Come in, it's lovely to see you. Pull up a cushion and stay as long as you like.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

It'll Never Happen

You can bet your life that, no, no. Stop. Don’t bet your life. I’ll start again. 

You can guarantee that, beyond a shadow of a doubt (whatever that means) if you post something on social media, or mention in conversation, an idea you might have about something, or a suggestion, or even just a wish, that sooner rather than later, someone will pop up and say ‘It’ll never happen’. 

They may, depending where they are on the patronising scale, prefix it with ‘It’s a nice thought but’ and then either give a patronising explanation why it will never happen, or just leave it there. A verbal/written patronising pat on the head. Or give you the eye roll whilst smiling and trying not to laugh patronisingly (whilst you try not to poke them in the eye).

Then others may join in, because people like to join in when the joke is on someone else, and before long you’ve got a whole chorus of ‘It’ll never happens’ for your collection.

This isn’t a new thing. As long as there’s been people around  prepared to have ideas, vision, think about how things could be improved etc there’s been a queue of ‘It’ll never happeners' just waiting to deliver their extraordinarily wise missive. They’ll even write it down for you, because they’ve only got your best interests at heart. 

‘It’ll never happen’.

And then it happens.

You know, that thing they said would never happen. Not in a million years. Well it just happened. The million years limit must be up. 

Because, oh my flipping god, that thing happened. ‘Hey, hey Gloria, you know that thing we said would never happen (no, YOU said, Gloria was imagining your funeral and what music she would play, and the big party afterwards, and her holiday to the Caribbean) well it’s only happened. What’s gone wrong with the world?

I wonder sometimes if there isn’t a critical mass point that, when reached, means ‘It’ll never happen’ has to now happen. Perhaps because so many people are thinking about it, giving it energy, that perversely it gets brought to life. Some universal law of cause and effect that conspires to bring about what we pay attention to, regardless of perceived positive or negative connotations. If you want to make something happen, get enough people saying that it won’t and, hey presto, here it is. The great cosmic magician has heard, your not wished for is his/her command.

And then, when the thing they said would never happen happens, well, guess what? Patronising party time. It’s our turn now.

‘Hey, hey, you know that thing you said that would never happen, well screw you’ and we can bathe in our own patronising. Light patronising candles and play patronising music. Oh this feels good.

Until, of course, the thing happens that WE said would never happen. Then it’s a completely different story. 

‘Everyone’s an idiot, what’s wrong with people, the world’ (sound familiar?).

So now it’s time to step it up. Phase two of ‘It’ll never happen’ comes into effect.

We need to ‘make sure it never happens again.’ And boy are we serious about this. What the hell where THEY thinking making that thing we said would never happen happen. They’ll be sorry.

Already we’ve forgotten that something happened they didn’t want to happen that we did. Swings and roundabouts as they say.

And once something has happened it can’t unhappen. We can’t take it back. Whether we want to or not. However many committees we form or letters we write. Or memes we post on social media.

And then, whilst we’re busy either celebrating something that’s happened that we wanted to happen, that someone else said would never happen, or commiserating for something that we said would never happen that has happened, something happens somewhere that we had never even considered never happening. Just like that. A complete new happening.

And then what are we supposed to do? 

What’s phase three?

Whatever happens in life, chances are that someone, somewhere, never thought it would happen, and someone, or a group of someone’s, made it happen.
When something happens we have choices. We can react against it and fight it, find a way to use it to our advantage, or just accept it and get on with our life. 

Whatever way we choose, it’s happened.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Ethics Of Shaming: A pondering on flies and vegetarianism

This is in response to something, but is not directed at, or an attack on, any one person, or group of people. It is purely my own thinking, flawed as it is. As I am….

There is a fly in my flat. Not the first in the ten years I’ve lived here and not the last I imagine. It’s been pestering me for a while now, flying into me then flying off. Perhaps it just wants to play. As I write this it’s on the faded yellow wall in the kitchen, right by the window. It’s been there a while now. An easy target for my rolled up paper but, well, I don’t know. I just can’t bring myself to, you know, propel it into the fly afterlife. It just doesn’t seem to be harming anyone here.

Believe you me this flat is no fly sanctuary and I’m no fly saviour. I’ve sent plenty to meet their fly makers. But right in this moment I just can’t.

I haven’t quite become a Jain monk, wearing a mask and sweeping the ground ahead of me as I walk so as not to harm anything. Not yet anyway and I probably never will. I’m not sure I want to if I’m honest.

