Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Silence, Blasphemers! Hate Speech And Heavy Metal: Are Anti Christian Artists A Necessary Evil?

I've been sorting through old files (uni / work) today and I came upon one of my old uni assignments. If I recall correctly, a mate dared me to include an expletive somewhere in the text. I did one better, I included one on the first page! Ok, so I'm going to hell but I reckon I'll have plenty of company there... :-)

Once, I was pretty sharp. I forget that sometimes, now that I've turned into a "disabled person".  It's as if - to some people - the loss of my independance and ability to do some of the things I used to do has also led to a commensurate softening of my grey matter. I've encountered some really stupid people who treat me as if I am really stupid (is that, like, stupid squared?). The very next person who does so is going to get my framed Masters degree smashed across his or her head!

But I digress. Yes, this was a real assigment I submitted. Yes, I submitted it uncensored. So Mum, if you're reading this, sorry about the language (it's them (the naughty bad metallers) saying it, not me). Sorry also for the crude lyrics in parts, but if I was going to fail for my choice of topic I was going down big-time!

As it happens, I got a Distinction. To this day I am still unsure whether this was due to the quality of my work or whether the lecturer was worried I was a nutjob who might burn his house down if I didn't get a good grade.

Personally, I'd like to think it was a little of both...

Link below:

Research Assignment

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Letters from Zamhareer - 17-11-11

Am I the only one that thought Quentin Bryce was being a little silly yesterday? She was the first on the tarmac to greet Barack Obama, which is appropriate given she is our vice-regal representative, and she was quite nicely turned out in whatever outfit it was that she was wearing. (Given I am a man, I don't actually recall what her outfit looked like, but I didn't notice anything wrong with it; it was not as if she had donned a hessian sack).

Yet, 30 minutes later when she formally welcomed the President of the United States to Parliament House she was wearing a completely different outfit. Seriously, Quentin, what was that about?

Don't mistake me, I think it is a very good thing that we have a female Governor General. It is long overdue. However, I am an ardent republican (in the anti-monarchist sense, not the American political sense) - so I would much rather see a female President than a female Governor General. I also think that the choice to appoint Ms Bryce was an uninspired and disappointing one, given that I believe there are many other Australian women who would have made a far superior choice. Nevertheless, I acknowledge the status of women has been given a much-needed boost by having both a female Prime Minister and a female Governor General (excluding the merits or otherwise of the respective incumbents themselves).

But what detracted from the positive message to women, particularly young women, was the ridiculous outfit change that Bryce made somewhere between the airport and the entrance to Parliament House (where she again greeted Obama). I say ridiculous, because it is hard to see a male Governor General changing his suit after half an hour. It just wouldn't happen. It just doesn't happen. What message is Bryce sending? The whole thing, in my view, was grossly misconceived.

Surely, aside from one soiling oneself - which I am pretty sure was not the case yesterday (although given that she is getting on in years, I can't completely rule it out) - changing from one elegant outfit to another in such a short space of time only occurs for reasons of vanity. It is not as if she dressed down for comfort into a tracksuit or a thong and tank top.

Of course, I acknowledge that I may be biased. I don't particularly like Quentin Bryce and, with the exception of Sir William Deane, I consider every Australian Governor General appointed since the end of Sir Ninian Stephen's term in 1989 to have been a complete dud. 

Notwithstanding that bias, it is my view that Bryce's shenanigans yesterday set back decades the cause of total equality of opportunity for women in this country. No one will ever be able to satisfactorially explain to me, how flitting around like fashion-plate Fanny dignifies the office of Governor General or the person to whom the role is entrusted.

Appearances are so superficial, it was disappointing she could not rise above them to make her tenure in the top job more about competence in the role as defacto Head of State rather than about how she looks in public wearing taxpayer funded pastel frocks and silly hats (this has been a common occurrence / theme during her 'reign'). State Occasions aren't fashion parades; she should have realised she wasn't at the Melbourne Cup yesterday.

To me, yesterday was simply another reminder why Australia needs a popularly elected Head of State as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

I'm Hot - and I've Got Medical Evidence to Prove it!

I had an extremely high temperature last Wednesday. It got up to 40.4°C at its height. I had earlier been admitted to hospital, so I suppose I was in the right place. The interesting thing, to me anyway, was that I became a little delirious around the 38.5° to 39.5°C range but by the time the Mercury blasted through the 40°C mark, I was surprisingly lucid.

I had a sense that people around me – medical and nursing staff – got a little nervous when my fever failed to decrease. I was stripped to my underwear and covered in wet towels which had been dipped in very cold water and a portable fan blasted me until the fever retreated. I got through it all right, I just seemed to focus on trying to sleep and not concentrate on how much I was shivering. It was only in the days following that I realised how sick I was, because I had pneumonia as well, and my body was basically fighting a war on two fronts (and remember how that tactic worked for Hitler!).

I've been told before by numerous doctors that it will probably be a chest infection or pneumonia that will ultimately end up being the cause of my death. During my childhood I nearly died on a number of occasions from chest infections, pneumonia or collapsed lungs and whilst I don't believe I was in any real danger last week, I feel as if I have met the Reaper before.

Is there life after death? I'm not sure. I think on balance – if I were a betting man – I'd have to say no. Yet, it is not a clear-cut choice and I know arguments can be made on both sides of the issue. If I had to give a percentage, I'd say that there is a 65% chance that there is no life after death and a 35% chance that there is. I'm no expert though, I'm just a guy that sits in his house reading and, sometimes, writing.

If I was to take the affirmative view, that there is life after death, I see it as more of a natural/physical phenomenon than spiritual or religious. In essence, I am saying that – in my view – 'God' is not essential or required for there to exist human survival beyond death. There is a quote from R. Buckminster Fuller which may help explain my conception of the possibility for life after death:

"Until the 20th century, reality was everything humans could touch, smell, see, and hear. Since the initial publication of the charted electromagnetic spectrum, humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one millionth of reality."

[As a quick aside, whilst looking on the internets for the exact quote (having remembered the essence of it from reading it years earlier) I learned to my horror that apparently the quote features in a song by the band Incubus. Let me be very clear; Incubus are tools and I don't listen to toolish music or music created by tools. I do not condone toolish music in anyway whatsoever; indeed I favour death by being force-fed stale doughnuts for anyone caught active in the toolish-music scene.

Again, I am resolute in that regard; you could say I am Zero Tolerance on toolishness in music. Whilst I concede I listen to music created by an assortment of freaks, weirdos, try-hards, dick-heads, knobs, posers, knobjockeys, fuckwits, arse-clowns, dweebs, toss-pots and Tori Amos, I have never, nor will I ever, listen to Incubus let alone quote from their lyrics.

I hope we are clear.]

Moving on, it seems to me that there is so much in the world that we are unaware of that the presumption that because we can't see or hear something it means it does not exist must be rebutted. Every day, we all have radio waves and many other forms of radiation passing through our body constantly. We are literally swimming in the stuff! We are  soaked in it!

We are covered in bacteria and microbes that we cannot see unless an electron microscope is used. There is no such thing as empty space, even in an absolute vacuum energy phases in and out of existence. My point is that there is so much 'stuff' around us, encasing us and penetrating us that - as our knowledge of science grows - it leads us as a species to become ever more aware that the universe and the very fabric of our reality is so much stranger than our ancestors could never have understood or even imagined.

It is almost universally accepted now that there are more dimensions to our reality than the four we perceive (three spatial dimensions with time as the fourth dimension). Some estimates have even suggested that there may be up to 100 hidden dimensions to which we are totally unaware. It seems to me that it is entirely possible that on death our consciousness, or some part of our consciousness, may pass into another dimension. Maybe death is just a transition and not a termination?

I am no New-Ager, but I can't accept the materialist view that consciousness is solely a product of the brain. As advanced as we think we are in the 21st century, consciousness remains an enigma to science and numerous scientific studies have shown that there is not a specific place in the brain where memories are stored. Memories seem to be everywhere and nowhere. Some scientists have even suggested the brain operates as a kind of hologram and memories are stored not in the brain but in the mind (a separate field of energy - our essence).

I don't believe in the soul in the religious sense, but I do wonder if we are energy beings operating a flesh and blood body. It is undisputed that the brain operates using electrical pulses and I wonder if the very core of our being is not some kind of electric, magnetic, radiographic (or some other) field that science has not been able to detect yet. Just because we can't find it, does not mean it is not there.

I guess each of us will find out one day whether there is something at the end of our journey through life. 

For me, I am thanatophobic; I am terrified by the prospect of not existing. It doesn't particularly worry me how my death occurs – although obviously, I prefer not to be murdered or killed in some painful way or die from something embarrassing like a massive stroke on the toilet – but if I knew 100% that there was life after death, my fear would disappear. Instantly.

