On Anger

Anger is a problem for me. It is difficult to admit that because if you asked anyone who knows me, my outward persona doesn’t project anger. By most accounts I could probably do with standing up for myself more often. It can be easy then to deny the inner problem. I can say to myself; anger isn’t a problem for me, I’m not violent, and I rarely even raise my voice. But it is a problem because it can spoil my day, and it makes me feel like a shitty person.

The time I usually get angry is when I am walking home from work. I have to walk past three schools right around finishing time. I find myself getting frustrated at parents chatting and blocking off the pavement with their pushchairs. At children and their notoriously erratic movements. At people who generally just get in the way and move slower than I do. I like to call this pedestrian rage. I have pedestrian rage and I am trying to do something about it.

One thing that helps is to practice mindfulness. For me I find that focusing on sounds, or the sensation in the soles of my feet as I walk tends to prevent me from getting caught up in bouts of anger without even really realising. The point of being mindful isn’t to stop it happening, but rather to not let it snowball so that I become anger, and before I know it I’m cursing people left right and centre for no apparent reason. Mindfulness helps to see the anger come up, and then watch it go away.

Another thing I try to do is counteract angriness with friendliness. If I’m mindful and I notice I’m directing anger at someone, I apologize to them in my mind and wish them well.

The other evening I realised that I was doing all this, but I was fixated on eliminating the part of me that gets angry. You could say that I was angry at being angry. You can’t solve your anger by getting angry at yourself. It occurred to me that it is important to accept that it’s alright for those feelings to come up in me, that it doesn’t make me a bad person, and that it’s important to treat it with love.

I think the issue comes when we get caught up in our anger, it becomes who we are. I like to envisage it as a hideous gremlin that we all have as a pet. Angry, bitter people are the ones who have fed their gremlin too much. It’s got too big and it’s dragging them around on the leash, smashing things, and being horrible to people. They kick it in a vain attempt to discipline it, it bites them. The whole scenario is a nasty mess.

It has really helped me to view my anger as a little gremlin. Let’s call him Rage. The poor beast doesn’t get much love. Even I have been getting resentful and upset at him. Nobody else wants to know him. I’m stuck with him. Poor old Rage is alright really. It’s okay to have him as a pet. It’s alright to love him. Part of loving him is to be his master. To reign him in when he starts barking at cars and strangers. To apologise to them, and not be too hard on myself for looking after this beast that nobody else wants to know.

I then also realised in showing Rage a little love that he can sometimes do things for me. That he might ultimately spur me on to do something that changes the world. Perhaps that is too ambitious, but there are plenty of people in history who mastered their anger and used it to achieve great things. Sometimes anger at injustice or oppression is all it takes to change the world, but you’re not going to get there if you only feed your gremlin junk food and let it pull you around. Not only can your anger motivate you to do good, it can also teach you things. When Rage starts growling at a stranger that has absent mindedly stopped in front of me, he’s trying to tell me something too. I can listen without letting him bite them.

Be the master of your own anger.

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Thoughts of a Litter Picker

Part of my job involves going around the car park once a day and picking up any litter that has been left from the previous day. There are 4 litter bins in the car park itself, one at each end and two in the middle. Nevertheless, on some days you can easily fill a whole bag with the crap that just gets discarded. Oftentimes I’ll find litter within feet of the actual bin. On the worst days it can get you questioning humanity.

Why do we feel like it’s okay to just abandon the waste we have created? This is the question I ask myself often. I guess this post is my attempt to answer that.

The first thing that comes to mind is the convenience culture that has developed in society. Our food and drink is sold to us in neat, convenient packages. Why make a sandwich? Just buy one and then discard the plastic cardboard in a hedge somewhere. I think the convenience with which we buy a lot of the things we consume is reflected in the ease at which we discard the waste. Someone else will make it and package it for me, someone else can pick it up.

It could also be a symptom of being meaning-starved as a society. People who feel like their life has no significance, that people, if anything, are a virus on the face of the planet. If humans are a cancer and nothing has any meaning why not drop litter everywhere? Nothing we do matters anyway. I’m not saying that this thought process occurs consciously in people that drop litter (or even that it does at all, I don’t know), I’m saying that individuals who view their actions as having significance are going to be less likely to drop rubbish everywhere.

It could also be that less people know what it is like to own a space. Buying a house is out of reach for a lot of people thesedays, or at least there is a general perception of that being the state of affairs. Perhaps if people had the fulfilment of owning and maintaining their own space they would have more respect for other spaces? Maybe there is an underlying disrespect for shared spaces that emerges because less people will truly own one for themselves?

