Failing Freedom of Outer Space= Losing the Plot on Planet Earth.

I think this ‘thing‘ is a bit like being in outer space.

Despite the fact that I can escape my house quite often, I always make the same return journey and come back home as if on a powerful elastic umbilical cord.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey to Screen in IMAX
https://cdn1-www.comingsoon.net/assets/uploads/2018/08/2001two.jpg

Although I’m fortunate to have people around me, the reduction in social interaction is reducing me. Conversations are snippets rather than true exchanges and when I find myself talking with somebody or rather, at them, it all gushes out in a stream of mad subconscious breadcrumbs. Having honed my listening skills over many years I was really good at paying attention and excelled in giving the opposite of a poker face. I now fear it’s slipping away. When Mandy and I go for a walk, I try to give good ear but am dreadful at it. If there’s a gap of silence I feel a need to fill it up as if it were a pothole that needs padding out with whatever comes to hand; mud, horse manure and dead hair for making up underwear; all this to avoid my mental wheel (which already has a rocky axle) from falling in to it.

Talking of vehicles, let’s launch…

I think that being in space is like this: 

You’re belted into a very small capsule and you can’t move. Even if you need to empty your bladder, you cannot ‘go’, you simply release.

There’s a round double-double glazed window and everything you can see looks like the 1960’s because that’s when space was invented. The sky, which is really just a lot of tiny zeros, is thoroughly black. Not even navy blue. Not even MIDNIGHT Black/Blue, it’s dead-panned black. And it’s not even the sky because it’s not above you like the real sky is. This thing is underneath you too and it’s around the invisible corners. If you’re lucky enough to be in a space station you have more windows but to be frank, the non-sky, which is the floor, the walls and by now, the inside of your mouth too, is still matt black. A forever deep blackness that knows no time lines or boundaries and ceratinly has no truck with doughnuts or tulips. Loads of sticky stars have been thrown at it and they conspire to give a false sense of comfort to suggest that we aren’t alone. But we are. Alone.

So, I’m strapped in this very confined metaphor, struggling to make it work and outside it is just this corner-less plate of zeros. Except, as I said, the stick-on stars but, and I don’t say this lightly, they’re nobody’s friend. Certainly neither yours nor mine. And let me tell you something else, all this stuff about them twinkling is a lie. The stars are actually a combination of shoddy time lapsed recordings of rude, hot and very loud implosions and explosions. Their only mission is to fry you if you come within a light year. Sparkling, cocky bastards; nothing more. Not your friends.

So, communication from/to this tin can is via a radio or perhaps nowadays, a video link like in The Big Bang Theory when Howard ‘Fruit Loops’, has his moment up yonder but like my walk in the park, it’s no walk in the park. Just crackles, beeps and sounds that remind us of dial-up internet or even…the Fax machine. Communication has been redacted and if only we could read under the blacked out lines, maybe we’d connect properly, like they did in the old days. Freedom to communicate has become a frozen FaceTime image. Over.

TV Classic The Big Bang Theory Howard Wolowitz Fruit Loops custom tee Big Bang Theory Shirts, Big Bang Theory Funny, The Big Bang Therory, The Big Theory, Simon Helberg, Howard Wolowitz, Froot Loops, Favorite Tv Shows, My Favorite Things

I read that Einstein said gravity bends space and because very large objects such as solar systems contain a lot of gravity (suns, planets, aliens etc) they wrap large hunks of it around themselves. I think this includes time too.

This makes me picture a journey that ends at the beginning, just like 2001 Space Odyssey.

So, when flying in my Covid capsule I can see space bending and mashing the freedom of being up and out there – with no obvious obstacles (other than Elon Musk’s growing pile of space debris) with the warm urine dampened space suit of my rocket confined prison. To hammer home the point, if I can leave the capsule to pursue the infinite freedom the lack of long term air suggests that freedom is neither attainable nor desirable.

So, back to earth and shut my mouth. 

I thought I’d do what my then children did some years ago and make a word cloud. The idea was to mix up 4 rock tracks about space to see what the consensus was. The result is quite interesting but not as I grand as I had hoped. When I listen to these tracks, which are all the same theme of being lost in space, I get a large hit of nostalgia. Consider these words by Matt Bellamy (MUSE)

Let’s conspire to ignite / All the souls that would die just to feel alive / Now I’ll never let you go If you promised not to fade away

How, I wonder can nostalgia be triggered for something one never experienced? How do words and music do this?

