Thursday, 14 September 2017

Knot Temple

There's a knot I've tied I can't untangle. Although when it first came about I couldn't say, perhaps because it was minuscule like a knot in a fine thread after a button's been secured or a hold darned. It held the repair yet didn't prevent other buttons working loose or other holes appearing, and neither was it sizeable enough to stop the status quo: life, in its own fashion, went on, regardless of whether I was fully cognizant of this one little knot.
Until there came such a time, before today, that this knot could not be thought away or denied. It had grown. Grown into the magnitude of a kidney stone and lodged itself primarily in the trachea, though there were occasions where instead of there it could be felt blocking the entrance to the stomach, just as if it were one in a pile of stones that you might see shielding the opening of a cave. Though perhaps in this case it was more of a barricade rather than a shield for I don't think this stone was guarding or concealing any treasure, but rather preventing feelings – of hurt, of guilt, of anxiety – from reaching their usual endpoint, where they would only swill around or stoically sit and cause upset: a bloating or a sickening sensation, possibly with a suppressed belch or two, or worse the rise of undigested food.
I actually preferred it when this tightly bound knot was higher up, a prominent Adam's apple, or so it seemed to me though it wasn't; there was never any view of it whenever I checked in the bathroom mirror, despite its bobbing, which like a phantom limb was felt if not visible to the naked eye, when I deliberately swallowed or recited some lines of a play.
That there was an obstruction I was sure, and which I knew from past experience might at any moment cause me to gag, or, if only partial, my eyes to mist and my nose to run. Innocuous foods (well, as far as I thought my body was concerned) might bring on the latter: just-made-still-warm nut butter, cucumber, a cup of tea (no dairy), any soup of bland description and boiled, mashed, fried or baked potatoes, and yet, with spicy foods those orifices remained completely dry. Instead there was a coursing of not unpleasant heat which went around or flowed over deterrents like a river whose passage couldn't and wouldn't be halted, but as much as I would have liked to have basked in that affect so that I'd have none of the watering and sniffles I did not think this wise.
Moderation, not limitation, my motto, as well as you can have too much of a good thing, which if you did would only upset the carefully loaded apple cart, and then where would you be? It's right that life should present you with some discomforts, at some time or another, just as it's natural for the body to manifest anything suppressed in the way of physical complaints, though I concede neither beliefs are shared often.
You, the reader, can't even be sure if the person speaking here is the real-life version or a semi-fictional character with true opinions and factual experiences thrown in that might or might not pertain to the author citing them. At the end of the working day, it's all just shrapnel. Grist to the mill, which may or may not be ground and used, and which is as far away as you can get from the subject of knots, or stones for that matter though I guess you might find a bit of grit in amongst the grain. What I'm saying is everything – observable and felt – has that same potential: store, dispose, use right away, though often the process is less machine and more oh, yeah I forgot about that, or where did that come from? Coincidental versus Surreptitious, which then somehow all link up with each other and form a plot, or as I said a knot, which can morph into a stone when its bonds grow too tight to be unpicked and so becomes smooth and flat, enabling you to act out and upon the same themes.
And now suddenly I have this feeling I've written all this before. And not that long ago either – as little as a year, maybe not even that. Are we all on repeat? It can't just be me. I don't get that many kicks from it I can tell you. One or two differences in any situation can be enough to disguise its sameness, enough for us to think 'no, this is different and therefore so will be the outcome.' and then when it isn't, well, we blame ourselves for falling into that trap in the first place. But if these knots were seen for what they are they could be a catalyst to great, or even unusual, things.

Picture credit: The Abbey in the Oakwood, Caspar David Friedrich

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Heavy Hearts and Emptier Pockets

