. I really could be anyone, if I could only understand the choices I would need to have made, and the justification I told myself to live with them. What would the moral code be like?

However, following this line of thought alone doesn’t create a character with depth. It would suggest that all characters were “satisfied” with their lot in life, and we all know that this is simply not true. We can all point to people, and maybe even ourselves, who are not “satisfied” with their lot. So there is something else at work here.

Our unique power for self-deception. It is our ability to lie, to others and to ourselves, that make for the tortured and emotional characters the populate our lives. Perhaps our past choices were based on lies, or half-truths. Perhaps it is our justifications that simply don’t have the ring of truth to them, no matter how hard we try and convince ourselves. Maybe we frequently gave away our one true strength, and let others choose for us, let them tells us their truth, and now live a life that contradicts that burning yearning inside.

The one thing that differentiates us from most other animals on this planet, is our ability to ignore instinct, and see choices. It is what gives us our ability to see things things that don’t exist, imagine fantasy worlds, or inventions. We are able to create explanations for the world around us by observing the world and perceiving meaning.

It is also one of our biggest weaknesses, because unchecked, it can run away from us and have us imagine things that can frighten, annoy, hurt, and enrage. Deception and creativity are very closely bonded, because they are both two sides of the same talent.

And this is the source of right and wrong. It is opposites, or extremes, but it us who have labelled these extremes as either right or wrong.

Maths is the only real subject within which Right and Wrong can have absolute meaning, and even that is human invention.

Lonely Voices

JeffRemembersSome days I remember
What I knew;
How it felt;
Who I was.

Lonely voices tell me
It was real;
It was truth;
It was me.

I recall a poem
I once wrote;
I once felt;
I once knew.

I sit with others in a crowded room.
I talk with others in a crowded room.
I laugh with other in a crowded room.
Always alone.

EmptyThat was then.
Times have changed.
That was them.
It was not me.

Now I see between them and me,
Lonely voices that hide within.
When at the time I could not see,
So deafened by the crowded din.

These days I am stronger,
Resilient,
Aware.
Yet…

Some days I remember
What I knew;
How it felt;
Who I was.

The Hard Road Part 9 – Making a Stand

This brings the story to almost now, and there are things happening in my life now that once upon a time, I may have been unable to manage, and may very well have found myself contemplating the unthinkable yet again. Yet I am not. I feel I have “matured,” and in the true sense of the phrase.

I will say that when I compare my life experiences to others, I do not feel I have suffered as bad as some, and for that I am grateful and saddened equally. I know how it felt for me at my lowest points. To imagine someone going through worse is heart breaking. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

I know that I could potentially come off as being arrogant, self-righteous, or similar, and that is certainly far from my intent. This has been a process that has helped to clarify many things in my life. It is the final step for me in becoming whole. I have let go, so to speak.

“When we let go, we are free”

Yet that phrase is a little misleading I feel. In some respects we let go, and in others we regain the reigns.

  • We let go of worrying about things we cannot control, and instead take the responsibility of our choices.
  • We let go of external expectations, and give ourselves permission to express our desires.
  • We let go of the lies and take back ownership of our truth.
  • We let out the bad to reclaim the good.

For me, it has become about perspective, and being aware the we will all have a different one. I can only be true to my perspective, and when I find something new, I adapt and evolve. I like to consider myself open minded, yet I will defend my right to choose what is right for me.

I certainly have let go of a lot of things, and found a new level of balance inside. It has had some interesting side-effects.

  1. My general tolerance levels have increased, and substantially so. I am not easily startled any more, much to the frustration of my daughter and her mother. I often scare them by simply entering the room, whereas their attempts to startle me are frequently met with a simple glance and “Hello.”
  2. It takes a lot to irritate me. Before, I would work very hard to hide any upset of anger, and would often sulk or mope as a result. These days, I find that I am less inclined to do so, preferring instead to think about things.
  3. I have not shut off my feelings, but now consider them more of an information service, rather than a directive. When seen in this way, I find that when I feel an emotion (anger, fear, sadness, joy, lust, love) I can see the options they present, and then make a choice that satisfies my needs, both emotional and intellectual.
  4. I have become more aware of my body. I can feel things changing in my body more keenly than ever before. I can sense the beginnings of alcohol intoxication long before it actually starts to affect me, or when I take cold and flu tablets, I swear I can feel the effects as it hits the blood stream.
  5. Not only have I become more aware of my self, I have been able to take more control over my body. When I feel anxious, it is an incredibly simple matter of focussing and gaining some level of control.

This is not to say that I don’t continue to suffer periods of anxiety, depression or darker emotions. I have developed the capacity to handle them better. It is almost like my reserves, which had previously been tapped out just trying to sty afloat, now have space to spare. When trouble presents itself, it takes a while to fill the reserves.

