Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wanting Away

My contributions to Fractured Paths have taken on something of a pell-mell hotchpotch formula in recent weeks. Ironic, considering that formulae exist in a far more organized fashion. Right?
However, I am going to focus on a point I made in my last post. A point that, I feel, is inescapable in modern society. I say modern society — perhaps 'contemporary society' would better suit the dressing. After all, what society am I in right now if not a society contemporary to my existence? Hmm. Anyway. We are all of us within our own ‘when’, our own ‘now’. That now coincides with billions of others. And we all have certain tags. Male or female. Black or white. Gay, bisexual, straight. British, American, European, Asian, African, Australasian.
I could go on and on, mentioning age, religion, philosophy. We are all so different and yet, so similar.
Whether the individual harbours amenity towards these facts or not, they are writ large in the very physical manifestation of life. Our DNA — our individual code, created through a fusion between two other codes (our parents’) which comes from two sets of two other codes (our grandparents’) and so forth — is our biological program. Similar to an online multiplayer computer game of the 21st century — where technology, as far as accepted records explain, is at its very highest ever. Yet, the online game is limited. Even when managed and maintained by a team consisting of thoroughly enthusiastic and avidly punctilious members, the game is restricted by resources, software, working hours. By money. The game has dead ends. Eventually the human player staring at the screen directing his or her character will do a mission or quest or part of the game that somebody else has done in the exact same way. The game has corners. The game is...scripted. Ultimately, to some extent, it has to be. The designers have to know every possible outcome to every action, storyline and item — they developed the game or the software, after all.
We cannot, therefore, ever fully relate to a virtual world. At least not yet.
Our lives are not scripted. Certain things do always happen. We are born and we die; there is a period (in some cases, a tragically brief period) of life in between. The very start of our purpose. Presuming that there is a purpose among this species to, if not progress, at least survive and in many cases, reproduce. Beyond these indubitable and, with regards to death, inevitable core moments of life…well, anything might happen. Look around, think back. Soldiers, doctors, binmen, teachers, pupils. Friendship, love, betrayal, loss. Happiness, sorrow, laughter. A person’s very life can change in seconds and can also remain in a rut of stagnation for what feels like interminable amounts of time. A person might spend three days indoors eating junk food and reading or playing video games, only to step outside and, in minutes, be thrashed aside by a car.
The thing with living is that, we are only living as ourselves. I am Shaun Carter. I’ve only ever been Shaun Carter and I will only ever be Shaun Carter. When I was younger, my parents made certain decisions for me, just as their parents had for them. As we grow, we usually develop intellectually and in terms of maturity. We experience more. Emotions become less extreme in a trivial sense and take on a thicker shell. A shell that is more of a physical weight on us. If a child cries, it might be due to falling over or breaking a toy or simply being hungry. There needn’t be any physical pain — a child cries for its carer when it needs attention and comfort and soothing. If an adult with full faculty retention is crying…it is likely for a more severe reason (although I can be a grumpy bastard when I’m hungry). Take nothing away from the child, however. As the human being develops, so do the restraints, or the threats against, our happiness. A three year old wouldn’t understand poverty nor the pernicious feelings of worthlessness and failure that poverty can spread to people. However, when that three year old grows up, poverty might become a very serious peril. Something worse than peripheral. An outrider ever lurking just within your borders, prodding its spear here and there, questing for an opening, a weakness.
When a human finally does experience poverty, or redundancy in employment, or a bereavement — suddenly there is panic, sadness, and ultimately sorrow. There can be grieving, mourning, and an apathy towards making a stand. There can be a moment when…when what? When the adult cries — for attention and comfort and soothing. Human beings never lose their vulnerability, they just learn — through experience and a growing induration — to feel less. Not always is this a voluntary process. There exist human beings unfortunate enough to feel loss, sorrow, and betrayal on a basis which is far more constant than the next person. Which would be easier: losing five family members in one moment…say…in a car crash; or, to see one family member pass away every two years for ten years of your life? There is no rule as to when a person should cease to grieve. Many people are actually prone to feeling guilt when they try to pull away from grief, as if they owe their lost loved one a constant vigil of unhappiness in life to balance out the misfortune of the dead person losing everything. Would it be easier to grieve for five loved ones within a two month period of despair and then, slowly move on without these five influential people being around to offer guidance and a shoulder to cry on? Would it be simpler to merely ‘get it out of the way’?
There is no solid, tangible proof (as yet) of an afterlife, and so it is impossible to say whether a human being ‘comes back’ in their next life — to believe so would suggest that a human being is some form of core. A core which can drift between one vessel (body) and the next. Would this core be the soul? I don’t know. Either way, when a person dies, we don’t know if they are then ‘up there’ watching over us. Yet the thought can be a comforting one.
