Friday, 17 August 2012

Present Awareness & the Conditioned Ego

I want to address some common misconceptions about the practice of present awareness, using a few paraphrased, generic statements – the bones of which have been expressed to me over the past year, in response to various blogs I’ve written.

Firstly, though, I’ll reaffirm that I firmly believe that there are no negatives to present awareness; that it releases us from emotional pain, fear, worry, anxiety, depression and a whole host of other mind-related issues and problems that are too common in our world, up to and including civil and global warfare.

Some people aren’t so convinced, to the point they will dismiss and argue against the concept from the outset, without investigating the potential benefits.

Human beings have been conditioned to become creatures of ego, through the manipulation of - amongst others - political, religious, corporate and media institutions.

If you disagree with that and would brush me off as a conspiracy theorist, here are a few questions for you to consider:
  • What makes a person racist? Did they come up with their cancerous belief system themselves, or were they taught it by others – their parents, their communities, etc.?
  • Why is there still such animosity against the gay community? Is this the product of individual experience, or is it in response to what religious institutions tell people is right and wrong, and which has seeped into society as a whole – even taken on board by those of a non-religious persuasion?
  • What drives millions of people to destroy each other during national and global conflicts? Is it that every person suddenly decided that they wanted an enemy, or were they told who their enemy was – often, under punishment of social isolation or even death if they disagreed?

So, although the thoughts and opinions in your head may well be your experience of life, they’re not necessarily the product of deduction in your own mind – in many cases, they’re enforced upon you through conditioning.

The above are extreme examples of the collective ego; our ‘pack mentality’, so to speak.

Here are four examples of how conditioning affects us, on a smaller scale:
  • A child is three times more likely to smoke if their parents smoke.
  • Girls are ten times more likely to be overweight if their parents are obese.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to commit domestic violence as an adult.
  • A child is more likely to experience depression if one of their parents suffered from depression. That risk doubles if both parents were depressed.

No parent wants their child to be an obese, depressed, spouse-beating smoker, but, just as they themselves have been unconsciously conditioned by their parents and society, they unconsciously pass on these flaws to their offspring.

There may be arguments on genetics, here, but even with a genetic predisposition to obesity, you still have to physically load the food into your mouth. You don’t gain weight from swallowing air.

Likewise, a predisposition to depression does not mean you will suffer from depression, but if your environmental conditioning is full of negativity, causing you self-doubt, low self-esteem and anxiety, you may very well become depressed.

What can we do about this?

The remedy to unconscious living is conscious living: i.e. present awareness, or mindfulness, or however you prefer to label it – it’s the same thing.

This is available to pretty much everyone, right now, and it’s free.

Which leads me to the first of those generic statements I mentioned at the start of this post:

“It’s easier said than done!”

Being happy and content is just about the easiest thing in the world, when you remember to look at life in a positive way – and this is something you already know how to do, instinctively, but which you’ve unlearned through conditioning.

What’s really, really, really hard is going through a severe bout of depression, when your ego has tricked you into giving it all your energy and your mind is consumed by negative, destructive, compulsive over-thinking.

The ‘easier said than done’ statement comes from your ego, because your ego doesn’t want you to be happy. It will put mental barriers in the way of that possibility, because it thrives on the suffering it causes both you and itself.

Ignore it. It’s an arse.

Rather than the pessimistic affirmation of “It’s easier said than done!”, charge your mind with positivity and say to yourself: “Yeah, I can do that!

What have you got to lose from studying, learning and living a live of present awareness?

Second statement:

“Living in the moment would mean abandoning my studies and not caring about my future. My whole life would collapse.”

Present awareness doesn’t mean that you float through life, in the moment, disregarding your ambitions and dreams.

Rather, you’ll find that those ambitions and dreams are more readily transmutable into intentions and plans, because once you flush all of the negative crap out of your head, you uncover a seemingly miraculous inner-energy well of creativity, and that floods the space where all that pointless debris you’d clung onto for decades used to be.

If you build a house, you build it in the moment. The placement of every brick, beam and frame is done in the physical, living moment – not three months ahead.

Maybe in three months, you’ll want to put a roof on it, and perhaps you’ll write up some designs and plans for what you want that roof to look like, but you’ll never get the chance to do that if you don’t keep building the walls, will you?

Your life won’t collapse by engaging in present awareness. You’ll be able to build it stronger than you ever thought you could.

