We are not invincible. Far from it. At times we are fragile, fearful and fallible in our attempts to navigate our route through Life's highways and byways. Ruby Wax proposed that our brains aren't geared to deal with the 21st Century. She's probably right. We like to convince ourselves we are strong, in charge of our destiny, a provider for our family, confident in our work and all round good person. In this Modern Age the pressure and stress to fulfil multiple roles simultaneously means we are juggling with too many balls , so sometimes you just have to drop one or two to keep the others in motion. We all want to be loved and to love but we don't want complications. We seek constant approval in all areas of our life. Whether it's from a partner, work or family or social media friends, we crave approval for our actions. It could be a pat on the back, a thank you, multi likes on our latest status update, but we need to know and show we mean something to someone, somewhere. We post videos, photos and links to say to the world "This is who I am, what I like, my politics, my sense of humour. Please agree, like me, poke me, reply, reply...now". It must all stem from an underlying insecurity about who we are, how we function, what is our role in this New Age.
It was only yesterday, in relative terms, we underwent the Industrial Revolution which was a great leap forward in so many areas, we had electricity, we had the first rudimentary phone, we had manned flight and the printing press. We had light, a phone to chat, we could fly and we had newspapers. We had trouble ahead, is what we had, as each advancement in technology made our lives seemingly easier, more convenient, more fluid and faster so that we would have more time to ourselves. Invention never stops. Invention is infinite though our brains don't expand accordingly to absorb this data. There is no finite point where we can say we have invented all that needs to be invented even though we could live quite happily with the Betamax, VHS or bulky, unwieldy TV's, it's just that we don't want to. We want the latest fad gadget even though its a tad tragic, our insatiable need for newer, lighter, brighter, faster, slimmer, cheaper appliances.
The downside to this conundrum is though we want these things to make us happier, it is very short term, as way too soon they are superseded by another model. Our happiness has a built in obsolescence as well as the gadget. On top of this we now have a very high dependence on the very things that were supposed to make our lives easier. Many people today only live in what we can only call a " partial reality". They are not 100% focused in the here and now, they're not stopping to smell the roses, they're stopping to check the wi fi signal strength. With all the baffling technological data, news, theories and clinical marketing we become bombarded and bamboozled. Somehow we try to assimilate it all. Is this healthy? Will it become the "asbestos" of the future which was cheap, light, easy to use but ultimately you breathed in the dust and it killed you further down the line. Will we suffer overload, blow out or malfunction? Will we need a reboot or re-configuration? Who knows and who's paying attention? As my girlfriend Jane once said "When people say your life flashes before you on your deathbed, how much of that will be ad breaks?" It wasn't such a flippant comment as we don't really choose what our brains retain, do we?
Here's a simple exercise to help you live in the now, to give your full attention to something, to slow down for a few hours, to give something back to yourself and enhance a friendship maybe. You will need a pen, a good pen, one that feels good to hold in your hand, a pen that is only used for this type of exercise. I bought a hand crafted bamboo ballpoint in an artisan fair in Seville specifically for writing in longhand as I was missing the flow of the pen. Sexier than tapping a keyboard. You will also need three sheets of paper and an envelope. What we are doing is a slight derivative from a book called The Artists Way (a Spiritual Guide to Creativity), which helps unblock Artists, aids conscious or unconscious thought and is definitely about the Now, not next week. Make a cup of tea or beverage of your choice, sit down, get comfortable and write three pages stream of conciousness style about anything. You could write about the weather, what you had for breakfast, your fears or your feelings or what you are going to do today. The subject matter is not important it's the process of writing that counts. After you have written three pages put them in an envelope. You could send it to yourself, as reading back on your thoughts at a later date can be illuminating, or to a friend if you had that person in mind. The point is, this is a reference to how you were at that point in time, the full you, at that moment. In the "Artists Way" you do this exercise first thing every morning, even before you are fully awake and you will be surprised what comes out. You are unblocking and tapping into some of your creative juices with little effort really on your part, you just let it flow, let it flow, let it blossom, let it grow.
Last Xmas my four year old received an unexpected handwritten letter from her grandmother in England. Her excitement knowing it was for her, as she checked the mailbox, seemed to exceed the pleasure in her many presents We had to read it to her over and over again. When asked what she got for Xmas her reply was always "I got a letter, I got a letter". How many of us write letters any more, we dash off a poorly spelt text message or bang out an email and then spend minutes, hours or whatever itching for an instant reply or we feel rejected, disappointed or unloved. Write a letter to someone, relax, get a reply, whenever, and the joy in opening and reading at your leisure is far better than a hasty missive pinged through the internet. It worked in the past for us oldies and our parents and some of us may still have a treasured trove of mail from way back. I still have my first love letter written in pencil from a besotted 11 year old. Handwritten letters show someone cared enough at some point to slow down their day, gave some thought to the message, bought a stamp and physically posted it. Old fashioned values in a new-fangled, tangled world.
We have to award ourselves a time out from our hectic schedules to reward ourselves for just Being Here or else what is the point? I moved to Spain to simplify my life, to live in a little hilltop town of 10,000 people with a village mentality. They have lived under Franco, they have known hard times, they have a strong community spirit and they look out for one another. They say "Hola" to strangers in the street, they show interest in all small children, they live in the now because who knows what tomorrow might bring? They do not suffer so much from one of the evils of the Modern Age which to me is Too Much Choice. In every aspect of our lives the multiple choices we have to make seek to confuse and complicate decision making. Are we on trend or out of the loop? Am I fashionable or questionable? Am I an I Phoner or an I Diot? By choosing to limit your choices you allow yourself more time to do other more interesting things that Life offers.
My other posts have been about Depression but all of the above is relevant to alleviating it, thinking and acting clearly, not cluttered with multiple options, consumerism and confusion. You have a choice, you have a voice, be heard amongst the herd.