You do something because you love it, and you do it with everything you’ve got. And then you die. What you leave behind doesn’t matter. How much money you make doesn’t matter. What people think of you doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how you spend every fucking day of your life, how you feel about yourself – and not in the narcissistic, egotistical way. It doesn’t matter how I’m remembered, because I’ll remember everything myself.

– Ralph Bakshi

I could not agree with this quote more – I’m almost temped to delete the post that lies underneath. But I ain’t gonna. For reasons which may become clear…

It has been an interesting few weeks, hence the tumbleweed blowing across this blog.  I’ve been lucky enough to be taken under the wing (for now, at least) of a large regional theatre, who’re encouraging my writing, and that means you give it your absolute all!

Now – this is the thing. How committed are you to achieving what (you say) you want in your life?  Yes, note the cynically inserted brackets. Quite right. What cheek I have to put those there.

Allora – you want to be rich / celebrated for being a great sculptor / a brilliant friend. So what are you doing about it? Sorry? Too many other things getting in the way? Join the club – I’m totally with you on that one. There is never enough time.

BUT

if you don’t commit to your ideal, your passion – how’s it gonna happen?

If you’re too busy doing everything you promised other people (the tax man, the cleaner, the headmistress, the in-laws), when are you EVER going to have any time to keep the promises you’ve made to yourself?

And who’s most important here? (The exception, natch, being promises to your children / family / partner – as long as they’re reasonable and you’re not a self-hating, self-sabotaging doormat!)

So – what’s the promise you made to yourself? Say it out loud. Oh, go on. Eh? …thank you. (I trust you…)

Now, this is not an exercise in self-flagellation. But just ask yourself what you did to make that promise come true recently.

OK. Now think. If that was a promise to anyone else, would your committment to it be ample? Fair?

If the answer’s no, then find the time this weekend to do something- anything – to get that promise back on track. And another thing the following weekend. Or bin it. Altogether.

…whatcha fink?

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A brief one, you may be relieved to note. I am trying to declutter. Not the flat, but the life…(here she goes…). No, wait!

I decided today only to have 3 things on the To Do list. Any more, and I feel set up to fail. I’ve still only done 1 of them – the tax stuff and the invoicing will be far more appealing tomorrow. And here’s where a key principle comes riding to my defence – Committment!

If there is something you want in your life, everything else (like tax returns, or invoicing, when you know you’re going to spin those jobs out for hours) has to come lower down the line, perhaps to the wire, the last moment, when you’ll do them really fast.

Posting on a blog, of course, that’s different…;-)

Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk

– Carl Jung

The Imp spent some interesting time doing things she didn’t like this summer. And as a (chronologically) grown-up creature, I’m not so used to that. I’d forgotten that Doing  / Wearing Things (from haircuts to buckle shoes and long socks) That You Don’t Like was a major feature of my childhood.

We adults (by which I mean probably western, and therefore relatively ridiculously affluent) have a great degree of autonomy over our own lives. That’s especially so if you’re dependent-lite (no kids) and obligation-wary (renting, cash- not debt-led) et cetera et cetera. Indeed, yay and verily, this Imp has been known quietly to compare herself with the lotus-eaters: indolent, addicted and apathetic, lounging in luxury’s lap. Here’s some Homer (Odyssey IX) to tell you something about Lotus Eaters (translated by Samuel Butler):

I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches.

Or as Nick Cave’s version put it, “Sapped and stupid / I lie upon the stones and I swoons”….

But away from this indulgence and back we go, to the issue of the autonomy of grown-ups (western and well-to-do). If you’re in such a fortunate position, you live pretty darn near the top of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need”. Think of a triangle. At the base are the most essential things you need to survive; as the triangle narrows, the needs become less essential to survival and more about personal growth and satisfaction:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

So, as an adult, once our survival needs (food, shelter, water and sex) are met, we strive to fulfil other needs, such as safety (financial, personal, health), then social needs such as friendship, support, a family, intimacy. When social needs are not met, depression can set in, leading to self-neglect, where the lower needs (comfort and survival) are threatened. And top o’ the pile are the self-actualisation needs (“I want to be a train driver”) and peak experiences – spiritual, mystical, and other such insight-giving moments of the life-changing variety.

