thoughts

~ A Message to Writers ~

pen

~ A Message to Writers ~

Well, it’s true I guess. Most people can’t write an honest sentence to save their lives. They project themselves onto the blank page the same way as they project themselves into the world. There’s a certain fear, a filter, which hinders them from truly expressing themselves from their heart. Instead, they offer well-tidied words in pretty fonts; little flicks and tricks of the pen that give the appearance of self-expression, but are as contrived as the pop stars who sing songs written for them. Many are fooled by these pretend poets – these Rupi Kaurs of the world – but look closely and you will find that their words lack any real blood and substance. That substance is all we ask for when we read a writer’s work. Hemingway said it himself: “there is nothing to writing; all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Sounds so simple, but it is still so very rare to find writers that have shown us every last bit of emotion – every last dirty thing they would be ashamed to admit. The sheer amount of pain that fills the average human heart should mean that there are millions of potentially great writers out there. Yet, the world is full of writers who have been afraid to truly take off the mask and show the world every last detail of their blood and guts. If you are one of the ones crazy enough to live without a filter, then keep writing and keep getting the shit kicked out of you by the world for simply being yourself. Living a life with your heart wide open will definitely leave you bruised and beaten, but it will also allow you to create more authentically than those who keep their defences up. This is the secret. True writing comes from pain. It comes from sitting at a keyboard late at night as the world stands against you. It comes from having to write the words down to stop the demons from closing in. It’s a crazy way to be and good luck to anyone else who has this curse cast upon them.

“Writers are desperate people, and when they stop being desperate, they stop being writers.” – Charles Bukowski

 

thoughts

~ A Certain Type ~

~ A Certain Type ~

“There is a certain breed of person in this world who is destined to always be in conflict with society. They are the type that does not accept a way of life simply because it is ‘traditional’ or expected of them. They are the type that feel a thunder in their heart whenever they’re asked to change in order to fit in. They are the type who will not let themselves be influenced by slogans such as ‘the real world’ or ‘growing up’. Watch out for these people. They are the ones that will not bow down to peer pressure. They are the ones that will not be bought off with money or possessions. And usually they are the ones that will cause others to reflect on their own life choices as they fearlessly chase their dreams without regard for others’ opinions. But know that more than anything, society will always need and depend on this type of person. It is those misfits who saw things from new angles, who charted the uncharted and made new discoveries. They are also the ones who bring us the books and artworks we love. Without them, humanity would have been deprived of many treasures and riches. We weren’t all born to fit into the same mould, so let the wild be wild and the weird be weird. Some birds were not made to be tied down in the same spot.”

pexels-photo-532358

short stories

~ In Another Place ~

in another place

~ In Another Place ~

 “Where are you?” she asked me. 

 “What do you mean?” I said. “I’m right here.”

“No, I don’t mean it like that. Like right now, where are you? I can see that you’re standing here in front of me, but I feel like the real you is far away in another place. A place that I can’t get to. A place I can’t see or touch or reach.”

An awkward silence followed her words. I looked at her and knew exactly what she meant. I could see a sort of sad confusion in her eyes. I knew she could sense that I was not truly there in that time or place with her. She was perceptive and had a vision for those things. There was no way I could pretend to not know what she was on about. I didn’t know what to tell her and, to be honest, I wasn’t too sure of the answer anyway.

“I’m not sure where I am,” I told her. “I guess I’ve never really been sure.” She looked at me as the silence surrounded us. A few seconds passed until she turned away and we continued on with the day to forget about the moment like it never existed.

It was a poignant moment of interaction and one which stayed on my mind for a few days after. It was true that I really had no specific answer to where my true self was, but I knew that it wasn’t here of this earth. All my years I had been there walking through the requirements of life. I opened doors. I walked into rooms. I stood in front of others and let words come out of my mouth. Physically I was there, but another part of me was off roaming a place that was not of this world or dimension. Often, I got lost in it as I sat staring into space or looking wistfully out of a classroom window. In a strange way, I was merely a bystander to all that was going on around me – a sort of spirit in a surrogate body just here out of a duty imposed on me by an unknown force.

