Thursday, 16 November 2017

Lazy Sweets

Call me old-fashioned, though you don't actually need to now for I've saved you the task, and here comes the but, BUT what is happening to us as a nation? I don't know about anywhere else as I don't travel very far from my own front door (I don't have a back yard, or a balcony, or a box window where I could grow my own herbs) but, and it's not my imagination, some of us are goddamn lazy. Or getting increasingly and ludicrously so. And I think it's shameful.
I'm still somebody that goes out to the shops with a list of what I need for the week ahead. I walk there and back, returning weighed down with packed bags, the contents of which might have come from more than one store. I don't mean to make myself sound like a martyr because I think nothing of it: it's how I've always done things and known them to be done, and I do shop online, just not for food, nor items I can easily acquire through traipsing the local high street or shopping centre.
What really gets my goat (pardon the expression. Where does it come from anyway?), is the on-demand services. Note the following real-life examples: Person V fancies a yoghurt but doesn't have any in and so pays for a banana-flavoured pot to be taxied to her; Person X needs deodorant but instead of visiting the local pharmacy orders online (thank you radio commentator Jeremy Vine!) for a white van man to bring that item, that solitary item, to him; and Persons Y & Z want a fish and chip supper, but even though there's a shop across the road they place their order over the phone and get it hand-delivered. It's all nonsense!
Nobody is that time-poor! Yet more and more of us are becoming precious about getting our individual (and largely non-essential) needs met. What do I care if someone chooses to fritter their money away in this manner? I don't per se , but I do question what it says about us as a society: about our high expectations and lack of self-management, not to mention discipline. What exactly are we freeing up this time for? To sit in front of a box set, to check our Twitter feed, to upload selfies, and generally loaf. And why is it suddenly so difficult to a) get ourselves organised as in plan ahead and stick to it, and b) delay our gratification? How would we, the generations born long after the Second World War, cope in times of rationing should they come again? If suddenly one day all these add-ons got taken away?
Perhaps that's the issue, we've gone too far the other way. We have too much choice and too many firms willing to cater to our increasing demands which forces others to offer the same. And then there's our attitudinal change which is, to be blunt: I want what I want when I want it, and I'll get it too, that pressurizes and drives this supply model.
It's almost communistic in style, except instead of workers walking out on their owner-bosses and preventing trade, consumers are making trade by demanding zero hour workers save them more time and physical effort; both of which, you have to admit, have already been greatly improved by modern contraptions. Aren't we pushing it a bit wanting and expecting more? Because more labour and energy-saving devices is not necessarily good. Haven't we already seen proof of that, with us as the evidence, living as we now do against the clock? And what about skills? Okay, you might be able to code (I can't do that!), but can you cook from scratch? More to the point, can you use a tin-opener? Not all have ring-pulls and even if they do some of those fail.
Yes, I'm being facetious, but where's the satisfaction in these convenience measures? Where's the real gratification in any of it? It's too instantaneous. And none of it, by the way, saves time. You could walk to the shops and back in the time it takes you to shop online, or whip up a meal that's ready before your takeaway, ordered forty-five minutes ago, gets delivered.
What it amounts to is: minimal effort for a reward which won't keep on giving, because from the beginning you haven't been fully engaged with the process of acquiring that item. In a sense, it's meaningless; if it wasn't, you wouldn't immediately search for another gratifying hit elsewhere.

