“If I think back, I get depressed. If I think ahead, I get afraid.”

I came across this quote on the ‘Humans of New York’ page.  If you’ve not encountered it I’d recommend it.  The picture and short quote – and that’s all it was – can be found here.

It sometimes feels a bit voyeuristic; you can’t help but wonder what goes through someone’s mind when they make such a short, but loaded comment.

Excuse today’s post – I’m in a bit of a funny place emotionally but want to keep my ‘Write for 30 minutes a day’ thing up.  So today’s offering is a bit of a stream of consciousness one!

I do find that looking back is something that is likely to trigger strong – and not always helpful – emotions in me.  I noticed this yesterday afternoon when a chance encounter with a zip-locked folder of old cards and letters and a box of my deceased cats’ playthings generated something of a blubbing attack for a short while.  I wouldn’t say it depresses me, but it does make me more aware of what I miss from the past.

For me, it’s relationships; relationships of all types.  It’s people I can no longer see and talk to because they’re dead. It’s folks who I screwed up with and I’ve lost contact with. It’s missed opportunities, broken and unfulfilled hopes. To be honest, I’m surprised that anyone can spend time wallowing in the past without having some sort of massive emotional reaction – or maybe that’s just me.

I don’t get depressed, but I get sad and probably a little angry with myself.  Sometimes I do get the opportunity to patch things up – if I encounter something that is fixable, I’ll see what I can do to do it. And sometimes, I’ll come across something like a card or a clipped article or something and just grit my teeth, take a sharp intake of breath and bin it.  Occasionally, there’s just no point in carrying excess broken baggage!

What’s really odd is when you come across a card or letter or such you’ve kept and can’t work out why; occasionally you can’t even remember the person whose name you’re looking at. I had that experience yesterday afternoon – I dug a bit deeper in the bag and found a card that ‘joined the dots’, so to say.  I was grateful that I could still remember things when the context was supplied, and that I wasn’t peering at dementia to go with the dodgy knees!

You also get insights; I realised yesterday the frequency with which one particular name keeps showing up in my life.  I’ve encountered people with this name 3 times – and each time it’s proven to be quite a formative relationship for me.

And you also realise that sometimes you’ve been a grade A1 c**t. And that is something that I’m definitely ashamed of. Places where I’ve buggered up relationships so badly, that there’s no way back.  4 of those; two of the people dead, two lost contact with.  Of the latter, I’m still too cowardly to approach the people concerned – after 20 and 35 years it’s a long time.

The ‘Ziplock Bag of Fate’ is likely to be incarcerated in a biscuit tin soon to avoid future accidental viewings – sort of like an emotional Chernobyl Sarcophagous.  I’ll know where it is, I’ll leave myself a note on the tin as to what’s in there, but only access it when I’m ready for the potential results – good and bad feels.

And thinking ahead?  Oddly enough that doesn’t scare me as much as it once might have done; a lot may happen in the world that I can’t control, and of the stuff that I CAN control I’m probably better equipped to deal with it than I’ve ever been.  There will be ups and downs; hard times and good times; good shit and bad shit.  I’m not as afraid as I once would have been because I’ve learnt from the past that some of the things that upset me most are where I’ve ballsed up relationships or not been able to end relationships properly; I like to think that I’ve learnt well enough to at least keep on top of that side of things in the future.

And the rest of the future; well, I’ll just have to do what we all do – improvise, prepare the best I can, manage, and put the letters and cards in a labelled biscuit tin.

Dandelion Breaks and how to avoid them

I have always been a great fan of Berke Breathed’s cartoon strip ‘Bloom County’. For those of you whose life is as yet incomplete, lacking reporting from the strange world of Bloom County, I refer you to https://www.facebook.com/berkeleybreathed/ where the current ongoing daily adventures of the characters can be found.

Originally Bloom County stopped being published in 1989 or thereabouts, and was reactivated in 2015, and details the adventures of, amongst other characters, a penguin called Opus, a dodgy, sleazy lawyer called Steve and a monster-packed anxiety closet.

