If you want to re-connect with your roots, re-acquaint yourself with nature, and generally remind yourself about what it means to live, to be human (and therefore crafty, inquisitive, ambitious), then I strongly recommend you take some time to just have a little dig.
Uproot some Dandelions, or a bit of your lawn. Expose the soil, and take in the roots. Stick your hand into the soil, gather some of it in your hands. Give it a squeeze, and crumble it between your fingers, allowing it to gently sprinkle back down into the ground.
Take in the smell of the Earth, the texture, the colour, the weight. It’s almost like feeling Earth’s pulse. Nurse the Earth, and in turn you will find, it nurses you right back.
Upturned soil reveals:
Rooted beneath the Earth’s ‘skin’, are the fibrous, nerve like ‘wirings’, which give rise to the flowers we see, sprouting deliciously, above the surface.
They are remarkably similar to the Synapses, which are our human brain’s own ‘system of shoots & roots’, if you like.
These fire and receive the neurotransmitters, which power our emotions, thoughts, memories, actions and reactions. You can certainly liken the roots under our own skull, to the ‘flowers’, of thought and of volition.
We are the Earth.
The haunt, which hangs in the air like unspent static, is the fear of time, and purpose wasted. Everyday which goes by, without a routine, can scratch against my ‘ground’ like a hard sweeping brush. It’s etching away at the trial which i’d marked myself, in the vain hope I could ever, if needed, turn to the tattooed ground to remind myself of the way I am headed and the way I have come.
The path upon which I thought I had gained some footing is fading, and i’m not far behind.
It is during these moments, when, locked inside a tightly binding labyrinth of excessive reflection, that I long for the traveller’s Compass, to remind me of which direction to take, in order to step forwards and march on.
Sometimes, the colours on life’s map become faded.
This story, of course, I leave to be continued…
I am sick of ‘Terrorism’. Terrorism being an essentially contested concept, as with all the ‘isms’ of the human and cultural eras, political contexts and language which describes and narrates as life flows forward, and so long as there are onlookers to witness and discuss it.
But before I go on to talk about this ‘terrorism’, and the epic waste caused by it, let me just offer a bit of background into the meaning of the word.
As I actually learned at university, one time (but it really doesn’t take a Scholar or an Academic to realise it): ‘Political Concepts’ and theories are invoked when people discuss politics and government, and generally prescribe labels by which they can collectively understand, interpret and follow things which are happening around them, and what to do about them. It is an obvious outcome of human evolution, intelligence, consciousness, the capacity for language, communication, learning, memory, adapting for survival, planning, reason, co-operating and living together.
In case it helps for me to add in that extra reference, for getting the general idea of what I’m on about this time: Anthony H. Birch, an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria, Canada, describes in his book- The Concepts and theories of modern democracy:
“A concept is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an idea of a class of objects, a general notion or idea… People who discuss political matters cannot avoid doing so (using political concepts) because, as a British philosopher once said, ‘out idea of what belongs to the realm of reality is given for us in the language that we use’ (Winch 1958: 15).”¹
My thoughts are, therefore, that it is appropriate to talk about our modern use of the word ‘terrorism’, as a political concept today. The reason the concept of ‘terrorism’ is a contested one, can be explained by the fact that what we mean by ‘terrorism’, and what constitutes our use of the word, is subject to many different interpretations, practices, historical and normative standpoints/theories, and perceived consequences.
The crux of the matter
What has driven me to write about this today, is the news of a further act of ‘terrorism’, on people who were down the famous Las Ramblas area of Barcelona, Spain. I had the pleasure of visiting this amazingly quirky, thriving, busy, cultural, and gorgeously artistic strip of Barcelona just over a month ago.
It is ‘home’ for hundreds of citizens, artisans, market holders, businesses, industry, and for a centre of architectural brilliance, to name only a few things. It is also an area of (understandable) tourist attraction, for holidaymakers, travellers, sightseers and adventurers alike, from all over the world.
I loved the atmosphere, the smells, the sights, the bicycles, the people and their friendliness. I was struck by a throbbing vibe felt through the city, with the arts, the restaurants, bars, cafes, public parks, music, nightlife and the festivities. In spite of the fact that I visited during a time where unrest, political uncertainty, and ‘terrorism’ was certainly a threat, given there had been several incidents across Europe, in the months surrounding, I never for once felt unsafe, threatened and/or vulnerable to attacks. Yet here we are.
