And in the end
The truth was that
You knew it all
Along: Don’t over complicate.
What was in your mind
Was good enough for you;
What more can you ask
For? Pure and breathing truths.
The “secret”, then, was just to
Live, and be open in art;
No one can deny what
Happened. The torture is over.
You were born to do it:
Take great pleasure in that.
Focus on what’s real—
Ignore all others.
The following is an extract from a novel that is currently on hiatus called Definition, which I was writing during September-December 2013. The extract is chapter 3 from Part II on the effects marijuana can have on creating a strong bond between friends and family, and on the positive effects the drug has.
‘I’m no good at this,’ Christopher said, screwing up the rolling paper he had been working on.
‘I’ll do it. I think the way I do it is easier.’ William was two years younger than his brother, but their ages were largely irrelevant; they were more like twins. William was taller, by a few inches; Christopher was rather plump around the face. This was how the majority of people told them apart.
‘I must admit, you’re pretty good at rolling spliffs.’
‘It’s not a spliff,’ William corrected him; ‘it’s a joint. A spliff is marijuana and tobacco—a joint is pure marijuana.’
‘Oh, right. You know, we should get a bong. I saw them for sale, there’s a shop called “Smoker’s heaven” in town. It’ll cost about a fiver each, I reckon.’
‘Can you imagine if Dad saw it!’ William had by this time already crafted a perfect cylinder out of a new rolling paper.
‘It’s Mum we should worry about,’ his brother said, frowning. ‘How have you done that so quickly? You’ll have to teach me.’
‘It’s pretty simple, Chris. There’s no need to do it the way you were doing it—like I said, there’s no tobacco. Remember when I used a pen? I wrapped the paper around it, licked and sealed it, and already had the perfect shape.’
‘What about the roach?’
‘Oh, yeah—I cut the roach first, using a piece of card. You just make sure it’s rolled up tight enough to slip into the cone you make.’ He paused to lick the paper, leaving it to dry for a few moments. ‘Now, though, I don’t need a pen. I do the roach first, then I wrap the paper around that—it forms a cone by itself. Then I take the cut up cannabis and drop it inside—using one of the scissor’s blades to pack it however tight I want it.’
‘Then you twist it at the top?’
‘You’ve got to twist it at the top,’ he laughed. William completed their evening’s entertainment and held it aloft.
‘That’s a work of art,’ his brother said, smiling.
‘Absolutely. Now let’s smoke it!’
They boys, already similar in their appearance, grinned an identical grin, and prepared to smoke. They were in the infancy of their smoking career. Like many boys their age, they had tried alcohol—for that was the one legal drug that really allowed one to escape the banality of modern life—but neither had found it anything more than a rite of passage. Neither liked alcohol, or its effects—it was just the thing to do. When one of Christopher’s friends had offered them ‘some green’, the elder Paper boy’s heart began to beat—he immediately purchased an eighth and brought it home. He had paid extra to have it pre-rolled into three spliffs. The first, he nervously smoked when the house was empty one weekend—he coughed, and spluttered, and had the best night of his life.
Quite literally, his life was changed. Over and above the half an hour of psychedelic bliss (which could never be repeated) in which time appeared to slow down, colours became more vibrant, and Christopher found himself more a philosopher than ever, the very idea that there was a plant that could instantly turn a dull day into a pleasant one, or a stressful night into a calming one, was a profound discovery. Before smoking it, he, like everyone else unacquainted with the mysterious substance, was worried by the apparent dangers it posed to his mental health.
Upon actually trying the substance in question, however, he found it not only harmless, but to have a range of beneficial effects that he might consider his entire life without fully exhausting.
In short, Christopher learned a valuable lesson: that his experiences mattered more to him than the words of others (which were often spoken for a reason other than to spread truth).
Excited as he was, he gladly introduced his younger brother to the drug—who was, of course, affected not only by the drug and the positive effects already mentioned, but by the gratitude he felt for his brother. Though they were never ones to introduce age into the bargain, this was one scenario where William was eternally thankful for his elder brother. It was a moment that strengthened their bond—they were not just brothers, but friends.
‘I just can’t believe it’s illegal,’ William began, passing the joint to his brother. Christopher inhaled, held the smoke for three seconds, and slowly exhaled, enjoying the sight of the smoke. There was a tactile pleasure there; almost as if the smoke was relaxation incarnate.
‘Of course it’s ridiculous. Did you know the Prime Minister smoked it when he was at Eton?’ Christopher laughed at the absurdity of it all.
‘Why doesn’t that surprise me? “Do as I say, not as I do,” right? What a joke.’
‘It would be a joke—if there weren’t people in jail. It’s ridiculous. There are people on “cannabis watch”—you know, Harry got caught smoking near the barn in his car, and they put him on it!—and their futures are going to be affected. The people in charge organise the country so that you need all these bloody documents… degrees, CVs, all that; and in the process they make life so boring that you can’t help but want to escape. Most people drown themselves in alcohol, but the few who find this magical plant get threatened by the law?’
This was not merely the rambling of a stoned young man; it was a point many, many intelligent and passionate people were dying to see a politician answer honestly.
‘I’ll never understand it,’ said William, finishing off the joint; ‘they’re quite happy to drink their whiskey at night, but it’s not all right for us to smoke a joint? Is it any wonder…’
Christopher looked at his brother, pointing downstairs. It sounded as though their mother was coming up the stairs. False alarm.
‘Is it any wonder that there’s such a difference between the generations?’
‘Well, I’ll make damn sure my kids know how to unwind with the right drugs.’
‘And smoke with their uncle,’ William joked.
So the conversation continued: relaxed, enjoyable, philosophical. The brothers had never been the sort to fight one another—not since before they were teenagers—but to anyone who considered them there and then, it was quite clear that when they were left alone, to smoke a drug that did nothing but enrich their lives, their relationship was made all the more rewarding. Of course, with time, they would separate, and find themselves spending more time with women—but these memories could never be taken from them, and both considered these times (a little bit of rebellion and bonding under the old family roof) some of the best of their lives.
The brothers laughed into the night. In time, they would come to smoke a little more, and sample the myriad dealers that lived in their area, each with their own preferences for strains, weights and customer service, but for now, the boys spent the entire evening focused around the single joint.
‘Shall we play some Pink Floyd?’
The lot of you.
But I include myself in that; I am one of you, and together we are all bastards. It is precisely because I am one of you that I know how awful the rest of you are: though I don’t subscribe to that nonsense that ‘all people are equal’, I do know that we all have the same faults. Or, at least, there are some faults that all people have. What are they? The very things people acknowledge, but never change, or perhaps more nefariously the things some people refuse to acknowledge.
Laziness. Unoriginality. Delusion.
This is what I can’t stand. And like I said, it’s because I am all of these things; I embody these things. For the first twenty years of my life, I was sure that I was different. I knew that I was destined for great things: how could I not be? I was smarter than all of those around me. I caught on to things quicker. When a hoop was produced for me to jump through—you better believe I jumped through it. And not only that, I smiled as I jumped through it. In that moment, I experienced bliss. I looked at the face of whomever it was that held the hoop—usually a teacher, or someone in power—and in that moment, I looked into their eyes. I was searching for a ‘well done’; a look of appreciation. I thought I got it, or at least I used to when I was very young. But, intelligent man that I was, I also saw something deeper there. More troubling. I didn’t realise it at the time, probably because I had been taught to do what I was told, but I could see that there was a reproach in those eyes.