But for me, the most important thing to come from Bloom County was the concept of the ‘Dandelion Break’.  When life became too intense for Opus, he would decamp to the top of a local ‘grassy knoll’ and sit among the dandelions for a while until he gained his composure.  Here’s the strip in which I first saw the concept used…


I doubt a month goes by without me resorting to a virtual dandelion break of some sort.  In fact, with my inability at gardening I can, if needed, indulge in a real life dandelion break for several months of the year by simply going in to my back garden.

What’s lovely about this particular script is that whilst the details in that first panel have changed, the course of Opus to resolve the anxiety is still valid today…turn off the tech.  For those of us old enough to have been around the first time, the list of news stories being broadcast is a litany of anxiety from the 1980s – the old Soviet Union, teh Lebanon, Central America, Northern Ireland, the Falklands – the great Cold War, Post-Imperial, Contra-Irangate hotch-potch of issues that used to give the rolling TV news consuming folks in the world ulcers.

Today it’s Trump, ISIS, the Middle East, the Baltic region, Brexit, climate change, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia…you get the picture.  But today we’re equally – if not more – likely to get our drip-feed of anxiety inducing horror through our social media feed as we are through Sky News or CNN. We tool rolling news and rolled it up and put it in our pocket on our phones.

I was again reminded of this in recent months when I’ve felt the urge for the Dandelion Break growing – not particularly in me, but in lots of people around me and people I know through social media. I recently saw a comment on my Facebook feed to the effect that the person concerned was incredibly depressed to the point of crippling anxiety by the state of the world, and another comment from a gentleman being interviewed:

“When I look to the past I get depressed, when I look to the future I get scared.”

I think I’ll be returning to that particular story on another occasion.

There is certainly enough to make so many people take dandelion breaks that the whole of Bloom County’s grassy knolls would be full of anxiety crippled folks sitting and meditating on the beauty of nature. Everyone has to find their own version of the Dandelion Break to save their sanity…or do we?

Whilst loving the concept, I’ve managed to cut down my need for Dandelion Breaks caused by the external events in the world by simply not immersing myself in the day to day stream of ‘world news’ stories that buffet us.

I turn off the tech.

I’ve chosen instead to put myself on a strict diet of ‘catch the headlines if they’re passing by’ and focus on things closer to home – family, cats, friends, work, church. I strengthen my relationships with people around me; I look after my own community and my job and my church. I guard my soul, and hopefully support the souls of others.

As I said on Facebook the other day:

“I catch the headlines online and then that’s it. If WW3 breaks out I’ll know when I see a big flash of light and hear the local ‘Comic Book Guy’ say ‘I have wasted my life.’

Being aware of the weight and tumult of the world when we’re unable to prevent it is a form of torture; I prefer to work locally and try to make things better that I can make better.”

We all have circles of action – the world around us in which our doing or not doing something has immediate and lasting action.  The part of our lives where we can do something to reduce our anxieties in a practical manner.  Then we have circles of influence – we might argue a point, make a decision and communicate and delegate action to be done – the part of the world where we don’t necessarily have that direct impact on the world but we stand a fair to middling chance of influencing it.  Then we have the circle of concern – stuff ‘out there’ that we can’t realistically impact.

Right now, I’m pulling back in to my circle of action. My circles of influence and concern can, for the moment, go screw themselves.  I am not going to cripple myself and by extension my family, cats, friends, work and spiritual life by gaining sleepless night worrying myself stupid about issues I cannot influence.

I know that people will accuse me of being isolationist, uncaring, selfish – please fill in your own words here.  But I can do nothing for the world if I’m broken; and the constant, daily – no, hourly – forcing of the issues of the world over which we have so little influence in our day to day actions simply kills us.

One day, I’ll be strong enough to grow my circle of action further in to my circle of influence – to extend the area around my life where I can do things that have a direct impact on reducing my anxieties.  Until then I intend to push my existential anxieties in the my equivalent of the Bloom County anxiety closet, and use my energy on DOING stuff that benefits me and those around me – family, friends, community – rather than getting in to the depths of ‘The world sucks, it’s all pointless.’

I like having the fallback of a Dandelion Break if needed, but it will be down to earth, practical worries that sends me there.