All of this is complete speculation. I suspect that if anyone who does litter were to honestly self reflect they would be unable to justify it to themselves. Just because there is no punishment, doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. If you are someone who litters, ask yourself what it reflects about your inner life when you decide to throw your rubbish in a hedge. If you still don’t care then I’m certain that the reverbations of that underlying attitude will bite you hard one day. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Yours,

A disgruntled litter picker.

Hi-Vis and Authority

Something perculiar happened to me this morning. I am in the unfortunate position of having to wear hi-vis clothing at work. I say unfortunate because I think it makes me look ridiculous. So, anyway, there I was at work in the park in my ridiculous hi-vis. In the distance I saw a man with a shitting dog trailing behind him. The man appeared to have no intention of clearing up after his mutt. He was already a good distance away from the turd and moving. But then he clocked me, emerging on the horizon, with my absurd, bright orange coat on. Straight away he took out a bag and walked back over to the dogshit and picked it up. I didn’t even have to say anything (not that I would necessarily).

It might be that my interpretation of the situation was off. Perhaps the mere act of appearing before someone wearing ridiculous garb wasn’t enough to command them to clear up their dog mess. He may have been unaware that his dog had just shat, and had to walk back over there upon realising. In any case it got me thinking about the arbitrary authority that is conveyed by wearing hi-vis gear. This article, for example, describes how hi-vis can be used to sneak into places because people just assume you are there to do something important. Here we have an example of someone comparing the results of making commands of the public in regular clothing versus being in hi-vis armed with a clipboard. For some reason people have been conditioned to obey a person in high visibility clothing. This amuses me because I am completely disinterested in wielding this kind of authority over people, yet I do have it by virtue of the job I have wound up in.

I was struck by the metaphor of the situation. You can slip into arbitrary authority, but it makes you look ridiculous. Most of us have to obey people in hi-vis (be it real or metaphorical) from time to time. These are the people who represent empty authority. The sort that ultimately draws it’s power from violence. Of course you are not really being enchanted by the colour of their robes, you are obeying because ultimately that person probably represents a chain of causation that could end up with you having money taken off you or being thrown in prison.

Some people take pride in their hi-vis authority. Building their life around it and confusing it with the stream of justified inherent authority that is within every being. They are like the agents in the Matrix. People who are devoted to the system and their place within it (that they generally tend to exaggerate). To them their hi-vis jacket is the essence of their being, but to other people they look ridiculous. They are ridiculous.

Beware the hi-vis wearers.

On Being Honest With Yourself

Honesty towards oneself is difficult. Up until recently I had completely failed to look back on my life and draw honest conclusions about it. It’s difficult because to be honest is to admit that you made the wrong choices, that you are flawed, that you could have done a lot better. Nobody likes to believe that about themselves, it’s way easier to blame some external factor than to admit that you have a huge part to play in all of your failings. The fact is though, unless you are some extremely unfortunate saint, you probably do shoulder most if not all of the blame for your misfortune.

When I was younger I would blame an unequal society that has stacked the deck against me for the fact that I am not as successful as someone of my intelligence should be. The reality is though, I didn’t try hard at school, I choose to persue further education in a field that is unlikely to get me a high paid job, I was far more interested in smoking marijuana than I was in my higher education career, I dropped out of university because I was too stoned and couldn’t be bothered, I didn’t try half as hard as I could have to find a job after dropping out. At every single point I made a choice that would negatively affect my future self. I used to blame society for not valuing people with a different outlook. That’s not true, society does value different outlooks, just not the outlook of lazy stoned angst. It’s easy to resent the world for where I am today, but every single step on the road to this point was a poor decision on my part.

It’s hard to swallow that, but it is the truth. It does have some positivity to it though. In realising that I was in control of all the poor decisions I made, I also realised that I am in control of all the future choices that present themselves to me. I’m not just a pinball in a malevolent game that is out to destroy me, I’m a conscious agent, capable of making choices that will benefit my future self. As soon as I realised this I was transformed.

I looked at my relationship with cannabis and realised that excessive consumption of the drug was linked to most of the poor choices in my life. It wasn’t easy to accept this because I fucking love being stoned, but since then I haven’t bought any (although I admit to occasionally having a puff if a joint is passed my way). I feel more in control, and more motivated.

I realised that my job isn’t beneath me, that I shouldn’t resent where I am because I put myself here. Since then my mood at work has improved dramatically, despite having to work most weekends so far this year. People have been asked to do far worse things. My job is alright, I was just being pathetic and whiny about it.

