Rivers and Forests.

I read somewhere once that music is like a river. That everyone whilst being able to appreciate its beauty cannot appreciate its power unless they fully submerge themselves in the water and become part of the current. The people that become part of the river, the people that become the continuous ebb and flow of the water, the forever changing patterns of ripples and tides, the sunken debris forgotten by all and missed by none – these people are musicians.

They understand the river better than the river does and when mere mortals hear just an incessant babbling of water over rocks and lapping against the banks, musicians hear something entirely different. They don’t hear the noise of the river, rather than the music of it. They have become part of the river and respect its ability to take them anywhere and away from anything. People who do not have the ability or the inclination to be part of the river become passive observers to something that at first appears as simple as a body of water or a string of chords, but to the river, and to the musicians, there is a far deeper and more complicated meaning to its composition.

When I read this I instantly began to think about the river in all its complexity and my mind drifted to the forest. During the day a forest is possibly one of the most breath taking and beautiful places you would be lucky enough to find yourself standing in and its omnipresence is astounding sometimes. Mile after mile of trees that have stood longer than your lineage and will outlast the best of us, intertwined forever with the earth through a connection of soil, roots and promise. Massive natural structures completely untouched by man that dwarf you into insignificance and remind you just how unimportant you actually are.

Sun breaking through bough after bough of fragile looking leaves, no two the same that seem so utterly breakable but are in fact intricate natural phenomena that put our peasant like cardio vascular system to shame. Trunks as wide as cars and armoured with bark that is so easy to break and impossible to replace. Stagnant earth swamps your head and on a hot day can become absolutely intoxicating. The smell of soft, damp, breathing wood and the muddled sense of belonging to the earth and it to you when standing in such a place.

Every possible crevice your eyes could search rich with life and death in equal quantities, a never quite silent place that is as unnerving as it is attractive. You could be a hundred miles away from the nearest human being or they could be hiding behind the nearest tree but the forest will never forsake your solitude. You came to it and you took the time to breathe with it, if only for a moment and if only coincidentally. For that single moment, you were alive with the rest of the world and in that single moment you were perfect.

Then you start to feel an unsettling kind of bewilderment radiating from your stomach and forcing your teeth to clench. The sun is dipping behind the broken boughs and shadow begins to steal the way out. It’s getting cold and suddenly there are too many trees, too many twisted skeletal remains of various fallen friends blocking your once safe path and threatening to send you spluttering onto the damp, dead floor. You start to shudder as shadow begins to envelope you as well as the forest, and your heart begins beating in your ears. Saliva pours into your mouth and you realise that you are frightened.

Because what was so beautiful just moments before the sun disappeared behind the now suffocating canopy of translucent leaves and insidiously shaped branches, is now one of the most intimidating places you dare to imagine. The liberating closeness of the trees now feels claustrophobic and the quaintly sporadic half walked paths that were roughly guiding you through to the end have now disappeared in the darkness and you are on your own and out of your element.

You are now alone in the dark with the earth and the earth doesn’t seem to like you very much anymore. The fractured roots of monolithic trees catch your feet and send a jolt of adrenaline straight to your already over excited heart. Getting out of the forest is all you can think about now. The sounds of crickets and birds are now haunting and unsafe, the low rumble of what you thought was a toad in the day light, the ruffling of leaves on the forest floor that would have been a rabbit were the sun still up, have now become the sounds of ravenous wolves and angry animals the likes of which your pressured mind need not comprehend for fear of complete and utter terror.

But there is one consistent in it all, one thing about the forest that never changes even when the light surrounding it does. Like water is needed to make a river a river, trees are needed to make a forest a forest and it is the likeness to these trees that call to mind the similarities between musicians and water.

Just as musicians are ever changing, flowing with what seems to be at times unbridled passion and unadulterated abandon for what convention has to say about how they choose to follow the bends in their banks, writers and the words they string together are stoic and unchangeable like the trees of a forest. A musician on stage performing a song can change it at any given moment, improvising or just following a tangent of unthinking trust that the music, the river, will guide them to the end of the performance unscathed.

Writers have a harder time adapting their work once it’s completed.  The moment those words pass through a press and onto the page, they are their forever, the deafening deepness of their roots hard to ignore or escape. Books do not flow, they do not adapt and their trunks are only soft when they are young. Once they are complete, finished and rooted in reality they stay the way they were made forever, or until someone cuts them down and rebuilds them in their own image.

We cannot improvise and we cannot comment, we are instead forced to stand on whilst the sun fades behind us and what you once treasured about the stories we told becomes marred with sadness and fear. We cannot uproot and clear a path for you to follow, we cannot lap against your ankles and offer you comfort when you so desperately need it.

All we can do is what we have always done; look on with concrete confidence and hope that even when the sun sets on our time together, your knowledge of and trust in the forest of the day will accompany you to the end of our affair with a deeper understanding of just how hard it is to be one tree in a forest, one drop in a river and one story that at one point, needed to be told.

It is through this understanding of relative simplicity that we cease to be rivers and forests, men and women, broken and whole and we simply become what we were always meant to be but never really took time to notice we were – alive.

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Your Fears – Defined.

When someone says the word “define” to me my stomach knots. When it is followed by the ever faithful “in your own words” a bile sets into my mouth. Yet today, I was asked to do just that – to “define” horror, as a genre or otherwise, “in my own words”.

Up until that moment I had never thought of the definition of what has become throughout the course of my life one of the most influential and poignant tools to not only my writing but in turn, to my view of the world and its inhabitants.

Horror is widely perceived to offer the consumer one thing – cheap thrills. Anything deeper, or darker, than superficial (and mostly superfluous) entertainment usually brings about a completely different genre definition – Dracula for example. I would not define Dracula as horror, for the intimidating elements of Bram Stoker’s classic are not the defining characteristics of what has made it so timeless. It is erotic, thought provoking and two steps away from absurd at times. It’s the ultimate anti-hero tale that just so happens to be set against a spooky canvas with some devilish undertones.

Those of you who know me (and have read some of my rants on here) will be expecting one name to drop now – Stephen King. How you ask, can I write anything about, well anything, without somehow bringing the King into it? Well my friends, you know me well, because I am going to drop his name right now.

I do not perceive what the King writes to be “horror” in any traditional sense of the word, and those of you who are learned enough to have read beyond “It” and “Misery” will know why I say this. I can think of more books that the King has given us that have no supernatural elements whatsoever, that scarred my mind and played with my heart for longer than even his most sickly tales of textbook gore.

Three words – The Bachman Books. A compilation of stories published between 1977 and 1982 all of which are void of the standard boundaries of horror writing as we know it. (*Disclaimer – I refer to the four short stories published in the compilation The Bachman Books and do not include “Thinner” (1984) in the next series of statements (PS. Brackets inside brackets rock! :P)).

“Rage” (1977), “The Long Walk” (1979), “Roadwork” (1981) and “The Running Man” (1982) – These are my examples and if you have not read them, then you have no earthly business here so please move along, long days and pleasant nights to you J

For those of you that remain these stories are in my mind offer some of the most notable and defining characteristics of horror and still to this day haunt my mind from time to time like no others. They have no supernatural beings, no demons in hoods or inbred super humans with chainsaws – all they have is real people, in real (and some would say unthinkable) circumstances. Because at the end of if it all, is that not what we are afraid of most as human beings? The REAL horror?