What we do know, many of us, is that this life is the here, the now. To stray away would be to forsake the gift of life granted us by our parents. Sometimes, some people believe there is nothing left for them. They cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Nay, they don’t even believe the light exists anymore. Minds consumed by darkness.
In my notes for this blog, I’ve written down the word individualism. I think, seeing as this post has moved in an eerie direction towards suicide and suffering, that a link can still be made. Even a plan has room for ideas to grow organically. Individualism. I could speak politically, i.e. against collectivism. I could speak socially and voice support for what…the hermit? Individuals from an existential point of view…hmm.
Something I find irritating, despicable even, is when uniqueness is a state of being expressed by somebody. Of course, there exist certain medical cases where only a very limited number can be associated with the condition; true also, there are certain people who are famous or infamous for certain events in history. From Aristotle to Adolf Hitler, there is a vast list in between inhabited by people known worldwide, despite being long dead, for their contributions (good or bad) to society. However, in today’s society, there feels as if there is a palpable tension among many to be the most unique (something which is a paradox in itself). To feel love like never before; to understand pain in a way nobody else ever has — so that what, this person can receive eternal pity? When emotions are voiced. When love is declared. When somebody feels pain. There appears to be a proclivity (perhaps it has always been so) for certain people to grind away at this misfortune, and to revel in their feelings of affliction. Caged and yet content. I once knew somebody who appeared to thrive in circumstances where they were wronged. They would use this ill feeling against people. They enjoyed believing that they felt terrible inside, because this person could use it as a smokescreen for mood swings, for rolling forth a convoy of negativity while it was ever patrolled by these feelings of oppression. Individualism can be the opposite of collectivism. The move towards individual freedom. Being able to do whatever one wants to do (providing nobody else is harmed along the way). Surely, however, individual emotionalism is a counterproductive train of thought. Firstly, somebody else is almost certain to have been through a similar torment or trauma; secondly, collective emotionalism — an established state of thinking that people can turn to one another for help. Can ask a friend for advice. Listening, speaking through problems. Discussing possibilities both positive and negative. Can this not be a function of friendship? Would it not make sense to pursue — to some damned degree, at least — a collective emotional practice?
Who, honestly, would thrive off feeling pain that nobody could help them to assuage? 


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Revenge from Revival

Self-pity is something that almost every human being will experience. From being a child who doesn't get one more sweet after dinner; to being the growing boy who loses a game of chess to his father and refuses to throw down his king until he finds a solution; to the moment when your partner or spouse walks towards the door, head held high in wistful attempt to justify a set of reasons you stopped listening to because your efforts were invested into winning your loved one back at that very moment. During these moments, self-pity is growing within us. Something twisting inside, and it’s malignant as hell. It feeds off the sorrow. It stores this sorrow up and, when pockets of positivity shine through like crepuscular rays bleeding between the clouds at dusk, suddenly this malignancy within us releases a small residue of our sorrow, until our mood has gone from a struggling positivity, to a state that is subdued and sombre at best; at worst, we’re surrounded by knives and warm baths, contemplating. Wine stains on the floor and tears stinging the eyes.
    The human condition can be the checks and balances system of our morality. Our regulator. It can remind us that for all of our own worries and problems, we are a species that can feel for others. When hurting, we can be self-pitying; when struggling, we can be self-deprecating. Yet, we are never alone in our hurt, never isolated in this struggle. It is our struggle, and everybody’s struggle. There is no one person against the world. Think hard, how many people believe they’re the 'most' unique person they know? How many people claim it’s them against the world? We are all different, agreed. However, no matter how long our species survives and no matter how many different DNA patterns are formed, we will all be so very similar. We will always share the desire for attention when we are really feeling the pain. When the knife is twisting, and then lacerating open wounds, we will want people to cry on the shoulders of; we will need somebody sitting with us as we seek to explain our pain, and in their infinite generosity, they will blunder and grope blindly, like a lover in the darkness, for as long as it takes them to understand what we’re going through. They will, because they felt it too. A different lover, a longer or shorter period of time, a different set of motives, ambitions, past experiences. Culture clashes, religious schisms, moral divides. There could be a list as large as Emperor Mundane’s vocabulary (quite large, I've heard) that separates the relationship of the one in pain from the one offering those ears to listen, and the voice to sooth; however, it would be naïve and even selfish for the afflicted to feel cloistered or anomalous in this, the most experienced human emotion of all: heartbreak.           
