Pompeii

I didn’t wake up angry this morning, which is a pleasant change from the last couple of months. That is because last night many feelings within were successfully translated into words, onto a screen, and that’s a step forward that’s not happened since about August. There was also important confirmation that I’m not alone: others feel the same way. Of course, that’s always been the case, but sometimes it is confirmation in the moment that matters more.

Validation changes everything.

There are countless issues with Social media, so many that you could fill books (which people have) but then you must ensure appropriate balance. One of the countless good things about Social media is its ability to hold a mirror up to privilege. Just because you learnt about something yesterday does not mean it only then began to be a problem. Except, of course, that’s how so much of modern life now seems to play out.

There’s a 2014 film adaptation of the events that led up to the destruction of Pompeii, which unsurprisingly was not a success [*]. The tagline for the film is simple: ‘No Warning, No Escape’ which presumably reiterates the historical facts available surrounding Mount Vesuvius’ eruption: people didn’t have time to escape the incoming pyroclastic surges. There is a lot of data on the explosions, yet little or no idea of the human cost. I think lots of smart people left when the eruptions began.

I’ve often wondered however of the mindset of those bodies forever frozen in lava.

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Why are these two things in the same blog post? If you pay enough attention, natural disasters are becoming a big deal. Once upon a time you got days to prepare for storms: now it can be hours, sometimes less. Suggesting people be prepared for the unexpected is also met with derision or anger: this is never going to happen to us! Why should I care about being prepared when that’s clearly the Government’s task to deal with…

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Are there people in your timelines so resistant to change that they fail to register that not only are they capable of doing so, by that very action they can help and encourage others to think differently…? I know, many people just don’t care. They live in a bubble, confident nothing can destroy them… just like those people who are now lava statues in Italy: all that mattered was life, up close, until the moment of death.

I think we should all be preparing for the unexpected.

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I don’t believe those victims of the eruption in Italy were caught unexpected. Part of me senses they refused to leave until it was too late, that fear of the unknown was the real reason for their demise. There’s enough known about eruptions now to guarantee that there would have been signs and open well before the final destructive denouement. Did you believe the omens? Were you listening to the right people?

There is nothing wrong with being afraid, it is a part of being alive. However, if that fear begins to adversely affect your life… That was me, a few years ago. I’m getting better with each passing day, and with an important Mental health Day coming up tomorrow, we’ll talk about that journey more then. For now, I see you people who are projecting your fear, and I don’t want it. As I said above, you can go away.

Being prepared for anything is a smart way of making life feel more comfortable. When you realise there’s no escape from the inevitability of Mother Nature’s rapidly changing behaviour because you were in part responsible for it taking place? Many things alter forever. You don’t get to go back to being innocent and non-culpable. It’s time to put on the big girl pants and make things better.

Change becomes a necessary part of existence.

[*] Knowing how a film ends can often destroy the immersive experience, and this disaster movie’s conclusion’s been history for centuries… is that why it failed? Nope. It wasn’t very good. Ho hum.

Superstition

I read an article over the weekend that suggests, quite rightly, that being angry is useful, assuming that ire can be channelled effectively. This has been happening for a while: identifying what it is that causes emotional responses, then dictating the means by which that can be converted into something more useful. It’s not that anger doesn’t have value, either: as a poet, that kind of strong, inescapable emotion has an awful lot going for it. Expression can be a tough ask however: today, we’ll start fixing that too.

Things that Make me Angry, by Sarah aged 52 and a Half

People

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That’s it, nothing else on this list. People are the problem. Watching them destroy environments and fuck up each others lives whilst at the same time choosing to wilfully ignore all the stupid shit that takes place in other’s existences. I also utterly count myself in this Angry List: personal actions sometimes are very much worthy of promoting both rage and disappointment. So, how is it possible to make things better?

I don’t think anybody really can expect to have that kind of affect on large swathes of humanity. Looking at alternatives, by far the best course of action is to attempt to affect change in small doses, a person at a time. That means starting with yourself is a good beginning. So, how do I stop myself getting angry currently. Hmm… it’s a tough ask. So much bad news. So many potential disasters on the horizon. Where do I even start?

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The answer, of course, is to not be so hard on myself. By learning compassion for self it is easier to separate feelings, making a decent attempt to rationalise what’s going on. Then, it is all about the business of being able to adequately describe how things make me feel so that the process can be translated from brain to page, and then becomes easier to explain to strangers.

Having now managed to crack this, at least in part, it is time to take the issues out of brain and onto a page. Therefore, this is my starting point: if you make me angry, there’s a far greater chance going forward that will be explained, using language that effectively communicates both reasoning and response. This is NOT an excuse to cause further conflict however, that needs to be properly quantified.

This is not the means by which things are made worse.

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That whole thing about being the change you wish to see in the world? Ghandi was spot on. This is the means by which change happens, and I can not be scared of it.

So, let’s roll.

