Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Current life synopsis as 2009 departs. Part 1/2: Prosaic.

A post of two halves; the first half, me as ostensibly human with all my existential anguishes; the second half, an attempt to philosophically review my current state and look at processes from a higher point of view.

Part one.

The prosaic.

As you can probably tell, I have an analytic type of brain; I like to theorise about things.

But perhaps it is time for less theorising, less intellectualising; perhaps some simple brutal honesty is required.

Having higher purposes and a higher goal in mind may be all good and well, but the basic fact is that I'm now heading towards 30 and my life is going nowhere.

I watched the quirky, dryly humorous British film A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures recently, which despite I not being particularly like Chris Waitt either in personality or history, the main character in this autobiographical film, the similarity of our resultant circumstances nevertheless did make me pause  and look at my life from an entirely mundane perspective. Of course, it being a film, it all worked out in the end for him. Doesn't always happen that way in real life, unfortunately.

I haven't had a meaningful relationship with someone for more than three years now; in fact, more to the point, I haven't really even had a meaningless relationship in that time. So, over three years ago I changed my life and came up to live in Newcastle. The Newcastle-Gateshead metropolitan conurbation has a population of nearly one million; so in principle, plenty enough for there to be a reasonable number of potential compatible women, statistically; even for someone as eccentric (in an authentic sense of the word) as me.

In that entire time, nothing. Well, except for one fuck this summer, a Saturday night. I'd gone out, and we were both drunk. I hardly ever drink anything; but from time to time I'll go through brief hedonistic phases and indulge in alcohol. It was a random meeting at a rock club, I saw her on the dance floor, and things just happened of there own accord. I have no idea how or why, but for some reason I knew I'd get lucky that night even before going out. This particular feeling has only ever happened twice before, and both of those were successes too. Unfortunately, I've never been able to find a formula or pattern for learning how to generate or channel this form of magick; and it only occurs as an extreme rarity (i.e. 3 occasions in 28 years). If I could find out how to utilise it, I could directionalise it towards effecting change in my life. Anyway, she came back to mine. We had a fun Sunday morning too. There did seem to be at least some genuine compatibility; got on nicely together. The quietude of post-coital bliss in the morning with just a hint of actual intimacy hinted at some genuine relationship potential. So we arranged to meet up for lunch a couple of days later, which we did. That seemed to go OK too, and we arranged to meet up after work some days later.

That didn't happen, and instead I just got two weeks of silence. She eventually responded telling me she'd decided to get back together with her ex. I expect that this was probably entirely true. Reflecting back on events, although I'll never entirely know - and it does not matter in any case - I suspect I simply happened to be the fortunate (well, for at least the brief weekend experience, anyway...) target and used as a tool to get back at her partner; perhaps he'd cheated on her. Whatever. I was disappointed not specifically because it didn't go anywhere, but because her behaviour and interaction with me had hinted that it could/would - not just be a one night thing. I wouldn't have been disappointed if she'd simply just upped and left first thing in the morning, as would generally be the case in that type of scenario. Kate. Come, and gone (excuse the pun).

The only other time when there has been even the promise of something was with a nice girl who I'll just call J. I very much doubt she ever reads this blog these days, but just in case she does (since she does know of its existence), I won't quote her name in case she wishes to remain entirely anonymous. J is a fantastic singer and incredibly passionate about her Jazz-Soul-Funk type of band that is really her own entire conception. She's the central driving force behind the outfit, even though the rest of the members have changed over time.

We actually got chatting through the whole Zoosk/Facebook thing, and much to my surprise/bewilderment - after many botched attempts, and concluding it just wasn't going to happen - we eventually met up, quite bizarrely, in the local park at night in the pitch black. I guess that's trust! We had been talking for quite some time before we eventually met up. Not sure what had caused her to want to avoid a more obvious social meeting place such as a pub; after all, she is a fine looking girl so has no need to worry on that front. In any case, so we walked and talked for probably 3 hours. Great.

Over the coming couple of weeks, we ended up spending a fair bit of time together, I got to see her sing with her band. There was definitely that energy, that chemistry there. For a brief period of time, there was a critical period where I felt we were incredibly close to something happening, just not quite... Or perhaps it is just a product of my imagination.

But nothing happened, and in the end she pushed me away. Not entirely sure, but I suppose it was the usual case of me being too intense. It perhaps gives a mistaken impression that I expect them to over-commit or require more than they are at any time willing to offer; simultaneously, I hypothesise that it also perhaps creates a fear that I am going to become a dependency or form a disproportionate emotional attachment.

Apart from the nearly-something-but-ultimately-nothing with J and the random physical-act-with Kate this summer, there have only been two other dates, both of which were not successful at all and did not go any further. In both cases we went out for dinner, had pleasant in evenings in both cases. One was another Kate, nice girl, but nothing materialised. Perhaps I came on too strong? Don't know; the meal/conversation had gone seemingly really well. And a highly intelligent Polish girl called Illona, don't think there was much physical chemistry there in the end, and I guess I ended up descending into a kind of existential hubris over the course of conversation; she'd just graduated with a first class honours in Economics, was off to do a Masters, so had a bright gleaming career ahead of her. I was, or rather, am in, a place of absolute mess and failure (most especially in material-economic terms) at the moment.
  
And that's it. In three years.

It's all very well receiving the usual platitudes of "something come along when you least expect it" etc., but the much more basic reality is that I can go literally weeks, if not months, without even talking to a single female. The only females I interact with in my day to day life are either colleagues at work or the few friends that I know because they are the girlfriends of male friends. That, and members of the public coming into the shop.

There are no unattached women that I know of in my entire social network. Meanwhile, none of my female friends know of any other single female friends they can even "introduce" me to. 

I can also reflect upon the other axes of my life in similar terms.

I have a job that presents no real intellectual challenge or in any sense makes me feel like I am utilising anything like my potential. It also has appalling pay. I am suffering this situation due to a lack of coherent career decisions many years ago that has left in me in a financially crippled position.

Secondly, and consequently, I live in largely miserable living conditions. A crappy little room in a shared house. I can barely move because all of my possessions are crammed into a room this is approximately the length and width of 1.5 double beds. The room turns into a disgusting tip after even only a couple of days of not tidying it; my wardrobe is so small I can't actually close the doors properly because my clothes are overflowing out of it (it has one hanging rail perhaps 40cm long; about the same as in those mini wardrobes you get in cheap travel lodges and motels).

The rest of the house is dirty, squalid, and typical of "bedsit" type accommodation. This is not a house that is a "home", it is merely a place to pass through, or in this particular case, a house of depressed bachelors. It is a place I'd be ashamed to bring anyone back to; it is somewhere you have to suffer, rather than desire to be there. The whole place needs renovating. But living here is cheap, and all that I can afford at the moment.

I have no car. So am largely stuck within the city in all practical terms and limited to public transport.

After all my basic bills/costs have gone out, I have around £150 a month to live on. That figure does not include food costs.

It is fanciful, hopelessly romantic, and frankly ridiculous to think that hardly any women are going to take me seriously in light of these facts. It would be different if I was closer to 20, and/or at University/college/etc. But I am approaching 30, and still fundamentally living the life of a student - except I not heading towards a qualification in anything (except perhaps of learning about life's disappointments). I suppose, at least, I am not still living at home with ones parents; at least I gain some sense of independence and self-destiny from that fact. Whilst the type of woman I am looking for is most definitely not materialistic, indeed quite the opposite, the simple fact is that unspoken or not, admitted or not, subconsciously or not, people make significant value judgements based immediately on your material circumstances. And the old social/gender stereotype of "male as provider" does still have significant force, even its modernist sublimated form.

I am unable to formally study anything (apart from more basic qualifications and some largely recreational adult learning courses) since there is no financial assistance available for me to fund higher education, since I have already used up my allowance when I attended University. So you don't really get second chances in life. This is one of the hard facts.

So it is difficult to see how anything will change for me in 2011. Come January 2012 there will be some improvement, as I will be free from my Career Development Loan after 6 years of paying it off. I will then be in a position to clear my overdraft and credit card. However, at this rate, it is going to be 2013 before I am basically clear of debt and back to ground zero, and still nowhere meaningful - materially - in my life. And two more years of living like this. It is taking its pycho-emotional toll.

This Christmas - or rather, Yule, as I prefer to rightfully call it - has perhaps been the bleakest of them all so far. Surrounded by the swarms of people in the shop where I work, open endless hours, maniacally buying and spending large sums of money, talking about the ski holidays they were going on and the things they were getting up to; getting randomly asked what I was up to over Christmas. To which I'd give some placatory and meaningless polite answer, rather than burden and darken the tone by revealing the truth. The truth was that I did absolutely nothing. It was a non-event. I had three days off work. I spent them by myself, in an basically empty house, penniless and present-less - there are very few people I am close to, and those couple of people have virtually no money either. I am not a materialist, so whilst it would be fun and enjoyable to receive (and give) presents, that is ultimately of no real import. But to basically have no company, no one in your life at all in any real sense - excluding my mother, of course; and my ex, now "family" to me, who lives in another country now we've chosen separate paths again - is pretty fucking hard. Even for someone who considers themselves pretty strong, independent, and quite at peace with large tracts of solitude.

