Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snow

It so happens that there are times when the weather perfectly reflects your mood, and when this happens, to me at least, it puts me at a strange kind of ease with the world, and makes me understand how people could come to believe that the world was created with humans in mind, and is designed to make us feel content within it. However, a quick glance at nature in general reveals the opposite; we grew into the world, not the other way around. And therefore, for me, these rare moments are more a time for a kind of careless emotionalism, a kind of cathartic self-indulgence which is nonetheless necessary.

The emotions themselves can of course vary, and do, depending on the type of weather involved. Invariably the happiest is a blazing summer day, the most miserable a bitchy spring rain determined to get into your socks. But with snow, well, with snow, it's another kind of feeling altogether.

I was at work on Friday, and it snowed from ten until about three. I emerged from the office as the sun was brushing its teeth and preparing its hot water bottle, ready to slide of the edge of the earth and into bed; I walked through a landscape which, had it been a scene in a movie, the director would not have dared to spoil with music. Silence was the key. The hush, and stillness, which descends after a snowfall... well, in this instance it mirrored my mood, chilled and contemplative as it was.

Now, in general it is safe to say I am over snow. It's a pain in the ass, it gets in your face, and it puts the trains to sleep. And it causes (some) girls to screech irritably and run around like maniacs. I doubt this ill will will dissipate any time soon. But, there are times when snow and I get along. This moment was one. It allowed me a moment of serenity and soft introspection of a kind rarely found these days. I wandered through it, enjoying the squeak of my shoes, enjoying the spoiled trail my footprints left across the otherwise unbroken field behind me, enjoying pushing handfuls of the stuff from brick walls and tree branches.

I don't know why it should be so, but as I walked, I felt that there was a chance that I'd be okay. Perhaps it was the growing confidence with my work, or myself, perhaps it was the story ideas running around my head like noisy streams, perhaps it was simply the fact that it was Friday and I had left the workaday shit behind me for a few days. I was unable to find the reason, and I was uninclined to chase it around a snowy field. Instead, I drew a deep breath, took a picture of the scene in my mind, and allowed it to sit there, clean and unspoiled, as I walked away towards the city and my regular life.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Who wants to live forever?

On the face of it, there are many reasons to want to stick around. I am writing this sitting in a hotel in Paris, and one of the reasons which occurred to me first is that I could learn every language that has ever existed, or at least a hell of a lot of them. I mean, I did try Klingon when I was younger, but who has time for that these days? Is there a Rosetta Stone - Klingon? It would be fun to communicate with other nerds incognito. Then of course there's French, Spanish, and various dialects of English I haven't yet mastered.

Speaking of Klingons, one of the main reasons it would be great to live forever would be to see what the future is like. I read an article the other day which predicted the kinds of things we'll have in future, and I, for one, would love to be around when we finally perfect flying cars. And invisibility. And the holodeck (though I'm sure most people will use it for pornographic uses, rather than educational).

And speaking of tech, perhaps I could create some. I mean, I could study EVERYTHING. And you'd have to think, given enough time, I could become good enough at anything to be at least well-respected in the field. Perhaps I could cure cancer. Perhaps I could just live to see it cured. I would be an expert on quantum mechanics and the life cycle of the common house fly; I could invent the successor to the internet, or become the first man on Mars; I could form a world government, or abolish human trafficking worldwide. If I had enough time, what could I not achieve? Not to mention all the fun I could have. Adventures, and cultural experiences, and sex with strangers.

This is all assuming, of course, that my faculties hold. That my body doesn't simply continue to degrade to the point that I am a mere conscious husk of flesh. Unless you add this caveat, or something like it (perhaps a form of cloning, or invention of my consciousness uploaded to an android), infinite life begins to take on a horrible pallor. And that's not to mention the sheer drag of being alive sometimes. There are times even now when I cannot live with myself, when I get sick of the sound of my own thoughts bouncing around inside my skull, when I wish I could simply be elsewhere for a while. But how can one be elsewhere from oneself?

Even assuming vigour of mind and body, and a relative contentment with oneself, still problems arise. I say 'problems', but really I mean loved ones. They would need to be around, too. Imagine living on while your friends all passed away. Imagine watching your children grow old and die while you walked calmly through life unaffected. This, I think, would be the worst thing about being immortal, and surely it would be enough to drive anyone mad. Eventually, I think you would avoid making friends, for watching them blossom and decay in front of you would be too painful.

