Coming to terms with Adventure


 

One of my first friends was an adventurer. He was a soft toy man dressed in yellow named adventurer Sam. Little did I know that in the future many of my close friends would share the same name; it must be a special name. Adventurer Sam was always well prepared. He had a soft toy water bottle and soft toy binoculars. Inside his backpack, perfectly sized for a soft toy adventurer, he carried a soft toy map. That way he would never lose his way. He was a childhood hero; a figure to look up to. If he could be an adventurer, why not me?

My parents are adventurers. In their mid 20’s they left their home land of New Zealand for The UK and started a new life in Edinburgh. Did they know they would stay in Britain for ever? I don’t know. What I do know is that they left practically everything. Family and friends all on the other side of the world, replaced with the rainy streets of the Scottish capital. Their small island in the Pacific turned into a smaller island in the Atlantic, and home was geographically as far away as you can go without leaving the planet. What a decision. I’ve always taken it for granted; that my parents lived as long As I’ve been in alive in New Zealand, then only to trade it forever. But really it’s amazing. They must have been truly brave to move so far.

I always wanted to be an adventurer. As a child I was fascinated with ancient Egypt, and while other kids wanted to be famous footballers, I dreamed of pyramids and ancient gods. I wanted to be an Egyptologist, and perhaps so myself to be a little Indiana Jones. More likely though, I wanted to be like Adventurer Sam.

We used to always spend the Easter holiday in the Lake District. When I was four my mum and step dad called my ‘the champion mountain climber’ because I had climbed one very short mountain with them. For a few years I carried that title deep in my heart and believed that it was true. I wanted to conquer the highest mountains and see the greatest views the world had to offer. My strongest memory from early childhood is walking through the forests in the Lakes, one hand held by mum, the other my step dad. We never found the bears.

I went with my dad in the summers to the west coast of Scotland where we sailed Scotland’s western isles. There I felt nature, and learned its strength. When the sun came, its light played with the sea. The waves shifted and reflected the sun over us. Sometimes dolphins swam alongside the yacht and we became for a short time a member of their community. When the dark skies came and the sea was pulled into black waves, I learned that nature must be respected. She is not evil, but she can be terrifying and violent. When you sit in a small boat that leans so far in a storm, that you are almost touching the wailing sea, you learn the violent beauty of our world.

When we landed on islands it felt as if we had found new land. We were the first people that had ever been there; the island our own kingdom. I still remember the disappointment as we found signs on the ‘black isle’ that people had been there before us. The other boat in the harbour should have been proof enough, but so is the imagination of a dreaming child.

In ‘normal’ life I lived in Cambridgeshire with my mum and step dad. In Cambridgeshire there are no lakes, no mountains, and very little nature. Instead agriculture reigns entirely. Some find the endless fields of crops beautiful. I see in it the end of nature. There is nothing to connect with there. We lived in a region we hated and stayed because of my step dad’s work. There was no adventure in Cambridgeshire. When people tell me that it is my home, it hurts. My mum grew up on a farm where the plains of central Otago meet the mountains. My step dad grew up near the lake district. I was born in Edinburgh, a city never far from hills and the sea. We never fitted into Cambridgeshire, even me who has spent most of my life there. I only ever really felt at home when I went to see dad in Scotland. The strongest influence Cambridgeshire had on me was the desperate desire to escape it.

I remember one of the teachers I respect the most from my school days telling me “you’ll grow to appreciate here after you leave it.” I’ve gone back a few times now. Every time I last a few days before questioning how I managed to stay there so long. I go there to see family, catch up with a few friends, then I leave again.

The point here is, I was always going to end up needing something I could quantify as a ‘real’ adventure. When I did finally leave Cambridgeshire after school was done and dusted, I was really running away in many respects. Maybe I still am. I’m not entirely sure.

That was four years ago now. I packed my bags, got on a plane and landed in China. At 19 years old I was moving to the Gobi desert. The adventure hasn’t stopped since. In four years I’ve been a teacher,  been a student in three countries and lived in five cities. I’ve travelled thousands of miles on trains and buses; watched from their windows as lush mountains turn to deserts. I’ve started to learn how little I know that there is to know.

