Thursday, 21 May 2015

Don't judge a book by its cover: Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton

I have just finished reading a very Goddy book. I didn't mean to: it had a picture of arrows in a pie on the front and I thought it was going to be some kind of empowering cookery / archery mashup. MORE FOOL ME. But I started it and it was very Goddy and I decided to keep reading because books are basically windows into other people's minds, and I like to peek into minds that are different to mine (side note, if you want to widen your reading habits, you could do much worse than go to your local library, spin around a couple of times and leave with whatever you fall against first, unless it happens to be breathing). 

I am not a God person. But if I were a God person, I would like to be the writer of this book. She's all about seeing the divine in people and talking about her life as it comes. Although taking her life as it comes does involve owning no pans (no pans! How do you eat / arrange impromptu drum recitals?), so I maybe wouldn't take the divine *that* far. The book is basically a collection of blogpost style musings on love and doing your best (in fact, I've just checked and before there was a book there was a blog. TECHNOLOGY) and God features pretty heavily.

So the author and I live in different spiritual worlds. But she has a fascinating story to tell, taking in multiple addictions and eating disorders before she became pregnant, became a mum and her life took a very different direction. Now, what I do I believe in is people. I believe that people are tremendously flawed and tremendously fun. I try to remember that there is a secret voice hidden inside the skull of everyone I talk to, and I try to give that voice the respect it deserves, and the space to be heard if it wants to. By no means do I always achieve this: I am also a people and  my secret voice can be VERY LOUD and VERY WRONG. Lots of the time. But that's cool, I've got to respect my secret voice too. I mean, it would be daft to ignore it, given that it's the only one I can *actually* hear. And this lady believes in people too. She believes that in every person, there is a spark of the divine. I believe that in every person there's a spark of consciousness. Different ideas, but each beautiful in its own way and to its own person.

Sometimes I wish I was religious. I have seen religion bring some great things to people. A sense of purpose, a sense of community and a framework to live a good life. But I have seen people trapped by religion, just as I have seen them freed. And the whole shebang just doesn't sit well with me. You can't just go out and 'get religious' as I understand it. I have a certain way of viewing the world, and it doesn't mesh with religious belief. It doesn't mean I'm right. Yawning-nihilism knows that I have been wrong plenty of times about plenty of things in the past. 

Even though this book didn't make me a religious person it did teach me more about the sort of person I want to be. The sort of person who takes people as they are*, even if they don't  have pans (?). So thank you panless lady, and thank you cover designer for your clever arrow trick (I'm on to you, arrow man).

*Harmless people. If you have toxic people in your life, never feel bad about taking a step back.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A post election post

So, it's been almost a week since we dutifully trit-totted along to the polling stations like democratically minded lambs. Almost a week since we saw *that* exit poll which was met with a collective 'guh?'. And almost a week since we woke up with a conservative majority. I'm still kind of waiting for the punchline. Perhaps Dazza C is going to whip off that rubbery mask and Russell Brand's going to appear and sing us a song about shagging and saving the NHS, and saving the NHS through shagging (Like 'Where is the Love?' by the Black Eyed Peas but dirtier 'yeeaah, it lowers stress, and places less strain on the NHS, saving the world with the power of*'). To be honest, this is a rather unlikely scenario. Even so, rather than ruining my keyboard with tears of lament for even the feeble moderating voice of the Lib Dems, I thought I'd share some thoughts that were kicked up by this election.

1) We need education on cognitive biases.
We put far too much trust in the squishy stuff inside our heads. Cos it has ALL THE POWER. I'm currently fighting tooth and nail with my brain to write this rather than something about peonies. Human thought processes are a hodge-podge of short-cuts and assumptions.  You don't have to be a bad person or stupid to be swayed by confirmation bias (marshalling evidence rather than researching facts), you just have to be human. It's good to know about the way that our minds can trick us, so that we're in a better position to make informed arguments. It wouldn't immunise you from them, but at least you get a bit of power back. There are free online courses on this (this one is brilliant) but I really think that there is a place for this in the social education courses at high schools. The biggest conspiracy isn't out there, it's in your head, trying desperately to keep your world view together.

2) Punch up, not down
Kind of obvious right? This is one of the many advantages of being 5 foot one in a bit: you learn this early because everyone's up. But really, your dislike and frustration should be focused on the people at the top who can do something: not your fellow voters who (mostly) are alright really and (mostly) did not cause a global financial recession.

3) The next five years are going to be very interesting
We'll probably get an EU referendum and depending on how that goes, there's a substantial chance of Scottish referendum take two. Ironically for old-fashioned tory voters, this majority government could deliver more change than an arcade slot machine.

4) It's nice to talk about things other than politics
I find politics fascinating and like to talk about it whenever I can. However, it's a bit like coke**, it's fizzy and exciting but too much of it leaves you bloated and with a bit of a headache. I had a lovely lunch with an old school friend the other day and we talked about... dogs and weddings and IKEA and everything but politics really. It was lovely. It's nice to remember (if you can) that there are things in the world other than politicians and many of them are much, much nicer.

So, best of luck with the next five years everyone. And shake it (the fact that our democratic system is no longer fit for purpose) off.

*Other sexual equipment is available.
**the sort you can buy in the supermarket.