As I now understand much too well, it was a look of sadness.
In the look of that authority figure, who had set the task so nonchalantly—whether it be a test, an equation or a question—was that look of knowing. They knew that, as able as I was, there was really nothing more for me to do. I was so able. Too able. And this was all they had for me: a silly little hoop to jump through.
Yet I didn’t know that at the time. I would complete my jump, land on the other side, brush myself down and carry onto the next thing. Perhaps another little hoop—never greater than the first—but usually nothing. That was it; the day was done. I now realise that those hoops were put there not only to purposefully waste my time, but they were there to satiate my ambition… without encouraging it. Certainly, it’s easy to trick the ambitious man (no matter how intelligent he is) if you make him feel as if he is achieving something, even though he is not. All one has to do is paint their small achievement as a small step on the path to success, when in reality you divert him away altogether. The nature of time is such that each day feels incredibly unimportant: no one really knows how they achieve anything great, for there is no way for human consciousness to expand past the day. Indeed, we become so tired that we need sleep at the end of every day. We are able only to plan ahead, roughly, and hope that have chosen the right path in our blindness. We feel much more comfortable looking back at the past precisely because it’s not something we are able to change.
Look how bitter I am. As I said, though, I wasn’t bitter at first. I was hopeful, and confident, even inspired. I would jump through hoop after hoop, through all the layers of education necessary—even the supposedly optional higher education, despite the fact that the things I wanted to do were closed off to a man who did not have a degree in his hand—until I reached the grand age of twenty-one. It was at this point that, at the height of my powers, I realised I was really exhausted.
But why? I had felt that it had been so easy: how, or why, was it that I felt as though I could handle nothing more? Perhaps it is because I realised that my ‘education’ had not been designed to instil me with the tools necessary to achieve what I really wanted to, but instead had been designed to subtly teach me to accept the orders of those in power: to jump through these set of hoops and to be grateful for the wage I got at the end of it.
What I never learnt was how to become the one with the power.
I had never earned a penny in my life: I had refused to work because I wanted to focus on my education. That was the very activity that was to guarantee me success in later life—and here I was, two decades old and feeling completely exhausted. I felt undermined: where had my energy gone? It had been spent on these little tasks; these hoops. I realised very quickly, after a short burst of euphoria, that the very activity that was supposed to have strengthened me had crushed me.
My body was not stronger for having jumped through hoops: my knees were arthritic, my ligaments were on the point of tearing and my bones would creak all through the night.
I was twenty-one, but I felt sixty.
I had put in enough work to deserve my retirement—but I was only supposed to be starting upon the work.
Needless to say, I wasn’t up for it. I hadn’t earned a penny yet, let alone a pound, but I wasn’t going to start at the bottom and work my way up. I wasn’t at the bottom: I had been at the top of my class the entire time. And I had gotten there through talent, but mostly through hard work.
I knew immediately what I would do. I was intelligent enough to see the state of things: I had been born into the world without choice, and had been brought up largely without a decision. Of course I was thankful to be literate, and to have benefitted from the culture in which I had been immersed—but was I then really beholden to that society? Was there anyone in particular that I owed something to? My parents were the logical choice: I treated them very well; as well as I could do. I was a focused, a ‘driven’ individual, and for that reason an anti-social one—but I gave my parents what joy I had. Apart from them, however, I could not find any one person that I owed anything to: the state was not a person. I had broken no laws, and had in fact aided my peers wherever possible: was that no aiding the state?
What more did they want from me?
I addressed these questions to myself, but of course they were really rhetorical: there was no one asking anything of me. It appeared as though it was my decision to leave.
What tempted me the most was the issue of money. I was an ambitious man, indeed—but when I reflected on the way things were, I started to look within and found that what I really wanted was the fruits of my labour. I wanted to be in control of my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet to work for someone else would be to lose control in doing what someone else told me to (despite any reservations I had) and also losing control in the form of putting money into the pockets of my bosses. And why? Precisely because they were the authority.
I saw no way of manoeuvring without losing the dignity I had amassed. Make no mistake: those who work hard, even if they do not possess financial wealth, make up for it with great stores of dignity. Often, this lies just beneath the surface. They will gladly be told what to do, will accept commands from above (despite there being no justification for it whatsoever) and will take pay cuts without question—but attempt to step on their dignity in any way that does not involve money, and they will roar, and they will very likely crush you. And why? Because dignity is real: money is not.
Indeed, it was money that lay behind all of this. And I do not subscribe to the thesis that ‘money is the root of all evil’: for it was the very thing that gave these people the opportunity to become powerful. It was simply that they did not make the most of their opportunity. Their education had been too successful: they felt that they were one of those to whom life happened—when the reality was that all it took to become powerful was the belief that life was something they could control.
And I do not think ‘power’ is the problem; certainly, there is nothing morally off about it. All I wanted was power: the power to control my own life. If I wanted to work, I wanted the chance to work: if I didn’t, then I shouldn’t have to.
Money, however, took this away from me. Aged twenty-one, at the great turning point of my life, I realised that the freedom I had always assumed was mine—the one I acquired at birth—had been taken from me, piece-by-piece. What did I need to do to regain it? Earn money. With each pound I saved, I would be clawing back the chance at freedom: if I spent it, I would be spending my freedom. And then I would have to earn it back again.
If I wanted to travel, I needed money. If I wanted to enter a new country, or sail, I would have to purchase a passport and a ticket. There would be no building my own boat. The wood I might need was not mine to have; the tools would have to be bought; the places I wished to sail to would ask me for my purpose of visit.
As I write this now, I see the answer clearly: I have made the right decision. The only decision I really could have made. But it took me thirty years to come to this decision: yes—I caved in.
My passion, my dignity, my sense of ambition—it all crumbled. I became scared. This, I believe, was due to an inherent weakness. I had learnt only to jump through hoops; at the first sign of hardship (let alone this major decision) I had nothing to offer. For a few brief weeks, I thought I had made a sensible decision in attempting to bridge the gap.
Yes, I thought; I will use my intelligence to earn lots of money. I will embrace business, I will become the man with power: I will come up with something that will earn me lots of money, and I will thus have earned lots of freedom.
Yet that quickly faded: pressure mounted on all sides. ‘Why haven’t you got a job yet?’ ‘How are you going to pay for rent?’ ‘Buy some new clothes; you’re not fitting in with the latest fashion.’ ‘You’ll never get a job if you wear that.’ The questions came from all: my parents, first and foremost, who, although intrigued about my plans to make lots of money, were wholly committed to the view that they—and thus, their offspring—were not one of the people who would ever be rich. The only ones who could become rich were special people, and neither they nor I were special. That was their thinking: and, though I resisted it at first, my hurt and my ambition eventually gave way, and I took a job.