Statement three:

“Letting go of my pain from the past would mean I don’t care. These things made me who I am and I don’t want to forget, or I wouldn’t be myself.”

I jumped off a wall when I was a young boy and landed on a stick that went through the join in my knee; I once stapled my thumb – the staple went right in and I had to pull it out; I stood on a nail that was sticking out of a plank of wood; I once pressed my finger against a car’s cigarette lighter to see if it was hot… and it scorched my fingerprint off…

I don’t jump off walls into bushes any more; I don’t staple myself; I am cautious about nails in planks of wood and I don’t put my fingers on things that I know will probably scorch me.

I do all of the above without feeling any pain.

How absurd would it be if I’d kept all of those things still sticking in me, or stuck onto my sizzling skin, for all these years?

Many of us learn valuable lessons from the episodes in our life that catalyse emotional pain (and remember that nobody can cause you emotional pain – that can only come from within, with your interpretation of their words and/or actions), but what most of us don’t seem to learn is that we need to let that pain go.

Without that process of acceptance, forgiveness and closure, it would be like me keeping that stick in my knee… trying to struggle through life, bearing the agony, the wound septic and never healing…

Don’t let your ego drag you into the past to justify the misery of your unconscious existence, when the past is nothing but electrical patterns in your brain.

Consider… if you could let go of all your negativity, distrust, anxiety, sadness, fear, and so on, and so on…

… and if you could live with contentment, in peace, with frequent bouts of joy and happiness…

… do you think your life would be a better or worse experience?

You have something so powerful inside you… and if you haven’t found it yet, but you want to find it, you will.

The truth is you could have it right now.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Desiderata


Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, is my all-time favourite poem. Where some people cling to the words of the Bible or the Koran through arduous, challenging times, I smile at these words.

There is a bit of backstory to how I discovered this poem, though…

Seventeen years ago, before the Internet, I met a girl named Jo at the nightclub I used to haunt, in my home city of Carlisle.

She was beautiful. Brown eyes, olive skin, a perfect body, and she would have earned a Gold Medal in bedroom gymnastics.

It turned out she was not for me… actually, I found out a few weeks later that she was engaged to a police detective in the city, and he had the capacity to get quite annoyed about his girlfriend’s indiscretions… but, ho-hum… I didn’t know that, previously.

So, when she left, the next morning… a little later, I was going to write in my diary (which I still kept, back then) about the previous night.

On the page I was going to write on, I read the words:

“You are a child of the Universe; no less than the trees or the stars. You have a right to be here.”

Jo had scrawled it in there.

She seemed the sort of person who could whip those words from her heart, so I always thought they belonged to her.

We only ever met each other in passing, after that momentous night, but she’ll always be someone important, to me.

It was around 15 years later, when the world was getting to grips with the Internet, that I put those words she wrote to me into a search engine, and found this wonderful poem:


Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


© Max Ehrmann 1927

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Cat Olympics 2014


Now that the Queen has finally stopped Jubilating, and with the rather enjoyable London 2012 Olympic Games done and dusted, I get the impression the people of Great Britain (and Northern Ireland) are going to feel a bit lost over the next few years.

With the exception of the impending Paralympic Games, and excluding the remote possibility of a state funeral for yet-to-die former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, there are no great celebrations left on the horizon. We’ve done them all. Granted, we did them well, but now they’re over.

So, in order to invigorate and ignite the British spirit once more, I’ve decided to push my best idea ever (thus far):

The Inaugural Oxfordshire Cat Pride Olympiad 2014


In 2014 (subject to funding), the Oxfordshire town of Wheatley, in England, will be hosting its inaugural Cat Pride Olympiad (which you may have realised is just the same information in the subtitle, above, but padded out a bit to more effectively fill some paragraph space).

Cats, kittens and their personal assistants will gather from all four corners of the globe to compete in a multitude of disciplines, including:

The High Jump of Surprise

Judged on the vertical launch height achieved by the cat when it is startled.


Laser Pen Gymnastics

Judged on grace and poise, with extra points for red-dot contact and buffoonery.

Boxing

Single and synchronised attempts to fit into the smallest box possible.


The Down and Up the Stairs (Singles)

The cat runs down the stairs, stops stock still in the living room, looks up at the ceiling with lowered ears, growls, then runs dramatically back up the stairs, freaking out the cat’s personal assistant, who now thinks the house is haunted.