We are told from the time we can remember that the things that scare us as children are A) not real or B) not threatening – or sometimes both. Therefore we starve that fear within ourselves and no longer as adults find the vampires, ghosts and ghouls of time gone by intimidating anymore. This is a double edged blade in many ways. It allows us to grow up (reasonably) well adjusted as an adult afraid of such childish notions is frowned upon – but the sharper side of that blade is that it desensitizes us to the things we SHOULD live in fear of and paints our world an shade of magnolia.

We should fear the ordinary, the mundane and the dreary that sap at our souls and eat away at our subconscious. We should fear each and everyday being the same, repetition leading to passivity. To be passive, about anything, is a disease. To be passive is to be dead on the inside, if not on the outside too. So we starve the fear of childhood and replace it with the fears of adulthood.

If you were to ask a grown man in the street which do you fear more – a dinosaur coming through your bedroom window and eating you and your wife while you sleep in your overpriced linens, OR lets say life strangling monetary debt? I cannot make any guarantees in this life, for I am not Yoda, but I would bet my breeches on the latter being more scary to anyone “normal” in this day and age.

One simple fact makes this so – debt is real, dinosaurs are not (sad face). Therefore you must ask yourself, as our fears change due to social, political, economical and a whole lot of other -cal unrest in the world, does this not in turn, change the definition of horror?

As adults we fear our cars not starting more than psychopathic clowns lurking in the bushes with razors for teeth. We fear maxing out our credit cards and then dealing with grossly inflated repayments, more so than we fear faceless monsters under our beds at night. We guard our houses with alarms and flashing lights to ward off burglars, feeling no need to have a barrage of crosses and garlic hanging by our front doors to ward off vampires.

The fear of a child is a beautiful, endearing and natural being that should be starved for the sanity of said child. As a person whom read her first King novel at the tender age of eleven, I can vouch for this. We forget that those children, whom starve their fears until they have no strength to scare them anymore, never quite have the ability to kill them completely. They therefore carry these fears into adulthood – that’s when it gets interesting.

Authors are duty bound to make you feel what they are portraying in their prose. To make someone swoon at a love story, cringe at a war crime, or feel empathy towards a lonely old spinster in a wedding dress – these emotions are easy to capture, as love, guilt, hurt, empathy – they are all emotions we are allowed to express as adults. Mummy and Daddy are however, not so easily entitled to fear as their children are.

To make Mummy and Daddy look over their shoulder when they are walking home from work, for fear of what lurks in the sewer grates beneath their feet, to make Mummy and Daddy get into bed before turning off the light at night, for fear of what may grab their bare feet from under the bed in the process – to make Mummy and Daddy’s hearts beat in their throat until they feel as though the bastard were physically trying to climb out of their mouths – this is the power of horror, because when it comes down to it, the things we are afraid of never change, just our willingness to address them.

If as a writer you can force people to address the things inside themselves that they forget they were afraid of so long ago, to make them look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what they would do if they actually did find themselves in palaver with a clown with razors for teeth, you are in turn forcing them to question their own psyches and again, as a result – their own humanity.

To make a credit card seem small, to make a deadline at work seem frivolous, to render Christmas with the in-laws worry free, by replacing these fears with those childish notions of fright – to make an adult face that child within them – opens so many doors, the draught alone may cause a complete overhaul of that persons life. It has the power to change them.

If you are capable of doing this, then my friends you will have marked the earth for eternity, for when human beings die, they leave behind headstones but when legends pass on – they leave behind legacies, that long outlive even the stone that upon which the mere mortals of this world will all inevitably carve their epitaphs.

The Heart of a Child.

When I look back at my life as a (hopefully) old woman, I want to know that I did all the wrong things for all the right reasons. There are things I wanted five years ago that seem to me now, better left as pipe dreams, the ramblings of an over imaginative teenage mind. However, the dreams I do still possess would seem that way to most of you reading this were I to tell you what those dreams were, but in all honesty, have you achieved your dreams?

When you were a kid did you say to your friends –

I want a job where I sit behind a desk all day in a polyester uniform and fluorescent tubing illuminating the depravity of the stale magnolia room that I call my workplace. I want a nondescript dog with an equally pallid human name, because after all animals are my “babies”. I want to sit in traffic all morning listening to Traffic FM, looking out at all the other tired faces stuck in the rush. I want to mix all my liquor with lemonade because it is not acceptable in polite company to drink anything stronger than a beer without a mixer. I want to complain about how busy my life is, when in actual fact I lay awake at night with stomach cramps and tears in my throat, at the thought of how bitterly boring my life really is. I want to read nice books, watch nice films and wear nice clothes. I want to donate my three pound a month to charity and sleep better at night knowing that I am helping “the less fortunate”. I want to raise three blonde haired, blue eyed children who all end up with a degree, a car, a spouse of the opposite sex and three more identical children each, replicating the uniform of perfection for the generations to come. I want to paint my nails in neutral translucent polishes because anything other than that is garish and offensive to taste. I want to vote for the same politicians year after year because partisanship is what made this country great. I want to make love once or twice a week, always in my bed and always for a certain amount of time. I want to live for my package holidays in Spain where I can let my hair down for a couple of weeks and drink wine with my lunch. I want to drive a car that has more buttons and knobs that I know what to do with, but will turn heads when I pull up in the car park. I want to do all my shopping at farm stores and local venues, because I support my community. I want to hold my chin up high and give the youths that pass me wearing torn jeans and lip rings, my best “I’m-not-afraid-of-you” look. I want to wake up at half past five in the morning on a Sunday and trawl round car boot sales, to fill my house with other people’s unwanted shit. I don’t want to get involved in people’s problems and a fight on the street is none of my business. I want to be able to wear a Winnie The Pooh watch as a forty year old woman because Winnie The Pooh is timeless. I want the highlight of my year to be a meal round the table with the relatives that could make it, while the real pine Christmas tree sparkles in the corner of the room and no one finishes what they put on their plate. I want to live a long and happy life, knowing that I made ripples in the waters of life.

I want to be normal.

Kids never aim to do any of these things and yet the adults they evolve into seem to fall neatly into many of the beige compartments of conformity and why? Because your parents and their parents before them, know the dangers of making waves instead of ripples. They train you to reach for the stars and ignore what lies beyond it. They tell you that you need a job, a spouse and three perfectly formed children to match you perfectly formed people carrier that sits in its cradle outside your perfectly formed house. They do not train you in this way because they want you to be normal, heavens no.

They would love you to be the astronaut that occupied your vocational mind between the ages of five and six, or to actually be able to make a living from playing your twanging guitar – they would love you to be able to accomplish it because they too, would have wanted to be able to live that life. They do however, know more than you ever will, and by the time you leave home they only want one thing for you and it is not the stars, the fast cars or the endless mountains of cash – its security.

At the end of it all that’s all any parent wants for their children and if it means falling into the land of the beige and living a good, clean and honest life to achieve a low blood pressure and a calming existence then why wouldn’t a parent wish this life upon their children? I don’t care for my daughters blood pressure. I don’t care for the colour of her life. I don’t care for the money she will one day have in the bank. I don’t care if my daughter remains a rolling stone her entire life – I care about her heart.