At the end of my first year in China, some friends and I sat in a courtyard in Beijing and considered how surreal it would be to be back in the UK. One said: “we’ll never have an adventure like this again.” We had all lived and worked as teachers in small cities across the country, far from the well known metropoles. I didn’t believe him and promised it was only the start. In some ways that adventure never actually ended. In other ways, we truly never had an adventure like it again. If I told you that we all met on a small Scottish Island with a population of around 200 people, you probably wouldn’t believe me. That first adventure ended after all in a town of 20 million.

Going back to the UK actually was an adventure too. My Chinese city, Kuitun, had a westerner population of roughly two; me and my friend who I lived with for the year. Some others lived twenty minutes south in Dushanzi, but nonetheless in a city of 300’000 we stuck out like sore thumbs. The first day back in the UK was extremely uncomfortable, because everyone wasn’t Chinese, and it just didn’t feel right. It took a month to readjust.  I missed good food. I missed things being affordable. I missed the language. The UK was all wrong.

That year was the only full year I’ve spent in the UK since leaving school. The year after I was back in China, and I’m writing this right now from Germany, where I’ve been for the last three and a half months. Although it was a great year I had cabin fever the whole time. After a year that was split up by long train journeys across the whole of China, a whole year in Leeds felt like a cage. Because of that, I think I’m still running. I love university, but despite that A whole year in one place had become so difficult.

In three weeks I go back to the UK for the first full year since year 1 of uni. My relationship with it has completely changed. I see it more as a nice country which I like staying in, rather than a home. Four years of hopping in and out of it seems to have its toll eventually. Not so long ago I thought this point would be feel like the end of my ‘adventuring’. There are no more times where I ‘must’ live outside of the UK. That’s all done now. But it’s so problematic.  My childhood was characterised entirely by a need to run, to explore the world; and the frustration that that need couldn’t be realised. Now, after four years of changing worlds and experiences, I  feel the sense of adventure disappearing but simultaneously don’t want to stop. My friend’s comment back in Beijing comes back as a ghost. The adventures never were the same.

There is no doubt in my mind that after another whole year in the UK I’ll be itching to run away again. Already I’m considering whether it is better to move to Europe or to Asia. But for every year I keep running, the less it remains adventure, and instead becomes normal life. It becomes normal to have friends for a few months, only to wave goodbye forever at the end of that all too short time. It becomes normal to wonder if you can still keep your life to one bag if you need to. The concept of ‘your own bed’ disappears. Your own bed is wherever your sleeping at any given time. I’ve been told for example that I can have my own bed back this time I visit Cambridgeshire. The last few times I’ve been sleeping in the living room, and both ways are fine, because my bed isn’t my bed anymore.  I wouldn’t trade the experiences of the last few years for anything but in truth, for everything you gain, you lose something too. Embrace adventure too much, and it seems you lose a sense of home.

Something is still puzzling. As a kid, adventure was always associated with nature, but my last four years has been spent almost entirely in cities. How do I assimilate the root of that need to run, with the actual result? Is that why after four years something seems lacking, or does that stem from too long simply up in the air never staying in one place? The exception is my old dream of becoming an egyptologist. I have something in common with my old dream. I do explore culture, and although the cultures I learn about are very much still living, the foundation is still there.

I think over the next few years my concept of adventure will change. They say life itself is an adventure, and I believe that wholeheartedly, but that doesn’t fit with the relatively superficial conceptualisation of the word explored here. I think as this superficial material adventure becomes more and more a form of normal life, experiences gained along the way will feed a more philosophical form of adventurism. That is to an extent already happening. When you start to realise more deeply that every nation thinks differently, and that their thoughts are not right or wrong, but a different understanding of existence,  existence suddenly becomes much more fluid. There lies perhaps the next adventure: No longer in places, but in mind sets. Maybe the next few years will prove that theory wrong, but one thing is doubtless. The adventurism embodied for me in a childhood toy and hero, adventurer Sam, is not the same adventurism that lies in the future. I still need to come to terms with adventure.

