I Want to Walk a Trail

To reach the far horizon

For a few years now, I’ve been fascinated by long, long walks. Pilgrimages. Solo treks across countries, across continents. From the Pennine Way to the Pacific Crest Trail  (recently made famous by the film Wild) as well as less officially designated trails, there are so many journeys to make. I like the idea of wandering, but having a route and destination at least vaguely in mind is a part of it. Being free to point your nose to the trail and walk, knowing that’s your task and your goal. Otherwise, I have a tendency to merely drift.

Today I found out about The World Walk: a guy my age who is spending five years walking across all five continents. He’s pulling his stuff in a handcart. I read about Cheryl Strayed’s self-help trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, but also Peace Pilgrim‘s 25,000 miles across America without baggage or supplies. Walking has power, and walking far, travelling those immense distances under your own power, being just that small dot on one huge map… I want to do that. I remember reading an article or essay or something, let’s call it a short travelogue, of someone walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. I’m not a Christian, I’m not any religion, just can’t deal with being spiritually dictated to, but the idea seemed to take hold that I should become a pilgrim. That spiritual element is important, I think. Or maybe the idea of walking for penance. Retreat.

Me striding out on my super legit spiritual quest. (Obviously not me. Amazing pic tho.) Credit due: https://battleofwisby1361.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/a-pilgrim-in-a-patched-dress/

When I get frustrated, I wish I could just wander off. Obviously that’s an immature approach to problem solving, but it isn’t my main motivation any more. I’m done with running away from home. I suppose it’s the usual unbearable self-absorbed search for ‘meaning’. Or something. A search for space. The amazingly smart Rebecca Solnit expresses the contemplative side of walking perfectly:

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.

[…]

The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making.

I want to walk in order to think clearly, not in the neurotic circles of sedentary contemplation, but with the freedom lent by an ever-changing scene. To experience new things constantly, while maintaining a constant rhythm of steps, of days. To get strong and overcome some painful misery that actually counts. Walking as meditation and pilgrimage and self-discipline, as well as good old-fashioned means of transport to see the world.

It’s 1am and I’m absolutely convinced right now that I should go on some walk. Not literally right now, it’s dark outside, but I’ve wanted and talked about some kind of backpack treck adventure for years now, without it moving any closer to reality. So this is me realising that if I don’t start thinking real world, I’ll never get to do this, and I’ll die unfulfilled and embittered by regrets. I’d like to walk across Europe, eventually.

Advertisements
I Want to Walk a Trail

*Mind blown*

This has really opened my eyes. I’ve tried to abandon my vulnerabilities. I feel ashamed to have emotions, I’ve spent half my life trying to not feel like me/feel like something better. And weirdly enough, I still feel. Bad.

Half of a Soul - Life with BPD

So I went to individual therapy extremely frustrated last week. Not only had my therapist cancelled last week (cue angry abandoned borderline feelings), but recently I feel like I’m getting nowhere concrete. Even though I do find myself able to think of things in a better light most of the time, all it takes is one really horrible day – even one really horrible moment or mood – and I lapse so easily into bad old habits and thoughts: nothing is ever going to work; nothing is ever going to change; something is wrong with me, etc. etc. I decided I was going to try and be up-front. By which I mean I wasn’t going to lose it, but I wasn’t going to mask my every emotion and self-invalidate by saying everything was fine. Here’s how my initial dialogue with Karen went:

Karen: How are you?

Me: … not great.

View original post 1,554 more words

*Mind blown*

Poem: 26

“Where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be.”  Keep telling yourself that.

26 and I still don’t know where Dorset is

or how I got these bruises

Still can’t tell herpes from acne or remember

which scars came from which disease

I’ve destroyed more than I’ve created but at least  I’ve kept it cyclical

Pleasing symmetry, circling the drain

Charybdis is awful shabby these days  (it’s the drink that done her)

but on the other hands        and other heads

Scylla isn’t bad, for a hard place.