It was a state of being which left me out of sync with my surrounding environment. I found it harder than most to be a part of the world because my heart and soul was not truly in it. The places I went; the lessons I attended; the jobs I worked – it was just something I had to do to be a part of everything, but deep down my soul was relentlessly wandering through some nameless wilderness. In the meanwhile, I looked into the eyes of the others and beheld a look I just simply couldn’t relate to. They all seemed to be really there – as if they were part of the world and fundamentally belonged to it. Sometimes I wondered how obvious it was to them that the same look wasn’t in my eyes, and what they would do exactly if they knew how much of an imposter I was. 

Though the vast majority of people looked like they belonged to this world, I knew there were a few others out there who felt what I felt inside. Sometimes I thought I spotted them while out there roaming the streets. They had a specific look in their eyes – a subtle one that was often confused for someone daydreaming. They wore that look because deep within they also felt that they just didn’t belong. In their flesh and bones, they could feel a strange yearning; an inner tugging to some ineffable place far away in space and time. Since the very start of their lives, they had experienced this homesickness for a place they’d never seen or been – a place they couldn’t even describe, but somehow knew existed out there somewhere beyond the ether. Like me, they would have to speak the sentences that kept them functioning and do the things that kept them alive, but they also needed those moments of solitude and silence in which they could try to feel a connection to the home that had eluded them since birth. 

There were times when that solitude gave me moments when it felt like I was almost there. They came out of nowhere: a moment’s hiking in nature when the sunlight shone through the trees; standing on a dusk shoreline without another soul in sight; the moments when I had been writing my thoughts down in a silent room late at night. They were moments of completeness with the surrounding environment when some things at least started to connect and make sense – when I was somewhat in the right direction to heading home. But always they were short-lived and I was soon left feeling like a foreigner stranded in alien lands once again.

I read about this theory one day that we are all spirits here in human bodies, but some of us have mistakenly arrived here from another place. I think that maybe it’s true. It’s clear to me some people have crash-landed on the wrong planet, existing in the wrong age or world. Those ‘old souls’ or ‘wayward spirits’ – destined to always wander on and never feel a true attachment to the places they reside in. I dunno, it’s getting hard pretending I belong here. I guess I will keep opening those doors, walking through those rooms, speaking those words and doing those things that keep me a part of this world, but know that a part of me has all but left it a long time ago. If you ever see me staring into space with a look of longing in my eyes, know that I am man lost in the spaces of my own being – a sort of sailor out on the ocean of existence, steering my way through the storm, setting my eyes to the horizon – searching for the sight of a shore that will one day let me know what it’s like to finally walk the lands of home.

short stories

~ Things They’d Never Understand ~

writing-1209700_1280

~ Things They’d Never Understand ~

“So, how’s the job going?”

“I quit,” I told him.

“You quit? why?”

 “I wasn’t able to write.”

“What do you mean you weren’t able to write?”

“I wasn’t able to write, like when I went home. I had used up all my mental energy at work.”

“So?” he said. “The job was a good opportunity for you. Who cares about the writing?”

“I do,” I said.

“But you don’t even make money off your writing. Your job had a lot of opportunities.”

“It doesn’t matter about the opportunities,” I told him. “If I’m not able to write then there’s no point to any of it.”

“I don’t understand you really. Your writing is just a hobby. You had room for progression at that place.”

“Look,” I said. “It doesn’t matter about the job or the money or the room for progression. None of that stuff fulfils me like my writing does. If the job stops me from doing that then I’ll happily leave it and struggle to get by another way. As long as I can write. That’s all that matters. As long as I can write.”

He stared at me with a confused look. I could see the cogs in his head turning as he tried to grasp my view, but after twenty seconds I could see that he had given up and dismissed me as a madman. I thought of a load of other ways I could try to explain it to him, but knowing that he was a career-focused guy whose reality and sense of self were determined by his employment and bank balance, I knew it was like trying to speak English to a goldfish. There was simply no way to convey how my happiness or value system worked. There was no way to explain how just putting some words down on a page kept me from going insane completely. After ten seconds of awkward silence, he shook his head in disbelief and walked off.

