Are We Ill or Not?

ill

The process of diagnosing mental illness is generally finding the way in which the sufferer has deviated from what is considered to be normal behaviour.  The cure is then manipulating the sufferer’s symptoms in such a way that they return to compliance of, perceived, normal behaviour, or at least appear to.  Normal behaviour is, in our current quasi-Utopia known as neoliberalism, often psychopathic in its tendancies.  Success and greed are celebrated, to struggle or fail is frowned upon.  I say it is fair to say that “normal” behaviour could be the most severe form of mental illness that there is.

If we look upon ourselves as the animals that we are, how much of what we do in our lives could be considered normal?  It’s surely fair to assume that most forms of mental illness are a healthy and predictable reaction to the environment we live in.  Why would we not feel anxious when we’re down to our last few quid in the bank and the car could break down or we could be made redundant from the failing business we work for or our landlord might sell the house we live in?  Why would we not feel depressed when we see homeless people begging for change in the street or animals tolerating miserable lives so they can become food for us or families drowning while they run for their lives from war zones?

The normality we are supposed to live in is generally a facade created by various forms of media, by companies who want to sell things to us and, of course, by the financially elite CEOs, board members and politicians who need us to comply if they wish to keep being financially elite.  The joy filled families you see shopping for a sofa at DFS on a bank holiday weekend or the girl who always has beautiful flawless skin because she uses the right moisturiser never have to concern themselves with the with the darker sides of modern existence, like we do, because they are fabricated for a purpose and aren’t real.  And, yet, we try to emulate them!  Our whole lives are spent trying to fit into an almost standardised set of criteria that we believe constitutes normality and it’s easy to feel a little alienated if you fall outside those borders.  I’m a single man with no children at 42 years old and although I’m quite happy with that arrangement I definitely feel an appreciable sense of detachment so I can only try to imagine how life must feel if you are disabled or alcoholic or unemployed or homeless or worse.  The mental pressures must be unthinkable and then on top of that many of the people in these kind of situations who are already suffering are mocked, persecuted and made to feel subordinate.

The unsustainability and destructive nature of our modern existences has to play a role in feeding our negative feelings.  While we can enjoy our trappings of luxury and wealth I think every one of us is now uncomfortably aware of the fact that this – while enjoyable – is causing our own inevitable downfall.  The depletion of the Earth’s natural resources, the extinction of many different species of animal, huge amounts of pollution and the increasingly obvious symptoms of climate change that are all directly attributed to us.  How can we not suffer mentally when we know that our very way of life is killing us and negatively affecting everything around us.

I would like to put it to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury that nearly all forms of recognised mental illness are just our brain’s natural responses to what is happening around us and that treatments, including medication and therapy, are just patches to gently ease us back on the path of earning and consuming and behaving in a conventional manner.   If you stop for a moment and really think about how we live, what we are happy to tolerate and what we seem able to ignore it is very easy to see how all of us could quite easily slip, mentally, into a world of dread, anxiety, paranoia and depression without too much difficulty at all.

 

 

Transcendence

Transcendence-2014-Trailer.mp4.0018

We all know that our cognitive thought processes seem to be disconnected in some way from the actual matter that makes up our physical being and the world around us.  We all know that in our heads we still think and feel like the child we used be but feel compelled to become the adults we are supposed to be.   Life seems to pass us by too quickly and we reach the point where, even though our minds are still willing, our bodies become incapable of facilitating their instruction.  Couple that to the now, increasingly, obvious fact that our world of physical matter is definitely finite and our, increasingly, complex understanding of how this physical world works and how we can manipulate it to our advantage could be accelerating this process, we find ourselves in a bit of a predicament.  The imminence of our potential apocalypse seems to be getting ever more real and seems to be becoming unavoidable as the threats we have to face are growing exponentially and have reached a point where they might be too far gone and too large for us to solve.

