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.


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.


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.


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…



Whoops…no Apocalypse!

So, all you Olympic / Illuminati / Alien Conspiracy theorists….how’s that ‘The 2012 Olympics will herald the end of the world with nukes, interdimensional portals and alien invaders’ idea hanging this morning?

A few weeks ago I posted this item – http://www.joepritchard.me.uk/2012/07/oops-apocalypse-or-get-a-friggin-grip/ – and as we’ve now crashed back to earth on the Monday after the Olympic closing ceremony, I think I can safely say that given 3 possible ends of the world, 2 opportunities for these events to happen (opening and closing ceremonies) and 2 weeks of primetime TV coverage in case the bad guys were late in arriving – it’s not going to happen.

The use of the Clash in an advert was just marketing gonks not listening to the words, the triangular lighting towers at the stadium were just….surprise….triangular lighting towers, the ‘Shard’ is just a rather big glass and steel penis substitute and not a landing platform for Goa’uld style pyramid shaped mother ships.

The closest that we got to an interdimensional portal releasing hordes of creatures from another dimension was when the Octopus appeared in the closing ceremony, and for a brief moment it did look like “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” was about to give way to ‘Cthulhu has been woken up by the din and fancies a light supper’…..

OK.  Enough jokes. like I said previously – what really scares me is that there are quite a lot of sane, otherwise sensible people who publicly (well, behind Internet aliases) stated that all this bollocks was going to happen, and larger numbers of people who believed it.  Given the state of the world I guess that if I was feeling generous I could attribute this sort of rubbish to some sort of late Millennial or pre-Mayan Endtimes panic or a spillover of stress from the economic and environmental problems facing the world, but when I’m feeling less generous I have to regard the people pushing this tripe as rather nasty, evil little trolls.

So…to all you conspiracy nuts. Anyone I know on Twitter or Facebook will be purged the first time that you post ANY sort of apologetics explaining why the end of the world didn’t happen.  Just ‘fess up and admit it was bollocks.  There’s good folks.  And get back to playing Dungeons and Dragons.

And for the worried and the anxious – there are enough real world problems out here to deal with.  Engage with a few and try and make the future for yourselves and your family what you want it to be, rather than being anxious about a future that will never exist outside bad science fiction or a psychiatric ward.

How Danny Boyle accidentally saved the Coalition

On Friday, 16th November, 2012 the General Election results reflected what had been the mood of much of the country since July of that year; increased support and continued mandate for the Coalition Government of David Cameron.  The early election had been called in early September by the 2/3 majority in the House of Commons required by the Fixed term Parliaments Act, with both the Coalition and Opposition generally feeling that they had it in the bag.

As Ed Miliband prepared to step down as leader of the Labour Party, and hence kick off a further period of in-fighting and introspection, he must have wondered how it had all gone so badly wrong.  As did ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who had been fired from his post in early October – quite a daring step for Prime Minister David Cameron but later regarded as a cost that that party had to pay.  New Chancellor Danny Alexander had spoken with the IMF and agreed that the stringent austerity policies of his predecessor would be slackened off.  The Coalition had some how survived – the next election set for 2017.

How had this come to pass?  The answer lay with a peculiarity of the British Electorate and the astonishing Olympic Opening Ceremony that the world had witnessed on July 27th.  It may also have been slightly helped by the antics of US Presidential Mitt Romney who, on the 26th July when visiting the UK, had managed to insult his hosts in quite a public manner.  And it certainly wasn’t hindered by a reasonable sporting performance during the games and the publication of a set of financial results in August that suggested that things were possibly coming along, even if many people in country were suffering badly.  And a couple of highly public firings of Tory MPs with extremist views, and their replacement with ‘party liners’ was highly regarded in the press.

The Games gave Cameron his Falklands moment; just as his predecessor Margaret Thatcher had been able to return to power on an increased majority on the back of a successful patriotic war, Cameron had been able to marshal the hype around the Olympics to his own advantage, making good use of the Olympic ‘feel good’ factor and taking a massive chance that the slight improvement of published financials and the October reshuffle would bring him votes.  Labour had failed to get traction as an opposition party; their own leaders realized that they would be forced to make some unpalatable decisions themselves and appeared to be almost paralysed by their honesty, as spokesmen repeated that ‘things  were not going to be easy’.