    Equally, it would be jejune of the helping friend to use clichés. ‘I've been there’; ‘I know how you feel’. Sometimes these attempts at a joint effort against the struggle of pain are better invoked through actions. Silent nodding and the unwavering attention we give our tristful friend. Sometimes the pain, that twisted, malignant force, needs to be bled. It is a palpable acerbity that just needs to be cried away, and cried away, and cried away. Of course, hours of tears won’t cure the problem. Pain, be it bereavement, loss of a lover or the discovery of a betrayal — all of these are pain, and pain is not a guest easily dismissed. Uninvited, it overstays its welcome, and before long, it is corrupting other friends and uniting them to its cause. Pain pushes the happy memories aside and ushers the worst memories to the fore of this horrifying performance. The sufferer begins to hate his or herself. They question where it all went wrong, what could have been done — was instauration of this malnourished situation ever an option? And was there a missed opportunity to repent and be redeemed? Did you do something wrong that you never truly understood, and did the other half misinterpret this incorrigibly?
    Eventually, after the friend’s valiant efforts, the afflicted person must face the world again. They must step outside and feel the fresh air once felt while holding their lover’s hand; they must hear the sonorous melodies of the early-morning birds and feel the gentle heat of the rising sun. All of these things, last experienced with the lover. They are challenged now to face this facet of life, the everyday part, by themselves.
    Soon, the pain rises again. The person tries their hardest to regroup with life. Tries to become a part of social interaction, education, work, religion, politics. Investing time and demonstrating a willingness to blast as much effort as possible into pushing aside the hurt and the insidious bad memories. Distraction can bear fruit. Old friendships can be given maintenance, new ones might be kindled. The human being is renowned for its durability. For being able to segregate emotions somewhere deep within, fighting out their own tumultuous war while the human being strives to relight the beacons of their existence.
    Once the internal war subsides, once the memories and the hurts have been exhaustively contemplated until finally there is nothing to say that would not be mindless tautology, leading nowhere new — once all of this occurs, we sweep these feelings under the rug of day-to-day life. During this time, boy do those emotions grow taut.
    Inevitably, these ex-lovers bump into one another.
    Inevitably, chaos, in its malevolently ambitious state, pulls that rug back just a touch.
    Set free! Let loose! Those taut emotions are greyhounds on race day. They are gone already, chasing after the prey — the heart. Pangs hit. Not sadness but regret. What was, and what could have been. What is, and what will never be again.
    Does the ex who walked away care?
    The devil on our shoulder says NO!
    Regret becomes resentment.
    Resentment becomes anger.
    White-hot anger.
    Cue then, the rebound. Not something casual. The rebound is not necessarily inconsequential. If drunk and somebody is met at a bar and this before a night of hot and inchoate passion, leaving the two spent, only for them to never keep in touch…yes, I suppose that would be inconsequential in the long term. However, in the whorl of negativity, eventually somebody new pops their head around the door, and lo! suddenly there is a whole host of new emotions and feelings. Feelings that are slow burners at first, but damn if they are not the feelings felt at the start of the last relationship. Huh.
    Reawakened spirit, rejuvenated motivation, relieved friends!
    Sharing wine at the table. Cuddling on the sofa, a film on the television. That first night of new exploration and a shared excitement at what this means – the implications of taking a meaningful, emotional relationship into the atramentous realm of lovemaking. A realm where everybody is at a different stage. A realm where everybody has ticked different boxes and some people added new boxes that raised eyebrows and oh, these boxes, they stay hidden in the bedroom, don’t they just.
    Can a full-blown relationship be a rebound scenario? I don't know. If I were to offer any advice, it would be to consider the feelings you feel towards your new lover and search deep within yourself for any feelings directed at your old lover. Really feel these sets of feelings. It doesn't necessarily matter which feelings are stronger — if your past relationship lasted for ten years, you won’t get over it in a hurry, I wouldn't have thought.
    If you come away from that long and grueling self-diagnosis, and with the greatest honesty you admit that the feelings with more of a pull in the here and now are feelings for your new lover…well...what do I know? 


Monday, 18 November 2013

Silence Kills Best

Breakups, makeups, romance. Not necessarily the correct order when examining one particular relationship, but look at those words again.
In that order.
During a seminar in my second year of studies, Chaucer’s ‘The Franklin’s Tale’ from The Canterbury Tales was the text of the day. For those of you yet to come across it, there’s a key theme of sacrificing status for love. There is a raw ache in the gut of these characters for the person they love to, in one case, be safe; in another case, love them back. Unrequited love. Our lecturer, I do believe, posed the question ‘has anybody here experienced unrequited love yet?’ Whether or not she was nosy, or innocently curious, or reaching out to the feelings within us to empathize with one of the characters in an attempt to explain the logistics of how Chaucer had this character behave — who knows. What’s more, me being me, I was too busy on my Dictionary App (researching the definition of the word extrapolate which the lecturer had used moments earlier) to notice if anybody actually raised their arms. I mean, sure, we all use the L word at some point, don’t we? The majority of people in that room were nineteen, perhaps twenty years of age. With social networking thrown into the mix, relationships have changed. Asking (in my case) a girl, ‘will you go out with me?’ or ‘do you fancy going for a drink sometime?’ eased up tenfold in one way. Staring a girl in the face, and seeing the lines of guilt harden as she searches for the gentlest words of rejection she knows, became less preterition and more an act of sheer bravery. Why was this — well, because you could send her a text, email or social networking missive. If she said no, the computer screen might transform into a great sneer of derision, but there was no worrying moment where you turn around and hope that, as you walk away, crestfallen, you don’t trip over the curb and make matters worse for yourself.
