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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A thought for today.


Now that I’ve been back from China for around 3 weeks or so, I’ve started noticing things in a more objective way again finally. It has been a constant struggle with how strange everything that once was so normal seems, but now it’s a little easier to just…well, think.

I want to share with you a little thought therefore which has found its way into my brain over the last few days, observing the people round me, and myself. (and if you’ve never done any work on observing yourself through mindfulness, research it for a bit – it’s useful stuff!)

One thing that I developed over a year abroad in China was an intense case of being much more calm and collected and this has made me notice just how angry and upset many people get over very small things. It’s not just this however, because it clearly is personally destructive to get flustered easily. The majority of people in the world are more stressed than they need to be, because they create their own stress.

So my thought for today is this. Do you get annoyed too easily, and if so, in what way?

Do you get angry when someone undertakes your car on the daily commute?

Do you get upset perhaps when a family member shouts at you for something seemingly minor?

How about when your toast burns?

Or does the state of the world shake you into a rage?

Obviously some of those are more serious than than the others, but they don’t need to make anyone angry. If you just notice these things, then accept them, that negativity will start to fade away.

Calm and collected people will also inevitably affect those around around them. If someone gives no conflict at all in return to a negative action or remark, that goodness gets noticed. One chilled out person can make a lot of people in one day that little bit happier.

Be that person.

“Life is not the opposite of death. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal”


“Life is not the opposite of death. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal”
What do you think of this? I think it is profound genius. Although i’m certain they didn’t come up with the idea I stumbled upon this little quote through the lyrics of a band called ‘Anathema’; a band who started of as a doom metal band but have slowly morphed into a very deep, philosophical and hopeful prog rock band. I’m not here to talk about the music though…I can do that in a later post.

Resonance 2

Resonance 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just look at that quote. How does it make you feel? (without trying to sound too much like a physiatrist…) For me, it lifted my uncontrollable fear of death and changed it for something completely different. Now, i see it as a close to one story and the foundation for many others. We fear it because our death will be the end of  our contribution to life. Death is and end, the closing of a book, a change from a G chord to a C, a finishing point. We can’t say that Life is a starting point so is in no way death’s opposite. I guess you could argue that Life has not always existed, so cannot be eternal (no end or beginning), but I think that is contrary to the point being made in the quote.

We tend to see life as we live, then we die. In other words we see life in terms of ourselves rather than what life actually is. As Eckhart Tolle (possibly the man behind the quote, i’m not entirely sure) expands on the quote: If you walk through a forest completely untouched by man, you will be astounded by how much life surrounds you. But also in this unspoilt environment you will find death round every corner-for example a fallen tree, rotting away on the forest floor. This tree is however fuelling life. It’s death gives nutrients to the soil, a home to insects, a feeding ground for animals. Death in itself is essential to life.

English: Head-shot of Eckhart Tolle from direc...

English: Head-shot of Eckhart Tolle from directly in front by Kyle Hoobin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So whether you believe in any form of life after death or not, fear not. Life doesn’t end.

Trying something new here…


I’ve tried something a little bit different today. Its not a poem and its not really a thought or story. Instead, a sort of more creative way of writing out a thought, but almost verging on (very) short story. I can’t really explain it, so i’ll just share this little bit of writing and you can tell me what you think…

My simple world

It was late. Yet I still kept writing; scribbling away on pages and pages of once pristine white paper. It felt almost terrible to cover something so pure in the scrawling mess of writing that was so haphazardly forced upon it – The paper’s purity slowly being enveloped in a writer’s struggle to express the feelings he know he feels, without knowing exactly what they are.

Reader, I ask you whether you also have felt emotions that don’t seem to fit the limited vocabulary we have devoted to feelings? After all, we all are so different from one another that what we feel and how we are affected by the strange happenings of the world surely cannot be completely described in ways we can accurately pass onto others.

It was one such feeling that I slaved upon into the early hours of the morning. It had been troubling me for a whole day now and seemed particularly out of the ordinary. How could one conversation change the whole of my simple world?

quick thought on ‘education’


What do we really learn from more?

Do we learn best when we are in schools or universities  being told what to believe and what work we should do in order to understand something; or do we learn best by following the subjects our hearts take us to in our spare time?

Is an institution filled with ‘experts’ really a learning environment or is maybe: a coffee shop, your house, a forest, at the top of a mountain; a better place to learn?

Do we learn from others or ourselves?

Is an hour in a classroom more informative than an hour with a piece of paper, a pen and your mind?