A part of me understood his confusion in all reality. I had been working the ‘proper job’ for over four weeks now. It was my first ever nine-to-five role that paid better than anything I had ever had before. My parents were happy I had finally got something stable; my friends thought that I was finally preparing to conform to the norms of society. In all honesty, I was quite happy to have some sort of stability after surviving on agency temp jobs and medical trials for a while, but I knew straight away that the job was going to twist and tear me up. Besides the main problem of losing my energy to write, a lot of the job involved speaking on the phone which was a pet hate of mine, and it also involved being concentrated and engaged for the majority of the day. I was a chronic daydreamer and didn’t want to be deprived of my daydreaming. Having to advise someone on the phone for forty minutes meant there was no way for me to go sailing off through the galaxies of my mind on my latest introspective adventure. Besides that, the whole sitting behind a desk all day in artificial lighting in an office was something that was spiritually suffocating to me. 

Typically I got accused of being depressed or anxious or something like that. But in reality, it simply wasn’t true. I actually felt amazing once I quit. I mean, I was back to being poor, but every day I woke up happy and went to sleep happy. In between, I meditated, napped, read, went for long walks and spent hours working on my writing. To be honest, I could imagine myself doing that until the day I died. I just wanted to work an easy stress-free job and have time to do the things I cared about. Naturally, to many I seemed to lack ambition, but my ambition was simply to be healthy and happy and live a simple life where I had time to explore my passions. To me it was just basic common sense, but apparently such notions were some of the things they would never understand. And of those, there had been quite a few…

“Why do you keep travelling all the time? What are you trying to prove?”

“You’re so smart. Why can’t you get a proper job?”

“Why would you rather be alone than join us at the party?”

There was only so much of being misunderstood a person could take before they went insane completely. I was a complicated person I suppose. A person guided completely by the heart with no logic. A feeler not a thinker. An idealist not a pragmatist. Turbulent and temperamental. Slightly schizophrenic to a degree; able to switch my personality and perspective as I had pleased. Someone who had no set place in society that I could easily slot myself into. Someone that even the therapists and shamans stared at with confused eyes.

Those looks of confusion struck me relentlessly as I went about life. Sometimes they struck me in social environments, sometimes at work, sometimes at family dinners. I think the one that stuck in my memory the most was when I was asked why I was so open about how I felt about life. I had been ridiculed and called weird for expressing myself so openly in the writings I published on my blog.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit strange all of the things you tell people? Don’t you think there are some things you should keep to yourself?”

“No, not really,” I said. “It makes sense to speak from the heart. If everyone did that, the world might not be as complicated as it is.”

“But it just makes things awkward. You’ll scare people off. Can’t you just act normal for once?”

“I don’t like to wear a mask. I think it leads to a world of people hiding who they really are.”

“Not everyone thinks like you do.”

“Sure they do. Everyone thinks deep about stuff, yet we just sit around talking about the weather and football and television. No one has the guts to speak about how they feel deep down. People are afraid, and so they should be. Speaking from the heart all the time automatically makes people put up barriers against you. They keep you at a distance. They don’t accept you. Humanity isn’t ready for a world of people not wearing their masks and speaking straight from the heart. Because I do this, I am cast out and categorised as the insane one. Don’t you realise how absolutely stupid that is? That I am the outsider because I just speak up about how I feel? In the meanwhile, the people who are fake and insincere attract the most people toward them…”