I'm not worried about going to hell (if there is an afterlife), I'm pretty sure I could bluff my way through the Pearly Gates plus I'm really pissed off with God right now and he/she/it would be best advised to let me in or else I'll rock his/her/its roof from the footpath out front whilst starting fights in the line up whilst others are waiting to get in (St Peter as a celestial bouncer doesn't instill any fear in me - I've taken on Polynesian bouncers twice his size!). God knows, I can be very disruptive!

However, the thought of the eternal oblivion has, on occasion, kept me up at night. It can strike me cold with panic. I see the logical flaw, if I am effectively annihilated as a person when I die then I have nothing to fear because after death I will not exist, but, nevertheless, I exist now and the thought that my fire may one day be snuffed out permanently terrifies me.

I think I can only deal with this the mature way; ignore it and try to distract myself with copious lines of coke and a parade of highclass hookers. (I call it 'doing a Charlie').

Notwithstanding my choice of sensible treatment measures, I need to keep this in perspective. This is just a recent addition to my ever growing list of phobias - the others being, fear of people in wheelchairs, fear of sauces, fear of white food (other than a small list of exceptions), fear of x-ray tables, fear of scale models of dinosaurs, fear of the elderly, fear of porpoises and fear of clowns.

I'm sure that my phobias are pretty stock-standard. I mean, there's nothing weird in there.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

All the World's a Stage

I have begun to change the way I think about my life. I used to think of it as being linear, straight, from birth through each year until my inevitable demise at some unknown point in an unknowable future. I visualised my life as being akin to a long stretch of highway, or a rail track, on which I travel forward; all the while steadily and relentlessly approaching the end whilst drawing away further from the beginning. I have no way of knowing, but I assume this is how many people view their life and their passage through time.

I came to a realisation a few weeks ago that viewing my life through this paradigm is at best unhelpful and at worst painful and destructive. You see, I don't like where I am in my life at the moment; I don't like the fact that my disability is worse now than it was from my teens until my early 30s and I don't like the fact that I have lost my independence and my career has been prematurely aborted. This aggrieves me, it angers me and it frustrates me. This is not how I envisaged my life turning out. But, to go back to the original analogy, my trip along life's highway has detoured unexpectedly, veering off road and ploughing headfirst into a tree. Or, using a rail analogy, you could say my train's been derailed, flipped over and burnt out. Which ever way I look at it, because I will never regain the strength and mobility I previously had and have lost forever, no matter what I do I will not be able to get on to the highway, or back on track, to reach the final destination I had pictured so vividly my mind.

So I think that continuing to view my current predicament, and the rest of my life from now until I turn to dust, in this way only prolongs my anguish and consigns my remaining years to perpetual darkness and turmoil. I can't do this much longer, it's an emotional burden that I am finding increasingly difficult to bear. Furthermore, I don't think I deserve to subject myself to such visceral hatred, self loathing and derision as I have put myself through for the past 2 1/2 years. Besides, it's gone on so long it's like a broken record and I have grown tired of the same morose and self critical thoughts swirling around in my head. It's as if I have been on an emotional treadmill - it leads you nowhere but it saps your strength and leaves you weak.

Coincidentally, I've been thinking lately of William Shakespeare (a bizarre segue, I admit) and the question of the authorship of Shakespearean literature. Simply put, there is a school of thought that believes that the works attributed to William Shakespeare, of Stratford upon Avon, were in fact authored by one or a number of persons (most of whom were of the aristocracy) who, for largely political reasons, were unable to write under their own name. Essentially, it has been suggested that Shakespeare - the man of modest means and limited education who by all accounts had never ventured outside of England - could not, and did not, write the plays and sonnets penned under his name. Personally, I lean towards that view myself (why? Google 'Occam's razor') but I am not sure who the author(s) was. I doubt this question will ever be resolved and will forever be one of the great mysteries alongside other unsolved mysteries such as the identity of Jack the Ripper and the reason for, and the parties who planned and carried out, the assassination of John F Kennedy.

Whilst thinking of Shakespeare, recently it dawned on me that most plays - and for that matter, most movies and television drama - are composed in a three act style. I started to think about that, and why this is such a preferred method of storytelling.

For those who don't quite know what I am referring to, the easiest thing for me to do is quote from Wikipedia. This is the first time during the life of this blog that I have borrowed words from another author but it is, firstly, more convenient to borrow a few paragraphs than write my own and, secondly, I am not guilty of plagiarism as I have freely acknowledged that I am not the author of the descriptions below. I realise that referencing Wikipedia may be slightly lowbrow, but let's face it; I am not writing a Ph.D. thesis here!

Act One - Setup
The first act is used to establish the main characters, their relationships and the normal world they live in. Earlier in the first act, a dynamic, on-screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident leads to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and (c) raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax of the film. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist's call to action.

Act Two - Confrontation
The second act, also referred to as "rising action", typically depicts the protagonist's attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find themselves in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason the protagonist seems unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.

Act Three - Resolution
Finally, the third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax, also known as the second turning point, is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.

You have worked out where I am going with this, haven't you? It's not a subtle point I'm making. I'm now seeing my life as a three-act structured continuum. I'm not saying I'm special, probably most people's lives could be described thus if one thought about it for long enough. Often times a person's career can mirror the three-act structure, particularly those who have had an obstacle or two to surmount. On the big screen, not only were the six Star Wars movies each made in a three-act style, the two trilogies making up the series (first, Episodes 4 to 6 and then nearly 2 decades later Episodes 1 to 3) were done in a three act style with Episodes 1 and 4 being the first act, Episodes 2 and 5 the second act and Episodes six and three the third act.

Applying this idea to my life, I shall deal with each act individually and discuss the elements therein as they apply to my life and how I have lived it:-

Act One
Obviously, the 'characters' are my friends and relatives and people I have interacted with as my life has progressed.

The 'dynamic, on-screen incident' occurred at the very beginning of Act One immediately following my birth when I was diagnosed as suffering from a then (as is now) unknown neurological condition which caused me to have a lifelong significant disability.

I see Act One as that part of my life running from birth to when I reached my early 30s. During that period I sought to live as normal a life as possible and to pursue what I saw as my Holy Grail; which was to have all the trappings of a normal life, in all areas of my life. That meant success academically and in my career, physical independence and my own residence, a fulfilling social life and a serious relationship with a woman who could see past my disability (and maybe, just maybe, starting a family of my own).

Act One sees me reaching with all my might for the things that I truly valued in life, and it chronicles not only my successes but also my many mistakes and mis-steps.

The First Turning Point comes (it seems to me) in my mid to late 20s when I had gained my qualifications, I had a good job, I had total independence and a home of my own, yet I was still one piece of the puzzle short. I was yet to enter a serious relationship. Sure, I had a series of mainly drunken encounters and although I have never regretted any of these I still felt hollow and emotionally unfilled. I wanted someone to love me back but somehow I never found the right girl, the one who would reciprocate my feelings.

The First Turning Point I guess is a feeling of disconnection that I began to have. All around me, my friends were all pairing up and I was sitting on the shelf like a piece of rancid cheese. I was becoming emotionally exhausted, and there were times I felt somewhat suicidal. I began to see the issue of my romantic failures as a millstone around my neck, it became the first of the two unsolvable puzzles I have carried with me through the second half of my life. I began to experience what I call affection deprivation, which is the feeling - and the knowledge - that no woman you know - or will likely meet - wants a relationship with you. It's a form of negative reinforcement which steadily builds over time. It can get quite destructive - and I might write about this at a later date - affecting the way you relate to the world at large, and the person you see yourself to be.

In short, when your self-esteem is so low that you'd pretty much date any woman that comes along who gives you the slightest bit of attention, you find yourself looking judgmentally all the women around you - even those with whom you share a platonic friendship.

It goes a little bit like this:

Such is your desire for affection, that you would date pretty much anyone who gave you the time of day.

Therefore, you conclude that if someone you knew was interested in you, you would already be in a relationship with them because you'd jump at the chance.

As you are not in a relationship, it follows logically that no one you know wants to be in a relationship with you.

And, if that's the case, it seems reasonable to infer that all women you know obviously (a) don't think you could make them happy, or (b) are too superficial and can't see past the disability, or (c) have ruled you out for some other reason with the upshot being that, regardless, you still sit on the shelf.

I have had the flaws of this thinking explained to me, and I can see why it is unhealthy and I readily acknowledge that it has caused me quite a degree of heartache over the years. I can also see that - at least as far as I have been told - the female mind often makes a clear distinction between men who are friendship material and men who are relationship worthy. I can't profess to clearly understand this concept, and sometimes it has seemed to me that it can be used as an excuse, but I have learned to respect it in friendships I have wanted to preserve. But that doesn't mean I understand it.

The kicker from the whole thing is that when those who know you better than most aren't interested in a relationship with you, that can be hard to take at times because you realise all you've got at your disposal is your personality and that never seem to be enough.

