O brave new world. That has such people in’t!

Good evening/morning/midday/midnight my dears! I have once again managed to be absent for an indecent period of time, and have come back with some new perspectives.

Exactly. Perspective. That’s what my brain has been mulling over in the very slow and painful process of thinking these past few days. So allow me to just as slowly and painfully take you through the reasons why, and what is has finally come up with. Oh, and don’t expect anything grand.

A few days ago my lovely boyfriend came for a very enjoyable visit; we went out to a great restaurant, set out on a midnight hunt for chocolate in dangerous territory, went dress-hunting but found only pizza and Zippo lighters and most glorious of all, talked. We discussed little things and big big things, and somewhere in there, I gained new perspective. The realisation that some things you just cannot understand until you have actually experienced them yourself! “Huh. Well that’s fairly obvious” you might say. But just stop to think for a second.

We are the centre of our universe. From within our heads, we observe, think, smell, sense, calculate, remember and react to everything that happens around us. From within our heads, we imagine what it feels like to be someone else, or to be in a different situation, one so very foreign to you that your brain has to conjure images from movies long ago seen, stories long ago read and cat pee long ago smelled. Yet there’s a funny part of our brain that tells us that we understand exactly what the other person is talking about. A part we’d like to think of as not only imaginative and creative but also very empathic.

Dead wrong. Assuming that you understand someone else perfectly is the exact opposite of empathy. Empathy is to attempt to relate to what someone else is feeling, knowing that their situation is unique and you can only try to imagine what it feels like. But for some curious reason, this part of our brain – let’s call it the “I’m awesome because I can relate perfectly to everyone” part. Or maybe imo for short. – tells us that we in fact know what they feel, know what they think and so in some strange sense are connected to them and can not only offer kind advice and solace, but give instructions, and tell them that they are wrong.

Well, let’s just for a second try to tell that part of our brains to go screw themselves. I know that right now you’ll have to stop yourself from thinking either “I know exactly what she’s talking about, I feel like this all the time!” or “Whoa, she’s gone batty, she must be this and this kind of a person to talk like this, I have her pegged” but whichever one it is, that’s the part of our brains that we somehow can’t seem to switch off in the interactions we have with other human beings. Just try though.

From this place where we are standing now, isn’t it somehow easier to understand others? Because when someone says something, instead of our brain instantly jumping to five thousand conclusions about how they feel, what they must be thinking and what would make them feel better/what they ought to do about it, we can just sit back, watch, listen and actually hear what they are saying, and not what we think about what they are saying. I know it gets eerily quiet in there when you do this, but it’s also kind of fun, and a relief.

Maybe people would sometimes just like to be heard, to be listened to, and not to always get a pat on the back or a “The sun will come up tomorrow!”/”There are other fish in the sea!”/”Get off your high horses!”/”You’re doing it wrong!” etc. Maybe if we take the little imo in our heads and bundle it up in a roll of duct-tape and tuck it away in a dark corner for a few hours each day, we could honestly see what is going on around us, and not just what we think and feel about it all the time.

Studies (can’t remember where I read this now, was some kind of medical or psychological journal) made with 3 and 4-year-olds has shown that it’s around that age when, if put in front of a model of say, a small mountain, it’s around that age that children develop their ability to see the mountain from someone else’s perspective, and not just the side that they see. So we obviously have that ability somewhere. Unless we grew up and lost it. But are we really the people with “different-coloured lenses on our glasses” (thank you Fynn and Mr. God, This Is Anna. Still one of the best books ever) or do we have it in us to take those lenses off from time to time, open our eyes and see things as they truly are?

Finding your way back to Neverland.

I’m reading yet another Bach book. This one so far appears to be about how he reconnected to his childhood from memories that he hadn’t as much suppressed as ignored, and what he learnt from them. It got me thinking about my memories. Because I realised in the hallway the other day just why I hated winter-clothes so much as a child. I always used to think it was because of the fuss of getting everything on and off, how wet it would be after coming inside, how you had to wear layer upon layer and get so overheated and drenched through despite its water-resistant qualities.