Sucked into an existential void and consigned to a meaningless empty oblivion - that's what it feels like a lot of the time.

And that most human, all too human part of me? The weakest part of me that sometimes wants to crumble? It is a form of agony to have no woman with kind eyes for me in my life; someone to share conversation with. Someone to make love to. And the ultimate admission that the archetypal male never wants to speak aloud, since it is almost seen as a sign of weakness in the male ego: Do you know what I miss the most? Not the "simple" companionship, not the practical easing of burdens, not even the sex (though that absence is indeed an extremely acute one, physically)... just the simple act of having someone close to hold in your arms, to be held in her arms. Not physicality; intimacy.

So, no philosophy, no intellectualising. Just plain old me; basically a lost and lonely man. 

A man, at least, with a higher vision in mind - even if, not yet in practice.

This first post covers the main thematic material of the current state of my life from a basic, down-to-earth, utilitarian and eminently emotional point of view. The next post will review this position from a deeper philosophical and spiritual point of view. I'll hopefully get round to writing it on New Year's Day; it seems an auspicious day to do so, and take stock of where to go and how to proceed from here.

To be continued...

Update 06/12/09: Concluding part is here.

--

Finally, just a little thank you to a few of you in particular whose comments, suggestions, or remarks have left an impression in this tail-end of 2009. Whilst I don't write this blog primarily for anyone but myself, or rather, for anything other than the service of trying to find expression to that deep mystery that is life, it is nevertheless heartening to know that some people evidently find something of interest here.

Dianne, a stalwart of compassionate remarks from the very inception of this blog, thank you.
Findingmywingsinlife, for the enlightening comments from someone with an entirely different window on life, thank you.
Triana, same as with Findingmywingsinlife, and for bringing some levity in my direction with the little random mentions. It does not surprise me in the least that you two are friends with each other in real life. :-)
Ashley, I do not know whether I am worthy of your praise of being described as an "exceptional writer" in that final sentence... but I do know that the little comment you made - from someone I don't know, entirely out of the blue, without any ulterior motivation; therefore all the more valuable as a result - was perhaps one of the best gifts I've ever received in this dark period of my life. Small things can make all the difference. I don't really have any other creative or intellectual outlet apart from my writing, and it is entirely undignified and immodest for one to deliberately seek out praise or validation from anyone... so that unexpected compliment was a real emotional and confidence booster. Thank you.

Banner change #4 to #5. Updated look.

Old banner #4:



New banner #5:



The new scene depicts Newcastle-Upon-Tyne from the large expanse of the Town Moor. This photo was taken on Christmas day; cold, fresh, and peaceful. Very few people were out and about, unsurprisingly.

Also decided it was time to change the appearance of this blog, for no other reason than that it was time for a change with the onset of a new year ahead.




Monday, 14 December 2009

Confounded by....?

So where does one go from here.

One of the necessary psychological survival techniques is to convince yourself that things will improve; things will change for the better. Motivational speakers will urge you to "become the change that you want to be", or to "make it happen".

How does one deal with being subjugated into a life denied of meaningful purpose by economic tyranny, starved of the intellectual, spiritual, emotional and sexual fulfilment, grated down into submission by a world whose values have been emptied?

The old chestnut; problems are easy to diagnose, solutions very difficult to find.

I fit in well only by denying the very essence of who I am; refusing to allow the disintegration of the qualities from which all of my strength depends means confronting the emptiness without.

"Adaptation" to social norms resulted in assimilation; and so I found myself sitting at the table in the restaurant on my only date of this year, earlier this summer, projecting a complete absence of any defining personality whatsoever. She was a perfectly nice girl; highly intelligent, reasonably physically attractive if slightly awkward of dress, and looking forward to a bright future in Economics (it turned out she graduated with a First and is now no doubt studying for a Masters at Warwick University). There was no real chemistry between us, so although conversation flowed reasonably well, there wasn't that critical element of sexual tension that characterises real attraction. Consequently no particular specific (in this instance) disappointment that nothing resulted.

However, the experiment (since, if nothing else, it has proved my one and only opportunity for the possibility of anything at all happening with someone this year) did reveal a negative result in terms of drawing my awareness to the enormous discrepancy in the properties and qualities of my internal existence in relation to their expression in my external existence. This discrepancy has a profoundly damaging effect on my ability to project an attractive rich personality; instead I present a book of empty pages, full stops, chapters prematurely ended and a story that has abruptly terminated.

I trawl myself to and from work; blankly nod and mechanistically say and do the things that need to be said and done; come home, eat, sleep, listen to some music, fire a few words out into the gigantic (though not entirely empty) void of cyberspace, superficially trace the events of a few real friends (and far more who should be more aptly described as mere "connections") lives through the ultimately barren universe of the cultural zeitgeist of our times, namely "social networking" through Facebook (or should that rather not be better described as Facelessbook? Excuse my cynicism, perhaps you can still detect a grain of dry humour hidden in my writing)... and find myself stuck in this abrogating circle.

Under such emotional stultification, can I be permitted some emotional outbursts? Why, but this is first and foremost my blog, so I have artistic license to do as I wish, I suppose!

God, can I not scream out to the universe! Or Gods, show me a path!

Indicate some path that is right for me, something, anything with some meaning than this.

Something to spark something off! I've put so much energy into trying to find some vision, I need something to become clear!

Something to make me feel like a man - with a purpose.

And how I miss a woman; some company. A woman's embrace. Sexual alchemy. Someone sharp witted, fiery, compassionate and with spiritual strength. Tired of the endless platitudes of "someone will come along eventually" etc., etc. All intellectual deliberating aside, on a most basic level, who wants to come home, day after endless day, to an empty house? And hey, wouldn't it be nice to actually have someone to spend Yule with.

The time is now; I need many dimensions of my existence to change significantly, I feel myself growing immensely weary with this existence that lies so far from my intentions. Mere self-preservation.

"Through the countless agencies of mass production and its culture the conventionalised modes of behaviour are impressed on the individual as the only natural, respectable, and rational ones. He defines himself only as a thing, as a static element, as success or failure. His yardstick is self-preservation, successful or unsuccessful approximation to the objectivity of his function and models established for it."

Dialectic Of Enlightenment, Thedor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Extemporal meditation

From silence comes creation. From non-being emerges being. Life is in the intervals; those acquiescent moments when temporal and material boundaries are dissolved.

How much we hurry; how much we bustle; how much we scurry. Switch off or silence the phone; switch off the TV; disregard the "outside" world; only allow precisely that which you wish to allow into your universe, even if only for an hour. This is a form of mundane meditation, and in Eastern ontology is the route through which you find your very being itself.

In a sound recording, the term describing the variation in relative volume level from the faintest sounds through to the loudest peaks is called the dynamic range. Allowing periods of minimal input into your life expands the "dynamic range" of your life. Here in the modern world one of the discordant problems is that we're constantly subjected to an overload of noise in innumerable forms; and not just sonically either, as much in terms of "information noise".

Perhaps this is the aspect I find worst about those busy periods at work when you have long days, and little time outside except to eat and sleep. I begin to suffer an immense life fatigue, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I suffer an immense lack-of-life fatigue. Constantly rushing around, doing one thing or the other, endless background noise and invasive viral-like advertising; visual and aural.

And so it is a treat indeed to have a weekend off work, and experience that wonderful phenomenon that only occurs at the weekend when you live in a suburban area, namely an ambient stillness and quietness, coupled with a cherished lack of any things that I'm particularly required to do. So I get to do "nothing"; which is very much far from nothing. Enjoy some fine music playing away quietly, lazily get up out of bed at a schedule determined by my body rather than external circumstances, and find a few words to flow out onto this blog.

This is indeed a fine morning; the cold, dark fogginess outside merely lifts my spirits, for it carries a primeval essence that reminds us how brief these citadels we've constructed really are, and how quickly they could disappear; for if humanity simply ceased to exist, in a million years there would be little evidence remaining, and this would be merely a blink on a geological timescale.

The fog however, would quite simply remain.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Banner change #3 to #4

Old banner #3:



New banner #4:



This photo was taken with my phone one morning on my walk into work and shows a tree near Newcastle city centre during the dying days of autumn; those special couple of weeks when everything turns golden in preparation for the onset of winter.

Shackled by hollow restraint

Sometimes words don't come easily. Most especially when you're conscious of an almost overwhelming sense of negativity in your being. You want to write something enlightening, something interesting; but the effort of saying anything at all can almost seem too much.

But I suppose it is important to write something; expunge your emotional state. Even a torrent of vitriol is better than a wasteland of silence in the boundless theatre of the abyss. The abyss that lies at the root of being itself is perhaps something that most people have never even experienced.

