Adulting….

In recent years I’ve heard the word ‘adulting’ used to describe various types of behaviour.  I have to say that when I first heard it, I thought it was being used in a joking manner, but it appears that some folks use it seriously.

According to the ‘urban dictionary’ website, the verb ‘To Adult’ has the following meaning : “to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.”

Of course, there were adults doing stuff before the last couple of years – we just got on with it rather than made up words to describe it.  Adulting is a concept that seems to be popular with Millennials – apparently 20 and 30 somethings are finding the whole business of life in the 21st Century a bit of a pain.  I can see that there are issues around these days that I didn’t have when I was in my 20s – the main one being that buying your own house these days is a harder proposition than when we bought ours – but for crying out loud, when you get someone in their 20s or 30s saying ‘I’m not good at adulting’ or being proud of their ‘adulting skills’ because they’ve cooked a meal, we have a major problem.

I have a ‘thing’ about how some people seem to be increasingly infantilised, particularly people in their 20s and 30s, and this sort of nonsense seems to fit the bill.  Again – I empathise with the challenges in life today, but come on folks – it’s always been hard and you’re not being asked to charge up a beach under machine gun fire. You’re being asked to cook food; I was 10 when I first cooked tea for myself, my mum and my dad.

I’ve previously written on the concept of ‘The Competent Man (or woman)‘ on this blog, and so was slightly hopeful when I came across this article in the Guardian recently, about an organisation called ‘The Adulting School’ based in the US.  I took a look at their ‘Adulting IQ’ and found that there were some interesting suggestions in there of what constitutes being an adult today – it’s here.

One has to say that it’s American and that it almost certainly isn’t aimed at soemone of my generation.  To put it in context I was born 15 years after the end of World War 2; it was less than a decade since the end of rationing in the UK, and my parents were of an older generation who’d lived through depressions and general strikes as well as WW2. I guess I learnt from the experts.

But it’s a very serious problem; many of these people who’re having problems with Adulting will have kids; the chances are, therefore, that the next generation will have fewer adulting skills of teh sort I learnt from my mum and dad by absorption – how to wire a plug, cook food, darn socks, plant stuff in the garden, basic plumbing, budgeting, etc.

I’d be the first to admit that there are new skills that the Millenials and more recent generations have that they acquire ‘osmotically’ – using technology…er….yes. That’s about it.

Maybe I need to start a UK branch of The Adulting School…..

When unfriending is the friendly thing to do

I’m not a great social media junkie; I think I have a Tumblr account, somewhere.  I don’t have an Instagram account or use Reddit, and whilst Blackberry Messenger is (apparently) installed and available on my Blackberry I don’t have anyone to talk to on it except charming young ladies who seem to be short of friends and clothes.

I DO, however, use Facebook extensively, and to a lesser degree Twitter.

The rules of the game for me is that Twitter is for following companies, folks I do business with, magazines, websites, etc. Anyone or anything that I’m interested in but wouldn’t necessarily want to discuss my favorite films, the weird dream I had last night, politics or religion. I.e. – contacts, colleagues and comrades.

Now Facebook is rather different – that’s family and friends and some friends of friends – on the whole people that I care about in terms of their day to day lives – their ups, downs, successes and failures.  Folks who at some level or another I like or love, and who I’d happily spend time with in the pub or around the dinner table. Facebook is also where I am who I am – the unadulterated me. You’ll get me on bad days, good days, I’ll talk about cats, blog posts, state of the garden, food, my faith, and occasionally my politics. I’ll bitch about work, go ga-ga over a new TV show, share cat videos and generally project an online presence that, for better or worse, is similar to what folks get from me on a daily basis.

Facebook is, for me, the world of and according to, Joe.

Every now and again I do Facebook Purges.  These may sound quite Stalinist, and I guess at one level they are. I’m getting rid of folks who no longer belong in the filtered society of my Facebook friends list.  I’ve read all the articles about creating closed worlds of people that you agree with, and the problems that that can cause when interacting with wider society.

And I’m not bothered. The different view points I get from Twitter or trips to discussion boards.

Facebook is where I don’t mind my views being challenged, but I expect the challenging to be in a respectful way.  Facebook is my online living room; I don’t mind intense discussions around the dinner table at home; I would object if someone came in and started ranting at me for my politics or religious views.  In fact, I’d not expect such people to come and visit me at all if that was all they were going to do….they’d come over rather like the bods on the High Street with the placards proclaiming that the Second Coming is nigh and that Socialist Worker is the answer to everything.