They looked at me in total silence. As usual, I could see the cogs turning in their heads. I thought maybe my luck was in and they would understand my perspective for once, but a few more seconds passed and I was dismissed as a madman once again. My view was simply the comical ranting of a lunatic to them – something that belonged to another time or place or universe. It was something that I found frustrating and damaging beyond words. When you pour out your truth and your heart and it appears as incoherent nonsense to another, then that is the moment when the loneliness strikes you greater than ever. I didn’t even think what I was saying was difficult to comprehend and understand. I just wanted a world where people were authentic and genuine; where people didn’t sell off parts of themselves to fit into the crowd. I tried to explain this to them but they just didn’t want to hear it. My values were so horrifically different from those of society that I knew I was doomed and destined to be an outcast until the end of my days. Deep down, I knew that I was never to be understood totally, but I had this vision – this dream if you will – that one day if I could write down everything correctly, and become good enough at the art of arranging words into sentences and stories, that people may be able to get a glimpse into my reality. Perhaps then there would be some level of understanding of the world I lived in; perhaps then those looks of dismissal could turn into looks of understanding. Ultimately, it was this reason why I sat alone at a keyboard for hours every day. The pain of being so misunderstood made my heart scream out, and I guess fundamentally that was the reason why writing was the most important thing in my life. The reason my fingertips fought relentlessly for freedom. The reason I stayed up late pouring my heart onto a page. The reason you’re reading these words right now.

To try and make them understand,

the things they’d never understand.

 

thoughts

~ The Burden of Sensitivity ~

~ The Burden of Sensitivity ~

“And it emptied me. The hopelessness in my heart staring into her eyes. The lack of chance for any real connection. The thought that no matter how many eyes I stared into, there will always be this empty space inside of me that would never be filled. I knew somewhere inside of me I was destined to be a loner till the end. I could feel it in my bones. It was a world not made for those whose hearts hung open like broken screen doors. Such sensitivity will see the storms flood into you without compromise. Your heart will become drenched; your interior ripped and torn apart. You will sit alone in that cold wondering how to find a way to warm up and dry off. In the meanwhile, you’ll look out at the world around you and feel like you’re cursed. You watch the people stroll through life so easily. You see the hands of lovers connect. You observe their smiles and their laughs – that out of reach happiness that never comes, but arrives so easily to the others. To be a feeler in this crazy world is to suffer tremendously, but in a way you end up depending on your suffering. It shapes you. It defines you. Drenched in the unrelenting deluge of your own emotions, you will go through life feeling the weight of every moment. The sadness of the sunsets. The heartache of the years. The loneliness of the crowd. The pain will become almost like a companion to you as you stagger on through the years. In a strange way, I guess I couldn’t even imagine another way to be. Without this state of being, I wouldn’t know where to go or what to do. Without that pain in my soul, I wouldn’t even recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror.”

sensitive

thoughts

~ Hardened by Pain ~

“I looked at the eyes of people around me and saw inner worlds of sunlight and peace. Meanwhile, inside my skull the ceilings dripped, the rats scurried. The world inside my mind was a scary place and I knew it was one that no other person should have had the misfortune of visiting. The darknesses I had descended to and the demons I had faced were not for the faint of heart. Still, sometimes when their non-understanding eyes stared at me once again, a part of me wanted to imprison them inside for just a day. I wanted to see the looks on their faces when they had seen the world behind my eyes; the looks on their faces when they came out screaming and crying. Never again would their ignorant sentences fall my way; never again would they think that their troubles were troubles. Of course, I wouldn’t have done this to my worst enemy. This prison inside was reserved for me and for me only. Only by some strange miracle had I managed to endure it all these years. By all rights, I should have been destroyed, but I had survived and now had this strange sense of invincibility flow through me. Words of hate did nothing; fear was laughable; storms were easily weathered. In the meanwhile, the others cracked and crumbled at the slightest exposure to such things. Their vulnerability made me reflect and come to appreciate my past sufferings. I had been hardened by pain and toughened by madness. I was able to walk through the fire without flinching. A strange courage filled my heart and I went through life no longer fearing the shadows or any monsters. Having lived in the darkness for so long, the demons were only companions to me.”

pexels-photo-356147

thoughts

~Staring at the Red Light ~

~ Staring at the Red Light ~

“You’re looking for something. You’ve been looking for it your whole life. You know there is something missing, and you struggle to understand how so many people passively drift through the years following the herd, settling for the mundane, never daring to be different and follow the things they feel deepest. You don’t want to be like them: that static existence that slowly steals the light from the eye and the joy from the heart. So you keep looking for something, but as time passes by you find you’re still waiting: sitting in that traffic jam, staring at the red light, scrolling on that phone. It’s a hard reality to escape and a relentless obsession with safety and security has presented us with a strange new equilibrium of being. We now live in a system where we don’t have to worry about dying from a cold at thirty-five, but we are stuck in mundane realities that do not allow us to experience the adventure of life. We work jobs we hate to spend the money on therapy and drowning our sorrows on the weekend. We sell off our dreams and desires in exchange for materialistic things. We close our curtains on the world to sink into comfortable sofas of submission. The staleness of the system is all around us and maybe the only way out is to take a leap of faith. To have the courage to break free and try something a little different. To start writing your own script. To stop waiting at that red light and to stop staring at that screen. To have the guts to put your foot down. 