 

 

 

 

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Is’civilized’ just imagined superiority?


Last week I was reading a book called Danubia, which is all about the Habsburg empire. Like most of the old empires, you won’t find it on a modern map anymore, but once upon a time is was the leading force in Europe and leaves its distinctive mark across Central Europe to this day.

In fact the Habsburgs didn’t really start to get left behind until the late colonial era. Where much of Europe had been having great fun being evil tyrants around the world, The Habsburg empire was busy fighting over the same territories it had been fighting over for centuries. The author of Danubia, Simon Winder, made a particularly insightful comment in regards to the colonial nations.

“These were societies which could resort to any level of violence in support of racial supremacy. Indeed, an interesting  global history could be written about the ferocity of a period which seems, very superficially, to be so ‘civilized‘.

Winder’s comment, and it must be noted that it was certainly a side comment rather than central to the book, got me thinking about that odd little word, ‘civilized’. This is a term rarely seen in a negative context, unless it happens to be collapsing. In that case, the said collapse is deemed a bad thing, so the civilization in question must once again be considered good up to its destruction.

At the very least one cannot escape the feeling of a dark side to the  notion of ‘civilized’ in Winder’s words. If the colonial powers were indeed the epitome of ‘civilized’, then being civilized must involve its fair share of killing, destruction and oppression. That’s certainly not what I imagine  goes through the mind of guests at ‘civilized’ parties and meetings.

To be civilized is itself relative to the existence of the ‘uncivilized’, whatever or whoever that may be. Watch any film or read any book with colonial Brits in and by some point you will be confronted with a haughty character accusing another, most likely a person of a colonized nation, of being thoroughly ‘uncivilized’. In the view of the accuser that is to say  rude, ignorant or perhaps even barbaric. What is really meant however is ‘different’ and in such a way to be inferior. At the heart of the word ‘civilized’ is a superiority complex.

Let’s take this back a step. ‘Civilized’ comes from ‘civilization’. The Oxford Dictionary gives a few different definitions, so I will take two which I feel express the implications of the words deeply.

“[mass noun] The stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced” 

or

The society, culture, and way of life of a particular area”

Let’s tackle the former first, as it fits best with our haughty British colonist. In labeling another society as uncivilized, a person raises themselves to an imagined pinnacle of being. You may justifiable ask, “But what if that person truly is a member of the greatest civilization on earth?”. I would argue that that has never existed. In Europe we often look to ancient Greece and Rome as the pinnacle of civilization, but numbering amongst  their contemporaries were Egyptians,  Han dynasty China and the Parthians. They were of course eventually brought down to their knees by ‘barbarian’ nations like the Visigoths. Who’s civilized now, Rome?

The fact is, the very idea of ‘civilized’ is highly fluid.

Let’s have a look now at the more egalitarian second definition. Given that civilization by this definition changes to the location, the very idea of ‘uncivilized’ becomes very difficult to fathom. Whether you live in a metropolis or a cave in Siberia you will take part in a form of civilization. With this definition, the concept of ‘uncivilised’ just doesn’t work.

So what do we really mean if we call ourselves civilized, or another uncivilized?

‘civilized’ is a word that claims a (usually imagined) superiority. It belittles those we feel disconnected from and the cultures we do not understand. It creates a framework for what is right or wrong in a world where these morals are largely constructs in the first place rather than  set in stone universal laws.

‘uncivilized’ denotes an other-ed person or society. The ‘uncivilized’ are by no means bad, just in the same way the ‘civilized’ are not necessarily good. Perhaps for the latter, the opposite is actually more likely. Two groups in conflict may well consider themselves to be civilized, whilst believing the other to be uncivilized. Sometimes that imagined belief alone is cause for conflict.

I’m going to jump right back to the Habsburg empire now just to clear something up. I may have accidentally given an impression of the former Central European power as being a beautifully egalitarian state in which its leaders abused no feelings of superiority. Sorry, but that’s not the case either. They just formed a lovely introduction to the colonial guys who have acted as my models of the dark side to being ‘civilized’.

