Questions to Ponder

I found these questions on Imgur and they set me thinking. Although it may become obvious that the questions annoyed me a bit, they are useful for taking stock, working out if I am living how I want to live. I thought I’d share in case you too find them useful to think about. If you like, add your own thoughts in the comments, or even write a blog and link, depending on how the inspiration takes you. There are fifty of these questions, so I’m going to break them up a bit and post ten at a time.

The questions for today:

  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

 

  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

I don’t entirely understand this, because I wouldn’t still be the age I am? If the question means How old do you feel? Then somewhere between nineteen and a thousand, I can feel like both. In most ways I’m less jaded than I was as a child, but I also feel ancient, haunted, inept and childish. The older I get, the more I don’t care about the number I am, but how well I can physically and mentally deal with situations.

  1. Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Failing is a short term horror, but something you have to go through to get to longer term wonder. Never trying is a short term comfort, but a lifetime of emptiness. I tend to go for trying and failing, because the emptiness has always scared me. However, I’ve known people for whom trying is permanently uncomfortable, they are happy in their lack of effort. I guess we each have to find what works best for us.

  1. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

Survival for the first one. Time for the second one.

  1. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I’ll have done plenty of both. I have a rule: I only talk about something when I definitely intend to do it, and I only abandon this plan when a better plan comes along. Not saying I always follow this rule, there are plenty of good ideas I’ve abandoned due to laziness or fear, but laziness and fear have their uses also.

  1. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

I would like to shift emotion and reason so that they are in better proportion – individuals sometimes ruled by emotion to the point that they do terrible things, but most systems (ie government, corporate business, healthcare) seem to be so without empathy that they treat individuals terribly. So just a more evenly spread balance of the two.

  1. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

This is a complicated question. I believe that my job (gardener) keeps me sane, physically healthy and calm. The things that make me happy are writing, laughing with friends and eating, but if I did these things for eight hours a day, I wouldn’t be sane, physically healthy or calm. And probably not happy either. I also fear that if doing those things was a duty, I’d soon stop enjoying them. It’s probably an old-fashioned view, but I think we need difficulty, responsibility and boredom in our lives, if we got to do things we enjoyed all the time, it wouldn’t make us happy at all; we wouldn’t feel fulfilled because we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good things we had.

  1. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

I think my job matters, but it has many flaws that annoy me – so in some ways I settle, while also doing what I believe in. Writing is the same, I love it (‘believe in it’ is an ambiguous phrase) but it is flawed. Life always has a few compromises.

  1. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I would already be dead.

  1. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

Illness, injury, and disaster aside, I’ve made most of my choices. Often badly. I’ve never been good at doing what I’m supposed to be doing (and I’ve tried, I promise) so I’ve had to figure out my own way of doing things.

  1. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

I believe that both matter. My tendency is to focus on doing the ‘right thing’ while not paying attention to the details, and as a result I often fuck it all up and have to start over again, doing it properly. I know other people who get very bogged down in carrying out a task to perfection, while other tasks get neglected completely. I think this is one of those situations where you need a balance of the two ways of thinking.

Secret Books of the Freemasons

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I’m not sure I’m supposed to post these, so if I vanish, then please send for help.

My dad is something of a hoarder of oddness and when I visited him last week he gave me these strange pamphlets that he found in a second hand bookshop in Birmingham, sixty-five years ago.

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Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia

 

They are a series of booklets from the Rosicrucian Society of Freemasons, dated 1918. They outline the rules for joining and how to carry out rituals. So far I’ve found no mention of sacrificing children to the Gods or starting the Apocalypse, although I haven’t finished reading them yet. Mostly they emphasise the need to be a good person and to acquire wisdom. They reference a few different religions (Jewish, Catholic and Christian) but there’s also numerology in there (11 is an evil number, ‘an omen of defeat or death’; 10 is the ‘most sublime as it contains the monad…and Zero a symbol of chaos’) and references to the importance of science.

 

 

 

 

Coulda Shoulda Woulda

“They told me I wouldn’t regret if I followed their rules,” whispered my uncle; his body was shrivelled and hunched, but his eyes were burning with indignation. “They said, these are the things people regret on their death beds, and they listed them. As if you could sum up all human experience in a list. As if we’re all the same.”

“I know Uncle Andy,” I said, gingerly patting his hand, scared to break the fragile skin. But I didn’t understand, I had no idea what the problem was. Uncle Andy had had a great life. He had six kids and a loving wife. At thirty-seven he’d abandoned his lucrative accountancy business to go off-grid. He took his family to Italy to live on the beach, he had spent ten years selling his paintings to tourists. Most people would do anything to live Uncle Andy’s life, even Andy himself had liked it at the time. However, now he was nearing the end, as cancer claimed one cell after the other and chemo scrunched him up like a piece of paper, Andy was talking as if his life had been a waste.

