Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The liberation of loneliness

I am selfish, I am stubborn and subsequently single.  I am so set in my own ways and obsessed with my independence that I tend to push people away.  Unsurprisingly I am not the only person I know for whom this is the case.  At least three close friends of mine seem to be poetically painted within this same frame of mind, but why?  Is it simply that we’ve grown thick skins after wounds of the past?  Or is there something else, a deeper satisfaction in being alone?

There is something liberating about loneliness.  I myself seem to feel accomplished for experiencing something alone, deeply content that I am able to contain things within the privacy of myself; thoughts and feelings that are mine and mine alone, things that no-one will ever know.  I am in love with the ability to reflect, to take in the external and squeeze it between the hands of contemplation so that every last drop of opportunity has been used up.

I like to look at my body.  Not in a creepy bout of vanity but as a point of observation.  I like to feel that I am a being, to recognise that I am myself.  As much as interaction and emotions can overlap between one person and another, it is comforting to me to know that the body is a set form, a frame that distinguishes the self from the external.  However, this shape is almost like a sieve.  We may have a little control over what we do and do not let in from the external, but inevitably there are holes and the external will get in.  We are not free from the influence of emotion.  I often wish I could block these holes, as what seeps through them is what makes or breaks us.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Made in His image...

Recently I found a huge scratch running along the top face of my Macbook, just next to the nice shiny white apple.  I was absolutely devastated.  I even cried in a rage that my once perfect piece of top-notch equipment was now defaced and in my eyes ruined, caused by a fault that wasn’t my own.  In my life I’ve had my fair share of injuries.  I’ve never broken a bone (touch wood), but I’ve dislocated my little finger, got a pool tile stuck in the heel of my foot, and had various other cuts and bruises on my arms and legs.  I attended a dance school (as well as a normal academic school) for 14 years of my life, where I tortured my body day after day.  If you’ve seen Natalie Portman’s feet bleed in ‘The Black Swan’ you’ll know what I mean.  If I combined all of my injuries together, the emotional trauma would not compare with that I felt when I scratched my beloved laptop.

If you’re thinking ‘what a shallow materialistic fool!’ then you are exactly right.  I wasn’t spoilt as a child, my grandparents always taught me that you have to work if you want to get anything in this world and it’s not just given to you.  So, as a poor student, I scrimped and saved for two years to buy my Mac, it being barely two months old when it was damaged earlier this week.  I felt I’d worked so hard for it, that I placed upon it more value than my own body.  I am completely foolish.  For far too long I’ve taken for granted this body I walk around in.  I’ve never really taken a second to step back, take a look at myself, and recognise that a God so lovingly, so mercifully, put more effort than I’ll ever know into carefully crafting my existence. 

The disrespect we have for our bodies is the root of many negative issues in modern life, varying hugely across the spectrum.  Starting at the extreme end of the scale, close friends of mine, and even I myself, have been both villain and victim in the act of self-harm due to depression.  Then consider that there are increasingly more and more women each day that are selling their bodies on the streets as a source of income.  Following this are the acts of substance abuse; drug addicts, alcoholics, and then there are those who fail to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly.  At the end of the day we are all guilty of disrespecting, or even abusing our bodies in some way or another, even the most trying of us.  We can never achieve perfect health (that’s what makes us human!).  But how many things can you count that you take pride in over your own body?  I’d bet more things than you have phalanges!

In my opinion, living healthily out of respect for your body isn’t preached enough in Church.  It is an issue seen as of little importance or even perhaps thought of as a prying issue to address to a congregation of over-polite English culture.  Why should we be afraid to nudge a friend and tell them they should stop eating so much cake and get the ‘5-a-day’ on their menus?  Why shouldn’t we drag one another outside for a run round the park or off for an hour at the swimming pool?  I know that I would appreciate it.  We need to be blunt in love, pushing one another, be that mirror that our best friends cannot run away from.  If it’s smoking, taking drugs, self harm, eating rubbish food, don’t let our over-politeness get in the way of glorifying what God so beautifully created.  Consequent of the development of technology and consumerism, as a culture we place far too much value upon the things in life that have no real value at all.  Slowly but surely, Americanisation is infecting us with the pleasure factor and we are offending more than ever.  But it’s not too late to change our outlooks; it’s no too late to be reminded that the body is sacred.

‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.’
                                                - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Friday, 8 April 2011

¿A qué te dedicas?

This week I am staying with the Grandparents at their house on the south coast of Spain.  They’ve lived here for almost seven years now, they love it but they miss the grandchildren, so I try to visit them at least once a year.  My Grandfather is a smart man, a retired businessman with a strong mind.  We usually engage in debates about something or other as we sit under the stars on the porch, his traditional conservatism contrasting with my postmodern liberalism.  It’s a great bonding tool.  A topic that seems to have dominated our conversation this week is the topic of careers.  ‘What do you want to do with your life when you leave university?

The truth is I have absolutely no idea what I want to do…  Here in Spain the recession has hit harder than most places, surprisingly even worse than in the UK.  People are running around looking for any kind of work they can lay their hands on, men even walking the main roads clutching hand written signs, offering to clean your car inside and out for a mere €3.  The desperation is shocking.  A person’s job is often central to their life.  In most cases people would argue that their job is their life, financial income being their source of food, housing and health care.  As well as bringing such security, our jobs seem to play a huge part in our identity and our social life.  When we introduce ourselves to people we often say our name, age, and what we do for a living.  When we make friends, we are more inclined toward those who have interesting careers, keeping useful contacts to boost our social framework.  It is so easy to judge a persons entire personality based on what they do for a living.

So those of us who are holding that pin, where do we want to place ourselves upon the map of socioeconomic institutes that make up the working world?  At the moment I don’t want to do anything.  But simultaneously I don’t want to do nothing.  So where do I go?  I’ve been discussing various careers with my Grandfather and he has been suggesting areas of work that pay well, careers that haven’t been threatened by the recession.  I feel I suit none of his suggestions.  I find myself considering these jobs merely out of necessity rather than real interest.  But then I think: why should I do something that has no real worth?  After all, what is money gained when precious time is spent?  I’m with Morrissey on this one: I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now… in my life, why do I give valuable time, to people who don’t care if I live or I die?

So does having a job mean sacrificing your spirit?  Too many people today are doing jobs because they ‘have’ to, the stress and competitiveness of the work place driving people insane.  People have forgotten about the things they really love.  How many people have you heard uttering phrases such as ‘I always wanted to do this but…’ and ‘I wish I’d have tried this when I was younger’?  The pressure of finding a career smothers any real flame of passion that might have burned within us, many of us going for life roles that bring us the greatest financial gain or the strongest sense of security.  Following this comes the death of spontaneity.

I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone.  I’m sure that there are many people that love their job and are quite happy to work hard in a career for the majority of their lives.  I’m simply saying that perhaps we should question the system: how do we know it’s right?  I’m no economist, but it seems to work economically (most of the time), but how does it work for the soul of the individual?  We are not inclined to ask such questions because we are all born into this system, and we are taught from a young age to live and work for our future.  We go to school to learn the basics to then move up to secondary school, then we work hard to attain enough GCSE’s to get into a good college or sixth form, work even more to get sufficient A Levels to get into a good university, and then get lost somewhere between 1st class degrees, masters degrees and PhD’s.  Then you compete to get into a career, work your ass off, retire and die.  The idea is that you can’t have fun until you retire, but then only during the time between hip replacement operations and queuing for your pension to pay for your TV license before (heaven forbid) you can no longer watch Corrie and Strictly Come Dancing!

It’s depressing to even think about let alone to live it out!  To me it seems clear that the system is all wrong.  Working nine till five in one job doing one thing, day after day after day, is the most torturous idea I can imagine.  Where is the freedom, the passion, the spontaneity.  Where is the living in ‘making a living’?  I know what you’re thinking, ‘what a ridiculous sensationalist idea!’ but why does it have to be so? 
‘…and if you must go to work tomorrow, well if I were you I really wouldn’t bother, for there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them…’
                                                                                   - Steven Patrick Morrissey