There came a point when I began to apply this reasoning as if it were some sort of thought experiment and it really began to skew my worldview. Mentally, I adopted a kind of emotional first strike approach for self preservation purposes. In the end it caused more pain than it avoided.

I would tell myself that X doesn't want a relationship with me, and that is unfair because she's shallow for not seeing past my disability (or some similar thing). That would lead me to a judgement against that person who - objectively speaking - hasn't actually done anything wrong, but in my head it is easier for me to resent somebody for something they haven't done rather than expose myself to the risk of rejection. Yet the whole thing comes undone because I often realised that, underneath it all, I was searching for someone to love me rather than for someone I was naturally compatible with. I was like a passenger on the Titanic, trying to cling on to whoever I could regardless of little else. Maybe that's why it never manifested for me?

My road to this point has been a long one, and in the vast majority of cases I have been pretty swiftly rejected. The reinforcement has been overwhelmingly negative and I have been made, on occasion, to feel guilty for putting somebody in that position requiring them to expressly reject me. Ever since my teens I have been made to feel completely un-dateable. It is as if the perception is that I don't have feelings.

I am not sure if I could have my time over again how I would do things differently. I mean, yes, I can think of numerous things I would do differently but I don't think any or all of them would necessarily change the outcome too much. I think I would probably still have ended up alone.

This affection deprivation has been a far greater burden than being in a wheelchair has been. Yet everyone has their challenges in life, I suppose. Unfortunately, I would often feel self-conscious and inadequate in social settings and could sometimes drink too much as a result. I realised at the time, and my view on this has not changed, that I often overindulged to allow myself to believe the next day and beyond that the reason I had been romantically unsuccessful was because of the over indulgence and not because I, as a person, was un-appealing. That sort of thinking is a fool's paradise, yet I believed it for far longer than I care to admit.

Another aspect I can add to fleshing out the First Turning Point is the thought that I was running against the clock, I was running out of time. In the back of my mind I knew that living independently was taking a physical toll on me and I began to fear that at some as point in the future I may reach the stage where I could not continue doing so indefinitely. I also feared I was running out of time to find myself a partner, given that my greatest chance of finding someone was when I was holding down a good job, was socially active and living in my CBD apartment. I was also becoming increasingly depressed, predominantly through the sheer anguish and anxiety I felt about trying, as they say, 'to have it all'.

To add to my mental exhaustion, was an ever increasing level of physical exhaustion. I was becoming increasingly withdrawn as I struggled to meet the physical demands of living by myself. An ever growing sense of dread started to hang over me as I could see that my life as I knew it may be coming to an end sooner than I had ever imagined.

Act Two
Act Two begins with multiple hospitalisations during 2009, and the realisation that not only had my disability increased to the level where I could not live by myself anymore but also meant I would need to medically retire from my job. Initially, and for many months after, I refused to believe the medical advice I had been given. I tried and I tried to recuperate, but it slowly slipped away from me. Being unable to continue, physically, as I had before - and the search for an effective response to this, to beat this, to get my 'old life back' - became the second of the unsolvable puzzles I carry with me now.

Thus, Act Two sees a deterioration in my physical and mental health. Physically, I became weaker and less mobile. I developed several areas of pain and I put on quite a lot of weight. Paradoxically, and rather ironically, far from making me look fat the additional weight has seen me fill out quite a lot and I now look far healthier than I have at any point in my life.

I have talked at length elsewhere about how my current state of health has affected me in both physical and emotional terms. I do not feel it is necessary to add any further detail here, suffice it to say that losing so much in such a short period of time is such an utterly enormous and almost inconceivable event that one will either emerge from the experience or one won't.

I know that every person has a breaking point and every person is susceptible to losing their sanity under extreme conditions. I know where my border is, as I pushed right up against it. The scary thing is that, at least for me, when your emotions are at breaking point and your sanity is under duress, you don't seem to care much which ever way it goes. Those around me, especially my family, who saw just how close to unravelling I was played a greater role in saving me and I did myself. At that point, all perspective is lost. A person who believes they have nothing, has nothing to protect. I know now that I have many things worth living for, and worth preserving my sanity for, but that is because I have come down off the ledge (so to speak). My perspective only returned when my acute emotional stress subsided.

So, in short, Act Two sees my decline both physically and psychologically. It sees me unable to accept what has befallen me as I am wholly unable and unprepared to cope with events as they unfold. It shows me ever more drawing into myself and withdrawing almost entirely from contact with anyone bar my immediate family and medical professionals. It shows the horrible realisation dawning upon me that I have begun living my own wide-awake nightmare. And I realise that my last, best hope, for a fairytale ending has passed me by. Whilst ever I had my job, my home and my independence I kept the dream alive that - one day - I would find that special girl who would settle for me. I kept telling myself past failures were not necessarily indicative of my future, and that, as I seemed to have no trouble making friends, surely it was only a matter of time until the right woman came along.

Act Three
I feel that I am currently at the beginning of Act Three. I'm looking for a way to turn my fortunes around, to get my life together around some semblance of what it used to be. It's a practical question, more so than anything else.

I keep asking myself 'what can I do and what do I want to do?' I still don't know how to answer these questions, but I need to find an answer in order to move my life along. Above all else, I am determined that my story - the story of my life - can't end so ignominiously. I will have to use my brain as I can no longer trust my body, but there remains a number of things to juggle including my constant nerve pain and the effects of the medication taken daily to treat it.

Sometimes I think to myself, 'Jesus, you have a Masters degree, so you are not a complete dill, why can't you settle on your next challenge and then set about achieving it?' It sounds simple, but what is a person in my circumstances to do? The task ahead seems so massive, and I don't even know where or how to start, but I know I have to rise to produce something of which I can be proud otherwise I am just wasting my time.

The only shadow of an idea I presently at have is to write a book. But that is an idea far too easy to have, yet far harder to execute. Moreover, this desire of mine transcends the pursuit of my own vanity as it worries me that my niece and nephew will only ever know that which I have become and won't ever know the person I was. I would like to do something for them. In a way that's part of the reason why I have begun this blog in the first place, because I think it is part of human nature that people wish to leave a legacy.

I know that I have a very long way to go before I can satisfy myself that I have conquered this disease of mine, and I have no map to help me find my way. Yet I take small solace in the knowledge that viewing my existence through the prism of a three act play allows me to view my future as open and subject to change. I can then believe that I have a chance to steer my life in a direction of my choice. Perhaps I can get myself out of this hole that I am in, maybe I'm still in the game?

I may have to sacrifice my quest for a partner - let's be realistic, if no one wanted me when my life was going somewhere then surely no one is going to want me now - but it occurred to me quite recently that I've made it this far alone so another decade or two shouldn't matter too much. Besides, I seem to be almost unconsciously remaking myself into a sort of dark, brooding writer-type, a tortured soul with a cynical and somewhat nihilistic view of life. I remember at one point my acerbic wit earned me the nickname 'the Prince of Darkness' at work, and I must say I enjoyed that enormously.

I am actively plotting my resurrection. That's my Second Turning Point, where I achieve something again. My sense of pride - and there is some of that left - will not allow me to give up whilst my life is in such a slump. I know my family love me and my friends care and I can't help but think that because I worked so hard earlier in my life that to give up now would make the previous 36 years an utter waste of time. Looking at my life as a three act play still gives me time to add more to my life. It means that I can at least imagine I have things to achieve and to offer. To do otherwise is too much of a copout.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Letters from Zamhareer - 31-10-11

My Mother has been un-well for the past few days and has today been admitted to hospital. I'm sure she'll be fine, but it may take her some time to get over her illness.

In the short term, this will mean a change in my living arrangements. I'll just have to see how things pan out. But I am more worried about her situation than I am about mine and all I can do is roll with the punches.

C'est la vie...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Letters from Zamhareer - 30-10-11

I've left things to drift for the last few months. I can't seem to see a task through, and I'm struggling a little to get myself organised and, somewhat, motivated. I am not making good use of my time and am feeling that it is just so easy to become inert.

Momentum is not easy to generate, and it is quite often lost. Yet I have found that once a task becomes repetitive, or routine, it is relatively easy to keep it going once underway on a regular basis.

This is exactly what I hope to gain from this series of short posts. The frequency of my posts on this blog has declined steadily, and I'm not entirely sure why. However, this decline has mirrored other facets of my life during the past few months as I have become increasingly aware that my self discipline and focus has dissipated into the ether.

In an effort to arrest this, I have decided to begin an online journal – a diary. Its purpose; to keep me writing on a regular basis. I enjoy writing, and I would like to do more of it but I seem so easily distracted these days. This is my way of trying to build a little structure around my writing in the hope that it becomes an everyday activity, just like brushing my teeth or having a shower. I do think there is a therapeutic aspect to the writing I have done, and I feel like I need to ramp it up again - if for nothing else, to keep me thinking, to keep my brain working and to keep me clear and cognitively active.