There are those who torture themselves for being idle, through no fault of their own, and those who relish any opportunity to be so and in fact find any excuse to do just that. Not all of the latter are plump or jolly or fabulously fat; some are skin and bones, their muscles wasted away, and yet their life, at a glance, seems full of ease. Idle they may be but it doesn't seem to bother them, not even if they have to live on next to nothing or lead the most unhealthiest of lives.
It's far harder being idle when you don't want to be, when this wasn't a conscious choice you made, and when everything then is tainted with slothfulness. The good intentions were there but the work was not. Idle hands makes the mind slow, which makes the limbs leaden and the body lumpish. The old horse doesn't want to pull the cart; the cart will not be pulled for its stuck fast. Both essentially dig their feet in, and no amount of squirming will get them under-way.
Modern life offers more possibilities of that: laziness combined with fidgeting, and it's good men and women that are faced with battling it day by day, in and out of employment. Idle fingers and thumbs when you're at work whoever heard of that? and yet, it happens, is happening in service sectors where administration is called for but rarely done, because the presence of someone carries more weight than the actual workload which up-to-date procedures have greatly reduced.
People are paid to sit and be as unproductive as possible, even though they're infuriatingly bored and itching to do more rather than pretend to be occupied. Superiors have no further work for them to do and so they rifle through papers or sort and amend electronic records, and all the while watch the clock for their next break or home-time. And this goes on day after countless day. The work is not backbreaking and yet, it breaks spirits.
It's employment, true, but its pointlessness borders on insanity, places all those employed to do it in a morale-lowering nightmare. A version of living hell that could never have been foreseen prior to this Digital Age. But where else can such people go when they know nothing else? A tunnel of worthlessness beckons...the darkness drawing them ever on in the faint, yet prevailing, hope there will be a visible light, as they confuse this tunnel with another kind or associate it with finding copper in mines. It will come, it has to. It will be seen or found.
In time, however, even that glimmer of hope dies when the darkness has become an all-encompassing pitchy black, with nothing, no other shade in-between to distinguish the shadows that fall on its tunnelled walls. Then, and only then, do they sink to the floor or stumble onwards like a drunk, weaving man with their eyes unseeing like a mole who might find himself above ground in broad daylight, only their circumstances are reversed.
The gradual realisation, that doesn't for some reason hit bit-by-bit but with a blunt blow, in spite of its unacknowledged, slow coming on, that this could be it is never pleasant. Many a man, and a woman, will want to instantly lay down or drown in their sorrows, knowing that they do not possess the strength to continue groping in this ever-lasting dark when the hope of a light, any light, appearing before them has gone.
With prematurely aged and non-transferable skills, there is no place for them on the upper rungs, unless they can and choose to evolve, which can only be done when an opportunity is granted, and for that there has to be a willing employer, but of these there are not many. And even then it's best not to expect the same job satisfaction or similar pay. Everybody is being squeezed, and if not squeezed then pushed under.
It's a dire state of affairs, which is not in itself new just different, and in some ways more glum-making for those who are not young and not yet old. The young have more resilience and will adapt, the retired don't have to try. The middle generations that fall between suffer, particularly if they're not made of stuff that can take these constant knocks and shut-downs. And so, they wander in the dark with heavy hearts and emptier pockets.

Picture credit: The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet, 1857-1859, Musee d'Orsay

Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Prognostic Exercise

Chris Martin, of Coldplay fame, caught my attention last Friday in a conversation with Graham Norton with the phrase 'whelmed', i.e. what you are if you're not over or under. I felt that way then and I think it will still resonate with me when we reach the present now, almost ten months on, because as I've no doubt mentioned elsewhere I write way, way, way in advance, not that it crosses my mind at the time that it might be as prophetic as The Simpsons.
I'm amazingly cool and calm about political and world events and national news: nothing shocks me. Trump triumphed and I'd called that, and before that Brexit, not that in declaring it here you'd have any reason to believe me because there are those who claim these things after the outcome. Shift allegiances or sit on a hedge and wait. Timing is everything.
I wouldn't be surprised if the backlash continued and the Right continued to rise; I wouldn't be surprised if we still hadn't invoked Article 50 but Scotland had held or were about to hold another Referendum, which was again hotly debated; and I wouldn't be surprised if the European Union was shakier in its foundations and Merkel's face had a sterner frown as Germany's abilities to mediate fades and people fall out of love with the tough but soft approach. Globalisation finally had its day.
Perhaps Trump, by now, will have erected a better fence rather than a wall to protect what he calls America's interests. Perhaps for some reason unknown to me he will have been removed from the Presidency, though just possibly he might have become more diplomatic, more Reagen-like and less Bush, except without a Maggie but with a Nigel. And no doubt, he will have got himself into more scrapes, because let's be honest he's not the greatest orator, and I seriously doubt that will have improved, that dramatically. Though more drama, I'm sure, will have been had.
And more, I think, could be under threat: livelihoods, homes, things that seemed permanently established now crumbling, and not because of an unstable economy but because of modernity. This drive to supposedly better ourselves and the world we live in with yet more technology. And with this I include, and more importantly, our freedoms too: how we curtail them, almost willingly, as well as how we want them (and let them be) further policed.
Hello cashless and social media, online-driven society, which, true, we long ago gave a golden handshake to in greeting, but the pressure over the last couple of years has ramped up. There is literally no off switch. Yet, whilst some might revolt against global liberalness, the fading out of how goods are paid for and exchanged, in layman's terms, is noticed but nothing done about. The upgrades to swipe, scan, and tap sweeping through many nations like a particularly virulent flu epidemic, of which there is no cure, or more accurately an incentive to find one because you're supposed to believe (as many do) it's a benefit that outweighs any negatives.
So, scamming will be on the rise, again; banks will continue to have poor online security and variable interest rates; energy companies will do their ofgem bit and tell us to switch though the difference will be minimal but the inconvenience high; and politicians will still be vague or deliberately speak what they know to be untruths.
In some areas we'll still be bombarded by choice; in others, more fundamental ones, choice will be stripped away. Email will be virtually obsolete and citizens will take greater risks and accept less responsibility for their very dubious actions. Everyone will grow more and more careless, regardless of where they are or what they're doing, and news will be issued so fast nobody will know if it's true or fake, or possibly even care.
Oh, I paint an imperfect picture, don't I, of 2017? Not that it really matters as in present time we're over halfway through, and this is just one projected view which is not, in all likelihood, a reliable one. But I've started so I might as well finish, and we're nearly there...
In summary of what will possibly prove a very useless exercise, (hindsight's a wonderful thing!): there will always be those who think we're making progressive or retrogressive leaps, and others who will see it as being thrown to the lions.

Picture credit: On the Threshold of Liberty, 1937, Rene Magritte