Sunday, 6 November 2011

Vulture: Sparklers and Watercress (note to self)

Yesterday was bonfire night. 
Fireworks aplenty.
'What a waste of gunpowder and sky' sang Aimee Mann and I couldn't disagree with her more; I love fireworks, a fantastic celebration of the idea of celebration, a waste sure, but a glorious waste.
I stood around the fire in my neighbour's garden last night writing my name in the air with a sparkler and found myself happy, but it's only this morning in smelling my smoky clothes that I recognise that happiness. 
In a week when I've had major car trouble I'd found myself wretchedly realising how much I depended on my car to define me. I like my car; I spend a lot of time commuting so want to be comfortable, but once that shiny cockpit was removed I felt exposed and... ordinary. 
It wasn't just the car that broke down and, that ain't right... 
Then I sat down to write something for 'Vulture' this week (a review of my cultural week) and ended up with this; a bit of a sermon to self. I think that assessing the things that have floated my boat in the last week got me thinking about what really makes me happy
I've recently been trying to quantify happiness for a 3rd party in the writing of 'In Cassidy's Care':

"He wanted the possibility of something better, something tangible... He sat down again, waiting for that jolt of joy, and as he sat and waited Cassidy saw that happiness was a stranger; a stranger that you seldom look in the eye. Happiness was something that you caught out of the corner of your eye, glimpsed fleetingly and only recognized as it left the room."

So now I'm quoting myself? Yup, but... I couldn't put it any better.

Somewhere south the weather’s warmer. I know that because the birds are leaving, flying towards greener grass, towards something better.
As obligation, duty and responsibility fracture our modern lives, it’s easy to overlook the core values of a happy life: spontaneity, joy and love. In trying to mend or heal this damage our senses get so bombarded and overloaded that we risk living in a cycle of hope, fear and regret, inevitably reaching for the comfort blanket of crap food and credit cards. This can keep the wheel of false hope spinning; we are always one new pair of shoes away from happiness. But however hard we try, it's not always easy to remain 'up'.  Positive emotions (awe /love /compassion /gratitude /forgiveness /joy /hope/trust/faith) don't offer an imediate pay off, they are investments that can make us vulnerable because they are future orientated. Fear, sadness, envy, regret are common burdens because have immediate pay offs; offer quilted comfort and insulation. Misery loves company and won't let you down; you know exactly what you're getting, whilst gratitude and joy are investments that might lead to disappointment. We can immediately wallow in rejection and heartbreak, maybe that's why so many of us are attracted to melancholy. You can't beat a sad song.

Often we focus on work for fulfillment. ‘Career’ is a greedy monster that can feed on itself, a bigger job means a bigger car; ambition can be a stick that we beat ourselves with. But how do we make things better? The answer is unique to all of us. I guess we could stop relying on others to fix things and trust ourselves to do it.
There are many comforts in modern life, but not too many freedoms. For me, life is about reclaiming the lost freedoms of childhood, where the possibilities were endless. Every civilization looks back to the ‘golden olden days’ where things were better because they were… simpler. There is investment to such nostalgia because the past is tried and tested. We can cherry pick the bits that worked and use them to improve our future.

Why not strive towards self-perfection, beauty, truth, and goodness? It may sound blithe but why not aim high? You’re a long time dead and, as we’re oft reminded, it’s a dangerous world; terrorists and muggers are everywhere. Do we really need protecting from our anxieties by invasive CCTV cameras and suffocating regulations? Has ‘Health and Safety’ stopped us from climbing trees?
I say don’t be a passive receiver, don’t stare at screens. Stay off the underground, sit upstairs on the double-decker, look, and enjoy the ride. Better still cycle, it’s almost as dangerous as climbing a tree.
Act for yourself, accept that life is absurd and have a bit of a laugh:
-      Try dancing with a dog.
-      Put on ‘Goodbye to Love’ by the Carpenters really loud and play ‘air guitar’ to that solo.       It’s one of the best ever. Seriously!
-      Stop consuming and start producing.
-      Learn to play the Ukulele.
-      Smell a horse then gently blow up its nose.
-      Try saying “Unique New York” 3 times really fast!
Good cheer and good company is the stuff of life. Don’t be “too busy” to make things better. Address your creative spirit. Get practical. I know of a tuba player who learnt how to plaster. He now makes a happy living from both. Make stuff. Make things happen. Make some mistakes. Make some jam, bake bread, play the piano badly. Plant some bulbs. I did last year and forgot about them. The pleasure I got when the tulips came out last spring was immeasurable. I fell to my knees and literally smelt the flowers, my flowers. Fight boredom, not with ‘leisure time’ but with life, vital life. Don’t reach out for comfort food, go for quality. Have a drink but make sure it’s a good vintage. Decide what your favorite whiskey is. Paul Newman famously said “why fool around with hamburger when you can have steak at home?” 
I know times are hard but; buy some steak.
Find something you’ve always wanted to do and do it. 
What’s stopping you? 
Fire those arrows of freedom, surf the waves of indifference, strum away the stress, run with the hounds of hubris and capture the moment in perfect digital clarity. 
Then, do it all again. 
It will become you.
And happiness?
Last night it was sparklers.
Today I think it might have something to do with Di and watercress...


  1. I was with you until the horse - one of my core rules is never trust anything bigger than you with more feet that youve got