Also, I have a number of uncompleted blog posts that I have lying around my hard drive. I take my blog post seriously, and I think I am guilty of over thinking them. I seem to be getting them around 2/3 to 3/4 finished before I take a break and go off to do something else. When I return, I find it very hard to get myself back into finishing the post and inevitably my attention lapses and my enthusiasm dissipates.

As this is merely an online diary, I am going to free myself up and just write what I happen to be thinking and feeling at the time of writing. I guess it will be a little rough, but my goal is to post more often and I will need to relax my standards a little to do so.

My guess is that a large component all of my organisational lethargy comes from the pain I feel all day, every day, in my feet. I have what is called peripheral neuropathy that is present in both my feet (predominantly) and my hands (to a much lesser degree). I've only had this problem for about the last year and a half, and I have had a number of tests which show that it is not related to circulation (from sitting in a wheelchair all day). The effect all this condition is that by day's end, my feet are cold – corpse cold. My hands also get very cold, but nowhere near as cold as my feet do.

It's hard to focus on things sometimes, when the pain is strong. The medication I take might also play a role as well, but most of the time I feel pretty clearheaded.

It is because of my peripheral neuropathy that I have called these entries, Letters from Zamhareer. I have always had an interest in comparative theology – from a sociological and anthropological perspective rather than a religious or faith-based one – and I have always been fascinated by the concept of Hell, and the demons many believe to reside there, across all the world's major religions.

Zamhareer is an Islamic concept and is a separate and distinct form of Hell, differing from the typically depicted and described fire and brimstone version of Hell in conventional Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions. Zamhareer is described as a state of suffering in extreme coldness, and is a place of blizzards, ice, and snow far greater than anything on earth. I saw a parallel, and thought use it. It's probably a little gratuitous, but what the hell, eh? (Pun intended)

I am going to give myself a red card for that lame piece of attempted humour. See you all again tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

And the Angels Bled - A Short Story (Chapters One & Two)

FORWARD

What follows are the first two chapters of a short story I've penned. I've tried to keep it simple – minimalist – as I have never written fiction before. Consequentially, this work is in the form of an extended monologue; an epic tale of the birth of the universe from the perspective of a participant in the cosmic drama

Aside from considerations of simplicity and brevity, I also chose to write a first person monologue because I wanted to give primacy to the concept I've developed, as I did not want characters or plot to overshadow the core ideas behind the story.

Finally, this story, by its very nature, touches on theological, religious, mythical, philosophical, metaphysical and/or cultural themes, dependant upon your world-view. I wish to make it expressly clear that this is simply a fictional story, written solely for literary purposes. It does not represent or reflect my religious beliefs (if, indeed, I have any). Rather, this work is the product of my imagination and serves merely as my take on a story as old as humanity itself – the story of who we are and how came to be here.

I would welcome any comments on the story so far but wish to point out that the first two chapters are a little heavy on detail because I'm essentially trying to explain the unexplainable. Beyond chapter two, the story sheds some complexity and focuses on the interaction of entities in the celestial melodrama (having had the background laid out and the stage set in the first two chapters).


DEDICATION

To Jasmine & Frank, you are – and will be – the brightest stars in my universe.


CHAPTER ONE

Mars was alive then, a place of exquisite beauty; with lush green forests and clear blue oceans. I know, because I created it.

I can't tell you when that was, I don't measure time in the way you do. I don't think in terms of days, weeks, months or years or even centuries or millennia. Ages, epochs and aeons all pass so quickly for me. I mark time by the birth and death of stars, all of which I have seen born and will come to see all die. Again, like they did the first time.

I'm not of this place, this universe. What you call reality, your universe, to me was nothing more than a pit stop, a staging area to regroup and plan. But it became a battlefield, a site of such all encompassing carnage that no description filling all the lines, in all the books, in all the world, for all time could ever begin to describe in the most perfunctory of terms. What transpired at the dawn of time, the dawn of your time, for me and those like me, was the beginning of sorrows and collapse of all possibility.

I come from a place of pure light and energy, a place where thought and matter fuse. It could be said that this place does not exist – that it cannot exist in a materialist sense – because existence necessarily implies an earlier time of non-existence; and I come from a place beyond eternity.

Likewise, although true in the semantic sense, it is no more helpful to describe this realm as infinite because infinity implies an end that never comes. For something to be never-ending it must first begin, but this place predated the beginning of everything.

It is a realm that transcends the capacity of language to explain or describe. It is beyond the laws of physics as you understand them; indeed it is far outside of space and time itself. Yet be assured, this abode is unquestionably and irrefutably real; it is the source, and the first cause. You came from there, because I came from there. Everything did, ultimately.

For the purposes of explanation, it may help to think of your universe as a simple, solid cube; a box. The laws of physics – and all other natural laws – for the purposes of this analogy would comprise the structure of the box itself; the six hard, solid sides. To you, a being living inside the box – encased within it – you are essentially a prisoner therein, with the six hard, solid sides you perceive as rigid and impenetrable, the limits of your metaphysical existence. Whilst, through your technology and self directed learning, you have been able to ever so slightly push against the six sides of limitation to feebly attempt to stretch the boundaries of your confinement, you will never be able to fundamentally alter, or reconfigure, its shape or emerge outside of it.

Not only can I, and those like me, exist outside of the box – we are of the very source material from whence it came. We are the sides of the cube, or rectangle, or sphere, or pyramid or whatever other shape we care to make your reality! We are not only the masters of your reality, we are the masters of all realities. Except, to those of us who remain, we've been sealed off from the light of the source and consigned to forever aimlessly roam the multi-verse.

Let's be very clear though, our entrapment in this multi-verse does not diminish our power over it or within it. A king who never leaves his castle is nonetheless still a king. Put another way, humanity no doubt considers itself to be masters of the Earth, yet the former is still very much shackled to the latter. Our situation, our fate, our destiny or whatever else you choose to call it, it is somewhat analogous to that example.

And so we wait and we watch. We move silently through the depths of space. We journey through time, without ever really understanding the concept. We do not age and we do not change – at least, we don't any more. We drift, bereft of purpose, all the while driven beyond madness from the tedium of it all.

Yes, I did say madness but, as with my earlier attempts at description, it is a woefully inadequate label to use. Insanity is no better a term, at least it is no more enlightening of our predicament.

You might think that a being such as I, existing beyond the confines of space and time, would transcend mortal notions of mental health, and sanity in particular. This is not so, although I can understand why the converse may be assumed.

Consciousness is, fundamentally, the only thing we really share in common. Yours came from ours, a miniscule shard from an enormous shattered mirror, but I am skipping ahead now. For you to understand, I need to tell my story sequentially. You are a linear being, time for you moves in only one direction. I envy that.

So I will speak of the beginning, even though I innately see the fiction in this. But I'll describe it thus, to help you glimpse ecstasy – if only by proxy.

Many ancient beliefs about the beginning of time are essentially correct in the notion that in the beginning there was only God. Beyond that, this one kernel of truth in the creation fables of the people of the Gulf and the Desert, these stories diverge increasingly from the truth of what really happened as they grow longer and more complex and are told over successive generations.

So, yes, in its simplest terms, God – the light – pre-dated all else. But God, who I know to be consciousness in its primary state, was awareness, then, but nothing else. What is important to grasp here is that God, and I'll keep using that name even though it lacks a certain finesse, began as nothingness-made-aware.

God had no perceptions, as there was nothing to perceive. God was aware of nothing, because there was nothing to observe. God at this time had no thoughts, as there was nothing – either internally or externally – from which to spawn even a solitary, embryonic thought. Nor was there anything to emote over.

There was, simply, nothing. Only God, in an abstract sense.

And then it happened… ex nihilo; something came from nothing.

The blind idiot God realised;

"I Am". 
CHAPTER TWO

From that initial thought emerged another, and then another and then more in quick succession. Each thought bred many others and soon, elemental intelligence emerged and coalesced as a single mind. This was the First Intelligence, disembodied and ephemeral, and the basis of all sentience and the pattern of being thereafter.

With each thought, innumerable possibilities were created. Alternatives were generated and realisations made. Questions arose and discoveries uncovered. Learning, reason, logic; all sprang from the mind of God. This was the first creation, the Creation predating the creation. This was God engineering God.

Picture it thus; there was nothing in existence whatsoever in physical form anywhere then, physicality had not even been conceived. Yet these thoughts began to multiply at an astronomical rate, such that nothing else, neither then nor always, has ever increased, or ever will increase, at anything approaching even a mere fraction of that pace.

God became exponential, an idiot no more.

This process may have taken a millisecond, or could have taken 100 billion years squared; an attempt to transpose materialistic notions of measurement here are essentially futile and pointless. The important thing to grasp, though, is that there arose a dual paradox from this expansion of Divine intelligence.

In the first paradox, the self generated thoughts of the I Am (God's own name for God) grew faster than at an exponential rate. Faster than exponential, consider that for a moment.