To Peace….

…and before everyone leaps up, glasses and coffee mugs in hands, and shouts ‘To Peace’ back to me, I’m not offering a toast here! I’m thinking that it’s about time we made ‘peace’ a verb.

Henri Nouwens had this to say :

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”

I read this as saying that all those things – smiles, healing, letting go of anger and resentment, forgiving and loving are all wrapped up in some way in that first phrase ‘Did I offer peace today’.

We often define peace in terms of the absence of other things. Peace is what we have when we don’t have war or conflict; it’s when there is no noise or tumult, when there is nothing to disturb us.  Sure, we have ‘peace conferences’ designed to create peace, but even these are really about resolving the issues that lead to conflict.

The word ‘Shalom’ – a Jewish word – is often thought to mean peace, but actually has a deeper and richer meaning.  According to Strong’s Biblical concordance,

“Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.”

Some of that fits with peace, but there’s an awful lot there besides!

When Jewish people wish each other ‘Shalom’ they are packing an awful lot of good stuff in to that single word.  And it’s a word defined in things that are present, as well as things that are absent.

I think we need to start bringing some Shalom in to our own lives and the lives of people around us. We need to start ‘peacing’ – doing peace in our day to day lives.

For me, ‘peacing’ would be about the things from Nouwen’s quote above and the definition of Shalom. When we ‘peace’ we would be looking to bring love, healing, smiles and forgiveness.  We’d be looking to carry out actions or say words that bring about a sense of wholeness and completeness, welfare and safety.  We’d be wanting a sense of harmony and the absence of agitation or discord or conflict in relationships. And we’d be looking to do all we can to bring about a sense of peace and restfulness in a person’s life and relationships.

As a Christian, the start of the Holy Communion part of a service is that we all give one another ‘a sign of peace’, with words along the line of ‘Peace be with you’.

In Islam, the greeting “As-Salam-u-Alaikum” is used – (Peace be unto you”.  This is pronounced as “us-saa-laam-muu-ah-lay-kum”, if you ever want to use it.

The world seems to get nastier and more spiteful and small minded with each passing day; perhaps we all need to start peacing – and if we can’t do it with words (after all, it might seem a bit formal to say ‘Peace be with you’ to the mail man) maybe we need to start doing it with actions.

When we meet people, speak with people, pass people by – carry in our hearts and minds an attitude of peace and shalom.  Bear in mind whether we can give them any of the gifts listed above. And try to peace everyday.

After all, practice makes perfect, which is itself one of those traits of Shalom.


Due Diligence….

My reading habits – OK, I tend to read everything that’s put in front of me, from books to the backs of toothpaste tubes – lead me in to all sorts of places.  As part of my daily spiritual development I often read essays / blog posts from a number of Christian websites, and today encountered the following phrase:

a diligent person must learn to be neglectful

If you’re interested, the article it came from is here.  It’s quite an eye-opener, isn’t it?  I have to say that when I read it I did a little re-take and then started thinking.

What does the word diligence mean? It’s probably one of those words which we all have a similar but slightly different meaning for.  It’s one of those old words which carries with it a hint of adult responsibility and legalism.  We speak of being diligent in our duties and responsibilities; we have phrases like ‘due diligence’ that have special meaning in law and business.  But what does the word actually mean?

The best (to me) definition I found was :

constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.

I also learned that diligence is one of the seven heavenly virtues.

I should also point out that in much of what I do I am probably less than diligent. I can be diligent when I want to be or need to be, but let’s say it’s one of those aspects of my character that is still under development and, given that I’m now 55 years old, is likely to continue to be a work in progress.

To some degree I guess that if we do what we plan to do we’re all capable of being diligent.  Constant and genuine effort, exerting the body and mind over time and repeatedly.  The ‘persistent’ part of that definition is probably where I fall down – I’m usually capable of being diligent for a while but then what I call the ‘Oooh….squirrel’ moment occurs when I get distracted. Within this definition is also the idea of ‘focus’ – keeping at it, not being distracted by those squirrels or your phone or your social media feeds.

