The Romantic Role Model

Mansplaining: to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.

I am not about to, so don’t worry, but I am seeing this term, and the actions of the definition therein far too often. It is the Counter Wife/Women-is-always-right movement I suppose, which is a little understandable, but only a little. I mean a real little little little.

The problem is using an approach that is condescending and derogatory is counter productive which ever side of the fence you sit. I fighting fire with fire only works when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t you just get a bigger fire, and on the internet, wildfires can spread incredibly fast.

I want to focus on a particular brand of Mansplaining, more of a topic in itself, and that is the “You-make-me-do-it” fallacy argument. You know, the argument that goes along the lines of “When you didn’t dress that way, lean over like that, talk that way, post nice pics, etc, etc, etc then I wouldn’t be this way.” Those arguments.

If you have read any of my earlier posts about control, then you’ll already know what I think in this regards. If you haven’t, here’s a brief recap;

No-one makes you do anything. You choose your own thoughts and actions.

What really gets me is the contrast between the cultural icons that litter literature (both written and visual) which clearly show that a respectful and considerate outlook is a far more favourable trait in a man then the lustful self-righteousness we see off screen. How can we see this sort of role model in our everyday entertainment, and yet not be inspired to be like said examples?

And here is where I connect back to acting…

Mr Darcy

Let’s take a character that many consider to the penultimate depiction of the ideal romantic lead. He starts of aloof, even a little high-and-mighty, and gradually comes to realise his faults and works to change his ways, becoming more present, aware, and compassionate. He is a no time lustful, nor untoward the female characters in his story. He is certainly not one to rest the fault of thoughtless actions upon the shoulders of another. He accepts that he is the master of his own presence. When he is struck with feelings of love, they are from a place of respect and admiration, not a desire to grope. He is aware of his feelings yet chooses to remain in control of himself and act with self-respect.

This character appears in mainstream literature all the time, even in some of the present day superhero-movie franchises. Please consider that many of the heroes in our lives share similar qualities with Mr Darcy; they are flawed but work to overcome, they ultimately respect others even though they can be a little cheeky about it, they are ultimately honest and reliable, even though they may not start out that way.

Even our real-life heroes exhibit  similar qualities, and when they don’t meet these qualities, or it is revealed that they have somehow been otherwise, they experience a rapid fall from grace. For example, Tiger Woods, Golfing phenomena and with all the hallmarks of an honest family man, master golfer, honourable and respectful… then it crumbled. People and companies wanted nothing to do with him for a very long time after his indiscretions were revealed, and while he has accepted his mistakes and worked hard to regain some of his former standing, but the tarnish will never be completely removed. Admired when he fit the image of an ideal man, then shunned when that image was shattered.

Yet many men in general seem to stick to this fallacy that their actions are not their own, and thus expose themselves for the weak and fearful creatures they are. This is not the attitude of a courageous man, to deny responsibility for the words and actions committed by their own physical bodies.

Be the Romantic Lead

When you mansplain away the responsibility for your own actions, you are playing the role of the arrogant coward. You are the Wickham, rather than the Darcy. The one whom is either reprimanded, forced to conform, or left with nothing.

Do a Google search into the qualities that make for popular, interesting, and even romantic men, and you will find the consistent appearance of kindness, respect, and self-control. You will definitely NOT find selfishness, arrogance, conceitedness, and a willingness to blame others for your actions. Those are traits usually associated with the second in command of the bad guy, not the hero.

Nice guys don’t come first is something that was said to me a lot growing up. Usually by other boys. To me it evokes ideas of driven selfishness in order to achieve a goal, not matter the cost to others, and that being “nice”, which I take to mean considerate, paced, and cautious, means you may mist the prize. Well, that may be so, but what is so great about being first anyway? While the winner of a race is celebrated, the one that stopped to help his rival is often remembered longer, if not who they are, but what they did at the very least.

And if the prize is at the cost of the respect I get from others, then you can keep your prize.

The act of kindness, consideration, and respect is the act that moves people. Sacrificing the self-glory, which apparently is so incredibly important, in order to help another earns more respect I believe. It’s why people love such stories, even if they don’t personally behave as such themselves.

If you are a guy who is truly keen to get the attention of a loving and respectful woman, then you would do well to look at the types of male heroes they respect in literature, and maybe try to find some of those same qualities in yourself. I can promise that they are there, you just have to choose to use them, and not just for a little while.

Throw away your childish pride. Take the courageous step. Take control of yourself and be a man.

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.