But as I struggled out of my thick jacket and practical boots yesterday morning, it struck me. It is because winter-clothes are so very restraining. A protective bubble of cloth and stuffing between you and the world, numbing your senses and perception. I was a summer-kid, running barefoot any place I could and often times places I shouldn’t, loving the feel of grass under my back as I gazed up into the endless blue. Or a fall-child, the wind tapering my clothes against me and ruffling my hair as I went in search for branches and pretty leaves in the crisp air. The heavy boots of winter, so very practical, shield your feet from the ground, making it impossible to quite grasp where you’re treading, and the thick coats, long scarves and downy jackets do their best to keep everything out, even sound.

Yet the memories of many a childhood winter are fond ones, where the snow was always thick on the ground and the cocoa warming in front of the fire-place. I find it strange, that so many of the few memories we have from childhood are extraordinary ones; traumatic ones, happy and exciting ones, dark and gloomy with a sense of forbearing. Why is it that we filter out all the regular, “unimportant” memories, as if there’s nothing to learn from a regular, everyday situation? Do we do this now too, though we’re not as aware of it? And what could we learn from our earliest errors, could we remember them?

Up to a certain age, life is like a flight of stairs. You can move up or down, side to side, pass people or fall behind, you can stop in the middle and ponder, always a rail nearby to hold on to should the going get tough. But very soon, we stop considering these choices, stop considering the wonder of just remaining in the moment and watching as everyone else zigzags by, and only take the escalators. Here the movement becomes much more restrained; you have to decide whether you want to go up or down, usually you just stick to the right-hand side, unless you’re in a hurry and walk past people on the left-hand side, and even then there might be someone blocking your way. Go further still and we just take the elevator. No choice here. Up or down, you can’t pass people if you want to, and moving side to side is not going to make any difference, except people might give you strange looks. Why do we limit ourselves so much, decide that there is only one path for us and then stick to that path, unable to move back to the good old manual stairway of choice?

The pressure to make a choice goes further and further down into the younger ages. Even at 20, if you haven’t decided what you want to do with your life yet and if you haven’t gotten some place, you consider yourself a failure and a disappointment. But the only person you are letting down is yourself, and why make a choice early on in life that you either stick with for the rest of it, unhappy that you made the wrong one, or ditch after a few years, starting from square one and considering those past years a waste of your time? How can we waste time when it’s an abstract concept, and why do we let ourselves be governed by it in just about everything?

Something that has occurred to me so very often is how we relate to our childhood years. We look at it as through cracked and smeared mirrors, far off, hazy, impossible to interpret. We look at it through grown-up eyes and judge the actions we took, the ones we didn’t and on top of it all, rewrite the way events happened to our own liking. But why judge the actions of a child, someone with far less experience than you, and so a much poorer judgement? Is it possible that the child you were would look at who you are today and judge what they see? This distorted view of events and reality distances us from our pasts to the point of detachment. We simply do not feel like that was us. How often do we not hear the phrase “I was a different person then” or “I was just a kid”? There’s nothing “just” about being a “kid”, that five-year-old or nine-year-old was just as much you as you are today. Yet we don’t even see ourselves as them, and all of a sudden our childhood becomes a movie, we ourselves the actors and our current, grown-up state the spectators.

So is it so wrong to look at that child through their own eyes, as we were, and say “that was me at ten years of age” or “that was me on my sixth birthday” instead of “back when I was a kid” as if the child you were and the person you are now are in no way the same? Are we scared that that inner child,  if we let it loose, will be judged by other “grown-ups” as immature, naive, strange, unintelligent, instead of what it truly is; someone who sees the world not as they ought to, but for what it is to them, and acts accordingly? I say take off the grown-up, practical, shielding winter-clothes of your soul, and let the summer-child have a romp across the lawn every once in a while. You might enjoy it.

Fear and love in Sweden.

I have now finished the second out of several books written by Richard Bach. “The Bridge Across Forever” he wrote after he’d met his wife and soul-mate, “One” they wrote together, several years later, about their explorations into the unknown and to many, non-existent. In the books, many questions were raised, many options given, and one thing it had me do above all was think and rethink and evaluate. I started thinking more and more about the motivation we have in life, what we let push us forward and what we allow to stop us in our tracks.