I’m 26 and still kicking at mythical monsters

from the childrens’ room of a smalltown library

26 and still hoping to score something

to shoot that fucking arrow straight into staring eyes

be phoenix fire ashes all at once                           dashed away on the breeze

Hell I Just want to hit something

After more than a quarter of a century I should have learned:

This is how you get bruises

Poem: 26

Don’t Let #piggate Distract You Too Much: The Tories Are Still Fucking Us

Just to make things less fun, the truth is that politics is ridiculous and we’re all basically doomed. Capitalism has run rampant, and braying poshos and sociopathic financiers are firmly in the driving seat. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is coming true, our leaders are financially illiterate, (and the whole concept of finance is also based on lies). Dystopia looms, as usual. The way things are going, the best we can hope is that the human race dies out before we destroy the rest of the planet as well.

I was going to use this post to ennumerate the many reasons to hate the Tories and the political system as a whole. But what’s the point? Everyone knows that disabled people are dying, gender equality is being set back, and of course a lot of people don’t have anywhere to fucking live.

Parliamentary democracy won’t ever change shit. Even the pretty weak appearance of Jeremy Corbyn, heading a Labour Party that is still mainly centre left/neoliberal has caused  the apparent threat of a military coup on top of rabid media attacks. In the Times today, it was claimed that the left wing are literally fascists, due to the influence of ‘deracinated Jew’ Karl Marx. I couldn’t make this weirdness up. If you step outside the bounds of corporate respectability (and by respectability, I mean giving them as much money as possible) then you will be taken down.

The massive inequalities in the system make true democracy impossible in its current state. However, this fact seems to have led to a total loss of energy to do anything. There must be a way to oppose the Tories, without also endorsing their power-hungry rivals or the faux-democracy of Parliament. We have to work out a sustainable way to live. Abolish the political class, power hierarchies and material inequalities. Then we’ll have a real chance of a future.

Don’t Let #piggate Distract You Too Much: The Tories Are Still Fucking Us

David Cameron’s Porcine Necrophilia Is Politically Relevant

Piggate: David Cameron apparently put his dick in a pig.

There’s a fine line to be walked when commenting on the sex lives of politicians. It’s all too easy to sound like some moralising ‘think of the children’ type. Generally, everyone’s sexuality is their own damn business. It only becomes publicly relevant when either they have violated consent, or their private life shows up such a horrendous failing of character that it affects judgement of their wider activities. The former category I shouldn’t have to elaborate on: rapists etc. must not be in positions of power and responsibility. The second category is more a matter of opinion and judgement. Homophobic ‘family values’ campaigners sleeping with male prostitutes, politicians mistresses being paid pubic money, these are all areas where the ‘public interest’ makes the usually private become publicly relevant.

Shockingly bad sexual ethics generally don’t say great things about a person. Although I’m not sure if ‘sexual ethics’ even covers this weirdness.

Oh yes.
Oh yes. This is the most popular picture on Twitter right now.

So, is ‘piggate’ relevant? Mainly, I wanted an excuse to write about it, because it is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. In case you hadn’t heard, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, put ‘a private part of his anatomy’ into the mouth of a dead pig, as part of some bizarre Oxford University posho cult initiation ceremony. So already we have bestiality and necrophilia, and can only assume that he was also surrounded by a crowd of braying toffs, urging him on to this unusual act as a symbol of group belonging. This revelation should really destroy forever the pathetic ‘call me Dave’ pretense that he is actually some kind of normal human bloke. Normal people do not do this.

As an intermission, please enjoy this excellent song by Cassetteboy.

A small subset of awful people do spring to mind, who I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they sexually violated an animal, dead or otherwise. If you went to university, you would probably find them in the rugby club, forcing each other to down pints until they vomit, while dressed in women’s clothes and braying sexist ‘banter’ at unfortunate passing women. Let me be clear, these are not normal rugby guys. They don’t even have to be rugby guys. Any relatively socially privileged group has some. You probably had one guy like this in school, the guy who just didn’t seem to have limits on what was acceptable behaviour. He always took jokes too far, hurt people, maybe killed small animals, but got away with it because his parents would never let the golden fruit of their perfect loins get into trouble. Imagine a whole secret society of these guys, with unlimited money. I’m sure pigs aren’t even the worst of it.

