Monday, 3 December 2007

Rise of the Cat People

Last week, I was trying to figure out some whimsical statement for my Myspace Friend Status. I opted for being the newly crowned "Lord of the Cat People". In the days that followed, I found myself pondering this statement and here are the results of my thoughts.

Humans have always anthropomorphised their world, attributing human qualities to non-human things, such as animals, machines, and even countries. In regards to animals, we perceive certain behaviours in the creature and then give them a human label, such as clever foxes, dumb mules, and loyal dogs. These animals may even come to symbolise the concepts attributed to them.

Cats have been with us for a very long time. A grave unearthed in 1983 in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, dating to 7500 BC, contained a human corpse and a pet cat. Just to put that date into perspective, its just 500 years after the end of the Ice Age. Cats have been a part of human civilisation since almost the very beginning. So you can imagine that a lot of anthropomorphising has been going on in relation the cat over the past 9,500 years.

One bit of information that really caught my attention when looking into this was the way humans communicate with their oldest companions – cats and dogs. Humans can intuitively read the animal's sounds and body language to determine its moods, its wants, and its needs and these animals understand the same about us. Some go even so far as to mimic human vocalisations. When you stop to think about this, the fact that such interspecies communication occurs is amazing.

Yes, I used the "D" word. Dogs. I'm not a fan of the canine. I figure that you can beat dating services to hell simply by matching cat people with cat people and dog people with dog people and never the twain shall meet.

Time to talk about Values – again. Values are the foundation for our faculty of judgement. People are drawn to those people and things that we see to manifest our values and we are apathetic towards or reject those things that do not. Of course all this is open to interpretation. Two people can see the behaviour of let's say a cat and form two different interpretations and therefore have two different value-based judgements. This says more about the person making the judgement than it does of the object being judged.

Generally speaking, depending on the animal's socialisation, dogs trust until that trust is betrayed while cats trust only when it is earned. So a dog may be perceived as being friendly and loyal while a cat is seen as aloof and skittish. The truth is that most cats bond to a single person in a family and when it does it can be a very friendly and loyal companion.

A person who is naturally extroverted may consciously or unconsciously perceive a dog as being like them, whereas a person who believes that trust should be earned, is perhaps a bit introverted, and enjoys alone time may identify more with the cat's behaviour.

This is just one example, but it demonstrates what I mean by Cat People and Dog People. To make a more specific definition, a Cat Person is someone whose values and behaviours parallel those values and behaviours commonly attributed to cats.

A brilliant example of Cat People is the character Cat from the British television series Red Dwarf. Though comical by its exaggeration, it speculates what a race of intelligent beings evolved from cats would be like. In one scene he roams the halls with a aerosol can spraying everything saying, "this is mine, and this is mine, and this is mine."

A cat snuzzling it's "owner" is commonly seen as a form of affection, and it is, but not exactly as you might think. The cat is scenting the person and essentially saying, "this is mine", just as Cat does with his spray can. The anthropomorphised cat is seen as the epitome of cool, style, grace, and individualism. The negative spin would be aloof, vain, and selfish.

A male cat is called a Tom and a female cat is called a Queen. Where Cat on Red Dwarf embodies the anthropomorphised Tom, the female of the species is quite different, more like Catwoman from Batman or Black Cat from Spider-Man. She is in a word "sultry". The slang term Tom Cat refers to a womaniser, a man who sleeps around. In contrast, the Queen is the regal seducer who draws men to her. But in both cases, the Tom and the Queen have their fun and move-on. Cats are seen as being emotionally independent, unlike their canine counterparts.

Dogs are pack animals, whereas all forms of feline, with the exception of lions, are solitary. Pet dogs see the family as their pack with the household head as the alpha male. Cats on the other hand see the mutual benefit of the arrangement and will maintain that arrangement as long as it suits them. I have heard it said that an abused dog will remain in that situation, whereas an abused cat will leave.

The differences between cats and dogs is wonderfully illustrated in the film Underworld. The film revolves around a centuries long war between vampires and werewolves. Although vampires are usually associated with bats, this is misleading. The concept of the vampire existed long before the discovery of a species of bat that fed on blood. The bat was named for the vampire and not the vampire for the bat. The behaviours of the vampires depicted in the film are definitely feline. There is even a scene where a startled female vampire leaps up to cling upside-down from the ceiling and gives a cat hiss. Not only are they suave, cool, well-dressed, lazy, and sultry, they are also driven by strong self-interest. The werewolves are loyal collectivists whereas the vampire world is one of political intrigue with each member vying for advantage.

There is a song in the Disney film The Aristocats "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat". Well, I certainly do. My first childhood introduction to the concept of "cool" was Thomas O'Malley from that film. When I look over the characteristics attributed to cats and cat people over the centuries (cool, individualistic, charming, graceful, stylish, sultry, sensual, sexy, lucky, mysterious, magical, proud, regal, self-confident, and emotionally independent) I cannot help but see the parallel characteristics also expressed in Romanticism. These same qualities also appear in relation to vampires, who all stem from Lord Byron, thus providing another link to the Romantic.

In my room, I have a giant poster of the famous advertisement for Le Chat Noir, the same image that appears on my page. This burlesque club was popular among the Decadents, Dandies, and Bohemians of the late 19th century and named for the short story, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, who is seen as the father of the Decadent phase of the Romantic Period. I cannot think of a more fitting symbol of the Romantic or a nobler epitome of its aspirations than the cat. Long live the Cat People.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Comfort Be Damned

The life of a Romantic is not a comfortable one. What is comfort anyway? Comfort is the flat line. It is not bad and not good, it's just okay. Comfort is that warm bed you do not want to get out of in the morning. Comfort is nice, easy, steady, predictable. Don't get me wrong, comfort is a wonderful thing. The problem is when we get too comfortable.

One of the driving forces of Romanticism is aspiration. The idea that we can become more, have more, achieve more. It is about focusing on and aspiring to our values. The opposite of Romantic is mundane, meaning routine, boring, predictable. In other words, comfortable.

I am reminded of the Lotus eaters from The Odyssey. Odysseus and his crew were swept onto an island inhabited by hippies. These people sat around in a serene narcotic state eating lotus fruits and flowers . They invited some of the crew to eat the lotus, and in doing so they no longer wanted to return home so Odysseus had to force them onto the ship for some cold-turkey drug rehab.

This is taken a step further in the film Serenity. On the terra-formed planet Miranda, the government had put a chemical called Pax into the atmosphere processors. As a result the inhabitants became so comfortable that they all laid down peacefully and died.

There is a story, which may or may not be true, that the city of Glasgow's Italian population arrived during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries when immigrants bound for New York were either left in Glasgow by untrustworthy captains or the ship stopped in Glasgow and the passengers thought, "This'll do."

In life we have dreams of going someplace, achieving something, or creating something, however there comes a point when we stop far from our destination and say, "This'll do." We settle for the comfort zone and it becomes our life. It becomes our little Miranda and eventually our soul dies. 

Perhaps this is why Romanticism is so often associated with the young. They have yet to reach that comfort zone and give-up. Next thing you know their little comfort zone fills-up with the spouse, the mortgage, the kids, and all the trials those things entail until the day comes when the kids move out, the spouse is either gone, dead, or hates you, and you look around wondering what happened to your life.

Of course it does not have to be like that. The Romantic is about the pursuit of values. If having a domestic life is your value, then you will find your happiness there. But if such a life is not chosen, but rather just happens because it is expected or comfortable, then it will suck the life out of you as surely as any opium haze.

I'm considering creating a viewing list of films, television programs, and documentaries that exemplify the way of the Romantic. One of these would be the documentary series, The Seven Wonders of the Industrialised World. For those curious, the wonders are: The London Sewer system, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Transcontinental Railroad, The ship The Great Eastern, the Panama Canal, and the Hoover Dam. Of these glories of the mostly Victorian/Edwardian Period, two improved the quality of life in term of sanitation and power and the other five involved transportation, but all were about the creation of something more, something better, the creation of values against impossible odds and in spite of defeats and setbacks. Sometimes I think to myself, "if Roebling can build a bridge, then I can get out of bed and get some writing done."

My regular readers will no doubt see patterns recurring over and over again in my blogs as I find myself repeating the same mantra. The way of the Romantic is like a religion in that it places demands upon your character. It tells you the kind of person you should be and constantly aspire towards in order to live the Romantic lifestyle.

To avoid the mundane life, you must be willing to live outside of your comfort zone always pressing for more -- a greater realisation of your values. This is more than just material values, but personal values as well, values of character. This requires you to live fearlessly in order to achieve more. It requires you to place your pursuit of happiness ahead of the expectations of others. You must live your life on your terms and be willing to discard anything or anyone that prevents or does not support you in this pursuit. This is easier when your adversary is a challenge or a threat, but not so easy when your foe is comfort and ease.