The Down and Up the Stairs (Doubles Relay)

One cat runs down the stairs, stops stock still in the living room, looks up at the ceiling with lowered ears, growls, and the other cat - who was just sitting quietly on a chair, snoozing – spooks and legs it up the stairs, freaking out the cats’ personal assistant, who now thinks the house is haunted.

Snow Jumping

How far a confused, cold kitten can jump from the hole they made when you dropped them in deep snow, for a giggle.


The Catathlon

Across a fence, down a wall, through a cat flap, curl into a ball and sleep.

The Grass Throw

Both a timing and distance discipline, beginning from the moment the cat begins eating a clump of grass, then the distance from the cat’s mouth the pool of bile and chewed grass eventually ends up. Double points if it’s on carpet. Triple points if it’s on the cat’s assistant’s bed.

The Superbowl

How fast can a hungry kitty clean its bowl of meaty chunks?

The 5am Howl

How loud, in decibels, can a cat meow before its personal assistant feels compelled to get out of bed to feed them?

Dressage

Timing how long it takes, from beginning to dress the cat up in an humiliating outfit, until its personal assistant loses some blood.


Synchronised Sleeping


The Perch of Danger

The cat’s attempt to find the highest, most precarious place they can sit. Extra points if they fall asleep, there, without falling off.


I’m sure you’ll all agree that this festival of the world’s finest felines will make London 2012 look like a gathering of village idiots, and I hope you’ll all give me your support as I move forward and work towards raising the mere $30 billion needed to ensure the Games are a stunning, and secure, success.

This $40 billion will go primarily towards:
  • Cat toys.
  • Cat food.
  • Lactose-free milk.
  • Scratching posts.
  • 14 x 2.5 megaton nuclear warheads, with ICBM delivery systems (for general security purposes)
  • A giant, 500ft high, solid gold statue of a cat, with living quarters, which – as Executive Chief King of the Feline Olympic Committee – I’ll live in, during the games.
  • A hollowed-out volcanic island – which I’ll live in, after the games.
Every single penny of the £55 billion budget will go towards advancing the spirit of cats competing in Olympics, so, please, donate today!

Looking forward to seeing you in Wheatley in 2014! :-)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Goodbye, Cool World


I have to confess (though it’s technically not true that I have to confess – it’s not like I’m sitting at the keyboard because someone’s standing over me with a loaded harpoon gun) that I wasn’t completely convinced about the whole Olympics thing.

I was quite the lardist when I was a surly teenager, so never really took part in sporting activities in school. In fact, I’m certain those were the lessons I most frequently truanted.

I have post-traumatic flashbacks of the zing noise a rugby ball makes when it punts off your face, first lesson on an already red-faced, frosty December morning; the agony of being punched right in the nuts when in a scrum; panting for miles, down the sloping school playing field, chasing a tennis ball that had been whacked past me, again; and standing around in a field, yawning, waiting for cricket to become interesting, which never happened.

I wasn’t quite in the camp of people who wanted to burn down the Olympics, melt all the winners’ medals and from that metal, cast bullets that could be used in an uprising against the Queen, but I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the arrival of the Games, and sometimes got quite irate about it.

Here were my main gripes:
  • It documents sport.
  • The military put ground-to-air missile launchers in civilian areas around London, and I’m thinking: you can’t shoot a jet down in a city as densely populated as this and not have massive casualties.
  • The whole Coca-Cola/McDonalds/Scientology sponsorship pact that outlawed mortal use of the number 2012.
  • Sebastian Coe.
  • David Cameron’s face… all the time… going on about the Olympics…
  • The fear that women beach volleyballers would all opt to wear shorts instead of thongs.
  • That bloody torch… everywhere… each day…
  • The over-zealous heavies acting as jogging body guards around the torch, who actually threw an old woman into a bush.
  • Sport… everywhere… for two long weeks…

All that changed when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accompanied James Bond to a helicopter…


As with the Royal Wedding, The Queen’s Jubilee and Princess Diana’s funeral, the Olympics reaffirmed that Great Britain (and Northern Ireland) can really throw a groovy party… or whatever the youngsters say, nowadays. A sick party, maybe?

Anyway, so – like countless others, I’m sure – I pretty much relaxed to the idea of liking the Olympics, especially when there was such a great buzz about the country.

Watching Andy Murray get Gold in the singles tennis was my biggest highlight, though I was disappointed he didn’t start crying again.

Murray is the only person – amongst more than seven billion people on the planet – who can say he won the London 2012 Gold Medal for men’s singles tennis.