And then we have that phrase I found earlier this morning :

a diligent person must learn to be neglectful

How does this all gel together?

I need to be neglectful of my social media when I’m being diligent about doing something else.  I need to be neglectful of those distractions. I need to be neglectful of the niggling worries and anxieties that I may have brought to the desk with me when I started to write this piece so that I may be best able to exercise that ‘constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken’.

I’m currently attempting to be diligent with my writing – I’ve sent a time in my diary for each day at which point I will do 30 minutes of writing.  It’s a test of my own self-discipline and a desire to get creating again after some years of neglect. The diligence I’m exhibiting has positive behaviours for me to engage in – a set time, set place, stay there writing until the 30 minutes is up.  And it has things to ignore – or neglect – no social media, no faffing about getting tea or going to the loo, ignore the day job, ignore the money worries.

I think that being diligent involves a picking up and a laying down of things. The word diligence has a weight about it – perhaps it’s worth regarding it as a habit that can be practiced for and hopefully attained, at least to start with in small doses around certain aspects of our lives.  Being diligent in all we do would be great but I think for me, right now, un-achievable.  But if I can exhibit diligence in 30 minutes of writing here at my desk, I can also exhibit diligence in how I answer my emails at work, how I approach my daily errands, how I find new work. As the article I read pointed out, there’s a scriptural take on diligence which I also need to take on board!

Maybe ‘neglectful diligence’ is something we can all practice under a less loaded name.  Perhaps it’s the same as ‘focus’.

And on that, I need to diligently save this article and write for another 10 minutes.




As always, late to the picnic, but I recently encountered the acronymn FOMO. It’s not a new type of washing powder, but short for Fear Of Missing Out.  It’s defined in Wikipedia as :

Fear of missing out or FoMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social angst is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.

Some commentators and researchers have laid the blame for FOMO firmly at the door of social media – http://time.com/4358140/overcome-fomo/ – and I think that they’re probably spot on the money. I know from my own experiences that it’s easy to portray a totally different lifestyle on Facebook than actually happens.  One gets to be able to interpret the status posts you sometimes see : “Another Saturday evening partying hard.” translates to “After watching Strictly I went out but couldn’t get in any clubs. I ended up drowning my sorrows sitting on the kerb outside the cheap off-license”

I’ve been lucky – I think I’ve a bunch of friends on facebook who put over quite an accurate view of the world they inhabit.  Maybe they’re all as ‘stay at home’ as I am, or maybe they’re mature enough to not have to post every aspect of their lives online to try and create envy.

It started me thinking about whether a similar phenomenon existed when I was a teenager and a young adult, and I THINK that it probably did.

It was the Monday morning debrief, when you got together with friends and colleagues and actually talked about the weekend just gone.

It was the stories you told when you met friends about what you did the last time you were out without them – often exaggerated, frequently for comic effect, occasionally to big yourself up.  The concept of ‘what happens in Vegas (or more likely Skegness) stays in Vegas was not stated; discretion (at least amongst my friends) seemed to be expected.

I think it’s safe to say that FOMO doesn’t bother me anymore; I think it did once upon a time, and even now there are the occasional times when I see a social media post and think ‘You could have invited me’ or ‘I wish I’d been there’. I have seen posts where people are doing something of a ‘party hop’ to ensure that they get to multiple events that are taking place at the same time – definitely the ultimate in FOMO generated behaviour!

No, I think as an older man I’ve noticed a new source of angst in recent years, but one that I think I can keep under control.  And it’s probably as old as the hills, in one form or another – FOHMO.

Fear Of Having Missed Out – that feeling you get when you see younger folks that you know taking part in social activities that are now past you due to your age, or that you’d have loved to have done when you were that age but that didn’t actually exist!  I think it’s related to the things that lead to mid-life crises, which are never good to have.

FOMO and FOHMO are both polite ways of saying ‘envy’ – the difference is that FOHMO is you being envious of things and situations you can never have; FOMO has within it the possibility that by keeping in touch, keeping watching the statuses, hopping from event to event you can become one of the ‘in crowd’, the social elite of your world.  FOHMO has within it the past tense; it’s gone, that’s it. You can break yourself against it but the bottom line is that if you suffer from FOHMO you’re on a hiding to nothing as you’re basically railing against lost time – and hence your age.