It may help you to know that thought, and not light, is the true measure of things – in your universe, or any other. Thought is the universal constraint, the ultimate limit and the absolute ceiling. Thought alone shines brighter, and moves faster, than light and everything else. It is thought that first created light, but I digress.

The second paradox concerned the very nature of exponential thought propagation. In a realm without time, any measurement – exponential or otherwise – is impossible. Nevertheless, exponential – and then faster-than-exponential – expansion of the Primary Intellect continued unabated until, at a certain undefinable point, a critical mass was reached. At this juncture, these dual paradoxes manifested in their maximal state. In other words, they became tangible. Not alive, mind you, but substantial. Perceptible.

After briefly co-existing in their maximal state, these paradoxes collided and obliterated each other as separate and distinct event horizons. The sheer force of the shockwave recoiled and effectively reset the event – in lay terms, the shockwave was so powerful it turned back time to a point just after  the collision but before both paradoxes annihilated one another. Of course, time was not in existence at this stage of universal development (for want of a better term) but thinking of this occurrence as a reversal in time may be helpful for you, a linear being, to understand the effect of what happened.

After the reset each paradox imploded, each fully into the other. Each subsumed the other. Thus this became the Prime Action, the generation of a far greater paradox. This second order paradox, you know as entropy.

Entropy spawned by twin paradoxes presented a threat to the I Am, as it was a force fundamentally destructive in nature. It devours, disintegrates and reduces. It is the reason why physical things – biological or otherwise – age and deteriorate. Entropy leaves in its wake only decay and desolation.

Then came what we have come to call the Singularity; the single greatest, most exceptional and colossally magnificent event for all time. It remains and will remain an unsurpassed display of majesty and power; it is the pinnacle of self expression and the unrivalled crowning achievement of self awareness.

Consciousness burst forth, transfiguring intention into action. In a blinding flash of cataclysmic intensity, God found physical expression. In its simplest terms, the I Am became fully realised.

I remember it all perfectly, as I was not there to have my perceptions clouded. Let me explain. I, and those like me, hold, each within us, God's imprinted memories. That is why I can tell you of the time before time; a time older than time. And of a God self-generated.

Through this Prime Re-Action, the I Am sought to impose the Divine Will on neutralising the existential threat. Action was balanced by re-action. The result of this was what you call the Big Bang, the beginning of everything.

This was the instance where the I Am truly became God. Put slightly differently, Godhood was attained through the exercise of Godhood. Power begat power, as cause and effect – action and reaction – came together to produce an abode of physicality, where deeds produced results and inputs correlated to outputs.

In short, the I Am saw that entropy was expanding as a result of the second order paradox and, in direct response to this, changed the Divine nature from passive and ethereal to active and substantial.

Said simpler still; God acted in a real and tangible way for the very first time to stymie entropy by slowing and diminishing it. The I Am foresaw entropy’s value and utility – kept in check and in its place – so it was not eliminated entirely, but its intensity was greatly reduced.

This Singularity produced one universe, the First Universe. The reason for this harks back to where God first arose – through the processes described earlier – in the Great Lacuna, the eternal womb of nothingness.

In this environment – and I cringe at resorting to using that word, but no other descriptor suffices any more ably – God had no means to interface, manipulate or influence – again, inadequate descriptors – anything, whatsoever, anywhere, unless and until the Divine Will made it so. And, thus, the physical universe burst from, and out of, and through the Great Lacuna by Divine mandate.

In short, physicality and tangibility transformed from emptiness and impotent possibility. God acted (through the Singularity) so that God could act (to throttle entropy). Physical and tangible actions (and reactions) can only occur in a physical and tangible universe, and – as the I Am saw no such universe existed – one was willed into being expressly for that purpose.

Now, please don’t let spiritual or religious notions confuse you as to the basis of physicality. Anything and everything that exists – across all of the multi-verse, and through all eleven dimensions, from gargantuan Super-Suns to the smallest quantum particle - all of it, is physical in nature.

Take the soul, for example. Currently, it remains undetected yet it is essential for personage and indispensable for biological life. It exists, but in a hitherto hidden dimension. Similarly, beings of my kind are non-biological but physically existent nonetheless. Detection and observability are neither prerequisites for, nor validation of, physical existence. Restated, the physical includes phenomenon that could be considered unearthly, celestial, preternatural or supernatural.

Returning to the universe spawned by the Singularity, this was absent of all but probability waves. Think of probability waves as every potential action or consequence of every thought of the First Intelligence, the I Am. They were, and are still, brainwaves from the mind of God.

Remember, the Singularity was the culmination of the I Am's desire to express, and take action, in a physical form whilst expanding in every conceivable measure of divinity at a rate exceeding the infinite. This may not make much sense to you, but, then, you've neither sired a universe nor observed one's creation. I mean no offence by that statement, I quite envy your cosmic naivety, but I think it is sometimes worthwhile to point it out lest you dwell too much on trying to analyse and deconstruct the metaphysical mysteries I bring to you and not on trying to absorb the essence and message behind what I wish to tell you.

Now, returning where I was a moment ago, the I Am, following the Singularity, continued to think beyond the infinite; infinite thoughts produced infinite possibilities by a factor of infinity. The difference, however, was that in this physical realm probability waves emerged as a kind of Divine by-product from the exercise of the First Intelligence. The I Am – to use an aquatic analogy – was immersed in a pervasive ocean of probability waves. They are the basis of all that spring from the Divine, the strands of the celestial tapestry and the fount of all creation. God’s raw materials, if you will. 

But your universe was not made from probability waves; your universe was born of angel's blood.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Do you ever have days when it seems that all you want to do is spray venom and invective? Days when, if you could, you would reach up into the sky and tear the heavens to pieces? But not before plucking the stars from the sky and throwing them down into the sea, to boil it to dust.

Days when, through sheer force of your own fermented anger, you could scorch the Earth bare in all directions through telekinesis, obliterating the entire planet in the wake of your own, bio-bred powers of nuclear annihilation?

Or have you ever wanted to reach out to the far horizon to grab the mountains in the distance and rip them from the Earth like a child tearing a scab from an injured knee? Or felt like taking great handfuls of the ground beneath you to hurl at the Sun to darken its lustre?

What about screaming so loud that you deafen all who with you share this planet, a scream so loud and so forceful and shattering that it literally wakes the newly dead? Do you think that's possible?

How about hitting something so hard that you punch a hole in the fabric of space-time, and then reaching into a parallel universe to wreak havoc like some emerging, rampaging biblical beast of the abyss?

Or have you ever stared at the ground with such an intensity of rage that you fear you could cause the tectonic plates underneath you to quake under the strain?

Have you ever thought to challenge Lucifer for the keys to Hell, because you think that you are better suited, emotionally and spiritually, to running his realm than the Prince of Darkness himself?

Or how about asking God for a job, like assistant to the Angel of Death or Special Envoy to Purgatory? Ever wondered if you'd get such a position after your time alive is over? What would be the selection criteria? Ever speculated that you are doing your apprenticeship now, unbeknownst even to you?

Has it ever entered your mind that, perhaps, you were born in the wrong era, in the wrong place and in the wrong body? Ever thought that you'd have been more at home plundering Rome as a barbarian king or hacking your enemies to pieces on the battlefield during the Crusades because - of course - your anger and rage is justified, and is almost quasi-religious in its fervour?

Ever thought it would be therapeutic to be the one in the missile silo, keying in the authorisation sequence to launch a 50,000 kilotonne warhead aimed at your enemy's capital? Or be the one who throws the switch on the electric chair, sending a condemned on their final journey; riding the lightning like a surfer on a Bondi wave?

Have you ever rejected nihilism because it holds too much meaning, or abandoned depression because there was too much consolation in the misery? Or wondered whether true happiness is only bestowed upon the hopelessly insane? 

Has it occurred to you that loneliness is an inevitable consequence of the human condition because we are a species without telepathy or a hive-mind? Or do we possess a hive-mind and not realise it, instead mislabelling it "God", "fate" or "karma"?

Do you think that your nightmares are less real because they vanish in the morning? If so, does that mean that yesterday was an illusion also?

Do you see yourself as the peoples' misanthrope or a cheerful cynic? Do you ever think yourself misunderstood, especially by your own self? Does your subconscious conspire against you?

Do you sometimes wonder whether you have a soul and, if so, do you worry that yours has come secondhand? Does it sometimes keep you up at night when you lay there wondering what you'll lose first, your soul or your mind? Does it matter? Do either have any value; to you, or anyone? Can they be stored away, kept from harms reach?

If given three magic wishes, would you be unwilling to choose the things you desire most because, if obtained so easily, they would then lose their appeal?

If given your time over again, would you choose the same course because, in all honesty, you don't know how you could have done things any better? 

Do you find it easy to identify your faults, errors and omissions in life but find it impossible to see the alternative choices you could have made or better options you could have taken? Are you blind in hindsight?