Terrorism in practice
What one group of people, politicians and messengers condemns as ‘terrorism’, another group or faction, political agent, participant or witness, might call ‘Martyrdom’, or ‘means to an end’. They might think of the violence, bloodshed, death and ‘terror’ which terrorism brings about, is some form of ‘moral imperative’ on behalf of some greater reason. What one person calls an act of ‘cowardice’ and ‘evil’, another might see it as ‘bravery’ or ‘honourable’ and just.
Going back over the history of humanity, ‘terrorism’ is really just a modern use of the various different adjectives used for categorizing human acts which cause terror, violence, death, destruction and war. Inherently primal, yet undeniably strategical, these are actions which, through battle, fearmongering, extermination, brute force and all other forms of application, bring about a shift in the balance of power, between one group or another. All which have been crucial in forming the script towards a common story, which some call acts of Gods/higher powers, while others call the ‘great’ battle towards the top of the food chain.
¹ ‘Introduction’ to Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy (2nd edition)., Anthony H. Birch., First published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)., 2001., p.1
Never feel afraid to think.
My allotment as a symptom of a mind grown too wild:
Currently, if the state of my allotment and garden were recognised by the medical profession, as being acceptable diagnostic tools for determining state of mind, and a certified means of determining a ‘healthy psychological bill of health’, then i’d make easy work for any kind of Psychiatrist, I imagine.
Over the past six months, there have been many different events, stresses, overgrown and domineering thoughts, which have accumulated without due intervention and control, in my mind, wrecked havoc on my mental health, and my ability to ‘see’ or ‘think’ clearly. I’m thankfully beginning to make progress, towards the goal of recovery in mental, and physical health, now.
Part of this journey towards recovering, has included suddenly being able to notice, and reflect on things again. This is both good and bad- it’s reassuring and hopeful to realise I must be moving away from a negative place, because I can suddenly see quite clearly, the areas of my life and the passions enjoyed through living, which have suffered neglect.
It’s daunting, to be able to look at the overgrowth, the ‘jungle’ left to grow wild, and the flower beds without flowers, which currently shape the canvas of my allotment. Yet at the same time, it is exciting and positive, when taking into account the ‘bigger picture’ this paints. The garden endeavors.
Hinting at the prospect of the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, nearing achievement of wellness, I have to concede, while humbling, and fairly worrying, the realisation there is a mess to address, left in the wake of my mind’s little rampage and attempt at self-destruction, surely surpasses the short term moment of panic, in this story.
Imagine if all of us busy, full time working, thinking, feeling, hearing, social networking, living, breathing, sleeping people in this world, were able to find the time and the resources to be able to ‘dig for victory’ for our mental and physical health. Then have the means to look back at the ever shifting landscape of a garden/outdoor space, which we create, sustain and maintain over a number of years.
It’s funny to wonder if this would put Psychiatrists, Doctors, Therapists, self-help books and more, out of a job!
Obviously, there are practical obstacles which get in the way of having time to tend to nature- work, and living in a flat/having no outdoor space, coming to mind first as being just a few of them. It’s all well and good knowing that ‘to spend time outdoors’, in ‘fresh air’ and with Radishes growing out of your fingernails, you’re so ‘in touch with nature’, as a means to recovering mentally and physically from illness, if you couldn’t even fit a plantpot on your windowsill, or hospital bed, for that matter, if you tried.
But there are ways– and you know what they say about ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’… Personally, I think that saying works out both ways around- where there is a way, there will be a will.
Having the will to work towards the way in the first place, feels more like an oppressive reminder, of just how hard it can be to regain that will/motivation/drive, when you’ve lost sight of what it even means, feels like, or represents.
‘Will’ or ‘willpower’. The idea that you might need this first, before you can make your way to progress, might serve only to make someone feel more powerless, more trapped.
‘Means’ or ‘way’. As it happens, even when there isn’t a will, there is still a way. Sometimes, we know of many such ‘ways’ already.
When I have found myself ‘lost’ in the petrifying stomach of Depression, or other such ‘adventures’ in mental illness, I am only too aware of WHAT I have to do, to reignite the wick which fires up my will.
