Reifications

… essays on the Starr trek

Mental Health & World View

MENTAL HEALTH & WORLD VIEW

I am coming to a conclusion about the state of humans on this planet. We are doomed to destroy ourselves unless we gain the ability to go beyond the mental health problems and extremist world views that are the cause of most conflict.

One of my favourites quotes comes from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy: it is a sign on the desk of Salvor Hardin, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompent.” That is not to say that every use of violence is by incompetent people, but that frustration and lack of options often leads to violence. The sod who attacked and killed at Westminster this week suffered from mental health issues (detailed account here) and a misguided world view. Andrew Neil outlines the response of British people much better than I could here.

When it comes to Mental Health, we are getting smarter at diagnosing the myriad conditions that cause the human brain to become conflicted: stress, depression, split personality, paranoia, and psychosis; there is an endless list. An inability to process what is happening around us, or to us, can cause us to strike out at real or imagined enemies.

Our World View (or the more specific German word, Weltanschauung – the world view of an individual or group) causes us to accept or reject evidence in an age where information is bountiful and often fake. This crisis of truth is the death of rational thinking. Decisions are made according to a formula or the state of one’s ‘gut’ rather than what is kind, or what is best for all.

So, the enemy of our future is EXTREMISM. And our salvation shall come from UNDERSTANDING. We will not go beyond this crisis until a critical mass of humanity rejects alt-right, hard left, ideology-based thinking, intolerance, bigotry, and the hypocrisy of equating ‘all’ with ‘some’ individuals in any group that differs from what we believe to be normal. Let’s spend money to support those of us with mental health issues. Let’s focus on creating a world view that benefits all living things.

Understanding that a simple and creative life can be lived without damage to air, water, and other living things is the challenge we must face and overcome.

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Planning or Serendipity?

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The concept of ‘ikigai’ is changing my life now as much as ‘kaizen‘ did in the eighties.

I have spent the past two weeks of my leave doing some de-cluttering and ‘make & mend’ on my possessions.  I have far too much stuff and it creates a blockage which prevents any sense of spiritual self from taking its place in my life (an old Cherokee belief is that Spirit makes a fragile connection and will only stay if made welcome in our lives–from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain).

I saw the word ikigai in a listing of TED talks and when I heard the meaning, I knew immediately that it was what has been missing in my life, causing depression, ennui, and a general hopelessness as I approach an age which my parent’s generation believed was a time of retirement.

So, I now commence a period of planning and serendipitous trust.  My mind desires organisation and order; my spirit is somewhat open to that which arrives unexpectedly.

During the Warriors’ Wisdom seminars run by Stuart Wilde in the eighties, we were given the opportunity to walk on fire.  Like many people, I needed to be convinced that I would come through unscathed, or at least with minimal pain.  As Stuart was an exponent of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP, a form of hypnosis), he gave our left brains something to work with whilst our spiritual selves plucked up the courage to take the first step onto red-hot coals.  His process included the following steps:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Know where you are.
  3. Plan your walk.
  4. Walk your plan.

We practiced in groups on the floor of the large meeting room at Campaspe Downs in Central Victoria.  We were given a run-down of various groups who used fire-walking as spiritual practice.  We shared our fears in the groups (called arbans, from the name for a group of Mongol warriors) that we had formed several days earlier in a conference room in Melbourne.  We underwent a series of chants and exercises that had us sweating.  We practiced again and again until we were somewhat bored and wanted to walk that frigging plan.

We wrote down our fears on a piece of paper and queued up for our walk across the various fire pits.  Some people decided that they would play it cool and not walk; there was no judgement from Stuart, they were just asked to encourage the others.

I stepped up, wanting to go first, probably because I wasn’t sure how long my courage would last.  As instructed, I threw my piece of paper onto the coals and watched as it became a wisp of ash in the intense heat.  Taking the first step was hard–and I guess we all get the metaphor.  Having practiced so much, I was able to focus and keep going.  Of course, my feet were not burning up.  Much later, I became aware of the Leidenfrost Effect (think of droplets of water jumping on a hot stove top).  By walking over wet grass from the evening dew, and by continually walking across the the coals, we were protected by a small amount of vapour that formed on the soles of our feet.  To avoid still-burning coals sticking to our feet, we stepped into a bowl of water at the other end.