Begin Again

Religion has an awful lot to answer for: wars, plagues of frogs, beards… the list is endless. At it’s core however we, as humans, should grasp its true significance. This is a system of control. All religions present rules for living a good life, suggest means by which this should take place. Most religions reassure that it’s okay, death is just a transitional state when the reality is a lot more bleak and frankly frightening for most. Religion, simply put, was a requirement as man developed free will and curiosity. It was the means by which people could be dictated to, whilst selfishly playing on basic fears.

The reality for billions of other people however is that religion is an essential, brilliant part of their existence. It allows them peace and focus to become better individuals. Faith provides vital communities that care and clothe, support and understand: nurturing development, granting vital peace to those at the end of their existences. Religion provides means by which existence is both understood and continued, and it is the love within hearts and minds that can bring so much good and happiness to bear.

Both these opinions are equally valid.

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Religion is the first place where, I now grasp, the true value of compromise was learnt. My first direct experience with the devout was not pleasant. However, it taught a lesson that only now after nearly thirty five years has registered as the norm. Allow other people to believe what they wish, and respect that right. Nothing else really matters in the world right now than being able to exist with each other in a manner that will then allow us all to work on the more pressing issues facing the environment.

Except, of course, other people’s priorities are different.

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After a life-changing event on Friday, a lot of priorities have been shifted. Over the next few weeks, as these alterations become more apparent, there will undoubtedly be some changes. That includes making reasoning more flexible. It is becoming apparent that a lot of basic knowledge on interacting with people has never really been properly grasped during my lifetime: this is a very good opportunity to start working out where the holes are.

Every day is a school day, remember.

Let the Right One In

Anyone making money off the Internet cannot afford to upset anybody. The plan has to be, like it or not, that anybody’s money is good right up to the point where people get hurt. That certainly seems to be the case with Gab, a social media platform ‘that doesn’t police hate speech’ which had the rug pulled out from under it by infrastructure providers after one of their number went on a shooting rampage in Pittsburgh. With each new outrage comes the call for other places to crack down on hate speech. Without strong leadership from places normally meant to provide such guidance, individuals and organisations are taking matters into their own hands.

This month’s #Narrating2018 soundtrack on the IoW site covers great speeches from movies and TV, and for my last entry… there’s two films that do some very good work screwing with the fundamental set of rules and beliefs for a proportion of religious folks in the Western world. Bruce and Evan Almighty might seem like fluff, or an excuse to make God even more contentious, but inside both movies lies a significant, beating heart of enlightenment. Can you really change the world without massive organisations behind you? Of course you can, you just have to want it enough.

It may seem sometimes like there’s a massive mountain to climb in terms of changing people’s outlooks or opinions, but there’s always a way if it matters enough. That’s the key, of course, why God laughs when Evan complains he doesn’t even know how to build an Ark. None of us are born with the tools required to overcome our lives. EVERYBODY has to learn. Your willingness to do so is a measure of our flexibility as human beings and demonstrates a desire to grow. Those who can only see their own inflexibility, narrow minded thinking or are constricted by fear… well, we all know what happens then.

Giving a platform to hate is utterly unacceptable. However, ignoring it is, at present, probably a greater sin. Hoping somebody else deals with the issue isn’t going to work either. So, whilst some’s response is to filter out noise and ignore the issues, people are dying. Although there’s an understanding of why having a quiet life would be lovely, the reality remains that nothing is not an acceptable response to your way of life being slowly eroded. It might mean some of us have to work a bit harder than was previously the case. I really don’t see that being a problem.

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So, how do you know what works? Good question.

The best way to start, undoubtedly, is to admit there’s an issue that needs solving in the first place. Pick a side (in my case education and truth) and away you go. Nothing will happen if you expect someone else to do the work.

Starting with random acts of kindness is as good a place as any.

Why

This month, we’re doing stuff differently.

I’ve been blogging in various forms for nearly a decade. Just writing that down sends a shiver through the soul: ten years. I’ve been out here for all that time and still, most days, my family doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about. The number of people who enquire about stuff which is clearly recorded here and on other blogs, via social media and elsewhere remains staggering. All these words, and stories, and now poems that most people who say they know me don’t have the first clue about, or comprehension of.

It’s all here, but honestly, who is really listening?

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A survey conducted by the BBC and which forms the basis of a Radio 4 series on Loneliness is fairly damning in the understanding that many of us feel as if nobody is there and supportive when it matters. It’s a constant source of amazement to me that after so long pouring out my heart online, people will still say they have no idea of how I think or feel. The problem, in essence, is complexity: most of us only cope with the basics on any given day, and emotional depth can often be difficult when you’re struggling yourself.

Still here millions of us are, carrying on, in the vain hope that someone might comment with agreement, or at least register the notional understanding of how soul-destroying being alive can be when existence is lived largely internally. It is no wonder that so many 16-24 year olds are feeling exposed: their entire world is laid bare for all to see via Social media. When nobody notices that you exist on that stage, it is understandable why such emotions will be generated.

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I look to more high profile people on how they address such issues, and am continually left wanting. Take the famous author I unfollowed this weekend, whose fortune is being made on challenging people’s notion of self. This man complains that he gets grief on Twitter and so prefers Instagram, because there’s less emotion to deal with, yet this is what he writes about in his self-help books. Watching his Twitter exchanges, he receives abuse for his ideas which in many cases appear to be intentionally fuelled.