It was a bit of an epiphany to realise that people like Murray, Hoy, Wiggins and the outstanding Ennis could only have dreamt of those gold medals if they hadn’t dedicated themselves, absolutely, to the pursuit of personal perfection and transmuted what most people would allow to remain thoughts, into action and results.


What we put in, we get out, as so many of the athletes who contested these Olympics will know already. (I don’t think that rule applies at sperm banks, though.)

Sport aside (and thank chemical chance/God/Odin/L.Ron.Hubbard that cricket isn’t in the Olympics), I really enjoyed the pageant of the Games. We put on a great show and it was wonderful to be reminded just how rich Great Britain (and Northern Ireland)’s cultural heritage is… and that’s the way to capture the real heart of a people… not by looking at our politicians or assuming we’re all like Daphne from Frasier, or her supposedly English brother who sounded just like an American doing a very bad English accent.

Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, The Who, Madness, The Kinks, Genesis, Duran Duran, The Reynolds Girls, Titchy Straddler… the list of musical masters goes on and on…

It actually seems like Great Britain (and Northern Ireland) has been in party mode for the best part of more than a year, after the Royal Wedding, last whenever, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilations, earlier this so-called Summer.

On behalf of Her Majesty, and on the behalf of cheddar cheese, Cadbury’s chocolate, Stone Henge, Big Ben, Piers Morgan, Monty Python and rain, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who participated in London 2012, whether that was by volunteering, competing, watching, or by flicking a channel and cheering your team from thousands of miles away.

And how nice that North Korea and Iran could win medals alongside the UK, the US and Iceland.

Perhaps all the problems of the world should be solved through competitive sport?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Hugs of Safe Harbour


My Mum told me something, yesterday, that had me with tears in my eyes, while talking to her on the phone, sitting in the light of a golden Sunset, in the middle of Wheatley – the village I moved to a few months ago.

One of my childhood friends, Mandy, died last weekend, at the far-too-young age of 41-years old.

She’d had a lot of health issues over the years, along the same lines as my oldest brother, Paul: chronic kidney disease, resulting in the need for dialysis, then a kidney transplant… and there are so many issues that result from this… it really is like the medical equivalent of spinning plates.

The thing is, Mandy had been through some tough times and had been very ill, but – doing quite well, of late, it seems – out of the blue, she had some internal bleeding and when surgeons operated on her, her aorta ruptured, and there was effectively nothing they could do to save her. (I’m not sure of the exact details, but my Mother told me this.)

I hadn’t spoken more than a few words to Mandy for more than 20 years, I guess, but she was such an important part of my childhood. She was three years older than me, and our families were so close, she was like a sister to me… back then.

It was a real shock to hear the news. It still seems impossible. I can only hope that (and I do feel that), after all her suffering, she’s in a better place… and her family will be reunited with her, at the right time.

The thing that really got me, yesterday – the day of her funeral – was my Mum telling me that she’d been across to see Mandy’s family a few days ago. She gave her mother and sister a hug.

Mandy’s father… who was always a reserved kind of guy and not the most tactile of people… gave my Mum a hug.

This was a surprise.

She told me on the phone that he’d ‘never been the hugging type’, and he said to her that, before last weekend, he hadn’t even hugged his own sister – in his whole life - but all that had changed, through their shared ordeal.

He said that he didn’t realise what he’d missed out on, until then.

Hugs are such a beautiful gift, in times of joy, sadness and overwhelming grief.

Don’t wait until it’s too late, and you wished you could hug them…

… and if you can’t hug them, pick up the phone and tell them you love them.

RIP Mandy – Corby Hill’s Steffi Graff, from my early memories.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Teenage Suicide & Reaching for Help


I received one of the most gracious and humbling emails that anyone has ever written me, this morning, from a woman who left a comment on my blog post, ‘The Woodpecker at the End ofthe World’ (where I write about a close encounter with suicide, when I was ‘saved’ by the sound of a woodpecker, which pulled me away from my dark mind and back into the light of the moment).

The comment read:

Followed your link from twitter. You and your story were my woodpecker today. Thank you for being there.

I told her to email me if she needed to, and received this, today:

Hi Les!

I follow you on Twitter and saw your post yesterday about the woodpecker. I'm the one who left the comment. I hope I didn't alarm you.

I just wanted to say that you never know who is reading your posts and how much you are helping them, even if they leave no comment at all. And you are very special to share your stories with others.