Fear is the most common force. More often than we realise, we allow fear to guide us, to make us do things we usually wouldn’t and to stop us from doing things we’d love to. So many times we find ourselves saying “no” without stopping to wonder why. We’ll invite people we don’t really care for to our wedding, for fear of them getting angry or hurt, though a wedding is supposed to be all about you and the person you’re marrying. Get close to someone? Never! They might hurt you, and the fear of getting hurt is much larger than the potential for happiness that intimacy can bring. Letting people know who you truly are? No can do. What if they don’t like you, how horrifying is that?

Fear is also what creates hatred. “Fear and loathing”, there’s a reason why those two words come together. When you do not understand something, it becomes confusing, foreign, and above all, scary. So scary that we do not even give it a second chance and see if we’d like it. If a dish has weird ingredients, instead of saying “well, let’s see what it tastes like” we instantly go “no, that is gross, I don’t want to try it”. Not saying I’d eat monkey-brains if I was given the chance but more often than not I’ll just try that curious ingredient before I dismiss it as vile and impossible to like. Fear is what we feel for people we can’t comprehend, people who are “unpredictable” or “lack empathy”, fear is the instant reaction at people who are mentally unstable.

If fear is what stops us, what makes us turn our backs on people and opportunities, then understanding is what makes us move forward, take the chance and go with the flow. Understanding and love are so closely linked as to be almost indistinguishable. When we love someone, we attempt to understand them better, and when we understand someone, we love them more. Some people are really passionate about their work; it’s because they’ve reached a deep understanding of what they’re doing and the potential of their skills, and can’t get enough of it. In “The Education of Little Tree” the bond between understanding and loving is explained very simply by the word “ken”. To “ken” someone means both to love and understand. It’s common knowledge that people who seem to have a profound understanding for each other, because their minds are wired the same way, also love each other more.

Anger and sadness are the middle-grounds. You can get angry at something or someone you hate, because it’s incomprehensible for you, but you can also get angry at someone you love, because they are doing something unlike themselves and so very different from who you want them, expect them to be. Anger is merely frustration under a different name. Sadness is more of an acceptance, that things are the way they are and cannot be changed, but you can still mourn for the state of it all. Sadness always requires a small bit of understanding, where you have realised there is nothing that can be done, but you wish there was, meaning you understand the issue and you can see it even though you can’t alter it. Anger comes from believing there is still something that can be done, and that the catalyst of your emotions can make that change happen.

Fear and loathing, anger and sadness, love and understanding. All just emotions, a switch in our brains and hormones, yet they govern almost everything we do, every choice we make, every step we refuse to take. The only way to surpass fear is to try to understand, and the only way to get to love is through understanding. The more unknown and confusing something is to us, the greater the fear, and the greater the potential for hatred. So next time you are on that high ledge, or see that large spider, or talk to your mother-in-law, or get lumps in your porridge, try to step back for a second and be objective. Try to see the thing for what it truly is instead of what you’re used to seeing it as, try your very best to gain an understanding for why things are the way they are, and then you can still choose to be scared, to hate and loathe, or you can try slowly to move towards a sort of understanding, and thereby love, for whatever is in front of you.

The truth shall make things convenient for you.

First off, I’d like to apologise for my absence. My internet has been down since Thursday morning and I got it back just this evening. As I mentioned in my previous post, I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions and even if I had, posting more often would not have been one of them, but since I was hoping to write this post sooner, even if none of you knew about this intent, I’d still like to apologise, maybe to the post itself. Also, this post is sort of dedicated to Mr. Richard Bach and his wife Leslie Parrish-Bach, since their story and writings got me thinking about this topic a bit further than I usually do.

I have been thinking an awful lot about belief, truth, right and wrong, fact and fiction of late. More often than not do we humans think we have the answers to these questions, even if we’re not aware of it. Scientists often believe that what they have found is the truth, though they might – just so that no-one can question their answers – call them theories, and say that it has not been asserted. Is anything ever more than a theory? I don’t think we can say it is. Because in order to have a theory, we must use some basic guidelines, hold something for the ultimate truth, decide that something is pure fact and reality. Life would become horribly unstable if we did not have these common agreements.