Trying to manipulate your environment is what many writers love to do as a means to continue interest, and it works: we’d all far rather enjoy other people’s drama than keep recycling our own. The irony of watching American women argue amongst themselves this weekend over what is the best way of protesting injustice is a perfect example of how, by not actually listening to each other, things never improve. Life slowly degenerates into echo chambers, and everyone believing they’re ‘the only one who feels like this.’

You’re not, really.

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I am a terrible listener. My family’s quite right in this regard, and my aim this month is to not be that person. It’s tough sometimes: my son is 18 in two weeks time and I still remember him on my lap as a baby. It is not the other person who is solely to blame for a communication problem, both of you can do better. I’m also going to do my damnedest to listen to other people too, which is why there’s some hashtags in my post not normally used.

Changing circumstances can be hard, but speaking from experience, the rewards from doing so are considerable. You’ll be amazed at how much in common you can have with other people if the time is taken simply to sit and listen. If you’re reading this and have never commented before, I’d appreciate therefore knowing you’re here, because that alone is the impetus to keep writing and continuing to be motivated. It appears self-serving because, as of today, it is.

Time to start asking questions of the people who I live with, to see what answers come in response.

The Race

Last night, there was a minor epiphany over my gaming lifestyle. In the past year or two I’ve bought a handful of games, none of which have been played with any seriousness, or indeed at all. The reason, of course, is simple; not enough time to do the things that really matter, and still fit in the writing, because most of the titles picked are not easily put up or downable. They take hours to get right and master, and then to retain relevance require you to keep playing. In effect, they consume existence.

It took a blast from the past to remind me of what matters most for gaming as relaxation.

Although some of my friends would argue otherwise, doing modern gaming properly ends up as a job. Even casual playing requires an investment of time and attention that is often enough to drive the sane, rational minded individual away, because they grasp how important it is not to be lost in pixels at the expense of actual reality. I am looking for a part time, voluntary position when it comes to enjoyment right now, and as it transpires a bunch of old DOS games on Steam are probably the simplest solution, because I’m the one who decides what matters and not a group of my peers.

This way, nobody gets hurt.

If you wonder what I’ll be doing as relaxation across the Summer Break? It is time to rediscover the past without destroying the present.

Road to Hell

I knew something was up with Patreon (I think) on Thursday, when someone who I support via the crowdfunding platform started making noise over fee changes. What I wasn’t expecting was the subsequent universal meltdown when it became apparent that my initial understanding of what was going on turned out not only to be the truth, but an intended part of the company’s business plan. I’ve spent a bit of time reading corporate forecasts over the years and know that you don’t lie to your investors if you want to remain a viable concern. This, to my eyes, is a company prepping itself to either a) get bought out by a larger concern or b) make more money than they already are. They are, in essence, a beautiful metaphor for what is considered ‘successful’ online.

Patreon have made their name by enabling individuals the company do not consider as successful. That’s a pretty significant smack in the face to someone like me for whom their platform has literally become a life-changing experience. Without this ability to sell myself to people halfway across the World, my life would not be as good as it is now. Life changing sums do not have to be in the four figure or upward range. Knowing that more than 20 people would fund me was a revelation. As a number of people withdrew their support from the platform on Friday, each one contacted me privately, pledging they would continue to support me elsewhere.

On reflection, this is how I know Patreon is not needed to move forward.

I’m still very angry, but am not going to start attacking the CEO by name or hounding people via Social media. I can be as indignant as I like: it is very clear to me, looking at the evidence now available, that this is not a decision driven by conscience. It is, purely and simply, the means by which the business encourages those who are not making enough money to leave, or those people unable to organise themselves outside the platform to remain beholden. I saw a company rep suggesting in a message on Friday that Patreon users actively encourage their users to up their pledges in order to cover the fees. I’m not about to start strong-arming people who I know are supplying me cash often simply as the equivalent of moral support to give more.

What happens next however is a lot to do with my conscience and far less to do with the platform itself, which is a change from the situation last week.

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Of the people that I support who use the platform for their own work, all are very much in too deep to easily extricate themselves without serious financial hardship. I am about to hit $1000 made since I started the Internet of Words project. This is a not inconsiderable sum, but it is not huge. What the fuss around these changes is doing is making my low level funders (of which there are many) stop having an interest in the platform. Many will legitimately cite this as a reason for stopping their payments, but for others it will be a convenient excuse to move on. For that reason alone, I think it might be the moment to reconsider what I’m doing and rethink the plan.

I’m fairly settled in what is going to happen next for the Internet of Words. I’ll make a formal announcement tomorrow on the writing blog, knowing that the people that care and wish to support me will continue to do so regardless. That’s the key here: I’m not going to be beholden to someone else in order to secure my success. I want to do this on my own, and am well aware that is possible with the right backing. I won’t judge those people either who choose not to agree with my decisions. That’s not how business works: if I make the wrong decisions, that is my choice to stand and fall beside. In effect, that’s all that’s happened here.

Sometimes, you don’t need to make money to be successful.