Learning of the effect did not diminish the power of ‘the plan’ that Stuart had implanted in my memory during a period of fear, or stasis, where I would not normally move forward.  This is where I learned the difference between real and imagined danger, something that enabled me to work in the adventure training industry a few years later.

When I hit the age of sixty, I foolishly felt that most learning in life was over and I had entered a time of ‘coasting’ towards retirement and inaction.  Wrong-wrong-wrong.  The past five years have been a time of my greatest learning and spiritual growth, marked by the need to survive in a new country, and to accept the fruits of solitude.  My formerly extrovert self has recognised and adopted the benefits and occasional sorrows of introversion.  This has been a difficult, yet not unhappy, time.

For now, I am researching and investigating the role of ikigai in my life.  I am inspired by what the Japanese are doing, in particular the Silver Human Resources Centre which operates there.  This is something that I am keen to see established in Australasia.  Although I can plan and research, I sense that the next step will have more to do with the Three Princes of Serendip.

Can’t Explain

What creates an attraction in the mind when explainable phenomena – such as pheromones – are absent?

Some attractions that intrigue me are:
*Maori culture, wars, customs (except the eating of body parts of foes);
*Tengriism – I originally thought it was a Native American religion, and now understand how is comes from Turkmen peoples and co-exists with Buddhism in Kyrgystan;
*Younger, plumpish dark-haired women (is this just my Anima?);
*The game of Civilization (now in it’s fifth iteration) – do I just want conquer the world?
*Blaise Pasqual? & The Three Musketeers? (are these a seventeenth-century Francophillia?) – including Richelieu and Mazarin;
*some aspects of Catholiscism – Jesuits, St. Francis of Assissi, the Council of Nicea
*the possible population of Earth from Mars, as postulated in Genisis: the first book of Revelations by David Wood;

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Heaven on earth (really?)

We live in a polarised world – not just North Pole/South Pole. There are opposites which divide humanity, and life itself:
  • Wealth and Poverty – the super-rich maintain their supremacy by the ability to influence opinion and accumulate property;
  • Health and Disease – whilst some nations maintain universal healthcare schemes, the world’s wealthiest nation, the USA, continues to avoid healthcare as a human right;
  • Power and Marginalisation – does anyone truly believe that money cannot buy power?;
  • even Religion versus Atheism – the hatred between believers and non-believers supercedes their desire for freedom and justice for all.

Some of these conflicts will be displayed in the movie, ‘Elysium’, that opens on 9th August.

I believe that the message of this film is greater than what seems to be just a ‘deprived masses fight back against utopia-for-the-few’ shoot-em-up.

In 2001, I read a paper, The Second Fall by Anatole Lievin which resembles much of what is portrayed in Elysium. It’s all there: the medical sanctuary for the rich in outer space, the greater mass of humanity imprisoned on a distopian Earth.

IMG_0136The concept of an off-planet utopia may have been inspired by the painting by Don Davis from a 1975 NASA symposium which discussed celestial cities. But, as many philosophers have reminded us – we first have to conquer inner space (our own propensity for conflict).

Professor Lievin’s depiction of a world where the super-rich can gain immortality at the expense of the rest of us is not far short of present-day reality. We merely lack the ability – at the time of writing – to build cities in space with better views and living conditions than our home planet.

IMG_0107It is said that our planet once contained an entire landmass, or panagea, where everything was connected. Did humanity evolve ‘out of Africa’ and then populate the entire earth, separating into races, tribes and clans along the way? Are we truly separated by all these beliefs and cultures and languages that we created over the millenia that disconnected us geographically and psychologically? Are the various gods that we created universal and timeless, or merely reflections of our thinking?