“You know what they said? In their lists and articles? They said people regret not spending more time with their family, not pursuing creativity, people regret working too much. That’s why I did it, why I moved to the Amalfi coast, out of the rat-race, painting and playing with the kids.”

“Yes. And that was good, wasn’t it Uncle? That was a good time?”

“No! Ten years painting the same beach scene over and over again, to tourists with no imagination!” His rage was giving him strength as he stretched forward in the chair. Numb blue nails dug into the chair arms, wisps of hair clung to his forehead with sweat. “Nobody wanted my picture of the apocalyptic desert, or the dragon dressed as Biggles. And don’t let anyone tell you that growing your own vegetables is better than buying them in a supermarket, the number of hours I spent digging the ground for potatoes, if only I could have those hours back now. I’d use them right, if I could do it all again.” I knew this was one of stages of death. My mum, ever the pragmatist, had told me he might go through this, the emotional stages: anger, resentment.

“What would you do instead?” I asked. He had the twitch of smile, it affected his ears more than his mouth.

“Video games. They looked like fun. Who wants to pick caterpillars off cabbages when you can race cars through a war zone.”
“But time you spent with your family, that was good, wasn’t it? That was worth it?” Uncle Andy sighed as the fight drained from him, and he shrivelled a little more.

“I’m not saying it was bad, but there are seven billion people in the world and I spent it most of it with seven of them. I just keep thinking, what if there was someone better?”

No matter how my mum had prepared me, I left Uncle Andy with my heart dragging. I didn’t understand how someone with a life so well lived could feel such sorrow. Are we all doomed to lie on our death bed agonising about all the things we could have done, no matter what we did? I slouched out of the hospital, feeling the shrivelling of my own body, suddenly even my dreams weren’t enough. What if I did make that round the world boat trip? What if I did marry Jessica from Maths? I would still regret.

I was in the wood and half the way home before I worked it out. I was kicking my way through the leaves, at first in a moody manner, then with increasing glee. At one point a dog had abandoned his owner to join me and leapt around barking with delight. And I got it.  Because if you’re going to regret whatever you do, then there’s no point in planning for it. Uncle Andy was sad now, but when he was living his life, he had loved it. So you can’t live life for your death bed, you can’t live trying to defy the Death Bed Regret List. Screw it, you just have to live for whatever joy you can get.

Beautiful Creatures

Continuing my celebration of Monday good things…

I took this photo at work.  We have a tropical butterfly event on at the moment, and I saw this one just sitting on a flower with its tongue out. I think it may have got drunk on the nectar.

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And below are some pictures of the butterfly pupae after we stuck them onto canes, ready to go into the puparium to hatch. Some look like leaves in order to hide from predators. Sometimes I find the butterflies can be annoying, smelly and a bit icky; so it’s good to remember that they are also beautiful and fascinating.

 

Please tell me about a good thing on your Monday, no matter how small.

 

Shut Up, Millennials are Great!

A Positive Monday Post

Ok, so I’ve been mulling this post over for some time, all the while reading the bitchy comments about  millennials across the Internet and hearing people complain about them in real life. The usual criticisms are millennials are lazy, self-absorbed, always on their phones, narcissistic, spoilt, irresponsible and whiny.

I (aged 43) work with quite a few of this generation (people now in their teens and twenties), and while there are a few who fit that description, most are delightful; a total contrast to my own ridiculous generation when we were in that age. So here’s my response to the criticisms based on my personal experience, but no scientific analysis whatsoever.

Lazy – IME millennials tend to be oddly focused. They have an actual career plan worked out, they even know what a career plan is. Sometimes that focus can get in the way – they are wary of wasting time on anything that won’t be of benefit in the future; but that is largely because they have so little guaranteed future. Unlike my generation, who took basic survival for granted so instead of planning, could just bum around getting wasted and dreaming of success.

Self-absorbed – wow, young people being self-absorbed? Who’d have thunk it? This just seems like a massive distortion of the past to me. My generation were self absorbed, we didn’t have Facebook and selfies to help us prove it, but the trait was still there. The evidence of this can be seen in the number of people in their forties and fifties who have leapt onto Facebook with glee, despite being old enough to have filled their lives with all the other stuff life has to offer.

Always on phones – as am I and everybody else who has a smart phone (which means everybody), we’re connected to the whole world, a constant stream of fascinating information. And young people have been desperately trying to find a way to  avoid eye-contact and conversation for decades, we just didn’t have the technology to do it before. I didn’t even have a walkman til I was fifteen, and even then I was stuck awkwardly trying to squirm out of the attention of others, it was awful.