But that Friday morning, as Cameron started to plan for this new Cabinet, he knew that his victory started the instant that the spectacular Opening Ceremony hit the screens and fired up in the watching public that very peculiar form of national pride that has carried more than one Prime Minister to election victory by the ‘feel good’ factor.  Even the pointedly critical  ‘NHS’ segment was put to good use when, in late August, Cameron gave a speech in which he stated that he and his Government would take on board the Olympic Spirit and start by listening to the people; the outpouring of public support for the NHS triggered by the ceremony had made him rethink policy and in a massive U-Turn the NHS reforms would be reversed.

In the weeks up to and during the election campaign, Cameron deftly reflected on the Olympic ideal in virtually every speech he made; the fact that Britain had once again managed to produce a wonderful event in a time of austerity; that once again we had shown our abilities to the world.  Some early orders to business based on the Olympic Business Summit in the week before the games were heavily publicised, and various pundits of the left and ‘progessive’ movements in the UK were indirectly bought in to the campaign, as positive comments they had made about the Olympics were re-used widely in the media.

As the time approached for him to visit the Palace, he took time out to write a memo to his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.  It was short: “Would it be too wicked to offer Danny Boyle a knighthood for ‘Services to the Conservative Party’?”  Cameron smirked and started thinking that some of those NHS reforms were pretty damn good and would have to be reintroduced….

Oops Apocalypse….or…..GET A FRIGGIN’ GRIP!

According to some folks, the Olympic Opening cermony on Friday night is going to go with a bang.  Not figuratively, but literally.  Apparently a bunch of ne’er do wells called the Illuminati are going to detonate a nuclear weapon at the Stadium which will open up an interdimensional portal and flood the world with… well, you get the picture.

Just as the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’ was built on an Indian Burial Ground, the Olympic Stadium in London was apparently built on an area steeped in Satanism and nuclear waste.  I would have hated to have been the Health and Safety at Work officer signing off on that one….”Look, we have protocols for dealing with low level radioactive waste, but 3 legions of Demons and Azrat the Merciless, well, you can’t just put THEM in landfill….” I’ve visited Stratford – not my cup of tea but by no means the Hellmouth.

I’m not going to link to this garbage – at one level I find it incredibly funny, but at another level I’m sort of concerned that a lot of people are taking it at least semi-seriously, and some are really giving it the works; whilst the choice of the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ by BA for their advertising campaign is bizarre to say the least, the way in which people have freeze-framed and analysed the advert to ‘prove’ that it’s actually a warning of impending doom is reminiscent of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ business with the Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’.

I suppose it’s some form of Millienalism – I’m sure that it will get VERY crazy as the end of the ‘current’ phase of Mayan calendar approaches in December, but that’s another story – but I honestly wish these dingbats would shut the fuck up about it.  People.  It’s not going to happen.  If the Illuminati were so smart, how come it’s taken them 300 years and we’re still not all enslaved?  Why advertise the fact that they’re going to do this?  Are they some sort of Bond Villain who gives away their plot so they can be defeated and then have to go and create a new one to keep them busy for the next half century?  Why am I even trying to be logical about this?  Even if bugger all happens except what’s supposed to happen, the conspiracy theorists will have a brilliant explanation as to why Stratford isn’t a glowing crater surrounded by H P Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones.

The Internet seems to have allowed us to rapidly create instant mythologies, and then spread those mythologies far and wide.  Our leaders and Governments and institutions have failed miserably and ever since Kennedy was assassinated it seems that we’re happier to believe in conspiracy rather than cock up, in mind control rather than mindless violence.  Please folks, let’s just get a grip here; we’re in a big enough pile of pooh right now – just how we’re going to afford to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies in a year’s time is a bigger concern than a load of sub-X Files conspiracy fiction triggered by folks treating the Illuminatus! trilogy as historical fact rather than second rate, mildly pornographic science fiction.

And if I’m wrong, I’ll see you on Saturday in the Illuminati Death Camps that await most of us, and I will strangle any smart arse who says ‘I told you so….’


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.


Life is what happens….

…when you’re making other plans.

That’s the way things work according, I believe, to John Lennon.  I have to say that that’s how it felt a week or so back when I realised I hadn’t blogged for about 5 months. Looking back over the period between Christmas 2010 and now, I’m not surprised that I haven’t blogged – it’s been a Hell of a few months for me and mine, and we’re still hacking our way through them.