This could be a terrifying and very real worry or it could be the necessary end to this very simple physical world our minds have created to sustain us while we evolve enough to move to the next stage.  The human spirit or soul – whatever we want to call it – is obviously hindered significantly by this short living, decomposing physical form that we all dwell within.  A human’s lifetime is very brief and the relative time scale of our mental evolution to this point has also been, relatively, short and it does, now, seem that the constraints of our physical environment are going to kill us.  With so much potential still to be realised, maybe this could mean that we are on the cusp of moving to someting much greater.  Transcendence.  Existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level.

No!  That’s daft surely!

Think about it.  Look at what quantum mechanics is starting to teach us.  What we see, hear, feel and smell is a very simplified and subjective comprehension of the energies and forces that are zipping around us all the time.  For centuries religion has tried to teach us that our ‘spirit’ goes on to a better place after it’s primitive meat vehicle breaks down.  Now it seems like our whole physical environment is starting to break down.

French philosopher Rene Descartes theorised,

…firmly implanted in my mind is the long-standing opinion that there is an omnipotent God who made me the kind of creature that I am. How do I know that he has not brought it about that there is no earth, no sky, no extended thing, no shape, no size, no place, while at the same time ensuring that all these things appear to me to exist just as they do now?”.

This led him to conclude that the only thing he did not doubt was his own existence because the reality of doubting and thinking about the reality of his perceptions was confirmation of this.

“I think therefore I am”

The Matrix films were based on this philosophical question.

You only have to look around you to see the crude limitations of our intellect being encased in a shell of biodegradable physical matter.  We have to feed it for a start and some people struggle with that!  We have to dress ourselves, entertain ourselves, transport ourselves around.  We spend most of our time being either employees or consumers.  In this current physical environment it is nearly impossible for us to truly experience existence in it’s purest form because of the constraints that stand in our way and the constant servicing that our physicality requires not to mention the incredibly limited time restrictions imposed on us because of the speedy molecular decomposition of ourselves and all of the things around us.   The importance we weigh on our physicality is also hindering our mental evolution as we waste processing power on things like our physical appearance, our possessions, our pets, our gardens and, of course, our jobs.  It seems entirly possible that  our perception of the world around us could be created by our brain and our vanity and materialism is a metaphorical way of us trying to enhance and better ourselves in the only way we know how to in our current situation.

Could it be that the imminent end of our subjective and simple physical perception of what surrounds us is not something to be feared but rather the logical next step in the evolution of our complex, brilliant, inventive and inquisitive minds.  Going to work to pay for things that we require to enable us to go to work seems like a massive waste of the potential that this miraculous consciousness, that we all have, is capable of.

It’s time for Neo to unplug.

Power

Power-Control.jpgWhat is it in a person’s make up that makes them want to be in charge of others and is it a quality that should be revered or feared?

Some people want to lead for constructive reasons like guiding their employees in a direction that will make a successful company or leading a team of volunteers to distribute help to the needy.  Some people want to be in power to take control and push their agenda onto others so they can control and manipulate them.  Some people are given positions of power so they can help to carry out the agenda of people above them whose task has become too large and needs to be sub-contracted.

There have always been leaders and followers for as far back as history goes and many would argue that this is reason enough for it to continue but I think as we continue to evolve that having people in control is starting to appear old-fashioned and the people in many of these positions are abusing them.  Even elected representatives don’t seem to represent the electorate.

Rightly or wrongly I have always tried to have a diplomatic outlook on life and I enjoy feeding off others input.  I rarely feel the need to ‘put my foot down’ and try to take control of a situation.  I think that I get a kick out of things being unpredictable and I enjoy letting life just carry me along and letting things unfold naturally.  I constantly hear from people who think that this approach doesn’t work and that you have to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and drive your life in certain directions to get what you want from it, which is admirable, I guess, but I don’t really “want” anything out of life, per se, I’m just here for the ride.  I really can’t see the point in pressuring myself or others to “achieve”.  Ultimately we’re all going to die and when we do we’re all equal again so enjoy the bit before you die in whatever way you see fit.  A friend recently said to me that I’m like a fly on the wall of life watching it all happen around me.  I like that analogy.

