Tuesday, 24 September 2013


There's a programme called Gogglebox that is a recording of people watching tv.  

That's it.

They sit at home watching TV and they are filmed and then that is put on TV.

And then we sit at home and watch them watching TV.

You see where this is going?

One day they won't need to make TV programmes any more. They'll just film people watching other people watching other people watching yet more people watching them.  

And in the end we'll all be watching each other watching us watching them.

A bit like those mirrors in either side of lifts that reflect to infinity.  

Or a mobius strip.  The mobius strip of TV viewing.

And then they'll be able to run re-runs of people goggleboxing.

How long before all that will be left will be goggleboxing.

People won't do anything or go anywhere.  They'll sit at home on padded recliners, with built in self-flushing toilets.  Food and drink delivered by conveyor belt straight into the TV room (which will be the only room) with the screen the entire size of a wall.  And each screen will record you watching it and relay it out to all the other screens.  And these goggleboxers will be able select who they watch watching them.

But that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

Thursday, 19 September 2013



I read this today - or something very similar.  For the life of me I cannot remember where - so if it was you let me know, and I'll credit you.

Walking on the beach with the dog last Sunday, after skwadging ankle deep in tarry quicksand on a deserted tide-out stretch of sand, I gave up the idea of a fantasy afternoon watching the dog bound across flat sand into a late summer surf.  Within 20 minutes we were both wet, dirty and harassed by impolite dogs that hadn't been taught proper boundaries re my dog's ownership of a dubious bit of driftwood (TBH, I think it was a fossilized piece of sea alien), I trudged up the pebbly beach, two feet up and one step back up the hundreds of thousands of rocks and pebbles.

A little flat stone with some writing on it caught my eye.
Picking it up I couldn't immediately work out what the marks on it were.

Slowly I deciphered the strokes.

"Vivs rock, 12.09.97"

My name is Viv.  

My wedding anniversary is 12.09, and in 1997 had been married for 10 years.

I shit you not.

I have no idea what interpretation to put on that other than it's a very strange coincidence.  Viv is not a particularly common name. The date I found it was 15/09/2013 and I suspect, but have no way of knowing, that a girl (or could have been a boy) called Viv who was born on 12/09/97 was sitting on the pebbles on their 16th birthday, chucking them randomly into the sea when she/he decided to claim one amongst the millions along the coast and inscribe their name and date of birth on it as a way to mark being sweet sixteen.  

Or maybe whoever they were with, someone achingly in love with them (as only 16 year olds can be) said 'One day I will give you the world.  I'll start today with this little rock - this is yours.  See, it's got your name and birth date on it.  But one day I will give you the moon and stars as well - you will be queen/king of everything - because I want you to have it all, that's how much I love you.'  

And then they tried to plant a kiss, but Viv pulled away, chucked the little rock down and shouted: 'Idiot - is that all I get for my birthday? Some stupid little stone with my name and birth date on? What a loser.'  

And by that unthinking ungratefulness Viv's adorer's world turned and the bubble that contained their romantic dreams and imagined future with Viv exploded and scattered on the pebbly beach.  

Silly Viv.  She/he could have had the universe, if they'd only returned the kiss and cherished the birth stone and held on to it - a talisman for everything they'd ever wanted; the beach, the sea, the sky, the world and everything in their sight - freely given with a love that worshipped them absolutely.  But they couldn't see.

So I found the little rock 3 days later and wondered at the strange coincidence of name and date.  And that other Viv will never have the universe because I have the little rock and now it's mine.

All of it.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


(Part 1 is here)

Yeah.  So.  Dreams are non-directed.  They are complete and whole AS a dream.  The character and events in a dream are not separate FROM the dream.  It's a night-film.

But there does seem to be some common aspects of dreams.  The first is that they are bizarre.  Compared to waking life, strange and far-out things happen.  So much so, that it's impossible to convey to someone else exactly what happens in a dream.  When you try to recount, I bet you find yourself saying things like "I was in my house, well it wasn't the house I live in now, it was kind of different, but the same".  And they nod and pretend to be interested but let's face it, other people's dreams are B.O.R.I.N.G.  

Another common aspect of dreams is that the rambling, tedious account we give can even hint at the reality of the actual dream.  For the simple reason that no words, however eloquent or descriptive, can convey a dream with any accuracy.  WHATSOEVER.  All people hear is 'blah, blah, house, blah, blah, flying, blah, blah, purple dragon with false eyelashes, blah, blah.'

It's not like describing a film that we've seen (which is, TBH, equally as boring), because at least we can go watch the film and see what they were talking about and then either agree or disagree.

