Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Birthday Wishes

A funny birthday. As I stagger from my bed, lurch towards my Zimmer frame and hobble towards the kitchen, the usual demented birthday optimism has descended upon me like a miasmic cloud.

44. Wow. Not quite another milestone birthday, but I tell you what they do mount up, don't they?

Still, despite various disasters and periodic illness, I've actually achieved quite a lot over the previous year, in writing primarily. I've finished a draft novel which has so far received some positive feedback amongst my trusted readers. I've written several new short stories and actually submitted a couple. I've published a book review in Strange Horizons, and a couple of Milford blogs.

I've presented a paper on SETI and consciousness at the Manchester UKSRN symposium, and have helped put together a book proposal with three other editors, including one of my SF heroes. Oh, and I've met a number of very highly-placed and influential people involved in futurist/SETI/space activities. (That was actually quite intimidating. I felt like a dunce listening to some of them).

I've been on a podcast.

On the personal training front, I've leant a hell of a lot about helping people with exercise conditions. I've actually helped inspire confidence in people, which is at least good karma.

Travel has been limited this year, but I've made it up to Samye Ling a couple of times. Just outside the year threshold (i.e. it was last August), I got to visit Whitby, the mist-shrouded Dracula seaside town, for the first time ever.

So here, in this high place overlooking my personal universe, things aren't actually quite as terrible as they've seemed at times. One major theme of this year, actually, has been an increasing disengagement from the general awfulness of living in an increasingly xenophobic UK that's poised to leave the EU and float off, rudderless into the Atlantic somewhere. (Not to mention living in a world where a possibly genuinely mad president has an itchy trigger finger on the nuclear button).

I don't like what's happening, not by a long shot, but I've realised that I can't let that paralyse me anymore. Yesterday, I re-read Robert Anton Wilson's essay Ten Good Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Evening, which is basically an argument for optimism or at least positive volition during grim times.

Wilson's optimism is infectious. I first read the essay when suicidally depressed in the mid 1990s, and I can truly say that it saved my life. In some ways, his points are similar to the ones Lama Yeshe made to me recently (see last blog).

One of the most potent reasons he mentions is the 'self fulfilling prophecy.' One of the (many) issues I have with political positions labelled 'reactionary' or 'conservative' is their underlying gloominess. Specifically, they seem to draw their view of human nature from Thomas Hobbes, who saw people as basically selfish, atomised, power hungry individuals in perpetual war with each other.

The problem is that if you see people and the world in this way, you're in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect a world full of mean, selfish and horrible people, and that's what you'll get.

In contrast to this, Wilson mentions Buckminster Fuller, who, a 'failure' at 32, made a conscious decision to devote his life to helping the whole of humanity. He ended up a highly successful 'design scientist' who had a carbon molecule named after him. His discovery? That he was more successful the more he tried to help the whole of humanity and not just himself.

In this spirit, I'd like to name some wishes/goals for the next year.

1. I want whatever I do to actually benefit increasing circles of people, whether in a practical way or aesthetically through my art.
2. I do, finally, want to begin making a transition to a fully freelance career on a paying basis and do this in benign cooperation with others. I reject the Capitalist mode of dog eat dog competition (and Lama Yeshe said I could so I have some official endorsement for this, okay?)
3. Some success in actually, physically getting someone to publish my fiction.
4. To do a significant and challenging expedition. At this point, that looks like the tour of Mont Blanc.
5. Maintain and build physical/mental health and wellbeing.
6. Do some more bloody painting!
7. I'd also like to be less judgmental towards those who do not share my political views. (Except of course for fascists, racists and homophobes. I'm quite happy strongly opposing them).
8. I want, as an interconnected, transient node of humanity, to have a generally benign influence on those about me, including other species (especially cats, but that's another story).
9. Advance in my meditation practise and maybe even have a mystical experience or two!
10. Have more fun and not take things so seriously.
10b. Oh, yes, and go to at least one music festival and/or pride march.

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