Sunday, 15 November 2015

What your ability to love says about you

The latest attacks in Paris are a perfect example of  those filled with hatred instead of love. In a world where every news item is literally about death and destruction, it is hard to imagine John Lennon's world 'living as one'. The opposite of hatred is love, not self love but an altogether altruistic type of love. Love of others and their well being, doing things out of love and not expecting reward, being a person whose actions are always an expression of love. Romantic love is what we see in the movies but we forget that  love is a verb - to love- not a noun- self-love.

When people do bad things they are metaphorically screaming at the top of their lungs that they hate life and everyone in it. It is easy to become bitter, twisted and spiteful when things don't go our way or when others hurt and offend us but the truth is human beings are born with an innate ability to love. We smile unlike other species and we laugh. We feel things emotionally which we express verbally and physically but the process of deciphering thoughts and emotion is again unique to humans. Our brains are wired to experience sensory pleasure- food, sex, even titillating the brain through humour. Our make up enables us to love and hate in equal measure but choosing love over hatred takes wisdom and understanding. It is also surprisingly simple. Have you smiled recently at a complete stranger? Have you offered to help someone find their lost dog? Have you asked the disabled gentleman in a wheelchair wanting to cross the road if you can help him? Have you stopped to ask that young lady weeping on a park bench if she's OK? In other words, have you extended yourself to others out of love for your fellow human beings?

Although loving is simple, having the courage to do so is harder. We are all dancing as fast as we can while juggling the requirements of being employee, boss, mother, father, lover, mentor, tutor, friend, the list goes on. Many times, we hurry on past others claiming we are too busy to stop- the word 'busy' a convenient excuse for not caring enough to enquire after another or even spend five minutes exchanging pleasantries however pointless they might seem. Just chatting about the weather may be the only conversation that little old lady has had all day. Twenty-first century living has turned us into selfish egomaniacs where we place ourselves at the center of the universe. We are the axis on which the world turns and we treat everyone as a convenience who we discard at will like the packaging of our ready-made pizza. The rank disregard that we show others is why hatred has taken prime position on a world scale. We have grown so used to dispatching each other as we prioritise what we consider important that along the way, the cancer of hatred has metastasised. There will come a time when we may not even remember what love is. Those people already exist and they're making a very sick point by hurting others: that they don't care enough to stop, that they have forgotten how to love.

When we stop being able to love we abandon what it is to be human.We are already becoming dehumanised as we are already essentially desensitised to perversity and violence: television and feature films are becoming more explicit in an excess of everything in order to satiate audiences worldwide. What was once taboo is now the norm. Makers of commercial films know their audiences and what they want to see. Is it any wonder that some of the highest grossing movie franchises in recent years that none of them is about love? Look at the stratospheric popularity of violent video games, for example, beloved by lonely, young men the world over.  Children freely watch pornography which has replaced cartoons before the school run. There is a certain inevitability from using TV to control a restless child and for that child to equate an absence of independent thought with real life. Not only is our lust for instant gratification a form of hunger, the more we give in to it, the more we crave it.

If we want a better world, we need to re-learn how to carry out random acts of love. Smile. Say nice things only. Say hello and thank you as if it were the mantra to change the world. Offer to help even if the stress and inconvenience will mess up our plans. Extend ourselves beyond our personal bubble. Let others in. Listen to their stories. To love is to admire and marvel at every human experience, to see past ourselves for once. In the process of acting out of love, we can strike gold- that perfect balance borne out of love is peace. The whole world needs love now and more than ever. So what are we waiting for?

The sweetest irony in offering love is that we find ourselves in the process. A calmness and refusal to be enslaved by strong emotions, gimmickry, harmful ideology or false prophets overwhelms a peaceful mind- the utopia that we seek our entire lives is actually who we were always meant to be.

 Woldingham, Surrey. A most perfect place. Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Why social media is helping terrorists

Think back to the Great War in 1914-1918. News of victories, or the advance of invading armies was relayed by word of mouth or newspapers. A son, father, uncle, lover could have been killed and their loved ones would not know for several weeks, perhaps even months. The war was conducted far enough for the wives, sisters, children and elderly parents to carry on at least a semblance to their old lives. Today, war is a very different animal. Insidious and concealed behind a veil of religion where the interpretation of faith is not the wisest or most erudite. And the impulsiveness of today's fast food generation who want everything immediately is demonstrated by the way terrorists and war mongers use social media. They brag about their brutal and hideous 'achievements' and find a receptive audience with the least effort imaginable.