Goal driven people seem to have a different outlook.  They have life mapped out and have different objectives that they need to meet along the way with each one linking to the next one to ultimately achieve the end result.  In our modern society that ‘end result’ so often seems to be lots of nice shiny possessions, a stack of money, a family and a successful career, usually meaning that you have people in your command or, at least, that you are seen as being superior, in some way, to others around you.  Putting you in a position where you can enjoy ‘the finer things in life’.  As you achieve these things and climb higher up the ladder it is easy to start looking at those ‘below’ you as needing your guidance to try to get to where you are.  This is great for the people who do aspire to be like you.  They will love your input and guidance to help them along but the danger is that you start to assume that everyone aspires to be where you are.  Or worse still, that you can convince those who don’t think like you do that they should.

As we evolve I think we are starting to see now that powerful people are, often, just normal people lucky enough to fall into privileged positions.  They achieve their life goals much more easily because of their enhanced starting point and often already have positions of power waiting for them when they come of age.  Because of this, they don’t necessarily deserve their position through any kind of merit and the way that they play their position will make this strikingly clear.  You then end up with a situation of resentment from those below as they feel decisions are being made on their behalf by people who don’t really know what they are doing.  They are simply enjoying the spoils they have been given, trying their best to look the part and expecting respect without ever having earned it.  The royal family is a classic example of this phenomenon.  They still seem to just spend their days shaking people’s hands and making public appearances.  Not a massive contribution to the bettering of mankind is it?  And yet they are still driven around in luxury cars with a team of security personnel keeping them safe and have huge publicly funded residences and powerful positions in society.  We need to start looking at people in power and their motives and reasons for being there.

We have been led to believe that we need leaders but I think giving too much power to one individual is always going to be a recipe for corruption.  The temptation at that level is too strong.  We certainly need innovators, inventors, thinkers and pioneers to push things forward and better our plight but I am not convinced that we need leaders, as such.  Modern civilised society can run quite well without hierarchy.  I’m convinced of it.  There is no need for us all to answer to a single leader we need input and debate from many sources and there is no need for a single definitive solution to each problem.  Different problems in  different places require tailored solutions not just a list of rules to follow that are generated miles away by people who have ENTIRELY different lifestyles and viewpoints to the majority of those they are trying to lead and especially not from those who are trying to feather their own nests with corruption and greed at the expense those they are leading.

 

Too Much Choice

choiceBack when Steve Jobs first told us that we could have a thousand songs in our pocket it seemed like a music revolution.  I suppose it was.

I bloody hate when you’re in a room full of people, telling you to put some music on, and you stand staring blankly at Spotify unable to decide what to play, and sometimes even worrying that I play a few favourite songs too often, when the choice available to me is (give or take) about thirty million songs!  Or when a customer asks,

“Is this all the washing machines you have?”,

while they look at the thirty, or so, on display or when you decide to buy a new pair of shoes or a new set of pans.  There is an infinite array of stuff to buy, download, eat, listen to, watch, smoke, drink, date, adopt, shag, marry…etc

On the surface this seems brilliant but a quick flip through any book about buddhism will tell you that a clean uncluttered mind is the path to contentment and, maybe even, enlightenment.   I don’t think we even asked to have this much choice, a lot of it is forced upon us by our culture of nonstop consumption and the need for economic growth.  If there were only a few things out there for us to buy soon everyone would have all that they required and the only necessity to buy again would be when something needed replacing.  This isn’t going to stimulate growth.  We shouldn’t just be buying one item.  We should be buying the item that we like in three different colours and with all the additional accessories that are available to go with it and then when we’ve got better at what ever activity these items were bought to assist us with, we should upgrade the items.  Entry level stuff is no good if your now an intermediate and as you upgrade things become more expensive.  Not so easy to make the purchase now, you don’t want to waste a load of money on the wrong thing!  Enter people like Revoo, Which, Trivago, Trusted Traders and others to help you make the ‘right’ choice.  Is there a ‘right’ choice?  Is it possible to find a washing machine that is custom designed for your specific needs and out of all other the options out there you must to pare it down to this one?  Or is there a song on your IPod that will fit this moment perfectly, if only you could find it?  We convince ourselves that the answer is ‘yes’ and that having every single option immediately available to us will make it easier to find.

