The latest in a long line of supposedly doom-filled dates passed without incident last weekend. I’m a little concerned that I’ll end up oversleeping and miss the event, if and when it finally does come to pass. I’d hate waking up late to discover half the planet on fire before I’d had my morning coffee and croissant.
Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day”
I guess eventually one of these silly end of the world predictions might actually get it right, purely by chance. Of course those who share this nonsense won’t have much time to enjoy their brief moment of triumph. They’ll be too busy running from all the giant tsunamis, earthquakes or general planetary disintegration to do much gloating. It’s hard to feel smug when you’re up to your arse in a lake of molten lava.
Something I read recently set the creaking gears in my mind to whirring and grinding: it was a reminder that each of us was the author of our own lives. Not an Earth-shatteringly new idea perhaps, but it had me pondering both the degree to which it is true, and also the implications of such a role.
There are numerous factors that make us the person we are: our genes, gender, sexuality, race, upbringing, social position, wealth, education, and the chance circumstances of one’s early life must all play a part.
Clearly an orphan, growing up in poverty in some war-ravaged corner of the globe, will have a very different experience of life and very different opportunities to the privileged offspring of comfortable upper-middle class professionals in a sleepy Surrey village. So we are certainly not all starting from the same place and with the same degree of literary freedom, when it comes to the authorship of our own tales.
Our lives tend to be ruled by habits. I’m not just talking about a fondness for junk-food, booze, or cigarettes et al, I mean the tendency to repeat any rewarding (or at least not-too-painful) behaviours, over and over again, ad nauseum.
It often seems to be our lot to follow the path most travelled and to boldly go where we have been many times before.
Of course one can try consciously to break free from the habit of being habitual, perhaps by cultivating the more impulsive and adventurous aspects of one’s nature. Although this in itself could become a habit.. You just cannot win.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
I heard about this guy called Gary, who grew bored with the same old routine every day. So he started trying to shake things up by breaking old habits and diligently trying new approaches. Two months in and he was spotted leaving his office job in the city by abseiling down the outside of the building, dressed in a gorilla costume (no mean feat when you work on the twenty-third floor).
Yesterday felt like a day of strangeness and magic. First came a great deluge that threatened to wash away the parked cars and the occasional cyclist in an almost biblical-style flood. I stood under cover, caught between my local store and home after returning from work. I was listening to some sublime electronica at the time, a unique soundtrack to the cascades of water splashing and bouncing off roads and pavements. For a few minutes I just stood and watched, mesmerised by the experience. I found I was smiling broadly and felt an easing of the hangover headache that had dogged me all day. It was just a moment of subtle, indefinable magic.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the downpour ceased and I broke cover and headed the few hundred metres home, trying to avoid lake-Ontario-sized puddles. A rainbow appeared briefly above our block of flats, a fitting appearance at the end of Copenhagen’s Gay Pride week.
I will backtrack slightly to me leaving the cafe where I work, about an hour beforehand. I ran into a lady of mature years, standing outside. She wanted to know more about the place. It turned out she was a fellow Brit and after basic pleasantries were exchanged, I told her all about our lovely little non-profit cafe and the many activities we host within. The lady seemed most pleased at my invitation to come and sample our food and perhaps make some new friends. “You are my angel of the day” she announced, in a warm northern accent, and I was perfectly happy with this description. I have been called lots of things, but don’t often get called an angel.
Is the age of hyper-narcissism and social media addiction turning us all into self-obsessed, attention-challenged zombies?
Can we really call it social media if we’re ignoring our friends, partners and everyone around us to swap gossip, videos and memes with virtual strangers we’ve never met?
If an actual vampire (or zombie) invaded our homes and attempted to separate us from our blood or brains, we’d probably have one or two objections (the first probably being they don’t actually exist). But when the parasitic monsters are invisible and we welcome them in, what chance do we have to keep ourselves safe? Like a tick or a vampire bat, they numb us while they go about their dirty work. Maybe it’s us who are the real suckers?
Try this weird amazing trick for a flat stomach!”
The vampire-zombies – including massive corporations like Google and Facebook – are using knowledge gleaned from psychology and the world of gambling to hook us on this digital crack. And they combine it with clever technology to steal huge amounts of our time, attention and data and sell it for obscene profits. They are like friendly uncles who keep you amused, while secretly emptying your safe, picking your pockets and stealing all your private info.
I love odd coincidences and weird moments of synchronicity. Recently I heard / read something that reminded me of Laurie Anderson’s track (and surprise hit) ‘O Superman‘. It’s been a while (1981!), so I looked up the lyrics out of curiosity (Memory can play tricks). It seems disturbingly sinister and prescient now:
“….This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.
As a kid I was ever so slightly geeky, and rather obsessed with space. My parents, always keen to support my quest for knowledge, bought me a telescope one birthday and I used to spend many an evening gazing up at the moon and the stars in awe. Eventually hormones kicked in, and my interest in heavenly bodies shifted somewhat closer to home.
There are approx 300 billion stars in our galaxy. And there are more than 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. So, doing a quick bit of maths, there are a shitload of stars out there. And although not all of them support intelligent life, a heck of a lot of them surely must.
Of course whether ours can be said to do so is increasingly debatable in the age of Trump, Brexit and the ongoing spectacle of a race seemingly intent on bringing about its own extinction. On the plus side, Donald Dumpf is a gift to comedy, although in the minuscule cluster of neurons that passes for his brain, he probably thinks we are laughing with him and not at him. How deluded can one person get?