Simple observations can prove quite illuminating. Take television viewing, for example. Broadly speaking, a certain type of person will mute the sound on the television when the program they are watching is interrupted by a commercial break. They are the sort of person that usually cherishes silence in at least some degree. There are other qualities and personality traits that are also endemic in this type of person that allow us to draw some broad characterisations. Of course any model that groups people into "types" is inherently simplistic and quite often incorrect; what does bear greater accuracy is one that recognises certain groupings of interrelated tendencies, homunculus's of personality quirks; in other words, certain types of norms.

It would be heartening to say that in what is virtually a year since the first posts on this blog, that great progress had been made personally; whether materially or spiritually. But such a progression can not be claimed; instead I am stuck, quite literally. Financial pressures mean that I have little space for manoeuvring for at least another year.

Perhaps this stasis is not entirely without benefit. For if anything, it has continued to increase my appreciation at the absolute spiritual emptiness of this modern world; I find myself gathering an immense wellspring of what can only be described as existential horror. This world of increasingly brief, endless fads and transient gimmicks; a world without any real substance. The side effect of making everything so convenient, so easy to digitally archive is to make everything increasingly disposable. This world of empty faceless "communications"; this world of Facebook, perhaps better described as Facelessbook - and it is not a matter of how many photos or otherwise are present. For example, it is reflected in the fact that you can build up a large list of "friends", and yet barely know most of these people, and certainly not genuinely have much in common with most of them. For as much as Facebook, and all these other social netwoendrking tools can in principle facilitate social contact, in practise they often achieve the opposite effect; a couple of empty sentences digitised and exchanged as a substitute for an authentic human interaction.

But social networking sites, the disposable nature of digitised information, the transience and rate of change; all of these are merely technological symptoms. They are merely neutral; it is how they are applied that determines whether or not they can be considered positive or negative factors.

Rather, the underlying malaise, the underlying cause is the very spiritual foundation of the modern world as a whole. On this, it is difficult to find anything to draw positively from. I am very "Evolian" in that I share his overriding belief that we are in our own Kali Yuga, an era of decline; I find it extraordinarily difficult to imagine that this trend will ever be reversed in my lifetime. So, I simply do my best to cope with this existence, and perhaps navigate towards a higher goal. Less idealistically, it is merely a struggle to simply plough on, week after week, month after month, merely paying the bills, keeping going.

Much as I enjoy the cultural benefits of living in a city, as time wears on, I increasingly look to escape - to somewhere sparsely populated, a beautiful wilderness, somewhere free from the endless empty vacuity of modernity. Perhaps that is the only way to have your proverbial cake and eat it; you take advantage of the benefits of technological developments of the modern world, but escape all the degeneration.

And yes, I'm one of those people that mute the TV.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Taras Shevchenko: Ukrainian poet & artist (1814-1861)

Do not envy a rich man,
A rich man shall not know
neither sympathy nor love -
These are rented to him.
Do not envy a powerful one,
All he has is gotten by force.
Do not envy a man in glory,
A glorious one knows all too well
that he is loved not for himself,
but for that hard glory of his
that he poured forth
with his tears
for everyone's amusement.
Look at the young ones,
in love and at peace,
as in Eden, - look closely:
Evil stirs not far behind.
Look around yourself,
There is no paradise here,
And in heaven there is none.



1846

Translation: Roman Turovsky-Savchuk 03/10/2008

Friday, 12 June 2009

Banner change #2 to #3

New banner time!

Old banner (#2):



New banner (#3):




This photo was taken in Karlstad, Sweden. In the three weeks I was there during April, I experienced nearly 4 seasons: it was -2C and snowing when I arrived (which was when this photo was taken), and on the final day it was sunny, warm, and around +17C!

Katatonia: My Twin & Deliberation


Katatonia

My Twin


The neck and then the chain
The head is hung in shame
I thought that you had grown
That you would carry on
But now that I am gone
What else has been withdrawn

You used to be like my twin
And all that's been
Was it all for nothing
Are you strong when you're with him
The one that's placed you above us all

I think of love
I let it pass
It feels like fire
But it won't last

What is it coming to
I am unwilling to go on
You have lost
No one has won


--

I love this band. They've consistently grown and improved with each album. Understated with no flashy or overt technical flourishes; instead just pathos and feeling. I've always been able to very readily connect with the emotional states generated by their music.

Another one by them:


Deliberation

Visions come, visions come, in a sick room bed
There's something left to learn
Pass them on, let it show
Let the rich meet death
Confront our own concern

See us sleep behind the glass unaware of crime
Will you wake us up before it is time

Dueling circles, holds the only light
Break down my perspective
Notify everyone when the time is right
My mouth remains inactive

See us sleep behind the glass unaware of crime
Will you wake us up before it is time

So when you let me in
Let me justify
My own rewards
You put your hands on me
Now I learn the words
I didnt know before

I am ice, I am clear
Let the world be cold
Our deliberation
Pass them on, let it show
Let the words come slow
Your constant incantation

See us sleep behind the glass unaware of crime
Will you wake us up before it is time

Repeating cycle
Of light, no light
There's nothing in the air space
There's no one in the air space
Repeating cycle
Of love, no love


Who? Has it been there all along?

Apologies for the lack of any recent posts, blog readers (if there are any of you left out there given my slack attention to this blog of late!).

Life has been challenging and difficult recently - though not because of any obvious external stimuli. It has been informing, however, and as always, a learning experience. I've been reflecting on various developments - or perhaps, rather, non-developments. Life is a gradual process of coming to understand one's own psyche.

There is an illusory self-confidence - or certainly, in my case, this is how I now consider it to be - where in your young adulthood (i.e. somewhere typically 18-22) you start to believe you really "know" yourself. Yet, in my case, the last few years have seen me come to an awareness of many undercurrents and aspects of my psyche I didn't really explicitly recognise before. More pertinently, I have started to become much more aware of how it affects my interpersonal relationships, or more precisely, potential for interpersonal relationships.

I think of myself of consisting of a mixture of various splintered strands, totally different aspects, somewhat rather contradictory; the question is how do they resolve themselves into one homogenous, unitary, singular entity, an "I". Or perhaps I should simply accept the discontiguous strands; utilise them - "put on different hats"[0].

It is therefore not surprising that many great philosophers and pyschologists have strongly questioned whether a real "I" actually even exists (Kant, for example, was one who didn't).

Anyway; disappointment. That is my primary life feeling if I was to characterise this phase in my life - it is pervasive.

-

Over the last couple of months I have had one wonderful development. I am extraordinarily lucky to have met an immensely skilled Tai Chi practitioner who with tremendous generosity and infinite patience is teaching me this ancient art. It is extremely difficult but I believe I am making steady progress.

Taichiquan has become a stabilising locii for me - every second learning this martial art is repaid hugely; this I already know from my limited experience with it. I know extremely little, as yet, but already feel that it is having a significant transformative effect. Mind and body, physical and mental, rationalism and intution are not artificially divided in the East as they are over here. Tai Chi is an example of this. It is a powerful system of health and wellness. It promotes flexibility. It modifies energetic and metabolic systems. It is an extremely potent martial art (when mastered). It is a meditative activity. It encompasses philosophy, especially Taoism. It is an externalisation of many internal concepts; it is an internalisation of an apparently external physical activity.

-

So; more to come. I will post much more substantially when I have had more time to rationalise the set of developments over the last couple of months.

[0] A reference to some of Edward De Bono's theories on knowledge and self-management.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

As dust through my fingers

And so, yes, I have not written anything recently on this blog. In truth I have been suffering a profound lack of energy, so much so that writing anything here has seemed like too much effort. Even believing in change (for the better) seems like an enormous effort at the moment. Instead, I feel like I live a life in stasis, one where I lack the willpower and belief to ever change anything.

Each summer, just like the last.

Unfulfilled.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tea Post #2: The Collection



Sometimes, as the saying goes, a picture, or, as in this case, pictures can say a thousand words. This is my current tea collection. So, as you can see, I am indeed a mad tea drinking Englishman.

These pictures represent the current full inventory of my tea, but only shows a small portion of my tea ware. The vast majority of my tea pots and special tea cups are all currently in storage, since I don't have room for them in my current rather crappy small place. Notable tea pots in my possession include a couple of all glass tea pots which are ideal for "flowering" teas (teas which are skilfully bound such that they open out to form a flower as they infuse in the water), a genuine Chinese Yixing (Yisha clay) teapot, and a Japanese cast iron teapot (tetsubin).



In this picture, amongst other things, you can see a Chinese Gong-fu clay teaware set which I recently bought whilst on holiday in Sweden[1] (I bought it from the rather splendid Tea Centre of Stockholm) consisting of a gaiwan, water jug, six small cups, all resting on a water tray. You can also see a Japanese matcha bowl (bought from a tea shop in Tokyo) with a bamboo whisk and spoon, along with a small tin of high grade matcha tea. It also shows a rather lovely green teapot which I picked up in a second hand shop in Sweden for the equivalent of just a few pounds!