I was indeed the lowest on the ladder; I hated it, I hated myself and I hated my past. All that I had dreamed of was now a waste: I would not be achieving it. Perhaps the cruellest realisation, and the one that really constructed a ceiling barring me from ever looking upwards again, was the fact that I had essentially doomed myself.
If I had only accepted my position in society in the first place, I might have found myself in a better place. If one is going to accept wages (and thus hand over the keys to their life), one might at least aim for the highest wages. I, on the other hand, had stuck fast to my simple, but apparently impossible, dream of controlling my life—and as a result, I had wasted my entire youth and was now stuck with the minimum wage.
What did intellect matter anyway, when those who ascribed to the way things were with good behaviour found themselves in a far better position?
So, as I turned twenty-two, I found myself a sensible job, with a sensible (that is, low) wage doing something I didn’t much like, but that I was more than able to do without thinking about it.
That, after all, was the key: thinking was the problem.
So I began the phase of my life in which I discovered I was more than capable of the very things I had always disliked in others: laziness, unoriginality and delusion. Yes: I was extremely lazy. Performing my job as I did, I became lazy in all areas of life. I would wake up each day, head to work as if on a conveyer belt, fit snugly into my work station and—at a brilliantly slow pace—would start the day’s work. It was almost as if when I arrived the last of my energy was converted into a sort of waking sleep. I was very likely the most productive worker, and yet I put in so little work that it’s almost embarrassing. The most amusing part of it all is that I was never called out. No, I was never praised—but I was never criticised, either. Laziness, however, is what I realise I exemplified: I paid little attention to my hygiene, my out-of-work interests (hitherto known as my life), my ambitions, my dreams—none of these seemed to exist anymore. When I finished work, I felt a refreshing sense of relief; it was almost a feeling of freedom. Of course, I did nothing with it: I returned home to watch television. Books, which I had always found great pleasure in, became irksome to me. My eyes were tired from my day’s work; television did the work for me. I didn’t even have to move my eyes from left to right. Television was so kind that it presented the moving pictures for me. And if I closed my eyes, it would talk to me. I missed nothing.
Soon enough, the few hours that comprised my evening (or my free time) quickly passed and I had to get some sleep—otherwise I wouldn’t be able to perform my job the next day. It now strikes me that I should have tried to go without sleep: I’m quite sure that I could have done my job in my sleep. I may even have died from sleep exhaustion; I wonder if they would have noticed a corpse sitting in my workstation instead of me.
Unoriginality, this second vice, was of course inevitable: what scope is there for originality if one is performing the same function day after day? I now realise that there were people possessed of some originality around me—the ones who leapt over me in the corporate ladder. Surely they must have done something original to do so; must have come up with a new idea, or saved some time. Perhaps they realised that certain jobs, or certain workers, were really a waste of time. Luckily, I always kept my job.
I can understand how this must be quite difficult to understand—how could I have gone from being truly ambitious to collapsing in the space of a year? It didn’t happen quite so fast, but it didn’t take long. There was something particularly stifling in the building where I worked, and in the city where I lived. The route I took each day seemed to become part of the job itself, passing as I did the endless stream of people who looked like me, dressed like me and had the same numb expression on their faces. Yes, it was part of the job—except I didn’t get paid for it. In fact, one of the last interesting thoughts I remember having (and this was over three decades ago) is that I was sure I had earned my wage within the first hour or two of arriving for work. I wondered where the last of my money went—to whom did it go? I’m still not quite sure; I always wondered why I didn’t profit from it. Perhaps this mystery is why I found myself becoming lazier and lazier and less original: nothing was really needed from me except the bare minimum.
The process was very quick, as I said.
I fell into a coma.
What do I mean by this word, ‘coma’? Precisely the usual definition: I lapsed into unconsciousness, and I did not possess the power to awaken. It was, in that sense, quite different from sleep—although the few pieces of information I received from my senses represented a sort of nightmare to the young man who had grown up with such high hopes. I was not conscious; I really believe it is impossible to call oneself conscious if one does the same thing, day after day, whilst ignoring the worries that the deepest part of us acknowledge. The same things we all feel so passionate about in youth—the time when we are unblemished, and passionate, and not yet resigned to the way things are… the way things have to be.
When one finds oneself rising for the thousandth time, looking slightly worse for wear, a little more tired, a little less enthusiastic, to perform the same job, the same arbitrary function—safe only in the knowledge that, if one can keep their job, they will be performing that same function for many years to come (although the one great worry is if one will indeed keep their job)—yes, if one does all these things and no longer possess any recognition of their own ability to change these circumstances… then that person is not conscious. They have forsaken their own ability to control their lives. Though I am loathe to say anyone ever loses control of their life—for where else can our notion of responsibility come from?—it is in these tragic circumstances, which are so much a part of the way things are, that a human being comes closest to losing control. Though my memories of this period of my life (the great bulk of my life) are foggy, the images that appear to me are almost always of those who seemed utterly resigned to their fate. It is written in the faces of all who think that life is out of their control:
They laugh, they speak and they smile as though they were as free as the day they were born—but hiding behind these apparently genuine emotions is tiredness, a certain exhaustion. World-weariness. It is very likely that they have convinced themselves that they are indeed happy with their lot in life, but at certain times—usually in that moment between one emotion and the transition to the next—that they reveal something about not only themselves, but the world they live in. They immerse themselves in the comforts of the society in which they live, and though it really is true that they are free (at least free to succeed, and thus earn a little of their freedom), they do not believe it. And because they do not believe it, they are not.
And I was one of these people. My life now is almost over; my youth was stolen by ambitions that I did not fulfil. For so many years, I existed in a heightened state of awareness: ready and willing to fight off all those who said that I should fit in, and give up on my ambitions. I remained true to the identity I felt was not so much crafted, as really written for me—but when the time came to stand strong, the moment when I really had to decide what to do with my life… I succumbed. The notion of going without the comforts I had become reliant on, if only for a few months, seemed impossible. I now realise that if I had only been brave, and had relied on my wits, I could have made it: I could have been the man I dreamt of becoming.
But I took the job.
And, in a sense, I reprogrammed myself. I began to immerse myself more and more into the company. My ability to stand apart from the corporation, the set of documents and words, the pretence that was the entity for which I worked—all of that faded. Within months I would no longer wake up thinking of my life: I would think of what work I had to do. I did not spend my time dreaming of my future: I dreamt of how the company would evolve, and how I could increase the speed with which it grew. In under a year, my autonomy ceased to exist.
I struggle to trace it all: for it is impossible to relate the story of how one lost consciousness. I remember only what happened before, and where I am now, having escaped it: the great bulk of my life is indeed foreign to me.
What I do remember, precisely because it aroused and alerted me, if only briefly, to the change in myself, was the period in which I met and fell in love with my wife. Here, too, in abstract, I can only cringe: for I was determined never to marry. ‘Why would I do such a thing?’ I used to argue; ‘Why add a legal document to something already difficult to terminate?’ I said this not with bitterness, although I did feel some resentment towards the break-up of various earlier relationship (who doesn’t?), but quite simply; logically. ‘If the love between two people, or at least the bond they share, cannot keep them together, why should the paperwork of a marriage? If such a thing is necessary to scare them into staying together, they almost certainly should not do such a thing. Why make a split more acrimonious, more painful, more drawn-out? Why add the numbing artificiality of legal proceedings to the most painful emotional trauma one can experience?’
