The Burial

Do not consider the version of you, that you are today, to be the best version of you that there ever will be. This presupposes arrogance, or a reluctance to learn, to improve. Stagnant and immovable, unlike anything else in this flowing universe. Which is a sign of the ignorant, and the boring. The version of you, that you are now, is not some post-best version of you. Even if you’ve been through times of greatness, or succession of success, and that comes to an end, do not then assume that something new will not come along again, or that you’ve played your part and can wait by the sidelines until the curtain closes. There is no stopping, there is no end, simply a change in the game, or in the rules that you play by. This feeling of lost, or ending, is a feeling we often get at the end of a long venture, such as a business venture, or maybe even the end of a period of formal education, such as school or university.

It’s at times like this we must most remember; the road is a long and arduous one – with friends and people you’ll meet at the start, while others you’ll meet at the end. Some will stay with you throughout, and some will part somewhere along the way. Some will carry you for a portion of time, as your feet tire against the persistent gravel, and there are others you will carry for some time too. If you’re lucky, you’ll smile and laugh as you carry or be carried, in the form of a piggy back. Sometimes it’s more that you are carried or that you carry, by the back and by the back of the knee, as you rest against their chest, or as they rest against yours.

Sometimes eyelids will be closed, shielding tender eyes from the searing light of the sun, or the unforgiving reminder of the vastness of the universe in the form of twinkling stars. Sometimes they will remain closed for longer than they should, for fear of all that  they’ll see. Or if you’re feeling lonely; for fear of whom you will not see, around you, when you need them most. Those whom your crave, to keep you warm amidst frosty nights.

Sometimes you will smile; and lie. Inside you curl up your toes underneath your bottom, and hold on tight to your shins as you fear the coming storm, in whatever form it chooses to manifest itself – and yet your outward projection is one of confidence, a frame that can withstand all the weather that can be thrown at it. When in reality, you are as sturdy, as Autumn leaves.

This is known as bravery, being the only one that knows that you are afraid.

But never let it be forgotten, that you do not have to be brave, to be good. You can be honest. You can be kind. And after you have been consumed by whatever life has become for you, and thrown at you, you must remember you can revive yourself or be revived with the support of others, and you can be brave again. Even if only a time, until you cannot be brave any longer. We are what we do consistently; not what we have done once before. Greatness therefore, is a habit. Not an achievement.

So you have not been great, and guided; and now you are lost, and mediocre. The road is simply not without its speed bumps. Its speed limits. It matters not that you slow, just that you do not stop. You are great, and you will be great, because of what you continually strive to do. It is okay to fail. It is not okay, not to try.

Do not long for a version of you that has passed. Rather, ensure their return, and eventually safeguard that they are improved upon, and no longer the standard by which your own personal greatness is based upon. Ensure the return is relentless, and without mercy. If the world is a fire, ensure you are a storm. Whatever life throws at you, as unrelenting as it is, remember that you are unyielding, and more ferocious than it can ever hope to be.

Do not find yourself giving up early, due to wearing parts and exhaustion; suppressing your dreams and ambitions off to one-side and pretending that you can gleeful accepted mediocrity, when in fact you have merely given into it. For all you will accomplish, is not realism – but an early death. One where you die, at twenty five – and are buried much later in life.

There is no point in giving in. There is no emergency exit. For not even the end of the road, can be the end. There has never been an end. Only a change of the game, or the rules by which you play.

A Response to a Selfish Writer – RE: Orphans

All it takes is a great reader, a great speaker – a great writer – to challenge the absolute core of your beliefs. Of that which you are, and that which you stand for. And while this is the beauty of human interaction, that it makes us cement our values further or change them entirely, either way allowing us to grow stronger or in a different direction – equally it is an extremely dangerous tool when someone has manipulative intent for their own agenda.

I don’t often use the word “I” on this blog, or speak in the first person – as I try to talk to everyone and engage, rather than focus inwards. However, this is an exception.