The fact is, The Habsburg empire felt very superior for most of its history and got involved in a fair amount of conflict because of that. When you think about it, so have most societies throughout history. Sadly even today, the rising tide of nationalism sweeping the globe is fueled by feelings of superiority. The ‘civilized’ fear the ‘uncivilized’ and become alienated.

Perhaps one day, the shroud of imagined superiority will fall and then just maybe people will come to see being ‘civilized’ as a form of lowly bigotry instead.

 

 

 

 

Disillusion. A new way.


The world seems helpless and it seems hopeless.

I find myself in total disillusionment with everything. The work of several years to better myself and to come to terms with myself, work which was going so very well, is collapsing.

I learned to trust and love my friends, my family even my enemies. I moulded the remnants of depression and confusion into a beautiful contentedness. It became an unshakable grounding from which I could approach each wonderful day with joy in my heart.

I learned to meditate each day, to foster only positive emotions and to discard all negativity from my life. We only curse the earth with our presence for so long; what madness would make us choose to spend it in sadness and suffering? My inspiration was calm. I lost my anger.

I lost something else too, something which took me years somehow to spot.

I lost my spark. I lost the inner fire that makes us fight to live and love each moment, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I was at peace, but all passion was gone.

And what now?

In a matter of months, the world I see has changed for the worse. The leaders of the world have gone wild and their supporters wilder. Racism, nationalism, sexism; every imaginable form of baseless, weak-minded discrimination is on the rise. It becomes increasingly clear that we have pushed the earth to her limit and the environment is close to a point of collapse. All that is solid melts into air  and this time we are entirely to blame.

How can I then, in a time where it all is falling apart, possibly remain content? How can I hold firmly onto the contentedness  that I have fostered, even nourished in these past years?

I cannot.

That time is gone. It taught me much and I am thankful for a truly essential development in my self, but now is not a time where apathy serves. I have joined the disillusioned.

How can I sit in acceptance, as hate becomes the norm of society?

How can I sit in acceptance, as the people become divided over lies?

How can I sit in acceptance, as we burn nature to the ground in pure, brutal indifference?

I am a liberal, left-wing, environmentally-minded, vegetarian, bi-, non-binary, creative, introspective, radical human-being. In these times, the only element there I regret is the last.

In these times, where to sit in acceptance is as dangerous as to fight against the rising tides we face, my fostered neutrality has been smashed into tiny little insignificant pieces.

After years of purging pain and anger from my life in the name of breaking through my negativity, I am letting it all back in. Perhaps that seems like a truest form of madness, as if I were a monk jumping out of deep meditation to burn his temple in spite. I think however that this is a necessity.

Now?

Now I feel an uncontrollable rage at humanity’s encroaching madness. The world seems to me to be on the edge of a crumbling cliff: Past it is the void. The void is growing, in size and in strength. It can’t and won’t be stopped.

A curious feeling has grown however out of my new rage and this feeling is perhaps even stronger, or at the very least more striking. Out of the rage has grown an uncontrollable love. Suddenly I have so much joy to see the magpies each morning as I leave for university. Suddenly each falling leaf is a universe with its own story to tell. When I see my friends, they cannot possible know how thankful I am now to see them, and know that they are well, that they survive in the face of our world in flux.

I feel some of the other disillusioned are giving up. But no, why should helplessness mean giving up? Are we not still alive?  Are you not still breathing, thinking,  whilst you read my twisted  words so lacking hope?

Let me tell you then, that these words are of hope, at the very least for myself. With this development of new emotion – of conflicting love and rage – I realise: Our experience here, no matter how dark it turns, will always have glimmers of intense beauty. For each person who joins the ranks of mindless nationalism and discriminators, we can fight back with rage-fuelled love. As contrary as that seems, Love and anger are linked in impossible ways. The enemy here is apathy.