So, I married. Read more…
The issue of thinking about the mind races off in various directions depending on one’s approach. For example, one might think of the mind simply in conversation (where everyday life would be the material explored); one might approach it from a neurobiological view or one might approach it from a philosophical view (and here, either in the strict academic sense, or the more literary approach I will be following here). Whilst studying the Philosophy of Mind at university, I was at first put off by the fetish analytic philosophers seem to have for defining things, naming them P, B1, P* and then creating neat propositions (which I find reductive, in many cases), using these in order to argue vehemently with someone else who is obsessed on a single tiny point and usually completely wrong. Yet the more I read, the more I began to get into the subject and ignore the errors of those writing, finding a comfortable place where I was able to use my particular background (as dual philosopher-artist, rather than straight philosopher) to bring some originality to the subject. A number of thoughts that arose, whilst I listened to my lecturer recite endless formalised arguments, struck me as not only interesting, but important. Here, I shall not try to explore the subject at any length, but simply state and explore some of the interesting little facts I think will be interesting to anyone remotely interested or fascinated but what’s going on up there. Particularly one. As this is the case, I will simply state the major factor I think is really worth thinking about up front, as simply as I can:
Your mind isn’t where you think it is.
Regardless of whether you think “the mind” and “the body” are two separate types of things, or whether you think “the mind” in some sense derived from ”the body” (i.e. the brain), there is feature of being a human that we tend to forget—simply because we are so used to being vehicles of perception, rather than reflecting on how we perceive. Namely: your mind isn’t where you think it is. In short, I guarantee that you think your thoughts feel (in some sense) as if they are “around the head”. Am I right? I certainly feel that way. Whilst I am writing this, I can see not only my computer screen, but also my hands typing, and other objects in my peripheral vision. I am thinking—I know that much. And, I must admit, it certainly feels as though my thoughts are within—or at least near—me. This is my key point: thoughts are not inside our bodies. There is no place where the mind connects to the body. The reason why we think our mind is around or in our head is because vision is the dominant sense. That is, we believe our thoughts are in our head because that is where our eyes are: and our eyes completely dominate the way we interact with the world. (To add to this fact, we know that our brains are right behind our eyes—which, as it happens, is purely because our eyes need to be connected to the brain, and having them as close to the brain as possible makes a lot of sense, evolutionarily speaking.) Read more…
“But it is sometimes just at the moment when we think that everything is lost that the intimation arrives which may save us; one has knocked at all doors which lead nowhere, and then one stumbles without knowing it on the only door through which one can enter—which one might have sought in vain for a hundred years—and it opens of its own accord.”
— Marcel Proust, Time Regained, p. 898
This passage highlights much of what I love about Proust, and what I attempt in my own writing. Here, Proust gets it right. Note that immediately, I blur the line between Proust and the narrator, Marcel. The use of the narrator possessing the same name as the writer immediately raises the issue of autobiography. Proust, of course, wished only for the text (rather than biographical concerns) to matter. I sympathise with this, to an extent. Despite this wish, I see the text as the purest part of Proust; that is what I am interested in both in reading and writing. Writing, and especially novels, are the place where I come to find out what the real substance of someone’s existence is—whether a great from the past, or myself. In breaking down the brilliance of this passage, I shall highlight the components in order of importance and assess their cumulative effect.
The primary component of this passage that makes Proust so unique, and the very thing I aim for in my writing, is the nature of the content. This passages is not plot: it is philosophy. The passage opens with a short slice of wisdom: “it is sometimes just at the moment when we think that everything is lost that the intimation arrives which may save us.” This is fiction, indeed; but this is the sort of sentence which is unique to the novel, yet is also largely missing from many texts. In fact, there are whole novels which avoid any use of this effect. These are the novels I criticise, for focusing on simplistic entertainment without seeking to get at deeper truths. I find modern literature in particular suffers from this lack of incision. Yet this is precisely why I write: to get at what it is to be human. It is in these brief moments of wisdom that the author behind the text speaks directly to the audience—even if they are separated by hundreds of years. The use of the first-person narrator is, of course, helpful here: it lowers any form of curtain blocking us from Proust. We know it is him telling this, though framing it via the context of the story.
My love for Proust stems not only for his inclusion of these moments, but the fact that he writes the book in order to write them: the story and characters inset in the novel are there almost solely to give Proust a framework to dole these moments of wisdom out. The address gives it away: the narrator does not even phrase the wisdom as “just at the moment when I thought…”; the address is to every reader, to “us”. We find the pronoun “one” used here as the philosopher’s tool of choice in addressing all of humanity at once.
The initial slice of wisdom is then expanded via the use of analogy. Here, Proust uses the familiar imagery of doors, in which the choices we make in life lead us down particular paths. He also adds an extra point here, though it is subsumed at the level of the analogy. The equivocation of the initial wisdom—the use of “sometimes” and “may” imparts this effect—is overwritten here. The reason the others paths did not work is because this was the only door open to us. This has overtones of a belief in fate, though the point works equally as well when we consider the only course rather as the best course. Life, of course, is full of these moments of serendipity—and Proust captures this magic in this passage.
The content and execution, then, is typically philosophical—Proustian, or Labernic. A fact about the way life is, embedded in a fictional text. The form of the piece is equally unique. This passage is one sentence; the standard “snaking” Proustian sentential unit. We find here one semi-colon and one pair of hyphens. The initial thought contains the little aphorism; following the semi-colon we find the analogy of the door, and within the set of hyphens we find the hyperbolic statement that one “might have sought in vain for a hundred years” in finding the door. The overall effect is beautiful. It demonstrates not only Proust’s ability to pick out something true about the world, but his mastery of the language and of thought. It is one thing to speak wisdom; another to so subtly explore it and carry such delicate wisdom across various clauses. Certainly, there are elements of Proust that are not for everyone—and no person or artist should ever attempt to replicate the work of others. Yet by understanding what it is that a genius does so well, one can seek to stimulate that quality in their own work, and add it to their own unique strengths. The world as I see it is crying out for more writing like this—though the principles seen here could be utilised in various genres, not just the novel. True originality is always in desperately short supply.
The combination of this content, this mode of thinking and writing, and the actual form Proust uses, is where his genius lies. He blends together all of the crucial elements that we so admire in fiction: having something to say, having the bravery to say it, and being original in doing so. That is what makes him stand out, and is also what makes him an inspiration to those who, though driven by grand ambitions to create masterpieces, look around them and see only a mass of mediocrity surrounding them. Proust proves that artistic integrity, along with originality, always has a chance of being recognised and appreciated—even if only by young, passionate artists born 110 years later.
It’s been a while.
For me, 2013 was the toughest year of my adult life. It has always been one of the great features of my existence that whenever life is going well, my art has too. Similarly, if my art is not going well, that is evidence that my life has not been going as smoothly as I would like. You need only glance at the portfolio page to see that 2013 was a barren year. However, though mistakes were made, lessons were learned. My output may well have been what I consider criminally low, but I have learnt much about life, and myself—much that was at first brutal, but now is something I am extremely proud of.