But once the dream is over, there is no way, NO WAY, that it can ever be recalled or recreated or repeated.

Which means that it's exactly like life.  Nothing that happens in life will ever be EXACTLY repeated or recreated.  And the map is never the territory.  And we can never know another's experience of reality. Either in their dreams or in their waking living.  All we have to go on is what we experience, whether it's a dream of waking reality - though it's interesting that we take waking reality to be more real than a dream.  Whilst we're dreaming, we may take it very seriously indeed.  Two nights ago I dreamt that I missed my footing on a ladder (yes, I know - you've already stopped listening..) and I fell from a great height.  As I fell towards the ground, I thought "This is going to hurt".  Then I woke up.  And that's when I stopped taking it seriously.  And started taking the awakeness of the morning seriously.  

Which one is more real?  Which one should be taken seriously?

Thursday, 12 September 2013


I've been thinking a lot lately about entitlement.  And I've come to the conclusion that it's the base for most, if not all, the discontent, unhappiness, and strife that is a feature of human living.

Take one of the most important aspects of most adults' lives -  a job, work.

There is this insidious and automatic expectation that everyone is entitled to a good job and that, furthermore, we should be happy in our job.

But generally, most people don't seem to be happy at work. There's a scale - a range - to that unhappiness, certainly - from downright miserable and downtrodden to relatively ok. But I can't think of one single person that I know that honestly says "I LOVE my job".  I've read books by people who say they love what they do.  But these people aren't employed.  They are artists, creatives, authors, musicians and they get paid to do what they love by people who love what they do.  These people as a percentage of the population are in a minority.

And yes, I know that the society/culture that we have couldn't operate in the way that it does unless most people worked at a job that pays them a wage to make goods or provide services for other people to spend their money on that they've earnt by making goods or providing services for other people... etc., etc., etc.

"It's how the system works", I hear you cry.  Yes.  Yes, it is.  But it doesn't make it conducive to happiness, does it?

"No, no", I hear you concur, "But it's the way things are."

Well then, my retort is "Then the way things are, is stupid."

A system that means that most people are generally unhappy, frustrated, bored, and miserable at work is a stupid system.  Because only a few people benefit.  We don't really know who those people are.  But they are the ones who do very little work and profit massively from a system that pays most people just enough to live on to produce the goods and services that will be sold to everyone at a price that means that, after the wages and the other costs of production have been accounted for, will result in a huge surplus of money.  There are many books and blogs which set out how and why this system works, so I'm not going to go into that here.

The point I want to make though, is that the notion of entitlement keeps people stuck in these jobs that deliver, at worst, misery and, at best, mild boredom.

And this is why:

People think they're entitled to a job because they've been conditioned and brought up to believe that if they work hard at school, get a skill or trade, then they will get a 'good job'. This good job will pay them a fair wage with associated benefits in payment for the skill or trade that they have. They sign a contract which sets out the obligations on both sides, relating to duties, hours, payment, benefits etc; which details precisely each side's entitlement.  But nowhere in that contract is there explicit or implicit reference to happiness or satisfaction from the arrangement.

Ah, except there is.  There are two parts of the contract which relate to happiness and satisfaction.  There is the appraisal or disciplinary process, which allows the employer to take action if they are not happy with your performance.  

"But what if I'm not happy? I can't discipline or appraise my employer."  I hear you protest (you're very vocal today, aren't you?).

You can, though.  Very, very effectively.  It's called resignation.  And that's a very apt word.  Because when you reach the point where you realise that you're not happy in your work, when you resign yourself to that fact, you do something about it and you leave.

But all too often - really, all too often - people have an expectation that if they're not happy in their job then someone or something else is to blame.  I have no idea where people got this expectation from.  I can't ever remember anyone telling me that if I worked hard at school and worked hard in my jobs that I would be happy and satisfied and fulfilled.  They told me that I would get a good job, with decent pay and benefits.  But I can't remember anyone, ever, telling me that I would be happy.

Isn't that strange?  We somehow conflate a job with adequate pay and good benefits as automatically resulting in happiness and fulfillment.  As though a wage and free lunch and private health insurance will mean that we find our work meaningful and fulfilling.

But, see - here's the thing:  It's not your employer's job to make you happy.  Unless by ensuring your happiness you produce more.  But if it makes no difference to what you produce or the service you provide then... fuck it, why would they bother?  Their job is to make sure that the company/concern they run/own makes money.  That's it. They couldn't give a gnat's willy whether or not you're happy.  Really.  It's not that they hate you.  They don't really care about you one way or another (unless you're one of those whining complainers who's always coming to them with their problems - with their entitlement to happiness - in which case, you'd better have something on them, cos if not you'll find yourself being appraised out of a job or surplus to requirements.  Because those people they DO hate).  