To have the guts to go green.”

red light

 

short stories

~ The Age of Anxiety ~

alien nation

~ The Age of Anxiety ~

The age of anxiety they called it. This mental health problem was now the most listed disability of all – the biggest reason people took time off work and study. Social anxiety. Social bloody anxiety. Your mum had it. Your best friend had it. Your cats and your dogs and your goldfish had it. There it was causing dread in the minds of so many good people out there just trying to get through life whatever way they could. Clearly we had become too connected, too convoluted. All the expectations and cultural influences one was supposed to live up to. All the things that hung on your shoulders. The fact you were relentlessly characterised and labelled. The fact your body was viewed by thousands of pairs of judgmental eyes every day. Throw into this social media and a general sense of dread that came from the news media basically telling you that the world was coming to an end, then it was only natural that people were riddled with an anxiety of some kind.

The feeling was ubiquitous and, like many millennials, I suffered from it. There were many times that a dark room of isolation seemed a better alternative to going out there and joining in with the madness of the world. In my mind, modern society was essentially a giant mental asylum where people had been sent insane by a combination of media, advertisements, smartphones, peer pressure, expectations and the general ridiculousness and mindless behaviour that being in a crowd of any kind caused. As Frederich Nietzsche once said: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” That collective insanity of society led to situations where you were expected to participate in small-talk regarding work colleagues and television shows, rather than discuss meaningful and worthwhile things. If you didn’t then the eyes of the crowd fell on you as if you were in some sort of play and not reciting your lines properly.

I thought back to the first time I started experiencing social anxiety. I was twenty-four and returned home from a long backpacking trip. For almost two years, I had lived a life of easygoing adventure before arriving straight back into the rat race. One week I went to a packed pub on a Sunday night; it was a bank holiday the following day so many were out celebrating their extra day of freedom. There I stood at the bar listening to the conversations and feeling more foreign that I had on my world trip. For some reason, I couldn’t find any common ground with anyone I spoke to. Their conversations left me out the circle and I was even mocked for wearing casual clothing and working in a supermarket. It was something that struck me deep. To feel like an alien in your own home town was a surreal and scary experience. As the night went on, I could feel the eyes and judgment of the people around me. They knew I wasn’t one of them; that I was not reciting their script and dancing to their beat. For the first time in my life, I could feel my body shake anxiously as if I was being attacked by some sort of virus. It was like I needed the isolation to save myself from the feeling of being eaten up by the crowd. In the end, it was all too much; I left the bar early and realised that I was now suffering from the phenomenon of social anxiety.

I thought about that situation and tried to work out why such a condition existed. My theory was that social anxiety existed because society couldn’t tolerate anyone who deviated from the norms of the group. Culture behaved and spread almost in the same way as a biological virus. It was as if every person who conformed to the dominant values and behaviours of the culture was an individual cell in that collective virus. Whenever the other humans saw someone who was a bit different and out of sync with their cultural coding, their glares would fall on them and they were targeted in the same way virus cells targeted other cells when infecting a host. Such insidious hostility thus invoked anxiety into the cell that hasn’t been converted to the culture. That shaking feeling you feel when you feel the judgement and ridicule of the crowd is the culture trying to convert you to become another cell in the collective. As Philosopher Alan Watts once put it: “our society shows anxiety because it cannot tolerate the existence of people who don’t belong.”