David Hameron (ha, see what I did there? Totally original humour that) and his weird sexual exploits are relevant because they say something about him. He is the kind of person who easily gets caught up in groupthink, so desperate to belong and be accepted that he will do anything, even something weird and humiliating. Or perhaps he is the kind of person who loves to do shocking things, to show off how ‘daring’ he is, to be known as that guy who doesn’t care what people think. (Who of course actually cares desperately what people think, and carefully curates his ‘wild’ behaviour to gain maximum attention.) That this was an initiation for a secret society tells us nothing we don’t already know: Cameron comes from a tiny elite, who consider themselves apart and above the hoi polloi. He is unaffected by the unspoken rules that govern normal behaviour. Rules like Don’t put your genitals into, onto, or around dead animals.

But mostly, it’s this. DAVID CAMERON PUT HIS DICK IN A PIG. If you can ever look at him the same way again, hell, if you can look at him without bursting out laughing, you are a stronger person than me.

Update: Downing Street refused to give an official response to these allegations.

David Cameron’s Porcine Necrophilia Is Politically Relevant

Great Things That I Am Definitely Planning To Do

Get Fit

  • Buy a bike, use it to travel instead of bus/car
  • Train up for half marathon next July
  • By doing 5k then 10k runs
  • Stop eating sugar literally all the time seriously stop it you’re not five and your teeth are going to rot out of your skull.
  • Keep on not smoking

Writing

  • Enter all the free poetry competitions
  • Polish and submit to magazines poems and short stories I already have
  • Write more stuff?
  • Keep blogging
  • Get some work experience/do some journalism/something something professional writer.
  • Do NaNoWriMo in November, and NaPoWriMo in April. Actually finish.
  • Daily freewriting
  • Daily journal keeping. Or at least nearly daily.

Social/Activism

  • Volunteer with the Wildlife Trust to go ripping up invasive plants. I want to smash some evil plants.
  • Get in touch with local groups and see what I can do…

Other Stuff

  • Regain/improve German language skills. Shame to waste all my linguistic knowledge.
  • Get a really part time job, like 8 hours. And/or work experience. Gotta sample the world of work to see if it’s as good/awful as people say.
  • All the therapy next year. A proper course of DBT
  • Paint some stuff
  • Go to the dentist (This may take some time. It’s been a couple of years since I last went, and I wasn’t kidding about teeth rotting out of my skull.)

Check back in 6 months and see if I’ve done anything! (Note: don’t expect me to have done anything.)

Great Things That I Am Definitely Planning To Do

Sci-Fi Masterworks Inspired Rambling – Genre, Imagination, and Penises – In Space!

The Sci Fi Masterworks series is amazing. I have them as ebooks, which means I don’t often get to appreciate their amazing cover art. I only realised how good the cover art is when I looked at it all in one place just there.

In the last year, actually, the last Summer,

  • Arslan – MJ Engh
  • The Book of Skulls – Robert Silverberg
  • The Female Man – Joanna Russ
  • Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
  • Odd John – Olaf Stapleton
  • The Rediscovery of Man – Cordwainer Smith
  • Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
  • Tau Zero – Poul Anderson
  • Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said – Philip K. Dick
  • The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delaney
  • The Child Garden – Geoff Ryman

Science Fiction. It still gets a bit of scorn for being nerdy and ‘not real Literature’, just like all ‘genre fiction’ suffers (at least from people who think that Literary Fiction is the lone pinnacle of artistic human expression). But sci-fi has always encompassed some of the most daring writing. Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar was written in 1969, but when I picked up a battered copy in a secondhand bookshop, I was blown away by the overwhelming style. Like nothing I’ve read before, John Brunner captured the ever-shifting, ever-truncated maelstrom of impressions and information that form subjective awareness in a multimedia society. This is the true novel of the Television Age.

I was bought up with plenty of oldschool sci-fi – my dad collects Jack Vance books, and generally abjures modernity when it comes to literature, even when it’s literature about the amazing space-future. At uni we did a module on science and fiction, which included sci-fi from H.G. Wells to Cyberpunk and whatever comes after that. Post-modern post-apocalyptism?