But did you ever look at what you hold to be the irrefutable truth, a fact so basic and simple that a child with the most undeveloped of vocabularies could express it, and ask yourself if it in fact is? When someone says “just as the sky is blue and the grass is green”, is that the truth? Because “sky” is simply what we call the stretch of atmosphere and space for as far as our own very limited vision can reach, and not an actual physical place. And in so many cases, the sky can be black, grey, red, yellow… are any of those colours blue? And the grass is indeed not green, in fact it’s the only colour it isn’t, since it cannot absorb green, thus reflects it back and just appears to be green. And even these two explanations are just based on yet more explanations for something that science itself has found to be true.

“As sure as you and I are standing here”. How can we ever know we are? How do we know we’re not just dreaming, or hallucinating, or that we have bipolar disorder or our brains feel like going all “A Beautiful Mind” on us? It can sure feel and seem like we’re standing here, but what if we’re not? What if we, as limited creatures, simply cannot see the whole picture, or even part of the picture, as it actually is?

Science and religion are often looked at and spoken of as polar opposites. On the one hand we have fact, on the other blind faith. But to any person who truly believes in a certain scripture, deity or faith, religion is fact, and whatever tries to dispute that fact is lies, confusion, fear and evil. Many people have their children believe in Santa Claus even though they do not for a second believe in this jolly, bearded old man themselves. To them, Santa Claus is a lie, something to make Christmas more exciting because apparently it’s not exciting enough to get to spend time with your loved ones, get free stuff and eat a disgusting amount of food. To me, Santa Claus is a possibility, because since no-one can truly, actually prove that he does not exist, how do we know he doesn’t? “Oh sweetie, they’ve been all over the North Pole, there are no flying reindeer or little gnomes making Buzz Lightyears anywhere, trust me”, you might say. But how do we know he lives on the North Pole, or if he does, that he hasn’t managed to create a good enough cover-up that we can’t find him? Because if we did, he would not be able to work in peace, that’s for sure, and a lot of polar bears would have to be removed in order to fit a mail-box big enough up there.

My point is, that whenever we say something is the truth or a lie, we can never go further than to say that to me it is. To me, as I see it, according to my own personal believes, this is how the world works, this is what this person is like, this is what you should be wearing or how you should raise your child. But considering how infinitely enormous the universe is, and how often we’ve discovered we’ve been wrong about something  very fundamental and basic like the general shape of the planet we’re on or if that big, bright ball in the sky is circling around us or we around it, or how often we find new species or places or historical relics or ways to cure diseases we didn’t even know were diseases hundreds of years ago, considering all of this, how can what we know ever be the truth, or even part of the truth?

In a world where technology has reached such a great importance within just the past few decades, and is now moving forward faster than an oiled penguin in a stream-lined water-slide, the answers to what we believe to be true are also changing ever fast, from one moment to the next. Who knows what we’ll believe to be the ultimate truth in ten or twenty years from now, or even a few weeks? It is my personal belief, and what I hold to be true, that we with our own perception shape our own individual truths, which can never be forced upon or applied to others. They say “before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes”, or “let him without sin cast the first stone”. Well, the shoe-thing, I don’t think that works in the real world since a mile isn’t very long and walking it in fluffy slippers might change your ideas about foot-wear a bit but in the long run it probably won’t give you that much of an insight into the previous shoe-wearer’s life. The stone-thing, however, I happen to think is pretty smart, and kind of works to this day. Who can ever be without sin when every single person has a different definition of what is truly sinful? So no, maybe I don’t think that “the truth shall set you free”. Because I believe that the only thing that will – and boy, now we’re getting into the definition of the word “freedom” and I don’t even want to go there right now –  is the realisation that truth does not exist as more than a frame of reference, a basic tool of measurement and value that we need to apply to every choice we make in order to have this world look like anything other than a Picasso-painting inside a kaleidoscope inside a Möbius-band turned inside out.

Contemporary me.

Hello my darlings! Have been a tad inactive here again I see, so since my brain is slightly fried with exhaustion and school-work and I have to get up in less than six hours, I won’t write anything profound at all. Just a list. (You know how I love my lists). So here are a few things that are relevant to my life as of right now;

E-cigarettes. These handy little thingumabobs enable you to smoke indoors without actually smoking, to smoke around other people without blowing harmful second-hand smoke into their pretty little faces, and even though there has not been extensive tests and research made yet regarding their harmful effects on those who use them, they are sure to be less harmful than cigarettes. Plus they almost like look real cigarettes, so you don’t have to feel like an idiot using them.