If my daughter wakes up in the morning with a smile on her face, goes to bed at night with the same expression and does exactly what she wants to do in between I can honestly say I would sleep content in my old age knowing that she never gave in. I want her to bleed, to cry, to push and to writhe with want. I want her to want something that bad that she never gives up, that she keeps pushing through the mind numbing boredom of the beige compartments until she gets it. I don’t want her to settle for anything less than her childish notions of happiness, because at the end of it all – isn’t that when we are at our best?

Being an adult is an amazing time of life and the responsibilities that come with being an adult do nothing but enrich our outlook on the world. But if you can maintain the childish qualities of dream keeping and balance it with the adult duty of book keeping, if you can still comfortably climb a tree without fearing what other parents in the playground may think of you, if you can still build a fort in the living room on a Saturday morning with Pokemon on the television, eating toast wrapped in blankets without pausing for a moment to worry about what might stain and what might crease – then you have achieved as close to nirvana as one would dare to find in this century.

When push comes to shove all we want is to be happy and in turn its all we want for our children, but happiness does not come from a catalogue or in a pay cheque. True, unadulterated, fiercely beautiful happiness comes from one overlooked and underrated place within ourselves. It is a place that most forget is even contained inside us. There are people in the world who would kill to have this place etched out in their histories and in their blood and bone beings. It is the place that so many people before us fought and died to preserve and it is the only place that will bring you any real joy.

There is a place inside you that holds your freedom. Your freedom to do what you please, when you please and how you want to do it. See the world through your adult eyes – assess risks, pay bills, go to work, remember birthdays – but feel the world with a child’s heart. In between these places you will find yourself truly free and in return inexplicably and fundamentally happy.

When my daughter asks me what I want her to be when she grows up I will smile and touch her soft, curly brown hair. She will look at me like I have officially lost the last of my marbles when I respond –

“You.” If I have done my job correctly, she will understand exactly what I mean. I may even get a hug.

The Art of Secret Keeping.

As human beings we are entitled to certain things, whether it is shelter from the proverbial storm or simply the chance to meet another human being and fall in love. Some people call them human rights, others would just refer to these commonly held practices as the means of living but I personally view them as privileges and among them, secret keeping is one of the most loved and loathed of all the privileges we get to hold.

Now whether you have been with your partner for fifty years or fifty days, the entire process of keeping secrets from your other half is frowned upon, yet, we all do it. Whether you, confused reader, will admit it to yourself or others there are certain aspects of your life, past, present or future that you keep shrouded in mystery from the one whose hand you hold; and why? Because of fear. Fear is the harbourer of secrets and while you are afraid the person you love will never truly know you.

I am of the opinion that to be in love you must know the person whom you claim to own your heart, but not just know them superficially. No, you should know them inside out and back to front because if you don’t, or evenly if you only partially do, you cannot possibly love half a person with your entire heart. So I put it to you that some people, fortunate in their place it could be argued, choose to instead love many people with many different parts of their heart, content in the knowledge that to love any other way with any other fraction of their being would be perilous.

I am one of these people. I love each and every person in my life with a different part of my heart and no one human being owns the whole. To give someone, anyone, the entirety of your heart, the very reason you walk and talk and live today, is in my opinion, terribly irresponsible. Instead, I cut up my heart a long time ago and stored the pieces away inside the hearts of those that loved me most and have loved me the longest. They all carry with them their own individual piece of me that should they wish to return it during the course of our lives together, would simply wilt away and die, causing me not to lose my entire heart and purpose of love, but to only lose a small piece of what makes me breathe.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you that I live this way for any other more poetic reason than that I am scared to death of anyone having the potential to destroy an already scarred heart. If I could I would lock it away in a snuff box in the top drawer of my writing desk and show it to neither man nor beast until the day that I was called to leave the earth and the box behind. I fear not only for myself but for the hundreds of people whom every day profess to love someone with their entire heart. I fear for the day that that heart is returned to them and no longer knows how to function in one person’s body.

I keep too many secrets from too many people to willingly bestow my entire soul to them and not since I was a child, naïve and alone, did I even contemplate what life would be like without those secrets to keep me sane. Now I have never killed a man or bedded another’s soul mate, my secrets are not lurid or devious in any sense, but my secrets are mine. They are mine to keep and though I cannot stash my heart away as I would have liked to, I have the capability to keep my secrets mine forever and never lay them bare to a world that doesn’t care. They will not fester and they will not hurt me, they have been with me far too long to do so, but they will always remain a thorn in my side that even if I were to tell them to anyone, would still persist to nudge me every so often and remind me they were once there.

The art of secret keeping can drive a man insane or make him function as a reasonable human being safe in the knowledge that sometimes fear is a persuasive enough reason to commit yourself to a life half told.

Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

So it has come to my attention that I am not a very nice person and in my usual stubborn ways, I want to buck this definition as much as I can. Now the way I see it people are mean for three main reasons – persona, agenda and nature.

Sometimes people paint a picture of who they want to be in their head and if you were to ask them if they were happy with whom they are now, today, they would invariable say no. People don’t want to care, they don’t want to give a fuck what other people think about them but everyone does, in some way whether they hide it well and appear to have a chip on their shoulder, or if indeed they let everything get to them and publically break down to show that they are genuinely hurt.

I would have to say that yes, when it comes to persona I am more for the former than the latter definition of how people deal with judgement, but then again, if I didn’t care what people thought of me and more to the point, how people think I perceive them, I wouldn’t be writing this. The truth is that nobody is born mean, you are made mean and I for all intents and purposes have found that life is a little less jagged when you don’t take anything, including other people’s thoughts and feelings, too seriously.

Now I have come to this conclusion by trying to show people in the past how their actions have hurt me but then by way of dealing with the fact that they themselves didn’t seem to care, I seem to have mirrored the behaviour that tainted my outlook on life to begin with. I think we all take from each other what prevails most from someone’s persona. If someone is so abjectly nice to you, even a monster such as myself finds it very difficult to be horrible to them pointlessly or otherwise, because they are just far too nice to do that to. On the other hand if someone is really nasty to you, you find no fault nor cause for concern with your growing contempt and blatant dislike for said person.

Persona is the most difficult hand to shuffle because everyone has a different one, but suffice to say that what you project to the world is what you get back. If you are nice and calm, relaxed in tone and phrase then you are surely going to encounter less social friction in your life than if you are crude and abrasive or hostile in tone and phrase. The world likes nice people more, it has become what you are supposed to be, and that is why people who are a little less than nice, are people that you don’t particularly want to associate with.

Then comes agenda. Some people are mean because it suits them at the time but it isn’t really a reflection on the people they are, more so than the circumstances they find themselves in. If someone has hurt them, they will build up a shield around the soft, sensitive centre that they hold behind said shield, and will again, as in persona, mirror the way the world or that particular person has treated them.

This is when you see nice people turn nasty. It is mostly out of necessity and once they are removed from the situation that is causing them to harbour negative behaviours, they more often than not revert back to being the nice, calm collected people we all know and despise. Mean people have the same ability to change their persona’s according to what society demands from them at any given time. If this wasn’t the case mean people probably would never get a job, have any friends or indeed find romance in their lives – but they do. This is because however much we think it is true, mean people aren’t necessarily bad people.