My name is Joe; I’m an occasional sufferer from FOHMO; I hope to soon grow out of it!

Mid-life crisis? Don’t mind if I DON’T…

I’ve recently concluded that I couldn’t handle a mid-life crisis.


Apart from the fact that I would have had to have had an arithmetically accurate mid-life crisis about 14 years ago, I just don’t think I’m cut out for the role and nor do I want to be, if this list of behaviours is anything to go by.

The NHS describes a mid-life crisis as follows:

“A male midlife crisis can happen when men think they’ve reached life’s halfway stage. Anxieties over what they’ve accomplished so far, either in their job or personal life, can cause a period of depression. In men, this usually happens between the ages of 35 and 50, and can last for up to 10 years.”

So in principle I still have time – I could start at 50 and not finish to 60!

To be serious, I probably had a mid-life breakdown in the late 1990s, picked myself up in late ’98 and then spent the last 15 years or so just getting on with life.  I have to admit that I’ve done a few of the things on that list, and would have liked to have done a few more, but I have to say that having gotten to 54 I’m delighted to still be alive, with a job, with a roof over my head and with most bits in working order.  I’ve occasionally joked that I’ve been kept on the straight and narrow through life by debt, a sense of duty, lack of imagination and laziness….but seriously, I actually LIKE how I’m turning out as I’m getting older!

I’m something of a fan of Jung, and he had wise words on the subject of aging:

“Jung’s view was that the second half of life must not be governed by the principles of the first half of life; that the afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning, only its meaning and purpose are different.”

This has been a really useful approach for me to take – I have to say that from about 45 onwards I’ve been more inward looking.  There have been odd wobbles – I think like most people I sort of think that I might be missing out on more exciting stuff ‘out there’ (I’ve another blog post on that particular topic brewing, so watch this space) – but when I sit down and think about stuff, I actually realise that I am quite content. I’d like a bit more money, and a bit more security….but mainly so I can carry on peering inwards.

Well…peering inwards…and outwards.  I’m a trainee reader with the Church of England, and it struck me that I might actually be having my crisis after all. As Christians we’re told to cast our cares on Jesus – and maybe that’s what I’ve been doing.


Ideas mean shit…it’s doing it that counts!


In my last post I described how my mortality had snuck up on me and dumped a rather large poo in my living room in the fact that in 15 years time I’ll be pushing 70.  See here for my thoughts…they have some relevance to the origin of this post.

I carried on thinking about 30 years ago – and back in 1985 I’d just moved to Sheffield and was living a mile from where I live now; I was doing a lot of writing for various computing and electronics magazines – this was pre-Internet, and pre-Email for most of us. Writing and publishing articles involved wordprocessing the copy, adding a separate sheet with drawings or diagrams on – if you needed photos you had to get 10×8 prints, or slides, and then sending the whole lot off to the magazine editor (or if things were desperate, you faxed them…)  Some magazines were quite advanced – you could actually send stuff on floppy disc or cassette tape as well!

I just had a look through the magaines piled up here at Pritchard Towers and realised I was producing about 1 or 2 pieces a month for different magazines.  And those were the days when you got paid for writing…soemtiems the editors would ring up and say ‘Can you do 1000 words on xxxxx’ or ‘There’s a box going to be delivered to you tomorrow – it’s a Bambleweeny 350-Z with extra Zoinks – can you write me a review by Friday?’

I didn’t quite imagine my editors with bottles of scotch in the desk drawer, but it sometimes felt like that.   The odd thing was I never seemed to be short of ideas. I occasionally worried about not having ideas, but was usually able to deliver on demand.

As well as writing articles, I also did books, and by the mid-1980s I was producing a technical book at the rate of about 1 every 10 months or so – these were practical programming guides, and I was also writing short stories ‘for fun’. The ideas that I couldn’t use immediately got written down for future use.  And so it is that I have a yellow manilla folder in my filing cabinet drawer, dated 1986, that contains drawings, notes, chapter list, book outline, clippings, some photographs, photocopies…everything I need to get started on a book project.  And yet…despite the interest I had in that idea…I never got it started.