The truth is, I'm not okay and I haven't been okay for a very long time. I try to sound positive and upbeat when I am posting and corresponding with others but some days are worse than others. And yesterday your link to the post about the woodpecker helped me through the day.

Again, I hope I didn't startle you or worry you.

Thank you for being there. You mean a lot to many, even if we've never met in person.

[Name Withheld]

I was intending to write a blog about just this (after asking for the woman’s permission)… and not to massage my own ego… but to remind us all that, sometimes, the things we say or do can be all that’s needed to help lead others out of very dark places.

I write stuff. I do hope it helps, but it’s always great to find out it does help. It compels me to keep writing, because now and again, my words seem to be read at just the right time… which is also the reason I persist in spamming my poor Twitter followers with repeated and rotated blog links a zillion times a day.

The Woodpecker blog was written more than 14 months ago. Barring a few breaks I’ve taken, I’ve repeated it about twice a day ever since, and though this has pissed a relative handful of grumpy people, hundreds of others have appreciated it – many of whom have thanked me for sending out those words at just the right time for them. It’s certainly been the blog I’ve received the most emails about.

I write about my experiences. Sadly, too many people can relate to those experiences, but by sharing these details, they help to remind others that they’re really not alone.

I recall quite a few people, over the past year or so, who have told me they’d like to write a blog about their own experiences with various debilitating conditions and illnesses, but they worry that nobody would want to read them.

The thing is, us humans have so much in common - when we forget to hold on to the things we believe set us apart - that pretty much whatever you write or otherwise communicate about your problems and triumphs to the world outside your mind, there’s going to be someone who understands… who can empathise and perhaps relate to their own experience… people who you can help, or who will help you…

So don’t be afraid to speak out about the things that are truly important to you.

Don’t be embarrassed to write it down, paint it, sculpt it, dance it, or whatever… as long as you are creative, rather than destructive, send your message out to the world, and then don’t hold back on promoting and broadcasting yourself, because you may just be the big difference in someone else’s day, to help them see another day.

That’s the beauty of humanity… we’re better when we care about and share with each other…

And this would have been the end of my blog, but something else happened today that I want to write about.


My friend, Georgina, from @M40Offices, posted a message on her business’s Facebook and Twitter feeds today – an appeal to find a young girl, Molly O’Donovan, who had been missing since Sunday morning.

She’s a ‘local’ girl, from Banbury, in Oxfordshire -  not far away - and M40 has business connections in that area, too.

I help with M40’s social networking, so I did a few retweets and shared the information to my own pages, and I kept looking in on Thames Valley Police’s missing persons page, because I felt sure that they’d update it in the day to say Molly had been found, alive and well, and then all the kind souls who shared those messages could stand down with a sigh of relief.

Late in the afternoon, Thames Valley Police did indeed update the missing person’s page, with this:

Missing girl - Banbury - update

07 August 2012, 3:51 pm

Thames Valley Police can confirm the body of a teenage girl was found in a wooded area near Foscote Rise at 11.40am this morning (7/8).

The body has now been formally identified as that of missing 14-year-old Molly O’Donovan.

The death is not believed to be suspicious at this stage and enquiries remain ongoing. There is no further information to release at this time.

The family of Molly do not want to speak to the media and have asked that their privacy is respected at this extremely difficult time. Members of the media are asked to respect their wishes.

I don’t mean to offend anyone with speculation, but the fact that Molly was found in woodland, and that there were no suspicious circumstance, infers that she took her own life.

She was 14-years-old…

A childhood friend of mine, a beautiful soul named Mandy Thompson, died on Saturday from internal bleeding. She was 41-years-old, and she’d had kidney problems for most of her adult life, but this was such a mean, totally unexpected curve-ball and her family are obviously crippled, now. She’s a sister and a daughter and an auntie. My own family are devastated, but I can’t imagine what Mandy’s are going through.

I think the only positive I can find in Mandy’s death is that she’d been seriously ill in the past, and her family must have considered the possibility of her passing, even though they’ll have been praying it wouldn’t come any time soon, so there would have been that knowing of love… that whatever happened, that love was never far from heart or mind.

Molly O’Donovan was 14-years-old. She went out of her house on Sunday morning and didn’t come back, and bless the poor girl – if she did commit suicide – she would have felt so alone and so afraid.

I almost hope that it turns out she’s died in some freak accident, because at least that would be easier for her family to eventually digest.