Oh, it is so easy to play the Romantic. The Mundanes are dazzled by any extraordinary display. What is truly difficult is to actually be a Romantic. I have read that if you are not born a gentleman, then it takes a tremendous amount of work to become one. Seeing as being a gentleman is almost synonymous with being a Romantic, the same holds true. Some people are born with a natural temperament and upbringing conducive to Romanticism, but the rest of us have to work at it. However, the work is pleasurable, fulfilling, and life enriching. I'm not saying that life should not be serene, peaceful, and yes even pleasant. Just don't get too comfortable.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

The Spirit of Fear and Loathing

Over the past five years I have been exploring the Romantic and many of the concepts I've discovered I have been working through in the writing of countless notes, a few drafts of my book chapters, outlines for an e-zine, and within these blogs. All this is an attempt to truly understand the way of the Romantic and to preach that gospel. This subject goes beyond literature and popular culture. It is beyond the Gothic that attracted me to it or the films, books, and characters that have inspired me. It is about understanding a way of living one's life gloriously.

Ayn Rand wrote in The Romantic Manifesto that Romanticism was all about the pursuit of greatness and the desire to make life more interesting. Here she makes the mistake of most philosophers. They tell you what but not how. How do you achieve greatness? What is the measure of greatness, or success for that matter? How does one live a life less ordinary? My regular readers will no doubt suspect what I will write as the key concept in living such a life. Yep, it's Values.

Mathew Sweet, the author of Inventing the Victorians, wrote "Victorian culture liked to improve everything and everyone. If there was data to be analysed, you can bet someone would be analysing it." The Romantic Era, also known as the Victorian period, was a time of incredible advancements in human civilisation on every front of human endeavour. It was a time of creating values. That was the driving Spirit of the Age – or zeitgeist.

The Romantic Era ended in Europe with World War I. Words, statistics, and pictures fail to truly convey how devastating the war was to European culture. With it, the dreams of an era came crashing down and the dawning of the first age of globalisation scarcely had a chance to take a breath. The United States was not as affected by World War I, so there Romanticism persisted throughout the 1920's until the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

The long century of Romanticism was over and a new spirit came to dominate this new age. Imagine living a life of values when suddenly your entire world comes crashing down. You tell yourself that you reached too high, too far, too fast. So you retreat from your values and the pain you believe they caused. What values you have left you cling to in fear of loosing them. Welcome to the 20th century. Welcome to the zeitgeist of Fear.

After World War I, we feared the Fascists, had another world war, then we feared the Communists, had a cold war, and now we fear the terrorists. We fear international companies, we fear the government, we fear the wild youths on our streets, we fear for our souls, we fear the break-down of morals and civilisation, we fear global warming, we fear for our children, we fear the loss of our relationships, we fear technological progress, we fear an energy crisis, we fear for our safety and securities, we fear humanity, and we fear the past and the future. Ever notice that no one accuses anyone of cowardice anymore? Where the Victorians saw challenges and opportunities, we see a threat.

The thing about zeitgeist, is that it refers to the spirit of an age. It is a generalisation. The 20th century is filled with examples of men and women of courage pursuing their values, but they are the exception and not the rule.

In my last blog, I wrote about the choice we have to live our lives in pursuit of our values or to live a life motivated by fear. Remember that fear is an imagined threat to our values. It's not real. As an emotion, all fear is saying is to be careful. It pumps your body full of chemicals to prepare you to take action of either fight or flight. The danger comes when the threat is wholly imaginary and we allow our fears and insecurities to get the better of us. Brooding over our fears only fuels the fires of worry until we are consumed by what-if's and maybe's. Next thing you know, you have unconsciously brought your fears to fruition. Most people would rather be right than happy.

A word about insecurities, we feel insecure when we are faced with a challenge that we do not believe ourselves to be capable of dealing with. This is not to say that we are or are not actually capable, just that we do not have faith in our ability to cope with that which we fear. This lack of self-belief will almost always secure failure, and failure breeds more insecurity and thus creates more things to fear.

It is important to see how you frame your situation. Framing does not change or ignore the facts at hand, it just looks at them from a different perspective. Do you see opportunity where others see failure? Do you allow your past "failures" and "mistakes" to weigh you down, or are they simply part of your learning process? Do you see something to fear or a challenge to overcome and thus prove your efficacy and right to exist? Positive framing is not about self-delusion or blind optimism. It's about learning to see reality in a way that will promote your success.

What is success then? What is greatness? The measure of your success is your personal happiness. It has nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth, status, fame, or love. Happiness is a response to the acquisition of your values, if you make a fortune at a job that does not enable you to achieve your values, then the money is nothing.

The other day I had a brief chat with a friend of mine. I told her that she was an inspiration to me. I met her when she was seventeen and a student at Glasgow University, but she wasn't happy there. I encouraged her to follow her dream and apply to the Glasgow School of Art. I remember how nervous she was when she did her paintings for admission. We only spoke on rare occasion in the years that followed, but she kept me up to date with events at art school. She recently graduated with accolades poured over her, including a very favourable review in the newspaper and a purchaser of one of her paintings set her up in her own studio. Last week she told me that her social life is non-existent and her relationship with her boyfriend is suffering, but she is the happiest she has ever been in her life.

What I admire about her is all the hard work she put into pursuing her values and I am happy for all the rewards she has earned from it. So many people I encounter have dreams, but they are not willing to work for them. They complain and moan that their life is not what they want or they criticise others who succeed where they fail. They blame others, or their circumstances, or their past. Anything to keep them from doing the work required to earn the happiness that they desire.

Now here's what really sucks. I started life like that. I believed that I was destined for greatness so I expected everything would just be handed to me. When it didn't come or opportunities fizzled I found myself blaming everyone and everything else. I lived life on the edge. No, not the really cool edge. The edge of becoming homeless. This formed a pattern of behaviour that has governed my existence for nearly twenty years. I clung to any shelter, any comfort zone, any shit home, any shit job, and any unproductive relationship became a dependency. I lived in an impoverished existence because of my fear.

Okay, I am well aware that I have created a body of work and that I have positively influenced the lives of others over the past twenty years. I have done remarkable things and I have had noteworthy experiences. I have grown in wisdom and understanding through these years. The problem here is what my teachers consistently said about me throughout my school years, "Daniel has so much potential, he just needs to apply himself." It's not about all the positive things I have done or accomplished, it's about achieving my values – and I haven't.

As per usual, I am not preaching to you from the mountaintop but from the factory floor. And I say that we must reject the spirit of this age. Reject fear, complacency, excuses, paranoia, and cowardice. Fear is the mind killer.

The proper Neo-Victorian gentleman is gallant. Although gallantry is defined as courtly conduct, it is also defined as bravery. The gallant man sees no situation or person as a threat to himself, which is a testament to his inate sense of self-worth. Wit and charm are his weapons of choice rather than anger or defensiveness. This is the attitude we must seek to cultivate in our daily lives. Train your mind to focus on the pursuit of happiness instead of protecting yourself from your fears. Look at possibilities and opportunities and not worries. Know that you will fail, know that you will experience set-backs, but do not allow these things to erode your confidence or determination to achieve your goal. As the saying goes, there is no failure, only feedback.

Romantics have always been viewed as rebels. How much more now than ever before when the entire world seems to be reacting to those things it fears rather than those things it wishes to achieve? The true rebel is the one willing to stand-up not for rebellion's sake or as a fashion, but to promote his values against those of the majority because he knows that he is right. Think of how unpopular the Romantic/Neo-Victorian values of individualism, capitalism, and humanism are these days. However it is through these values that the world may be saved from the shackles of its own fears.

How can Romantics change the world? By courageously pursuing and creating their personal values and thus providing inspiration to others to do the same. Those who will not be inspired be damned. This is the glorious life Romanticism offers.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Of Dreams and Fantasies

As I was growing-up there were two constant remarks that people seemed to make towards me. "Get out of your fantasy world" and "You have to learn to control you emotions". Sure, easy for them to say. I tried to take their well-intentioned advice and found myself travelling mental roads that I regret. Yes, these people, both friends and family, were looking after my interests, but they were not exactly qualified experts. Neither am I, but I have learned a thing or two about fantasy and emotions.

Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

There are two types of dreamers. There are dreamers and then there are fantasists. The fantasist dreams to escape reality, but the dreamer dreams to engage and to change reality.

