Virtuality

It would be disingenuous of me to say I hate the internet and Social Media. I blog and link it all to Facebook. But I’m not exactly in love with it all either.

The internet provides a platform where people can connect and interact in ways that would otherwise be impossible. I’m sometimes inspired by the blogs of others, and the creativity and courage of their authors. But there needs to be a spark of credibility or it all collapses under its own weight.

The internet can of course also be used as a playground by the fantasist. It is not always easy to readily discern what you are actually looking at. Caveat Emptor.

I am slightly bewildered when people inform me that their best friend is someone they have never met. This does not compute. I once met a woman who told me that her daughter was engaged to a man she had never met. It was a ridiculous proposition.

When I used to do internet dating I had a rule of thumb that if someone I contacted wasn’t happy to meet over a coffee or meal within two or three weeks,  then the likelihood was that they were either just pissing around or had something to hide. Even if that were not the case, such reluctance suggested to me that perhaps they weren’t really in a place to deal with reality on some level.

I was heartened to meet several reasonable, genuine women who had exactly the same attitude as me. They too had found that men that wanted to perpetuate virtual contact indefinitely were generally not quite to be trusted. It is so easy to hide behind a virtual facade, it is reasonable to assume such behaviour is suspicious.

 

My favourite blogging psychologist, Jeremy Sherman, is fond of the principle that we constantly make wagers with the world. Bets. We use our instincts and intellect to make good bets and avoid bad bets. But they are still bets. A good bet can turn out to be a losing one, and a bad bet can turn out to be a winner. It’s a natural human weakness to be overly influenced by outcomes. “My friend placed a lousy bet and won so maybe it wasn’t such a bed bet after all”, or conversely, “I placed a good bet that lost, so now I’m going to question if it was a good bet to start with.”

It’s always worth questioning your bet-making algorithms, as long as you aren’t swayed too much by the specific outcomes of individual wagers that you make. Some people are afraid to make any bet unless it’s a one horse race. They want a 99.99% guarantee of a return on their investment, signed in blood and delivered in triplicate.

Life isn’t like that. That’s a recipe for paralysis. It’s a question of balance. You need a lightness of touch, and be willing to lose. I like the novels of Milan Kundera, and you are in trouble unless you can wrap your head around The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the way that decisions and choices made in the moment have a habit of spiralling into the future and eventually become your past.

2016 awaits. I will blog. Hopefully connect virtually with some interesting folk as a result. Take it all with a pinch of salt. Strive for credibility. Look for it in others. Try and make good bets and not worry too much if I lose a few.

Happy New Year.

 

 

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Metta Bhavana

I have dabbled with Buddhism. Never enough to call myself one, although I once would perhaps have described myself as half-Buddhist-half-biscuit. Probably a chocolate digestive at that.

There is a Buddhist meditative technique called  Metta Bhavana, or sometimes more simply “Loving-kindness” meditation. Metta is a Pali word that means benevolence, friendliness, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, compassion, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. Often just lumped together under “loving-kindness” for ease.

The practice has a number of steps, in which one cultivates benevolence to an expanding circle of people as follows…

Second step: a good friend;
Third step: a “neutral” person;
Fourth step: a difficult person;
Fifth step: all of the above equally;
and then gradually the entire universe.

Last night I had dinner with old friends, which was lovely. I had to leave to catch the last train back to Leeds and was running through a quick verbal check that I had remembered to pick up all my stuff, hat, wallet, phone etc. Someone chirps up…

Pheromones. Don’t leave those behind whatever you do. They penetrate even the internet so God knows what havoc they would wreak if you left them here.

She was being nice, albeit a tad over-stated. What she didn’t know was that I am currently in a different phase of that particular wash-cycle. The part where I’m more interested in getting used to being single and not really caring about it. I am somewhat mercurial and my moods can shift rapidly, so sometimes people can’t keep up and it isn’t their problem.