You're a unit of production to them.  A human resource.  That's it.  They may 'blah, blah', about employee satisfaction and work/life balance and investing in people but these initiatives are, by and large, box-ticking exercises.  

Although, if we think that our employers care about our happiness and fulfillment then they have already gone some way to achieving that objective, because if it looks like they care about our happiness, then we'll feel valued and happier!

Make no mistake, if making you happy costs them but doesn't result in increased profitability then they won't care either way.  It's like the whole private medical insurance thing.  Most employees think that companies provide this as a benefit because they want people to have better health care when they're ill or injured.  They do.  But not because they want you to be happy.  Or because it makes them upset when you're ill and ailing.  They care because they want you back at work.  Toot sweet.  Honestly.  I know - I used to work in the private medical insurance industry.  They don't want to have to fork out sick pay for six months whilst you languish on an NHS waiting list because you've got a bad back, and a pay a temp meanwhile to do your job.  It's much more cost-effective to pay for a bulk corporate medical insurance policy and get you treated and back to being productive as quickly as possible.  Plus, of course, it has the nice side-effect that you think they care about you; that they value you.  And they do - providing that side-effect of caring is commercially and economically viable.  Because that's their job. To make money, to make sure that the company makes money or, at the very least, doesn't make a loss - that everything gets paid.  End of.  Whether or not they're happy and fulfilled while they're doing it, is neither here nor there.

It's not their job to make you happy and it's not your job to make them happy.  It's a financial transaction you have - not a relationship.

It's your job to turn up, fulfill your contractual obligations, don't whine, don't give them problems that don't need solving, then take yourself off at the end of the working shift to replenish and amuse yourself until you're required on the next shift to go through the whole thing again.

(And, yes - I know there are some companies that don't appear to operate like this, but very few - if you can come up with one company/concern that has at the heart of it's mission statement 'We want our employees to be happy, regardless of how much profit we make', then you'll be showing me a rarity and probably an impossibility too!). 

Even those companies that put employee happiness high on their objectives only do so for a reason.  This from one of the companies in the Times' top 100 companies to work for: "As a result, we have built up a team of enthusiastic, talented and experienced xxxx with extremely low staff turnover.  This gives us a clear return on the investment in our employees and gives you an unbeatable consistency of staffing and of customer service."

Did you notice the key component of this blurb?  The only reason they want their employees to be happy is because it gives them a market edge.

And, why not?  Of course, that's how it is.  When everything is geared to profit then that becomes the definer and everything else is secondary if it isn't contributing to that one end.  So whether people are happy is only relevant in relation to the profit it produces.  If profit is dependent on happy workers, then they will ensure that you're happy.  If profit is dependent on efficiency and quick, nimble actions (such as assembling smart phones, say) then they'll make sure that what's those workers are able to do.  Happiness then becomes irrelevant (unless being happy leads directly to measurable increases in efficiency and quick, nimble actions).

So,whether it's making x widget in x minutes, or typing x letters in x hours, or serving x customers in x hours, or answering x calls in x minutes whilst adhering to the script, or curing x patients in x months, or returning x amount on investment - whatever it is, most of us are on a conveyer belt.  A conveyer belt that churns out money - money for someone else - then it's hardly surprising that we're not happy.

So, where does that leave most of us?  Stuck in a situation that puts money as the top dog.  Because we've got to be realistic here.  We live in a consumerist society.  And that's what a consumerist society does.  It consumes and it spits out money as its end result.  And we all know that money doesn't make you happy.  It might make you more comfortable and give you more choice, but it doesn't make you happy.  It doesn't fulfill you.  It really can't buy you love. The stupidly successful, very talented and very rich Jim Carey said: "I wish everyone could experience being rich and famous, so they'd see it wasn't the answer to everything." And what he's really saying here is that being rich and famous doesn't make you happy.  So, what does?

I think it's this: Find what you love and do that regardless of the pay and benefits.  Because if you do what you love, and find people that love what you do, then it won't matter what your pay or benefits are, because you'll be happy and fulfilled.

And it may be possible to do what you love and be employed doing it.  I do think there are some people (not many, but some) that are fortunate to be paid by an employer to do what they love.  But because the system isn't set up with this end in sight, then that's not what it produces.  So, what's the alternative?  Well, the alternative, obviously, is to leave and do what you love.

But we say things like "I can't leave, I've got a family to support"  "I can't leave, it's too convenient".  Or the real killer, the real immobiliser: "I can't leave, it's the only job I can get."

This is the real 'go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect £200' statement.