So then, if this is truly the case, it seems to me that you have two choices to stop the social anxiety. You either let yourself be taken over by the crowd and convert to their norms and behaviours (thus alleviating the anxiety because now you’re in sync with the others), or you isolate yourself from them completely to stop yourself from feeling the dread. To quote another philosopher (for the last time, I promise): “The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.” – Terence Mckenna

When I thought about it, a certain level of alienation didn’t seem like not too bad of an option. I was lucky enough to be at peace in my own company. In fact, in all honesty, most of the time I wanted nothing more than to be alone anyway. In solitude, you could hear yourself think straight and dedicate yourself fearlessly to your own interests. Besides, the more I interacted with the others, the more I felt myself being screwed up at some sort of fundamental level. By just being myself in a group, I was rejected and cast out. People scared me with how judgmental and superficial they were when in social environments. I remember speaking to a friend of a friend who was a successful football pundit for the BBC. When she asked me what I was up to,  she scoffed and rolled her eyes when I told her that I was currently working in a factory – something I found amusing the next day when she posted on social media about the importance of understanding the mental health of others. It truly was a madhouse out there and – when you had a super-sensitive personality as I did – the superficial and shallow nature of society was just simply too much, especially when the bullshit came flying from you relentlessly at all angles. There in those social settings you had people judging, labelling and staring at you from every angle; you had people wanting you to gratify their egos by reciprocating their world views; you had people that pressured you to participate in meaningless conversations just to maintain the bonds of camaraderie among your fellow man.

Like I said, it was one big mental asylum for me anyway, so I retreated into the darkness – into the darkness of my room and the darkness of my mind. I wanted to hold onto my individuality and keeping myself distanced from the masses was a reasonable price to pay. And in truth, I didn’t see my social anxiety as a problem anyway. To me, our current society was the problem, and I think that if anyone were truly sane, then they would also feel anxiety when surrounded by a species that acts so crazy and irrationally whenever they congregate together in groups. Watts, Nietzsche, Mckenna and all those other alienated philosophers knew the score. The strongest men are those most alone and I will keep living to that motto. To anyone else out there still getting social anxiety, my personal advice is just to avoid the crowd as much as you can. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your anxiety is not a disorder. It just means you still have some sanity and want to keep it. And make no mistake about it: in this society, frequent social interaction is enough to send any sane man insane.

 

thoughts

~ What We Need ~

~ What We Need ~

“We don’t need more graduates, more executives, more professionals. The streets of society are already full of overly sane people and what we need right now is a little more explosion and colour. Right now what we need are the painters, the poets, the crazy ones. We need the ones who are not afraid to shake the world into life; the ones not afraid to share their soul’s contents with the world; the ones not afraid to spew out their passion and pain onto a blank page or canvass. We need those erupting hearts bleeding themselves dry. Those erupting hearts bringing some colour back into the mix. And in the end it’s those erupting hearts who remind us all of what it is to be human – the ones who voice that fierce inner nature of the soul which tells us no matter how much greyness society pours down, there will always be some wilderness left untouched in the hearts of us all.”

“Art’s task is to save the soul of mankind.” – Terence Mckenna

pexels-photo-1311587

thoughts

~ A Piece of Me ~

~ A Piece of Me ~

“They say broken hearts can’t be healed, and it’s true. They can be pieced back together, but always they will show their scars. Those scars tell my story and it is one of pain and madness. I have stood in rooms of darkness staring into nothingness. I have crawled through swamps and sewers of desperation. I have screamed out alone in the torture chambers of my mind. My soul has been ravaged and destroyed by a world in which I didn’t belong. Into those morning mirrors I stared, seeing the latest damage being seared into my soul. Often, I couldn’t help but look at that reflection and wonder what would be left of me? When the years had run their course. What would be left of me? When the storms had rained their rain. What would be left of me? When the demons had had their way with me one more time. I didn’t expect there to be much. The storms would continue and this heart of mine would continue to bleed out over the years. Still, sometimes I collected that blood and poured it into a poem or story. It gave me relief and some people out there even seemed to like it. This was our nature. We were all parasites of each other’s pain. The blood and guts of others give us the fuel we need to continue on. It is our nature to feast off the scraps of another’s soul. I hope that this piece of mine gives something to you.”

man alone