And this brings us to the last thing that makes people mean – nature.  Some people are just naturally more cruel than others and the extremes of this can be seen in serial killers. One of the most remarkable character traits the appears again and again in the most deranged members of the human race, is that cruelness and charisma seem to go hand in hand.

This is why mean people can still function in society and even though they would probably have less enemies if they were nicer, they would most likely have no fewer friends. People who generally don’t indulge in the gooey side of life, who don’t make their way through the world with superfluous niceties and mindless etiquette, are refreshing sometimes because at the core of it, at least you know who they are from the beginning and you are not led on a rambling voyage of darkened discovery when you come to the realisation that every human being is both bad and good.

Some people choose to walk in the light and some choose to walk in the dark, and depending on your vantage point, the world is either a beautiful place or a harrowing hell hole. Nice people see the good things in the world, they see the joy, the majesty and the absolute awe of it all but mean people also have a lot to give the world. Mean people see the secrets, the corruption and the septic mess that boils underneath the surface of the nice peoples world.

Mean people see the world for what it really is because they also have the ability to see the world as nice people do. Mean people feel love, they experience joy and they are surrounded by beauty that if anything they appreciate more because unlike those blinded by the inherent social expectation of kindness, the comparison between light and dark in the world of the mean, is far more saturated.

So yes, I am not a very nice person and yes I accept that this is a result of my persona and what I choose to show the world, my agenda as in how I feel most comfortable showing my feelings in any given situation and indeed my nature. I have amazing friends, a wonderful family and an outlook on life that I treasure and it is the one reason I would never make myself nicer to bend to the will of anybody else.

I see the world for what it is, and with that view I can not only see when something is wondrous but I can also tell when it is withering. It makes the process of knowing what to live for much easier.

All That We Keep

I have moved from place to place for the past ten years of my life never really knowing the difference between going back and going home. During these unstable years of my adolescence and early adult life I have amassed a collection of oddities that sometimes I regard with a bemused confusion, as to why those few tokens of my past have survived the years and never seen the inside of a bin bag.

There is the stuffed lady bird that I bought from a charity shop in Walton less than twenty four hours before my daughter was born. My sister Lizzie was living in Cyprus at the time and she was one of the only people I wanted on that day, yet she was one of the only people I didn’t have. I saw this lady bird poking out of a basket of teddies and toys that was bathing in the mid spring sunshine of the baking pavement. I picked it up and instantly knew I could not leave it behind. It wasn’t until I climbed back into my mother’s car, thoughts of my impending hospital stay weighing heavily on my mind, that one of the stuffed lady birds wings flipped up and I saw “Lizzy” embroidered into its back. Since then I have never had the heart to confine it to the injustice of a charity shop basket again.

Then there is the empty Woodbine packet that I have carried with me for nearly five years. When I met my ex-husband we were young and terribly romantic. I was smoking Woodbine’s, a filter less cigarette that harked back to my years in the second world war, or so I mused, and every day during our tender courtship, he would appear at my front door with a packet of said cigarettes in his hand. We would sit and smoke in the cold sunshine of the autumn we met, his hair longer than it will likely be again and my heart far more open than it is willing to roam these days. For the life of me, I cannot understand why I have never thrown this memory away along with the empty cigarette box, but there are some things that remind you of the good before it turned bad, a reminder I feel bitterness is all too quick to dismiss and discard.

I have given away a number of bracelets and necklaces to the people I love throughout my life and my best friend could probably start a collection of odd bits of tat that I have given her over the ten years we have known each other, and likewise I too possess many random fridge magnets, scraps of paper, knots of thread and beads that I too will probably never lose for her spirit and the spirit of our enduring friendship is symbolised by all of them. There is one piece of jewellery though that meant so much to me from the moment it came into my life to the moment it left that I cannot help but wonder whether or not it is treasured in the same way I did regard it when it was mine.

A grey clay pendant with Ugarit wedge writing blacked onto the face. I loved this necklace and parting with it was difficult but it was something that tangibly meant a lot to me and knowing the person who now owns it, I knew it would mean a lot to them too. There is something sacred about giving an object to someone, something so personal that has lived and breathed against your skin, been chewed at, rained on and shone in the sun that saturated the days the person wore it. I suppose that is why you give rings to those you love to not only quantify but cultivate your love for them.

And that brings me to the final thing I hold onto that I have no earthly business to endear. My engagement ring. It’s a simple white gold band with a diamond big enough to matter but still not so big as to cause offense to my rather peasant like tastes. It was given to me by a man many years ago, a man whom for the briefest of moments was my everything and I his. There was frost on the ground when he gave it to me, in a small silver box and asked that I be his for then and forever.

I must say since the day I took it off and placed it in the box with my parents wedding rings, as well I my own plain white gold band and his, I haven’t look upon it too much. But I know its there for those moments when I question when and how I came to be sitting where I am no writing what I am, as the person I had no idea I would become.

I think this is why we hold onto such seemingly superfluous reminders of our past that to someone else would be misconstrued as junk – train tickets, buttons, badges, key rings, strips of fabric fallen from a favourite t-shirt, a shoe lace from that one pair of shoes you always hoped would be immortal, clothes that don’t fit and never will again, empty bottles, photographs, notes that survived the years since you have sat in a classroom, dried flowers, mugs, sticks of bark, pebbles and stones from somewhere you found peace.

Then above them, buried somewhere that spring cleaning and moving houses cannot accidently dispose of them  are the things that we cherish most. The intangible but ever present and ever growing bank of memories. We hold onto these physical oddities as a physical reminder that what we went through actually happened and that the things that sometimes feel like they were too good to have been true, actually were.

You were a child. You did fall madly and irrevocably in love. You did like that song. You did laugh until you couldn’t breathe. You did sit on that shoreline. You did say those things. You did dance in those shoes. You did pick that flower. You were friends with that person. You were another half of a whole. You were an innocent. You did treasure those most pointless of things. Once.

When you’re young and the future is something you need not comprehend you are instinctively inclined to cherish the memories you have and you hold onto anything that will remind you of those days. As you get older you find yourself wanting to forget as many memories as you want to remember. Now those who choose to forget, granted get to experience a much more painless life through the entire process of moving on.

But to forget the bad memories, in favour of the good ones, is to live half a life, to breathe with half a soul and love with half a heart. You didn’t get to where you are now living a life of one sided grief or joy. Remembering the calm before the storm will only serve to desensitize you to the enormity of emotion that those storms can bring. I try to remember everything I can that helped to beat the path I was inclined to walk.

And when I am asked what defined me I will answer in all honesty I was not defined by the memories I chose to cherish, but by the memories I hoped to forget.

When I Dream of Rain

I was sitting outside of the art room with my headphones in listening to Cat Stevens singing about fathers and sons. It was raining but it was the see through rain that speckles the windows before the real storm breaks. The corridor smelt of plaster and heat, the radiators were turned up almost to the point of scorching.

I hadn’t slept and I was waiting for my art teacher to unlock the classroom door so I could get on with my after school lessons. I hadn’t been doing them for long and the whole process of going to school for two hours a day was new to me. It wasn’t helping me. It was hurting me. It was allowing me more hours of unguarded time when you weren’t there to stop me breaking my own heart.