Sometimes, we need a bit of help, when emerging, confused, scared, and downright vulnerable. As it happens, we do still know, deep within us, what ‘the way’ is. It’s never this straight forward (typically) though we understand.
Inspiration to those who need any:
(there are so many crafty ways to get around small spaces, lack of plant pots, urban dilemmas etc):
Snippet taken from an old dream blog I was keeping in 2014:
Train in post-apocalyptic world… We (a crowd of commuters, including myself, some were semi-recognisable as ‘versions’ of my friends and family members, others were strangers, as far as I can recall) were waiting for its arrival (it was Northern Rail) at a crumbling, yet progressively greener platform. The moss and the overgrowth and the green climbing shrubs, were increasing, rapidly, since the decline of humanity (some sort of plague or massive war had caused this, not 100% sure).
The train emerged, eventually, through a Victorian looking red brick tunnel, to the left of where we were standing on our platform. The crowds waiting to rush onto the delayed train, of near resemblance of the manic platform surges of Dehra Dun, in India.
The train took a while to emerge from the tunnel, and we all became aware of the chanting of the driver and passengers who were already on board that train. Through open windows, the passengers utilised the benefits of the tunnel’s echo, and the intensity added to the chant, achieved through the sheer volume of participating chanters.
This, we somehow all understood, as we waited on that platform, was a new form of common courtesy born out of the circumstance and the ashes; unavoidable challenges of the ‘new world’, for which we had gradually been growing more and more capable to adapt and ‘keep calm and carry on’.
The chant; ‘Body, Body. Body, Body!’ grew sharper and bolder as the train drew near to the end of its censored tunnel. The warning of the boarded passengers, was a disclaimer- since communications in New World were out of action until the foreseeable future. Anyone who might be awaiting the train, and thus looking specifically for the front of it to emerge, needed the advance warning to avert their eyes.
The train had hit a person (suicide or not), and because of the lack of the luxuries previously taken for granted- such as the train been cleaned and cleared of the carcass before continuing its journey-(there was simply not enough people to fill such jobs, nor the time to carry them out, which would delay the trains further). Since everything was only partially able to function, or lost completely, the demand for any available transport for commuters and travellers, far outweighed the capacity to satisfy this void of forewarning.
So, the carcass of a man ‘who had jumped’, remained on the front of the train, smearing the traumatised driver’s window. People were being warned, by the only means possible (chanting to communicate), to avert their eyes and to expect the ghastly sight, thus allowing time for brief mental preparation-so as to avoid the shock and intensified trauma, brought by surprise and the unexpected.
The warning was especially significant to any guardians of children, who were awaiting this train on the platform. An appreciation which was silent and mutual, hummed in the atmosphere, as children were distracted from the sight oncoming. Protective hands moved to veil the children’s eyes, despite confusion and frustration of curiosity stilled.
I cannot believe we have reached August, and STILL not managed to successfully assemble that greenhouse, we bought for the allotment back in March! We have taken it down, reassembled it slightly differently, tried improvising with different bolts and spare parts for any we may have lost throughout the fairly painstaking process. So far, we either need to get more creative with this, or remain without a greenhouse!
It’s been difficult to keep on top of the allotment, because of all the other stress with work, finances, life generally, which seems to have hit particularly hard this year. If anyone was to use the shape of the allotment, to try and estimate a guess as to diagnosing the corresponding state of mind to match it, they’d not have a difficult time in playing amateur Psychiatrist for the task.
So many beds which have been weeded, then overgrown, weeded, then overgrown, dug over, then slurried by rain, breaking roots and giant Hogsweed. Bind weed and sticky weed, don’t even go there! For 5 years, we have tried to do things the ‘Organic’ way, but steering away from using products like weedkiller, and tugging at the determined overgrowth with good old fashioned manual, hard work and toil instead. We may just have finally come to the bitter realization, that if we want successful growth of the crops we actually intend for each bed, then we may have to swallow a large pill of pride, and finally cave into spraying the land with weedkiller and pesticide, and start over from scratch.
It is against so many of our principles to do this, however!