Doing things you don’t want to do is not good for many reasons – the potentially negative impact on self-esteem being key. What I mean by this is that if an adult feels that they are not in control of their own experiences over a significant period of time, then they can be reduced in their own mind to the status of a child  – powerlessness – by whatever circumstances are making them endure the bad experience (unemployment; a bullying partner; manipulative friends etc).

But of course, an adult does have free will and self-determination. There is always (in the Imp view of the world) choice, there are always alternatives. There might not be a golden ticket out the door, but there’s always another way. I hear philosophers screaming (but if I can’t see them, are they real?). But bear with me: even if it’s only changing your perspective, surely if that act changes your experience, then it is an alternative (and one that is self-determined)?

So, does it follow that Doing What You Don’t Want to Do can actually be a thing that strengthens you – aiding self-actualisation? Adversity is – I would argue – surely necessary if we’re to rise to the challenge of being proper adults (not just chronological ones)?

What’s important is that we see the tests and accept them – that we don’t just peep at them and roll over, weeping. We need to address the things that challenge us – how else can we grow?  OK, it might not be a ten-day shamanic ritual of tiger-hunting, but swallowing pride, finding the positive, or seeking a better way (of action or perception) are all the kinds of behaviours we expect from grown-ups; not running away, refusing, shutting the mind and throwing our weetabix against the wall.

It’s good, this grown-up thing – after all that hard work in getting here and putting up with being a child, don’t miss out on all it has to offer!

😉

I was watching the adverts last night and there was one that stuck out. For trying a bit too hard. Almost uncomfortably so; embarrassingly, like a kid in the playground who makes up a stupid nickname for themselves, a belittling one – so people will befriend him / her. And by dint of wanting too much to be liked, is a little despised.

Well, this advert was like that. I can’t remember for the life of me what it was for – that’s the nature of the nondescript, perhaps; their utter immemorability – but what I do remember is that it was out of place.

It was showy, smart, and most of all, was calling “buy, buy buy!”. Perhaps it was for Sky or a snazzy TV – yup – got it; Blue-Ray recorders. Ho ho ho. With the lovley, seductive voice of Sean Pertwee (yup, son of Dr Who and the guy who shags Hermione Norris in the penultimate season of Cold Feet.)

Anyhoo, the Imp smiled at the obsolescence of the ad. Obsolescence? Sure – ‘cos who – really, who?! – is buying up new technology these days, when they already have DVDs, plasma screens, and – verily – VHS machines?

Are there really people out there, listening to Sean’s dripping, dulcet tones, saying to their Signif. Oth. “Gosh, babe, yeah, let’s nip out and get a Blu-Ray recorder at the weekend!”? The only person I know who might ever have said those fine words is bankrupt and (finally) happy.

So?

I wonder whether we have moved to a new era – from the “gotta get the best” to “it’s good enough” mentality. I mean, after all, if your standard of living’s fine, and you’re managing to pay the bills, in the current risky climate would you really consider (even before you know the cost) upgrading your home TV system for some slightly enhanced technology (might be worth getting an eye test and better specs before splashing out several thousand for a new box)?

New UK graduates can’t get jobs – I doubt they’re going to live incautious financial lives. Millions can’t get on the housing ladder (the definitely-over-35-year-old Imp included, but that’s been rationalised to A Good Thing). Are they going to be hunting for new technologies to splurge on? Ahem.

If we are shifting to a “good enough” consumer approach, might that outlook bleed into other cultural areas? For decades to come, as UK debt mushrooms and people have to make decisions their parents and grandparents did not have to, how can the near-universal big-consumer mentality survive? Tony Blair’s taxpayer (read: consumer) “choice” agenda looks profligate in such an environment – although the Conservatives will seek to widen (wealthy) taxpayer choice if they get elected in 2010. And they’ll make it aspirational for the struggling middle-classes. Just like in the first half of the C20th, when the Tory vote was hard core working class. But this is not about party politics – it is about people politics (ah, how they forget, these men and women of The Party …). It’s about the best way to make life good for as many people as possible.