Thirty years ago when my generation was still typing letters on carbon copies and telex was considered rapid communication, it was wholly unimaginable to conceive of the carnage that the internet and social media would facilitate. While the arrival of the internet opened up vistas and growth possibilities to companies and enabled communication to become more or less instantaneous, no one could have known then how a technological innovation could become a deadly Medusa. There is a debate to be had on whether Twitter, You Tube, Facebook, should be shut down in order to stop the madder species literally dead in their tracks. Without an audience how could they boast about blowing up priceless relics or beheading their zillionth victim or bringing down a passenger jet full of families and children?

Sadly, social media and the internet also serves the purpose of the powers that be, to disseminate information in order to wag the dog. Not to mention the lefties who will march through the streets complaining about their rights to have their ego massaged - who would they be after all, without a selfie? What is the worth of a man or woman these days who doesn't desperately require attention without which they would simply not exist. My point exactly.

Photo copyright SvD.

How what could have been ruins the present

There are moments in our lives when we reflect whimsically upon the past- some are more prone than others to reminisce ad nauseum about a time when everything was better and to dwell on gilded, embellished memories. The truth is the past is a wildly foreign place- one where our recollection of the things we did and the rules we lived by are seen badly through the dense fog of time.

Recent events in Paris led me to amble down nostalgia lane and wonder about ex-boyfriends, whether they had been affected and if they were OK. I also found myself thinking what my life would had been like if I had actually married them. Strangely and perhaps I am hopelessly fickle but I concluded that I probably wouldn’t even still find them attractive anymore. It did however lead me to ask:

As we look behind us did our lives turn out the way we thought they would? And if we were able to revisit our past would we return as we are now or at the age we were then? I'd definitely want to go back in my current mental state; in other words I'd look like the twenty-something year old I was then but with the sabre-like clarity of mind I have now. Had I been this wise at twenty-five, my life would have been very different. I would have been a lot more ruthless and self-serving in the decisions I made, particularly professionally and hell, even romantically. I would have understood straight away that when men say ‘I love you’, they are not always telling the truth which would have in turn spared me a lot of childish anxiety. I would have put myself first and toppled all the other pieces on life's chessboard around me to the ground. I would also have certainly been more ambitious and single-minded about my future.

Ironically, what could have been is not about missing the chance to become more loving or kinder but about the self and its ego; when we look back, the centre of our vision is what we could have done to make our lives easier and eradicate the obstacles and challenges (and pain) we had to endure.  Yet and in spite of all the 'bad' things we have had to experience, it is a combination of what could have been, maybe even what we had secretly hoped for and what was, which have brought us to our current reality. Therefore it is better to forget that old question of whether we would change anything we did in the past of if we regret what we did.

Part of the process of getting old is becoming wiser and I would argue that any part of our lives where we wallow in grief about the past is not only obviously futile but also shows a distinct lack of understanding. Furthermore what could have been is essentially what we wished we had done but our desires then and in the very real present, the now, are completely different. A friend once confessed how much he regretted not becoming a lawyer. He used the excuse that his wife hated him attending night class when she wanted them to spend time together instead. And then children came along. When I asked him how his life would have been different had he become a lawyer, he gave the obvious response: that he would have been wealthier. And to his dying day he would speak about the money he would have made had he followed his dream.  He never really resolved within his mind the decision he had made and so it tormented him throughout  his entire life. Another example, would be the men we rejected simply because we weren’t sufficiently in love. Or in my case, maddeningly, crazily, passionately, mind-blowingly in love, which was the only scale of love I knew. There are moments now when I wish I hadn’t been so capricious because as women up and down the land will tell you, it's hard to find an intelligent, sane, available man these days.  (Women my age have a better chance of being abducted by aliens.)

The expectations of youth and the second half of a life are completely at polar opposites; love is no longer the burning firecracker it once was but rather a more gentle philosophical union of mind, body and spirit. The blush and earnestness of one’s ‘salad days’ are replaced by fewer but more implacable demands borne of a jaded awareness that affection often comes disguised as emotional slavery. And yes, as one gets older, a desire for peace and tranquillity is more alluring than the cacophony of sensory madness.

In the end, when we look at the years which have gone by, and it seems in the blink of an eye, only a wise man would readily admit that we brought about our own punishments in this life. It wasn't always the hand of fate that guided us as we sometimes shot for the stars and missed. Our own choices dictated the way our lives turned out whether for better or worse. Yet, I say this: there is no shame in dreaming, wanting and wishing or grasping the short straw. A wise man ought to suffer the punishment for the wrong choices with grace. Indeed he would be grateful that what could have been never happened. 


Photo copyright SvD.