I must have opened that file up every 6 months for the last 29 years. I have seen 3 other books published by other authors with reasonable success that skirted the topic of my idea, and I watch the publisher’s lists for similar stuff. If I see anything, I get worried…but I still haven’t felt motivated enough in all those years to do something with this project.  I think that I’d like to do it, but clearly something stops me.

And it’s not just this one off; I have a little pile of half finished good ideas and at least one idea that had I taken it to market at the time I had it would have made me a fair amount of money.  Ideas have definitely never been a problem for me. It’s actually doing something with them….

I hope that my recent ponderings on my mortality will kick me up the arse and get me motivated!

Where did all the time go?

clock The other day I was sitting, drinking tea, thinking of nothing in particular when the following thought entered in to my head.

“In less than 20 years you’ll be 70 years old.  When did THAT happen?”

I guess the unspoken ‘other shoe dropping’ of that thought was ‘…assuming you live that long.’.  The thought that despite my best efforts the army of old age has put a small tank on my lawn is quite sobering.

I expect to live to my early 80s; I’m taking in to account my parents age at death, my own lifestyle, etc. Various online tests suggest that I’m right but that there’s a chance I might push it out to my 90s or so with more exercise and less pies. Unfortunately the usual vices of drinking, smoking, fast cars and loose women are not available for me to give up, so it looks like asceticism is going to be my way forward….

So…sobering thought…assuming I don’t get hit by a bus, have a stroke, get cancer, fall prey to all the ways that the modern age has of nailing you, I might have just under 30 years left.

Thirty years ago I had left my first job and was freelancing / writing full time. I was a successful magazine and book author, had moved from Nottingham up to Sheffield, and in those wonderful pre-Internet days had hobbies that were nothing to do with computers, although I was writing articles for the home computer magazines.  Looking at my radio listening logs, I did a lot of short wave radio listening in ’85 – something I rarely do now.  I also ‘tinkered’ with electronics and general ‘stuff’ more than I do now, and I’m only in touch with 2-3 people from back then…

I don’t recollect having any plans for my future then – which perhaps explains why I’ve rather ‘meandered’ through life and how I’ve ended up where I am now.  I was really happy doing a bit of freelance programming and teaching but mainly writing – it was the one time in my life that I earned most of my income through writing – good times.  It was also just before I started working for a few places where I met people I AM still in touch with…albeit with gaps in contact!

So…sobering…some insights, which I’ll probably be blogging on, and something of a kick up the arse.  I’m on the downhill slope, and I’m still not sure how I got here…



There’s one thing we got to get, Heyes….

…and that’s out of this business!”

One of the TV highlights of the week for me in the early 1970s was the TV series ‘Alias Smith and Jones‘, following the adventures of two outlaws on probation, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, as they attempted to stay ahead of the law and out of trouble. At the start of every episode, we’d see the two being pursued on horseback, with Curry shouting the above lines to Heyes.

This week I finally decided that I need to get ‘out of the business’ of freelance web development.  I have a nice part time day job, involvement with a startup, and currently enough freelance work to keep things ticking over.  But teh freelance web work will never, ever, make me a good income again, and if I’m going to do anything with my freelancing time, I need to find something else.

What triggered this?  I quoted for a WordPress related job – install, configure, tweak the theme and apply a few small mods to the installation. Admittedly not one of the world’s great technical tasks, but a nice job.  I quoted at my ‘lowest rate’ – £20.00 / hr – this was a UK based customer, and I expected to take about 10 hours to do the job.  I replied a mail later in the day telling me that I’d not been successful as another UK based freelancer had come in at a lower rate.  Of £5.00 per hour.

A fiver an hour.  Less than I’d get sweeping floors in McDonalds. Rates like that are pretty common from suppliers of services based in the Far east, but from a UK based develoeper, it’s scary.  Because it means that the market for some types of development work has become commoditised, price driven and almost at the level of ‘will work for food’.