Dark Angel. A tv-series from 2000 starring Jessica Alba. I never thought much of Alba as an actress before, and though I do still feel like she isn’t the most outstanding of actresses, she is certainly good enough to do what she does. She is also very very attractive. Like very. The series is fun, it’s about a post-crisis – of the global financial kind – and Alba is one of several genetically modified children which have escaped from a lab-facility where they were being trained into super-soldiers. If nothing else, this series is a fun glimpse into how much of the 90ies that were still left in 2000 – and how much of the 80ies which had seeped its way into the 90ies.

Christmas. Don’t think anyone will need a summary of what that is. Or I hope not. I’m usually not a big fan of doing anything Christmassy pre-December but seeing as how the 1st of Advent was on the 27th, I went to my little-sisters and we baked ginger-snaps and lusse-katter all day… or at least 4 hours of it. We forgot to put on Christmas-songs, we made roughly 80 lusse-katt buns (that’s a LOT) and we went and got pizza afterwards, real thin-crust ones with ruccola and prosciutto on top. It was a lovely day. Next stop; toffee and chocolates at my place.

Tests. I have three major ones coming up soon – two of them tomorrow – and I’m getting rather nervous about it. I know I’ll do well, at least with the English ones, most likely with the Swedish, yet I always get nervous before tests. And maybe that is the secret to why I do well, I don’t get so overconfident in my own abilities that I neglect studying or preparing myself. But I’m going to be holding my thumbs and crossing my fingers, as always. If you want to say some kind of little prayer for me, to God, pasta, Eddie or whomever you believe in, that’d be welcome.

Dreaming. Ever since I moved to this flat a few months back, I’ve had lots and lots of dreams, mostly weird ones, only one or two actual night-mares, and not that many that I’ve woken from in a happy or blissful state. Just strange dreams, where tons of things happen, I wake up several times during the night and only remember scattered details for the most part. It makes it harder for me to go to sleep, it makes me more tired, more out of it during the day. But I’m hoping it will stop soon. Maybe when I finally get down to repainting the bedroom.

Working out. See, the flat gets rather cold at times, and my solution to this (because our radiators are pretty much cranked to the max, so it’s not like we can turn it up any more) is doing a few sit-ups, squats, shaky and pathetic push-ups, etc. If it looks extra cold outside, I’ll work out a bit before I step outside, to make sure my pulse gets up and my system is on the go already. If my toes are too cold and it’s bedtime, I just bounce around a bit so I’m nice and toasty instead of curling up and shivering under the blankets. So my solution to heating problems, which will cost you nothing and get you fit, is just to work out a bit.

Cheese. To counter-act my work out (because for every healthy thing you do you should also do something unhealthy, yin-yang balance kind of thing *coughs*) I’ve started over-indulging in cheese. I just wish someone would help me by eating the cheese before I can get to it. I’ve had the kittens help me out a bit but too much dairy isn’t good for their tummies. Well it’s not good for mine either of course. But you get me. So, the general obtaining of cheese has to be stopped for my own good!

Books. I’m currently trying to finish the last of the Harry Potter series (Don’t hurt me! I can’t explain how I haven’t read it yet! It was an accident!) but I’m only a third into it because for Swedish we had to pick one out of five classic novels and I chose “Pride and Prejudice” (translated into Swedish of course) because I’ve read that before, I own the English version, I’ve seen the movie and so on, basically it felt like a good choice because I already know what I need to know about it in order to discuss the book. Yet my honesty forces me to re-read it for this assignment. And then there’s “Rant” by Chuck Palahnuik (< = dude who wrote Fight Club) which I haven’t even touched yet, because I haven’t had the time.

What has there been a lot of/ too much of in your life of late?

It’s not the what, it’s the how

As I’m sure anyone following my blog for a while now has noticed I’m becoming worse and worse at posting regularly. I think it’s because I don’t realise how fast the days go by. It feels like I wrote my last post yesterday, and figuring out what your next post is going to be about can sometimes be impossible. Either because you want to write about so many things or none at all. But then I remembered a theme that has been recurring throughout conversations the last week or so.