I have credentials and knowledge thousands of hours of reading time. So you should trust me when I say that good sci-fi is an intellectually rewarding way to explore human nature. How good sci-fi works is as a thought experiment, a prediction extrapolated with a healthy dose of imagination. How would human beings react psychologically, socially, spiritually, technologically, to alien life? To cybernetic dystopia? To time travel? If we invented super-fast interdimensional travel, what would we do with it? What would it do to us? These are the most obvious cliche scenarios, but even with these, the depths and breadth of creativity are astounding. There is all the world-building and imaginary anthropology, the science and ‘science so advanced it is indistiguishable from magic’, as well as the standard storytelling essentials of character and plot. Good sci-fi feels like it’s expanding your mind, opening your eyes to something profound.

That list up there explores, among other things, warfare, lightspeed travel, overpopulation, artificial intelligence, multidimensionality, gender, religion, race, linguistics, genetics, authority, media, environment, ecology, psychotropics, discrimination, martyrdom, love, sexuality, and a bunch of deep philosophical questions about the nature of reality.

Of course, there is bad sci-fi. (This is distinct from pulp sci-fi, which wouldn’t be any good at all if it wasn’t slightly bad.) All genres have a lot of dross. Every time an amazing innovative book comes out, hundreds of other writers jump onto its coat-tails. Some take the new ideas and run with them to create something uniquely their own; some just rehash whatever seem to be the most commercially successful elements, adding in a whole lot of cliches and generally driving what was once new and exciting to seem dull and overdone. Such is the lifecycle of ideas.

There is also the problem, especially in older books, of embarrassing sexism. Buck McManly and his SpacePenis Rocket head to the planet of Hotbabesia to save the buxom women from the evil aliens! (Which look weirdly similar to Earth insects, just really fuckin huge. Must be intergalactic convergent evolution or something.) Add a million points if Buck’s second in command is a beautiful but badass woman, who starts out all no-nonsense competence, but is so overcome by inexplicable lust for Buck McManly that she falls apart and has to be rescued. Of course, she’s so greatful for being rescued that she immediately rips off her practical utility space-coveralls and throws herself on his throbbing Space- (OK enough of that, you get the idea.) But that isn’t really the worst. It’s when you read a book, or even a series, with a civilization spanning planets or even galaxies, and somehow, pretty much everyone important is still a man. It’s the year 4035, and Spacewomen are making great progress as Space Secretaries and Space Nurses! They marry Spacemen and have Spacekids, the raising of which is entirely their responsibility! Wooo look how much the future has moved on!

I accept that books will reflect the time and culture of their authors. That is pretty obvious and inescapable. But, especially in a genre that is all about stretching the imagination, the fact that some people couldn’t even imagine a world of even basic equality is fucking depressing as fuck.

However, as an antidote, there are also writers who have thrown their minds at the issue of gender, and come up with some radically different ideas. Joanna Russ in The Female Man explores the idea of parallel dimensions and the effect of gender roles on personality, by bringing together three women, who are actually the same woman from different dimensions. In one dimension, gender roles never developed beyond about 1880. In another, a continent populated only by women has become an environmental and intellectual semi-utopia. And the third dimension is our own. The women meet and visit each others’ homelands, and as the woman from this dimension is also the author, we get personal reflection as well as sci-fi world-shifting action. Because there is another woman from another dimension, one which is worse than any of the first three…

And enough has been said by others about Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. I’m not going to needlessly extend this already overlong blog post by adding my own unoriginal opinions. Suffice to say that it is one of the most original explorations of gender in any novel.

This post ignores pretty much everthing written after the year 2000, because it was sparked by my reading mainly older books. I haven’t cited anything and haven’t backed up my argument with critical theory. It’s nice that this isn’t an essay. Possibly in future I’ll write more specific book reviews, or more in-depth posts about literary topics. We’ll see. Thanks for reading, and read more books now.

Sci-Fi Masterworks Inspired Rambling – Genre, Imagination, and Penises – In Space!