Another friend interjected

Hey my wife’s sister and mother did internet dating so they can’t all be bad…

This was a confusing statement. His mother-in-law? The one who doesn’t listen to a damn word anyone says??? Dear me. But then again, his sister-in-law is a different prospect. A woman with all the native cunning and implied devilry to make a man (or a man like me) perk up on the coldest of winter days. I probably shouldn’t admit that, especially as she is happily attached, but fuck it.

There is another Buddhist principle that implies that we can find a place to stand, internally speaking, where you can observe yourself from a distance. From that place I know a few things. I know I will cycle through oscillating attitudes to the prospect of dating again. It doesn’t change how I feel today, but I know that I will feel differently at other times. It doesn’t change my unpredictability. It doesn’t lessen the appeal of my friend’s sister-in-law, or diffuse my irresistible urge to state that inappropriately.

I’m aware of all those observations. Ultimately, I can’t help being me and so very human.

Oops. I just realised I missed out the first step when I described the Metta Bhavana.

First Step: Extend compassion to yourself

If you can’t do that, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.

I recently stumbled across a pat description of the process of psychotherapy, which paraphrased goes something like…

  1. Figure out you’re an asshole.
  2. Figure out you’re no bigger an asshole than anyone else.
  3. Quit worrying about being an asshole.
  4. Quit judging others for being assholes.
  5. Get on with your life.

Do that and, paradoxically, you’re not such an asshole after all.

Collapsing Poem

I can’t help being drawn back to Kim Addonizio again and again. I love her craft, searing self-knowledge and unblinking honesty. Things to which I aspire.

Collapsing Poem

The woman stands on the front steps, sobbing.
The man stays just inside the house,
leaning against the doorjamb. It’s late, a wet
fog has left a sheer film over the windows
of cars along the street. The woman is drunk.
She begs the man, but he won’t let her in.
Say it matters what happened between them;
say you can’t judge whose fault this all is,
given the lack of context, given your own failures
with those you meant most to love.
Or maybe you don’t care about them yet.
Maybe you need some way
to put yourself in the scene, some minor detail
that will make them seem so real you try to enter
this page to keep them from doing
to each other what you’ve done to someone,
somewhere: think about that for a minute,
while she keeps crying, and he speaks
in a voice so measured and calm he might be
talking to a child frightened by something
perfectly usual: darkness, thunder,
the coldness of the human heart.
But she’s not listening, because now
she’s hitting him, beating her fists against the chest
she laid her head on so many nights.
And by now, if you’ve been moved, it’s because
you’re thinking with regret of the person
this poem set out to remind you of,
and what you want more than anything is what
the man in the poem wants: for her to shut up.
And if you could only drive down that street
and emerge from the fog, maybe you
could get her to stop, but I can’t do it.
All I can do is stand at that open door
making things worse. That’s my talent,
that’s why this poem won’t get finished unless
you drag me from it, away from that man;
for Christ’s sake, hurry up, just pull up and keep
the motor running and take me wherever you’re going.

Formatting

Am I the only one who gets a bit frustrated with this medium?

Take my post from yesterday, The Finding. Even on my PC there were a couple of lines that broke over two lines when they were supposed to run across the page.

I just read it on my phone and it’s butchered, none of the form is left and it’s left fractured.

Perhaps I need to use a different template as right now its tough to get anything down that isn’t written in short lines, and even then, the phone version is likely to mash it up.

*scratches head*

 

 

The Finding

I had to negotiate to get in here, this place.
This house was guarded good by some jobsworth building supervisor
with cracked curling sneer, disinterested in my investigations.
Sun’s low and the brown dry dust films my parched lips,
blown up from the filthy pavement;
I run my tongue over the gritty residue
and there’s no place round here to get a drink.
This house is condemned.
They’re just waiting for the permit to bring in the guys
with their dynamite and ‘dozers to flatten this wreck down.
I kick open the door, lockless, ‘cos there ain’t nothing here worth takin’ any more,
and that low slow burning sun cuts deep into the shadows inside
through the dancing motes and the stale stench of old memories and fungal spore
that drowns my nostrils in strange acidic revulsion.
There’s an old mildewed chair here on its side,
wooden legs scratched and gnawed by teeth of beasts
that must be hiding here someplace, watchin’ and waitin’.