The fantasist in his most extreme and negative state is typified by the character of the Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons. Here is a man who is fat, lazy, resentful, and arrogant, the complete antithesis of the heroes he admires. Rather like a cultural parasite consuming values but producing nothing. He resents those who create values as evident by his constant criticism as he smuggly looks-down upon those who he deems his inferiors, which is everyone. It is easy to believe yourself to be great when you hide in a fantasy and never test that supposed greatness in the world. Most fantasists are not as bad as the Comic Book Guy, but the traits are still there.

Where the fantasist pretends that life is not what it is, the dreamer creates.

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. -- George Bernard Shaw

I could conjure all sorts of people to illustrate the dreamer, from inventors, to entrepreneurs, to artists, to engineers. The simple fact is that all human creation began as someone's dream. Often when a man is criticised for being a dreamer, it is because he believes that something is possible that others do not and he is working to make that dream a reality.

The difference between the dreamer and the fantasist is that the dreamer acts on his dreams and reaps the benefits of the successes and failures along the way, whereas the fantasist fears failure and so never tries. Instead he hides in his dreams fuelled by the dreams of others.

We feel as we dream. Emotions are the responses to our thoughts. It is your conscious and unconscious idea of reality that evokes your emotional responses.

Imaginative, creative, and intelligent people tend to have very powerful emotions. Their feelings are like a great wild stallion in need of training. I was never taught how to deal with my emotional responses. I was simply told not to act in a particular manner. So I tried to repress my emotions. Not because I was obedient to these voices, but because my emotions were often painful or embarrassing. Little did I realise that it was as simple as learning to use my thoughts to manage my emotional states.

There is no singular personality to us. We behave differently in different circumstances depending on our emotional state. In essence, we are many different people in one. Those with multiple personality disorder demonstrate how each persona will rise to the surface depending on the situation. It is as though the unconscious mind summons the best personality for dealing with a particular situation. We can use this to our advantage.

In the comic books, Billy Batson speaks the magic word "Shazam" to become the super-powered Captain Marvel. The word is an acronym for the names of those beings whose powers and abilities he draws upon (S for the wisdom of Solomon, H for the strength of Hercules, A for the stamina of Atlas, Z for the power of Zeus, and A for the courage of Achilles, and M for the speed of Mercury).

Bearing that in mind, there is a technique in hypnosis and NLP in which you imagine either someone you admire or the person you wish to become and then imagine either their power coming into you or imagining what it feels like to step into that person and feel intensely what it is like to be that person. This emotional state can then be anchored with a trigger (a touch or word associated with that state) so that you can enter that state instantly. It can even be a "magic word" like Shazam.

Supposing you have a lot of things to get done, but just can be bothered. I have that problem a lot. There have been times when you felt motivated, industrious, and accomplished. You know people that you admire for their ability to get things done, or people who make things happen. The thing is, your assessment of this person is all in your mind. It is your perception. It is your feeling about them, therefore the feelings evoked by thinking of them come from you. It is from your library of emotional states that you can draw upon. If you pretend to be an efficient person, then you act like an efficient person, and efficient people get things done. It all comes down to believing that you are this person.

You are and become the person that you imagine yourself to be. What you believe about yourself affects how you perceive and act in reality, and your perception of how reality responds to you affects what you believe about yourself. It's a mirror.

There is a story about two dogs in a village. One dog was very positive and the other very negative. One day the happy little dog goes into the great house on the hill and discovers the Hall of A Thousand Mirrors. As he walks in, he finds himself faced with a thousand happy dogs all wagging their tails. He told his friend about this wonderful place. The negative dog went to the house, and he found the Hall of A Thousand Mirrors, only to be confronted by a thousand dogs growling at him, so he fled determined never to return to that horrible place.

Just as time and space are linked, so too are dreams (thoughts) and emotions. Just think of how often we link the concepts of thoughts and feelings in every our day language. We even interchange their meanings, such as asking someone, "how do you feel about something?" when we mean, "what do you think about something?". There is no great divide between the heart and the head. There is no Rational vs. Emotional or Reason vs. Passion. Either there is alignment between your conscious and unconscious, or there is not.

A common mistake I made when working on my personal growth is not approaching my task on an unconscious level. This is where are patterns of behaviour are stored and this is where they are adjusted. If you want change in your life or yourself then you need to engage your imagination and your emotions.

Reason is the native language of the conscious mind, however in order to for the conscious mind to align the unconscious to itself, it must speak to the unconscious in its own language, that of imagery and emotion. Otherwise, you're just explaining a complex engineering exercise to an audience of Chinese -- they won't understand you.

I'll close this with a film reference. I watched the film Click with Adam Sandler the other night and found it most disturbing. Not the best of his films by any stretch, but the metaphor of the universal remote rung in my head. Basically, this guy's life is out of control so he is given a universal remote control -- a remote that controls the universe. He uses it to fast forward through the boring or monotonous parts of his life. While in fast forward mode, he basically switches to autopilot, completely disengaged from his world, but still functioning in it. Eventually, the remote learns his habits and switches to automatic fast forward until his entire life is gone and he missed everything and produced a life that he did not want.

The universal remote is a metaphor for our unconscious. It shuts out painful experiences, disengages from boring reality, filters our perceptions, takes us to moments in our past, or projects into the future. More importantly, it learns our habits and gives us what it thinks we want based on our habitual behaviour.

Throughout the film, Sandler's character is confronted with things that he doesn't want, but the life that manifests is the life he created and the remote facilitated. If you are not living the life that you want, then you need to reprogram your remote. The way of the Romantic is the way of a conscious active existence where you take full responsibility for the life you created and recognise that the life you live is the product of your dreams. Dreams fuel our emotions, emotions fuel our passions, passions fuel our actions, and actions create our lives.

When we use fantasy to disengage from reality, then the unconscious mind gives us more and more disengagement until it become a powerful pattern of behaviour. Rather than increasing emotional interaction with reality, it numbs us to it. Life becomes like watching TV or playing a video game and then wondering eight hours later where the day went. Imagine not a day lost to fantasy, but a lifetime. I confess that did that to a large degree in my life.

I was given good advice as a child. "Get out of your fantasy world" and "You have to learn to control you emotions". The problem was that the people giving the advice could not fully conceptualise what they were telling me or guide me on how to do it.

If I was speaking to my young self, I would say "Dreams are powerful creations. Dream the life you want, dream the person that you choose to become, and allow those dreams to manifest in reality. Learn to listen and interpret what your emotions are telling you, and then use your reason to set a course of action in the direction of your dreams."

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Currency of Existence

You leave home on a lovely day and walk into town for a bit of window shopping when suddenly you are caught in a freak shower. All that you have to keep yourself dry is a £10 note. It’s pretty useless to the task. In fact, money is pretty useless for most things. Just scraps of paper and slivers of metal. However, you can take that £10, go into a shop, and exchange it for an umbrella -- something far most useful, and therefore more valuable than a small rectangular piece of paper.

Money in and of itself is of little value. However, what it symbolises is of enormous value. Money is a symbol that represents value itself. You take your knowledge, skills, and abilities and sell those in the marketplace of values in exchange for this symbolic representation of your production. Without money, you would have to find something else of value to the shop owner to exchange for the umbrella, such as work for him a few hours or perhaps he would like your watch. Money is a tool allowing for the easy exchange of values.

They say that money makes the world go round. Not really. Again, money is merely a symbol of values. Values make the world go round. We exist within the marketplace of values, and this market is a truth that shapes our existence to be ignored at your peril.

When I told a friend that I was writing a blog on the subject of values he warned me against writing on the same topic over and over again. Perhaps. Nonetheless, values are of such critical importance and so underrated and misunderstood that I do not believe that too much can be written on the subject. This particular blog is derived from my recent discoveries on the critical importance of values and the need to live a value-driven lifestyle.

A value is defined as something you act to gain or to keep. The very first and still primary value is survival. This is expressed by the two primal questions, “Can I eat it?” and “Will it eat me?”.

“Eating it” relates to acquiring a value. When we desire something our brain releases dopamine and when we get it the feel-good chemical seratonin is released. These two brain chemicals create a constant interplay of desire and fulfilment every moment of our lives. We are hardwired as a species towards the acquisition of values. Each of our four primary emotions relates to values. Desire is the imagined acquisition of a value and happiness is the actual acquisition of a value .

One the other hand, “Will it eat me?”. If values are those things we act to gain and to keep, then the opposite would be those things we act to prevent and avoid. This is fear, it is the imagined loss of a value and sorrow is the actual loss of a value.

Now we have the positive and negative ends of the spectrum. Values are those things that make us feel good and we Fear those things that make us feel bad. Both forces motivate every action in our lives.