The last picture shows a couple of my tea measures (a tea measure is roughly equivalent to a generously heaped tea spoon) along with a white gaiwan, a tea ball, and a couple of strainers.

As you can probably imagine, I quite literally have a small chest of drawers dedicated exclusively to storing all these teas!

Here is the current inventory of teas. Where I know and can remember, I've linked to the company who supplied the particular tea, the country of origin (except for blends which consist of multiple teas), and where appropriate the estate that produced the tea. I purchased quite a lot of tea whilst visiting Japan in May 2007, and obviously since I can't read Japanese I cannot decipher the labels! I simply know what types of tea I bought. So that is why there is little information for a number of the green teas.

Technically speaking, only drinks containing an infusion from Camellia sinensis leaves should be called tea; other types of drink commonly called teas such as herbal infusions like Chamomile, Redbush or Lapacho or the hot brightly coloured cordial drinks popularly sold in Turkey should not be called tea. Rather, such alternative infusions are properly known as a Tisane.


Key:

R = Ronnefeldt
C = Covent Garden Tea Centre
W = Whittard of Chelsea
B = Robert Wilson Ceylon Teas
K = Kränku Tea & Coffee
N = Nothing But Tea
L = Lipton Teas
T = Taylors of Harrogate
S = Tea Centre of Stockholm
D = Drury Tea & Coffee Company
O = Kobbs Tea
G = Twinings Tea
P = Clipper

M = Morrisons Supermarket

Black tea

  • Himalayan TGFOP (R, Nepal)
  • Darjeeling FTGFOP First Flush (R, India, Nurbong Estate)
  • Covent Garden Tea Centre Superior Darjeeling (C, India)
  • Assam TGFOP (R, India, Bukhail Estate)
  • Nilgiri (W, India)
  • Lovers Leap FBOP (B, Sri Lanka, Mahagastota)
  • Brunswick BOP (B, Sri Lanka, Maskeliya)
  • Uva Light FP (B, Sri Lanka, Uva)
  • Western New Season BOP (B, Sri Lanka)
  • Kränku Kora Kundah (K)
  • Mayan Gold (N)
  • Yunnan FOP (R, China)
  • Lipton Ceylon Tea (L, Sri Lanka)

Black blended/flavoured tea


  • Morrisons "The Best" English Breakfast (M)
  • Taylors of Harrogate Irish Breakfast (T)
  • Taylors of Harrogate English Breakfast (T)
  • Taylors of Harrogate China Rose Petal (T)
  • Tea Centre of Stockholm Söderblandning (S)
  • Tea Centre of Stockholm Earl Grey Special (S)
  • Tea Center of Stockholm Tea Centre Blend (S)
  • Whittard Of Chelsea English Breakfast (W)
  • Drury Tea Company Imperial Afternoon (D)
  • Kränku Kalkstensdrömmar (K)
  • Kränku Munkte (K)
  • Kränku Borgablandning (K)
  • Kränku Tillfalig Teblanding (K)
  • Kränku Jubileumsblandning (K)
  • Kränku Fläderblom (K)
  • Kränku Visby Varldsarvte (K)
  • Kränku Earl Grey blå blom (K)
  • Kränku Earl Grey Cream (K)
  • Covent Garden Tea House Choco Truffle (C)
  • Lipton Indian Spice (L)
  • Lipton Russian Earl Grey (L)
  • Kobbs Lingonlantan (O)
  • Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea (G)
  • Twinings Lady Grey Tea (G)
  • Snostjana (?)

Green tea


  • Chinese green tea (?)
  • Bancha (?, Japan)
  • Kukicha (C, Japan)
  • Gyokuro (?, Japan)
  • Gyokuro (?, Japan)
  • Gyokuro (?, Japan)
  • Matcha 1st Grade (?, Japan)
  • Sencha (?, Japan)
  • Gu Zhang Mao Jian (R, China)
  • Clipper Organic Green Tea (P, China)
  • Dragon Well (Lung Ching) (D, China)
  • Imperial Gunpowder (T, China)

Green blended/flavoured tea

  • Green Lemon (R, Japan)
  • Morning Dew (R, Japan
  • Genmaicha (W, Japan)

Oolong tea

  • Formosa Oolong (C, Taiwan)
  • Ti Kuan Yin (N, Taiwan)
  • Black Dragon (N, Taiwan)

White tea

  • Pai Mu Tan (R, China)
  • Silver Needle Yin Zhen (N, China)
  • Georgian Old Lady (N, Georgia)
  • Georgian Old Gentleman (N, Georgia)

Pu-erh (red) tea

  • Pu-erh PS (R, China)
  • Pu-erh Mini Toucha (C, China)

Artisan/flowering tea


  • Jade Column (N, China)
  • Silvery Strawberry (N, China)

Tisanes

  • Rooibos Earl Grey (K, South Africa)
  • Rooibos Sea Buckthorn (N, South Africa)
  • Honeybush (N, South Africa)
  • Lapacho (N, South America)
  • Rooibos Vanilla Bourbon (C, South Africa)

So, technically speaking, at this precise moment in time I have about 64 teas and 5 tisanes in total! Obviously this number goes up and down as I use up tea and replenish it! Generally speaking though, I'll always have well in excess of 50 types of tea available to drink in my collection.

What can I say? I like a good cup of tea :-)

[1] I have just been on holiday in Sweden for two and half weeks, hence the silence on this blog... Post, or posts, to follow, on my trip.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

John Donne's "The Ecstasy"

The Ecstasy, by John Donne (1572-1631)

Where, like a pillow on a bed
         A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
         Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
         With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
         Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
         Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
         Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies fate
         Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
         Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
         We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
         And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin'd
         That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
         Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
         Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
         And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
         We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
         We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
         Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
         And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
         The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
         Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
         Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
         Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
         Of what we are compos'd and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
         Are souls. whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
         Our bodies why do we forbear?
They'are ours, though they'are not we; we are
         The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
         Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
         Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
         But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
            Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
         Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
         That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
         T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
         Else a great prince in prison lies.
To'our bodies turn we then, that so
         Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
         But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
         Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
         Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.


--


I scarce think I have read much that more wonderfully captures the mysterious electric quality of romantic love between two people - how it amalgamates, harmoniously, across the three planes: physical, intellectual/emotional, spiritual.

Life is so peculiar: there is a certain disjointed quality about most deep human interactions, in that you attempt to create a bridge drawing upon the inherent shared human condition, but yet can never exactly connect. You strive to communicate that perfect common shared knowledge, but it has elements that are inherently uncommunicable through ordinary language: what is required is the faith that another person can, and indeed does, have that same unbounded existential awareness.

It is true that, as Deepak Chopra says, we fear the most what has already happened to us. By repeating the same script we cause events to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Writing a new script is difficult and requires courage, but is in principle, always possible, every day.

So, in essence, metaphysically, sometimes the truest communication between two people is the language shared by simply being, doing nothing, wrapped in each other's arms.

I am aware such talk sounds terribly sentimental, but it is sentimental by virtue of the fact that it is surely true!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Surface tension

The fresh uncertain opening shapes me
A window lets flickering sunbeams enter
The stirring it quells, by my centre softly
How by thy very touch, gravity formed, held
in trust: ceaseless tide now can waxing meld



--


Indyeah will probably know to what, precisely, this poem refers. :-)

Hopefully it is something we have all felt, if for however brief, at some point in our lives.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Tennyson: The Eagle

Far too tired to put much of a post up this evening after a eventful, emotional, and overall excellent weekend. So I will let a master's words speak for me instead:



The Eagle (1851) by Alfred Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Friday, 6 March 2009

A dry riverbed




the black rubicon sits silently
by my bedside, quietly waiting
unheeded, saturated of silence
the texts that never arrive
the yearning sent out into the aether

unmatched, a lonesome soliloquy
words without imprint
a substance without effect

I scream out and tear into the face of God
pithily silent
the weight of absence slowly descends
so I learn presence

moments noticed, kept
stored in the archive of distant hope
from which, lost, I try not to mope

but at last, furtively shone
as batteries drained, electricity gone
I finally collapse,
a discarded broken toy

the earth descends,
in soil I rust
in truth I slip
in trust, I must
for without which
I am but a sound without voice.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

These four walls

Sometimes, you don't even get the opportunity for words.

Am I but a fool, wandering aimlessly?

Love, where hast thou departed to?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Memory enrobed

fallen moments
truth, sprinkled and scattered
as dust motes weave their blooming effusion
each circling, highlighting those very facets
of that which we saw, but as yet did not fully understand

entangled in memory's robe
I know because I fade
dispersed within the veil
of bounty's delight
revealed as the light scatters
second chances opined
thoughts refracted

our striving our lens
our hope: our final submission





Debussy: Arabesque No.1


Yukiko Makise

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Music of Words, the Words of Music, the Music of Life

Music can be a gift almost beyond measure. In a way that is difficult for any other form of Art to match, it can stir the emotions and draw forth from the soul what can scarcely be explicated - the Source that is the Mystery that lies at the heart of life.