One thing that has not changed is my unwavering faith in my writing and myself.
To that end, a number of incredible opportunities were presented to me towards the tail end of last year (it wasn’t all bad—far from it). These things are so wonderful in nature that they almost single-handedly justify every decision I have made—certainly as regards my notorious position on employment (that is, what constitutes “work”, and what one means by “time well spent”). I shall not reveal all too quickly, or rather I shall wait until things are set in concrete before I declare anything in public. Regardless, there is much work to be done before then. That is where this website comes in. I would like to justify what has happened in the past 18 months, and then explain what I plan for the future. Though no reader yet takes this website, or my career, as seriously I do, I feel that I owe it to those who may have missed my work.
In 2012, this website was the spine of my existence. I made no secret of the fact that 2012 was the greatest year of my life; it is no coincidence that this website, and the work ethic it inspired in me, was a large part of that. During the summer of that year, with the London Olympics proving that the entire nation was undergoing one of the great moments in recent times (certainly since I have been born), I began work on my first novel, The Protagonist. For nine solid weeks, I wrote 2,000 words a day. Those were probably the best nine weeks of my life. Not one day went by when I did not hit my target. Not one day when I didn’t feel I was doing what I am here to do. Regarding novel writing, I was as good as thought. Regarding “reality”, or more precisely, the world of publishing and of linking my individualist mentality with the idea of a society at large—I was completely at a loss. In 2012, I realised that, as mature as I was, I was not yet mature enough. I was too excited by fulfilling the first of my great dreams (writing a novel) to actually succeed in the second (getting my first novel published). I did not write a second draft; I sent the novel off, in its incredibly raw form, to one agency. It was read, but returned. At the time, this was crushing. The sort of questions that have always plagued me (“Am I not good enough?” “Am I not as good as I thought?” “Perhaps this isn’t going to happen…?”) came back in full force. Very quickly, the leisure time that that summer represented was over. The Olympics channels that had been my daily source of wonder before my writing began, clicked off. Forever. University started again—the miserable second year. I was not published; in fact, I felt further away than ever. I had done the work, and written a huge book—but my great dreams had not come to life. I now realise that I have, and always have had, the tools; what I lacked was the maturity and knowledge of how to construct a path to those dreams.
The second year of university began. Some particular domestic turmoil pierced all optimism; I was essentially a zombie. However, I threw myself into my second novel—The Nihilist. At the time, I unreasonably assumed that my lack of publication was due to the nature of my first novel, rather than the lack of polish I had given it. I started this new novel with a specific set of goals: for it to be shorter, more compact, more “traditional”, yet still retaining the unique essence that I know exists in me, but that can only be translated and preserved in my novels. I completed it in March 2013, and promptly repeated my mistakes. Though I once again set it out—raw—I did received some positive feedback. Yet by sending it out raw, there was no way I could have succeeded. If there is one mistake that has defined me thus far, it has been my unwillingness to work on old projects. I have always been focused on the next project—a reflection of my attitude in life. The past means nothing to me: the present and the future are all I really care about. But that is no way to create stunning pieces of art; not polished pieces of art.
Shortly after receiving the bad news regarding my second novel, I spent around five months in a sort of personal hell. One word alone can capture every element of that period: nihilism. Pure, complete, thick, total nihilism. I need not expand on it here—there is much to come on that subject. Regarding this period, however; the website, with its focus on short stories and poems, fell away. I had put little effort into growing the website. I had received no traffic because I sought no traffic. I relished the isolation of novel writing, for the most part—but I hated knowing that no one was reading my work. I will always write, for I would surely die without it—but to write something to help others and for it to be left unread, is perhaps the greatest torture that can be inflicted on me. The sole pleasure I had was in knowing that eventually someone would read it. But that was not good enough; it was a tough time, and I began to question the model I had chosen. That period, however, is over. Novels—amongst other things—are still the great monuments by which I measure my life and achievements. The important thing that I now realise is that this website is just as important.
What will happen
If there is one thing that makes someone of an artistic temperament feel worthy of life, it is to be prolific. A look at my portfolio, or the music page, will show that I have put into practise the great maxim that “potential means nothing; only achievements matter”. Enter: 2014. Following last year, I now have a totally clear picture of my function as a human and writer. I will continue to write novels, along with other big projects (to be announced): but I will complete these projects. I will revise them, polish them, and work at getting them published. Certainly, this is the one element of the lifestyle I have found most unnatural—but the brutality of the past 18 months have made me a far wiser and more resilient person. I know what to do; I will do it.
Thus, I am able to entertain all that I love. Those works will be written—but so too will shorter works. So too will more personal entries. Not diaries—far from it. Yet blogs like this; that which is relevant to my art. If I could have had access to my favourite artists, I would have greedily followed their daily life, and attempted to interact with it. I have already wagered my entire life on the idea that I will succeed in my decision to be an artist (if there is really a choice in it at all), so I can see no reasonable criticism stinging me. If I am judged unworthy of such an outlet, then consider me unfazed. I am a naturally reserved person, and it is for these reasons that I have shunned social media (particularly the telling outbursts of emotion that one later comes to regret). I know equally well how artificial one’s internet appearance is: it is merely a projection of how one wishes to be viewed. In a place such as this, however, I shall not fall prone to any of these unfortunate traits: I have already bared my soul in every work of art I have ever created, and I am equally adept at using the shadows to my advantage.
One thing I am very clear about: if you have visited this website, then you deserve access to the eponymous author at the heart of it. I have no qualms about it; I have much respect for those who visit my site—I even respect those who view it to spite me. This is a rapidly changing world, but I am glad that the spoken word still possesses as much power as always. A website like this is the natural modern extension of it.
So: what can you expect? Details will be worked out, but I have thought long about how to structure the website (and even longer on its design, which I only now feel represents both the unique spirit of the site, and the aesthetic I have always desired for it). I believe this is the best design the site has received yet. I have always been happy with the content-oriented approach, but have been unhappy with the overall feel. Naturally, I reject the idea that I would pay or use someone else’s theme; I do everything I possibly can on my own, in all areas of life. Finally, I think I have made the breakthrough. The overall structure of content is the same as ever: links across the top, with a portfolio and about page accompanied by the latest essays, stories and poems, with the music page having a stationary listing to be manually updated. I have improved the readability everywhere possible, with lots of line-spacing. Single posts are wide, whereas the home page is slightly constricted to allow for the sidebar to provide newcomers with a brief overview of the website and a search bar. If you have any criticisms, please let me know.
This, then, is the content this website will provide (with at least two creative items a week):
- Blog posts. As I hinted at: this will now not only be a place for my work, but a place for me to unveil what it is that interests and tests me—things that I do not wish to write about. I am most excited about this element of the site: I wish for it to grow in stature, and eventually pull in some decent traffic. I want this to be a place for all those who wish to see what it is like not only to be a writer in the modern world, but to me. I am utterly resistent to letting myself be exposed on other websites—but I am quite happy to do so here. The move, as always, is yours: if you come here, you know what to expect. (Or maybe you don’t…)
- Poems, stories and essays. As before. I love to write, and I love to have people read my writing. I love people to comment and discuss what I’ve spoken about. I am not one to comment on some other site, for I feel I will be lost amongst the crowds. If my opinion is sought, then here is the place to see it: if it is not sought, it will not be heard.
