Year: <span>1999</span>

Sometimes at night the darkness and silence weighs on me.
Peace frightens me.
Perhaps I fear it most of all.
I feel it’s only a facade, hiding the face of hell.

I think of what’s in store for my children tomorrow;
“The world will be wonderful”, they say;
but from whose viewpoint?
We need to live in a state of suspended animation,
like a work of art;
in a state of enchantment…
detached.

Detached.

Neil Hannon – The Divine
Comedy

~

Connection is made, the words strike me. The search for utopian ideals, one that has eluded so many before me, continues. It remains constant, unreachable. A need to retreat, to hide.

“The hurt of lost,
the longing of one,
the distance from those,
the untouchable”

I wrote those four lines a long time ago, and have since found many different meanings for them.

It’s funny, I don’t consider myself a loner, I enjoy company too much for that, but sometimes I HAVE to be alone, whether its just a case of slipping off somewhere with a book, or throwing on the headphones, closing my eyes, and ending up somewhere different altogether. A past favourite was walking up into the hills behind where I used to live, getting off the path. No-one around, just the sound of the wind.

Contemplation, reflection, silence. Sometimes difficult to achieve, sometimes hard to resist, often too easy to get dragged into. Small pauses in daily life, thinking (dreaming?).

Detachment from life is easy, keeping yourself grounded is the challenge. Creating your own existence, your own sphere. Creating distance is no challenge. The distance can help, and hinder at the same time, but is always attainable. How it is used is the issue. The big picture is the aim. Looking down is to abuse the distance.

Lost direction a bit, paused again. What am I trying to say? Anything? Nothing? SomeTHiNG?

Ramble over.

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“Hello, darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again.”

20 July 1969 : Apollo 11 : Tranquility Base –
A small step for man…

A defining moment in many lives (not least messrs, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins), man had made it to the moon. Each astronaut on the mission new the risks, as did those of the backup crew (Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Bill Anders – the former two to experience their own problems aboard Apollo 13).

There were of course contingency plans in place, all situations were covered, including the possibility of the leaving two men to die on the moon. In silence.

In a 30 year old document, it has been revealed that NASA planned to cut communication to the moon-bound astronauts should they not be able to leave the surface of the moon. A speech was ready for Nixon to announce their heroic death, a tragic loss in the battle for space. As soon as it was confirmed the astronauts would not be able to get back to the re-entry pod, they would be cut off. The astronauts were not informed. They would be left with nothing but silence. Silence, complete blackness and a view of home.

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Human courage in extreme situations continually astounds. I recently heard about a Vietnam documentary which looked at the story of several American soldiers who were captured by the VietCong. They were locked in separate cells, and no communication was allowed. At one point in the documentary one of the soldiers, sitting calmly in a chair, vividly describes how one day he gave up, and tried to kill himself. With nothing in the room to use, no clothes on his body, he stood and smashed his forehead against the wall until he passed out. He didn’t die.

Many people say suicide is the cowards way out, but in this circumstance it was, without doubt, an act of incredible bravery. An act of a man pushed to the very limit. During the documentary, the man is asked if he was aware of what he was doing, after a slight pause he replies.

Of course I was….

In day to day life we will never get close to that kind extreme. Our bodies and minds are cushioned, protected.
How would you react in that kind of situation? There is no answer of course, you can’t simulate that kind of experience in your mind, and you certainly wouldn’t want to simulate it physically.

Another sequence in the documentary: Once again one of the captured soldiers sits passively, almost morose, in a chair and describes in graphic detail, one of his torture sessions. I will spare you the details. At one point, he says,

I was in so much pain that it no longer registered. I then realised that they couldn’t hurt me any more. I lifted my head, and looked my tormentor in the eyes, holding his gaze. He looked back, burst into tears and ran screaming from the room. I don’t know what he saw in my eyes.

None of the soldiers gave up any information. None were decorated by their country. None returned heroes. They were forgotten.

There is much more to say about the incredible strength of human will, the courage we can muster in extreme situations, but I’m not able to get past one thing – a sense of awe, a sense of relief. Relief that it wasn’t me.