It breaks my heart… that someone so young and with so much life ahead of them could face that same moment of personal Armageddon as I did, back in Woodpecker Woods, and lose to their demons.

We have to break the stigma of talking about our feelings; of communicating that catastrophic sadness and confusion to those around us… who care for us… and despite what we may think when we watch or read the news, there is so much love in this world of ours, if we just look right, without fear of embarrassment or the crippling reluctance to show that, yes, we are sometimes weak and need help.

Better still, let’s sweep the stigma away completely and allow ourselves the freedom to feel we can speak up when we need to.

Until that happens, love and cherish all who are dear to you, because none of us are here forever; but together, there’s always the shine of something so special… of life… and life is to be lived to its fullest…

RIP Molly O’Donovan

RIP Mandy Thompson

Monday, 6 August 2012

Wally of Shoreshire


The soft, sodium streetlights of Shoreshire twinkled, far across the lake, as the tired Sun fell from the powder blue sky and slid behind the mountains.

Dusk settled in the valley and, drifting in his kayak on the undulating, blackening expanse, Wally wept in frustration. He gazed at the horizon with tear-filled eyes, his heart heavy. It was such a long way to the warmth of home.

A panic gripped him.

“Lord!” he shouted, looking skyward. “Lord, help me!

He waited, expectantly, scanning the darkening sky for signs of divine intervention, snot dribbling from his nose.

LORD?

A minute passed, and still there was no sign of God.

“Lord? Why hath thou forsaken me? Why? If it’s because I haven’t been to church for the past thirty years, I think that’s very petty indeed, considering your position!”

“Jesus, then?” he asked, after a while. “Or are you all in it together?”

No reply.

Wally sniffed and let out a whine, his face contorting, reflecting the desolation he felt in his heart.

“Allah?” he said, in a whisper, so not to alert his main brand of God to his two-timing.

Nothing.

“Jehosephat?”

Silence, except for the slapping and splashing of small waves against his kayak. The wind was picking up and the water becoming choppy.

His shoulders rocked as the sobbing became a convulsion. It was hopeless. He was going to die, he felt sure, and the pike would probably eat his remains. His wife (if he’d had one) would have probably stood on the shore each morning and night, singing laments to his loss, vowing never to marry again and forever wondering: "Where's Wally?"

A flash of inspiration struck him, and he let go of his paddle with one hand to reach into his jacket pocket, for his mobile phone. With a cold finger, he stabbed ‘999’ then swore loudly when he realised, in his haste while leaving the house earlier in the day, that he’d accidentally picked up his television remote, rather than the phone.

He flung it into the lake, with a closely-followed yell of “Bastard!”

Abandoned by two or possibly three gods, and without the ability to call for a helicopter rescue, he resigned himself to his inevitable, early death, hoping that the process of drowning wasn’t too distressing, and also that he drowned before the pike started to eat him.

Then, there was a shrill cry in the air. He looked up and saw a white figure hovering over him. He squinted.

An angel?

Could it be?

In answer, a slithery turd slopped against his forehead, splashing over his face, with a bit of it going in his mouth. The rather large seagull – as it turned out – gave a mocking cackle as it beat its wings and, to add insult to injury, made its way straight towards Shoreshire.

But it gave him an idea, and he shouted out: “Archangel Michael? Please? I’m begging you – take me home on angel’s wings!”

Again, he waited, staring into the sky with hope and anticipation…

… again, nothing happened.

“Angel Gabriel?”

Nope.

“Angel… ina Jolie? Will you adopt me?”

He realised that was a long-shot and was unsurprised when she failed to materialise. It was worth a try, though.

“Rrrraarrrr!” he roared, losing his temper. “What is the point of you all, anyway, if you won’t help people when they need it?”

He scanned the waters and looked about the kayak, hoping for, perhaps, a friendly dolphin or even a mermaid to tow him to shore, but it was becoming so dark that he couldn’t have seen them even if they were there.

Then he looked again to the lights of Shoreshire, a pang of sadness in his heart. Families would be sitting down to their evening meals, laughing and basking in the joy of not being out in the middle of a stupid lake, destined to die, like he was. He wasn’t even 40-years-old.

He lowered his head, tears welling again, and pondered the double-bladed paddle he held in his hands.

“Hmm…”

He looked up once more to the glow of his village.

Slowly, he lifted the paddle and sliced one of the blades into the water, pulling hard.

The kayak moved forward.

He repeated the effort with the opposite blade and his vessel lurched.