Ayn Rand saw living according to whim as the opposite of living by values. I disagree. A whim is an unconscious act. Seeing as the role of the unconscious mind is to keep us safe, it has created patterns of behaviour to create a safety bubble. The person living by whim may not see themselves as afraid, however if you challenge their comfort zone then the fear will emerge. Whim is the safety of inaction, routine and habit. Complacency is habitualized fear.

I could not understand why I valued things that I did not pursue. Since we as a species are hardwired towards the acquisition of values and our society is based on the creation, acquisition, and trading of values, then why do I not naturally live a value-driven lifestyle? Why did I often act to sabotage those things I valued by acting towards things that I did not value?

Imagine that you are attacked by an angry man-eating tiger and you escape by climbing into an apple tree. The tiger is circling the tree waiting for you to eventually come down. As you sit in your tree living off the apples, you notice on the ground a basket filled with all sorts of food and drink and beside the basket is a rifle capable of killing the tiger. Do you stay in your comfort zone or take a risk for something you value -- proper food and freedom?

Many people so consistently choose the safe path that it becomes a pattern of behaviour and therefore a part of their personality. Their lives are governed not by the movement towards gaining values, but by their avoidance of loss.

I read recently that the difference between rats and humans is that when a rat makes a mistake it tries something different. When a human makes a mistake it blames someone else or justifies that it worked once before. Humans have the power to rationalise their actions. It is this function that allows for the excuses people make for not pursuing their values, which over time becomes a pattern of inaction. However, that is only one aspect.

If I did what I really wanted to do, then I would be ____________.

Perhaps you see people with money as being bad people. You do not want to be a bad person and you do not want to be seen as a bad person, therefore on an unconscious level you do not want to make any more money than those around you. Meanwhile you fret and moan about not having enough money.

Our unconscious minds are filled with all sorts of preconceived notions. The danger is that if we do not address our beliefs concerning reality, then we will be limited by those beliefs against our best interests. We fear the imagine consequences of achieving our values and/or we fear how we suspect we will be judged by others should we achieve our values. Again, this attitude creates a pattern of behaviour that limits our ability to effectively pursue our values.

Another aspect of fear is insecurity. It is the fear that we are not good enough or do not deserve what we value. A good way of understanding values is to look at them as we do money. If you want something you ask yourself if you can afford it. This involves taking stock of your resources. The same applies in your dealings with other people.

Suppose you see someone that you fancy. Is this person “out of your league”? The real question is what values can this person offer you and what values can you offer in exchange? Just as a good salesman should be passionate about his product, so too should you be passionate about your product, and your product is you, the values you have on offer.

The exchange of values is all about trading something you deem to be of lesser value for something you believe to be of equal or greater value. Remember the umbrella? The umbrella is of greater value in a rain shower than a piece of paper.

Insecurity is the fear that the values you have on offer are of no value to anyone. Not only are they of no value, but they are worthy of scorn and rejection. If you do not believe in your values; if you see them as substandard, wrong, misguided, ugly, sinful, or weird; if you have no passion for them, then the best that you can hope for are the scraps of life. Insecurity is the inflation that renders your values worthless.

There is another reason for not living a value-driven life that has nothing to do with fear, well, not completely. Sometimes we do not pursue our values because we do not know our values. One of the great goals in life is discovering what we want. Life is a smorgasbord of experiences. You have the option to try everything once or stick to what you have always eaten. The only fear here is the fear of trying something new. You cannot truly know what you want until you have experienced it. If something tastes good, then have some more. If it tastes bad, then take something that you do like. Or to put it more straightforward:

Values are those things that we act to gain or to keep;
Happiness is a response to values;
The purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness;
Therefore, the purpose of life is the creation, pursuit, and keeping of values.

How does one keep a value? I think it is important that our decisions in life are based on moving towards something and not away from something. In your actions, are you motivated by moving towards your desires or escaping what you fear? Keeping a value is not accomplished by a fear of loosing it, but from a sense of gratitude for having it. We must constantly look around us and see how remarkable rich in values we already are.

Lets say that you are given a lovely china tea service for your birthday. You feel the thrill of delight at receiving such a beautiful gift. However, you do not alter your lifestyle to permit use of it on a regular basis, so the tea service quickly becomes an ornament blending in with your room until it becomes unnoticed. Over time it becomes dirty, chipped, and worn loosing value everyday from neglect. Perhaps you even forget who it was that gave it to you. You have now lost a value simply by not appreciating it. Then one day there is an accident and it falls to the ground and shatters. Only now are you sad at its loss.

I am no longer a Christian, but I believe that Christianity has many positive aspects that lead to a happy and productive life. One aspect in particular is the ritual of giving thanks. Look around and allow yourself to feel the positive emotions of gratitude. Look at whatever or whoever your “tea set” might be and allow yourself to feel once more the initial joy of attaining that value in your life. You need not thank “God”, just be thankful.

Now back to business.

Capitalism is all about the creation of values -- remember that money is just a symbolic representation of values. An entrepreneur is a visionary capable of seeing a means of creating new values in people’s lives. Look at your material, social, or personal values and imagine where they came from and all the steps that brought them into your life. This could be your computer, or the cool boyfriend/girlfriend that you met using that computer, or the great life changing concept you read on the internet. None of these values would have been possible without the conception, manufacture, and distribution of computer hardware and software.

There are three important skills in business:
1. Let them know who you are.
2. Tell them the story of what you are offering.
3. Convince them it’s worth having.

These are also known as networking, marketing, and sales. Since business is all about values and values are the currency of human existence, then these same principles apply. Here are two examples.

You are out for the night and see someone that you fancy. Introduce yourself (networking), say/demonstrate who you are (marketing your values), and see if you click (sales). Let’s say that you want a job. Let employer know about you (networking), tell them what values you can bring to their company (marketing), determine if you want them and if they want you (sales). I think you’ll find this pattern of value trading occurring in a myriad of forms everyday in your life.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to values. If I may challenge you, my dear reader, to take a moment to assess what it is that makes you truly happy. Trust and follow your emotional guidance system towards happiness instead of obsessing over those things that make you feel bad. Fear is simply your emotions telling you to be careful. There are not telling you to stop pursuing your values.

One final note for my fellow dark Romantics, happiness does not mean that you have to become little miss sunshine or prance about smiling like an idiot all time. It’s okay to be happy. It’s why you are here -- so enjoy.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

The Marriage of Nature

I have been married twice. It's funny how a failed marriage taints a person. You know those little boxes that you have to tick when you are filling out some form? I have often wondered why the bank wants to know if I am divorced when I want a loan or an account. When I meet a girl for the first time, I feel as though I have to hide the fact that I have been married twice. You see, I just don't want her to get the wrong idea . When you tell someone that you have been previously married there is a kind of life-long stigma attached. You will always be someone's ex-husband. However, I have recently discovered that such a stigma is more unfair when you consider that many people have been or are married and don't even know it.

Both of my marriages lasted less than two years. When the union dissolved the girl simply packed her things and disappeared from my life forever. There were no children, no joint assets, none of the usual chaos associated with divorce. She just left. My marriages were no more than government approved and church sanctioned living together.

I have known couples who have lived together two or three times longer than I was married, and yet should they break-up and return to single life, they can still tick that box next to the word "Single" while I am meant to tick "Divorced". They have an ex-partner who will eventually fade into memory as an ex-girlfriend, while I have an ex-wife for the rest of my days. No wonder more and more couples are choosing to forego the institution of marriage. The whole idea of such a union seems to have become moot. Yet, things are not as simple as they appear.

Over the past several months I have been studying different aspects of human relationships and sexuality. This has brought me to a very interesting conclusion. People choose not to enter into marriage because of a fear of commitment, or they choose to live with their significant other out of current interest but would never want to marry them for what ever reason. However, even though the decision to live with someone as a partner may avoid the human institution of marriage, the couple have in fact become man and wife whether they know it or not.

There is a story in the Bible where Jesus psychically points out to a prostitute that she has many husbands. In the ancient Irish Brehon Law there are seven types of marriage, two of which being "marriage of visitation with parental consent" and "marriage of visitation without parental consent". In Western culture we still speak of "consummating the marriage". The wedding before the religious figure or judge does not create the marriage. Signing the document does not create the marriage. These are just the institutionalised religious or legal aspects. What creates the marriage is the sex.

I was taught in the Pentecostal church of my youth that sex was a union of souls. One admonishment against "sport sex" was this idea that when souls are being united and ripped apart over and over again, it causes deep psychological damage to a person. I have long since come to disagree with this notion, but I have recently come to discover that there is more truth to it than I had suspected.

Our understanding of the human animal continues to grow. Just as our technological advances have progressed in leaps and bounds, so too has our understanding of human psychology and biology. We have found that there is far more to sex than "Insert tab A into slot B - Repeat."