Picture credit: Tempting Sweet, 1924, Robert Lewis Reid

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The School of Hard Knocks

When I overhear people talk of dreams I think they mean of the sleeping kind. You know, the type where the mind that runs your waking life is taking a well-earned snooze, so that everything that has happened or is about to happen gets mashed together to produce a moving montage which you'll either watch from afar like a paying customer at a picture show or be the lead in, although at times you'll question it's you for this person doesn't act or look like you, and so, depending whether this version of you or the dream itself is good or bad, you might try to wake earlier than the running time or drag it out until the credits roll.
Pulling a dream back to you never seems to work once you've semi-woken. So frustrating! when you try and can't, particularly if for some reason your sleep was disturbed. And good dreams, it seems, can't be relived like a film. They play differently as if you've been given, without your conscious knowledge, a choice of beginnings, middles and endings, where none you've selected are exactly the same as before which means you never again get to star in or view the very edit you want. That cut becomes a ghostly memory, then scene shots and stills, until even those fade to be replaced by other night dreams.
But whilst these are the sorts of dreams that interest me, they're not the dreams people speak of. Daily. To friends, to family, in workplaces, in schools, in the general domain of space: public or cyber. Though there are a few who instead choose to harbour a long-held idea or ambition within the walls of their chest or a locked chamber, in the mind or a physical dwelling which only they know of or use. Some hold both types of dreams: those 'safe' to utter (and stand by) in public, and those which are thought best to stay hidden.
Dreams made public are made so in a manner much like a town crier, as if a hand-bell is rung and a booming voice makes the announcement: Einstein to explore time! A poor example because I'm sure, though I can't be certain, his idea was never announced like that or at all before his theory of relativity was developed. Nowadays however, such an public declaration would be likely made before the deed is done. Or even planned. Because to put it simply: airtime equals sponsorship, support and motivation. Sometimes, globally. From far-flung peoples and places, so that essentially as the ball's now rolling...and rolling...you have to try to follow through. Perhaps even die in your attempts to. The pressure to exceed at something you said you were going to do can make you do crazy things, instead of more sensibly backing down. But that is a whole other type of fish, a euphemism that Einstein would doubtless agree with.
Because what we all want, or are being told we must have is a richer experience. And to do that we must make all our dreams come alive. We must believe in ourselves and in their potential, which isn't in itself a bad idea if it was just used as a way to boost our self-confidence and creativity, but it doesn't stop there because these dreams have to be reached and crossed off. Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but in being so public we've created loopholes which, no surprises here, organisations are taking advantage of. The banking industry, for instance, promotes realising your dreams so they can lend you money, and take more off you in the process. Often, we think it's win-win, but is it? Dreams aren't that simple. For them to really succeed you also need a business-minded head and not just a visionary brain. And well, sometimes we're over-ambitious, which means you can fail to see the drawbacks or the pitfalls. It's good to have goals, but have goals that are attainable, or maybe set more modest steps to the bigger picture.
Life has many hard lessons and one of them is that dreams of this nature rarely come true nor are they, I think, meant to. Quiet dreams, although less mentioned and striven for, have a different power, whereby they still inspire but don't need to materialise, for their power lies in their ethereal form. A dream possessed only in thought is more than enough for some people.
It's always there, unrealised, acting as a companion to disappointments and making dark days brighter, as well as helping you (in self-help speak) to be the 'Best You' your capabilities will allow. Actualised, a dream may not be all you hoped and from that you may never recover.

Picture credit: Albert Einstein (motivational poster)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Play Children, Play

Have you ever wanted to walk out? Just stand up and walk out of a room, not looking back, push through a door and slam it or let it swing to violently; out of a workplace because if you don't the caged animal in you might scream the place down; out of life, the one you're presently living, to start afresh elsewhere. In a new town or city where nobody knows your face or name or anything about you. Where everything will be untouched, and clean and shiny, and where the only thing you haven't fled is yourself.
Therein lies the omitted problem: it's mostly You. And that, no matter what you walk or run from, you can't escape. Ever. Not even death, in my opinion, allows you to do that. The game reset starts over but with those same challenges, though the You you were might look very different to the You you were before, but then you won't remember that, unless the walls between these worlds have crumbled, but then what would be the point in returning in a different guise?
To live forever would have drawbacks, don't you think? Imagine: the boredom of being the same person! I'm bored with me now! and at the very least I have another 30 years if I avoid freak accidents and health complications. Some of you, I guess, might welcome eternal life if you cling to the person you are currently. However it still seems a bit advanced, scientifically and spiritually, if you ask me. And there still might be the loss of youth and vitality because progress in these areas is piecemeal. Ha! is what I want to say to those who want to age but don't want to age if you know what I mean. The internal workings might be in better order but your outward appearance might still alter. Slowed down, marginally. With more time, things will still slip and slide. Eventually.
Make your choice: good health and cognitive function or beauty. Is that choice really so hard? Maybe it is for aesthetically-pleasing people? Then, perhaps you've made yourself into one of those sculpted beauties; everything that could be done has been done. If that's the case, I don't know what to say for I have no idea, nor does science, how these make-over procedures will age. Again, time, and rather more of it, will tell those tales and trot them out for the world to see either as pin-ups or horror stories.
Man, (as in human rather than getting ourselves in a tangle over stereotypical behaviour or gender identification), likes to tinker. Think: evenings and weekends spent under the bonnet of a car or repairing some appliance so that's it's as good as new or even better. We like to improve things, be it our cars, homes or our bodies, and yet we don't seem to know when to stop. When instead of making the best of whatever we've got, we end up papering over the already re-papered cracks. When it comes to our ageing bodies some of us go to extremes, even trying too hard to make it look like they're not when they have, they are. Everything, at the end of the day, is a temporary fix, even if you've taken drastic measures to get there. As in, if you adhere to my belief, we're all going to die someday, though you can die and still be living.
Huh? Oh yes, we all experience 'little deaths': changing schools and jobs, moving house, leaving childhood to enter adolescence, then transitioning from that to adulthood, dealing with blossoming and fading looks, and illnesses that might bring physical and emotional changes, throughout our lifetimes. What do they indicate? The end of a significant period. Period.
Oh, why can't we work through, deal with these losses? Embrace it, rather than actively prevent or fight against it. No, I don't know the answer, because I've had my own struggles, but I do know that the dilemmas we often concoct are psychological. And the weight we give to them is damaging, and not just superficially either.
Wouldn't it be easier if we could just tinker with our lives, as writers do with plots, so that we wouldn't have the stress of the (perceived) consequences of doing something or other or the logistical nightmares? View it without having to actually live it instead of taking irreversible action that we later regret or cry over. God, however, in his infinite wisdom would probably say: Play children, play.

Picture credit: The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre Auguste Renoir