Meanwhile, in the garden, the accidental potato beds are thriving, the tomatoes are starting to re-establish their hold over the bathtub, and the purple cabbages are looking pretty pleased with themselves. Purple kale, passion flowers and carrots are also gaining their strength in the little greenhouse, however the question of how and when we will be able to harvest these, if we really are too late to transplant them into the better faring beds at the allotment, remains to be seen.
Depression can be completely confusing, seemingly ‘uncalled for’, and misunderstood at the best of times- whether you class yourself as someone who has experienced the debilitating, insomniac waves of Depression, in it’s many differing forms. Or whether you care, know, and/or love someone with the illness. Perhaps , you haven’t come across the illness, while it is on ‘top form’, the silent crushing which it inflicts.
It is confusing not only for the sufferer and those around them, but also to anyone else, because it doesn’t seem to make much sense. It often doesn’t seem proportionate, if people want to try and understand it, based on someone’s human and emotional ‘response’ to life stresses, and their own personal circumstances.
It is also fair to say that so many different forms of Depression, can certainly come across as an inconsistency across all attempts for us to really define, and to quantify ‘it’.
I found one which I think is pretty fitting, though:
“Severe depression is an illness causing substantial
impairment in patients’ ability to function and to lead
flourishing lives. Moreover, patients’ suffering has
negative consequences within families, communities,
and the workplace, leading to a vicious circle of stigma,
shame, and guilt. These effects are amplified if a patient
loses the ability to work, further diminishing dignity and
patients’ sense of personal and social value.”
I think it is important to stress the significance of the latter part of this definition– in that it defines Depression not only in terms of it’s mental and physical effects, but crucially, by including the reaction to Depression, externally, and by others. Also in accounting for the ‘vicious cycle of stigma’, and the ‘social’ consequences, including the ability to work or not.
See it never really is ‘just someone’s bad hair day’, or ‘moodiness’, or their ‘selfishness’, which is sadly often what others, wrapped up in the cycle of stigma and misunderstanding, can say about the illness, and it’s victims. Challenge this stigma- nobody is ever quite what they might seem.
No situation or pattern of behaviour comes with a necessarily simple, straight forward explanation, ’cause’ or blame.
Tuesday 1st August is today…
I’m finally beginning to return to a mental state I truly couldn’t even remember, or imagine, feeling again, only a few days ago. With it, I am beginning to find I can manage to stomach the necessary step forward towards my goal of advancing further along the ‘road to recovery’- flicking through and reading of 2017’s notebooks. I keep notebooks for many reasons- mainly, to use as a point of reference for remembering the little details of work, life reflections, little doodles, list making… You get my point.
The point being:
That when it comes to needing to reflect on decisions made, money spent, quotes overheard, study notes taken throughout the process of developing into final ‘version’ of each 365 days’ worth of person, you become, to take forth into the year to follow.
It builds you up, does a year. But all too easily, we can become so entwined within the ‘devil’s details’, of the many events and happenings of the world around us, as it smuggles us through the belly, as a meal, which ‘time’ digests.
So it is understandable that sometimes, life’s stresses, it’s losses, gains, ailments and tragedies- inflict considerable indigestion for us, as we try to reap the optimal ‘nutritional value’ to be gained, for our bodies, out of the quagmire rendered for us by the swallowing of too many ‘life details’ in one gulp. It mists our vision, and our clarity over what we see, feel, remember, and absorb, from just one fraction of a full year’s worth of life lessons to be learned.
Opening thoughts, extracted from January’s notebook:
“Who do I go to for help? I could say I should have noticed the signs sooner, I should have spoken out more desperately.
But the problem is, I did speak out. I did tell people that I was worried about going beneath the ‘dip’ line.
Once beneath said ‘dip line’, you begin entering the stomach of Depression, from where it is so much harder to climb back out.
Because, once you’re ‘ingested’, and the gullet has swallowed you down the tract, you become your own ‘prey’, heading to digestion and break-down.
Here, in the stomach of Depression, you are torn apart from your once ‘whole’ being, and separated, categorised and ‘filed away’- ready for the enzymes of your own breaking mind, to begin their work in the assimilation of your soul.
So, perhaps I wasn’t so blind from the very beginning, after all. In fact, I maybe even had all the insight and foresight iv’e needed all along…