It does sometimes pain me that I believe I do not possess any musical talent. I adore music beyond measure - but it is not something that my over analytical brain is good at creating itself.

Instead, I can merely recognise greatness, the larger Greatness that lies beyond it all - the deepest realm of the human condition. So therefore, I am an avid listener.

I sometimes feel so incredibly privileged to share the company of some people I meet. Someone who is, to use the cliché, but true, a beautiful person.

If that person also happens to possess a fabulous musical talent, so that their very being shines through in every word they sing, I feel humbled - and honoured to be in their presence.


I do not possess the vehicle for expressing the music in myself - so all I have are words.


Words - can I raise them into a concerto of paragraphs?

Music can express that which cannot be written. Words can express that which cannot be directly communicated by music.

Words or music. Or both. Either together, individually... they all possess a power a moment a grasping a perfection a sublimity a chance a hope a within a being a divinity.


Can I find the words to express the tears that roll down my cheeks? Can I find the words to express the focus I draw upon in concentration? Can I find the words to express the strength that picks up me when every hope is seemingly lost? Can I find the words to express the beauty I see everywhere around me? Can I find the words to express the dark abyss that opens under me? Can I find the words to express the pain of this abyss? Can I find the words to express the love I draw from this abyss? Can I find the words to express the always present ambiguity and complexity of life? Can I find the words to express the Man that I want myself to be? Can I find the words to express the Man I want the world to see? Can I find the words to express the dream that closing the gap to that Man within myself represents?

Can I find the words to express the ocean of warmth I feel, when, in that infinity of but a mere instant, I look deep into her eyes?

Can I find the words to express that which, in the service of words, only deserves nothing less than the exceptional, shining, radiant, glorious and effervescent luminous energy that, truly, words in the service of language; in the service of the human condition; in the service of those great spiritual depths... deserves, unconditionally.

The quest for those perfect words, that perfect living poetry is the same quest as to find that love.


I feel that I must do everything I can, give everything I have got, strive to go far beyond all that I am capable of, somehow find a way, to capture, if only for a moment, those precious few words that will crystallise a glimmering of that which I most want to share.

Will I be able to find those words? Will I be able to write them? Will I even possibly be able to utter them?

When it matters most, when that brief split second arrives, can I find the symphony of words that will stir her soul?

Can I raise the words sufficiently high to tap into that ocean of feeling that the finest music evokes.

And so I feel daunted; only a few have a mastery of language so complete and so sufficient that every single one of their very words dance upwards in a serenade of exquisite resonance.

Every time I strive to type something attempting to express to terrain of Truth, each letter for me carries an awesome responsibility - a responsibility to add something of beauty and value to the world. Words! My only real creative outlet. Can I serve that which rises far beyond?

I find the prospect of writing poems and literature terrifying - yet you can only reach within, reach further, to find and in your craft expose that very aspect of your being.

Shakespeare is of course rightly seen as one of those true masters. Sonnet number 53:


What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new:
Speak of the spring, and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear;
And you in every blessed shape we know.
In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

Meeting someone can be the spark that picks you up, ready to strive to face the challenge, to search to find those words. If they are themselves someone who draws upon the source, they then become a fountain of personal inspiration for you.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Tea Post #1 (of many to come!)






T E A

Post #1


Tea: Taylors Of Harrogate: English Breakfast
Type: Black tea (blend)
Grade: GBOP (Golden Broken Orange Pekoe)
Cost: £4.70 / 250g




So. As promised to Indyeah, here is the first post, of many to come, chronicling my love affair with the most mighty of all beverages, true perfection in a cup: Tea, Camellia sinensis, 茶.

And where to start with such a huge topic? Many terms will be unfamiliar for the non tea cognoscenti, but I'll slowly cover everything and it will become clear in time, for those that wish to join me on my journey. Tea and Philosophy. Is there ever a more natural combination?

Lets start simple. What is a cup of tea for most people?

It depends on where you live. A typical cup of tea in China is likely to be either a Green or Black tea, probably served without milk, perhaps (hopefully) still made from loose leaf tea. In Japan it is extremely likely to be Green, unless it is Bancha, which is a toasted and darker brewing tea. Bancha is made by lightly dry toasting Sencha, which is their normal grade green tea. In India it could well be Chai, a form of milk tea heavily infused - of course, given their mastery of multifaceted flavours - with a complex variety of spices. In the US, tea is just as likely to be in the form of something called "Iced Tea", such as under the Lipton brand, which is a rather unpleasant very sweet cordial with a hint of "tea" flavour to it. Fortunately, it does seem that at least times are changing, and a few people across the world are waking up to the true world of tea. Tea is a drink that can more than hold its own against any other: it is easily a match for wine, in terms of the sheer complexity and variety of types.

Meanwhile, here in Britain, of course, we as a nation are a notorious for our tea drinking obsession. We even built an empire on it. So what is tea for us?

For most people it is a very strong, dark brew, from a tea bag, tempered with milk and quite often sugar ('Army issue tea': "strong tea with 2 sugars, sir!"). As a nation we consume a rather phenomenal amount per head (although, I should add, that this particular head probably very significantly outstrips the national average in overall consumption!), but also, disappointingly, of a staggering poor quality.

Most people's conception of tea is based upon the extremely strong, almost black brew that you get from a very fast infusing tea bag from all the mainstream brands such as PG Tips, Tetleys, Liptons, etc...

First note. All tea, as a general rather than absolute rule, that goes into tea bags, is of poor quality and constitutes the lower grades of leaf available. In the case of typical British tea bags, the actual technical term for such a grade as is contained in them, is, in fact, Dust (D).

The extremely fine, broken up, very, literally, dusty grade of what is effectively almost a leaf powder has a very large surface area and therefore correspondingly generates a very rapid and very strong infusion.

Such an infusion is of course very bitter, which is why it generally needs to be balanced by milk, and for some people, sugar. Personally I think that sugar in tea is a great evil, much as with coffee, as it simply masks the actual flavour of the beverage and replaces it with a generic nondescript sweetness. The infusion is also characterised by a rather "flat", "wet" taste, lacking any real depth of flavour and also having a somewhat acidic and tannic finish.

Fortunately, this is not what a proper cup of tea is about.

So, for this first post, it was almost a necessity to start off with an exceptional tea, and in Taylors Of Harrogate's English Breakfast we have just that.

English Breakfast is of course probably the most famous blend, and derives it name, rather obviously, from the fact that it generally denotes a strong flavoured tea with a powerful caffeine kick, perfect for the morning with breakfast, to wake you up.

Or in my case, pretty much perfect all day long and all night long....

So, when people have their cup of "tea", they generally are not just having tea leaves from one estate, but more usually a blend of leaves from numerous estates in different parts of the world.

The different characteristics of the estate teas are blended to offer an excellent balance of flavour.

English Breakfast tea is certainly what most people associate with what a cup of tea in Britain is about. Now, if the mainstream tea bags in supermarkets represent the lowest and poorest attempt at it... then in this particular blend, we have the best of the best, an outstanding blend.

TOH English Breakfast blend is made from a combination of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and African teas. Ceylon teas are renowned for their crisp, clean, almost metallic flavour, African teas for their rich dark body. Combine high quality grades and types of the two, with care... and you have something superb.



Opening the tin it is immediately obvious we are dealing with a very superior class of tea. The leaves are Golden Broken Orange Pekoe grade: BOP is a grade of leaf used to denote a black, fermented tea, where, self explanatorily, the leaves have been processed sufficiently until they start to break up. Orange Pekoe is simply the term for a whole leaf grade. The Golden denotes the presence of a significant number of "tips", which are the light "golden" coloured tips from the top of the tea bush, which are rightly prized for their exceptional and delicate flavour. They are the most precious and treasured part of the tea harvest.

A BOP tea will generate a strong, dark brew, whilst still retaining a rich and complex flavour. So, a GBOP grade denotes one of the highest quality. In other words, what we have, is a strong tea, rich in flavour, that will balance beautifully with milk.

TOH only use the Traditional or Orthodox method, which basically means not using the CTC (crush, tear, curl) industrial machines which rather savagely process a lot of the life out of the tea (and is what is used to create the very strong infusing tea bag tea), and instead much more gently and slowly heat and roll the leaves to ferment and develop them.