It has often been times of darkness where great writers have appeared from the shadows. I am not one of them, but I have learned from them how important the mighty pen becomes in such moments. Brecht attacked national-socialism. Lu xun gave up a medical career to take up the pen and challenge the early 20th century society of China. I am writing because although I sense a painful future, I see glimmers within its blinding darkness. I am one of the disillusioned, and it has made me see the beauty we will have until the last moment. It may hide in caves or under rocks at the very end, but it will always be there.

And so I throw away the work of years to become a content soul, thankful and accepting. I embrace now my new-found love and rage. I will stare into the encroaching void, and laugh with pure joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neglected patterns in a coffee cup.


just for a moment of peace before an intense study session, I decided today just to stare at my freshly served coffee and not drink it for a while.

I saw how bubbles gently grew from the coffee’s frothy top, slowly building a pattern over it’s surface.

Maybe that doesn’t seem so special in isolation, but the point is, I’d never noticed that before…I could try and argue that peculiarity with the fact I rarely drink coffee with milk, but the reality of it is that there was an every day sight, which I had missed every day of my life from rushing through every moment.

Those calm little bubbles were strangely relaxing to watch. Somehow, it was a new experience.

Take a minute today to look at something insignificant, and find some beauty that has been left unseen your whole life. It will be a moment worth having.

Identity – Do you know who you are?


I’m thinking currently about identity, more specifically what my identity is.

This is a word that carries much weight. It builds pride. It fuels hate. It’s formed communities. It’s caused wars.

It’s a very hard concept to define, seeing as an obvious description would almost certainly circle round an idea of what, or who you are. The problem lies in a wrenchingly difficult question –

Do we actually know what, or who we are?

In both more literal and more philosophical terms, I without a doubt don’t know who I am. I challenge anyone to honestly answer the above question.

Whatever answer one gives is innately affected by ones opinions or world view, which can dramatically turn a similar set of circumstances in physical terms into a completely different story. One could perhaps say that it is in fact these differences in opinion which make up our identities.  Perhaps our identities are a sum of our experiences in life.

But then we have no fixed identity. The sum of our experiences changes by the second. If our identity is defined by our experiences, then my Identity has changed since I started writing this article, and your’s has changed since you started reading it.

Given this concept – that Identity is never fixed – why has it on numerous occasions had such destructive power? Why is it that ‘identities’ such as white, black, woman, man, red guard, nationalist; has caused such painful divides and violence in the past? Where did this ability to feel so secure and ‘right’ come from such a transient concept?

My belief here stems from the understanding that the above questions actually regard collective identity and not personal identity. I would also go as far as saying that such group identities are not truly identity. I accept this is a difficult claim to make considering my inability to define identity contently, but hear me out.

The only way a collective identity can form is for it to be exerted on others and then for it to become accepted by the individual. One can prescribe to this collective identity, but they can always leave. You might join a political group, or be a fan of a particular sports team, but is that who you are?

I’ll put this into perspective with myself. I’m born in the UK, to parents from New Zealand. Do I need to consider myself part of the collective groups of British and New Zealand nationality? No, states are essentially areas of land held together by invisible lines that only exist in the minds of world leaders.  I’m a student of German and Chinese, so must I only speak those languages? No, I know a reasonable amount of a few others. I’m pretty left wing, so must I vote for the labour party? No, I can vote for whoever I want to.

But many will prescribe to supposed given collective identities. Born in the UK, must support England in the world cup. Family is athiest, must be athiest yourself. Friends listen only listen to metal, must listen to metal to fit in. Born a guy, can’t become an au pair. Born a girl, can’t become a professional footballer.

…really? Collective identities are more often than not external pressures to conform. They can trap you into thinking in a way that isn’t necessarily what you truly think. They can make you be what you aren’t.

And yet they offer security. to be part of something collective is to have a common aim, common joys, common pains. For many, it’s a beautiful thought and in a world where so much is illusion, a comforting illusion it must seem all the better.

And yet, it is truly a self-absorbed view to think that many don’t become parts of a collective identity because that is exactly how they identify rather than having that identity pushed onto them. The difficult thing to try and dissect is how much exactly is pushed onto a person, and how much identifies truly with the person.