Agreement_of_the_People_(1647-1649)In 1647, the manifesto of the Leveller movement attempted to express the concerns that people felt in that most class-ridden society, England. By the way, this is a society that has infected many others with notions of ‘status’ and ‘nobility’ and ‘breeding’. These are notions which have enslaved people all over this planet, and have caused the near-destruction of millions of indigenous peoples, and the disenfranchisement of their lands. The Levellers were not the first free thinkers to be subsequently eliminated by those holding the reins of the nation. In 1381, leaders of the Peasants Revolt, or Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, were cut down by the ‘nobles’ accompanying Richard II. They had sought to level the inequities in society as well, using the verse:

When Adam delved and Eve span,

Who was then the gentleman?

Ask those who were killed in the many revolts of the Middle Ages, the Chartist Riots of the 1840s, the Paris Commune, the Occupy Movements of the 21st century – does it pay to challenge the power of the status quo? I submit that one answer lies in a quote from Isaac Asimov:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

I propose that the answer to the grievances of all of us peasants is to continually assert that power is only valid if it is shared. The accumulation of wealth and power needs to be capped and the excess utilised for the benefit of all living things. Then we shall have peace and the meek will have inherited the earth.

Now is the time.

Postscript (and tribute to Anatole Lievin)

In 2050 the population of earth split in two, those who believed in god and fighting for what they believe were consigned to the American continents, the rest of the world determined to live in peace.

Being An Introvert

Susan cain at TED, with her 'suitcase' containing special books

I’ve just watched Susan Cain’s talk at TED on “the power of introverts.” Perhaps ‘the power of introversion’ might sit better with me. In my case the subtitle is, ‘the power of introversion, whilst dealing with obsessive compulsion, ADHD, solipsism and goodness knows what else.’

Her three key points unlocked understanding about the part of me that thrives on introversion. I phrase it like that because I acknowledge that we are not ‘either/or’, we are all ‘both’ on the extrovert/introvert spectrum.

1. Stop the madness for constant group work. My italics, because she rightly explains that chatty exchanges of ideas benefit both extroverts and introverts, but introverts need time and privacy to finalize their opinions. He-he <grins self-indulgently>. This validated a stand that I took in the last semester of my Masters degree at Griffith. They kept wanting us to work ‘collaboratively/collegially’ with other students. I kicked back against this and refused in one project because: i) I felt it was a sop to students who wanted to cadge off hard-working, highly graded others (yeah, me); ii) who works like that in journalism?; and iii) being me, I didn’t get accepted into the group where the cool kids were (two cute women and a French guy [stop judging me!]). It made for some good drama in our tutorial group. The tutor gave in, but I had to do three times as much work to get my usual ‘A.’ So, thank you Susan Cain, I’ll take justification for my scratchy persona where I can find it. She’s right ‘tho.

 2. Go to the wilderness. This time she’s really right. Whether it be forty days and forty nights, meditating under a Bodhi tree, meeting Gabriel in a cave, all great wisdom comes from some sort of connection with nature. OK, there are exceptions. Karl Marx spent a lot of time in the British Museum Reading Room and bonking the maid (allegedly) and Freud listened to people who were lying (telling the truth?) on his couch. Whatever. It’s good to get into a forest, walk along a beach, climb up high and get an overall view. My analytical mind says that it is simply engaging that part of the brain that goes deeply in search of truth, what neurologists call the ‘God spot.’ My hypnosis training whispers that by turning our eyes upwards at forty-five degrees we access Alpha brain waves. Memo to self: the real power is the physical experience of being in nature – keep in mind Henry David Thoreau and ‘Walden.’

3. Take a good look at what is inside your own suitcase. “… the world needs you and the things that you carry.” Susan comes on stage with a bag of books that epitomize her world, a world that she created and found inside herself. She began her talk by explaining that, as a child, she thought it was natural for people to sit around together reading books. Being thrust into the world of extroverts was viscerally unsettling. It’s good for both extroverts and introverts to share who they really are, what their influences are, what they truly believe. Being open frees us all from the chains of ‘normality’ and ‘conformity.’ This is about being vulnerable and facing our inner shame. For more on vulnerabilty, watch Brené Brown and Google her talk on Shame.