Narcissistic – there are some alarming statistics about this, that narcissistic personality disorder is far higher – I do wonder if that’s something to do with increased diagnosis though, the same way that autism appears to be more prevalent. To be honest, even if millennials are more narcissistic, it’s only because my generation flooded the media with celebrity guff and consumer “you’re worth it!” delusions. It’s our fault, we started it. And we were just as hungry for fame as young people are now, we simply didn’t know how to go about getting it.

Spoilt – there’s a definite theme in my response to these. We were spoilt too. Every single generation has seemed spoilt when compared to the previous generation because every generation has had more than the previous generation. I remember how disgusted my nan was at all the toys I had, she thought I was ruined for life. Ironically that situation of increased wealth seems to be finally ending, so as this generation grows older they won’t have more than us. Most of them seem very aware of this and try to appreciate what they do have.

Irresponsible – nope. They don’t drink as much as the previous generation, do as many drugs, sleep around as much as my generation (and this is one backed up by statistics). They take education more seriously and think about pensions at an age when I barely knew what one was. Compared to how millennials look to me now, I was a wasted mess of thoughtless behaviour.

Whiny – I think this comes mostly from the PC movement, I certainly don’t see evidence of it elsewhere. And there is a lot of SJW style complaint about language and behaviour that seems extreme, but maybe it needs to be. I remember when PC culture first happened in the eighties, and even though I was very anti-racist, anti-homophobic and so on, I thought that the PC movement was dictatorial and uptight. I thought that it made the idea off treating people with respect a joke and so would never help, but the truth is, it did. I see how open minded and accepting young people are now and it’s beautiful, and it certainly didn’t come about as a result of reasonable discussion, that never gets anyone anywhere (I would really like it to, but when it comes to changing the thinking of a whole society, it’s useless). So if some nagging, whining and fuss leads to us eventually becoming a better more accepting society, then I’m all for it.

As I’ve stated this is just my view, seen from my singular perspective, if you see things differently, or even if you agree, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Reasons to be Cheerful part 2

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Not a picture of me, but a beautiful lady I met in Mexico many years ago, who was growing older with style and grace (which I won’t be doing)

Continuing my looking-for-good-things on Mondays…

It’s very easy to get down about getting older, we are told to feel as if life will end when we get old and decrepit, but this week I have been compiling a list to put me in a good mood. My plan for when I’m too old to work and gad about:

Computer games – I’ve played them on occasion, they’re quite fun, but they just seem to eat time and when there are so many things I want to do while I can, I tend to avoid playing. However, once I’m old, and computer games are even more advanced than now, then I’m throwing myself into them with abandon. Fighting zombies in a bombed-out city with a machine gun? Brilliant. Going virtual diving in the sea looking for buried treasure? It’s going to be incredible.

It won’t matter that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket – well, it probably isn’t doing that any more than it was when I was young, but I’ve spent a life time stressing over global warming and nuclear war and when I’m old that can stop. I’m not saying those things won’t matter to me anymore, but my time of being able to do something to fix them will have passed; it won’t be my world anymore so I’ll stop fretting.

Vanity – I’d say on the whole I don’t worry about how I look. The last time I got a haircut was in 2000 and I haven’t worn make up in years. However, there’s still a small part of me that panics that I’ve got something stuck on my tooth, or that my clothes look scruffy. When I’m old, I’ll look any which way I want and it will be called eccentric, people will excuse my odd appearance with fond, patronising smiles. It will be wonderful. As the poem says, I will wear purple.

Alcohol, drugs and smoking – I used to be a bit over the top with drug-taking and self destructive behaviour when I was younger, in many ways it was great. Then I grew up and became super careful, concerned I might cause myself long-term harm. When I get old enough for long-term not to matter anymore, I will make the most of this. It will be ace, I’ll be a tripping, smoking junkie granny. There may even be some exciting new drugs by then.

These are just a few of the things that no one seems to mention, and there are still all the traditional reasons to be happy – family, going on holiday (if you’re able) and even studying (my mum got her degree when she was seventy). So how about you? What’s going to make your twilight years a joy?

Banishing Gloom – a Monday Good Thing

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A lot of bad things have been happening in the world recently, and now it’s cold, everyone is miserable and I keep forgetting to notice all the good things that are around me.

So I’m going to make a point of, every Monday, posting something good from the week. Either a photo, an observation, a piece of news or a delightful fact.

So what about you, what has brightened up your Monday? What good things are in your life right now?

If anyone feels like joining in, that would be fantastic, I’m happy to link or feature.

This Monday’s good thing, some photos of the frost where I work…

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