Brew quantity: 3 tea measures / 500ml water
Brew time: 5 minutes
Water temperature: 100C (rolling boil direct from kettle)
Optimum brewing vessel: Pre-heated Porcelain/China tea pot

TOH English Breakfast is a truly outstanding cup of tea. Balanced appropriately with milk, its character reveals itself to have a strong, almost woody, dark body, from the African tea content in the blend; this is accompanied by an initial, fractionally astrigent start, and a beautifully clean, rather copper like finish, from the Ceylon tea content. It reveals itself to be an absolute first class tea by virtue of the depth of flavour with continues to linger on the palate long after your cup is finished, and the wonderfully dry, and outstandingly "clean", almost polished finish. Above all, it has an incredible smoothness, which makes most other English Breakfast (i.e. typical tea bag tea) teas taste bitty, mucky, bitter, flat, wet, drab and almost unbearably rancid by comparison.



The art of a first class English Breakfast is to obtain strength and potency without losing richness of flavour, becoming to tannic, or simply just too bitter.

This tea is without doubt one of the finest of this variety, and one I can come back to time and time again.

When I wake up in the morning, and need a strong fine tea to start to day, or when I sit down in the evening after a long day at work, and need a tea to perk me up... well, I can't think of a finer or better choice than Taylors Of Harrogates superb blend.

Superb!

Side note: Yes, when it comes to typical "English" tea, I don't do small - certainly not when I'm making proper tea at home. I only drink it by - at least - a half litre at a time! :-)


Monday, 16 February 2009

Banner change #1 to #2

Time for a new banner. I'll try to create a new one every couple of months to keep things fresh.

Old banner (#1):




@Traveller: This image is not actually from Iceland, which I presume is what you were alluding to. I took this one in Snowdonia, in North Wales, up in the Carnedd mountains.

I would dearly love to go to Iceland though, yes, as you can probably easily deduce.

New banner (#2):



I took this photo on the beach near Lindisfarne, in Northumbria.

Close by is a priory, that was famously sacked in 793 by a Viking invasion fleet.

Of course, in the interests of historical balance, prior to Northumberland being Christianised, it was a heathen kingdom, and it was quite probably a site of worship for the Pagans due to the very special quality of its location.

Lindisfarne is a section of coastline that gets turned into an island on a daily basis as the low lying land bridge gets covered when the tide rolls in. So residents there are only able to connect with the mainland at certain times of the day!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Running through an endless night

Well, predictably, my upbeat mood was never going to last, and so I have descended back down, and find myself in a bleak, black mood.

I went for a run tonight. It was a run, that in many ways, was a metaphor for my life over the last couple of years.

I tend to go running on random routes, and this time I found myself following the main road down into the Walker area of Newcastle. For virtually the whole run, practically a single soul was not to be seen: empty streets, with parked cars everywhere, innumerable houses. A few rooms were lit. It was a run past areas full of empty, closed factories and outhouses; past a deserted dockland; down an empty cycle path. Past Segendum, a Roman fort, the last outpost of the world famous Hadrian's wall, which traditionally divided England and Scotland. It was actually just a few piles of ruined brickwork, strewn with discarded litter and right next to a unattractive council estate.

Down and along bland road networks, a retail park, traffic lights. On the way back, I saw another, single, solitary runner. Normally, there is an unwritten code between runners - you expect to exchange some eye contact, perhaps a smile, a gesture, or even a greeting; possibly even an "How are you?". Some sort of acknowledgement, no matter how small. I looked across and he ran past me as if I wasn't there, as if he'd never even seen me at all. As if I was a ghost.

So, just like life, I come to ask myself, do I even exist? Or am I just a mere apparition.

My path through life just seems to be a constant struggle on, with no particular change in sight, just a random walk alone. Profoundly alone.

I try to reach out; I get ignored. I make a call; they don't answer. I send a message; I get no reply. I sent a txt; it disappears without a reply.

I didn't think I'd grow up, and find my years passing by in such a joyless, mundane, existence.


Unsurprisingly, since scientific research has shown that your dreams are often more literal than we realise, when I do have dreams I remember, they are often of the same character. A feeling of fruitlessness, a feeling of being lost, a feeling of never getting anywhere. Quite often they will involve me travelling to some destination, but almost invariably, I will never ever get there; what should have been a straightforward journey suddenly becomes endless; I'm travelling by train, I change to get a connection, it never arrives; I travel by train, and it comes to a junction with countless sets of rails, and gets stuck; I travel by aeroplane, and I get permanently stuck in the departure lounge. What makes it worse, of course, is at the destination was something usualy quite exciting or wonderful. But I never see it, I never get there.

The other night, one of my dreams was more poignant. I often drift off to sleep wishing to dream of love and sex, to be quite frank, since at least, even it is but a dream, it has some "reality", at least for a few hours. Rarely, however, does it actually happen, and I normally wake up with no recollection of any dreams whatsoever.

This one I did meet some wonderful girl. I think we were on a set of stairs, or perhaps in a room in her apartment. It was rather old fashioned, with an old world feel to it. Sunlight was gleaming through the skylight. She was smiling, we were talking. She was very pretty. There was a bookshelf full of interesting books. Perhaps we were talking about books. I don't know. She wrapped her arm around mine; we felt close. It was actually someone I could talk to; we understood each other perfectly. I think she might have kissed me. Then there was something she had to do, somewhere she had to go. I'm not sure. She disappeared out the door, and I knew that I would never see her again, and at that very moment, I woke up, feeling disorientated for a few seconds.

This was a rarity. Meeting imaginary women, even for just a conversation, in dreams, has now become increasingly rare. I take the fact that there is now a total absence of any more intimate sexual content to my dreams to reflect that fact that even in my intuitive mind, my pscyhe, it no longer believes it a possibility that will ever actually occur. It parallels my recurring dreams of travelling without ever actually getting anywhere.

I simply go in circles.

Even in my dreams, my dreams themselves have become but mere dreams. They have in fact, become bland and grey; just perplexingly, confusingly, and sometimes bizarrely so.

But usually I wake up remembering nothing.

That, is perhaps worst of all.


@Louise: Valentine's day has become extremely depressing, and this year was no different. I lost track of the number of couples of all ages, plenty similar in age to me, who walked into the shop, bedecked with flowers. Or men (and a few women) by themselves but with flowers in hand, presumably ready for a special someone. I've got no one to give any [romantic] love to: the female species seems to have made it abundantly clear that none of them actually want anything I have to offer.

The fact of the matter is that as life goes on like this, without even a flicker of interest from anyone at all, without anyone to share anything much at all with, one's confidence slowly erodes away. You feel yourself slowly eroding away. Nothing builds a person's confidence like some sort of success; nothing eats it away like a continual lack of any.

I escape into my own little world of books and music. So, tonight, I will listen to some Satie, then drift off the sleep, and sleep long, since I don't have to get up early tomorrow, as I have it off work.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Aren's Pointless Pontificating Potential Partner Questionnaire

I'm feeling rather light-hearted today, so thought I'd make up a quiz.

Since clearly I am totally unable to ever actually bump into the "right" girl in real life - does she even exist?! - and since women's magazines are usually filled with endless quizzes purportedly helping them find what they are looking for, I thought I'd reverse the trend and as a bloke set my own standards. Time for the other sex to do the looking!

;-)

Disclaimer:
It should be completely obvious, but sadly there are people of rather judgemental and narrow minded character that choose to get offended wherever the chance allows, that this is quiz is just me having fun. Hopefully it will generate a few titters. The views implied below from my graded answers reflect my own guesstimates based on a projected compatibility, and, particularly in the case of religion, and not intended to be construed as deliberately derogatory towards those beliefs. They simply reflect the likelihood in my eyes that we'd "get along". Each of us is free to hold whatever opinion we each have, to paraphrase Voltaire, I might disagree but I defend your right to freely express your own opinion...

2nd Disclaimer: Life has persistently taught me that everything is always how you not expect it to be. So, therefore, it would, paradoxically enough, not ultimately surprise me if the sort of
person who got the lowest possible score was the perfect match, as extremely unlikely as I imagine such an eventuality to be.

Religion/Spirituality & Beliefs

1. In terms of religious/spiritual views, I consider myself to be a follower of, primarily:

a) Christianity
b) Judaism
c) Islam
d) Jainism
e) Hinduism
f) Buddhism
g) Daoism
h) Sikhism
i) European Heathenism
j) Non-European Indigenous Paganism (e.g. Shintoism)
k) Neo-Pagan, Wiccan, or New-Age
l) Atheism
m) Agnosticism
n) Scientology
o) Other specific organised religion
p) My own syncretistic pick n' mix spirituality

2. In terms of my own approach to my beliefs, I

a) Always try to abide literally to my specific sacred text(s)
b) Try to interpret any scriptures according to a modern context, with room for reasonable latitude of interpretation
c) Hold nothing as particularly sacred. Do whatever I want, whenever I want
d) Recognise the value and possibility of higher standards, but try to always find my own path, drawing inspiration from wherever I recognise quality and truthfulness

3. In terms of modern society,

a) Church/religious institution and state should always be kept separate
b) State should have a sponsored and official religion

Environment, Naturalism & Green Issues

4. In terms of technology, the environment, and progress

a) Everything should continue unabated, with the uninterrupted pursuit of technological advancement the highest goal
b) We should all become hard-line Eco-warriors, and the development of technology and industry should be severely restricted
c) We significantly need to alter the balance and recognise that our consumption of resources needs to be more moderated, that the environment is precious, and that we will all be required to make some sacrifices if we wish to preserve the natural beauty of the world

5. In terms of getting out into Nature

a) Nature is beautiful beyond comparison, and I like nothing more than getting outside into the wilderness as much as possible
b) The countryside is boring. I'll stick to my city apartment.
c) I like a pretty view, but from the window of my luxury cruise liner

6. In terms of my mobile phone, laptop, or other portable modern technology

a) The thought of being disconnected from the modern world for a few days fills me with horror! I'll take my phone with me everywhere.
b) I'll specifically switch off or leave behind my phone so that I can enjoy being out in nature, completely uninterrupted
c) Pointless modern dependencies. I don't need any such technological contrivances.