I can only guess that CoronavirusC19 has triggered a sense of yearning and the mind turns it into a deep space exile. There is something about this present crisis that feels like being jettisoned into the nothing. We shall return, but it will be different but quite how different…

For what it’s worth:

My word cloud throws out: away, never, feels , arms, spaced, time, life, unreal which kind of creates the feeling but as random experiment is nothing insightful.

It includes lyrics from Muse: Starlight, Aerosmith: Spaced (2nd album dummy; Get Your Wings), Radiohead: Subterranean homesick alien and Mott The Hoople: Sea Diver. Obviously I could have used tons of Bowie lyrics (which I did twice in the body) and those who know me will appreciate I left out The Beatles’ Across the Universe and Elton John because I don’t like moist music. Purely my prejudices, nothing more.

Peace of Mindfulness Part 1

Since my Silence Project stalled some 13 months ago that there is now new hope for those of us that embrace calm and quiet. In part two I shall expand on Slow TV and the appreciation of zero action but today it’s purely about silence.

IMG_4677

To recap, in February 2017 I went to the British Library in London on a rainy Saturday to read a book about silence and to experience the concept in a pure environment. When I returned the book to the librarian she asked me in hushed tones why I had borrowed that book as it was the first time it had been requested. When I told her I was in search of silence both on paper and in her place of work she guffawed ‘Silence in this place? That’s a joke!” When I asked for an explanation she told me about humming heating/air conditioning, frustrated academics closing heavy tomes and lots of sighing. I also noticed two professor types pacing between desks as if they were auditioning for the art of ‘deep thinking cop’ in a Scandi crime drama.

I lost heart in the project and walked away from it. This was not only because of what the librarian said but in that short time I realised that the peace of mindfulness I was seeking was not going to be unearthed.

In the greater scheme of Mental Health I do not have any deep problems. I do have some anxieties but having witnessed profound anxiety closely I feel my own condition is not that of a sufferer and is more akin to that of the frustrated artist coupled with what I never wanted, but always predicted; regret of things not achieved.

As a young man I dabbled in various creative tangents but found neither the great talent within me nor the passion to dive into anything that might have lead to greatness. I held a conservative course and am paying the cost now. The good news is that because I kind of knew this would occur my regret is dampened and my anxiety is with the aid of a few legal chemicals, maintained at a low level.

I am surrounded by people that vent, splutter and dish out commands and find that with my Duck’s Back approach, I can handle most days. I have worked out that if I look and act calm then I can be so. This is amusing because when I trained as an actor in the 1980’s and a Performance Coach in the 2000’s the approaches were to work on the inside and to let it work its way out. Somewhat like a cold, a bowel movement or even love itself. ‘Learn to love yourself’ they’d say and then others will love you too.

I am not saying that these ideas are rubbish, but I am saying that sometimes if you hold an external position, it can internalise in a positive way too. These can lead to moments of quiet anguish and a fuddled brain but thus far it has worked. I have learned to stand still and stoic. Madness happens around and I can let the brickbats hit me knowing the longer I avoid retort, the stronger my position becomes. As I said, this can lead to a build up of internal damage, but in a world where everyone seems to be firing off all the time, it is right now, the better option.IMG_4689

4.43 a.m. I was standing at a window looking across the street. The silence as I now know was fake. I could hear my own head-buzz, I could sense the electricity in the street lamps and could certainly hear the nagging of Ted the cat. Yet despite the noisy quietness I found a new thing; stillness. All was still and the street scene became one of visual silence. It was certainly not an absolute, nor one that can be kept going for long, yet for the few moments before I broke away to run the bath tap for Ted to drink from, I sensed a new way of touching calmness.

Recommended reading:

https://www.lifehack.org/377243/science-says-silence-much-more-important-our-brains-than-thought?ref=facebook

The Overview Effect, (the manifesto anteprima*)

Ever heard of Spacex?