But whatever the case, there is a huge divide between personal identity and collective identity, although most of us will take the sum of our collective identities as our personal identity.

Now, my personal problem with this, and where this article loses any momentum it had, is that I can’t agree that a personal identity, with it’s innately unfixed, ever-changing nature, can be a construction of ones numerous collective identities, with their fixed and exerted-on-others nature.

It leads me to only one possible (rather non-) conclusion, that we have no personal identity. At least, that is, until we find it independently of our collective identities, which seems near to impossible. The closest that seems possible, is a total acceptance that we are. This is something that I can only do in writing, and not yet in reality, and this is almost certainly the case with nearly everyone alive.

So now you have read this, I want you to go to the top of this page again and read the second line, with this question in mind. If personal identity is nearly impossible to know, and collective identity is exerted onto us, why does it carry that weight I mentioned at the start of this article?

Perhaps, given that knowledge, it is best to disown identity, and try to do independently what you think is closest to who you actually are. It might save the world a lot of pain.

Here’s a true story. About dreams and a nightmare


Truth and dreams don’t generally get put in the same sentence. But then, those who spend too much believing things to be true don’t dream.

Luckily, plenty of dreamers don’t get too hooked up on what is true. At the very least the idea of truth reshapes itself after while.

I’m going to continue my journey of honesty today, opening up about a strange part of myself I haven’t talked much about before. My dreams. This is post is more a narrative rather than my usual thinking through of something, because I’m as confused about it all as you probably will be if you read it the whole way through.

I’ve been interested in dreams for a long time, but only the last few years have I become really interested in them, and for a singular reason. Because I questioned why they had gone.

A large proportion of adults don’t think they dream anymore. It’s not the case, but I’m not here to talk about the science/psychology of dreams today and for the sake of reducing convoluted language, I stopped dreaming for most of my teenage years. I didn’t think much of them disappearing and this strikes me as really odd – as will be highlighted when I tell the background of my dreams in just a brief moment – because they play a pretty dramatic role in childhood.

Why do so many of us accept the disappearance of dreams, and why do we have to discount such beautiful experiences as ‘not real’ and hence ‘not important’?

Now I have been working for the last few years to get my dreams back, but let’s go back to the start of my dream story…

As a child, I dreamed vividly. I dreamed almost every night. I was sometimes lucid, although I didn’t know what that meant at the time.

The problem was, most of my dreams were nightmares, and dark, twisted ones at that. The good dreams have long been lost to time, but the memory of those nightmares still stay with me. Where most kids were having nightmares of zombies and aliens, I dreamed of walking over an endless chessboard with no escape. Sometimes it was the voice that whimpered, then laughed, then screamed, with no image at all – and that was accompanied with a feeling of illness that is impossible to describe but that still hits me occasionally when i’m awake to this day. There was the sleep paralysis – that was so real that I was convinced I was cursed.

And then there was the nightmare. Sometimes I called it the man. Sometimes I called it the mummy (it occasionally appeared as a mummified figure). Now it is just called ‘you’. (not directed at the reader, don’t worry!)

I can’t express how terrifying this nightmare was. I won’t even attempt very hard. The problem is that it’s image is both blurred and perfectly vivid in my mind. All I can say for certain was that it embodied fear entirely. It also felt more real than reality every time I experienced it.

I could attempt to say more about why ‘you’ was so unbearable, but it makes me terrified even now.

I, still in my childhood years, decided eventually to take action. This is where (if it hadn’t already) begins to get a bit strange and where you may begin to doubt the ‘truth’ of the account.

My solution, was to confront ‘you’. i decided to tell it to leave forever.

I remember the last  childhood dream of ‘you’ vividly. I was in a Scandinavian-like land at a turn in a river. There was forest all around, and here on the river’s turn was a clearing with a small shack in it. The door faced away from the river, and I new ‘you’ was in there, waiting for me.

This time, ‘you’ was robed all in black, with a hood over the face. The face is the part I can never picture. There might not have been a face. Yet somehow I’m certain ‘you’ had eyes, the most fearful eyes. The door to the shack, as they always did with my encounters with ‘you’ locked.