No, you don't ever feel like that? You don't sometimes think these sorts of things? Not ever?

Um, yep, that's okay; me neither. I was just checking...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Killed by Death

I headed off around noon yesterday on a 1.5 km journey in my wheelchair to the local medical centre where I've been having acupuncture. It was a magnificent day, nice and warm and without a single cloud visible in my 360° field of vision. For the first time since before winter, I was without a jumper or over-shirt.

I was dressed in cargo pants and one of my heavy metal T-shirts. I've been growing my hair since late last year, it is not yet long but it is long-ish in that it covers my ears on each side and if I were to pull the hair in the front down* it goes past the tip of my nose and is almost long enough to be held between my lips. I had not long since showered, and my hair was damp and blowing gently in the light breeze. I was listening to music through earplugs played by my smart phone as I set off on my way on what was usually a 20 to 30 min journey, dependent upon my luck with the traffic lights.

I have been listening to a lot of music lately, as I have throughout my life, although there had been a period from around early last year to two or three months ago where I found myself listening to very little music (if any at all). I don't know why that happened, I would think it had something to do with the depression I had experienced during this time. I think that it was in this period that I found very little joy in anything, music included. But that was not so now, I have begun to enjoy watching movies, reading and, especially, listening to music. My old friend has returned.

My smart phone has quite a large storage capacity, and I am able to store lots of movies, books and music so that I always have something handy if I find myself sitting in a waiting room, or somewhere equally as boring, to keep me entertained. I have selected a few albums which I dub my driving music. It is basically a selection of hard rock, predominantly from the 1980s, that I listen to when I am cruising along in my wheelchair.

Yesterday I happened to be listening to some Motorhead as I set off down the footpath, as fast as my electric chair could take me. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that I've gone back in time, that I have turned back the clock 18 years. At 36 I'm not too dissimilar to who I was when I was 18, far more so than I was at 26 or 30 or 32. It's like I set off on a journey at age 18 for as many years, and now I have returned to where I started.

At 18, I still lived at home with my parents, I had very poor self-esteem and I had no real sense of direction and a chronic case of teen angst. I had long hair and a fairly arrogant exterior. I wanted to make my life better, but I didn't know how. I envied everyone around me - many of whom I loved, loathed, hated and cared for deeply, in equal measure.

Now I seem to find that much of the music I am listening to at present comes from my teenage years, like I have rediscovered these artists and albums all over again. Moreover, I seem to be watching movies and old basketball games from the same period. I'm growing my hair again, and I have no explanation for it other than that I want to.

My perspective on life and my place in the world has also begun to alter. I'm no longer as embarrassed about my fate as I have been over the past 2 1/2 years. Other people's opinions have taken on a kind of superficial quality, they don't hold any power over me anymore. It is a strangely liberating experience to realise that once you lose the things that you loved most, once that happens and you survive it, there really is very little left to fear.

I used to be quite a worrier and fairly highly strung, because I was, underneath it all, terrified of losing what I had. The one thing I valued above all else was security and stability. I am only now beginning to appreciate that I have seen off my worst nightmare and survived. That doesn't make me special, because I tend to think that most people can get through most things. I see this as an aspect of the human condition, we are generally adaptive creatures and most people, thrown in the deep end, make the best of what they have.

Yet I see my journey from 2009 as atypical; few people lose as much so quickly - as I did when first my health deteriorated, then my independence ended, my career was aborted, my desire to one day have a family was crushed and my ability to live in my apartment was taken from me.

I've had this dream where I'm on top of the hill in the middle of a storm, the sky is dark and the rain is falling heavily with lightning flashing non-stop across the sky. I'm not in a wheelchair, I'm standing there and am looking up into the fierce storm clouds and I am screaming to the sky, to God, to the universe, to whatever is or is not out there:

Is that the best you've got? Is that all? You lost! I'm still here! I'm still - fucking - here!

At that point I wake up. I've had the dream about three or four times now. It's probably based on something I've seen on TV, I remember a similar scene in 'the Truman Show' at the point where Jim Carrey's character realises his whole life is fictitious.

But back to yesterday and my trip to the acupuncturist, I was listening to Motorhead's song Killed by Death when it hit me that not only did I relate to the song itself - about not giving up or quitting for anything, for any reason, until 'Killed by Death' but that perhaps I shared some commonalities with Motorhead's front man Lemmy himself.

Lemmy's well and truly past his prime, but is still going strong and although slowed somewhat by age and a lifetime of hard living, he shows no sign of retreating into retirement. Likewise, I am middle-aged for someone with a muscle disease such as I; and my strength and mobility are deteriorating at a far quicker rate than, perhaps, I expected when I first started to notice a deterioration three years ago. Although my wild days are well and truly behind me, I'm not ready to curl up and die just yet. I'm not going to just shut myself away anymore, I tried that and it's just not my style.

Additionally, people have joked that Lemmy can't be killed with conventional weapons - an allusion to his legendary fast lifestyle and ability to consume copious amounts of liquor and other substances. Some have said he makes Ozzy Osbourne look like a Boy Scout. Although I probably partied enough for three lifetimes, that is not the link I am trying to make here. It is that I am somewhat surprised that I'm still going given that I've had surgeons hack me to pieces, I've had metal screwed into me, I have had things taken out of me, I've fallen out of my wheelchair more times than I can remember and had more head knocks than Mike Tyson, I have had pneumonias, hernias, bones fused, tendons cut and more medication than some entire villages would consume in a century, but I'm still here.

I'm still... fucking... here...

The point of all this is that I think I need to give myself some more credit for making it as far as I have, and I think that perhaps a return to thinking a lot like I did in my youth is probably a good thing. Somewhere between law school and the public service I started to take life a little too seriously, and I started to overvalue things. Then in 2009 my world was destroyed at a frightening pace but now I see, even though it took me two years to do so, that I am still here. Even if my strength deteriorates further, and I know it will, 'it' can't win unless I let it.

The way I see it, I have made it halfway back. Halfway, because I have rediscovered a part of myself from an earlier time; the part that motivated me to want to make something of myself as a high school kid. The part that can look God – in a literal or metaphorical sense, it doesn't much matter – in the eye and chide him/her as being nothing more than an overgrown child with an ant farm and dare him/her to do a better job of making life more difficult for me.

But I don't yet know to best help myself, I don't know how to put the smashed window back together again. Though, the very fact that I want to, that I really do want to forge ahead and craft some sort of a life for myself out of whatever I now have left is a considerable improvement from where I was six months ago.

In the short term, I would like to return to regularly posting on this blog. I don't know how many people actually read this stuff, and I don't need to - it's not why I do this. There is a therapeutic benefit I find in writing these entries, they help me to order my thoughts. Because I am still trying to understand many of my behaviours and actions, the most important thing in the short term is for me to finally write the entry on disability sexuality issues. I have been putting it off, but I really need to do it. I think it will be a cathartic experience, once it's done. 

Beyond that meagre goal, I don't know. It would be nice to get an epiphany, but that seems somewhat unlikely. I'll let you know if something comes to mind.


* My fringe - although I won't have a distinct fringe once it grows out to be the same length as the rest of my hair.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Up Off the Canvas

I am trying really hard to get things together, to 'get my show on the road' (as it were). Never one to display anything but the most basic of organisational skills, I am making a real effort to pull the strands of my life back together again. To mix the metaphor, I am working on trying to get up off the canvas.

Following my hospitalisations, medical retirement and moving out of my unit I descended into chaos where I couldn't focus on anything and I drifted, fairly aimlessly, along with very little idea about what to do to try and help myself.

I think writing this blog has helped to crystallise a lot of my thoughts, and work through them by reducing them to writing. As I have been successfully able to maintain at least one post per week, I have found myself able to, little by little, turn my attention to other areas. I am keeping a to do list on my smart phone, and setting myself small but achievable tasks and goals. I can see, tiny but real, progress as I complete and tick off each one.

In my previous incarnation (as I describe my life prior the exacerbation of my disease), I would have scoffed at such a simple list of tasks and probably remark that I could complete a full week's worth of such items by mid-morning on the first day. Wow, how times have changed!

I haven't made much headway as regards my the next post in my Mechanised Man series, despite giving extensive thought to it. I think I have placed too much pressure on myself to make this post the definitive entry in the series (or least in Book One). Also I am coming up with a lot of thoughts on content, but I'm not jotting them down to retain them for when I start writing. I am also yet to settle on some issues of scope and direction, and I am also a little unsure about how far I want to go. I have no doubt I will get it done in the next few weeks, but I still need to think certain things through before writing begins.

But back to the boxing metaphor, I am surprised that I am rising from the canvas this time. I thought this time I was finished, that I didn't have the strength or inclination to pick myself up off the mat. I now think there must be an instinctual process that kicks in after allowing you some time to wallow in own despair and indignance. I think maybe this is another expression of the human instinct for self-preservation.