My battery was dying and I was beginning to get anxious. I could handle it when there was music or a book, but I had nothing that day. I wasn’t even wearing shoes. If he had walked by at that moment I would have been sent back to that place, even further from you. Then the door at the other end of the corridor opened and I knew without looking up that it was you. I knew it was you because I felt you before I ever saw you.

I could feel you looking at me and as I began to cry you came to me and slumped down the wall onto the floor, side by side. You called me a wayward genius once and I called you a cunt more than once, but there was something that connected us. Maybe it was because we were both such good liars. We did it so well. I would tell you that I was always fine and you would always tell me that everything was going to be alright. They were the greatest lies we ever told and we told them to each other.

I slipped my headphones out and you asked me to come with you. I would have followed you anywhere and a couple of times I did. I sat on your desk and put my head phones back in. You watched me as I mouthed the words to Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and cried the tears of a teenager who was too young to know how far gone she was.

You put your hand on my chin and lifted my face up to meet your eyes. They were the glassy and as horrifically blue as ever. You took my headphones out, so softly. They fell to my neck and I heard my heart beating in my ears where music had been moments before. I don’t know if you ever fathomed what your hands did when they were on my body. It wasn’t sexual, it was almost … chemical.

You told me that people get addicted to other people. I took it as an insult and pushed your hand away. I could see that you were hurt and I liked it. I liked hurting you. I lovedhurting you, because you never stopped hurting me. All your words, your jokes, your manipulation of the rules and your time, none of it ever stopped it hurting. And you were too distracted to realise that what you were actually doing was killing me.

I told myself that the reason you said that about people being addicted to people was because I relied on you too much and you were pointing out that you were fast becoming just another pointless thing that made me feel good that I couldn’t live without. Just as I was about to leave you held my hand and I felt my stomach melt out of my knees.

Then you kissed me. You kissed me. You kissed me.

When I pulled away your eyes were wet. I wasn’t crying anymore. I was confused and I still am all these years later. I always thought you were a figment of my imagination and if people hadn’t have spoken of you in terms of reality I would never have mentioned the way you made me feel. But the truth of the matter is you are real and your words were real and every time you smiled or cried or kissed me, all of that was real too.

But now I look back and all I see is the notion of you. The promise that one day it would get better. The promise that you would never, ever leave me to face it alone. The promise that you and I were something far greater than what the world was allowed to see. The promise that somewhere, deep, in the dark part of your mind that tells you what we were doing was wrong you saw it as right and tried to convince me it was so.

You never convinced anyone. I find it hard to think of and every time I see your face in my mind I go back to that day when you first pressed your mouth against mine. November Rain by Guns n Roses was playing through my head phones hanging listlessly around my neck when your lips first grazed mine. Maybe I have better taste in music now, but I still cannot listen to that song.

I wonder if you ever think of me. If you ever think of the teenager I was when you took to kissing me and wonder what kind of adult that mess of a girl became. I wonder if you know now that although I no longer pay rent in the darkness, I stay there occasionally and almost always when finding myself in the shadows recall the strange way the rain fell against the windows that day.

Most of all I wonder that if were we to meet now, whether or not you would allow me to protect you from yourself the way you protected me. I wonder now if you used me as a distraction from what was going on in your mind. I wonder now if I ever meant anything more to you than what we ended up as.

I wonder now if you knew at the time, that I was unattainably and irrevocably in love with you. I wonder, every day, if knowing that would have changed your mind.

The Politics of God.

I see the world and its inhabitants, their virtues, sins and idiosyncrasies in political terms and have done for as long as I can remember. The manner in which people conduct themselves, their ideals and thought structures, almost always have political connotations in my mind. I find it amazing that people can care so little about politics and yet devote their lives entirely to other fields of human behaviour, without ever quite noticing the link between the two. Something that people should know, and know it well, is that there is not one thought, memory, decision, triumph or mistake that you will make as a human being without its outcome being influenced by politics.

Politics is, at its core, the process of a group of people, large or small, making a collective decision. Its definition has definite links with running a government, but its meaning is a hell of a lot larger than that. So when you’re standing in a shop with your friend trying to decide what film to rent, or when you cannot decide what the best fit of jeans is and you ask someone for their opinion, if you make your decision based on the input of another – you are being political.

So now we have established that politics isn’t just to do with fat men and frigid women sitting in a green room shouting random moans of agreement or injustice on the television while you eat your toast in the morning. Politics is its own entity, but it is an umbrella term for a whole host of juicy and controversial subtexts. Lets take the example I just gave about renting the movie again but this time apply two totally opposite political ideologies to it.

Scenario A – You are standing in a rental shop with your friend and you are torn between two films, one of which you desperately want to see, the other of which your friend is likewise eager to watch. One is a horror movie, full of gore and guts, the other is a romantic comedy full of vomit inducing stereotypes and grand gestures of love. You want the horror, your friend wants the romantic comedy. You give your friend a valid reason as to why you don’t want to watch the other movie (you just broke up with your boyfriend and it would be too hard to watch that kind of thing, the soundtrack reminds you of a dead pet etc.) Your friend therefore taking into account the feeling of the group, and feeling less opposed to watching the horror movie than you are to watching the romantic comedy for your personal reasons, gives in and you go and rent the horror movie. You watch it together and enjoy it, even though your friend wanted to watch the romantic comedy, they are content in the knowledge that you both would not have enjoyed it as much as you did the horror movie.

Scenario B – You are standing in a rental shop with your friend and you are torn between two films, one of which you desperately want to see, the other of which your friend is likewise eager to watch. One is a horror movie, full of gore and guts, the other is a romantic comedy full of vomit inducing stereotypes and grand gestures of love. You want the horror, your friend wants the romantic comedy. You don’t want to watch the romantic comedy because it doesn’t look like your cup of tea, even though you know that your friend isn’t exactly the greatest fan of horror movies. You turn to your friend and tell them that you have to get your movie because you drove to the shop, or you’re the one that is paying, or that it is your house that you will be watching the film at. You basically use the power that you have, most of it completely coincidental to get your own way. When you do get your own way, you watch the horror movie together and you have a riot of a time, but your friend doesn’t enjoy it and is feeling a little bruised that you got your own way for the sake of circumstance rather than necessity.

Now most people that I know (luckily) would be more inclined towards Scenario A and would take the feelings of the greater populace into consideration when making a decision that impacts how you both enjoy your evening. Those that did would be loosely following the political structure of democracy. Those that would have been more inclined towards Scenario B (whom I hope are few and far between) and would use whatever means necessary to get what they want at the expense of the greater whole, would have been loosely following the political structure of a dictatorship.

The basic difference between the two, although the outcome is the same is this – with a democratic decision, the pros and cons come from all the people who are involved in making a decision and then a group consensus is reached once everybody has had an opportunity to put forward their reservations and opinions. However with a dictatorial decision, one person has taken the power away from the other and made a decision based on their own opinions to benefit themselves rather than the greater whole, usually employing tactics that are very hard for the other person to object against. So democratic decision is one that derives its power from the people making it, whereas a dictatorial decision is one that derives its power without all the peoples consent.