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

I hadn’t until I was recently struck by an audio bolt from the radio blue and learnt from the excellent presenter@NickyAACampbell that it is a private company at the vanguard of commercialising space travel. It aims to launch, literally, within months. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTIYPzfThps&feature=youtu.be

The radio discussion then morphed onto the Overview Effect which seemed so interesting…I had to learn more.

The Overview Effect appears to be a new(ish) awareness. It is a combination of thoughts and feelings around looking at Earth from space and realising:

  • Our planet is so small, it is probably only significant to the organisms that live here.
  • The only divisions on the globe are the ones of physical geography e.g. mountain ranges and water (lakes, oceans, rivers). Any political or national or human interventions are false constructs that despite the best efforts of ancient China or Hadrian are basically meaningless.
  • The human species’ desire to build fences and stake out ownership of land walks hand -in-hand with our communal actions of abusing land by chopping down oxygen giving greenery, melting polar ice caps, exploding/testing nuclear warheads and challenging animal species to cope with whatever we feel can be thrown at them.

The effect can probably be summed up; the planet in space is fragile and beautiful and perhaps godly. Yet ‘we’ prioritise other things and take it all for granted, probably because there is no such thing as ‘we’, just me plus me plus me…

This blog however is not a pro-eco clarion call. You can read that kind of thing anywhere (although if you want to cut out the chaff go straight to http://www.monbiot.com/

What I’m writing about is more akin to the exclamation (though neither the film nor its sci-fi context; “In SpaceNo One Can Hear You Scream.” (Alien dir. Ridley Scott 1979 sci-fi) and how, in effect, Space is the last quiet place. Alien

Some of my blogs over the last year have dealt with my Silence Project. It is something I find myself constructing piecemeal and it’s like building a jigsaw puzzle with no guarantee that the all the pieces are present and the box top picture is almost certainly a different scene from the one I am making.

Two weeks ago I went in search of silence in London. My plan was to visit an obvious silent place and then find a less obvious one in its shadow. I began at the British Library (my thoughts from there are at the foot of this page) and although I found a lovely art book on the topic (which I then bought online) my doubts about the existence of silence were confirmed as soon as I explained my project to a librarian called Ulmila. Her unprovoked reaction was something like ’Silence? In a library? You’re joking. This place is full of background sounds which are amplified by the voices of complaining people who want quiet.’

I left the magnificent building with every intention of going to at least one nearby park but my ardour was so dampened by the angular London rain, I returned to the Library and had Silence IMG_2387a coffee and high-sugar bun until I went home. It was in this café however that I had a mini revelation in the form of a flashback reverie.

I thought back to six days before when I had attended a wedding in a deconstructed brewery in the City of London. I recalled the moment my wife and I ambled towards the bar to say ‘hello’ to somebody and somebody. The bar was by the wall and the whole area was bathed in purple lights that jumped to this sick beat (so sue me Swift!) of the darkened vibrating room. The noise was nauseating and I didn’t hear a word that ‘we’ uttered to somebody and somebody, nor what somebody and somebody said back to ‘us’. Acting under previously dealt instructions not to abandon my spouse, I took a sidestep shuffle and propped up the once keg-lined wall. Seeing that somebody and somebody and my wife were merrily gesturing above the noise to each other I grabbed the moment by the ears, tipped my head forwards and shifted my gaze down at my non-dancing feet.

Aah…silence. Of sorts. In a room with 220 people competing with the pumping line of the hellish bass thumps I managed to crawl into the snail shell of my mind. I timed 26 seconds of respite. I snapped a mental photo of my shoes atop the light wood dance floor and although the music was present, I managed to subdue its relevance by allowing it to become wallpaper. Sure my ear drums were still being struck towards terminal deafness and no doubt any observer would have thought of me as a sad loner but I had stolen some hard-to-find thought time against the odds and in a throbbing environment to boot.

I have long argued that silence is more a state of mind than an absolute and now I have experienced it. I suppose my version of silence is a subjective truth rather than an unequivocal one but I am confident that with this rather muted revelation I have found a way forwards with the Silence Project.

Perhaps this is the birth of an Inner/Under View Effect or maybe it’s simply the overview as seen from inside. Either way, it’s no less valid.

True silence is impossible to find. Experts confirm this and add that even in a scientifically silent place you can hear your own blood careening through your system.