Offending behaviour

I am getting old. We all are. That’s a part of the natural course of a life. We accumulate knowledge and experiences, and the world leaves its mark in our faces and bodies. For me, the grey hairs started arriving a few years back. I taught myself to dye my own hair. Now I find my eyes getting old, which means the days I will soon need to wear glasses long term are fast approaching. Today, I still have more good days than blurry ones.

Other than that, I appear to be in good health. Physically.

Mentally is a rather more complicated story. I find myself being very reflective, going over old battles, injuries, joys, and sorrows. My age related ailments, the separation, and daughter becoming a woman, make for a rather intriguing incubator for the “Who am I?” questions.

I have always preferred to keep an open mind, and while I have not always been successful in that regards, I do feel I am a little more open than many others I know. With that in mind, I find myself pondering life choices, society in general, and the possibilities for the future, and I always prefer to find a contrasting basis to start from. Black and white. On or off. Natural vs contrived.

To my mind, there is so much aggression in the world today. I think that aggression has always been there, but with the ease of global communication, it is simply more out there. More obvious. Ten years ago, the aggressive resentment of Mr Joe Briggs in Florida would have been completely unknown to me. Now it seems that everyone wants to let the world know how angry they are…

And I have never liked aggression, and by aggression, I mean aggressive competitiveness.

I never saw the point… Well, that’s not true. I did, and do, see the point: to get what you want quicker, be it an end to a discussion, or something more material. I just never saw it as a productive way of getting things done. It is single minded, selfish, and often leaves a path of hurt and destruction. Is it really worth getting what you want by slicing your way through others? I would watch others bludgeon their way through others, and what they didn’t see was what they left behind.

The end justifies the means

Interesting phrase that. What the “end” actually is can be very subjective. To the one who gets the “prize”, the end is the prize. To those that were pushed aside, the end is the resentment, hurt, fear, or aggression.

To me, the end is the combined total of both sides: Was the prize worth the carnage? In the end, if you had to hurt others to get what you want, was that the best option?

The end may justify the means, if the means are worthy of the end.

Thing is, we as a race have imposed so many rules and standards on ourselves over the years, and for a very long while, different cultures imposed their own rules without interfering with another, apart from a few crusades, wars, etc. Now we head into a global community, and the clashing of different rules is a cause for so much friction, and suffering, because it is constant and available to everyone.

These rules are contrivances. Conceptual guidelines that only humans, with their capacity for high level cognitive processing, can fully appreciate, or even create. Sure there are “rules” found in nature, naturally occurring rules. No-one created these rules as such, at lease, no-one human.

So I have been contemplating the difference between natural rules, and the many, ever growing rules, humanity has placed upon itself over the past few thousand years. So many of them contradict what we see nature.

Challenging the natural

This is where I may get to a point where I offend some people. As I said, I like to keep an open mind, and I enjoy testing the boundaries of my world. Please allow and forgive my pontifications.

Lying is unnatural. It is not something we see a lot of in the animal kingdom – Self-Deception, or even the Deception of each other. Some trained primates have shown a capacity to be deceptive, but in nature show no, or little capacity for it. Humans are the only known creature capable of self-deception, or being deceived.

That’s right. We are more gullible than our fellow creatures, and we demonstrate this daily in our lives. We are regularly deceived by advertising, the media, politicians, even our friends and family. We all know someone who is good at talking other people into believing something.

Materialism is unnatural. And by materialism, I mean the desire to accumulate things. With the rare exception, materialism is hardly seen in nature. There are birds who collect objects to construct their nests. Bears have been known to hoard food and items, although this is generally believed to be associated with their hibernation patterns. Even some domesticated pets have been known to “steal”
random items. Although, these examples are not true demonstrations of materialism, where the goal for an impression of wealth or ownership.

Marriage is unnatural. That one may ruffle a few feathers. I’m not saying that marriage is wrong. I am saying that marriage is a human concept that does not have a equal in the natural world. Yes, there is examples of coupling in the natural world, but this is quite different to marriage in that the coupling serves a specific survival purpose. Once that purpose is done, the coupling is no longer maintained.

In fact, in some animal groupings multiple coupling will occur, which goes completely against the traditional Christian concept of marriage. What I am trying to draw here is a line between what is human, and what is natural, and marriage is something human.

Homosexuality is natural. If the last ruffled a few feathers, this may over turn the cart. It is true. The belief that heterosexuality is the true form of sexual bonding is a human thing. We are learning more and more that all forms of sexuality are demonstrated naturally, across many different animal groups. It is humans that have made the determination that one is “right” and the other “wrong.”