I fall on my knees. Searching. Longing.
I ram my hand into a hole in the floor to wrench up a board,
the sound of cracking tearing wood disturbs the splintered peace,
and I whip the flashlight from my pocket to peer into the secrets beneath.

It’s there.

I catch the reflection of light on cold hard metal
and I thrust my arm down, coat catchin’ and tearin’
and my fool’s hand blindly reachin’ round
to catch a hold of it,
to get some purchase on its sweet slick surface
and my fingers slide over the smoothed out corner
‘til they find the stub of a handle and I lift it up,
wrestlin’ it through the tight space into the room
and I lay it down like a baby.
I’ve waited years for this, years of shame,
years of huntin’ and searchin’ and prayin’
for the time when all prayer stops and the truth rings cold
and the devil’s paid off and my soul is sold.
I flip the catch, and catch my breath,
then slowly creak the ancient lid into its open inclination
while the light pours out and streams across the wounded floor
to race up walls and into cracks so old and deep so fast
it would make an aging hooker groan for more
‘Til the whole damn room is full and bright
and shining out with opalescent light
while I cup it up in my big, soft hands
and tender breathe it into trembled life.
My voice.

2015 in Film

This whole “not blogging for a bit” thing isn’t really happening for me. I may be developing a bit of a writing problem…. I was thinking of positives in 2015. What films have I seen at the cinema? I have some small-ish children so we have:

Minions, Home, Big Hero Six, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out,
Shaun the Sheep, Pixels, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

I actually really love the craft of animated films. It’s impressive, and the plotlines are usually fabulous. Except Spongebob. That was two hours of my life I shall never get back. The best of this bunch was certainly The Good Dinosaur, a film I would be proud to have written myself. Twin themes of family and the overcoming of fear, both subjects dear to my heart.

Adult stuff? A bit thin.

Inherent Vice (with best mate)
Kon-tiki (in Norwegian with subtitles)
Second Best Marigold Hotel (with psycho-woman)
Big Eyes
Theory of Everything

I have no idea why I went to see Kon-Tiki. There is only so much dramatic tension to be had in half a dozen men sitting on a raft and, well…just floating. That was my first foray out with a local film appreciation group. It was also my last. It resembled a day trip from the local hospital’s Brain Injuries Unit. Marigold and Theory made me cry. So did some of the kids’ films if I’m honest.

I live in hope that one day I will see a better film than Cinema Paradiso, but I doubt it. It covers everything – love, loss, remembrance, growing-up, home, belonging, friendship, dislocation. All the things my blog purports to be about, one way or another.

I have a ritual. Every new girlfriend got to see Cinema Paradiso. I must have seen it a dozen times now and the end still makes me cry every time. (I don’t inflict it on my children though, they need to be older to appreciate it). I’ve yet to meet someone that really gets it. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong.

I never watched it with this year’s fling though. We didn’t really do things like watch films. She always just wanted to go to bed. After a few weeks she did confess to being an emotionally grasping nymphomaniac (her words, I kid you not) which is roughly when I should have voted with my feet, but did I? Did I heck. *sigh*

She complained that her previous boyfriend had been impotent but I reckon he was just normal and couldn’t keep up.  He was a lot younger than me so I’m vaguely pleased I could rise to the occasion. The denouement was after four long hard months, at a music festival. I wanted to…watch some music. I think she just wanted to spend all weekend in the tent.  I took a mountain of unexplained flak before she got in the car and drove back to Yorkshire without me. Left in the middle of a field. I felt….discarded.

But I digress. I recommend Cinema Paradiso (NOT the Director’s Cut which ruined it) and The Good Dinosaur, if you haven’t seen them.

OK back to *not blogging*. As if.