And it's just not true.

It's not the only job they can get.  It was the job they did get. They applied for it, interviewed, got offered and accepted. And yes, it may have been the only job they were offered at the time.  But it's not the only job they can get.

If they could get that job, it's a fair certainty that they could get another one.  True, it might be comparable to the one they've got (or it might even be slightly worse!), but it's not the only job they can get.

And if it is true that it's the only job they can get, they might want to look at the reasons why.  Just why is it that out of all the millions of jobs available there is only one for them.  If it's true then either it's their dream job, or they are so utterly crap at everything else that this is the only thing they can do, so they might as well accept it and enjoy it.

But I don't believe that's true.  Not for anyone.  I don't believe there's anyone who only has one limited and specific ability that means they don't have options.  

People might not want to be be bothered.  They may not want to face up to the truth that they're too lazy/afraid/complacent to do anything about it.  So they blame everything and everyone else precisely because they don't want to do anything about it.  And again there's that word: stupid. It's not right or wrong, it's just downright stupid and it makes for so much unhappiness.

To get bogged down by fear and convenience and security (which is an illusion anyway) in exchange for happiness is stupid and sad.

So.. do we want to be happy?  Or do we want to be safe/lazy/unhappy?  Do we want to go on believing that we have an entitlement to expect someone else to make us happy?  Or can we just go ahead and do what we love?

Hardly anyone reads this blog.  I don't make money from it. I just do it because I love reading, thinking and writing.  It makes me happy.  Will it lead to me being able to earn my living from it? Who knows?  But unless I keep doing it, unless I keep doing what makes me happy, I'll never find out.  And if I still have to earn enough money to pay the rent and the bills by trading 8 hours a day for a barely-adequate amount of money to do that, then I'll carry on.  But I'm making a commitment now to spend as much of the rest of my time as I can to doing what makes me happy.  There, I've said it.  I choose myself.  (A thank you to James Altucher and his excellent book "Choose Yourself").  

I choose to do, as much as possible, what makes me happy. Because that's my job.  I get paid, at the moment, to type letters and answer phone calls and administrate.  But that's not my real job. My real job is to do what makes me happy.

And your real job is to make you happy.  If you happen to get paid for it - great.  If not, then do it anyway, because you might find that doing what makes you happy, doing what you love to do, makes others happy because they love what you do too.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


I was recently part of a lunchtime conversation where in the space of a few minutes those assembled had decided that seagulls, deer and badgers 'needed' to be culled because there were too many.  I made a comment something along the lines of 'much like humans, then'.  

There was nervous laughter.  

According to the lunchers' logic, there are too many of these species (seagulls, badgers and deer) which means their population is too large to be sustained (although I'm not aware of being over-run by any of those species. In fact on a day to day basis, I may see/ hear a couple of sea gulls, one dead badger, no deer [unless I'm out walking in the forest or driving and they happen to cross my path - but that's a rare occurrence] whereas, I come across literally dozens of humans every day - thousands if I'm in a city!). 

I refrained from further comment since I had already been labelled a do-gooder - although why doing good should be construed as a bad thing, is beyond me.  (As an aside it's an interesting observation that the word 'do-gooder' has become a snide insult. On some level the actions of a do-gooder are recognised as being 'good' i.e. beneficial, but when their actions do not ally with the requirements of a convenient way of living, then they are derided and scorned and ridiculed - such dissonance!) 

Anyway, the case put forward for these species needing to be culled went like this:

Seagulls - there are too many of them and they take food out of the hands of humans.  Seriously.  That was the reasoning.  Personally, I find it funny when a seagull does that - someone's sitting by the sea troughing down their greasy fish and chips and a seagull swoops down and nicks a chip. I love their audacity and daring and the comic look on the face of she/he who has a chip nicked.

(A little side story here:  very recently we were having lunch outside at a pub by the sea and had put a piece of ham on the wall next to where we were sitting because of the wasps that kept settling on it anyway, so we thought to entice them away. Also on that wall were two Jack Russells.  Suddenly a seagull flew in and landed in order to take the ham.  One of the dogs was immediately alerted and and stood staring at the seagull and then started advancing (this Jack Russell was barely bigger than the seagull, but that's Jack Russell's for you).  The seagull looked a bit nervous, thought better of it and then flew off.  We added some bread to the ham on the wall and watched the seagull as it circled the patio and food.  The skill and precision in its flying was fabulous to watch.  It never got up the courage to land again and take the bounty and eventually it got bored and left.

Perhaps this particular seagull wasn't as bold as the seagulls that my lunchtime friends had encountered or perhaps it was the dogs that it was really scared of - whilst a few shrieking humans wouldn't put it off.