My staring point therefore is that silence is impossible. Extreme quiet however is possible and can bring about similar benefits. I’d actually go on to say that it’s preferable because it is natural and more comfortable for thinking beings to deal with.

Photos:

Earthrise; http://www.ecology.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg

Alien Poster: http://www.pxleyes.com/images/contests/movie-poster-recreation/fullsize/movie-poster-recreation-52953fe575c29.jpg

*anteprima=preview

15 / 02/ 2017 Rough notes

Facts: 11. Feb 2017 British Library, London 10.16 am. 22 degrees C Humanities 1. Thirty Two fellow readers, 65% female.

SOUND: A/C hum, padded footsteps on looped carpet. The soft slide of my borrowed pink pencil (TATE: [not sweet}). Low female voice with a non-local accent, brief punctuated coughing. Key board clicks. The low ecru suspended ceiling swallows bigger sounds and bounces them out through its holes.

SMELL: Cool tinge to a bookish musk

FEEL: Deep paged paper (this book!) smoothly springs up against my writing right hand. My own unshaven face.

SIGHT: Blanched people moving at slow pace and purpose. A woman breaks into a march and a bald male (professor?) follows suit. He slides to his chair, positions four books at jaunty angles (Blue one on the top) and flicker/reads the pages. Broad wide room, up lights shine up and move the white to grey.

Light wood modern desks consume the floor. A library, this one too, a centre of knowledge. These walls house data, opinion. Old news and accidental history (when I write now I’m not thinking of becoming the past).

My own concentration — as ever — is fragile and waning and the SILENCE is only a truth in outer space and earthling death.

Realising upon flickering and reading (flickerding?) that SILENCE (Kamps, Said Menil collections 2012) turns phrases of non-sound to pictorial art. Once concept represents another and my problem with (love of) art is that it borrows its stabilizers from philosophy and intellectual impulse. My project needs to come in at a non-intellectual level.

Person I met: Ulmila, female library assistant who once worked in ASDA and the library in Colindale and at once misses the buzz of retail yet appreciates the calm of the British Library. She also -now that she is older -likes the detail of handling book loans. She agrees that true silence is an unrealistic concept, even in the BL. People complain about human generated sounds, but it is futile.

Dancing on the Jetty

(Alternative silences)faenza

A warm 4pm sun slanted towards me as it prepared to set. The 27 degrees were made bearable by a speedy breeze. I stepped up onto the repaired jetty and began a casual stroll seawards towards its lamp bearing point. This is one of two parallel structures that sit about 200 meters apart astride the estuary of Porto Santa Margherita, Caorle near Venice.

I love this place.

I love the peace of knowing that to my right sat my hereditary home town of Venice, to my left, the  Gulf of Trieste and in front, beyond this pier, the relative safety of a calm Adriatic. I’m no seafarer, but if you want to wax and wane about green\blue salt waters, this is a good comfort-zone location to do it.

I was on a mission of silence. Part of a project to unearth a level of inner peace – something that has always eluded me.  It should have been easy to let the wind and lapping waters transport me someplace ‘else’ but to be frank, I’ve never been able to relax or to contemplate but a self-awareness crept up on me as I watched other people I could begin to take aim.

As I begun the stroll I was immediately struck by how many other people were passing their time on this same strip of concrete. A random cross-selection of Italy, about fifty people, was shuffling, marching, walking, swaggering and flouncing.

There was the noise of the seaside; birds, swans, wind, voices and the further I walked out, the softer they became. The shuffling sandals always belonged to people and of the people, this group of disconnects, I found four types of person, each embracing their own peace;

Western Guru, Fishermen, The Seaweed Community, The Observer’s Shadow.

When it comes to a calm the mind there’s no hierarchy and no space for judgement. Each has their own place along the jetty and whether that person is on a holiday break, a pause between bouts of depression, a child losing her inhibitions in the warm sun and a million other permutations. They are all valid.

What works for you

Could work for them

Or it may not.

If this silence is actually loud

There’s another version that will work

Your task is to find it and own it

And this is one thing you don’t have to share.