I do hope you’re still following me *insert winky emoticon face here*. My point (which I bet you were just dying for after all that rambling) is this – a political decision is not just a decision made by politicians but one made by anyone with a certain belief structure in mind. By the same token, a political figure head or leader, is not just someone who governs over a country or race of people, but someone who has the power to either listen to the people or ignore them for their own gain. So I am going to ask you a question, and in true Ron meets Jigsaw style, a style that those who read my blog are used to by now, I want you to answer the question in your head. Okay, so here is the question –

What political party does the Christian ideal of God represent? Don’t worry my politically confused bumble bees I am not going to leave you completely on your own to pluck an answer from the heavens (excuse the pun) I am instead going to give you three definitions that you can choose from. Now it doesn’t have to just be one, or two, it can indeed be all three but I ask you to carefully consider the facts rather than your own opinion, because after all we are dealing with a leader that is arguable false, so lets try and keep our heads above the philosophical waters.

As we have been dancing with democracy I will give you that option first. If God was a democratic leader he would consult with his people before making decisions. His decisions would not be unilateral because they would derived from the people he was governing. He would not have the final word in matters but instead have to side with the strongest majority. He would be an expert at gauging the attitudes of his people and would have to effectively motivate them to behave how he would want his government to be run. He would take an active role in the lives of his people and bend his behaviour to the benefit of the people he governs. He would be a representative of a larger whole, accountable for their sins as well as their successes

The second political leadership style that God could fall into is the laissez-faire or free reign leader. In this instance God would pretty much give the power to the people and let them live as they wished, making their own rules and effectively governing themselves. He would not necessarily lead but let the people lead themselves to their own glory or indeed their own ruin. He would not have much input in the way they lived their lives and would not hold them accountable to things that he did not agree with. He would not be a leader in the conventional sense, rather than someone who handed the power back to the people he would have governed under a different leadership style.

The third and final political leadership structure I would like you to consider in regards to the Christian identity of God is an autocratic or authoritarian leadership style, very similar to the dictatorial themes we were talking about earlier. If God were indeed a leader of this style he would possess all the decision making powers and not consult with his people. He would tell them what to do and they would have to do it as part of his government. He would tell them what he wanted to but keep for himself what he didn’t wish to share for fear of revolution. He would make his own laws, regardless of the interests of his people, including his own punishments and persecutions. He would be completely unaccountable to anyone and never have to answer for his actions, good or bad.

So there are your options. Now that you have chosen one I would like you to consider something else, because I am all about the interactive internet debate stuff. I would like you to consider how God is viewed “religiously” and how we have just viewed him “politically”. When it comes down to it, religion and politics are one in the same. You have a leader, you have a system of which those people are lead chock full of ideologies, rules, punishment, reward and intelligence. When it comes down to it the only difference between God as a political leader as opposed to a religious leader, is language.

In religion God is “almighty”, void of responsibility for his actions, unaccountable and unquestionable. In political terms this “almighty” behaviour may be considered “autocratic” whereby God can do what he likes, when he likes and no one can tell him otherwise. In religion God is “omnipresent”, he is everywhere at all times, watching over his people and making sure that they are on the right track. In politics God could be seen as an Orwellian “Big Brother” figure that leaves not one personal or private decision to the people, but instead enforces those that he believes should be followed on them and carefully watches their every move to ensure that these rules are followed for fear of punishment or “eternal damnation”. In those terms God is not “ubiquitous”, “omnipresent” or “all encompassing” but instead he is a much more real form of “totalitarian” that controls every aspect of his peoples lives and leaves no room for “pluralism”, a governmental structure that encourages multiple lifestyles and opinions.

In my mind God as a leader, and not Christianity as a practice which does encourage very diplomatic and democratic thought patterns, does not fit the first definition at all. He does not listen to his people, but instead demands to be listened to and he does not represent us as a whole rather than a superior being with absolute control over the whereabouts of our mortal soul. God does possess certain aspects of the laissez-faire leadership style, in as much as he lets his people make their own decisions and leaves them to self govern, but then he does not strictly adhere to this foundation because the rules we are freely left to follow by ourselves are not made by us, but by Him.

So, with my immense powers of deduction, I can only assume that if God is not a democrat and he is not an advocate of free reign, then God is indeed a authoritarian dictator who tells his people what to do from an unelected position of complete power and unaccountability. Breakthrough *smiley face*! So the question burning on my lips is this – why do SO many people follow a completely unaccountable dictator who does not even have the potential to be overthrown?

The answer is simple. People don’t like to think for themselves. In a democracy you don’t always get your own way, but you have the possibility to. You vote and your friend votes, your neighbours vote and your parents vote – but not all of you can get your own way all of the time. The possibility of being able to get your own way, and then subsequently watching someone else get their own way is extremely frustrating. Take away that possibility of getting your own way and replace it with a different structure in which you know you, nor your friend, neighbour or parent will EVER get their own way and at least you’re all shooting with an empty gun. Human nature encourages us to suffer together rather than succeed alone.

The same can be said for the free reign module. People are genuinely too lazy to govern themselves all of the time and this governmental structure has mostly been employed in times of necessity when the formation of a new government was getting its breath back. It takes a lot of effort to lead a nation or race of people, and generally people who are given this task get bored of trying to please everyone else at the expense of themselves. Give a group of people a die cast set of rules and regulations, already written down and ready to go however, and they will almost always prefer being told what to do rather than figuring out what to do for themselves.

Dictatorships work well at the expense of freedom. Decisions are made quickly because there is only one person making them and the state functions mostly out of fear. Fear is a very potent potion in the religious alchemists pot and it is a brew that dictators also carry in their belt. Through this method, people do not have to think for themselves and therefore cease being individuals. This means less crime, less uproar and a slick, functioning society. But what it sacrifices is much greater and that is freedom.

To be a Christian (and I mean a real Christian, not you wannabes that only go to church at Christmas) you give up yourself to your God and you trust that his decisions, his judgements and his rules are absolute, without question or correlation to yourself or the greater world. But to take someone else’s judgements, rules and decisions into your head and into your heart, you compromise your own and become a tool of someone else’s mind rather than a product of your own.

I leave you now (I’m sure you just punched the air with happiness at this terribly long mess coming to an end) with a proposition. I propose that you live your life as YOU would want to live it, without prior conceptions of how it should be done and certainly not in someone else’s shadow, political or religious. I propose that YOU choose which path you walk on and how YOU would deal with the hurt and happy along the way. I propose that you take each and every ounce of compassion, courage, wisdom and peace from the God and employ it in real time. I propose that you be a good person because YOU want to be and not because God or any other leader asks it of you. I propose that you consciously choose to love instead of hate, find solace in silence and beauty in distress because YOU were built, by the hand of a deity or by the book of Darwin, to be tolerant, intelligent and calm.

I propose that you lead yourself and as Jesus himself was said to have done, walk beside those on different paths, not behind them as a lesser being or in front of them as a greater one. I propose that you LIVE the life you were given and THINK with the brain that you possess. Thought and life are the bread and butter of peace and until you appreciate them for the magnificent, all be it intangible, things that they are you will never be your own leader and you my friend, will never be free whether you follow a dictator or a disciple.

Freedom does not come from the government, the Gods or the greats – it comes from inside of you and it is the only thing that separates those that live from those that survive.