- Other writings. In 2012, I hinted at other types of writing—reviews of my favourite music, and so forth. This is something I intend to make good on. Expect a lot of passionate reasoning on The Beatles and Pink Floyd, and especially on television shows. (This will be a unique approach, I assure you.)
- Music. It has always been a great dream of mine to have all my music concentrated in one place. I’m not quite there yet—for it is scattered across various hard-drives. Of the nominal albums I have compiled, however, this is now true. Please visit the music page to see an overview of the music I have created (and will create in the future). As ever, everything is free to download. I have sample tracks from each album; visit my soundcloud accounts to see more.
- Big projects. This is something I have been thinking about. I am as yet unsure how I regard the big projects I have worked on. Extracts are available from my first novel, and I think they will be from my future projects. The main problem I have is that it would be unwise to have various copies of my lifeblood floating around the internet; I shall need those copyright manuscripts to make my living. This is still a debate in progress.
- Various forms of distribution. I am thinking here specifically of ebooks and .pdfs. I would like to have much of my work available free—collections of stories and essays, for example. Of course, making them official ebooks and selling them on Amazon would allow me to track stats in a most satisfying way. More to be thought of here.
- Social media. I have been reticent on all forms of social media. Now that this website is very much alive, I shall be using them more—with the express purpose of growing the traffic here, and engaging with all those who read (or listen to) my work. I shall be using facebook, twitter and tumblr. As such, any shares, tweets or reblogs on the respective communities is more than graciously received. It is the greatest favour you can do me, other than reading my work. I thank all those who have done it in the past, and pre-emptively thank all those who will do it.
I hope to have provided you with an overview of all that has happened since this website essentially “went offline” for all intents and purposes—and to have explained my plans for its future, which begin today. As my career grows, I see this website becoming even more important: a great writer should welcome the internet. The key is to remember that it should never be intimidating. The internet is a powerful tool, if one is confident; I hope to make this a constant example of such a usage.
Thus, I welcome you to the new lukelabern.com, and invite you to read, share and engage with me here. I hope 2014 is as good a year for you as I am sure it will be for me.
All of us are concerned with living well.
We may not all be philosophers, though we all, at times, engage in philosophical thinking. It is my view that whenever a human being engages in philosophy, especially regarding their life—whether their identity, their moral status, their purpose or any other issue—they are doing the single most important thing possible. All of us wish to live better, and when we philosophise and think rationally (rather than emotionally), we are extremely likely to improve our life in a variety of ways. As such, I am going to present three trains of thought for you to consider. The number three is arbitrary; my life is dedicated, in essence, to the task of improving my and other’s lives. The number three is, however, a catchy number, and because it will lead to a short essay, will allow me to write three things that I doubt anyone can reasonably argue with. As such, by focusing on just three very simple but very important things, their impact should be that much more profound.
I often make a habit of writing similar notes, but once again: please think through each point extremely carefully. Undoubtedly, the three thoughts here will be ones that you have not only heard before, but will have thought about—but what I am asking you to do here is to consider them very precisely, carefully and slowly. I will phrase them in simplistic terms, but the power and import of each idea has, in reality, the power to change your life. In truth, it would be impossible to ever really drain each of them of their vitality and full meaning; so anything you can gain from them will be most helpful. I know that I, personally, continue to learn about them and myself every day I continue to exist.
One other thing to note is that the points may actually seem to contradict one another. This is precisely what I was referring to earlier: misjudging the true important of words and concepts, and thinking “Ah, yes, that old cliché”, rather than actually considering what it would be like to put that concept into action, allows very subtle thoughts to be construed only as generalisations. I shall touch on this point later on, but I thought I should note it here at the outset.
By “better”, for the record, I mean more successfully, more happily; the term can really mean whatever you want it to mean, but for me, the best life is the one filled with the most success, the most positive emotion, the most strength, the most power and influence and the most authentic fulfilment of one’s potential.
1. Be ambitious.
Life can so easily become a matter of finding ways to “fill” time that it requires an entire paradigm shift to undo this way of thinking. With the gluttony of distractions around us (the internet, television and phones being the obvious examples), we become seduced into finding pleasure solely in other people’s creations. For me, this is as bad as it gets. Certainly, enjoying the works of others is one of the greatest things we can do—but when it becomes your soul purpose, you are wasting life. The case in point here is television. The extents to which people will dedicate their lives to consuming one of the many highly-polished American television shows which purport to be about meaty issues—but which are really quite vacuous at heart, covered up well by admittedly superb production—become an escape. There is nothing wrong with escapism, and indeed I believe it to be an essential element of the modern human condition. But there is a limit. Read more…
Doubt—and its murky brothers, depression and despair—are the least useful states of the human psyche, leading only to the atrophy of existence and the waste of the most precious entity there is: life itself.
They lead to nothing other than casual inactivity and misery, and, surprisingly, are entirely the fault of the man who doubts. For, though it may not seem it, and though many people diagnosed with depression (either by themselves or by others) believe this not to be true, the reality is that at all times the human mind is in control of itself. This is an astonishing fact, and in reality, it is a simple one too—the confusion is that “the mind” has so many subtle varieties of meaning that it is hard to understand quite what one means by the term at any given moment. Even here, as each sentence and thought runs on to the next and is later reprised, the meaning shifts slightly. As such, I would like you to take “the mind” to mean the total entity: different aspects of the mind play different roles (regarding self-doubt and faith in oneself) at different times. The system is closed, however: regardless of whether one’s doubt and misery stems from a mistake they made, or a situation forced upon them, the reaction is—and can only ever be—theirs, and theirs alone.
Needless to say, there will be much resistance to this idea, from various quarters. ‘How can it be my fault that I feel like this, when they said such hurtful things about me?’ ‘How can it be my fault that I feel like this, when my own mother died?’ ‘How can it be my fault that I feel like this, when she broke up with me?’
No doubt these points seem reasonable at first—for, who of us has not used them ourselves?—but if we are being truly rational, and really are prepared to get to the truth of the matter, rather than simply make ourselves feel better, the simplest response is this: how could the way you are feeling ever be anyone else’s fault? After all, is it not you who feels the way you do? Is it not you who fuels the anger, the misery, and the grievance? ‘How dare they!’ Well, no one is doubting how vile humans can be to one another, but the more important point is this: if you simply responded to said event with the words ‘Well, what a poor excuse for humanity they have displayed. I have learned how not to act, and I may congratulate myself not only for acting in a far greater manner, but I will allow myself a smile of either contempt or confidence: continue to act that way. It not only displays me in a greater light, but fuels me.’