When I was a child, around nine I think, I came down with a sickness that kept me away from school for perhaps two to three months. During that time, my mother made sure that I had lots of books. My reading improved incredibly and when I returned to school, I was ahead of the rest of my cohort (been wanting to use that in a sentence for some time). Wherever we went, I used to read out aloud the signs and adverts (this was the 1950s, not so much neon). Now I’m glad that I had that time on my own and that my mother encouraged me to use it in the way that I did. Interestingly, shortly after I won a scholarship to a grammar school. When this was announced, the males in my primary class used to bail me up after school and intimidate me. I learned to run, up to a track that ran along the base of the Quantock Hills. The guys tried to follow me but always gave up as they got further away from their homes and closer to mine. I guess this was partly because of my introversion and newfound studious demeanour, partly because I lived outside the village. Later, I became one of the class clowns, seeking to win approval through humour (I’m not much of a runner). Susan Cain has helped me understand that early immersion into my own world and to forgive those who feel threatened by inner space. Her book is ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts.’

Back To Basics

I began my new job this week and – whilst I have to maintain a high level of confidentiality – I want to explore what it has meant to me. The title says most of it, and the metaphor of ‘basics’ extends to my writing as well.

The image is of one of my old staples, the Mind Map, which bolstered my learning and writing when I returned to study at the age of 48. It’s basic, using pen and paper and pencil, yet it helps to clarify my thinking in a way that various PC applications are unable to do.

So, BASICS. I guess I have always been afraid of excreta, my own and especially others’. Now, I bless modern technology for diapers, a supply of disposable rubber gloves, and antiseptic wipes. There is this endless cycle of input, throughput and output that keeps humans going. Each stage requires a degree of care, and sometimes intervention, to keep things moving. And baby, motion is the desired, yet unpalatable outcome.

Did you get all that – if you didn’t, man, do you need to handle some shit! I’m getting there. I live in a world of technological stimulation and can sometimes forget that other people lead simple lives outside of geekdom. Those are the folks that I am learning to care for at the moment. They have little or no verbal communication, some have to be fed, most have to be dressed and much of their lifestyle managed by someone else – therein lies the learning for me. In doing such a service, I get back enormous insight into my own blessings, and the opportunity to reflect upon ways to improve my own existence. (Yep, fellow solipsists – it was only about moi – although one cannot care for others and retain a belief that the Universe is centered solely in one’s own mind). I do need time to reflect upon my experience and to plan for the future, but these indulgences are tempered by a renewed desire to serve humanity whilst catering to my need for creative, rather than mindless, stimulation.

We serve one another by stroking. We send out waves via touch or mental impulses or the exchange of words. Words support or inform or convey meaning just by their tone. I found myself stroking others more this week, not sure if it fits any clinical model, but certain that it communicates caring. Shoulders, backs, arms, wrists seem OK. I am a Mother, and also a Father, to people who rely upon me. In this space I feel no desire, merely an urge to communicate empathy. I hope that I do not become immune to this feeling and thus adopt complacent disassociation as a coping mechanism. I want to discuss this with my wife, my own confidant on the journey, the one who strokes me and gives me strength.

I gain renewed vigour to read and research and to write. In doing so, I go way beyond basics and into the world of the futurist – what are we to become? TIME magazine throws up a possibility with its fifth most popular story of the year: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal by Lev Grossman. He outlines a cybernetic phenomenon that futurists term ‘Singularity’ (taken from the astrophysics idea of a “point in space-time … at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply”). If the title’s prediction is true, by the time I reach ninety-five, I will be sharing the planet with “super-intelligent immortal cyborgs.” Are computers meek? Will they inherit the Earth? How can we insure that Artificial Intelligence is friendly? If you can’t afford an iPad, will you miss out on eternal life? At ninety-five I may be wishing that some enlightened carer is looking after my basics.

After ruminating upon this, I am reminded of an article that enthralled me in the early naughties – Anatol Lievin, writing in 2001 in Prospect Magazine, postulated that immortality will be denied to those unable to afford it. There would be a ‘Second Fall’ as some wealthier parts of humanity left the planet (initially to enter orbit in order to escape the resentment of the ‘have-nots’). Among many interesting predictions is that less than five-percent of us would have the financial wherewithal to make the transition, via alterations to our physical bodies and technological implants, from human to ‘Ubermensch’ (apologies to Nieztsche).