Unrequited love.
Fancying a person is one thing. Seeing their beauty through your eyes. Eyes nobody else sees that person through. You might be one of ten people to think a person’s hair, or neckline, or legs (or any other feature) is particularly outstanding; however, you might believe this feature to be outstanding for a wholly different reason. What does each of us seek in a person? A girl with bright eyes and a cute nose; a man with a sharp jawline and charismatic sense of humour? Do people find what they are looking for and, if so, are they satisfied?
I wonder, when a person’s quest for their perfect other half reaches its end, what then? Elope in solitude only to flee towards tranquillity with this prize, hiding everything you love about this person from the rest of the world? Is this a form of success? When does the phrase ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ transmute into adoration? When does adoration become so powerful that we express it to this person? They blush, smile, wave away compliments with a fugacious gesture. They see in you their own form of love. They are willing to do anything for you, unmindful of the jealousy you harbour towards yourself, about your own lover. When does love become possession?
Understanding what it means to love somebody while allowing he or she to A. love you back, and B. make you a welcome addition to their life, rather than feel the need to centre everything around this newfound romance, I believe is wholly another. We all throw the word out there. We can, as one relationship diminishes, fades and makes us feel more useless than we’ve ever been (even than after the last relationship), often forget that another one is around the metaphorical (or literal) corner, waiting to bump heads with us in the supermarket and elicit pretend feelings of guilt and humour mixed together (let’s face it, until eye contact, both people just want the other person to go away and take their heavy, hollow skull as far away as possible). The relationships might start slowly. Both sides unsure of the opposition’s battle plans. Then deployment lines are slowly drawn, opening moves made. The first invite to a see a film or go for dinner; the first time you receive a late night text, shocked and oh-so exhilarated by this symbolic promulgation of he or she thinking about you, yes you, at such a later hour (do we really need Freud to step in at this point? I think not…). Suddenly, the battle is fully-fledged. Skirmishes of lust. Exchanges of harsh breath. Skin and bone at the edge of the knife blade. Blood pumping. The world outside means nothing. Engagements (…) thicken. Flanks are pressed. Seething masses of emotion heaving against one another until you become a single entity, driven by passion, regulated by understanding.
That entity is love. Isn’t it?
A new relationship brings new challenges. A new person to understand the desires of, and to desire their understanding in return. This, I suppose, would be requited love, after a fashion. Fickle creatures that we are, human beings have a tendency to allow negativity to fill us up, head to toe. When we experience pain, loss, despair, we are the epitome of self-pity. This is natural. As a race, humans have survived with an inherent theory that Charles Darwin made a point of dressing rather indelicately (that said, I suppose survival of the fittest sounds better than if you’re shit you die). When the pain is our own, it burns, sears, and brands us. Our heart is scarred after each relationship. Expectations that are disappointed; considerations never realized; feelings — on both sides — that limp away, stunned, licking their wounds, feeling nought for the other. If this were any different, it would be unnatural. What is our purpose — to survive as long as it takes to reproduce? How do we reproduce? With another human being. This is all speculation, conjecture on my part.
Yet sometimes, these feelings are never reciprocated. Unrequited love. Loving somebody who never loves you back. A dinner rejection from a man or woman you fancy is painful. In fact, it sucks. However, to know somebody for a period of time where, increment by increment, your feelings grow and grow, burgeoning until the only cap sealing those feelings in place is your big mouth; what then? This is all so wonderful (and at times, horrifying) an experience. Yet, when that mouth of yours is freed, and the words pour out, bouncing against ears deaf to the compassion of the thought, of the gesture, of the sheer vulnerability a human risks by declaring their love of somebody, to that somebody; then what? What are these feelings? Fear at the words flooding out. Excitement at the possibility of hearing those same words directed back at you. Apprehension at the awkward silence growing around the edges — shadows of doubt and uncertainty. Panic. Panic at the realization that we have just surrendered all leverage. Feelings that might now be toyed with, manipulated, destroyed by the person we wanted to be happy alongside. Is there a worse way to be mentally broken? To be defeated by an enemy is something almost inevitable at some point. To be defeated by a loved one…we never see it coming. 
Sometimes we have already lost too much to even feel that killing blow. We were finished moments earlier. Defeated by bravery.
Such is unrequited love.