Granted, one does not have to respond with that exact phrase—and, indeed, the actual words used are irrelevant, and will differ from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance—the difference was solely in attitude. The first response (‘How dare they!’) was based on a mind-set that is pathetic in two ways: the first error was to allow the weakness of another to cause weakness in oneself, and the second was to assume the arrogance of a non-existent moral high ground. On this latter point, one should always remember that what another does is, really, none of their business: no one of us is in such great and consistent control of themselves that they have enough energy to manage and control another human being as well. Let others do as they please, and expect them to allow you to do the same: intervene where necessary, but remember that you cannot force another human to do anything. Freedom is the most important value of all. No hurt of your own displaces that fact. Their life is theirs, yours is yours—which relates to the former point, which is really the subject of this essay. To allow the mistake of another to precipitate in yourself the error of depression… is really to double the original mistake:
If you see what you consider an error, or a powerful wrong, do not complain about it—do something more profound. Never forget that mistake, and do all that you can to never make it yourself. Set the example for yourself and others—and take pride in that fact.
In being told that depression and self-doubt are always, at core, the responsibility of the suffer, there are a number of automatic self-defences that are brought up instinctively. It is most natural to defend oneself when being told that you are in the wrong. It may be the case that you are expecting me to argue that these must be strongly countered, for it is this sort of instinctual thinking is what the irrational lies in. In most cases, this is absolutely what I would do—but, in fact, the reverse is true here, and it proves my point most effectively.
The moment you began to consider that each time you have been depressed, have doubted yourself, or have felt miserable, it has really been because you were not able to stave off those feelings, you undoubtedly felt offended. ‘How can I be in the wrong, after what they did?’ Well, if we ignore the content of this retort and analyse what underlies it, we see that really this is borne out of self-confidence. Indeed, even during our darkest times, when we feel so low as to want to die peacefully—or perhaps painfully—so as to extinguish what little life we have left, we are always able to summon this self-belief. ‘I may feel awful, but you disgust me. You are in the wrong.’
This is fascinating—and a most important fact that can serve you as well as any drug can when you are desperately seeking an amelioration of your mood and sense of self.
It will help, at this time, to use an example—though please remember that the principle underlying this is universally true. No matter how down and out you may feel, no matter how timid and weak you consider yourself, no matter how much you fear the gaze of company or another human, there will always be within you this capacity for outrage. It may appear only briefly, or seem to you quite frail in itself—but it will be there, and it will guide you out of whatever dark corner of existence you find yourself in.
Consider again, then, the man who has found himself newly single—due to the actions of his partner. As always, there will be a multitude of emotional angles (the anger, the misery, the confusion, even a sense of the absurd) but what we are interested in here are two: the standard feeling of rejection, and the much more interesting feeling of anger. ‘How has this happened? We were so perfect…’ Such will be the words spoken post-break up. Once the break-up has occurred, and is certain, there will be a sort of wall between the past and the present: this wall will stop the man in misery from realising what actually caused the break-up. Quite clearly, this couple was not ‘perfect’—far from it. Despite this obvious fact, the (quite possibly broken) man will continue to chime that ‘the relationship worked—I’ve got to fight on; I’ve got to give it another go. This is what love is all about; fighting for one another…’ Then there is an all-important pause, and what seems like a logical thought runs on: ‘besides, I don’t deserve this.’ Here, here is what really matters.
Though at times the same man will be found spouting nonsense, blaming the break-up solely on himself (‘I pushed her to this…’), the reality is that no relationship is even remotely perfect, and it is not only clear that all relationships must end, but it is healthy. It is especially healthy considering the amount of time and attention people give their obscenely-badly matched relationships rather than their life, but still the man may well continue to lie to himself: ‘she is the one for me… I’ve got to get her back! I’m such a dog, such a monster; how could I have wasted my opportunity!’
All of this is pointless.
The vital thing is to return to that moment when the man argues to himself that ‘I don’t deserve this’.
In truth, it honestly does not matter: perhaps he did deserve it; perhaps he did not. It is more than possible to reason either way, depending how persuasive the argument. What matters is that nestled in between those moments of despair, depression and doubt, is a little glimmer of hope. The moment the man stands up for himself, and realises that he is an individual—that all he can ever really control is himself, and himself alone—is the moment the man has in his hands the secret to a successful life. The question is whether he can close his fingers around this precious object—or if it will slip right out of sight. It is a powerful thought: that in one’s darkest moment can be found a secret to heights he has hitherto only dreamed of.
And how, you ask, is this moment so powerful? How is it used?
The answer is already in your hands: by understanding that you control your mind.
Within you is the capacity of misery and for triumph, for desolation and powerful control of all around you: this is a fact. The difficult part is simply in learning to accept this truth. It can sting a vulnerable ego, but the rewards are so impressive it is worth almost any sacrifice. In the example given, there are two outcomes. The moment can be ignored, or considered equally valid to the despair, and if this happens the despair will utterly consume the man and all will continue again. (It is worth noting that mistakenly identifying two unequal things as equal can have truly dire consequences. It is important to get things right; important to identify the truth in matters that may not seem vital.) The second is what will constitute the latter part of this essay: grasping that moment of control and holding fast to it. Controlling the mind is a simple logical point. To achieve well it requires dedication to the idea and a conviction to seeing it through.
Rather than build the argument further, let me demolish the alternative. Far from being needing persuasion, for such a wholly positive and helpful idea, it will be a far greater use of time to destroy the other option. Let us consider, then, the idea that we are not in control of our mind. What then?
If this is true, every success, every moment of happiness, every moment of confidence… stems not from you, but from somewhere else. Where? Your partner? Your friends? Your family? Strangers? Is it really logical to say that it is the down to every single person who is not you that you feel the way you do? You, the only person who has experienced every moment in your life… the person who feeds, cleans, maintains and carries around your body, develops your mind and cultivates an image—that person isn’t in control? The point becomes even more absurd when you consider that these other people are really dependent on everyone else. Take your role model: is it really the case that they are not in control of themselves, that everyone else is responsible for their success? It may seem convincing to argue that certain people can cheer you up when in a darkened mood—and there is no doubt that they do provide a stimulus. But who has not felt awful when really they should have felt much better? If you are not able to stimulate yourself to smile when receiving good news, it is as if that news was of an entirely different nature. If you are not prepared to receive help, the help is useless.
I am not trying to say that we are all alone, all isolated from each other—clearly, we are all connected. What I am utterly convinced of—and I hope that you, too, agree, for it is a profound thing to realise that one has control of their life at the most fundamental level—is that whether euphoric or despondent, the key to sustaining or changing your mood, status and your entire life, always has been and always will be, entirely within your hands. As you read this, you already possess all that it takes to fulfil your dreams. Whether they are modest or ambitious, there is nothing stopping you except yourself.
This is not simply uplifting news—it is also a burden. If your success (be it financial, romantic, physical or philosophical) is entirely yours to craft—so too is your downfall. If you cannot motivate yourself to use each day, rather than let it pass you by, it is no one else’s fault but yours. Indeed, a death, break-up or terrible mistake may well provide a persuasive reason to spend months in self-pity, but in reality, it is your choice to escape this. I say this not from a height: too many times I have found myself questioning my talents and my character, my chosen purpose and my very existence—and too many times have I wanted to end it rather than continue. I have sunk to the depths of doubt more times than anyone could ever wish to know.