A Series of Ambiguous Questions

Love is not a new subject for my rants, in fact, it is one of my least favourite but most committed sources of anger, confusion and genuine exasperation, hence its appearance as those three emotions are usually at the core of all of my rants. However my friends, I am not going to knock love to the floor and kick its teeth once again, no, I am going to ask you a series of questions that I want you to answer in your minds. I want you to answer them in your minds because were you to vocalise them, to me or anyone else, you would not be telling the whole truth. Love and truth are the mistresses of the mind, enticing us and crippling us in a matter of moments. They go hand in hand and as such, you must keep them away from each other as much as possible. We all know what chaos they can cause together.

In my experience on this earth, which after all is what this entire charade is about, I have come to accept that when love is on the cards, there are three types of people in this world – those that are IN love, those that WANT love and those that HAD love. And so comes my first question to you, my inquisitive readers … Will you read on?

Are you IN love? Do you share your heart, your mind, your body and your soul with another human being, so carved from the heavens that even the mention of their name sends your stomach tumbling in on itself? Do you perish at the thought of that love dissipating, or *gulp* disappearing altogether? Do you hold hands in the street and steal glimpses of each others infatuation when at the dinner table? Have you got that crooked grin that all lovers wear, that says “She is mine and I am His”? Do you wake up in the morning just to watch them sleep? Is the thought of any harm or pain coming to your love so overbearing that you would literally die before you saw them shed a single superfluous tear? Have you found the only other hand that you will ever hold on this mortal earth? Are you in love?

Do you WANT love? Do you want to commit yourself to another entirely and regardless of fault or flaw? Do you want to belong to someone else’s family and be enveloped in to their pasts and futures? Do you want to sign birthday cards with two names instead of one? Do you want to have someone there for you whatever the need or cause? Do you want someone to hold you and tell you that everything is going to be alright, even when in all honesty things probably won’t? Do you want to be able to say “This is my boyfriend/girlfriend”? Do you want the kisses, the cuddles, the commitment and the confusion? Do you want to be so consumed by someone else’s body, that the worries about your own no longer matter, because someone genuinely thinks you are beautiful already? Do you want love?

Did you HAVE love? Did you have those moments that felt like they would go on forever? Did you have those perfect trinkets of your love together, however meaningless to the rest of the world, that meant everything to you at the time? Do you find a stray item of their clothing and find yourself powerless to bring it to your face and inhale the scent of what you lost? Do you hear a song or see a movie and feel a hot prickle of tears in the back of your throat? Do you walk down the street and convince yourself of the words you would say to them were you to bump into them again? Do you find yourself powerless to tense up whenever their name is mentioned, intentionally or otherwise? Did you ever think it was possible for a human body to produce the amount of tears yours has? Did you have love?

They are my questions to you my eager love fuelled companions. Now comes the fun part. It will only happen with a few of you I am sure, but it will happen most certainly with a few. I am going to ask you one more question and I want you to answer it again in your mind. When I stated at the beginning of this rambling mess that there were three kinds of people in this world, I know you subconsciously allocated yourself one of the labels without the need to read the questions posed. You decided whether you were IN love, in WANT of love or indeed if you did HAVE love at some point. Here is my final question – Did you change your label after you read the questions?

My point is this – love is not a static emotion and what you want from it changes as your experience with it does. Those who have never been in love long for the tiniest things that those that are in love mostly overlook. Those that are in love fear losing it, but those that have lost it, well some of them are regrettably happy to have done so. Love is blinding and that’s why as human beings we are obsessed with it. The wrongs in the world seem a little less sharp when someone holds your heart and somehow love helps most people to function, gives their lives a deeper meaning and they find stability and calm when completely consumed by another’s embrace. The world is a horrendously ugly place at times, but to go home to the comfort of your love’s arms, to hear their voice and feel their heartbeat beneath your face, well, that’s a very special thing indeed. However I propose that this love, this one integral, ball breaking, would-die-without-you love, only comes but once a lifetime. Its logical really.

If you have bore the first label in my list and no longer do then by default you have also had to burden the third label. Subsequently, by bearing the third label, you will find yourself wearing the second soon after your heart begins to work again. There is no adult human being on this earth that has ever experienced love, that will not at some point feel all three of these labels pressed against their forehead.

Now you’re probably thinking, well what if you fell in love and that love lasted forever, and I think you know what I am going to say to that. Those that convince themselves that every love is THE love of their life are cheating themselves out of a wealth of experience, because the world is not black and white. In order to make the extraordinary shades of grey that shape us as individuals you have to mix the black and white, the good and the bad, the love and the loss – otherwise, you will find yourself perpetually blinded to the TRUE power of love.

Being love is an amazing feeling and one that I wish every human being will experience in earnest during their lives, but losing a love, well that my friends is a whole different matter. All the gooey emotions of being in love fade, they don’t disappear if it is real love, but they slowly begin to fade into the background as life steals you from your lovers bubble. All the tormented emotions of losing love, however, well they never really fade. To experience loves better side, that is beautiful, but to experience loves ugly side, that my friends is real. If you have never felt what its like to be at the bottom, you will never truly appreciate what is at the top, even if you remain there your entire life.

People fall in love too quickly, put rings on their fingers, children in their bodies and hope in their hearts, and as much as the media would have you believe it, teenage pregnancy, marriage and scandal is nothing new. Ask you grandparents how old they were when they met, married and had your parents. It may surprise you. But when a child is born out of love, even if that love fades, that child is a lucky one indeed. So many people have children to literally manipulate feelings of love in those that have lost the capacity to love them back. Love has become a weapon and a powerful one at that.

I disarmed that weapon a long time ago and threw the ammo into the Thames. I used to wear the second label, of someone who wanted desperately to be loved and then I was lucky enough to wear the first and finally, had the pain of bearing the third as we all inevitably should. Now I don’t think about love in those terms, which is hard for someone as neurotic as me to do but I try. Now I don’t try to think about love at all. My theory, because you knew I would have one, is that if love wants me back it will come and find me. In the words of Allen Ginsberg I gave it all and now I am nothing.

And I would rather remain nothing to love, than ever have the duty of any one of the three labels mentioned above. Love shouldn’t be a duty, it shouldn’t be something that comes quickly and fades like wise. Love should be real, it should be true but only one love will ever be forever. The words “I love you” are thrown around far too much by people who have no real understanding or respect for the word. Love has become a notion, a card once a year and a broken memory of what it meant to find the other half of your soul.

Love in those words has no place in my heart, nor I in its. And we get along just fine that way.

Success Vs. Addiction (2013)

This instalment was supposed to be about alcohol abuse following the Panorama episode broadcast on Monday 1st August on BBC1. The programme detailed the growing cost of Britain’s drink obsessed society and told the stories of some of the people effected by alcohol abuse, both directly and indirectly. In short, it was informative and interesting, as well as slightly disturbing but I have decided that this article of intrigue will not be about alcohol abuse, but rather centred around one idea that I found whilst researching the programme on the BBC News website –

“Successful people have learnt the skills they need to identify and overcome the difficulties they meet in life to achieve success and happiness. These poor souls have not had the learning opportunities to develop these skills. Poor development of these skills results in symptoms such as alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, anti-social and criminal behaviour etc.”

From the moment I read this statement I could feel genuine contempt boiling in my throat. To have the audacity to refer to the people shown in this shockingly real programme as “poor souls” was not only patronising, but ignorant. Then to insinuate that the reason they have found themselves in such a position is because of poor development of social skills is a insult to more than just the individual, but to the people who raised them, sometimes in dire circumstances.