So, seagulls need to be culled because they sometimes take food from humans.  That's a bit like the recent view that we should bomb Syrians to stop Syrians killing Syrians.  Same line of thinking, really.

O.K. - so the next species that we need to cull are badgers. From what I understand, this is because badgers have and spread TB to cows and then farmers lose money.  So, essentially, it's a financial thing - badgers may interfere with the income of farmers.

The third species is deer.  Apparently, they're way too successful as a breed and eat too much ... forest, woods, grass - whatever deer eat.  So we need to control their numbers.  I really can't see the logic in this one (I can't with the other two either, but at least I can see that people make the connection between 'they take our stuff, so we need to get rid of them' in the case of seagulls and badgers).  But in the case of deer, they don't even get in the way of humans, don't take food from us and don't spread disease to cows owned by farmers.  But in our megalomaniacal way of needing to control everything and see it as a resource owned by us, we seem to think that we know the best way that a forest or wood or meadow should be.  And that in order to do that we should 'manage' these areas and control the population of each species.  Where on earth will this kind of thinking lead?  Are we going to end up having to manage everything?  The ants and the worms and the fungi and the flies and the dragon-flies and the spiders and the foxes and the flowers and grasses and rivers and streams and clouds and heathers and wasps and bees - to name but an infitessimally tiny, tiny portion of the 'natural' world.  How could we possibly do this?  What kind of status quo would we be aiming for?  Who would decide?  How would they know?  Are they able to see the entire picture?  Of course not - no-one can see the entire picture.

But we think we do.  Because we think we have a right to. We actually believe that we know best.  We really do.  And so this belief in our unassailable position of knowing 'how things should be' means that we're entitled to do ..... well, whatever we want, really.  Merely because we can.

That belief in entitlement is such a big thing.  It's huge.

It gives us the reason to believe that we can kill anything we want for the most spurious reasons.  The underlying reasoning being that we are the most important, superior, entitled species on earth.  We own it all.  We have a right to control, and cull, and use.  However we want, whenever we want.

And if you express an opinion counter to that belief, then you're a do-gooder.  A woolly-liberal-leftie who thinks that it's ok to let things take their natural order. 

I don't see what's wrong with that.  And I'm not actually saying that it's wrong per se for humans to kill and control. We're just as much a part of the natural world as badgers and deer and seagulls and forests and woods and farmers and cows and profits and wars.  I get that.  Life makes us in the same way it makes everything else.  It just does.

So, no, wanting to kill badgers and seagulls and deer because they cause us inconvenience and because this inconvenience gives us a belief in our entitlement to do so isn't wrong.  It's just stupid.  Because if you continue in that line of thinking then you'd certainly have to cull humans for their over-population, because they spread disease and take from other humans and other species.

Oh, wait.  Yup.  Of course, we already do cull humans. Every day, in so many awful ways.  In deed and in thought. And at the very base of this culling isn't greed, isn't hate - it's a basic belief in ENTITLEMENT.  Writ large and surrounded by lights - the basis of everything we do.  If you don't believe me, next time someone gets upset about something have a look to see why they're upset.  I bet your sweet bippy it's because their entitlement was thwarted - usually by someone's else's entitlement!

Somewhere along the line we took on the idea that humans as a species have a right to do exactly as they want, as they see fit.  That somehow we ought to fix things so that they fit our limited viewpoint - because we don't see that viewpoint as limited - we see it as the one true viewpoint, the correct way of looking at the world.

Maybe this way of looking at the world arose with religion or maybe religion arose from the viewpoint that we have a right, an entitlement to do as we wish.  And again, it's not wrong - it's the way we are.  But it is stupid.  It is insane - literally meaning unhealthy (in = not, sane = healthy).  Because if we follow this belief in entitlement we'll end up destroying everything that we believe causes us inconvenience, everything that we believe doesn't fit in with our way of 'how things should be'.  So, we'll continue to cull badgers, deer and seagulls.  And we'll continue to kill other races of people to stop them from killing themselves.  We'll go on taking what we want in order to make things we don't need, can't afford and which never make us happy.

Why?  I don't know.  Not for sure.  None of us do.  Not really. We're all experts in 'making it up as we go along'.

And we do that cos that's how we're made.  It doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it wrong.  But it does make it stupid if we want to continue to survive.  Because, we'll end up self-culling, which isn't good or bad - it will just be the natural order of things.  Ironic, really, that the natural order may end up in our own extinction - the one thing we won't be able to control because of our excessive and addictive need for our belief in our entitlement to control!

But, I think I'll keep that view to myself at any future lunchtime discussions.....