I was doing an assignment for Swedish class where we were supposed to compare to different writing styles from the same eras. I realised after looking back and forth between the texts that even though they both played out in the same time and were both a peek into the darker side of society, with poverty, crime and oppression of the individual, they were extremely different as in regards to atmosphere and language.

“Why?” I asked myself. How can two authors, living during roughly the same time, writing about the same social class and somehow wanting to explain the hardship that these people went through, manage to get two such different outcomes?

There could be many answers. “The voice of the author”, geography, upbringing, religious or philosophical views or any number of things could play into the reason as for why two people writing about the same thing can write so differently. But to me the real difference lies in what a person sees, what a person chooses to tell and not to tell, the details that capture or upset.

For example, Stephenie Meyer could simply have started the Twilight books with “There once was a young, insecure, clumsy teenage girl, and then there was a sexy vampire boy, and it sort of just rained all the time and they fell in love…” but instead, she tells the story differently, holding suspense and mystery alive, letting young, insecure teenage girls – and many women far past their teens – feel like this could be them, and this is in fact about them, and they life they should have, and BAM, there you go, best-seller. Appeal to the audience and the audience will come. (Btw, I’m not saying I think Stephenie Meyer is an outstanding author, though I will admit I have seen a noticeable progress in her work from book 1 to 4 in the Twilight series. I am only saying that she knows what people want to read, and she writes it.)

Or to better explain, you could send two journalists to the same country. Let’s say Mexico. Now one journalist might send back an article about how lovely the weather and the scenery was, how great the food, how friendly the people etc. The other might instead send a tense piece of work about the drug lords, poverty and slums. Both these images would be true but if you had never been to Mexico, or don’t know much about it, it might well shape your entire view on what that country is like.

So is it with all authors then. If I tell you a firsthand account on how boring Swedes can be and all the negative things about the Swedish culture, and then one of your American friends go to visit and rave about how gorgeous the place is and how friendly and exciting the people, who are you going to believe? I say you always believe whomever is telling you what you want to hear. When we see someone express things the way we would or see things from our point of view, we are a lot more likely to believe them than the perhaps more qualified person who turns into a moron in our eyes because of his opposing views.

But no matter who writes something, what matters is not what they write about, but how.

 

Was I asleep? Had I slept?

A Belmont sent to me out of that love that only respect brings about and a Corona bought at the liquor-store out of the sheer wish to have something that I once drank in the place where drinking became something else than a wish for alcohol. Two such simple elements and yet the silence on the balcony turns into a blaze of memories; a fire-pit at 4am, where I shared moment upon moment of bone-numbing, surreal clarity with two of the people I love the most in this world… a backyard where wailing cries of “I want to go camping!” fell on deaf, exhausted ears… a Cinco de Mayo where I learnt of my surprising resistance to tequila… moments that have a magic all of their own, and that I wish to never forget. They somehow manage to come alive in the fall air which has taken on that curious quality where you can actually smell the cold itself. But it is much more than a scent, and seeps into the apartment where I wear the dressing-gown on top of my clothes or do sit-ups in silent waiting for the radiators to do their job. The darkness falls faster. It will not be long until the clocks go back. I read books from long ago; “Mister God, this is Anna” by Fynn, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach. The words turn me inside out in the light of flowers as I struggle for peaceful sleep in the wee hours. I never know what the morning will bring; another attempt at finding work, more school-work, home-made apple-sauce with ginger and lemon, or like this morning (I think it was this one) when the sound of the neighbours drilling into their cement walls drove the kittens to hide in horror under the covers with me, as I cooed my comfort to them and hoped that the rapid beating of my heart could not be heard by their sensitive ears. The uncertainty of what the morning will bring is not what disturbs my sleep. It’s the same reason that I seem to see everything just a little bit clearer yet at a distance, that sounds come to me uninterrupted yet distorted, and my head is filled with a fog slowly lifting. It’s because I walk around in that state of sleep just before you wake from a dream. I just pray that when I wake up it will be on the right side.