As hinted at above, I don't think the human mind is built for too long a term. We just don't have the capacity to go on forever, in the sense that it is inimical to our mental well-being. I don't mean that all older people are mentally ill, just that after a few hundred years, I think life would be an increasingly hard thing to deal with. Perhaps I am wrong, or wrong in certain cases, but certainly part of me knows and appreciates that I won't be around forever. The idea might be testable in a few hundred years, when technology and standards of living have lengthened our lives still further, but for now all we can do is speculate.

This leads me to the advantages of not living forever, apart from those, in a sense, described above. There are a lot of shitty things you won't have to do anymore, like ironing, and flossing, and being ill. You won't have to worry about work, or looking stupid in front of girls, or global warming, or cholesterol. And indeed, if I am correct in my supposition that being dead is exactly the same as not having been born (remember that? No, of course you don't), you won't have to worry about anything at all.

All of this is purely an intellectual exercise, since there is no way to offer anyone a real choice between death and immortality. At least, not at present. But the question remains: would you want to live forever? And it is an interesting question.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I'm not really a fan of New Year's resolutions, in the sense that a) if you're resolved about something, the year makes no difference, and if you're not, same goes, and also b) I usually fail the ones I make. Ok, well, perhaps reason b is the more honest reason.

It occurs to me that honesty must be behind any kind of change in attitude or behaviour, or it is doomed to failure. I mean this in the sense of a real understanding of oneself, one's motivations, intentions, and limitations. Temet nosce, and all that. It further occurs to me that I like to think of myself as honest with myself, but of course in many ways this sense of honesty is a lie.

We all know these kind of lies, too. I'll clean my room later, I'll only have one drink, I'll definitely call this girl after tonight. They creep up so easily, and indeed seem to true, in many cases, that one could be said to be prevailing in an Orwellian doublethink for much of one's adult existence. I am at the stage of my life where many of these habitual untruths have been painstakingly peeled away and thrown on the fire, but others grow deeper and are harder to root out.

In one of those horribly deep moments of introspection which comes with too much port (et al), it occurs to me that I have not really been clear with myself about my intentions for myself, even when I believed I was being. I understand this is all a little vague, but suffice it to say I have figured out some things which, when laid out plainly, I can't believe it took me so long to uncover. I mean, they were about as well hidden as Wally in the versions they make for people with visual impairment.

But of course the question: If I can't even be honest about how truthful I am with myself on a daily basis, how can I ever really hope to have meaningful achievements? Well, the next stage is to really examine what I want, and then figure out the lost realistic way to get it while still taking into account a realistic appraisal of myself. If I succeed, it will be a revolution of thinking the likes of which my brain has not seen since it threw off the shackles of a religious upbringing, and decided it was tired of another kind of doublethink.

So, what do I want? Let's stick to goals for 2013 for now, and see how that goes. Baby steps, people:

1) More money. This is not for the sake of money itself; in fact, it may seem disingenuous, but I hate money. It makes people ugly and gives them excuses to destroy each other. However, you gotta have it. More money will allow me to do some of the other things on the list.

2) Tying into number 1, is fulfilment at work. Yes, I know, everyone hates their job, or something like that, but the job I have now is a great opportunity for me to grow, and challenge myself, and all those cliches you trot out in an interview which (who knew?) turn out to be true. I have a chance to really be good at a job, whereas for the last few years perhaps I was cruising. I have a chance to kick some ass, and I intend to take it.

3) I need to write more. I know it's not always easy when you’re god-damn tired, and I definitely know it takes time and effort, but I want to get more done. If I form a habit, I can do a little more each week, and it all adds up. Even if it is just for the twenty or so people who pick my books up online. I have talent and it is going to waste. Yeah I said it.

4) Indulge less. A classic resolution. But really all I mean is if I can tweak my eating habits just a little more, and keep up my exercise, I can lose a bit more weight, and feel a whole lot better. That, and cut down on dem bad tings.

5) Confidence. This will come from success at work (and, sometimes, from mistakes), but mostly I mean chatting up birds. I have forgiven myself for the fact that I suck at it, but I'd like to make a little improvement, if at all possible. This one is the least likely of my ambitions; in this I do know myself.

6) Going back to money, in terms of the capacity it brings, I'd like to travel a bit more, tick off some of the countries on the to-do list, go home for Xmas, see friends get married, and so on and so forth. There is so much to see and so little time to see it.

7) Is that it? Well, lastly, save some money too. I haven't managed much of that recently, and it really needs to be looked into.

Ok, so, seven resolutions which could really be narrowed down to cash, confidence, health, and fitness. Hmmm... now the part where I evaluate whether I can achieve them. Again, they are things I think are achievable, and I do have a history of setting my mind to certain things, but the only real answer, for now, is we will see. Roll on 2013.