Money is unnatural. I think this one is pretty self evident. Money is a human contrivance. Something that started of as a means to simplify a bartering system, has grown into something that infects all aspects of life. Almost anything that you may want to do, have, or need, will require money. We do see some people who go “off-the-grid” and try and a make a life for themselves away from money, and some make it work. Money is like an infection that has so worked its way into the body that its very removal would cause more harm than good.

I could go on, but I would only cloud the purpose. I do not wish to say that rules are wrong and should be dispensed with. Nature has rules, just not as many as we have, and some rules are good. They give a sense of boundary, and range. They can be comforting. They can also be confusing, overwhelming, and contrary.

When rules are used as a weapon, rather than a tool; to control people rather than guide and support them, then these are the times when rules go too far. They become restrictive, painful, and cause much anguish, fear, and hate. Have we over legislated our lives? Have we imposed too many expectations, and restrictions? Have we made it all too easy to be “wrong?” Have we actually created an aggressive and fearful society? If so, what can we do about it?

And when a caged animal is cornered, he either dies, or becomes aggressive. A natural reaction.

What we are seeing here is not a caged animal, but packs. Potentially aggressive packs, all being cornered, by ourselves.

Aggression for survival is natural. The way we do it, not so natural.

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.

Patience is not a Virtue

Patience isn’t a virtue. It is not something special, nor even notably good or bad. Even according to Christian Values, it isn’t a virtue. To quote Wikipedia’s entry:

While patience is not one of the traditional biblical three theological virtues nor one of the traditional cardinal virtues, it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians.

It is misunderstood I believe. Often seem as the lazy man’s excuse, or that inaction is often better than action, it is more commonly associated with waiting. Waiting for things to happen.

Patience has to do very little with sitting back and waiting for things to occur. It is actually about perseverance, and struggle. It has more to do with strength and will power than idleness and expectation.

PatiencePatience IS the appreciation that things take time. Like a crop coming to harvest, you plant a seed, then cultivate and tend to the growth of the idea, until it reaches a point that you can enjoy the rewards of your labours.

The mindset of the impatient, on the other hand, is to have someone else’s hard work and results handed to them without delay, and is a cultivated mindset of modern society. If you ask me, some people seem to regard impatience as a right.

In fact, the culture of impatience seems to be so wide-spread and so deep, that I find people often react to a new idea with concerns that they won’t have time, because they are busy now. It’s almost instinctual to be thinking short-term, or with assumed impatience.

And quite often, much of what we talk about and plan is short-term, so I guess presuming that would be natural. When talking about big ideas however, like starting a business, planning a holiday, a feature film, or web series. These things take planning, nurturing, and time. They are not going to spontaneously appear, which I would have thought was common sense, yet that does not appear to be the case.

I have spoken with many fellow industry hopefuls about plans they have, and they have wonderful zeal, energy, and enthusiasm for some grand project they wish to see happen, but the stars in their eyes seem to dwindle when you explain things like cost, planning, drafts, reviews, and process. They want it all to simply happen.

patience1And I am not perfect. I occasionally get swept up in the thrill of an idea, and become filled with hope and dreams, but these are just the kindling for a bigger fire, which takes time to build, and effort to stoke.

That’s where patience resides though. At the side of the fire, stoking and feeding it, keeping it burning bigger, and brighter, until the light it shines brings others in to bask in it’s warmth. Patience doesn’t let the fire go out. It means staying positive, hopeful, and industrious.

In a way, it is about believing in yourself. If you don’t have the faith in yourself to achieve your dreams, then you won’t be able to find the patience for the work ahead. Patience is a choice. It is acceptance.

Again, in the words of Wikipedia:

Patience (or forbearing) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on negative annoyance/anger; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties.

In the Frame

YoungJeff_adjustDelving through the recesses of my mind, I came across a picture frame. The photo within was of a small boy, who had a mop of platinum white hair, and ice-cream on his face. He was clearly enjoying himself.

Yet see here, the edges of the frame are thin and frayed, with streaks of grey strands sticking out at peculiar angles. The image itself is faded and discoloured, the original energy somehow subdued, and diminished.

The trees of green were more a dying yellow. The blue sky a light tint of grey. Red was clearly the fighter of the three, giving the lad a slight sunburn, and lipstick on his lips.

Yet the ice-cream was still white, and the smile was still wide. The sense of satisfaction and happiness were still clearly visible in his eyes.

Then he winked at me. Very carefully, he closed one eye and opened it again. His smile seemed to grow wider. For a moment, the colours returned, and the frame was whole.

That was when I realised, through the fading and ageing, the little boy continued to smile, and enjoy his ice-cream. Maybe I should too.