I don’t expect anyone to change their way of life because of what I say, and if they choose to consider my thoughts, then I would be happy if my words help.

My personal rules for life.

  • Aim high and expect nothing.
  • Don’t sweat what you can’t control.
  • If it is life-threatening, likely to cause harm, or will affect many people, then it probably warrants some thought.
  • Don’t enforce your beliefs on another, and do not let another enforce their beliefs on you.
  • Do consider another’s point of view, and respect their right to choose their own path.
  • Offer advice when asked, or at least ask permission first.
  • Placing blame gets no-one anywhere. Focus on resolution rather than attributing fault.

I thank you for staying with me for this tale. For those who may have just joined, if you would like to read from the beginning… The Dark Path Part 1

The entire story, both series, can be found under the Depression menu option above.

The Hard Road Part 8 – Perspectives

I was changing my view of the world. What I began to realise, and not just superficially, but innately, was just how much our world view is dependent on our individual perspectives. We aren’t just all different, we see the world differently. Yet the evidence is all around us.

I began to appreciate how much I lived my life with platitudes without meaning. I would say I believed in certain ideas and concepts, but my actions and choices often contradicted what I felt. More often I was acting in the way I thought I was expected to, which was in direct conflict with my desires. I was disconnected.

Suddenly certain phrases and bits of advice took on new and deeper meanings.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

This deceptively simple statement holds a lot more truth that I ever gave it credit for. The things we get worried about, when one looks at them from a distance, how much meaning do they really have? It is so easy being the observer in another person’s life to see them issues that often get the most stress, anxiety, or attention, are often the most meaningless.

That may sound a little harsh, and honestly, it is. The thing was, I could see that in other people, but I didn’t apply the same scrutiny to my own life. I had developed a reactive tendency to find the worst in any situation, and usually at my own expense. So a situation that I would see as trivial in another’s life, I would see as another testament to my own failures.

I began forcefully apply the same observations I made on others to myself, and discovered something; there is at least two sides to any situation. One is always “better” than the other, and I was CHOOSING the worst of the options.

I think that realisation itself was the biggest shock. I was actually choosing depression over any alternatives. That may need a bit more explaining.

I gave up control of my decisions by letting in the voices and expectations of others, and allowing them to influence my choices and decisions. I may not have known better. I may have been naive. I still allowed it, but accepting this fact was hard… and I wanted to know why.

It took stepping out of my emotional perspective, which was a lot harder than one might imagine, but once done, I could see what my actual flaws were, which were to actually believe that I was flawed. This belief fuelled my drive to not trust in myself, and rely on the advice of others. Even those who didn’t have much to do with my life any more. I had allowed my life to be driven mainly by emotions, guided by well-meaning yet misguided advice.

Balance Equals Harmony

When viewed rationally, things are usually far more trivial than they seem emotionally. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a very rational piece of advice, because it is with a analytical approach that facts can be assessed. This is what we need to be telling our emotional sides, and I wasn’t.

Looking back over my life, my rational side had been rather beaten into submission by various circumstances and people, and I hadn’t done much to take it back. Now I had the opportunity to do just that. My experiences, both bad and good, now found a new use in reconstructing the spirit of myself. There was good to come from everything I had been through, I choose to see the good in every situation, and as I have described a few times already, when I made the choose, things got better.

In the end, my only real mistake was in not accepting responsibility for my own choices. I needed to find a balance between rationality and emotionality. I need to find the calm. I need to take back control over the only thing I had any right, or ability to control: me.


 

I am nearly finished with the series, and I invite you to read my other posts on my journey. The first series: A Darker Path. Series 2 – The Hard Road.

The Hard Road Part 4 – Strange Games

Not my actual cat, but very like him. I may upload a proper photo later.

Upon my return home, somewhat relieved, but bitterly disappointed in myself, some interesting stories unravelled over the course of a few weeks. First I need to explain one thing before getting to the meat.

While I was in the UK, my cat had passed away. He was a gorgeous Russian Blue, and incredibly intelligent. When he passed, my parents told my grandmother, with whom I was staying at the time. They did not want me to know as they thought it would upset me. My grandmother didn’t agree, and eventually told me. Thing is, I already knew.

I had been strolling across Cornish fields with some of my extended family, when I suddenly saw Smokey (my cat). He ran up to me and rubbed himself on my legs. He then looked up at me before running and fading away.

I had to step away from my desk for a moment. The emotion got to me, which in itself is interesting, considering that at the time, I felt an incredible sense of calm. I knew then that he had passed. Just a note, this wasn’t my first contact with “spiritual” experiences, but that is another story entirely.