Pumping his arms, he kept going, heaving and panting, putting all the effort he could into reaching the shores of Shoreshire.

Within minutes, he could clearly see the village pub and the floodlit jetty. He was getting closer! His chest throbbed with breathlessness and exhilaration, and he began to feel like – barring a last minute pike attack – he was actually going to make it back to dry land.

He laughed, longer and louder than he’d ever laughed before, still pounding and pulling the water past him, and before long, the hull of the kayak scraped over gravel and he slid onto the shore.

Jumping out of the boat, he danced on the solid ground, punching the air and cheering himself.

“And THAT’S why I’m becoming an atheist, you wankers!” he declared to the sky, before tramping to his beachside house.

* * * * *

With the gas fire turned on full and a welcome heat beginning to fill the room and warm his bones, Wally collapsed into his armchair and breathed a loud sigh of satisfaction. He picked up his mobile phone from the coffee table and tried to turn on the television.

“Bollocks!” he said, his brow creasing.

After long minutes of staring blankly at the lifeless screen in the corner of the room, his lower lip trembled and a tear ran down his cheek. A terrifying thought struck him: would he ever see Downton Abbey again?

He looked up to the ceiling and pleaded, with a sob: “Buddha? Can you hear me?”

* * * * *

In the darkness, King Bitey – the largest and lord of all pike – watched the light of Wally’s window from the cold water and seethed bubbles through the too-many teeth in his oversized mouth.

“Next time, human… next time…” he vowed, before slinking back to the black depths of the lake.



The End

Friday, 3 August 2012

Syria, War, Peace and Armageddon


Kofi Annan – the former Secretary-General of the United Nations – has resigned his position as UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria.

He authored a six-point peace plan for Syria – intending to bring a halt to the atrocities in that country - but he realises, now, that his vision has little or no chance of coming to pass…

This isn’t because of the actions of the Syrian people.

This is because of the bickering of the international community; the member states of the United Nations – an organisation which was founded in 1945 (taking over from the League of Nations), in the cauldrons of shock at the end of World War II, to ‘to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue’...

… essentially, to support world peace, after the war-loss of roughly…

… and I’ll put this in caps, and embolden it…

SEVENTY-ONE MILLION PEOPLE

… in the first 45 years of the 20th Century, in two World Wars.

World War II was a NUCLEAR WAR, which a lot of people don’t grasp, so I’m capping that, too.

I’m not casting blame on the USA – which, it’s true, is the only country to deploy nuclear weapons in anger – because if Germany, Japan or even the United Kingdom had been able to utilise that technology first, then history would have been very different.

Now, in 2012, we have this situation where the five permanent members of the United Nations (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) – which have veto rights – essentially cancel each other out at nearly every opportunity, because of their political affiliation to a country in question.

It’s a political power play and generally never considers the actual people of a particular country, or the deaths they endure; rather, it’s posturing… for the governmental benefit of the super-force of the day…

Iran used to be friends of the West, but now they’re our enemies.

Iraq used to be enemies of the West, now they’re our friends.

Afghanistan fought against the Russians, then they fought against the US, and now they’re friends of the West.

In a nutshell, it’s fucking crazy.

It’s like George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

Read it and you’ll understand, if it doesn’t burst veins in your head while you try to consider how quickly Big Brother decides to change sides, and you can then equate it to our own non-fiction governments and their own actions.

In Syria, the ‘West’ is backing (and very likely arming) the rebels, who have been cutting off the heads and otherwise executing captured Syrian soldiers, and these soldiers opposing them are only fighting because, if they don’t fight, they’re going to be shot by their own side, or because they’ve heard stories about the soldiers on their side having their heads cut off, so they’re so incensed and afraid and compelled to kill these people who will, they believe, cut off their heads, if they’re captured.

The ‘East’ is backing (and very likely arming) the Syrian ‘regime’, which is fighting against perceived rebels that are cutting off the heads or otherwise executing captured Syrian soldiers.

The thing is, the ‘West’ are backing (and very likely arming) many of (not all, by a long shot) the same sort of people they’re fighting in Afghanistan, and have been fighting in Iraq… just as they did to groups in Libya, when they decided that Gaddafi was no longer their friend, after being his friend and taking his oil in the decade previous - until which he wasn’t their friend - despite knowing his record of dictatorial abuse against his own people, before they decided he was no longer useful to them.

We – the ‘West’ – are fighting the same people in Afghanistan that we’re (very likely) arming in Syria.