So…time to get out.  It’s no longer worth it.  Fortunately I have a few ‘specialist’ areas of software development I can fall back on, but am wondering now whether it’s time to take a while different approach.  With a flexible permanent job available to me, maybe it’s time to look at other things to do and leave software development work to the sweatshops of the far east and the UK?

I’ve been thinking of things that are not ‘commodity’ – maybe get my old woodworking skills back?  Or try something new? Art? Something to do with my interest in vintage radio? Who knows.  Perhaps focusisng on the permanent job and doing bits of freelance work or something new for ‘beer money’ is the way forward these days.

Very, very sad.  How long before other parts of our technology and ‘creative’ industries become sub-minimum wage sweatshops?

I’ll keep my dreams non-lucid, thanks!

I’m a dreamer….not in terms of Peace on Earth, winning the lottery, etc. but more in the line of trying to keep an eye on my own internal, nocturnal landscape.  When I wake up, if I remember a dream, I write it down.  I have dream diaries going back about a decade now, and take a Jungian approach to what Freud called ‘the royal road to the unconcious’.

I’ll occasionally go back over my diaries, look for patterns or recurring issues, think things through and generally get some good insight in to my inner workings by examining my dreams.  I’ve also been known to do a little analysis work for friends and family.

So, I was interested to read this article on the BBC website looking at the area of lucid dreaming.  In case you’ve not come across the concept, the idea is to condition yourself to be able to take control of your dreams by bringing yourself to a state of semi-wakefullness when you’re dreaming that will then allow you to affect the dircetion of the dreams to soem degree whilst still staying in a dreaming state.  This can be done (with practice) by a fair percentage of the population, and there are now technological aids that will either make you more likely to enter a lucid state when going to sleep by a light / sound display or that will play a sound, give you a mild electrical shock, flash a light, etc. by detecting when you are dreaming.

So far, so good – sounds like a good source of cheap, realistic (albeit rather unpredictable) entertainment!  When I was a kid I had a few episodes of lucidity when dreaming – that moment when you realise ‘Oooh…I’m dreaming….can I fly?’ or those nightmares where by sheer will you manage to wake yourself up before unpleasantnesses occur.  And I quite fancied the idea of lucid dreaming when I read about it in my teens, but didn’t follow through – back then the technology was less easy to come by and my capability for any sort of mental discipline was….scarce.

Then I started recording my dreams, got in to Jungian psychology, and decided against the idea of ever ‘going lucid’.  Why?

Well, I believe that my dreams are essentially of three sorts.  The first is reactive stuff – I watch Aliens on TV before going to bed, eat a cheese and marmite sandwich and then have nightmares.  Or my cat lays across my chest and I dream of being suffocated by a cat…

The second is the ‘bread and butter’ dreams of my sub-conscious mind trying to tell me something, to varying degrees of success.  These reflect my inner anxieties, concerns, etc.  Sometimes I get dreams that I recognise as anxiety dreams when I feel OK – then after a few minutes thought I realise that there are a few things causing me concern.  I find that much of the time when I address these issues in my conscious mind then the dreams disappear or change form.  Job done, I guess.

The third, and rarest, type of dreams for me are what Jung called the ‘Big Dreams’ – these are the ones where for days afterwards I’m chewing it over.  the ones where I may wake up in tears of joy or sadness.  The ones that really speak from deep down inside me.

And the latter two types of dream I value the most – the unpredictability, the weirdness, the insights.  None of which would come were I to be in control of my dreams to even a small degree by lucid dreaming. These are the dreams that tell me stuff that I conciously don’t realise about myself, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today (for better or worse!!) had I not had these dreams. Spending my dreaming hours in various ‘fun activities’ would be a waste.

And we don’t know the long term impact of taking control of such a fundamental part of sleep. For very competent lucid dreamers would there be massive ‘American Werewolf’ problems – in the film ‘An American Werewolf in London’ a character wakes from a nightmare, then after a while he finds he’s still dreaming – a dream within a dream.  Would we get people starting to question whether they are awake or whether they have reached some high degree of lucidity?

Quite a bit to ponder; for those who dream lucidly, dream wisely.