So my parents were understandably concerned that I may upset about that, which I wasn’t, but they were hesitant about telling me about other things, so news came in dribbles for a while.

JealousAs I recall today, the first thing I remember being told was that my grandmother had thought my decision to go to London had been my own decision, and that my uncle had been surprised by it, and had apparently tried to talk me out of it. Then I heard that he had been concerned for my well-being, and thought that I was acting autistic. With each revelation, I recounted my version of events, and soon a picture formed of a man who saw this young lad (me) as a rival in some obscure family relations game. Driven by a fearful jealousy, he seemed to have played both sides, or at least, that was/is how it appeared to me, in order to “get me out of the way”.

When all knew the story, there was much anger and upset from the family, except from me. I instead saw it all as having been done, and in the past. There was nothing to anyone could do to change time. It was a fateful series of events telling me that I was not ready, or destined for a different path. Partly self-depreciating, and partly couldn’t be bothered dealing with it. Much later, I learned that the uncle in question was himself a sufferer of depression, and his own actions had caused more suffering for himself, including the loss of his partner, and loss of trust from his family. I just felt pity for him, and moved on.

It was a half-way point for me. I was not getting overly upset by the turn of events, but I was not yet above blaming myself for much of what happened. After all, I had allowed myself to be duped, convinced, and talked into making the decisions I had made. I began to realise that this was a common trend in me; allowing other people to make decisions for me. Giving my self-control over to others, and it had started at home.

For a while, I had taken control over my decisions and my life, and it had been great, and uplifting. I made the choice to go to the UK, to apply for RADA. They were my choices, and it felt good to make them. Then old habits, which really are hard to kick, took up their familiar mantle and things quickly turned sour.

It was the hindsight realisation that when I made the decision to return home, I really learnt the value in taking control over your choices, and the effects it could have. There were so many things that were beyond my control, and there was very little I could do about them, except consider how I truly felt about them. Me. My feelings. When I had my doubts about the plan to go to London, rather than question those doubts, I allowed another to make the decision for me.

Side Note – Food for thought

Now why do we do that? And don’t say you don’t because we all have done, or continue to do. I would hazard a guess that it would be because responsibility is frightening. And why is that? Because we don’t want to be blamed for anything? And why would we be blamed for anything? Because it might go wrong? Might?

ControlOne of the most liberating things I have done to date is to acknowledge those things I am actually responsible for; my actions, my beliefs, my decisions, and my reactions. The good and the bad combined. I’ve stopped worrying about things I can’t control; other people’s actions, beliefs, decisions, and reactions, or even things that simple are.

And don’t get confused between consider and worry. I still consider those things that are beyond my control. I don’t want to become an arrogant snob after all, and I like the feeling being considerate gives me. I just choose not to get anxious, or fretful over things that I can’t do anything about. It is a surprisingly distinct line, and simplifies life choices.

We are complex beings. We have light-sides and dark-sides, and a variety of shades between. Denying a part of yourself is akin to stopping the flow of a river by blocking only half of it, you just make the water work harder to get out, and you increase the pressure. Eventually, the wall will fall.

The question is, would you rather control the flow, or let it explode?

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 1 – Acceptance

WrongWell, here we go again. It wasn’t long ago that I was inspired to write about my youth and struggles with depression. Now I find I am again surrounded by reasons to continue. In the first part of my journey, I really didn’t know what was going on, and certainly didn’t accept that I was suffering depression. I knew something was wrong, but the attitude of the time was to pretend you didn’t. The implication was that everyone else was OK, so admitting there was something wrong with you would only expose you as a fraud.

Taking up from where I had left off, realising that my mind was acting out dangerous thoughts subconsciously was a serious wake-up call. (See Darker Path Part 9.) Up until then, it was something that I could stuff down, ignore. To find myself acting out meant that I could no longer ignore it, but what could I do about it?

I admit, I was rather green, and somewhat simple-minded with regards many things. Maybe ignorant is a better term. I did realise one thing however. Trying to find fault with myself was simply leading me in circles. I had to change my perspective. I started by trying to find reasons for the actions of other people from their point of view.

Now I knew that I may not ever know the truth as to why someone had done the things that they had done, but I was convinced in myself that very few people ever did something simply out of spite. If I could come up with convincing reasons that would satisfy me, then I would have to be content with that. It was an interesting exploration for me, and had its advantages in my slowly developing me acting skills. Stepping into another’s metaphoric shoes, and trying to uncover the reasons one may have, was cathartic in the extreme, and an awakening one.

It was an interesting period of self-reflection, reviewing my actions, and the actions of others, as if I were someone else.

Something about being Unique

I used to have a serious problem with the word, or the association with being unique. I was frequently called unique, or some derivative of. Back then, it sounded akin to odd, or inexplicable. To me, it was a bad thing to be considered outside the norm, to be “special”, and I use the double quotations very specifically.