Nature cares nothing about human laws, institutions, rituals, preconceived notions, entertainment, or religious beliefs. Love and Sex comes down to one thing in the eyes of Nature -- children. This is not to say that we are bound to the letter of Nature's laws. Human technology is based on understanding Nature's laws and using them to our purposes. Nature may intend sex for procreation, but humans have made it into an art. I have no problem with that. However, this does not give license to pretend that these laws don't exist or that there won't be dire consequences if we slip-up.

Scientist have discovered that prolonged sexual partnerships, and I'm not talking about one night stands or occasional flings here, lead to the development of deep psychological bonds between couples. There are a host of chemical agents at work within the human body all designed to strengthen the pair bond for the purpose of procreating and raising children. In other words, once you start having regular sex with someone exclusively, your bodies go to work to essentially "marry" you, strengthening that bond and uniting your souls.

I'll skip over discussing some of these chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, and go right to the scary one. It's a group of fatty acids called copulins and they read like something out of science fiction. Men beware.

Basically it works like this. When the penis enters the vagina, the vaginal wall secretes a chemical to hold it in place, then another chemical opens the penile duct so the copulins enter through the penis. They gather in the gonads to eventually enter the blood stream and go straight to the male brain. Once there, the copulins mimic the man's natural polypeptides, the neurotransmitters linking the hypothalamus and the rest of the brain and body, and supplant the host's neurotransmitters.

Copulins make the male highly open to her suggestions to the point of "hypnosis" or "brainwashing". It is believed that the purpose of this is to encourage bonding and even the odds between the stronger male and the female making him more docile, giving, and nurturing towards her. It seems to explain why macho men become "pussy whipped" in a prolonged relationship. Also, copulins appear to be addictive. For more detailed information on copulins, here is the link…

Let's take a moment to look at a few cultural stereotypes. In the film, Top Hat, Fred Astaire sings of being "footloose and fancy free" is praise of his devout bachelorhood. In My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins extols these same joys when he declares, "I will never let a woman in my life." There is this image of Man and his Freedom liked to being a bachelor. Likewise, there is the stereotype of the woman out to ensnare the man into marriage through her sexuality and turning him into the henpecked, brow-beaten, soul-destroyed husband.

Biology seems to support this. The Man is happy and solitary until his desires get the better of him and he exposes himself to the Venus Flytrap that is the walking chemical lab of Woman. The next thing he knows the jaws close in and his freedom is replaced by responsibility to wife and eventually kids.

I do not believe that we are stuck with these stereotypes. Yes, the bachelor is free to live his life as he chooses and by his own terms, but I enjoy the female touch and companionship in my life. I would prefer to have that partner without loosing my soul in the process. So perhaps it is rather like driving under the influence of alcohol. You know that your brain in full of chemicals, so compensate and pay special attention to what you are doing. You keep the course without getting in an accident in the process.

There are those psychologists who would argue that humans are hardwired for infidelity, however it seems that we are also hardwired for forming pair bonds. So it seems that Nature wants you procreate and raise offspring by any means necessary.

Once upon a time it was only socially acceptable to have sex within the institution of marriage, but then came free love and it has become increasingly freer and freer with each generation since. Now we live in a time of broken relationships. According to hypnotherapist Paul McKenna, the average relationship today lasts seven years and there is very little incentive for people to work through issues that arise within the relationship. The result is the pair bond being ripped asunder. This is more than just a heartbreak. It is suddenly going cold turkey from a chemical and behavioral addiction while at the same time adjusting to the loss of a loved one. Its like quitting heroine and smoking cigarettes on the same day that both your parents and your best friend die.

Perhaps in the light of this new understanding and current social forces, we should not take the social institution of marriage so seriously and we should begin taking the natural biology of marriage more seriously.

When you establish an on-going, exclusive, live-in sexual relationship with someone, your body takes it as its cue to begin forming the pair bond whether you consciously choose to "marry" this person or not, whether you are compatible or not, whether you share values or not, whether this person is right or good for you or not, and whether you want children with this person or not. Your head will get pumped full of all the required chemical necessary to create the state of marriage.

However, these other factors do play a part and they will begin to assert themselves when the chemistry lab calms down and the fog clears. At this point you may choose to continue the relationship or not. You may remain married or divorce.

I have been married twice, but that is not exactly true. There was another relationship that lasted roughly the same amount of time as the two marriages. We never married and I would say that I connected and bonded with her more closely than I had with my ex-wives and the separation was far more painful and damaging for me. If we see marriage as the social manifestation of human biology and not as a religious or legal institution, then you might say that I have been married three times.

I carry the stigma of divorce, and yet I have known people who have moved from marriage to marriage to marriage without ever being expected to tick the "Divorced" box. People who have lived joint lives as man and wife for one, two, four, or seven years, but have never been "married" in the eyes of Church and State. I think its high time these people were held accountable for their marriages of Nature.

And yet referring to one's ex-partner or ex-live-in lover hardly carries the same punch as saying ex-wife or ex-husband, and it probably never will. By the same token, I wonder how many people would look at their current partner and could proudly declare them to the world to be their husband or wife. Perhaps if society credited the sexual pair bond with the care, caution, status, and respect that it warrants, the union would not be taken so flippantly.

I have been married three times. So how many times have you been married?

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Fortune and Glory

It's been a while since I have written a blog, and I have a burning desire to do so.

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about fortune and glory. My desire for it, my rejection of it, my resistance and self-sabotage in attaining it, but more importantly recognising and remedying the unconscious blocks keeping me from it so that my natural self can flow without constraint in achieving itself.

I have been reading the new book written by hypnotist, Paul McKenna called I Can Make You Rich. An excellent book with plenty of insights that pertain not only to our limiting unconscious relationship with our concept of money, but also to our basic programming towards existence itself. Perhaps I will write more on that later.

I have written a great deal in these blogs on the idea of transformation as creating for you the person that you want to be, like Jay Gatsby for example. Yet always there was a resistance inside of me. There was my unconscious doing what it is suppose to do – protect me from harm. In this case, it was trying to preserve that thing it identifies as "self". The idea of transformation carries with it the connotation that one disapproves of who or what they are and seeks to be liberated by transforming into someone else.

I realised that a better word than transformation is growth. Do we look at a toddler and say, "stupid idiot, look it can't walk or even talk properly." Of course not, because we have an understanding that the child is at a stage of development and will grow, mature, and learn. Likewise, we are still in this process, and yet we have an expectation that the moment comes when we "arrive" and are finished. We are not finished until we die. We should therefore look at those aspect of the past where we could have acted or felt differently and take the same attitude as we do with any other growing thing. See it as a stage of development.

The maturing process is naturally controlled by the unconscious mind. Creatures do not try to grow, they just do so easily and without effort. So often I found myself trying to be the person that I want to be instead of just letting it happen.

In the Eighties there was a film called "Made in Heaven". A young man dies, goes to heaven, and falls in love with a girl. However, her time comes to be born into a body as a "new soul". The only way that this man can be reunited with his love is to be reborn and to find her on Earth. A deal is made and he is given thirty-years to find her, but he has no memory of his time in heaven. The man is born into a poor, white trash family, starts with little opportunities and wastes his life. The film's depiction of heaven was as a place where you imagined where you wanted to go or have and you would go there or the thing would manifest. There is a scene where the man's time is running out, but he still has no idea what he is looking for. An angel character appears to him says something like, "You're wasting time, you've lost yourself, just remember what it was like in heaven, imagine where you want to go and you will go there." Eventually he finds the girl at the zero hour.

The point of this story is that in the process of growth, our imaginations and the accompanying emotions that we associate with those thoughts are the control switches for directing our growth. That's it. Growth is as simple as that.

Yesterday, I began an exercise of re-imagining my life. A person is defined by their style of life, that is, their lifestyle. Look at a person's clothes, home, job, activities, friends, relationships, and tastes and you will discover the person. So I imagined the life I want. What clothes do I wear? How is my home decorated? What is my job? What is my annual income? What activities do I engage in? Who are my friends? What are my lovers like? What do I have for dinner? What music is playing? I imagine my ideal lifestyle as though it was real and I feel the positive emotions of that lifestyle. This exercise tells the unconscious mind, "This is where we are going. This is who we are growing into." And that is what makes it possible to become the person that you want to become.

Growth is effortless. Yes, there may be experiences, actions, knowledge, or skills necessary to grow in the direction that we desire, but these will be pleasurable experiences – not work. They will be acquired naturally. Think of the artist who works eighteen hours a day on a project. He may get tired, but he is fulfilled by the experience of doing something that he enjoys. Life is not meant to be hard. If it is, then you are doing something wrong.