Love & Sexuality

7. If I am with someone whom I love

a) I'll let them know frequently
b) I'll let them know only on special occasions
c) Don't be soppy! They should know how I feel

8. If a man gives me flowers, I'll

a) Be deeply flattered and delighted
b) Think he is feeling guilty about something
c) Think he is soft and should probably go and toughen up

9. In terms of libido and sexual drive

a) Sex is pleasurable, rather like a bar of chocolate
b) Sex is one of the greatest gifts of life. It delivers a level of pleasure and fulfilment rarely found elsewhere in life
c) Sex is completely overrated. I can quite happily go without.

10. In terms of sexual frequency

a) As often and intensely as possible! Life is too short!
b) Save it up for special occasions only
c) Once in a blue moon is sufficient

11. In terms of sexual variation

a) Missionary position only for me!
b) I'll try a few different moves
c) The Kama Sutra is my bible. I'll certainly give anything a try if I can contort my body into position!

12. In terms of kinkiness

a) I prefer it plain Jane and simple.
b) I'm willing to accommodate a little bit of teasing and games playing
c) So who's going to tie the other up first? And where did you put those shackles, sometimes my knots aren't that good!

13. In terms of attitudes towards sex

a) Casual sex is fine, as long as both people have a clear understanding
b) Sex should only occur after marriage
c) Feel free to sleep around as much as you wish! Who cares!

14. In terms of sexual context

a) Sex in a loving stable relationship is, ultimately, best
b) Random casual sex is more fulfilling

15. In terms of openness

a) A lot of sexual acts are rather dirty and sinful
b) Within a few limits, I'm more than happy to try to accommodate
anything that will make my partner sexually fulfilled. Just ask!
c) I don't see the point in doing anything that doesn't directly give me pleasure.

16. In terms of a relationship, the one I truly love

a) Would be the most important aspect of my life. I'll try to move heaven and earth for them!
b) An important component, but they'll have to fit in around my career and lifestyle
c) There for me when I need them, but not integral to my life

17. In terms of a relationship, all decisions

a) Should be made on an equal basis. That is healthy.
b) The man should take control and show that he can be a man!
c) I'll decide, as men are too impulsive
d) We'll see what works for us

Politics

18. In terms of political views

a) I support Marxism
b) I support National Socialism
c) I support liberal democracy
d) I support Radical Traditionalism
e) I am primarily apolitical. All systems are ultimately a rather unsatisfying compromise.

19. On capitalism

a) Free markets should be allowed with no restrictions whatsoever
b) Certain limits should be in place
c) A necessary evil

Arts & Mind

20. In terms of film, if I had to choose, I mostly favour

a) A light hearted comedy or easy going film
b) Pure action, or typical big-screen Hollywood film
c) Bizarre, unusual, surreal art-house cinema

21. In terms of books and magazines, if I had to choose, I mostly favour

a) Mainstream fiction and glossy mags
b) Challenging, complex, and unusual materials

22. In terms of broadcast television

a) I love soaps! There is always something on I'd like to watch
b) Big Brother is my religion
c) Most television is so entirely lacking in any redeeming qualities
that I usually switch it straight off in disgust. Give me a good book
anyday!
d) I'll usually spend my evenings curled up in front of the telly

23. In terms of conversations

a) Lets just have plenty of drinks and get drunk and have a laugh
b) Lets sit down over a coffee and have a truly meaningful and deep conversation
c) Just be polite and keep everyone happy

24. Beethoven or Mozart?

a) Come on. Clearly Beethoven by a significant degree.
b) Mozart is prettier.
c) Who are they? Wouldn't listen to either!

25. In terms of cultural relativism,

a) It is absolutely absurd to even begin to compare the latest Spice Girls single with, say, Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The 9th is so many orders of magnitude superior in every dimension that such a comparison is pointless.
b) Everything is equally good
c) It depends entirely on context. On some levels the latest pop singles are just as good.

26. In terms of range of tastes, and ability to accommodate alternative forms of expression

a) I am willing to accommodate a very wide range of artistic expressions. I listen very widely, read very widely, watch very widely, and do not get easily offended.
b) Plenty of things are rather offensive and should be either banned or severely controlled
c) There is no reason to ever offend anyone with anything that deserves to be called art

27. In terms of alcohol

a) Why not get hammered every Friday! You only live once
b) Many people use alcohol to mask emptiness elsewhere in there life. Enjoying yourself and letting yourself go is one thing, seeing all social occasions primarily as a drinking opportunity is a waste.
c) I am tee-total and believe that alcohol is a dangerous addiction just like many other things, such as pornography

Miscellaneous


28. When there is a commercial break on during a program I am watching on TV, I will

a) Sit there and watch in boredom
b) Specifically mute the television and go and make a cup of tea/coffee
c) Sit there and watch with interest

29. Tea or coffee?

a) Don't be daft, clearly Tea!
b) Tea is bland. Give me coffee.
c) You dare insult me with that question? How could anything compare, even to one billionth of a millionth of a degree, with the ultimate mightyness and true divinity of that most perfect of beverages, that most grand of plants, that most mighty of experiences, namely, the most high and holy, Tea! I salute thee, Tea! I forever recognise thy primordial and protean greatness!
d) I am a heretic and do not drink either tea or coffee.
e) You mean tea doesn't just come in packets of tea bags?

30. The person who constructed this irreverant quiz, is either

a) Completely and utterly bonkers and off his trolly
b) Of a fine mind, if a little eccentric
c) Really should have better things to do
d) Delightful, and since I am a fine young single women aged 18-35 I shall be enquiring after his e-mail address
e) Clearly desperate and lost beyond all hope


Answer grid

Now, go through your answers and tot up your total points accordingly.
There are both positive and negative marks to some questions:

Q1. a = -1 ; b = -2; c = -3; d = -2; e = +1; f = +2; g = +3; h = -1; i = +4; j = +4; k = +1; l = 0; m = +2; n = -10; o = 0; p = +2;
Q2. a = -2; b = +1; c = -3; d = +2;
Q3. a = +1; b = -1;
Q4. a = -1; b = 0; c = +1;
Q5. a = +2; b = -2; c = 0;
Q6. a = 0; b = +2; c = +1;
Q7. a = +1; b = 0; c = -1;
Q8. a = +1; b = -1; c = 0;
Q9. a = +1; b = +3; c = -1;
Q10. a = +2; b = +1; c = 0;
Q11. a = -1; b = +1; c = +2;
Q12. a = 0; b = +1; c = +3;
Q13. a = +1; b = -2; c = -1;
Q14. a = +1; b = 0;
Q15. a = -3; b = +3; c = 0;
Q16. a = +3; b = 0; c = -1;
Q17. a = +2; b = 0; c = 0; d = +1;
Q18. a = -25; b = -5; c = +2; d = +3; e = +2;
Q19. a = 0; b = +1; c = +1;
Q20. a = 0; b = 0; c = +2;
Q21. a = 0; b = +2;
Q22. a = -2; b = -2500; c = +3; d = -1;
Q23. a = 0; b = +2; c = -1;
Q24. a = +2; b = 0; c = -1;
Q25. a = +3; b = -3; c = -1;
Q26. a +2; b = -1; c = -1;
Q27. a = 0; b = +1; c = -1;
Q28. a = 0; b = +1; c = -1;
Q29. a = +1; b = 0; c = +1 (plus an additional 5000 special rare gold Aren stars after your name! :-) ); d = 0 (plus an additional 5000 lines to write, which go, "I will see the error of my ways and starting drinking tea. I will see the error of my ways and starting drinking tea, before the God of Tea cometh down upon me and makes me repent for my sins"); e = -1;
Q30. a = +2; b = +2; c = +1; d = +10; e = +1;

Maximum total is 67.
Minimum total is -2560.

Suffice to say if you're a fundamentalist Scientologist politically active Marxist who hates sex and doesn't like to go out, lives off a diet of Big Brother and, obviously worst of all, doesn't drink tea, then we'll probably not get along ;-)

Or following the logic of life, we'll probably be perfect for each other...