I’m not going to write answers. If i did, i would just be doing what the teachers or lecturers might do in the second question. Stop and think about the questions, even if you no longer attend any form of education-I include evening and weekend classes as education by the way.

I will write one statement though.

We are always learning.

post of criticising without any real direction


Before reading this, i warn you that it will have very little direction at all. It is instead going to be a random mix of thoughts and comments on recent personal events. I have a habit of forgetting things that could be potentially inspirational for my art, music and writing, so hopefully as well as being a (possibly) good read for you, it may even help me with later projects with a bit of luck.

First recent personal event. Whilst waiting outside of a class for the teacher to turn up, a younger student starts talking to me. One of her friends then asks her in complete amazement “Why are you talking to Him” as if i am some sort of strange creature that should be avoided at all cost, lest be doomed for an eternity. Shrugging off this passive insult, i walk into the class as the teacher arrives, but i catch one last ear of speech that gives the game away-“guess you were talking about haircuts and white make-up”. Stereotypes. It simply Amazes me it is so common that many people can be so close-minded as to group others just on appearance. In this example i guess i was labelled a goth. It is true that in appearance one could stereotype me as a goth (long hair, like wearing black, long coats and cool hats) but why should appearance automatically label a person’s personality? I personally love gothic culture and hence don’t mind being labelled a goth and although i certainly did not ‘choose’ to be part of it, i slowly gravitated towards it with personal taste in music, art, clothes and literature. But how does that relate to my underlying personality? bluntly put, it doesn’t. A person’s interests may influence their personality (or vice versa) but they certainly don’t dictate it. The point of all this? society seems to frown upon individuality and expression. If you don’t fit in you are ridiculed and stereotyped for your differences. I ask a simple question: why do we create negative groupings and stereotypes of people? I don’t have an answer. There is simply no reason, so we should not make petty stereotypes.

Viona Ielegems at Work at the Wave Gotik Treff...

Next event. I was in a pub celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday last week and there was a band playing covers of pink floyd and classic blues tracks. What i noticed about some of my fellow teenagers was that somehow, they couldn’t enjoy a good bit of prog rock and blues (what is there not to like?? :P) complaining about not being able to use the karaoke machine so they could listen to some ‘good’ music. The older guys in the pub were naturally loving the cover band. So i found my self thinking-what is it that makes a younger generation in general not like older music? In my eyes, good music is and always will be good music. Is there not still magic to be found in even gregorian chant music? I think there can only be one answer-there must be some stigma associated with not being trendy and liking the classics over the latest tunes. I understand that we all have different taste in music, but i don’t understand how so many seem to reject music based on age or being ‘out of fashion’. Lets all appreciate all music that is good, without regards to age or popularity!

Electric Guitar

And another semi-unlinked event, in which i criticise myself instead of others-its good to be balanced ;). When walking back home after the same party mentioned above, we heard a voice somewhere in the dark pleading for help and instead of finding out where the voice was coming from and seeing what was the problem, we walked on quicker, in fear of a person we couldn’t see but was there-and very possibly in need of our help. The question here is, why do we occasionally fear the needy? the same dilemna can be seen in the example of how the majority of us will walk past the homeless, avoiding eye contact and ignoring conversation as if the person never existed. It seems such a petty and weak thing to ignore the pleads of those who need help the most out of fear and greed-be it for money or safety.

Homeless man in Anchorage, Alaska

Image via Wikipedia

And heres another from today. In my 6th form (for any non-uk readers, the last few years of school before university) common room a piece of student art work had ended up with huge gaping hole in it after someone threw a ball at it. A fellow student, despite it not being his work, got rather annoyed – and rightly so – at the damages. The majority of students however sadly couldn’t care less. Here, the question is-why do so few appreciate the hard creative work of others? I would like to add that the artwork in question did get full marks and took alot of time to finish (not my piece-mine are never that good ;)) So for the kindness of this particular student loaning her work to the school, she got it severely damaged by the lack of care of others. The opinion of one student for example, was “Who cares? it was rubbish anyway.” Even if it were a poor piece of work-which it really wasn’t, it certainly should not have that sort of attitude towards it. Everyone should appreciate the hard work of others.

I’ll leave it at that for today, but i quite enjoyed writing this post so i may do a similar thing in the future. As i said at the beginning, this sort of writing helps me find inspiration for more creative pieces later on, so you may be seeing some poems on the same topics sometime soon.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments. 🙂