The first person was the Western Guru. 

guru
Western Guru. Vuitton bag, Yoga mat and an Occidental sun

A European man sat facing the sea. Legs crossed lotus. His slim flexible frame sent a shudder of envy down my un-flat stomach. With his yoga mat and straight back it could even be that he wanted to be seen ‘doing it right’. I couldn’t decide if he was performing and wishing to be seen or truly building from inside. To offer the benefit of my doubt, I’d say that from his point of view the passing sample of public was an incidental thing. He could create an internal calm not despite, but because of the external sounds. Slapping waves, gull cries and even fighter jets on their way to and from an air display along the coast.

The more (confusion) outside: the more (controlled calm) inside.

It made me think that to assume a place of inner silence when already surrounded by silence, can for a town dweller, be rather daunting. But to be silent when surrounded by the familiarity of sounds and voices can enhance the peace.

And on I went along the path. I remember a brassy hook embedded in the sunken concrete that blinked up at me emblazoned TEMA FAENZA.

And so to the fishermen.

Mainly alone yet some in pairs, these men and boys enthuse about tackle and bait yet once they’ve cast the line, cloak themselves in stillness. Somehow the muted hubbub doesn’t affect the fish and a little like the Western Guru their actions are minimal and habitual. They do what they do and that is enough.  fishermen

Fishermen seem to know themselves. They appear self-aware.

Is their end game really to capture the flailing floppy fish or is the act of fishing the end in itself? I shifted focus to a tanned man with a simple rod and the ancientness of this activity came to me. Was this the beginning of humans discovering patience? When they accepted that the road to the goal of food required strategy and stillness and that this waiting time brought about the bonus of introspection and chill?

As I moved along the pier I noted that if a fish was caught it was the watching kids and adults that reacted in excitement at the capture. The fishermen remained stoic and controlled, as if the hook and haul was part of the process, not the end of it. Somehow even though hobby fishermen could undertake the activity without trying for a catch, the potential bite remains key. Even if the catch is in truth a secondary goal to the main one of carving out some ‘me-time’, to achieve moments of peace, the ‘wake-up’ jump-to-it moment of getting a bite is sewn into the process.

The Seaweed Community.

And on further towards the sea I went. To my right, on the large bank of sloping crane-planted rocks sat three young people and a dog. Here they shared a long, clumsily rolled joint. My first thoughts turn to the quadruped, barking his passive smoking way to dog-space. And as his bark subsided I confessed to myself that I never got this hippy thing. Personally I’m happier with the odd-un-shared Tramadol.

seaweed
The dog sits low on the stones between her left kidney and his left knee.

‘Off my head inside my head. Alone.’

Yet this group chill is shared by many and as I watch the humans giggle and move in slow motion I accept that this kind of shared space doesn’t have to be a bad space. Whatever these people are feeling, or think they are feeling, I can see that as the sun sets and the sea breeze blows, the reality of the situation really doesn’t matter. If you can slip into a moment and then let it slip away, what the hell?  After all, it’s a viable rehearsal for the great unknown. The giggles and whispers between the youths and the dog are certainly not silence, at least not in its literal format but the state of a different reality is possibly just as valid. I suppose the issue with drugs, apart from dangers, costs and social alienation is that they might take you further away from inner peace rather than nearer to it.

But I’m not the one to judge because my own peace is largely derived from being the passive observer. I’d like to be the invisible man. In fact not even that man himself, but his shadow. Reality not once, but twice removed.

The Observer’s Shadow.

Consider some facts;

shadow
I cast a shadow taller than I’ll ever be, yet he’ll never be anything other than flat and in 2D.

 

  1. I have tried yoga and meditation. I’ve even had an Ayurveda massage and disliked them all. I find that an enforced introspection can dig up those not-so-deep lying demons of failure, conspiracy of the system against me and lost opportunities. The shark-toothed bite of nostalgia can infect me with quaint smells and deep regrets. My past is one of cautious times cautious squared. The ghost of the mediocre scares me when my own silence is loud.
  1. I tried fishing too and despite the thrill, the idea of waiting Godot-like for a fishy end with a wormy hand and hook-punctured finger has no appeal. I’d be sitting on the edge wishing I’d brought my hand sanitiser. C’est la guerre.

 

HOWEVER.

I do find a peace in being the watcher. The one based on the periphery with licence to step in and step out in a heartbeat.

My silent place is derived from watching two or three people or ideas come together and curating the outcome.

