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.

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.