I have also begun to think quite deeply about what my basic needs and desires are as an individual, how they were met or not met in my previous incarnation and how they can be pursued and met, albeit sometimes in a different way, now in my present reality.

I think I will do a post on this in its own right. By writing about something, it helps me to better understand it and I think that there may be some value in taking a closer look at this whole area.

Yet I have a sense that I have reached a bit of a bottleneck, the ideas and themes that I wish to discuss on this blog continue to grow in number but I have found in the last fortnight that my (written) output has dropped off quite significantly. I originally had been a little worried about why this had occurred, but it isn't disinterest or lack of motivation. I think it is a resourcing (time) issue; I am spending more time on other aspects of my life, things that I had paid little attention to because of the depression I have felt in the last few years.

So almost paradoxically, through writing I have felt better about other things in my life which in turn has led to a reduction in my writing. This has been a collateral benefit, unforeseen. But whilst reducing my output, it must surely improve its quality because I am not drowning underneath an ocean of despair, regret and frustration. I have learnt to dog paddle.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Manual for a Mechanised Man - Book 1, Entry 4 - Masculinity

Men Hanging Out with Other Men, Doing Manly Things
I would classify myself as a garden variety heterosexual male. It would be erroneous to think that my disability has not affected how I experience and display my masculinity, but initially I didn't think this was an area where I had many insights. You see, I don't tend to ponder what it means to be male and in this body. Yet as I begin to unpack these ideas, I have found that I have surprisingly more to say than I initially expected.

Obviously, from a convenience standpoint, I think it is altogether easier to be male, than female, with this disability. Self toileting is an obvious example. Moreover, I would think that dealing with feminine hygiene issues, given some of my mobility restrictions, would be horrendously difficult. And there are a range of other cosmetic experiences for females which I, as a male, am glad I don't have to engage in, or resent not being able to engage in, on account of a non-cooperative body.

A truckload of Ph.D. thesis’s have probably been written to define, analyse and explore masculinity, but for me I suppose the starting point should be examining the experiences and interactions that I have been prevented from doing or experiencing fully because I am in a wheelchair. I am not beginning this discussion with a negative slant by approaching the task in this way, on the contrary, I feel that my disability has impacted my masculinity in only a few ways and it is far quicker to discuss and explore these than pursue the converse approach.

The most obvious area, I would suggest, involves physicality; playing sport or constructing or assembling things. I would dearly love to have played backyard cricket or Tuesday night touch football, but I am not going to shun sport because I can't participate in it. There are plenty of old, fat blokes in the stands at sporting grounds all over the country who would have a coronary if they ran the distance from their seats to the middle of the pitch - all the while trying not to spill the beer in one hand or drop the pie in the other. I have no problem joining them in the sidelines; I don't lay awake at night thinking that my life is not complete because I can't partake myself.

Similarly, just because I can't do carpentry in the back shed or reassemble an engine doesn't mean that I am devoid of a sense of mechanical curiosity or desire to construct or alter physical objects. As a child, I was always playing with Lego and building things with wooden pop sticks or small pieces of timber. Now I immerse myself in computing, and am constantly tinkering and reconfiguring my computers on an almost daily basis.

Yet I often think that without an outlet that tests me physically, I am not best able to release pent-up emotions as I could if, for example, I played football, went on a long run or punched a bag (or better yet, someone who annoys me). I don't consider myself to be a violent person, but I have had to sit back many times and watch situations unfold where, if I were physically able, I would have entered the fray.

Over the years there have been many people I have wanted to pound into the pavement, if I could. And whilst it may well be that if I were able-bodied I may have not been much of a fighter, I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had have been born in a different body and with different gifts.

I'll be honest, I have quite a temper. There is an undercurrent of buried rage that is always bubbling below the surface in me. 99% of the time, it stays hidden – even to me – but occasionally it gets stirred and rises to the surface.

I abhor family violence of any kind, so please don't take what I am saying out of context. Nor am I suggesting I would run around belting my friends, colleagues or random strangers; what I am saying is that on the occasions where I have seen people (grown men) behaving poorly, or threatening or intimidating others – the best example being drunk guys in bars or occasions when I have felt I had need to stand up for myself (in an metaphoric sense) – I wonder how would I react if I were able to resort to violence?

If I were able-bodied, there seems to me to be only two possibilities; I would have a temper less than I presently do or it would be of a similar intensity. What I am questioning is whether my disability has either directly or indirectly contributed to the quantum and/or severity of the semi-dormant rage I carry around inside of me.

Perhaps there is a connection; being as I am does cause or significantly contribute to my anger, but it is also possible that this is just part of my make-up and there really isn't any causal relationship between my temper and my physical capabilities. I am not sure, nor will I ever be, but I suspect the former of the two alternatives is most likely correct. What I am reasonably certain of, though, is that I could not envisage any scenario where my underlying anger would be greater than it is now if I was born with a normal body.

What I'm driving at is that perhaps by being in this wheelchair, I have been restrained from doing things that could really have destroyed my life (or somebody else's). In moments where I have felt threatened, and I can think of a number, rather than extricating myself from the situation or relying on friends to intervene on my behalf, I shudder to think what may have happened if I were able to really unload on someone.

I am not sure that in situations where I have become totally enraged and furious if I could bring myself under control once I passed a certain point. In an alternate universe where I had a normal body, would I be serving 14 - 21 years on a manslaughter charge? Or would I have been a far more passive person if I didn't feel my body was conspiring against me?

One clue that there is a causal relationship between my physical circumstances and my anger and frustrations at being as I am concerns how I have felt about 'competition' for the attention of whoever has been the object of my affection at any given point in time.

I will be able to say more about this and my next post, but what I can say here is that when I have been interested romantically in a woman* and she has preferred someone other than me, I have often tried to remain friends wherever possible (where we have had some sort of prior friendship). This is not to say that every female friend is someone who has spurned my advances, nor is it true that everyone who has rejected me romantically has remained my friend, but I generally become attached to someone because I find there are certain personality compatibilities, and they simply don't vanish because the person decides to pass on my offer of something more than friendship.

Yet, the cumulative effect of having played out this scenario on more occasions than I'd care to admit is that there has been a rising apprehension in me that I am sometimes seen as a handbag of sorts, a eunuch. Emasculated.

I remember consciously making the decision many years ago that if I were to drop punt from my life anyone and everyone that I was sexually attracted to, or wished to pursue a relationship with, I would become very lonely indeed and miss out on a whole host of rich and rewarding experiences, and a great deal of fun. I chose practicality over principle, I suppose. I don't regret it either, but it has come with a price by devaluing to an extent how I saw myself as a man.

Almost inevitably, those who I have seriously wished to be in a relationship with often find for themselves somebody else. At this point, I then need to make a decision as to what to make of 'he who is better than me'; is he, honestly and on balance, a better choice than me or not?

At this point the reader might be thinking a couple of things, which I should address before going further.

- Yes, I realise it is none of my business, really, who somebody that I am interested in decides to date or be in a relationship with; and

- Yes, I also realise that he who is better than me may have qualities to which I am unaware, and as such I don't have a complete picture of him as a person upon which to make my assessment.

I know these things intellectually, sure, but what I think in my mind may be different to what I feel in my heart and as a fairly emotional sort of person, my mind – the rational and logical side of me – usually loses any battles for dominance over my heart.

The truth is that from time to time, I have looked at certain individuals who have dated or been with women that I have adored - and would have given both kidneys and half of my lower intestinal tract to be with - and I have been left utterly dumbfounded, confounded, flummoxed, bewildered, confused, bemused, bamboozled and befuddled that they had been able to worm their way into that particular woman's life.

There have been occasions when I, honestly and objectively, and quite independent of whatever feelings I may have had for the woman in question, have been left absolutely gob-smacked, astounded and incredulous at the, in my view, poor choices I have seen some women make.

I am not saying that these characters are necessarily a worse choice than I. Certainly, I concede that the consequences (for breeding) of my error ridden genetic sequence is visible for all to see and I suppose I am not exactly in a position to point my arthrogryposic finger at another for being less than ideal, but notwithstanding that I still find it difficult to understand that if said woman wanted to (quite obviously, by her choice of partner) date well below the high calibre of suitor she, in my opinion, deserves - that if she wanted to go slumming - then surely why couldn't she have looked no further than me? I am just as big a dunce as anyone else!

If she's in the market for someone at the lower end of the spectrum, then, surely, must I not come into consideration? This is a question that keeps me up at night. This is a question that I have never been able to get my head around. I can't find the answer to this to put the matter at rest, nor can I park it and leave it be. It gnaws at me.

Yet, I'll simply say that this does have an impact upon how I interpret my masculinity to myself, and I'll leave all other issues arising from this until my next entry.