Being a God-bothering man means that I will and I expect to get my faith questioned; I don’t proselytise too much on Facebook, and I think that most folks I know respect my views (though they may disagree with my belief in sky-pixies).  My political views are quite a hotch-potch, though, and this has caused increasing amounts of friction, especially with regard to Brexit.

The automatic response of some folks that everyone who voted to leave the EU was a racist bigot was quite hurtful – I’m a leaver and can walk and breathe at the same time, don’t drag my knuckles, and don’t believe that ‘they should all go home’.  I believe in giving home to genuine refugees. I also believe that we should have some degree of control of borders, and that international trade deals are not always good. And that building in a transnational super state in Europe may not be the best way to world peace.

Some folks I know have debated these issues with me and we’ve agreed to disagree. I may have moved closer to them, they may have moved closer to me. Others just called me names and I’m afraid I unfriended them.

And that was probably the kindest thing to do; unfriend on Facebook, keep on Twitter, keep contact to some degree in the ‘real world’ if necessary but avoid that risk of either person saying something that they will regret online in the heat of the moment.

At the moment another purge is in the offing; there are some folks who I rarely seem to engage with on Facebook and all I see from them are shared statements – often politics of one sort or another – or anti-faith posts of varying types.  Nothing ‘original’, lots of viral stuff.  It feels like having the folks with the ‘Jesus is nigh’ and ‘Socialist Worker’ placards simply turning up at your house and standing in the living room, waving the placards and shouting slogans.

No thanks.

Come and be my friend when you have something more to offer me than slogans.

 

Unhappy the land that needs heroes….??

The line :

“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”

comes from Bertholt Brecht’s ‘Life of Gallileo’ and has stuck with me for many, many years.  I can’t remember when I first heard it, but it still rattles around my head and so I thought to myself – time for a think.

I don’t know whether I agree with it or disagree with it. When I first heard it I thought it to be so; these days I’m not so sure any more.  The way the world is today the characters of a Brecht play may not need heroes, but the rest of us probably do!

I’m a great believer in the quiet hero, as well as the more obvious heroes in our society.  I would add that there’s rarely anything truly heroic, in my opinion, about sports stars, actors, musicians and celebrities; as a society we seem to have slackened off our definition of hero over the years.  Having said that, there are a few heroic examples of these folks – just not the ones that appear on X-Factor….

I think it was George Orwell who commented something along the lines that so many works of critics regarded so many books as masterpieces written by geniuses, that when a REAL masterpiece came along written by a TRUE genius the critics would have to find new words with which to describe them!

Are there people that everyone can agree are heroes?

Here are a few definitions….

“A hero is someone who stays brave for 5 seconds longer than everyone else.” – Captain James T Kirk

“A hero is someone who has given their life over to something bigger than themselves.” – Joseph Campbell

“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. ” Tecumseh

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. ” – Christoper Reeve

“A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares. ” – Debi Mazar

“My dad’s the one who’s always been there; he’s my hero, you could say. Even when he was working, he’d do anything for me. He’s been the biggest influence in my life. ” – Gareth Bale

“The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.” – Joss Wheedon

“Neil Young is my hero, and such a great example. You know what that guy has been doing for the past 40 years? Making music. That’s what that guy does. Sometimes you pay attention, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes he hands it to you, sometimes he keeps it to himself. He’s a good man with a beautiful family and wonderful life. ” – Dave Grohl

I’m not sure what the common features are here, but I’ve known and still know people who these quotes describe.

I am surrounded by quiet heroes in my life; those folks who fit the descriptions given above by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Reeve. People who’ve given themselves to something bigger than themselves.  Their family, charitable works, their community. Folks who’re constantly fighting the odds. The ones who, as Wheedon says, keep digging even when there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

I need people like this; they’re the folks I look to when the shit is hitting the fan and all seems dark. They’re the ones providing the light – the faint glimmer that, as John says in his Gospel, cannot be put out by the darkness.

They’re also the ones who make me want to be a better man, and perhaps be a hero to others.

 

Practicing thanksgiving

In a rare example of timeliness, I want to talk about thanksgiving. However, not just about the American holiday, but about the general idea of giving thanks for stuff.  I know it sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish – if such a word exists – but I genuinely believe that to be thankful and to express those thanks in some way is one of the greatest things we can do as human beings.