So. Where do I sit, what branch do I occupy on the great tree of ethics. Am I at the top looking down or at the bottom looking up (not looking up anyone’s bottom!).

How can I even tell? What are the criteria? What actually makes one person ethical and another not? Is it black and white, or all colours and shades between?

Is it where you shop? Who you pray or don’t pray to? What you eat or don’t eat? It seems that for every ethical step you attempt to take, for every opinion you express, there is a queue of people waiting to tell you that you’re wrong, how they do it so much better, willing you to fail, to ridicule you and shame you. Not that shame/blame is anything new,  but you can reach and preach and humiliate to a much bigger audience through social media. Everyone’s an expert, everyone is right and everyone else is wrong.

It is, as they say, whoever ‘they’ are, a veritable minefield. 

Dare I offer an opinion, so early on in our little journey down ethical lane, as to what I think ISN”T ethical. Taking the moral/ethical high ground and shaming others who are doing their best, either through social media or other media for starters.

I would say that if you engage in ethical behaviour as a tool to develop and grow yourself, with all the slips and slides it brings, all the doubts and challenges, then good for you. If you engage in ethical behaviour and use it as a stick to beat others, then bad for you and please go away.

Time was, round about the year of our lord 1990, when I first went vegetarian (after being brought up as a carnivore quite happily) it was just the other carnivores that liked to do the criticising; 

‘Ah but’ (the standard prefix) ‘You’re not doing it properly’ ‘You wear leather shoes’ ‘It won’t make any difference’ ‘Meat tastes so nice’ ‘Vegetables have feelings it’s been scientifically proven’ ‘*insert your own shaming phrase here….’

And I kind of got used to it. Expected it even.

Then the rise in veganism heralded the new millennial two pronged attack, vegetarian shaming from both sides;

‘You’re not doing it properly’ ‘You wear leather shoes’ ‘Dairy and eggs are cruel, you might just as well eat meat’. At least they don’t do the vegetables have feelings one or meat tastes nice, but you get my drift. And the new one ‘I’m vegan, I’ve got compassion’ and therefore, by implication, no one else has.

Oh dear. I am feeling sorry for myself aren’t I. 

Fly update. It’s still there. Watching.

I personally don’t feel that compassion is just about the food you put, or don’t put, in your mouth. I know some very compassionate carnivores and some very angry and judgemental vegans, and contrariwise I know some very compassionate vegans and some very angry and judgemental carnivores.

If you need to shame and judge and blame Im not kidding myself that this piece of writing will stop you. Just stop claiming it’s ethical because it isn’t. it’s actually very harmful. And do you know what? We’re all judgemental. We’re all prejudiced. All hypocrites. All sexist and racist and bigoted to a greater or lesser degree. We’re ALL imperfect and flawed in our perfectly imperfect human nature.

It was the Buddha who said ‘We are all born with an axe in our mouths which we use to chop away the roots of our tree of karma’.

If your karma has brought you to this point in this lifetime where you are able to be Vegan (Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist, Humanist etc)  then great. Go for it. It’s fine by me. It’s a great thing. Truly. 

Just be aware it’s not always like that for others. We have our own karma, our own stuff we’re all dealing with. Perhaps try and give a little credit to us for our efforts.

If you can’t be vegan then don’t. Be vegetarian, or pescatarian, fruitarian, egalitarian, anti-disestablishmentarian, barbarian, librarian. So many arians, how do you decide?

Gosh this is dragging on a bit isn’t it. Let me make a suggestion. How about, as a starting point, whatever lifestyle you chose for yourself, underpin it with kindness and compassion towards all beings. Just start with a development of basic common human decency.

Stop judging others (and yourselves) for the food they eat, the degree they took, the school they went to (or didn’t went to), occasional grammatical or spelling errors, the clothes they wear, or don’t wear, the colour of their skin, their weight, their height, the team they support etc etc etc etc.

For me I hope that the day will come when my chakras are so perfectly aligned with the universe I can obtain all my nutrients from sunlight and fresh air (if there is any fresh air by then) with perhaps the occasional kumquat and beetroot juice for a little taste sensation.

Until then I’ll continue being as vegetarian as I can, as best I can. Allowing myself the occasional poached egg on toast. Oh, and being the funniest man in my flat. Obvs. 

Thank you for reading, I’ll leave you with this, and with my very best wishes to you on your own individual ethical journey…

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

 Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century mystic poet

NB. No animals were harmed in the writing of this and the fly has buzzed off somewhere else. Probably to a nicer flat.