I realised that I can control my weight. That eating large bags of crisps to comfort myself was not a path to a body that I am happy with. I have lost 3 stone and counting since Christmas. I have never felt more confident about my body.

The act of self deception with regards to responsibility is something that removes our ability to exert control over ourselves. If everyone else is to blame for where you are then everyone else is to blame for where you end up. That is a lie. You are in control. Realising that is a double edged sword, it means that you own your mistakes, but you can also do something about rectifying them.

Delete Your News App

At the beginning of last month I bought a new phone. Immediately I commenced the drawn out process of installing useful apps and widgets as and when I was reminded of their utility. About two weeks into owning the device I had a twofold realisation. First off I noticed that I had not installed a news app. Secondly I realised that my general levels of anger and anxiety had dropped. I decided to run with the hypothesis that the two might potentially be linked, so I kept my phone free of constantly updated news.

Some people might call this decision an act of wilful ignorance. Why would anyone decide not to know what is going on in the world? It’s important to stay informed! To that I say: it’s not really that important to my immediate existence, in fact it’s detrimental given my temperament. Before I had built myself up into a state of constant low level resentment and anxiety about the world. ‘Is the US going to start a nuclear war with North Korea?’ ‘how am I going to cope with the economic catastrophe that is Brexit?’ ‘why are people stupid enough to have voted for it in the first place?’ – all this stuff just made me bitter and not want to engage with the world in a positive way. Now I feel more able to focus on the things that are within my control, rather than resenting things that aren’t. I have lost a substantial amount of weight, I have stuck with a frequent programme of exercise, I have collaborated on an album, and am about to start a project that I have been putting off for the best part of a year.

Perhaps not all of this is directly linked to not installing a news app on my phone, but the negative state of mind that constant news updates puts me in is not conducive to a positive life. Not looking at the news first thing every day has also helped me to realise how little impact these stories have beyond their capacity to generate fear and anger. Now, when the news has filtered through to me I see it for what it is, something beyond my control, something that I will not allow to break the positivity in my life. In large doses I don’t think it is very easy to view it in that way.

If you suffer with bouts of dread and anger over the state of the world and you find yourself resenting your fellow humans, I would suggest deleting your news app. Combine that with a concerted effort to exert control over the things you are able to and you might be surprised at how much your life improves.

On Internet Power, and What to Do With It

The internet is immensely powerful. It provides a space for ideas to catch on in an instant. Anybody, with the right [or ‘right’ wrong] idea, presented in the right way can change the world. We are currently seeing a lot of the negative effects of this power with the advent of fake news and all the scandals about hacking etc. It can almost feel at times like the internet has just gone off the rails, that it has spilled beyond it’s bounds and now trolls are attacking our democracy and ability to determine truth.

I started to think about this topic yesterday when I saw two viral posts. The first was a video of a Second Amendment advocate destroying his AR-15 because he couldn’t bring himself to continue owning it, nor could he sell it in light of the most recent school shooting in Florida. The second was a photo of a nasty note left on an ambulance that had blocked someone in their driveway.

The first was an example of someone doing something to change the world, by being truthful and honest with themselves. It might not change US gun legislation, but it might prompt more people to make similar videos. Maybe it will reduce the number of existing assault weapons out there, maybe it will reduce the sales of such weapons. Who knows. The video connects with the viewer because it shows a man being honest about his inner conflict between his enjoyment of guns and his horror at the carnage of the recent attacks. He then makes a moral choice and acts upon it. Powerful stuff, go watch it.

The second is more complex. It has the outward appearance of being a good use of internet power, but I believe it is far from black and white. I ought to be clear, prior to entering into sticky territory that I think the note was reprehensible, and if it was a public order offence under British law, the person that left it ought to face the repercussions of that. Being upset that an ambulance has inconvenienced you while they go around potentially saving lives is petty and selfish in itself, leaving a nasty note for the paramedics is just vile.  Having said that, I don’t think putting an image of the note on Twitter is necessarily a good thing, or that all the possible motivations for doing so are wholesome. I don’t claim to know why the paramedic did it. Perhaps they were just blindly enraged by it, or other similar instances had pushed them to want to take action, but maybe not? They might have wanted the image to go viral and boost their Twitter followers. Or worse perhaps they wanted to unleash the dark side of the internet on that person. I’m not saying this is the case, but those are certainly possible motivating factors. Regardless of whether or not that was their intention, it is sure to happen. The woman who left the note has been named. It won’t take much for the internet to find them, and make their life a misery. Does the person who left that note deserve that on top of any criminal charges against them? I don’t think so, I think they are just a selfish person that got angry. How many of us have done something stupid in a moment of selfish anger? We know nothing else about the person who did this. Anyone can look like a monster if we take one mistake and show it to the world. Monster or not though, I don’t know that many victims of the internet mob deserve it. To be clear I think wrongdoers should be judged and sentenced by the law, not a worldwide gang of vigilantes.