As a Christian, giving thanks to God is part and parcel of my religious beliefs. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to do when you feel that the world is giving you a good kicking, but I always try and include something in my daily prayers.

And that does make me aware that on the whole most of us who can read this in the comfort of their own home have a couple of things at least to be thankful for immediately; you currently have a roof over your head, and you have the facilities and money required to at least for the moment give you Internet access.  And I think that that is where our ‘practising thankfulness’ has to start; much of what we take for granted is worthy of being grateful for, even if we’ve worked for it and think that we deserve it.

There’s actually some suggestion that being grateful and saying thank you is actually good for you. I’ve always been a better giver than receiver; I’m not terribly good at taking compliments, or receiving help, or being on the receiving end of thanks or congratulations – it makes me rather uncomfortable.  But saying thanks to folks – never really been a problem for me.

It’s something that is so easy to do, and it makes a difference to people.  Even I, with my reluctance to take thanks-yous well, feel better when someone thanks me.  I’ll be a bit embarrassed about it, but I try to take it well and it usually does end up bringing a smile to my face.  It certainly does me more good than the times when I put myself out for someone and they ignore it or take it for granted!  It’s not that I do stuff and expect thanks; it’s just nice to be appreciated.

And as for being thankful – it seems logical to me.  I think when you offer thanks – to the world, the universe, God, the next door neighbour, whatever – you’re actually acknowledging that you’ve been part of something collaborative; that you’re aware at some level that you needed something or someone else to help you bring about something that you’ve done.  It’s a source of humility; it’s something that brings you down to earth. It prevents you from being arrogant and overly proud.  Genuine gratitude for anything is the means by which we can connect with something bigger than ourselves.

By saying thank you to the chap who held the door open, we establish – albeit briefly and temporarily – a new relationship.  By thanking folks for those small impacts on our lives, we might be helping them feel better and perhaps encouraging them to ‘spread the word’ in some way.

Which these days has got to be worth doing!

To sleep, perchance to…

…have weird people trying to eat you?

I’m pretty sure that the Shakespeare quote involved the word ‘dream’ but my latest nocturnal meanderings by my subconscious were not of the peaceful type!

I’m a great logger and journaler of dreams.  I can remember many dreams that I had when I was a child and a teenager – particularly the unpleasant ones – and since the late 1990s, when I suffered a mild nervous breakdown, I’ve recorded my dreams on waking whenever I am aware of having dreamt and am capable of remembering anything that happened.  When I started the journal, it was on pieces of paper or text files; I toyed with the idea of using a nice, hardback book to put everything in but that never really suited; nowadays I have a section of my OneNote notebook labelled ‘Dreams’ and that does the trick nicely.  It also allows me to easily search previous dream records, and has the additional advantage of allowing me to easily slot in stuff after the event.  Every now and again I come across a Word document or some scribbled notes recording a dream that I had years ago, and it’s easy for me to pop a note in OneNote in the right place and transcribe the contents of my previously lost records.

Why do I bother?

Well, it’s been interesting to see when I dream, to start with; I now realise that I’m more likely to dream when I’m slightly mentally agitated – ignoring those dreams that Ebeneezer Scrooge referred to:

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you….”

and the really ‘big’ dreams for me – those that either fit the pattern of deep and important dreams defined by Jung or those that have me waking up feeling strong emotions – tend to take place when my sub-concious is needing to get my attention.  I have to say that sometimes I wish that the message that it attempts to convey was more clearly expressed….

If I dream when I’m ill, over-heated, still digesting my supper, drunk or just having a ‘bad night’ I’ll record the dreams and ponder them; but if I have a dream that leaves me waking up with strong emotions, kicking the cats off the bed as I flail around like a lunatic or that is particularly vivid and coherent, then THEY are the dreams that I attempt to ‘read, mark and inwardly digest’.

I’m actually quite reticent to discuss my dreams with lots of people; like most people, I think whatever public standing I have (not much!) would go down the toilet were folks to know of my antics in some of my dreams, and over the years I’ve learnt a great deal about myself from studying my dreams and reading the more ‘serious’ books on the subject.

I’ve learnt to recognise certain things in my dream as having specific meanings; to you that workbench might be just a workbench; for me, I know that if I dream in detail about a workbench, there is some aspect of my creative life that’s currently lacking and I need to find a new outlet or kick a new project off.  There are also people who turn up repeatedly in my dream – that’s more intimate, and whilst I think know who and what they represent I’m not telling here!