Unless and until we have universal global healthcare which will update us all to Homo Sapiens 2.0, then the only option that makes sense at the moment is to get back to basics and learn the strokes necessary to paddle us across the sea of life. Noah kidding.

Human Lessons – Bloody No.5!

Ten Rules for Being Human from If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules, Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott (1998)

1.      You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2.      You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

3.      There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation.  The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

4.      Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5.      Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6.      “There” is no better place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7.      Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8.      What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9.     Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10.    You will tend to forget all this.

I discovered this back in the eighties, it was circulating among us Human Potential Movement types that were caught up in the various Large Group Awareness trainings that seemed to be hypnotising us then (think ‘Money and You’, ‘est’, ‘Mind Powers’ etc. – just Google ‘LGAT’ and/or ‘mind control’ if this interests you).  However, I have to wind back my scepticism somewhat as I reflect upon the power of Dr. Cherie’s ‘Rules’, particularly number five, above.  It doesn’t seem to matter how old you get, if you have chosen to follow the Socratic Maxim (‘the unexamined life is not worth living’) then those bloody lessons keep biting away until Rule Four kicks in.

My abiding question is why?  Why is life like this, or is it just a way of looking at life?  If it were simply a viewpoint, why do these rules ring so true, so poignantly, and so viscerally?

Another answer may be suggested by the original wording of Rule One when I first saw it: “… but it’s yours to keep for the entire period this time round.”  Is that why we have to learn lessons?, so that we can keep coming back to the schoolroom – and playground – of Planet Earth?  Is that why some people, ‘just don’t get it’ when it comes to solving problems with violence, or taking advantage of others, or even why we need to protect the planet for future generations (or for ourselves to return to school)? 

I’ve seen past lives under hypnosis, I’ve read all the Edgar Cayce stuff and dabbled in Theosophy (Madame Blavatsky) and Anthroposophy (Rudolph Steiner) and even Scientology (yeah, you know who), but I still don’t know.  I still keep learning those lessons, but.

Inspirations – Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

I have always found it difficult to convey my more complex thoughts to others. In 1998, after five years of writing training manuals and conducting numerous training sessions, the word ‘essay’ kept buzzing around my head space. I wanted to write essays and maybe even novels, and felt that a university education would provide the requisite discipline and technical skills. At forty-eight years of age, I found myself enrolled in an Arts degree, wearing berets and brightly-coloured scarves.

In the early days of a new-found love of learning, I blossomed in the company of similar minds, many of them mature-aged students like myself. One, we’ll call her Karen, was more interesting because she was erudite, wrote fabulously and poetically and seemed exotic and aloof. She knew a lot more about the history of writing and the technique of writing, so we became friends.

One day, as we scoured a local bookshop for cheap source material to feed the incessant quotes that first-year Arts students love to sprinkle through their assignments, she showed me a worn copy of the essays of Michel de Montaigne. She told me that, if I wanted to write essays, Montaigne was the guy. I bought the book and occasionally made reference to it in the pretentious style that I adopted to get my A and B grades. I never really read it, but I became fascinated with the stories around Montaigne: his growing up in Gascony, learning Latin and Greek; his training as a lawyer and ascent to the highest nobility in France; and his subsequent self-confinement, in order to explore his own consciousness through the medium of writing – his Essais (or ‘attempts’).

His own influences seem to have come from his rich father, his Sephardic Jewish mother, his German tutor, and classical writers such as the Greek/Roman philosopher Plutarch. His father dictated an upbringing that was far from cosseted. The young Michel was surrounded by people who only spoke to him in Latin, making that his first language. He had music, deliberately and continuously, played wherever he went. He was encouraged to read widely, to romp, to play games, to be with all and sundry – not just his own class. He probably read Plutarch’s 78 essays – Moralia – in the original Greek. Montaigne thus became well-equipped to influence those around him during the time he allotted to the external world. His decision to become a recluse is best explained by a sign near his desk:

‘In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, his birthday, Michael de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned virgins, where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life, now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.’