I’m aware that this is very much an artist’s position. Watching, interpreting and creating. My own silent place kicks-in before the creation. It’s the joy of seeing connections, those already manifested and those yet to occur. The world recreates miniature works of art every moment and even if I’m no Da Vinci, I can still sense the silent rumble of things about to unfurl.

swans
Swans in the sea, whatever next?

 

 

 

Silent Horizon with Auditory Features

 

In conclusion there is silence

Yet before arriving there is noise, musing and meander

But for sure, the end is as it begins.

Summer for many people is a focal point. It is supposed to represent a pause in proceedings and an opportunity to rest and restore energy. It can also however be an unwelcome and abrupt halt. In fact to many, the whole concept of a hot August and its dog days conjures up images of sole-burning sand, pesky sun-in-the eyes and excessive heat. It becomes a hurdle to overcome before you can return to long sleeved, double-layered normality of cool.

 

Occurring soon after the year’s halfway mark, high summer is a period which peaks in mid-August, then plateaus and descends like a lava-skier down towards the calendar’s finale. People work/strive/limp towards it and with varying degrees and combinations of dread and excitement attempt to deal with it.

An often cited reason for taking a vacation is to relax. This, to me has long been a challenge and the proof is that despite my annual plea to my family to cajole me into booking the annual family trip early, I always leave it until late. I wait for the internal stress to boil up and the external familial bullying to reach a shrill pitch that usually with a few weeks to go, I relent and sort it out. Colleagues think I’m being laid back, my family think I don’t really care and the truth is that booking and embarking make my head whistle.

This whistle is not a metaphor either, it’s a thing of truth.

During moments of great pressure I get clattered by in-head voices. They start as a mumble and rise in pitch until I hear a high treble whirr that recreates the feeling of that self-inflicted in-flight yawn we create when the plane bang-whacks the altitude where ear-canals block. I become momentarily deaf and my hammer/anvil thump in tune with my heart to such intensity that I cannot tell which organ is calling me.

This moment is born from stress plus others peoples’ noises that amalgamate and become a pure fact that chases me inside myself. Within these sounds of patting and tapping a soft silent hand-like gesture sweeps my brain from nape to forehead and for a few absent seconds I crawl behind my closed eyes and engage a noiseless cocoon.

Yet this sensation has also happened during those all-too-few moments of personal greatness.

Once, when I unexpectedly won a sprint at junior school, another time when I was announced as the winner of a competition I hadn’t even entered and most recently when I opened an email to discover I’d been offered work by an organisation that had ‘released’ me four years previously. My internal reaction to triumph brings about the same sense of tinnitus as does my brain’s need for flight during fight.

What’s going on? How is it that moments of extreme, out-of-the blue, self-actualisation on one hand and cacophonous human vocal-screams on the other, both have the capacity to force me inside?

For some time I struggled to see how these sensations were connected, but three suns of conclusion have now dawned;

  1. I am not built to deal with the extremes of either success or conflict. This is odd because I have always purported to want success and anyone who knows me will tell you how I go to great lengths to avoid conflict. I suspect that somewhere ‘back there’ I’ve forged an agreement that offsets the horrors of litigation with holding back from real success.
  2. These moments, especially the good ones, belong to me and are not to be shared. I think this is partly because what I feel as something great e.g. having an article published in a magazine is seen as ‘nothing special’ by my peers.

But less literally I feel that every one of us feels differently and uniquely about stuff. Like that age old ‘When we both see the sky is blue, do we both see the exact same hue?’

{So, when a sports commentator asks an Olympic medal winner how she feels about her success, it’s not a dim question. The only regrettable thing is that we don’t have the words to express the personal truth.}

3. A way to digest and evaluate the extremes of life is to manage them in silence. There are times to spell it out / spill it out / shout / cry / punch the air / laugh aloud but these a short and sharp.

Silence, once under your control can be stretched and dwelled within.

A blanket in winter or

A reflective shield

During days of the summer diamond dog.

 

The Storm

 

PHOTOS:

http://www.fashionising.com/pictures/b–Vintage-inspiration-girl-in-the-bubble-4973.

html#/gallery/collection/10http://www.fashionising.com/pictures/b–Vintage-inspiration-girl-in-the-bubble-4973.html#/gallery/collection/4

flickr.com/photos/dfikar1/6837981235/