But it was the link that this person made to addiction and success that really enraged me. You would have to be an extremely narrow minded person to assume that simply because of an addiction, success is somehow rendered unascertainable to you. This is complete and utter nonsense. Some of the most successful and highly influential people in literature, music, film and politics have been addicts, with many of them attributing much of their greatest contributions to the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Disclaimer – this article is not meant to show addiction, to drugs or alcohol, or anything else for that matter, in a positive light, more so than to highlight that an addiction is not a reason for failure and that more often than not people who suffer from them, are not unable to succeed in life, with many of them actually using drugs and alcohol as a crutch for their success.

In the world of literature, many of the authors, poets and wordsmiths that our children learn about in school or dedicate their free time to indulging have suffered from alcohol or drug addiction. Stephen King has written over 60 books in 35 years, becoming one of the best selling authors in the world with an estimated wealth of £135 million. I would say he has succeeded in the world of literature. Amazingly so, considering that he struggled with an alcohol addiction for most of his life.

Other notable authors that have struggled with addiction and still to this day remain some of the most successful and studied are – Jack Kerouac who most famously wrote “On the Road” a book that has been read in class rooms throughout the world since it was published in 1957, was immensely addicted to Benzedrine. Hunter S. Thompson, a gonzo journalist who influenced the cult movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” had a famous addiction to hallucinogens and alcohol, the subject of which leads the 1998 film starring Johnny Depp.

Music is a universal language and as such, it speaks to both addict and preacher alike. Johnny Cash is noted as one of the most influential singer/songwriters of the 20thCentury and whose music not only granted him a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also led to inductions in both the Rock and Roll, and Gospel Hall of Fame as well. Cash suffered from an enormous amphetamine and alcohol addiction, that surprisingly went hand in hand with his success. You could say that the more Cash took, the better he got, eventually crashing before making an astounding comeback. Much of Cash’s most noted work was created under the influence of alcohol and amphetamines, work that subsequently made him the legend he is today.

Other influential musicians that have also created some of the most incredible music to date are – Eric Clapton who was in the band Cream and also found success as a solo artist, was a heroin addict for most of his career and has actually been noted as saying that heroin taught him the blues. Kurt Cobain the singer/songwriter from the band Nirvana had a strangling addiction to heroin that influenced the bands unique “grunge” sound and put them at the heart of a movement that had struggled to gain its legs in a world mostly dominated by hip hop and popular music. Frank Sinatra of The Rat Pack and one of the most remembered and remarkable musicians in history was a raging alcoholic.

Film and television has had a part to play in almost everyone’s upbringing, especially of those born in the last fifty years. Kelsey Grammer is one of the most recognisable men in the world for his work spanning two decades on the sitcom Frasier which was subsequently a spin off of the much beloved Cheers. Succeeding in becoming a writer, producer, director and voice actor (Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons) Grammer suffered from an out of control addiction to cocaine for much of his career.

Hollywood is rampant with angry alcoholics and anti-social addicts such as – Anthony Hopkins, one of the best loved actors of the 20th Century, star of Silence of the Lambs and most notable as Hannibal Lector, who has been an alcoholic for most of his life. Samuel L Jackson who has become a cult icon for his roles in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown had an infamous addiction to crack cocaine. Veronica Lake who is still remembered as one of the most beautiful and talented, as well as one of the first real, actresses in history was also an alcoholic.

Now the arts can be arguably pointless, their talent often succumbing to their addictions but I am going to give you two names now – Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. During WWII these two men effectively controlled the world, with America pitching in every once in a while. Now I am going to tell you that the man that led Britain through one of the most horrendous wars in history, the man who became prime minister not once but twice, and is recognised now as a figure of nationality, patriotism and bravery, Winston Churchill, was an alcoholic.

On the other side of that coin you have Joseph Stalin who led the Soviet Union through the war, became an international figure of leadership and a revolutionary whom, even if you disagree with his ethos, was undoubtedly one of the most successful in history. Stalin had an incredibly addiction to amphetamines. The Second World War, that we are taught about again and again in schools, through television, that we are reminded of every year with paper poppies and told never to forget, was fought and won by an alcoholic and a drug addict.

All of the people mentioned so far have indeed succeeded in spite of their addictions and will be held in high regard in life and idolised in death. My problem with the statement at the beginning of this article is this – there are a thousand paths to success. If you choose the hardworking, nose to the grindstone, controlled and measured path to success you will, as the person who made the statement said, most likely succeed, but to what end? How is success measured and defined?

These people were successful at what they did and still do but more importantly they will not be remembered for their addictions but for their contributions. There is literally nothing standing in any one human beings way of being what they wanted to be and to use an addiction as an excuse or to victimise those who become addicts is intolerable. Addiction is not a disease that can be cured with conventional medicine because it is not a conventional disease.

The reason these people thrived regardless of their addictions was because in order to truly succeed, to be who you want to be and do what you want to do in life, you have to compromise certain parts of your body and your soul. As a result you are left with gaps where normal, functioning, non-addicted, “successful” people have no gaps. Therefore, the successful addict will fill these gaps with their chosen fuel. Some choose alcohol, some choose drugs, some choose sex, violence, fast cars or handbags – but whatever they choose the addiction becomes a part of them.

To say that people who become addicts have been failed somehow by society is a frankly disgusting statement. At some point addicts are going to have to take responsibility for their actions and stop having patronising dullards defending their right to die, content in the knowledge that their addiction is not their fault.

Stephen King’s father walked out when he was a child. Johnny Cash watched his brother die. Kelsey Grammer’s sister was abducted, raped and murdered. Winston Churchill barely knew his parents. Joseph Stalin contracted smallpox when he was seven and was left permanently scarred. I think it would be a fair assumption that none of the aforementioned people were granted “the learning opportunities” to become as successful as they did and many of the issues that each one of these highly successful people faced, in turn, are textbook excuses used by addicts to justify their failures in life.

Addictions debilitate, the wound, they destroy and they kill but what they also do is allow people escapism from situations and circumstances in their lives that they would rather not face alone. If the above people had not have had that outlet, that crutch on reality, the strength that their addictions gave them, then the true nature of their realities would have most likely numbed whatever spark it was that made them so great.

Again, being an addict is not a good thing, its not something anyone should aim to be, but it is most certainly not a valid excuse for not succeeding in life. The truth is that the majority of people with addictions that do fail in life, would most likely fail regardless because they do not have an inherent ability or lust to be anything other than what they are. It doesn’t come down to social opportunities, upbringing, religion, finances or generations – it comes down to people, real individuals, with individual needs and individual goals.

The statement that I opened this topic with is irrevocably ignorant and is clearly written by someone who has little or no understanding of the true nature of addiction, or indeed success. This was not written as a direct attack on said person, more so as an insight to a different point of view that they clearly have not considered.

And that is that addicts are not people to be victimised or referred to as “poor souls” and that we should not feel sorry for them in the slightest, because they are doing exactly what they want to do with their lives, regardless of their health, family strains or life long damages. They live how they want to live, and if they did not, they would stop, as millions of them do every day. The necessity to victimise addicts comes down to the basic fact that most people simply fear what they do not understand.

You will never understand addiction, unless you have been an addict anymore than you will understand laying an egg, unless you have been a chicken.