But I have risen, each time, and it is from these depths that I have drawn this knowledge. These dark times could easily be described as a waste of my life, but for the fact that each time when staring in the mirror and asking myself if I was ever really worth of the things I dreamed, and which method of suicide would be the most noble, I have realised that to come from such a depth is a powerful act in itself. To stare at your life at the most abstract level and condemn it as worthless… and then to realise that, no, a life is by definition an opportunity, and to literally pull oneself up and rebuild oneself again… is the most important thing a human being can ever do. To crawl from one’s lowest point to health is worth the misery. One learns more about themselves and life itself than most people ever do.
To rebuild oneself and to know that all time is now a gift—though it always has been—is a precious mind-set, and leads to greater relationships, a greater use of time and a powerful focus. To come from wanting to die to wanting to live more than anything, is a majestic feeling. It may be tempting to think of that person as forever weakened by their lows, but the reverse is true: recovering from those depths is testament to the strength of the human spirit—its will to live, its will to survive, its will to flourish.
Indeed, we have moved on several stages from where we began—but such will be your journey if you accept that you are responsible for everything in your life: the successes and failures, the decisions you make, the friends you keep, the actions you commit to, even the moments you choose to back away; all define you, and all are yours. To finish, then, let us return to the man suffering despair after a break-up.
His eyes are sore; his body is weak. He awakes each day from nightmares, feeling as though he really has no control over his life. And yet, as his thoughts continue to run and run, to the point that he feels nauseous at their speed, he continually finds one persistent thought cropping up—just for a split-second—every now and then.
I don’t deserve this.
Again, from a purely logical view, there is only one sensible action. If you are now convinced that, at heart, it is important to take control of your entire life and everything in it—including what powers others hold over you—there is only one thing to do now: take control. Re-cast the words in whatever manner you see fit. Vitally, make the move from being offended at being broken up with, to being offended at feeling the way you do. Saying ‘I don’t deserve to feel like this’ is a far more helpful thought than ‘I don’t deserve to be broken up with’. It is the right of everyone to break any contract they wish. It is the right of any partner to end a relationship at any time, even if the circumstances may paint the situation ‘unfair’ (right before an exam, for example). The truth is that we only have one life, and to waste any of it for any reason is a disgusting misuse of the most precious resource we have. The partner had every right to end it, but the man is right: you don’t deserve to feel like this.
Fasten on to this thought, hold it dear. Let sadness dissolve and let anger take its place: the same intensity of negative emotion can find a much healthier outlet in anger. No emotion should be ignored; all have their place. Anger, however, is a motivator—unlike sadness, which is a menace that only incapacitates otherwise powerful human beings. By all means, grieve—though by this time we are assuming the man is finished and is fed up with sadness. It is time to stop blaming others for your position, and realise that how you feel is a reflection of the type of thoughts you think.
If you think negatively, and long for the past—you will experience only negative situations, and will be anxious about the future.
If you think positively, and long to change your future for the better—and if you have the passion to see it through when challenges arise again—you will dominate all ahead of you, and you will become a successful human being fulfilled at both the simple and grand level.
All of this truly stems from this vital step: taking control and accepting responsibility. The man in this example made the decision to enter the relationship, and with it accepted that it would end (either by a decision, or death): to pretend that the break-up is not his choice is a grave error. The same is true in all walks of life: if you can read these words and process them, you have control of your life.
The thoughts here may well be controversial to some, and if they are too challenging, then these people are entitled to let them lie—but they will have to accept that when those who take full control of their lives are succeeding in all their goals and relationships, it was, in reality, their choice not to take the advice. There is no escaping this fact; there is only acceptance or denial.
The question, then, is this: are you prepared to extend that feeling of satisfaction you take when you know that you have succeeded because of the choices you made… to your feelings of despair? If you can, you are in possession of an incredible piece of knowledge—a life changing piece of knowledge.
The thought is simple, but its power is as profound as life itself:
Your life is yours, and all that you do is a consequence of your decisions—whether you choose to embrace it or not.
The problem isn’t what to do
Because nothing is worth doing;
The problem is what to do
When it’s all worth so pursuing.
The intricacies of indecision
In harbouring the inadequacy
Of clear-cut moral precision.
Half-heartedly playing society’s game —
Whole-heartedly holding on to the pain;
Elliptically remaining the same,
Stunned by the cyclical appreciation
Of art and “artists”, of people and values
Who congratulate depreciation
And believe what’s on the news.
The world has so much more;
Untapped, because upheaval
Doesn’t interest those with interest
Adding to their wealth.
But wealth is not an evil —
Who stated such a lie?
Wealth isn’t money, or greed — it’s
How it feels to comfortably get by.
So who is really rich?
The bankers or the businessman?
The ones who scratch the itch?
Wealth is to understand.
Yes — to know that life is worth living.
If only because death is written;
One may as well see it out
In the hope that one is smitten.
Sweet sorrow in parting, as such —
That’s the spirit; realising that
We all possess a certain
Lying awake, concentric circles
Channel Christ in the dark —
Not because he’s a supposed God’s son —
But because he got things done.
His life and death mattered,
If only in allegory —
But who could ask for more
Than a part in the story?
And so the pages press together
As the syntax encapsulates semantics;
We hold fast to optimism
Because we’re all Romantics.
The problem isn’t what to do
Because nothing is worth doing:
Life is glorious because each day
Is endlessly renewing.
Life is meaningless. If you can’t see that,
Open your eyes. Work to the bone —
Work hard with the weight of the fact.
Smile in crowds — cut when alone.
You and I both know that all of this
Is but dust in the wind. Make
What you want. Shit. Clench your fist:
In the end, she’ll take
It all. There’s no getting out alive —
But why succumb? Why be a slave
And waste your greatest years? You could thrive.
Instead, you’ve earned got a pension and a cosy grave.
Alienation’s a buzzword — but why not use it?
I was born to die, and I know it well:
I’d rather spend it all than lose it.
You know, I really believe in hell:
It’s a life spent from 9 till 5 in the search for cash.
You have a boss? Well good for you:
I’d rather spend 70 years being thrashed
Than do what someone else tells me to.
You know what — why finish this?
Why fulfil your fucking expectations?
Why splell correctly? fuck correxions.
I’ll do whatever the fuck I want. Whether love or hate, birth or death — whether writing in rhyme or spilling over the fucking line — FUCK YOU whilst I sail away and drown myself. Stop reading this poem and passing judgement; quit your job and quit the society too. None of this is real. We’re animals grazing in the mud. Enjoy it. You have the ability to think, to love and to give weight to “being”. Do that. Don’t answer your fucking emails. Don’t finish your fucking degrees. YOU CAN’T TAKE THEM WITH YOU. Yes, you need money to eat. (You don’t.) Will money keep you happy when you’re sleeping alone because you wanted to make money rather than spend another night with your lover? You’re already dead. I’m going to be depressed in the future, and I’ve been depressed in the past, but right now? I know the secret to living life. That’s to take what everyone says, spit on it and write your own story. I couldn’t give a fuck what happens next, because right now I know exactly what it was all about. So to my future self, and everyone else: do something, or kill yourself. You’ll never catch me up cause I know what really matters more. Can you guess? Is it FUCKING MONEY, or a FUCKING KISS?