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“The hurt of lost,
the longing of one,
the distance from those,
the untouchable.”

Four lines.

Many meanings.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I wrote those four lines a long time ago, I think I was about 17 or 18, vaguely around one of the times I split up with Louise (which as certain people know, happened now and again). Since then it keeps appearing in my head, for no reason that I can fathom, and each time it seems to take on a different meaning.

“The hurt of lost” – doesn’t apply anymore, but when did it? Is the loss perceived or a reality?

“the longing of one” – I long for many things, or is dream a better term? Many things I can’t achieve, many things I have.

“the distance from those” – distance, when used properly, keeps perspective, but from who?

“the untouchable” – inferiority complex? Lack of self-confidence, feelings of exclusion?

No matter how hard I try, I can’t pin this down, but maybe that’s why it still intrigues me after so long. Do I really need an explanation? Like many things, it may be better not to know, but surely, as my brain keeps recalling it, it must have some significance.

Maybe I think too much, it has been mentioned. I’m convinced it has a relevance, it must shelter something, or is it just too vague to really mean anything? Maybe that’s the appeal.

If you have any ideas, please let me know.

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Silly adj : lacking seriousness; given to frivolity; “a dizzy blonde”; “light-headed teenagers”; “silly giggles” [syn: airheaded, dizzy, empty-headed, featherbrained, giddy, light-headed]

Love can be defined as silliness. I don’t mean silliness as in daftness (although the border between the two is very blurred), I mean silliness as in the daft (see!) little things we do to amuse the other. Silly voices, silly faces, silly words, just plain silly.

Personally I think silliness is massively under-rated. People frown on silly behaviour, and it is generally thought to have a certain time or place. This is true to an extent, but not, in my opinion, the places most people think.

I know my attempts at silliness is a ‘defense mechanism’ – using humour when I’m really nervous or anxious about something – but is that such a bad thing? I’m perfectly aware that a silly quip relaxes most people in a tense situation, so if used correctly can be a valuable asset. I have been told that I joke too much (guilty, m’laud), and that some people don’t appreciate my rapier wit…oh ok, sarcasm… and I know I should be more considerate, but hey, that’s their problem. I’m trying to deal with mine.

So what is my point here? Well there isn’t really one to make, or maybe there is, maybe a new doctrine – SILLINESS FOR ALL! STOP ALL SERIOUSNESS! (need to get something that rolls of the tongue a bit more easily though).

Or maybe not…

P.S. Steph – sorry for the ‘dizzy blonde’ reference, but that’s what the dictionary said – honest!

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Another shooting in the U.S.

The outrage, the shock, the pain.

Swiftly followed by the insight, the analysis, the reason.

Apathy? Is that what it is? Or an inherent numbness to the horrors?

The same arguments against will be countered with the same arguments for, and in a week or so it will all be forgotten. What will it take? OK, radical idea – why don’t the anti-gun lobbies get together and go around the U.S. and shoot one member of each family in the country. Is that what it would take? I fully admit to suffering from the same “it’ll never happen to me” syndrome, but life here in the U.K. hasn’t yet reached the ‘advanced’ stage that the U.S. has. We can’t walk in to a gun shop, brandishing any form of identification, and purchase the ability to kill someone. And surely, the shop owners can spot the ‘mad-gunman’ types…they are the ones with the twitch and generally ask about ‘big’ guns (I presume)

“Hi, can I help you?”
“I want a b-b-big gun”
“And what will sir be shooting?”
“eh….p-p-people”
“Ha ha ha, very funny sir…anyway, may I suggest
the…….”

OK, I know it’s not that simple (is it?), but that’s the impression we get here in the U.K. Want a gun? Go buy one! Add it to your basket at the supermarket, or ‘purchase the new range of road-rage rifles at any of our participating garages’.

It’s so easy to make fun, be satirical, and generally ignore the problem. Yet the solution is so blindingly obvious it’s a wonder that the U.S. government hasn’t stumbled on it yet – so between you and me…here it is.