I’ve noticed a similar fall off in tweets and Facebook usage.  I guess that this is where I say something that will mark me out as a dilettante amongst online comentators, a wall-flower amongst social networkers, a poseur amongst the digerati:

My offline life was too intense to allow me to be arsed to blog.

There, I said it.  I just didn’t feel like blogging.  And is that such a bad thing?  When I was a kid, I must have promised myself year after year at Christmas that I would keep a diary.  The longest I managed it was probably until the 6th or 7th of January – after that entries slowed down to the rate of one every few days, then every few weeks, then stopped dead.  In later life I have managed to keep a ‘professional diary’, mainly for the purposes of billing and getting me to meetings, but very little, if any, personal stuff goes in there.  I manage better with blogging, but it falls apart when my offline life gets ‘interesting’.

I guess I’m just not capable of  blogging when there’s stuff happening in my day to day life.  I’m the same with creative writing – I’ve never been a great believer in the nonsense that gets written about artists starving in garrets and being incredibly productive.  What might happen is that hard times may create inspiration for creative thought, but it’s a rare talent (and one that I certainly don’t have) that can write or blog when hungry, cold, skint and anxious.

I’m sure that some of the events of the last 6 months will show up here sooner or later – but for now I’ll just do my best to write something occasionally.

A case of censorship and wrongful imprisonment?

This has absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks.

Or maybe it does.

All stories like this have two sides, and it’s inevitable that we only get to see one side of it – and perhaps therein lies the Wikileaks link – it would be so nice to see both sides of this story so that the ‘truth will out’ as they say.  The story revolves around a young man called Steven Neary who suffers from an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  The story is detailed here – ‘The Orwellian Present – Never Mind the Future’ – and it is a very sad tale.  I know from experience that the behaviours of people on the Autistic Spectrum can vary between baffling, frightening and infuriating.  Folks dealing with such people as Steven need a lot of patience and support – unlike the situation here where, through a minor illness on the part of Steven’s carer, resulted in Steven being imprisoned against his will and the will of his father ‘for his own good’.

Whether Steven will be released back to his father’s care is still a mystery.   The situation has existed for several months now – since last winter – and has received some media coverage but in my opinoon nowhere near as much as should be given to such a case.

The ‘rendition process’ that Steven has gone through is as effective at depriving him of his freedom as any that may be read of in Wikileaks.  Kafka’s Trial springs to mind to deal with the process – Steven did little wrong; his behaviour was deemed ‘bad’ by professional carers and they considered him unmanageable:

Now the Positive Behaviour Unit is a mighty politically correct place. Tap someone on the shoulder to attract their attention, and they don’t think ‘that is how Stephen has always attracted my attention since he was a child’ – they say – ‘he touched me, that is an assault’ and promptly record it in their daily log…..

When Stephen’s Father went to collect him after three days, they had logged many such ‘assaults’ – and announced that they were retaining Stephen for ‘assessment’. No! His Father couldn’t take him home.

Now, some of you may think that this is Sectioning – nope, it’s not.  It’s another piece of fun legislation bought in for our protection by those fun loving liberals called New Labour in 2005 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2007/12/schedule/7 – basically, it’s designed to lock people up for their own protection.

And, if you should try and get back to your own home, where you are loved and cared for, you’re in trouble because you’re showing that you need locking up for your own protection because you’re trying to take yourself to a place where you don’t need ‘protecting’.

Kafkaesque process, followed by Orwellian Doublethink and, eventually, probably becoming an un-person as you disappear form view with only your family to care about the problem.  And if you have no family?  Doesn’t bear thinking about.

Many of us in the IT profession exhibit traits of behaviour on the Autistic Spectrum – it’s almost a given that engineers, mathematicians, programmers, etc. will be there.  I wonder whether any of our own lapses of ‘socially correct’ behaviour could get us there?

Steven’s behaviour appeared normal for someone scared and wanting to go home; the behavioural issues that got him in to the Positive Behaviour Unit are much less of a problem than the behaviour we see in our city streets every Friday night.

So, why aren’t our liberal  bleeding hearts who’re having palpitations about Wikileaks and Mr Assange engaging in similar lobbying for this man?  After all, he’s detained agaisnt his will, and additionally has had no warrant for arrest issued against him.  Why isn’t the case being published by the newspapers so gallantly printing the equivalent of HELLO style gossip for the political classes?

Possibly because the chattering classes who get their kicks from reading the secret squirrel stuff on Wikileaks recognise that Neary has been incarcerated by their own kind, under laws put in place by folks just like them. 