Making the most of what you have, working ambitiously within limitations, can inspire innovation. Not having easy access on demand to whatever you… demand can develop self-discipline and resourcefulness [God, I sound like a Presbyterian (Prime) Minister]. These things are good as long as they’re encouraged. The flip-side is “don’t try too hard; you can’t win. Nothing’s possible; this is just the way things are.” Utter bull, of course, but look at how some communities and societies lived that mantra through the 1950s. We can’t go back there. Selfishly speaking, it’s not how I want my middle age to be spent, with the politics of envy and class division thriving. What we need is support for those who fall (victims of pension fraud, the aged unemployed, the pregnant woman made redundant, for example) and encouragement for those who need it (new graduates, young parents, 16 year-olds with an idea).  Not a Blu-Ray. Swap it for an eye test and a run in the park, having ideas.

Here endeth the lecture…..

😉

I remember why I procrastinate when it comes to creative writing: it’s bleedin’  HARD.

Luckily, the only diversionary tactic I can legitimately allow myself (apart from this. Ahem) is harder and definitely less appealing: updating the personal finances.

I don’t think I can stretch this out much longer…except (phew!) to remark that I really might have lost my quality-ometer and have no idea whether what I’ve written this last few weeks is any good at all (it’s a script rewrite, following a script-in-hand rehearsed reading/performance).

I mean, it might be ok, or even not bad (go on, push the boat out!), but – well, people saying the original was any good so took me by surprise that my critical compass looks rather unreliable and may well have gone completely haywire (if a stopped clock is right twice a day, a buggered compass must swing past North every now and again).

Any writers reading, or any body reading, with thoughts on knowing quality (or is it a knowable unknowable?), click the button and say your thang! Help me lose that haywire-making magnet!

😉

I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as a plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

– Jalalu ‘D-Din Rumi, Sufi poet

Some people believe in reincarnation, and there are many variations of that theme amongst the faiths and spiritual models of the world. Many times I’ve mused here about the cyclical nature of the single life, peeling of layers, of skins, personalities, and of the spiral nature of …nature!

Neuropsychologists such as Paul Brok will posit that there is not in fact any such thing as the ‘self’. That, in fact, we are no more than a series of firing neurons – not even the product of those firing neurons but that ‘we’ are the actual neurons themselves.  Consciousness is no more than that. All is flesh; there is nothing else. And of course, the word “reincarnation”, if you like playing at etymology,  is about “being made flesh again”. But leaving aside the question of a single, identifiable soul moving from a human to a bird to a tree for today, I wonder whether we “reincarnate” many times within the one lifetime?

What on earth is this about? Well, is it so sacrilegious to wonder whether I really am the same “person” I was when I was 17? No, of course not. For many people, it is common wisdom to accept that we all change. However, most tend to believe there is a common thread of selfhood, on which the multi-coloured, -shaped and -sized buttons of my ‘persona’ hang (a button each for me at 6, me at 10, me at 50).

What if we denied that thread, and said instead that we’re just a bag of loose buttons? An initial reaction might be that in so doing, we lose something. But what? I have my memories – I remember things that happened in the past. I don’t necessarily need to be the same rigid ‘soul’ to remember, do I? Could denying that thread of rigid selfhood be instead liberating? If we let our selves perceive our selves as a button collection, might we be freed of notional constraints? For example, you might be uncleashed from self-limiting beliefs, such as “I’m a secretive type of person”, or “I’m never been good at sharing my thoughts,” “People don’t warm to me,” or “I’m rubbish at remembering birthdays.”

I suspect that if we let go, denied, ignored, that thread of Me-hood, we could all have much more interesting, exciting and fulfilling lives. If we un-anchored ourselves from the Legend of Me (made both by others and ourselves) and let our present, current being be, who knows what voyages we might make? If we understood that I am who I am this moment and that is the only Me that matters right now, then perhaps we would find it simpler to find happiness and satisfaction?  We would not be seeking to fulfil past or potential needs; we would not act out of fear for the future, only out of clarified self-knowledge.

We would not confuse our worries with our desires.

I’m not advocating short-sightedness – quite the opposite. Rather look forward to the lfe that you will live day after day, knowing you’re your best person today and will be another best tomorrow. Look forward to that and recognise the boundless potential you’ve just spotted! If – as a result – anyone has a problem with you being you, well….

😉

The Imp has been in hiding. But here are the rains (head to The Waste Land). The hills here are hot and watching and the birds have wildly taken over. All here is squawking and sighs, the odd engine in the background, and the land breathes.