To provide evidence to my point; I read an article from a rather selfish man (which is leading, I know), who had disabled comments on his blog, perhaps because he knew there would be a backlash from the ways in which he speaks. I am aware there are a number of reasons one might disable comments, but I digress. I will not call out the exact name of the post, or the authors name. This is not a doxxing attempt or a witch hunt. But in his post, he wrote very clearly and categorically that we should not feel sorry for orphans, because even non-orphans can be alone.

Now forgive my stunned silence, but these two points, are irrelevant. This would be as though I were to say, when a rich person dies, don’t feel sorry for them, because their family have money. Or that you can’t have a bad day, because there are war-torn countries whose people live in fear everyday. It doesn’t make sense. Pain and grief, good and bad, exist in all facets of life, in all manners, relative to that person whom is experiencing it or can determine a perspective upon it. Because someone else feels worse than you, does not mean you cannot feel bad also.

I cannot emphasise more strongly, how much you should ignore this kind of thinking, this kind of talking. This is someone, who had felt alone, as we all have and is deciding to inflict his own need for attention, his own requirement to be victimised, upon the reader. In doing this, he’s calling out a vulnerable group. Which is deplorable. This would be as though I were to say, “Don’t be appalled by police brutality towards an ethnic race in your country, I’m not that race and was pulled over for a speeding ticket the other day. I get it bad too.” It doesn’t make sense, and it’s just targeting a group to make a point, that you aren’t even making well.

Now to his credit, he then went on to say how he visited an orphanage and they were all living in the moment and enjoying life, free from a virtual world. Which is great… but this is not their fault. Because he feels sad, alone, perhaps distanced in an online world, does not somehow validate his point. We can still empathise with an orphan, who has lost their regular home, their security, and the loving embrace of parents. Equally, of course parents can be bad influences, but it is scientifically proven that significant trauma is likely to be caused in a child, whenever a significant life event happens upon their parents. E.g They leave the family, they pass away, they get divorced, etc.

Fortunately, the author wasn’t a great writer. He had numerous (obvious) spelling errors, and clearly did not manage to sway my views. But if he had been, someone may have walked away believing this. In fact, it had likes on it, so some people did.  Some people were convinced, that you should not empathise with an orphan, because you can feel alone, or lost in your own family. Of course you should empathise. Just because a non-orphan can feel sad or alone too, does not diminish in any way, the plight of the orphan.

To that point; what is upsetting, is that this author had numerous likes already on his post, after only posting it recently. Perhaps his blog had some followers already, or perhaps people who were vulnerable themselves, were easily swayed upon the read. And relatively, this post disputing his point, based on basic human kindness, may not receive any attention at all.

 

What Lies Beyond

As you look into the night sky; and remark on the beauty of the universe in the shape of stars and nebula, you may at some point if given enough time, come to a realisation. These beautiful wonders, that have guided humanity since the dawn of our time, that have inspired poetry and created great works of art; may no longer be there. Light is the fastest thing that we understand. Nothing we perceive is greater than the speed of light. And yet even it, is finite. And the great span of distance from where we are, to where the stars lie beyond, is so great, that it takes finite definable light considerable length of time to reach us, and display to us the grandiosity of the stars, and nebulae, and everything beyond our world.

Potentially, these works of awe may have existed a length of time so greatly long ago, that the stars have not only died – but have dissipated and spread the elements of life into the universe since then. They may have brought about life in other parts of the universe, a life that may be so intelligent they too have used it to guide themselves through the dark, and used it to create light in works of art. How fascinating it is to think, that balls of light, crucibles of elements and life may have in turn brought about more life in new form, in places we cannot even hope to see. They may have inspired entire civilisations worth of culture, in what lies beyond.

Image result for pillars of creation
Pillars of Creation – A long dead mix of star and nebulae. This is a real image, taken from the Hubble telescope. Courtesy of NASA.GOV

They have done this, and they have done it so long ago, that cultures we may never meet, have already came and went based upon them. Yet still we see their awe. With certainty – stars will come and go – and yet still they inspire long after their implosion. It serves as evidence – that long after something dies – it can still be experienced.

Imagine you are in a room, and you are with one other person, facing them directly, as it would not be uncommon for you to do. You’re talking about something trivial and generally just spending time with someone you enjoy. You may smile and feel so in the moment with someone at that time, which is beautiful and remarkable in every way. But on a scientific level – there is a delay.