I remember when I first put on a waistcoat and buttoned it up. Perhaps it was not the first time, but for some reason it had a profound affect on me. My mind associated this look of a waistcoat and tie with Victoriana. I felt efficient and artistic and I liked that feeling. In time, my style developed more and more to what it is today. People ask me on the street why I dress the way I do. When I think of it now, I do so because I like the way it makes me feel. If I deem to put a label on it, I called it Neo-Victorian. I associate men in frock coats with Romanticism – the dreamers who make their dream come true. These are those men of industry who built the Brooklyn Bridge or wrote magnificent literature, or frontiered the American West in style. I want to be like those men, so I dress like those men. I want to promote their values in myself, my associations, and in my lifestyle.

This brings me to Tombstone. Once I really liked the film, then it entered my top five, and now it is number one. So often I think of it and find something new, which is why I am always writing about it in these blogs. For me, there is another level of the film that concerns itself with the Victorian attitude towards money.

In the San Francisco telephone directory, Wyatt Earp listed his occupation as "Capitalist". He was always looking for opportunities to make money. In two occasions in the film Tombstone he is praised for his desire to make money. Doc Holliday shares Wyatt's values. When Wyatt asks his friend, "How the hell are you?" Doc replies, "Wyatt, I am rolling." Imagine today if you asked a friend how they were and he responded, "I have money". These days, the cultural atmosphere is so against this notion of rejoicing in another person doing well for themselves. Envy and resentment seems to be the order of the day. There are a few other references to money in Tombstone, such as Wyatt refusing to fight Ringo because, "There's no money in it." But notice the ending of the film. Wyatt is destitute and offers himself to Josie. She replies, "My parents are rich". Happy ending.

Romanticism is ultimately about the individual's pursuit of his values. It is about your life on your terms. It is about freedom. However, freedom without the power to exercise that freedom is pointless. Power is no more than a tool to be utilised in the pursuit of creating and maintaining your values. Money is one form of power, and therefore nothing but a tool in creating values and the lifestyle that you desire.

So as I imagine the life of Logan in my mind, I find my attitude towards money re-adjusting itself and I focus on that very Romantic goal of fortune and glory. I hear Doc's voice in my head, "Wyatt, I am rolling" as though it were me saying it. I focus on the richness of my life now, the wonderfully rich experiences of my past, and I look forwards to a more rich and glorious future.

Here's to happy endings.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

A World For The Taking

As many of you dear readers will know, I started my philosophical life as a Christian, then moved on to Paganism, then to Celtic Christianity, and finally at the ripe old age of thirty-six I became an Atheist. Throughout all of this, my central focus was Truth. I wanted to come to an understanding of reality and I followed that road where it led. Now it is leading me in a very bizarre and unexpected direction.

Last week while in a bookshop, my companion pointed out to me the book The Secret. I have since read some of it and watched the feature documentary. The book suggests that there is a great secret that has been passed through the ages that once known and implemented will unlock personal happiness.

From my initial browse of the book I discovered that I already knew the Secret from my Pagan days. The idea goes that there are mystical laws operating in the universe, just as there are physical laws. One of these laws is called The Law of Attraction.

The Law of Attraction basically states that in the universe like will attract like. I understood this in its most basic form and left it at that. The purveyors of the Secret go a step further. They suggest that whatever you think, be it positive or negative, will manifest itself in your life. It is compared to Aladdin's genie saying, "Your wish is my command".

If this was my first introduction to the Secret, I would surely call it nonsense. Consciousness cannot affect reality. Reality exists independent of consciousness. However, I think that there is something to this. I do not agree with the proponents of the Secret who explain this concept in mystical or pseudo-scientific terms. I think the answers are more psychological in nature.

In a previous blog I wrote, "Where the mind goes the body follows, so be careful what you wish for." This statement is the sort that seems to support the idea of the Law of Attraction, however that was not my intention. Thoughts affect Feelings and Feelings affect Behaviour and Behaviour determines your Reality. Since that is the case, then how does it hurt to apply the ideas expressed by the Secret?

During my mystical days, I believed that I was blessed by God, the gods, the Ancestors, take your pick. In those days, I always landed on my feet. Whatever I needed at any time came to me. I felt confident in the universe because I believed that I had this supernatural support. Then one day all of my expectations came crashing down and no matter what I did everything went wrong in my life, or so I thought. Each day became a struggle for two things, love and money and both eluded me. So I gave up on the mysticism and got to work on my life.

As a teenager, I could not get a girl to save myself. I was the friend and never the lover. When I did find love, it did not last long enough. Same holds true with money. Money was scarce and had to be protected. I never seemed to have enough and lived my life from day to day. I always had enough to exist, but never enough to live as I wanted to live. These experiences affected my perceptions of love and money. There were scarce and they were valuable. I became a miser of both. Perhaps this is why my two greatest fears are the loss of a relationship and unemployment. The question then is, if I see love and money as scarce does that then create an attitude within me that binds me to relationships and jobs that do not benefit me? Does that attitude create in me the fear of loss? Or the fear of taking the steps necessary to improve my life?

I have been watching the BBC series Casanova with David Tennant again. The character of Casanova as portrayed in the series sees love and money as being in abundance. In one scene he describes himself as a born alchemist spinning wealth from nothing. History is filled with such people who make a fortune from nothing, lose it, and then do it again. These are people extolled by the Romantics in both history and in fiction. This is the Romantic attitude – love, money, life is in abundance in the universe. Don't worry about how just take it. This is the very attitude extolled by the purveyors of the Secret.

I cannot accept the Idealistic notion that consciousness affects Reality. However, I cannot deny the evidence in the lore of the Romantic that those who know that they can-do achieve what they want from life. I cannot deny that positive thinking and self-confidence reaps rewards. Likewise, negative thoughts lead to the manifestation of our fears. I have witnessed this occurrence time and time again throughout my life. I have also experienced seemingly miraculous coincidences from which I have received exactly what I wanted.

As an example of the negative, I once had a love with whom I was very close. She was dominated by her fears of losing me and even had recurring nightmares of the loss. She became jealous and emotionally demanding, but I was flattered and I loved her very much. As I sought to comfort and accomodate her more pressure was put on me until it became an emotional strain. In the end, she manifested her fears by setting in motion a mental state within herself that did lead to the end of the relationship. Several months after the end, she confessed that she believed that I never loved her. Why? Because she could not accept the fact that I did. She did not believe herself worthy of it. We manifest our negative thoughts as surely as we manifest our positve thoughts. In this example, her nightmares became reality.

Religion provides a wonderful focal point for our consciousness. Faith in some force makes it easier to focus our thoughts and energies towards manifesting our goals. It is far more difficult to exclude any such power and focus instead on ones self and trust in our ability to create the life in which we want to exist. However, in this we have the Romantic glorification of humanity in general and the self in particular. With this perspective we grant ourselves incredible power and responsibility.

An image that keeps playing through my mind is Brer Rabbit dancing and singing through the briar patch. The Romantic does not fear the rough patches in life, rather he dances through them because he can. He takes the loss of love with grace and style because he knows that there is more love out there to be had. Poverty is just a hop away from riches.

Going back to the Romantic values of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love, all these are manifested through this positive attitude towards existence. Likewise those attitudes associated with being a gentleman fit the "anything is possible" worldview found in the Law of Attraction. Take gallantry for example. Gallantry is defined as courage. There is no fear when there is no perceived threat to the loss of ones values. If you believe that the universe provides values in abundance, then there is nothing to fear. Loss is nothing more than a temporary state easily transcended.

In a previous blog I used the analogy of a child's torment at the loss of his ice-cream cone where an adult sees it as an annoying accident. In this instance I will add that an adult knows that there is more ice-cream in the world and that it is available to him at will. Why can we not have the same attitude towards adult ice-cream cones? I've lost a love, then just get another. I've lost my job, then get another.

Even as I write this I feel the tension of resistance inside me. I have endured prolonged unemployment. I have suffered for months over the loss of love. If I could end those periods at will, then wouldn't I have done it? Can't I look at my history and show evidence that it's not easy to find love and money? But is it possible that that ingrained worldview actually prevented me from making it easy? As a teenager I often obsessed over some girl I fancied while ignoring the girls who probably did fancy me and who I would have enjoyed. Is it possible that I created my own prison? Of course it is.

It is like what I wrote in the blog just before this one. We choose how we perceive our history and our existence. We can choose to focus on the positives, be grateful, and revel in our existence, or we can focus on what we don't have and mourn its absence. It's your choice.

I am by no means advocating a denial of Reality. I am not suggesting that we pretend that every spilled ice-cream cone is a blessing, though sometimes it is, or that problems don't exist. I'm not trying to sell you a pair of rose-tinted glass. I am not advocating arrogance – believing yourself to be what you have not earned.