Ban all guns.

Wow! I can feel the ripples of excitement pulsing their way across the Atlantic. Then slamming hard against the usual arguments.

Trouble is there is no argument, which do you value more? The right to have a gun, or your life. Which does the U.S. goverment value more? The money behind the gun lobby, or your life. Next time you see your local senator, mayor, or whoever, ask them that. Don’t listen to the argument, repeat until you get an answer. There is only one they can give, one they believe, only one they can say to your face. So how many ‘good’ men are voted in every year? How many ‘good’ men will stand up and say “Hey, guns kill people, and we can’t control them properly, let’s do something about it!”

If it wasn’t such a tragic topic it would be farcical. Problem is I don’t hear anyone laughing – do you?

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Many things in life are prone to change, many for better, some for worse, but all for a reason. Change has been a big feature in my life for the last 4 or 5 years. Louise and I have moved to our 7th flat together (in about 5 years), with one more move planned after that. I’ve changed jobs 4 times in 3 years (although two were redundancies), and my whole outlook on life has changed dramatically (if you really need to know).

I now crave stability, or at least I think I do. What if it has been the constant flux of life that has kept me going, kept my mind active, my soul alive? I long to settle down, get a house (a back garden!) and start creating a home. I long to get my career started properly, instead of just gaining experience. Most of all I long to create a constant space. A place which isn’t and will not be affected by change.

But – what if?

You cannot, and I refuse to, let ‘what ifs’ rule your life, but they are always there, and it does frighten me. I know I want to travel more, so what if settling down will make me feel trapped? We will start a family within the next year or two, but what if the arrival of another person, another responsibility, makes the binding of home, the lessening of change, even stronger? What if….?

But change is good. I know it is. Changes in me.

Not even a year ago, the ‘what ifs’ would have won. The worry of uncertainty (the certainty of chance), would have prevailed, and manifested itself into hate and depression. But not now. The very thing I once worried over, dwelt on, that dragged me down, is no longer the enemy, it is the saviour, the redemption.

We have no control over the future, no matter how hard we might try. Every choice has its repercussions, and whilst everyone must be considered, the ripple effect is unstoppable. We cannot control it, and we should not try. Change makes life interesting, for good or bad. Without change we wouldn’t live, we would only exist, and I can think of no fate worse.

To be robbed of the life that change brings would surely be the cruelest torture. The monotony of routine, slowly choking. Differences, changes are what intrigues us all, the differences in thought, action and deed. All of these are changes, and all of these provide life, provide experience, provide stimulation. They nurture our minds and souls, and create changes within ourselves.

Many things in life are prone to change, many for better, some for worse, but all for a reason.

Personal Musings

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The world is shrinking, so my next comments aren’t as misplaced as they seem, is that an excuse?

Yet another shooting in America. Yet more calls for tighter controls, or complete bans. More arguments about free speech, and the right to bear arms (bare arms?).

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people

How stupidly small-minded, frighteningly short-sighted can people be? Is it just me? OK I know it’s not, but don’t these people realise what they are saying? Of course, strictly speaking they are correct, I could have a gun and never use it to kill people – but the counter-argument is so obvious.

It is our right as American citizens

I will admit to a not complete understanding of American political and legal systems, and yes I agree, free speech and an individuals rights should be protected. Shooting people is not an individual activity though is it? It requires the, unwilling, participation of other people, where’s their choice, their rights?

The view that drifts across the Atlantic is that the American government is bowing to the pressure of the gun lobby. So who, exactly, is running the country? And what is the real aim? In today’s political culture I thought it was all about votes? Which has the larger share of votes – the recreational gun users? or the scared public? Or is money the real issue?

Surely the aim has to be to remove guns from society all together. A change in society is much needed, a move away from fear, away from violence. I long to visit America, but is it really that safe? Is sensationalist journalism spoiling my view?

The right to express yourself has been taken too far, and is used as an excuse for many different groups and activists in America. Something needs to be done. Free speech should remain just that.

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