Even during my high-school years, I often had opinions that ran rather contrary to my peers, which earned my considerable scorn and ridicule. I recall a meeting at a Youth Group that I attended where a guest presenter impressed upon us the need to be happy ALL THE TIME. That was the goal. To avoid sadness, anger, and so forth. To me this sounded like all the years of being fake which even then I questioned.

I stood and asked what was wrong with being angry? While anger and aggressive were often expressed as had things, were their not good, and “happy” was to express anger? Can not someone be happily angry? Happily sad? I think one other person rose to my support as I was yelled at by others for being so stupid. While my wording may not have been clear, the intention I still believe in. To shut yourself of from all aspects of yourself, is just as, if not more, harmful than letting them run in the driver’s seat without supervision.

I wanted to say that you need to acknowledge all of what makes you a person, the dark and the light. We are not perfect, and to strive to be so is a road to depression. I just didn’t have the experience and vocabulary to express it. I was unique in my opinions, beliefs and self, which made me an outsider to those who could not understand.

Then new perspective came, in the form of a good friend formed during my years at uni. After several years of knowing each other, she had formed a relationship with another fellow student who was a part of our combined circle of friends. Near the end of her degree, she confessed a deep affection for me, which surprised me admittedly, but had been unable to express said affection. I felt the dread of life repeating itself as they continued, and I waiting for the word… but it never came.

OOYLInstead, she told me that she had felt I was Untouchable. The first time someone had used such a term; Untouchable. She continued to say that she hadn’t felt good enough for me, that I was above her league, which was an alien concept to me. Me, be better than anyone else? Surely not. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it, yet it felt a lot better to believe that I was untouchable than unique.

A simple conversation changed my perspective about a long time dislike. Mind you, it took me a few more years to get over my dislike of the word unique, mainly due to the memories and connotations it drew, but it was a start. I began to think about all those times someone called me unique, special, or different. I began to think that maybe they didn’t have the experience and vocab to express what they really wanted to say. Maybe they meant it as a compliment, but found it hard to compliment something which made them uncomfortable.

Even the dreaded “You’re nice, but…” which I got a lot, began to look a little different.

In the end, I had to accept that I was a little different. I had different thoughts and ways of dealing with things. I spoke differently to most of my friends, and found enjoyment in language and complex words. My mind worked more visually than logically. I was different, but it wasn’t a bad thing.

We’re all a little different.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

Uncertain

Following your dreams. We keep telling each other to do this. Don’t give up on your dreams, living the dream life, or other variations of the theme. I’ve come to the realisation that this idea can be just as dangerous as the overly negative “realistic” phrases such as “you’ll never make a living” or “it’s a great hobby.” Both are opposite sides of the same coin really. One is idealistic and potentially misleading. The other is far to grounded in avoiding any form of risk taking and defeatist

I am a long time believer in the “everything in moderation” philosophy. I am also prone to making mistakes, just like anyone else, so I don’t always find that point of moderation. I guess that is the thing with moderation. It isn’t always obvious. The extremes are easy to find, which is no doubt part of the reason why people often choose one or the other, even bouncing from one extreme to another.

So I led myself a little astray with a few inflated hopes and dreams, and belief that a platter had been handed to me. In hindsight, I was too eager, too frustrated, feeling too confined. I wanted luck to smile on me, and I felt I deserved it. I leapt, without really looking at where is was falling, which I wouldn’t ever do normally.

Things changed, I was in a strange place, and I had to find a way to make it work quickly. It wasn’t just me in this leap of faith. I had people depending on me. I struggled. I wasn’t ready. Things crumbled quickly, things I should have planned for, and others beyond my control.

Fortunately, I had a fall back plan which had been strongly recommended prior to my leap. I was able to play my get-out-jail-card in the nick of time, and now I find myself back in familiar territory. Even after a day, it was like I had never left.

However, even though I am back in familiar territory, things are not the same. I am changed. I know, irrespective of how things fell apart, that I want to go back. Better prepared and armed to the teeth of course, and this will take some time. I am also a little more aware that I was a little blinded to my life before. I had seen restrictions when there weren’t any. I had held myself back with a false reality. I had believed that in order to “follow my dreams” I had to change my lifestyle. I was a little deluded, and I should have known better.

MakeItHappenI have learnt a very important lesson; following your dreams is not enough, and the wrong way to look at it. I mean think about it, to follow is to remain behind, having your dreams lead you on. I want to be in the driver’s seat, not the rear seat. I have to do hard work in order to get that seat, like learning to drive, learn the routes, understanding the rules, and making sure there is enough fuel in the tank.