I am saying that if you do not believe in your worthiness and power to have success in love, wealth, career, or whatever, then it is impossible for you to achieve it. You will sink broken into the briar patch instead of dancing through it.

Romanticism is all about the aspiration and achievement of personal greatness and the passionate existence that brings. The first step is imagining. Where the mind goes, the body will follow. So claim that power as your own and be glorious. Whether the power of the Secret is mystical or psychological in nature is irrelevant. I believe that its tenants will produce results either way, so be careful what you wish for. We create our own heaven or hell.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Just My Luck

Just a short blog....

I have had what can best be called an unlucky week. Deeper analysis would reveal that it was not about luck so much as me being a fuckwit, however I prefer to go with the bad luck theory for obvious reasons.

Here's an example. I use the same coffee cup at work everyday and yesterday it went missing. I had a near full cup that I set down somewhere and could not find where I put it. After a prolonged search in every conceivable place, I went out to buy a new one.

During my failed search to find what I was after I found two DVD's on my to-buy list that were very cheap. One was only £2.00. I finally found a cup that I could use and bought it. The girl at the counter knew me and on her own volition gave me her staff discount. As soon as I returned to work I found my old cup in plain sight. I just wasted much needed cash pointlessly. Bad Luck – right?

Well, now I have two DVD's I wanted, someone liked me enough to give me a staff discount for no real reason, and I have a new cup (which I needed anyway). So it was actually a positive though at the time it felt like just bad luck.

My point here is that bad things happen in life. I ran into an acquaintance who asked how I have been over the past year. I said, "it has been the best of times and the worst of times". I heard that Sigmund Freud was a biologist who spent his life looking for a sex organ in an eel. He failed because the organ does not develop in that species until later in life and Freud's specimens were all too young. In that failure he engaged in self-examination which led to modern psychology. Likewise, I faced the greatest disappointment and loss in my life in December. In my failure, I turned to self-analysis and self-creation. The result has been unprecedented personal growth in my life. I take great pleasure in the person that I have become and who I am becoming.

I may choose to focus on my loss, wallow in misery, and view 2007 as the year of hell. Or I can focus on the positives and see it as one of the best years of my life, a year whose events enabled me to sort through a lifetime of personal defects, bad habits, faulty perceptions, ignorance, and general hang-ups. These matters being sorted promise me a brighter future than the past that I have left behind.

Right now I am feeling free. Feeling liberated and alive. Freed from past burdens and looking optimistically to a future free of pointless and self-destructive fear and worry. Just thought I'd share.

Yep, I am one lucky bastard.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Growing Up

When you grow up, your heart dies. It's inevitable. – Allison in The Breakfast
When I first heard that line as a teenager, I decided to never let my heart die. Result? I'm not sure that I ever grew-up.

One of the recurring themes in Goth music is the fall from grace. I pondered this topic long and hard as a former Christian and therefore fallen, however the true fall from grace is that movement from childhood to adulthood. It is that point when the illusions of childhood disappear. We are cast from the Eden of parental protection and must fend for ourselves in the world.

I hold to the belief that what defines an adult is the ability to be self-dependent. In Nature, the purpose of parenthood is solely to prepare the offspring to be independent. Once accomplished, their spawn are chased away by the parent to be independent and self-reliant creatures. This purpose is true for the human animal as well. Since human survival is far more complex, parenting takes decades of preparation, but eventually, in theory anyway, the offspring must be chased from the familial nest. Though sometimes they run from it.

If that is adulthood, what then is childhood? The child exists under the protection of the parent until such time as the child can stand-alone. They do not worry about where the next meal will come from, making rent, or putting clothes on their back. In the prosperous West, children are also provided with entertainment in the form of computers, mobile phones, and sometimes even credit cards. Once the child leaves the nest, the parents may choose to continue to help them by getting them into their first flat or any variety of financial assistance as required.

In poorer families and cultures, childhood ends early as family needs require the child start contributing to the mutual survival. However, among the wealthy childhood may extend well into a person's twenties. But whether rich or poor, there comes a time when a person's needs are no longer provided for and he must stand alone.

Many months ago, I was reading an article on the topic of separation anxiety. It said that it is impossible for an adult to be abandoned because it is the natural state of an adult to be self-sufficient. You exist for no one and no one exists for you. This is easy to forget during a long-term romance, but quickly remembered when that romance reaches its inevitable conclusion. I say inevitable because all relationships end. You may be married to the same loving partner for forty years, but one day that person dies and you stand alone.

A quick word here that will no doubt anger my teenage readers. You are more independent than a ten year old but not as independent as an adult. So for the sake of this blog, you are still children. Sorry.

For children, childhood hardly seems like a paradise. That is because a child's world is very small and it expands as they age and gain experience. Unfortunately for some, their consciousness stops expanding at some point a bit prematurely. Hence those adults with childish notions. Anyways. For a child a spilled ice cream cone is the end of the world, but to adult it is just an annoying accident. The adult has perspective that the child lacks. Furthermore, the adult version of the end of the world is not being able to make a mortgage payment, loosing the kids in a divorce, or dying of cancer.

This applies to the child loosing his ice cream, to the teenage girl who "really really loved" some boy who breaks her heart. These are all learning experiences that bring us into adulthood step by bloody step. Perspective helps us to see these events within a greater context of reality.

These two ideas of perspective and personal responsibility form the essence of adulthood. Perspective is an aid to ones judgement allowing us to determine which events are important and which may be a pain in the ass, but are ultimately trivial. It also helps us to envision the long-term possible outcomes of our actions and weigh the likely results against present gains. Personal responsibility means knowing your obligations to yourself and others and taking credit for the consequences of those actions be they good or bad.

Perspective and responsibility manifest in the need to ignore ones feelings. A father supporting his family may not "feel" like going to work. He may even hate his job. However, he has a responsibility to his family and his perspective should tell him that if he did not go to work, then his life would unravel. So he ignores his feelings and just gets on with what has to be done. He may not be happy and it may not be fair, but it has to be done.

An employed teenager on the other hand may have no problem following his heart and pulling a sickie with little or no consequences unless it becomes a habit, and even if he is given the sack, he is supported by his parents until he finds another job. Parental protection allows him the freedom to do as he pleases.

The metaphor of the man suppressing his feelings to support his family exemplifies the adult experience. There are countless examples of moments when as an adult we must do something that we do not want to do and we must accept that as the nature of existence. Events may fall upon us that we must deal with despite our feelings. So we may say that being an adult is about being forced by life's circumstances to do what we do not want to do and deal with it.

Now for the personal anecdotes. I often use the analogy of emotions as being like a horse that must be broken-in. They have to be trained so that you can receive the benefits of your emotions without their potential destructive force. Far too often I have acted on a whim or not acted at all because I could not be bothered. I would rather sit and watch a DVD than write that important essay or fill in that government form. I acted as I felt like. As a result I never trained my emotions as they should be conditioned. I never said no to my desires and I resisted acting against my feelings. By following my heart, I never really grew-up.

I have learned tactics to keep my life running smooth and pleasant because I did not want to be put into a position where I would have to do something that I did not feel like doing. The events that cause me the greatest emotional grief are those events outwith my control that force me to act against my emotional inclinations. I feel this powerful swell of resistance within me. I throw an internal fit like a spoiled child in defiance to the mandates of reality. I try to weasel my way out of doing what must be done with the most erudite of intellectual justifications to fool myself and others, but are ultimately bullshit. The more I squirmed the harder it got and the more prolonged the consequences.

Adult perspective allows a person to see what must be done and provides the knowledge that matters will only get worse if it is not done. If I do not feel like paying a bill, then in the future that debt rises until it collapses upon me bigger and more destructive than before. Or if I do not feel like cleaning the kitchen the mess only accumulates. The same holds true of life and personal relationships. Deal with the problem or it will only get worse. By not incorporating that lesson into my life, I failed to train myself to act accordingly in those situations. Once the emotions are trained to that behaviour, then it becomes easier. By resisting, I made it harder to cope and never learned my lessons.

In terms of relationships, I have realised that all of my major relationships ended because the woman did not feel like continuing. There was no great fight, or abuse, or issues. Of course we both had our personal problems that contributed to these feelings, but these are things that could have been worked out, and I was willing to work them out. When these relationships ended, people pointed their fingers at me and said, "that is what you get for going after young girls".