The brain, like any other part of your body, becomes tired with over use and by pondering so many choices all the time each and everyday what we are actually doing is fatiguing our brains which eventually exhausts us, makes us angry and, ironically, makes us make bad choices.   This mental fatigue is also what makes you put stupid purchases into your trolley when you are walking around places like B&M where you see things and think,

“That looks like a good idea!”,

even though it is something that you will never use and never wanted.  Our brains are busy enough and throwing a wall of a thousand options at ourselves every time we go looking to buy trivial shit or want to relax with some music is making it do work that is wholly unnecessary and leaves it with less energy for the good stuff.  Is it just coincidence that many times when choosing something we go back to the very first option we looked at?  Maybe instinct is as strong a tool now in modern society as it ever was.  Many animals depend on it.  Maybe we are stifling instinct with too many choices and fear of making the wrong decision in the same way we are stifling our immune system in our over sterile society.   Your instinct learns if you use it regularly and when you make a choice with a positive outcome you get a positive feedback.  The natural reward your brain gives you when you overcome obstacles by yourself.

Having lots of different things to choose from certainly seems great but it has reached obscene levels and is certainly impacting on our mental health and our ability to feel content and happy with the choices we make and – very importantly for some – other people’s opinions of the choices we make.  There is even an argument that people who are given fewer options are more creative as they have to be able to do more with less so as well as making us feel tired, angry, inferior and confused too much choice can make us less creative too.

Many Minds Operating as One

This is the post excerpt.

ant-bridgeThe 2017 General Election was a really strong reminder of a phenomenon that sprang into my mind first during the 2007-08 recession.

When an event takes pace that engages the whole of the country like a recession, a referendum or an election it causes a strange move in the collective mood – for good or for bad reasons – of everyone.  Social media and the internet definitely accentuate it but you can feel it by talking to people , watching TV,  being at work.  It’s almost like something in the air.

During the recession there was a constant feeling of doom and gloom everywhere you went.   The media told us that the economy has stayed slow and the public are scared to spend money.  As a result of this the public were, indeed, scared to spend money but, I feel, for the majority of them (myself included) they were only scared to spend money because they had heard that everyone else was “scared to spend money”.  People didn’t know why, they just felt it even though fear of job losses and credit crunches were not even a reality for many of us but we were still part of the collective consciousness of paranoia and worry.   This same thing is being felt in the other direction now with Jeremy Corbyn’s “successful” election result and a feeling that we have all banded together and derailed the Tory hegemony.  The mood of the people seems notably lifted now.  A feeling that we’ve all banded together and actually achieved something against the system.  Again though, for the majority of us there have been no real changes in our lives or our wealth or our communities, it is just a nice ambiance of positivity that seems to feel visceral whilst having no actual real-time benefit for most of us.

I like it.  This idea that if we need to we can act as one consciousness, one feeling shared among many.  It’s almost like we all become one like when The  Power Rangers’ Zords all  merged to form one big Megazord.  The sad thing is it never seems to last.  We all seem to quickly separate into separate Power Rangers and go back to our individual ventures as quickly as steam dispersing into the air.  Maybe nationally it’s too big a thing for us all to hang on to with everything else we have to turn our attentions to.  This is why I am a firm advocator of devolving into smaller groups and communities and organising ourselves that way.    Maybe if we work to achieve things collectively in smaller groups these feelings could be a lot more real, a lot more long lasting and a lot more productive.  I think people crave that group mentality.  We all want to feel involved, necessary, functional, liked and, even, loved.  Smaller communities bonding together to achieve together may even create a stronger adhesion on a national scale as we would be asking, already active, groups to bond together rather than just large numbers of totally unattached individuals.

I know that this is already done with local politics but it just doesn’t seem to make any real engaging impact, only really addressing things like where a new car park should be or the lack of a lollipop lady outside the school.  Boring!  It needs to be larger more weighty issues with real feelable consequences for the participators and, as a result, participation increases, more people get behind the same goals and this lovely feeling of being a real cog in a functioning machine will stay and be physical rather than psychological.