I actually believe that little of what comes out of Wikileaks is of day to day (or even long term) relevance to the population as a whole.  Anyone with a brain knows that this sort of thing is happening; it’s nothing new.  People get vicarious thrills by feeling that they’re ‘in the loop’ whilst they may actually being fed ‘secrets’ and lies and be unable to tell the difference. 

Freedom of speech and expression is not something new; journalists have been dying and being improsoned to tell the truth for as long as there have been newspapers, and we should be grateful that people are willing to take the risks.  But for most people the issues that most affect their day to day lives aren’t whether the US Ambassador to Great Britain thinks that our government are a bunch of paranoids.  What matters is how our own national and local government beaurocracies are impacting on our day to day lives and removing the few freedoms that New Labour left us with.

Don’t allow the sparkly baubles from Wikileaks to distract you from the fact that freedom starts with being able to live in your own home without fear of wrongful or arbitrary arrest or imprisonment.  The legislation that Neary is detained under sounds awfully like the old laws of Soviet Psychiatry – if you disagreed with the Soviet Government you were clearly barking mad and so needed locking up for your own good.’

As you go through your day today, might I suggest that you take a look at your own behavioural ticks and foibles, and wonder whether any of them are enough to get you in trouble.

All things

A Facebook friend of mine (and an author whose work I’ve admired for over years) Jessica Lipnack shared this article – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ron-currie-jr/things-i-learned-while-wr_b_659568.html?ref=fb&src=sp – it’s a good read. I particularly liked the bit about finding ‘Maggie May’ on the car radio – that sort of thing happens a lot in my life and over the years I’ve made lots of jokes about the role of coincidence (and later on synchronicity) in my life. It’s no accident, therefore, that one of my favourite episodes of ‘The X-Files’ didn’t involve Smoking Man, alien abduction or other nasties; it was a nicely done, low key story called ‘all things’ in which Scully had a set of experiences based around coincidence and synchronicity that explored the issues of letting go and moving on. It’s a great episode – also features Moby on the soundtrack, so check it out.

I came across the concept of synchronicity when I started studying Jung. Whereas no one has any problem with coincidence, I find that checking out someone’s thoughts on synchronicity are a good indication as to the open-mindedness of that person. Coincidence is literally that unrelated events that whilst they may appear to be in some way linked to an observer are actually happening in a way that is perfectly explicable with the laws of probability and chance and lack ‘connectedness’. Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance – Jung referred to the phenomenon as an ‘acausal connecting principle’ – doesn’t exactly run off the tongue….

My favourite example of Synchronicity was reported by Jung himself – during a rather heated debate with Freud about whether the phenomenon actually existed or not :

“I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and were becoming red-hot — a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us. I said to Freud: ‘There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.’ ‘Oh come,’ he exclaimed. ‘That is sheer bosh.’ ‘It is not,’ I replied. ‘You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report! ‘Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words that the same detonation went off in the bookcase. To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me. I do not know what was in his mind, or what his look meant. “

I’ve experienced quite a lot of coincidence and whilst few of my personal experiences have matched some of the more ‘out there’ ones featured in Martin Plimmer’s Beyond Coincidence – – I have had a few good ones over the years. Episodes of Synchronicity I’m not sure of – the one that immediately springs to mind was around the death of my Mother, although I’m aware of the sceptic’s viewpoint that at such times one seeks meaning in all sorts of things. My mother had been ill in hospital, in a coma, and it was purely a matter of time before she passed on. It was approaching Easter, and she died in the early hours of Good Friday, during a Lunar Eclipse, which I’ve always considered as being some how appropriate.

I’ve had many others over the years – I sometimes tell people some of the stories about me and coincidence / synchronicity and I start thinking that people reckon I’m making up tall stories! Another goodie involves our first cat – when we moved to Sheffield we were regularly visited by a black and white cat who used to sit and watch me work in our kitchen. At the time, I was negotiating for work with a magazine company based in Stockport and they suggested that an editor of theirs, who lived in Sheffield, should come and visit me. After a brief phone call, it transpired that the editor lived around the corner from me and we could see the backs of each others houses. When he visited, which coincided with one of the many visits of the ‘stray’ cat, we found that the cat belonged to him.

I keep an open mind on things like this; as a Christian I’m happy to see the presence God in all things, and I’m also happy to experience coincidence and synchronicity as well – maybe the latter is just well hidden Divine Intervention…