Granted, I have yet to date anyone over the age of twenty-two, but I never really saw age as anything but a number. Now I see what they meant by "too young". In this context, I valued the relationship over my own feelings and pursued happiness within the context of that relationship. The women in question valued their feelings over the relationship and may have gotten carried away. Unlike a slightly more mature woman who would apply the perspective of experience to her feelings and work through the rough patches for the sake of a brighter future, these girls acted according to their feelings, just as I would do in a different context. I appreciate now that for a young girl these feelings untempered by experience are powerful things. Even the most stoic of these ex's could not resist eventually acting on her feelings. Here then my inexperience was a contributing factor as well by not taking her feelings into account and acting accordingly -- but that is another story.

By acting on feelings without applying perspective these girls may have thrown away a perfectly good relationship, who knows, but what I do know is that I need to grow-up and develop a more adult attitude and perspective towards existence. This does not mean turning my back on Romanticism, but it does mark the difference between an adult Romantic living in the real world to its fullest and most glorious extent and living a child's fantasy.

Romanticism at its core is about the aspirations towards personal greatness, however greatness comes at a cost. One must swallow ones transient feelings or resistence and do what must be done today in order to create a better tomorrow. We must do the work before we can reap the benefits. Where the child lives for today with no care to the future, the adult must manage today in order to create a future. That is the way of things.

I was asked the other day how I define strength. I answered that it is the ability to do what you decide must be done despite the resistence of your feelings. Such strength can be developed, but it takes time, experience, and practice. This is what is meant by growing-up. Accepting the unacceptable and learning the skills required to be an adult. By acting against the whims of your feelings your heart may die, but it really is inevitable, because we all have to stand-alone at some point and that means growing-up.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Let's Misbehave

You could have a great career, And you should; Yes you should. Only one thing stops you dear: You're too good; Way too good! If you want a future, darlin', Why don't you get a past? 'Cause that fateful moment's comin' at last...

-- Let's Misbehave, Cole Porter

Profit from the happiest time of your life. The happiest years of our pleasures are only too brief! If we are lucky enough to have enjoyed them, then delicious memories will console us and amuse us in our old age.

-- Philosophy in the Boudoir, Marquis De Sade

I have done some terrible things in my past, actions that I am not proud of doing, producing memories that burden my mind with guilt and regret for the price I paid for a moments pleasure. Wait a I haven't.

Sure I have not followed convention. Yes, I have morally challenged myself. Yes, I have sought-out the darker regions and experimented for the sake of experience. In short, I have lived. So why the self-condemnation? It's not me – it's Them! (No, not the giant ants from the 50's B-movie). Them/They, the ubiquitous rulers and judges of the world, the people who sit in darkened rooms laying down all the moral laws for society in an endless stream of "thou shalt nots" about what should or should not be.

I realised today that my regrets stem from two sources. The judgements of a significant other derived from their insecurities – thus causing me to blame myself that I dared to enjoy pleasure before I ever met her. And my self-condemnation for not being without blemish in my pursuit of personal perfection. But by what standard is character judged? Social mores or personal values? Certainly the latter.

I should in fact look back on those events that I traditionally labelled "failures" and see them as the experiences in life that they were. Experiences that many only dream about. Experiences of pleasure that should bring a smile in my old age and not the thorn of regret born of another's judgement of how things should be – be these juries real or imagined.

At the age of seventeen, I told myself that I did not want to live a life with regrets over life unlived. I also swore that when I matured I would not allow my heart to die and become consumed by bitterness. When I look back I have had those experiences and more. The only penalty for that pleasure was born out of the judgements of others and my own self-depreciating perception of how I "should" have acted. And what was born of this bad habit? Fear. The "what if's" that never manifested but whose prospects restrained me with fetters of worry for possible consequences of my pleasure.

You are your own standard of judgement. Not your family, not your lover, and certainly not Them. Your life and your pursuit of happiness is your own and for which you must take full responsibility for its successes and its learning experiences and learn to rejoice in both. Damn the expectations of others. It's your life.

I'm getting preachy again, so I will end this sermon with a quote from the Gospel according to Charles Baudelaire (Paris Spleen), "If you are not to be the martyred slave of Time, be perpetually drunk! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please."

Monday, 25 June 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I have decided to let the cat out of the bag. I have been plotting and planning something over the past few months and for some reason unknown to me I have opted to use this forum as my primary declaration of intent.

For roughly three years I ran the Scottish Vampyre Society. Well, perhaps ran is not the appropriate word. Running the SVS was rather like herding cats. My predecessors advocated a strong arm to rule, but I opted for a republic rather than a dictatorship. I had in mind something like the American Republic, but it became more akin to the Roman one. For a while, I found myself pulling the daggers of Brutus and Claudius from my back on a regular basis.

I had difficulty because I could not find a vision for the Vampyre Society, and certainly not a vision that everyone agreed with. People often asked what we did at our meetings, no doubt expecting virginal bloodletting in the basement of the Solid Rock Cafe. In fact we just met once a fortnight, sat around and talked, and had a few events each year such as an Autumnal Ball. There were times when we did not even discuss vampires. After all, for the regular members, there was only so much you could say about vampires. So I chose to branch-out to the Gothic and the Romantic which met with hostility from our "non-goth" members.

Then there was the dress code. The problem with the dress code was that there was none. For those who wanted to be surrounded by the young and beautiful languid creatures of the night there was no escaping the T-shirt and jeans brigade, mostly because no dress code could reasonably be enforced since these people were both members and friends.

That said, there were a handful of members who enjoyed dressing properly and indulging in lengthy intellectual debate on topics related to Goth and the Romantic over a cocktail or glass of wine. When I was approached recently and asked if I would consider reviving the Scottish Vampyre Society I said no chance, but then I thought of that handful of people and my mind began to whirr.

What if I started not a vampire society but a sort of dark romantic society? I recall my friend James once suggested something along those lines. That is when the idea of the Salon came to mind. For more information, here is the Wikipedia link In short, the Salon was a gathering of poets, writers, artists, and philosophers around a charismatic hostess, or occasionally a host, meeting in the common room to discuss various topics. In some salons, these were of a revolutionary or sexual nature depending on the crowd assembled, as in the salon of Ninon de l'Enclos.

Unlike the Scottish Vampyre Society, which I had inherited through my election to the position of convenor, this organisation could have vision and purpose. Like the bohemians in the film Moulin Rouge!, it could promote the Romantic values of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love by encouraging people to pursue these ideals in their lifestyle and creations, as well as educating the young people who desire to learn the ways of the Romantic, and to create a secret world of beauty and civilisation in a storm of barbarous vulgarity.

This vision I have in mind draws from the 19th and early 20th century, particularly Britain, France, and some American influences: from Byron to Baudelaire, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Moulin Rouge, from the Marquis de Sade to Ditta Von Teese. Combining all the sensuality of existence in the pursuit of decadence, humanism in an age of dehumanisation, elitism when mediocrity is the rule, and atheism amidst religious fundamentalism. Some might call this evil, however when virtue becomes evil, then only the evil are virtuous.

Philosophy lies at the root of all human action, and yet not all humans are philosophers. I sincerely doubt that any voracious young man indulging his lust pauses for a brief moment to assess how his actions live-up to the Greek hedonistic ideals. And yet this philosophy is there unaware like the hidden foundations of a building. One need not be an architect to live in a house, but he should have some understanding if he intends to build one. When we look at the spirit of any age and trace its inception, we find some small group of men and women sharing thoughts in a salon, coffee house, or pub. From here the memes spread to infect society until everyone becomes taken by the zeitgeist without anyone knowing how it came to be. Who was the first to dance the dance before everyone else joined in?

I find myself at war. War is a conflict. Sometimes wars are fought over physical territory and sometime over ideology, and yet not everyone is a soldier. Not everyone is committed to an ideal without compromise. Not everyone is a fighter, an idea-maker, a debater, or a persistent and consistent thorn. However there are others who are born to it. They clear the way for others to settle.

I want to draw unto me others who believe as I believe. Who feel as I feel. I want to rally the troops to the coffee house. The beautiful thing about this war is that no fighting is really necessary. Just being true to your values in the face of social convention and ignorance. Just enjoy yourself and don't give-up. Don't settle for second best. Aspire towards personal greatness and claim that greatness as your own.

I do not need just anybody. I am not looking for bodies to fill seats as we did in the Scottish Vampyre Society. And no doubt I can find many beautiful people blessed with elegance and style to partake in such a venture. But what I need are intellectuals, artists, and living works of art that transcend the vulgarity of modernity within their daily routines and are willing to encourage others to do the same. People who make a mark.

Without further ado, I am pleased to announce the Glasgow opening of Le Salon de Mal within the coming months – by invitation only I'm afraid. I appreciate such a thing is possible on the internet, and there may well be a Myspace site in the works, but virtual verisimilitude is not reality. As soon as I find a handful of people, then the revolution can begin in earnest and usher in some future Belle Epoque.