And as for being eaten by weird people?

Well, without going in to too much detail, let me advise you never to allow yourself to be followed in to a perfectly dark room by a stranger who then proceeds to start eating your hand…..

the analysis of THAT little horror will start soon.

 

“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…

dand1

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

FOMO and FOHMO

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!

Hope springs eternal…

One of my favourite films is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. There are a number of reasons for this – one is that I’m a big fan of the novella it’s based on – ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King.

The story was originally published in a book of 4 stories called ‘Different Seasons’. Each story had a subtitle based on a season.  If you’re interested, the other stories were ‘Apt Pupil’ – subtitled ‘Summer of Corruption’, ‘The Body’ – eventually filmed as ‘Stand By Me’, with the subtitle ‘Fall from Innocence’ and the final story was ‘the Breathing Method’, subtitled ‘A Winter’s Tale.

And ‘Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption’?  That was the story for spring, with the subtitle ‘Hope Springs Eternal’.  And that is another reason why I love this film – because it is about hope in a major way. Indeed, one of my favourite quotations about hope comes from this film:

“hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I’m a Christian, and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, there’s the lovely line ‘These three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’.  Well, I sometimes beg to disagree with Paul – sometimes I think the greatest thing we can have is hope, especially in times like the ones we’re living through right now.

This is the closest thing you’ll get from me to a comment about the Paris terror attacks.  I’m not a soldier, not an intelligence operative, policeman, counter-insurgency specialist or witness. Anything I say about the attacks would be second hand – gleaned from mainstream or social media – and I have no answers.

I want to comment more about the reaction of people; I think it was barely 24 hours after the attacks when someone pointed me at a video someone had put together as to why the whole thing was somehow related to the Illuminati and the Knights Templars. (King Phillip IV of France suppressed the Templars – to whom he owed money – on Friday 13th October 1307)  As Saturday unfolded, I was regaled with ‘the truth’ from all and sundry on the wilder regions of social media – it was an inside job, it was the Jews / CIA / NSA / Boy Scouts (one of those was made up…), it was fault of the refugees in Calais, like Charlie Hebdot the attacks were stage managed (I assume the dead bodies are all some sort of dummies, or is the french government now slaughtering it’s own people?) There’s also the expected reaction from the bigots of ‘Throw out all the refugees and close the borders’, which is interestingly counterpointed by the conspiracy theorists with ‘Ahhh…the EU WANTS the refugees coming in to allow them to blame them for terrorist attacks and hence bring in more totalitarian measures…’  Oh, and it’s all been done to start WW3.

My take on this whole thing right now is that people are dead – and this week it’s been Beirut and Baghdad as well (whether those attacks were part of the same conspiracy or not I don’t know)  – and that the rest of us need to have some sort of hope that things will get better.  Does the whole conspiracy thing – with it’s endless proselytizing of unproveable ‘truths’ – give hope to anyone? I don’t think it does.  I’ve written on this blog before about this issue – 3 years ago – and it’s sad that nothing changes – here’s the previous posts, and I don’t intend to re-hash my thinking….

Oops Apocalypse – or get a fricking grip
Whoops! No Apocalypse!
Seven of Nine and the Illuminati

I think that it causes despair. I think the active conspiracy theorists are at best overly imaginative or suffering from problems with fact finding and elucidating cause and effect. At worst they’re just plain evil, and a major problem.  There are undoubtedly some conspiracies around – but sometimes, most of the time, Occam’s Razor Rules.

A friend put it well today “the thoughts and attitudes of people that I like and love even more scarey than the awful things that are happening in the world“.  When folks you regard as good, intelligent people start spouting this crap, or start becoming bigoted fascists, or start losing their common humanity – what do you do?

On Facebook today I posted:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

Today is a day to be a helper for humanity. Be compassionate, hug your friends, bury a few grudges, share food with family, pray, meditate, kill your hate.

Be good to yourself. I’m engaging with the world for a while as social media is going to be full of anger, hate, conspiracy theories and bigots, and I just don’t need that right now.

Peace.

I think I should have added…be a hoper. Keep that good thing alive. Don’t succumb to despair.

This morning as I pondered this stuff, I looked out of my study window and to my great pleasure saw a rainbow arcing across the sky.  That was a hopeful sign.