The sensations I always experienced in the presence of my nightmare started. They are too difficult to explain, not like ‘normal’ fear, so I’m afraid I can’t explain them.

Before it became too much and I sank into the usual complete terror, I somehow (I can’t remember how) managed to strike a deal with ‘you’. I can’t remember it’s side of the deal, but my side of the deal was that ‘you’ would never ever come back. It went to the door. The door unlocked and ‘you’ disappeared. I walked out the building, and the dream dissolved.

My nightmare never returned.

But my dreams disappeared completely.

And this, is why I wondered at the start of this post why I didn’t question the loss of my dreams, or have any concern about the loss of them, for the entirety of my teenage years. I had such a clear moment where my dreams stopped. I did in fact tell my nightmares, in the middle of a nightmare, to stop. And somehow i accepted the loss of dreams with that, without asking why.

I only began to remember parts of my old dreams when I began to meditate a few years back. I remembered how I had told my nightmare to leave me, and suddenly I realised my dreams had almost completely gone for over five years.

I started dreaming again, but no where near as vividly as I used to.

So I decided to try something. I tried to bring back my nightmare, with the intention of learning about it.

A few nights after deciding this, I almost forced myself into sleep paralysis. I forced myself out in terror when the lights in my room started flashing and horrific laughter filled the room.

Since then, I’ve seen glimpses of ‘you’ in my returning dreams. Only now, it seems to be on the run. It never stays for long enough for me to work out how to react. But I Know  it’s the same nightmare.

The problem is, despite the terror this…thing inflicts on me even today, I’m determined to track it down in my dreams. It’s one of my goals for once I successfully begin to lucid dream. I realised a while back that i’ve repressed a large chunk of my childhood, and I think this nightmare has some of the answers..

The nightmare however, seems no longer to be restricted to the dreamworld alone, and this does make me question further how close reality and dream actually are (I wonder about this a lot). Twice in the last few months, ‘you’ has appeared vividly in mere daydreams. I’ve been awake, and it’s been there.

And one time -thank god it was only once – I’m convinced it was in the park on my walk into university. Dressed in a long coat and a hat, ‘you’ was there,

It’s where this shocked, confused post here came from. – https://thoughtofvg.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/welcome-back-still-multi-part-poem-pt1/

So here I am now, chasing a dream, quite literally. Since childhood, I’ve been fighting with the same being, and i’m told there is no reality at all to a dream.

I’m trying to find out.

One last point on ‘you’. I few months back I watched the film ‘insidious’ with some friends, and I had a terrible shock. There is sort of a ‘main nightmare/demon’ in the film. This Nightmare, I think, is the same one as in my old nightmares. I had never seen the film before, but I knew that figure as soon as it appeared on the screen. It wasn’t it’s most common form, but It was the same. I’m still trying to work out how on earth a nightmare from a film produced the last couple of years was the same as in my childhood.

I’m going to leave a more analytical approach to dreams for a later post, but that there was an honest account of my ‘dream journey’ so far. I’ve focused only on parts of it, but I certainly covered the most important parts.

I will finish with a few short points however.

Why do we discount these dreams as trivial as we grow up when they are so important in youth?

How can the same dream be so real, so consistent, so constant, and even start breaking out of the dream world?

Have we all got the divide between ‘reality’ and ‘dream’ completely wrong? How do I know I’m not dreaming right now? What if that dreamworld is my reality and I’ve been stuck in the dream world for quite a while?

Thanks for reading guys, I hope you never ever encounter ‘you’. That won’t stop me searching for it though.

Are you awake? I’m not.


Are you awake? No really, are you? You’re reading this right now, and we generally assume that if you’re busy reading something on the internet you tend to not be asleep.

But I’m still not sure how awake you are. I know I spend a lot of my waking life not really being awake, but rather I drift through life missing some of the most beautiful moments that pass me.

I’ve only realised the extent of this anomaly over the last week or so when I started a little experiment of mine. I have been constantly doing what I call ‘wake checks’.