We’re killing the fundamentalists in one arena and arming them in another.

We’re playing them like pawns.

I don’t know what the ‘East’ is doing, because I can’t read their newspapers, but I suspect the same sort of games are going on there, too.

And the people who are dying, right now, are Syrians… just normal people, who don’t want to be in a Civil War… who have become lost in the anger of seeing their loved-ones die, and are taking up arms because they’ve been swept along by games played in ‘corridors of power’, thousands of miles from their families and their homes, which are decimating their families, killing them and their children, and destroying their homes.

We – the ‘West’ – have done this over and over and over again, and I’m not differentiating: so have the ‘East’.

When’s it going to stop?

I can tell you one scenario – which isn’t too far-fetched, sadly – but you’re not going to like it…

Here it is:

Syria have already alluded to the fact that they have chemical and biological weapons - and they have the ability to arm them on delivery systems - but they won’t use them internally, against their own people; so the threat there is that they’ll use them to external forces that interfere with the Civil War that they’re now embroiled in.

So, when the Western-backed rebels crush the Syrian ‘enemies’ into the position where they know that, even if they’re captured, they’re going to die, they decide to go out with a bang and launch whatever chemical and biological munitions they can against targets in Israel.

They may have got these weapons into the Lebanon already, so there will be launches from there, too.

Israel – a nation with a great deal of nuclear weapons, though they’ve never signed up to agreeing that they have them – see thousands or tens of thousands of their people slaughtered by Syria, which they know is backed by Iran.

This is perceived as Holocaust Part II.

In their anger, they launch their nuclear weapons against both Syria and Iran, killing millions of people who never wanted to go to war at all.

The rest of the world waits, in agony…

Then we have China and Russia against the US, UK and France, as permanent members of the United Nations…

… with enough firepower to wipe out all life on the planet.

You may think I’m being unpatriotic, but my nephew is in Afghanistan at this very minute. My brother spent 30 years in the Army and retired this year.

I’m supportive of our troops, because they believe they’re doing the right thing, and they genuinely do care about their missions.

What I’m not supportive of is the same mechanic and dynamic of ‘dark corridors’ in government that puts my nephew and my brother in the same position as the millions of people in both world wars, where many were forced over trenches towards certain death by the fire of the ‘enemy’ machine guns, just as their ‘enemies’ were forced to do the same, on pain of execution.

When are we going to understand that most of us really don’t care about global domination, and we’re more than happy to live our lives without the threat of being shot at?

I really do believe that, without the mass-hysteria of the governmental and political systems of World War II, and the disgraceful assumption that the people of any land should work for their perceived leaders (rather than those leaders work for their best interests) it would have been Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill having a punch-up in field somewhere, and the majority of German and British people would have left them to it, with the afterthought of: “Fuck ‘em.”

Nobody that fought in World War One or World War Two, or any other War, didn’t want to go home.

They were terrified.

In the midst of battle, they didn’t want to be there. They wanted to go home.

They wanted to be with their families, to forget war, and to live…

There was a ‘great’ moment, in World War I – on Christmas Day, in 1914 (the first year of the war) – where British and German troops put aside their troubles and played football (soccer) on what would have been their killing fields.

Despite having previously tried to destroy each other, they played together and had fun, just for a while…

Then, their ‘superiors’ put them back to killing each other.

What can we learn from those people who kicked a ball about, with joy? Who seemed to have something so terrible to fight about, but who laughed and played together?

… that there is no difference between Conservative/Republican and Labour/Democrat; that there is no difference between black and white; that there is no difference between gay or straight; that there is no difference between disabled and abled-bodied; that there is no difference between Christian/Muslim/Jew/Atheist/Humanist/Agnostic and every other faith or belief; that there is no difference between auburn, blonde and ginger; that no noses or bodies are the wrong shape…

… that we’re all human beings, trying to be… throughout all the heartache and agony and joy and triumph…  the best we can…

… then we’ll finally understand this one thing…

… we are the same.

And then there’ll be no more fighting.

War will end.

Peace will liberate us to explore and advance the greatest aspects of our species, and we’ll build, together, rather then focus our technology on new ways to kill each other.

You may be scoffing that this will never happen; that humans will always fight against each other, but consider this…

If one person can make that change of perception: if just one person in this world of ours can reject conflict and give their heart and faith and voice to peace, when the egoic mind would want for war, then surely we can all do that?

We are the same.

It could be you who starts that chain-reaction.