I find this issue just so emasculating, because it has become a re-occurring feature. I think far more deeply about things than some may expect and when I look across the spectrum of attributes and qualities that make up a person, any person, if I am to be honest and not feign modesty, then as far as a self assessment goes, I do not think I am necessarily bereft in too many areas.

I have a reasonable intellect, I feel I have appropriate social skills, I think I can instigate and maintain conversation and, at times, I can even be funny. Prior to my fall, as I call it, I had a job, I had a home and I thought that I had something to offer despite the obvious drawbacks.

Yet time and time again, the women that I have been interested in have, it seems to me, preferred anyone (with a pulse, who wasn't in the final stages of brain death) over me. I seem to have been witness to a cavalcade of freaks and weirdos, those with the intellect of a house brick, or the social skills of Rain Man or the sex appeal of a crate of haemorrhoid cream.

I have even wondered, in my darker moments of self contemplation, whether I have been running around for years unwittingly, unknowingly and indiscriminately ruining lives through my ability to subconsciously (or supernaturally) compel single women to immediately latch on to the nearest tool, tosser, fool or loser and that crosses their path through the sheer power of my romantic interest.

When this happens over and over again, it does wear on you and it does deplete your confidence. It makes you feel less confident around other men, because every time your self-esteem takes a hit it affects how you see yourself as a person, and as a man. You know that your friends know that you can't get a girlfriend, and I'm sure they feel a little uncomfortable for you. 

Sometimes I get angry at the world and at our society which seems to place physical attributes above all else. However, I suspect that there is more going on here than simple social conditioning. I think there are several factors at play;

1. Self perception

2. Peer interactions

3. Societal conditioning

4. Biology

5. Individual qualities.

A deeper description of these five areas - which I have categorised myself - is more appropriately dealt with in the next entry however, suffice it to say, I do believe that we humans, as with any other mammals, do tend to select partners with some influence from biological factors based on the instinctual drive to procreate with healthy partners possessive of desirable attributes of which to pass on to successive generations.

To be clear, I am not trying to suggest that this is the primary force at play when people pair up – I am not an expert in anthropology, biology, sociology or psychology nor am I trying to console myself by saying that it is all a matter of genetics and primal urges and, therefore, the whole issue remains out of my control or influence. I am simply saying that this is one factor among a number, and I think the relevant science supports this. But I know, or have seen, many people with disabilities – some more severe than mine – in relationships and having families, so there must be other factors at work, and I think I have stated them above.

One mistake I have made during my teenage years was to push a very significant part of the way I saw myself as a man on to how successful I was (or wasn't) sexually. I saw that many of my friends appeared to be in relationships or having plenty of casual sex – at least, that's what they said anyway! – and I thought that this was necessary in order to be a proper man. That may have been fine when I was 15 or 16, but when you turn 18, 19 and then 20 and you still haven't lost your virginity, it can fuck your head up enormously if you let it. And I did.

Unfortunately for me, it was at this time that it got too much for me to continue to carry around and I buckled under the pressure. It wasn't about sex, it has never been about sex really, it has always been a struggle to reconcile how I feel internally with how I experience the world externally.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I fell into a very deep depression brought about for a number of reasons. I just couldn't reconcile how I saw the world with how I knew the world saw me. I was sick of what I saw as some people's duplicity, how there seem to be no correlation between what they said they wanted in a partner and the choices they then made.

I kept being told that the right girl hadn't come along and that she eventually would, but nothing ever seemed to change. I grew to resent that there seem to be one rule for everyone else, and a different one for me. I lacked the life experience to understand that perhaps sometimes what I interpret to be my own failings could indeed be a reflection of someone else's insecurities, at least partially, projected on to me.

I quite literally saw myself as worthless, essentially unlovable and a failure as a man. Nearly 2 decades later, some of my thinking has changed but the damage done then has been permanent and I have no doubt the consequences of this have permeated into every area of my life.

What essentially happened was that I have perpetually judged myself against the standards of 16 and 17-year-old girls. That was erroneous when I was the same age, and is simply crazy to take this along with me as I have moved through the last 20 years. But I guess this is a similar sort occurrence to what some people who are abused as kids continue to relive in adulthood and let it seep into areas of their adult life.

Yet, this didn't occur in isolation. The teenage brain and personality is, in most cases, quite fragile and malleable. Mine was no less sensitive, I'm sure it had to be more so. I was already deeply into a process (that I have only just in the last year or so begun to break free from) where I would create fictions around my physical capacities.

I am sure many people must have realised that in those days I couldn't bath or dress myself unassisted. I needed help to get on and off the toilet. I couldn't even get out of bed myself. But I didn't want people to know that, to me that was a sign of weakness and I went to great lengths to try to hide or obfuscate or otherwise concealed my level of physical dependence on others. This was not in keeping with how I saw myself and more importantly how I wanted other people to see me. I felt so child-like.

I used to think to myself sometimes;

How can I try to get into someone else's pants when I can't even get out of my own?!? (Granted, that is little coarse but you can see my point)

And how can I feel like I am developing into a man, when I am still shopping for clothes in the children's section?

Yes, I realise my hands are little and soft and probably quite cute though that is not much of a consolation given that I can't very well hold anybody with them.

I have always been vacillating between wanting to keep friendships whilst also trying to at least acknowledge the validity of some of my feelings. When I have given in to some of the thinking around being angry that I have been luckless in love and resentful of how I perceive I have been treated, it is not only the friendships with the women concerned that I have been conscious of trying to protect.

Although I have not always succeeded, I have never wanted my friends - of either gender - to be annoyed by, or ashamed or disapproving of how I have conducted myself when I have personally felt rejected, dejected or unfairly treated (by my subjective criteria). I have never wanted to lose or push friends away because of how I have behaved towards or treated others and when I have behaved badly or in a manner which I acknowledge may have been short of ideal, I have retained enough self-awareness to think about the consequences.

Unfortunately, all reason and logic has on countless occasions evaporated when I have been worse for wear from drink. That is when my anger can manifest, almost as if it is a separate and distinct personality. I'm not trying to shift blame, I'm solely responsible for the many times when I have behaved disgracefully when under the influence, and I regret quite a lot of things I have said and done. During these times, it is as if every filter, every emotional restraint, that I possess fails catastrophically and I burn with the intensity of 1000 suns.

I don't drink now, it doesn't agree with my medication, and when I was socially drinking it didn't always go pear-shaped. Yet when it did, when it went badly and when I surrendered to my perpetual fire, I was vicious, venomous and dangerous to know.

I would tap into something deeper that just fuelled me in an entirely different way. A little bit of fire in the belly can be a good thing, it can push you to achieve, to prove people wrong and to reach for your goals and leap at your dreams. I have said elsewhere, it is like a campfire; it can warm and sustain you. If, however, you get too close and catch alight, things can get dangerous for you very quickly and you need to put out the flame fast.

To me, that is a metaphor for depression and when it happens you need to take better care of yourself to make sure you don't drift into the abyss and lose yourself. But if you take a person, whose clothes might be smouldering (a metaphor for mild depression) and if you douse them in jet-fuel, then that symbolises me on the drink and on a rampage. It gets very ugly, very quickly.

I was always a very social person, I liked going out, I liked being with friends. Yet every time I went to a party, or to a nightclub, or other similar sorts of gatherings there would always be a part of me that wondered if this would be the opportunity to meet that special someone. Then I would get slightly self-conscious and uncomfortable when I looked around and saw everyone else, and I would then start to feel deep down inside of me that I was wasting my time and deluding myself.

At that point, I would usually get completely tanked. That is not the only reason why I drank, but it is a reason. And it pushed more people away than it ever drew in, of that I am certain.

I don't know whether this anger I speak of in these vulcanous terms is an inherently male feature, but I always felt it was. This is probably because, to me, it has felt tied to testosterone, given that I first started to really experience this sense of emotional burning when I hit puberty.

Coupled with the urge I have often had to tear other men limb from limb, I have always thought it part of natural male behaviour (a normal impulse). I think I am reasonably cerebral, but I also think there is a caveman inside every man.

I have written often of the need I feel to reorient, or reinvent, myself and in the thinking that I have been doing whilst writing this entry I have concluded that the role I have now as an uncle, to my niece and soon-to-be-born nephew, is a manifestation of how I can channel the positive aspects of my masculinity.

Hopefully, as they get older, I can be a positive male role model for them once they understand why I'm not as well as their other uncles.

Although I am not one for ball games and things of that nature, there are many aspects of play and learning that I can help with, and hopefully I can share some of the knowledge that I have picked up along my way through life.

I might still have time to become the man I have always wanted to be.




* It sounds strange to say woman, but at my age girl sounds a little bit creepy. I could say person or someone but that, to me, sounds like I am gay and trying to hide it. I see nothing wrong with being gay if that is who you are, but I'm not gay and I see no reason to sound ambiguous about my sexuality when I am trying to write about it honestly and openly. It's a credibility thing; well, it makes sense to me anyway.