The origins of this experiment came from my attempts to Lucid dream; when you become aware that you are dreaming and can consequently control it. It is meant to be an incredible experience, and although I haven’t succeeded yet, I’m vaguely aware that I could lucid dream to an extent when I was younger. (I have an interesting story about when my dreams stopped, but perhaps I’ll leave that for another post).

As i just said above that I hadn’t yet managed to lucid dream with the help of my wake checks, naturally i’ll be talking mainly about something other than Lucid dreams today. The fact, from my experience so far, is that wake checks do more than improve your chances of Lucid dreaming. Oh so much more.

Let me actually explain to you what my wake checks entail. The basic principle is fairly self-explanatory. You check whether or not you’re awake. I write ‘Are you awake?’ on my hand everyday in Chinese  (你醒马) and look at occasionally over the course of the day. As soon as I see it in passing, I ask myself “Am I awake? Am I dreaming?”, count the fingers on my hand, close my eyes, then check my hand again, looking for abnormal changes.

This may all seem a little odd, but in a dream certain small details get distorted. By making it customary to check for abnormalities in the waking world (being the strange person I am, I hesitate to use the word ‘reality’), it should increase the chance of noticing abnormalities in a dream – triggering awareness within the dream.

The problem arises when you consider that most people would think it rather strange to check they’re awake, especially when they know that they’re awake.

The bigger problem is that they should, and are missing out in not doing so.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘am I dreaming?’ used for when something incredulous happens. Interestingly enough, if you force the question, you start noticing plenty of incredulous things you pass every day but ignored before as ‘normal’, ‘just the way it is’, ‘boring’.

But things aren’t just ‘the way they are’ or ‘normal’. If you have ever read ‘the Kite Runner’, you may well remember the moment when the protagonist breaks down into tears because he had seen something stunningly beautiful for the first time. The sea.

What is considered normal is just what we are used to, and we tend to ignore it to an extent. An Eskimo isn’t going to be too excited If he met a Bedouin nomad telling of the wonders of icicles. Likewise, the Bedouin would be severely confused for an Eskimo in awe of expanses of sand.

Of course both places are incredible. But for someone, they are normal and for someone, what’s normal for you would be a world of experience for someone else.

You just need to see it.

And wake checks do that.

These are some of the things I hadn’t noticed – or had at least forgotten to the sea of acceptance and normality – that have come to my awareness since starting my wake checks.

-The cold isn’t as uncomfortable as we make it out to be, we just seem to be predisposed to anxiety from it. (of course I may have a different opinion of this if I still lived in Xinjiang, where it gets to -30)

– I’ve noticed patterns I never saw before in the way trees grow

– music has more depth and clarity

-The way different colours interact with each other seems clearer

-The huge amount of movement that happens in one single view at one time is incredible (this one came partly also from a recent training of my periphery vision. That in itself is another example of positive side-effects of projects as I was improving my periphery vision for speed reading rather than for increasing awareness in general)

-Fog has a very distinct smell

-I’ve realised how difficult it is to remain completely in focus of multiple actions. Try taking in everything in front of you in extreme detail whilst also trying to focus on a piece of music.

-Even if I haven’t lucid dreamed, my normal dreams are coming back (the disappearance of my dreams is worth talking about, but not today – it’s a weird story)

-I never noticed before how certain objects illuminate under streetlights at night.

-I see now just how much most people sleep-walk through life, when I see their faces in the street.

-I’ve noticed buildings and monuments I hadn’t acknowledged before.

-I’m more aware of how I feel, and as a result i’m less confused. This gives me confidence in myself.

-I feel like I need to be more productive each day. Being aware of your own wakefulness accentuates the knowledge that you are alive. We’re not alive for very long, and knowing you’re awake is a pretty good reminder that you’re still alive and need to make the most of that.

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Some of those points probably appear more poignant than others, but I think that the apparently smaller insignificant points are the more exciting. When you notice how the normal is incredible, you realise that there is so much more to reassess for it’s wonder, and that in turn highlights how exciting the as of yet unseen really is.

So I’ll ask you something again…

Are you awake?