Anyone who scores 67/67 and is 18-35 should immediately get in touch.

Anyone that scores 67/67 and also has 5000 gold stars had better find an underground bunker as it will be my mission in life to scour the planet to find you! :-D

So come on then. Who's going to be brave and/or silly enough to post their total up?

Meanwhile, if anyone is bored, feel free to take this and make your own quiz up for your own blog. It is quite a fun activity...


12/02/09 Edit: Corrected answer for Q3, which I'd accidentally put the wrong way round.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Falkenbach: Donar's Oak



Falkenbach
- Donar's Oak

(Taken from their album "Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty", 2003).


"Branches as high as a vigilant eye could see,
magic runes, once scratched into this tree.
An old man sat down at this mighty oak,
every morning, day by day...
And he closed his eyes
while a gasp blew through its leaves...
and he began to speak...

Land er heilact, er ec liggia sé
ásom oc álfom nær;
enn í Þrúðheimi scal þórr vera,
unz um riúfaz regin.

Ydalir heita, þar er Ullr hefir
sér um gorva sali;
Álfheim Frey gáfo í árdaga
tívar at tannfé.

Roots as deep as the very depths of heart,
source for those who know what's still to come...
Man of wisdom and knowledge great,
with hair as white as snow...
The young amongst them in a circle sat
and listened to his voice.
...while he began to speak...

Land er heilact, er ec liggia sé
ásom oc álfom nær;
enn í Þrúðheimi scal þórr vera,
unz um riúfaz regin.

Ydalir heita, þar er Ullr hefir
sér um gorva sali;
Álfheim Frey gáfo í árdaga
tívar at tannfé."

------------------------------------------------------------

Donar's (Thor) Oak, was a sacred tree of the Germanic Heathen Chatti. The spiritual power of trees in general, is inestimable.

Unfortunately I don't have a translation for the Icelandic lyrics...

Friday, 6 February 2009

Desperate?

Do you have to be completely happy in the first place to find someone?

If so, then I guess I will never find anyone till the day I die.

I think it is perfectly natural and normal to have a desire to be with someone. This is itself does not signify desperation - simply a perfectly commonplace human behaviour, both on an emotional and physical level. If this desire is unfulfilled, then it is quite likely you won't be completely content.


What is desperation and why is it so unattractive?

Desperation is the persistent inability to have any peace with yourself. Desperation is the death (or lack of birth) of any sense of individual self. Desperation results in the individual inversely projecting all their fears, guilts, and neurosis onto the opposite individual, who then becomes a completely perfect "saint" and espouses strength in precisely those very areas they lack. Or alternatively, desperation seeks common ground by finding someone with exactly the same fears, with the vision that you can you collectively build up your own fortress between you and the world together. 

In both cases, the underlying implication is that the "desperate" person sees not the actual character of the person they are interested in, but simply see what they wish to see. The desperate person lacks the integrity of an open and authentic response to the person of their desire. In fact, the truly desperate person will simply wish to be with virtually anyone at all, just as long as they will have them. That is, taken to its logical conclusion, they wish to possess them.

The person who is the subject of such an interest naturally pushes them away because they recognise that not only are they attempting to build something on an unhealthy basis, but also the fact that they recognise that as soon as the desperate individual sees the true reality of who they are, things will naturally start to fall apart. The desperate person will also be emotionally suffocating because their own lack of self will result in them becoming overwhelmingly attached, and seek to live their life purely through the eyes of the other person. Rather than contribute, they will drain.

Being unhappy with your current life, and also wishing to have someone to share it with, is not, however, equivalent to desperation.

One of the hardest aspects of being single for a elongated length of time is that it is very hard not to lose confidence. Success breeds confidence - this is one of the greatest ironies, and a Catch 22 of life in general.

Someone who merely lacks confidence, and is unhappy with how things are panning out, is still qualitatively different from a desperate person. Unlike a desperate person, if "success" should arrive, their whole character and disposition can radically change overnight.

Much as a set of dark storm clouds can be very quickly blown away to reveal an awesome sunrise with a blue sky, so can such a person be uplifted and radically blossom in the world. What was there all along, had just become temporarily veiled.

The thing is, it requires that someone gives them a chance. Just a chance.

The person who is desperate has much more work to do. They have a journey of self-discovery. We must all undertake this journey continuously, as an act of self-development, regardless of how happy or mentally stable we are, but someone who is desperate has lost all sense of their bearings; the light has gone out on their candle in amongst the deepest of cave systems. They have to relight their candle and then commit to familiarising themselves with an entirely unknown space again.


Me? I am often gloomy and things are frequently hard. But I'm definitely not desperate. I know the sort of qualities I'm looking for in a person and I do have a good sense as to the sort of person I am. I'm prepared to wait for as long as it takes for the right person, and don't simply wish to be with someone just for the sake of being with someone. I don't pretend to have everything figured out, nor is life necessarily particularly brilliant. But I do embrace the desire to enrich mine - and hopefully her - existence by finding someone - the right person - and seeing where it goes.

In lonely times, yes, it can be tempting just to have someone where someone is anyone. This is a weakness we all have, at moments of crisis. Such a desire is not inherently wrong; it is simply reflective of the human desire to connect.

But the overwhelming majority of the time, I know - in rough terms; for life is always surprising - the sort of qualities I look for.

I'm just conscious of the fact that my own tendency for outright honesty is often off putting, as perhaps I come across as desperate when I am honest in admitting that life is far from everything I wish it to be. I don't have all the answers. I'm just trying to always find them as best I can. I don't expect or require anything more than that from anyone else.

I just know, however, that having someone to share the wonderfully small things in life would make life so much more delightful, bring back a light-hearted joy to my existence, and allow me to give to her as much as she gives to me.

Until that time, no, I won't be completely content. What is wrong with that? Surely nothing.

Whilst I am fully aware that one must be careful not to look outside for a contentment and joy, that, in principle, were always there, available all along, inside... nevertheless there is a more prosaic material level to existence, and external changes need to mirror internal changes. You make the internal changes and then hopefully the external changes manifest themselves. Internal changes can be hard to sustain, and sometimes can collapse; but quietly, you work with fortitude, and slowly but surely, things can change. In other words, "two steps forward, one back" is usually the more likely method of progress.

I am a young man who wants love, companionship, and sex - with the right person! And fun! I believe it will happen naturally when I find her, whoever she is. (Naturally doesn't mean automatic, however!) These are fundamental parts of the human existence I desire to lead.

Some people are happy as hermits. Some people are happy finding seclusion and celibacy as a monk in a religious retreat. Some people are happy living life moment to moment, with a random mix of new people each week. Some people are happy with a stable one person whom they live with for countless years till they die. Some people are happier to be permanently single, free to choose and do as they wish whenever they want.

Some people - and probably the majority - find true contentment when they find someone to share their path through life with. Some of these people - perhaps many - were pretty happy individuals prior to meeting the other person. Some, were not, but soon become so after meeting the other person.

No one is a panacea, and meeting someone doesn't mean your life automatically becomes wonderful, or that things are never hard. They frequently are and will be. But it is highly likely your life will be more fulfilling and existentially richer if you maintain the same spirit of openness that hopefully you originally met with.

The point is, one cannot generalise, and one must be careful. Careful not just in proceeding with things with anyone, but also equally careful in drawing inaccurate conclusions about someone too early.

Sometimes someone just needs a confidence boost!

No one ever became a great artist without some encouragement from somewhere.
 
Communicate. Be honest. Be direct. Share. If they really are desperate, ultimately this process will help them. If they aren't, then it will become clear.

If you do consider yourself desperate: Communicate. Be honest. Be direct. Share. You'll find yourself.

A lot of people who perhaps might seem desperate, aren't. A lot of people who seem perfectly happy and not at all desperate, may in fact be so. People can become quite proficient at putting masks on. I hate masks but this is sometimes to my detriment, as I probably am pretty full-on most of the time. We all have to take a great deal of care before making a hasty conclusion.

And lest I sound like I'm either randomly sermonising or bemoaning to the world, I should add that I nearly got this grossly wrong myself. So I speak from experience as someone who judged completely incorrectly. I jumped to an incorrect and hasty conclusion about someone. I thought she was desperate and nearly completely pushed her away, prematurely.

At the last moment though, we communicated. We were honest. She was just, as it were, a bit nervous and shy. I hadn't made the effort to properly discuss things with her.

We ended up being together for 6 years, the majority of which, despite ups and downs and the hardships of life, were generally very good years. Though we may not be together any more, I now consider her family and I am confident we shall remain close friends for the rest of our lives.

There was certainly nothing desperate about her once I got to know her, and our relationship was probably defined as much by an easy relaxed lack of any possessiveness. Neither of us were the type to get jealous, and were happy to let the other have their own space.

Am I desperate?

No.

Do I come across as desperate?

Hopefully not. But perhaps I do.