For most of the next ten years, he devoted himself to researching – his personal library contained over 1,000 books – and writing. Towards the end of this time, a kidney disease caused him to travel in search of relief from pain. Travel was cut short when, in 1581, he found that he had been elected mayor of Bordeaux. His four years in that office involved much mediation between Catholics and Protestants as this was the time of the French Wars of Religion. The latter years of his life involved the revision and publication of his Essais – several volumes – and he died at the age of fifty-nine.

Whilst perhaps the lowliest, I am not the first or last writer to be inspired by Montaigne. It is said that Shakespeare read his work and was influenced. Here’s a section from Montaigne’s Wikipedia entry:

… Montaigne’s influence is especially noticeable in “Hamlet” and “King Lear“, both in language and in the skepticism present in both plays. For an example, compare Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Rosencrantz, at Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, about line 240, with an earlier quote of Montaigne:1. “… for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.” 2. “Whether the events in our life are good or bad greatly depends on the way we perceive them.”

Of course, the wisdom of my favourite quote from Hamlet may just be a case of great minds thinking alike. I prefer to think that William Shakespeare and I were both inspired by the life and legends associated with Michel de Montaigne, and that many more will continue to ‘attempt’ to share their thoughts, whilst pondering Montaigne’s great maxim: Que sais-je? (What do I know). Now, I must get around to reading his works.

Becoming Visible

I seek to be seen as I’m growing older, and I now realise that there are separate yet connecting thoughts here. I’m always growing and getting older, and I have allowed my Self to become invisible. For more than five years I have been ‘becoming old’. The aches, pains and grumpiness are all symptoms of frustration at the increasing inefficiency of my Self. In 2004, by agreeing with this view, I went back to one of my easy occupations: driving a taxi. It was not too lucrative, but the work load was bearable – if you didn’t mind 50-60 hours of unpredictable income generation each week – and the scenery was quite attractive, at least on Australia’s Gold Coast. So what has changed and what must change?

I’m endeavouring to re-enter the world. For the past year, my wife wanted to return to her home town of Christchurch to be with family and to regain her ‘Kiwiness’. Like all self-identifications, this is a feeling – mere observation just leads to confusion and incorrect conclusions for the beholder. Yes, I am now an admirer of New Zealand. After our arrival in February 2011, just after the worst of many earthquakes, we went on  a whirlwind camping ‘ticky-tour’ of the South Island. We moved into a new home and began job-searching. My wife is now settling into her new job, managing administration for a building company (a true busy-ness in this earthquake-ravaged city). I have the luxury/anguish of unemployed inaction and penury. I have to try to balance the obligations of home duties with the imaginative exploration of new possibilities and the necessary striving to combat evidence of myself as being ‘unemployable.’ Despite many applications, I have not been asked to attend one interview.

The world that seems to reject me also contains much that fascinates me. I live in a macro/micro consciousness of geo-political chaos (Arab Spring, tsunamis, earthquakes) and personal challenge (indulgence in self-pity) to make and find meaning. Night time listening to the BBC World Service leaves me anxious over the lack of debate and reasoned argument on major issues. Internally, I have this constant battle over personal nutrition and fitness. I do notice that I must do something creative – whether writing or video editing – each day, or I will overeat. Not a desirable outcome on my minimal food budget. However, there are many positive things to fill my day.

I apply for whatever jobs appear to offer possibilities of income, no matter how small. I am a social media practitioner: I post on Facebook, I Tweet, I embellish my LinkedIn profile. I extend my general knowledge with quizzes and internet surfing. I make the bed (not previously something that enthralled me, now I find it comforting). I tidy and wash and sometimes clean. I read in the afternoon sun, whilst the cat curls up beside me and enjoy that. I work on turning twenty hours of film footage into an amusing summary of our 2004 holiday in Vietnam. I get more and more immersed in the technicalities and challenges of Civilization V. I take walks when I can overcome my laziness – I have to keep reminding myself that walking is the greatest source of sanity and inspiration.

At least I know how to proceed for the next twenty years or so. Money would be nice.

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