If you think that the woman who left the note deserves to be subject to abuse and threats then clearly your ethics are somewhat confused. What shall we do to people who are abusive and threatening? “Threaten and abuse them!” Alright then, lets see where that gets us!

I realised that there is so much false information. So much fake virtue and mob-mindedness on the internet. This is why the first video was so powerful. Because it was a man being honest and defying his fellow gun enthusiasts. He was at once vulnerable in his exposing himself as conflicted, but also strong in his absolute resolution of it despite it probably putting him at odds with other Second Amendment folks. Honesty shines brightly. It’s inspiring. It has inspired me, I’ve been thinking about what I can do with my passion for writing, how I can improve my own personal situation. It’s hard to do that without an aim, but now I think I have found one; to tell my honest truth. The good thing with that aim is that it doesn’t have to be effective in the outside world to have a positive effect upon me. So that is it, that is what I am going to do with this blog, I’m going to be honest, and see where it takes me.

 

 

 

On dancing birds and space aliens

Earlier on today I was walking through some trees and I saw a blackbird ahead of me. It was standing beside a plant, and it appeared to be swaying it’s body back and forth while keeping it’s legs perfectly straight. Strange. I’d never seen a blackbird do a weird dance before. It confused me briefly, until I realised that it was simply a black dog-shit bag caught on a weed. For a split second my brain had glitched out and I had perceived a dancing bird. This kind of misinterpretation is commonplace, but this time the flip between that perception and the more accurate one was tangible. Like when the optician flicks between the different lenses during an eye test.

The moment was perhaps more profound because of it’s synchronicity with what I was thinking about. I had read about Tim Leary and Robert Anton Wilson’s reality tunnels, which basically describes how one’s beliefs and preconceptions inform our different perceptions of the same world. You have the Marxist view on reality, and the capitalist view for instance. Both describe the same world in very different terms. Individuals within those reality tunnels would perceive their reality based upon these views. I was thinking of it more like a lens. A barrier that bends and filters the information that is received based on certain preconceptions. I then had a flash of realisation, perhaps the archetype of the all-seeing eye is not necessarily a symbol for omniscience but rather the lensless eye. The level of consciousness that perceives reality as a universe filtered through a crystalline multifaceted lens of individual subjective experience. Nobody experiences reality as it is, only as their consciousness perceives it. This is almost always through various lenses, or reality tunnels. The all seeing eye is the eye that sees this.

With that realisation manifesting inside me, the saw the dancing bird. Later I was contemplating another similar, interesting thing that happened. I was recently laughing with my partner about how I had totally mistaken the name of the funeral parlour next door to our house for the best part of a year, despite walking past it almost every day. I had got it confused with another funeral parlour on the other side of the city that has a similar name, and just never bothered to look at the sign until recently. Some might say that maybe this was the Mandela effect, that I had somehow travelled into a parallel universe where the funeral parlour had a different name. I didn’t physically travel anywhere of course, however I did transverse between my reality where the funeral parlour was called A to my updated reality where it was called B. So far as I was concerned, before I had corrected my mistake I lived in a universe in which it was called funeral parlour A.

Another thing that comes to mind is something that happened to me a few years ago. I was walking home from a friends house in the early hours of the morning and I saw, in the constellation of shadows and foliage against a fence, the form of a stereotypical grey alien. For a moment I was terrified, for my brain had successfully tricked me, and I could feel my preconceptions being challenged. Of course as I approached the illusion broke, as it did with the bag. But what if I had turned and gone a different way home? How different would my reality be? Would I now be convinced that aliens have visited earth? If I had gone a different way and not got a closer look at the bag would I now believe I had seen a blackbird behaving in an uncharacteristically weird way? Or if I moved without ever bothering to look at the sign for the funeral parlour again properly, would I have etched the wrong name into my memories of the place? I might have continued on in this false reality believing my perception to be complete and accurate.

We all filter the universe through a different set of beliefs and biases. If you ever encounter someone with frustratingly opposing views to your own, just remember that to them that is reality. They are in their tunnel and you are in yours.