There is a delay between what happens for the self, and what the other person will see. There is a delay in sound. Sound travels at the speed of about 345 m/s, meaning that if this was a particularly massive room, a ball room perhaps in some large palace in Germany, that was this distance from one end to the other, if you stood at one end and your companion at the other, then there would be a one second delay between what you said, and when they heard it.

Now, when we actually experience this in reality, talking to our friends in close proximity, this delay is remarkably small. So small in fact, that relatively it is negligible. However, let’s not forget… it is still there. There is a similar delay with light – except that light travels significantly faster than sounds, at about 3 * 10 ^ 8 m/s (30’000’000’000 m/s), meaning that the delay is even more negligible. However, it IS still there.

To reiterate, what this means is that every time you talk to someone. there is a delay in when they say it, and when you see and hear it.

The complexity intensifies however, when our understanding of the universe and technology increase greatly. Let’s suggest that some far away intelligent being can view that conversation you are having with your friend; that they can view it on their version of a telescope which can see unimaginable distances away, and perhaps even translate what you are saying via subtle movements in your mouth and vocals cords, into whatever language they speak, effectively meaning they can see and hear you. The problem is, that if they are doing this millions of light years away from you – by the time they see it, it will have happened a long long time ago. Millions of years ago in fact.

But they are seeing and hearing it right now, to them, and yet you and your friend would have lived and died millions of years before. So how can this be?

Well… actually… this is exactly what’s happening with humanity and the stars. The two examples differ in negligible ways. So why even provide the two examples to say the same thing?

The reason being, it is necessary to humanise the following question; if everything we do is technically in a delay – if everything that we see and perceive is technically a memory – if all of time is relative to the person observing it, and there is no definite point of certainty – when does something, or more specifically someone… die?

If your friend perished in some terrible accident, to you they would be “dead” and naturally you would be very sad about it, and yet at the same time, this intelligent being could be observing them in their now, and viewing some certain events that happened before they were killed off in the third act. So they are dead to you, but not to this other being, who still sees and hears them, millions of years later.

It would seem then, that as the problem continues, the true crux of the issue – is that the general person still views time as an absolute constant, rather than simply constant – to you. In other words, relatively constant. Which is of course is an oxymoron.

What lies beyond, is not only new worlds, homes, discoveries, people, and cultures, but also the past, present, and future, simultaneously and all at once. It’s all just based on the perspective by which you view it.

Some comfort you can take from this, is that friends and family whom you have lost, some time in the past. No matter how long ago it was, they are not truly gone. Sadly, they are only gone, to you. But they are still smiling, and being happy, and looking at you with adoring eyes, from someone’s point of view, somewhere. Someone, somewhere, may be looking at you both in the past, with wondering eyes, and thinking, “They look happy.” And if some future technology could transport you an unimaginable distance away in an instant ( perhaps some quantum entanglement one day may teleport us ) then you could too, sit and view this person and you, watch each other with those same adoring eyes.

What lies beyond, is the past, future, and present; it’s the now and then; it’s the you and I.

Think of that, as you look into the night sky.

 

 

What Are You Worth?

What are you worth?

It’s not a thought that often crosses the forefront of our mind, but I’d wager that for many, an arbitrary value exists somewhere in the recesses of thought.

This topic was brought about by a conversation I had with some close friends, where I proposed them the following scenario with a single question;


 

“Suppose you are diagnosed with a chronic illness. And unfortunately, the doctor informs you that this illness will bring about your imminent demise. In fact, you will die, tomorrow.

However, the doctor informs you that while there is no cure, there is a treatment, in the form of a single pill. Now what this pill does, is keep you effectively staving off the effects of the disease, for one day.

There are many of these pills, and they are readily available to you. The pill cannot be stacked, but it will work continuously.

i.e. You cannot take six pills and live for six more days, but for every pill you take, you get to live for one more day, specifically the following. So you must take this pill every morning, to continue living for the rest of that day.

Now for the question; at what cost, do you STOP paying for the pill?”

*Perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


 

I found this such an interesting question to pose to my close friends, particularly because of the first response I got, when I had asked a clearly startled colleague

Although I am not afraid of death, and in fact, I struggle to identify when you can even call someone truly dead (a topic for another day), I still would always answer – “I would pay anything for the pill.”

I assumed this was an obvious answer, that everyone has the same zest and desire for life, and that my colleague would respond in kind. But instead she replied, “Nothing. I would not pay anything for that pill.”

I was shocked. This completely bewildered me. My colleague doesn’t come across as an unhappy person, and yet I must confess, this was my immediate reaction, although I did not vocalise it. But then immediately, she followed it up with, “I wouldn’t want to leave anyone behind, with a burden of paying for that medicine.”

In a roller-coaster of emotion, I now felt incredibly selfish. I had not even considered the people I would leave behind. In my mind, I thought I would do anything to continue paying for that pill, in the sense of I would accept every inch of the responsibility. But then on further examination of my conscience, I think even if I did leave a burden upon the living… I don’t know. I think my answer still might be “I would do anything for that pill.”

While I cannot know for certain, and it is indeed all a thought experiment, I cannot think of a time when I would condemn myself, to my final day on Earth, voluntarily.

And yet, I then decided to propose a different scenario upon myself alone, based on the famous trolley question;


 

“Suppose I am working in a laboratory, and there is an accident with a spilled contaminant. This contaminant bubbles and breathes gas into the lab. This chemical is lethal when inhaled.

You and your lab partner, the only people in the room, rush to the two hazmat suits in the corner. But unfortunately as you get there, you discover one suit has been ripped, and is rendered useless.

The person who does not wear the suit, will not die a painful death. But they will die over the next minute. There is no cure as of yet, and they will not be revived.

Your partner has abstained from making the decision, and will readily accept yours.

Do you take the suit for yourself, or do you give it to your partner?”

*Again, perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


 

Now with this question, my answer immediately would be, “I would give the suit to my partner.”

But again upon closer and initial inspection, it seems that there is a bit of an oxymoron between these two answers on my part. It doesn’t rightly make sense for me to fight so unyielding for my life, and yet on a different breath, give it up so readily.

Now perhaps I am perfectly willing to sacrifice my life for another’s. And I’m sure most people would like to believe this also. Hopefully we will be fortunate enough never be put in that situation, and have to even find out.

But here is where I am torn. I believe you should work hard to leave some part of you on this universe. That you should leave it in some kind of better state than when you found it.

And the idea of granting someone a life, by sacrificing mine helps me fulfil that. But just giving up on my life, doesn’t necessarily fulfil it for me. I think that’s why I fight so hard for the pill. With the pill, I can still try. I can still try with every second of my life to make the universe better in some way. But what if in doing that, I actually make it worse for those I leave behind?

What I’m also concerned with, is I think I would fear the idea of my last day, and my last thoughts, not being good ones. The idea of going home, putting on some TV, calling up far away family members to tell them the news, and gathering with closer family to be with me, and then just passing away – I don’t think it makes the cut for me. I could not have, an ordinary day be my last, without knowing if I truly made the world a better place with my time spend on it. But with the chemical spill thought, I can at least die a hero. Regardless of what I’ve done, some of it may be redeemed, and my successor can continue to do good in this world, because I gave them that chance.

Ultimately; I don’t know.

I don’t believe for the time being I have an answer to these questions both. I think it will take many more conversations and much more time thinking about this before I could propose an answer. Maybe by the time I come to the conclusion, my thoughts on the whole thing might have changed. This, I really do not know.

But with my thought and opinions as they stand today fully out there, let me ask you; What are you worth?

Dear Dr Hawking,

If I could borrow your time for a moment.

As someone who is fascinated by the stars, by the infinite cosmos, all that way from the splendour complexity of galaxies and quasars, to the mischievous cheating of quantum mechanics, you inspired me. To learn. To grow. And to pursue a path of knowledge, everyday. I find myself fortunate to have many people in history whom inspire me, but I am undoubtedly touched by your universality.

There are names whom we hold dear in science, with the list exhaustive and debated.

Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. Dmitri Mendeleev. Mary Curie. James Watson. Francis Crick. Maurice Wilkins. Rosalind Franklin. Alexander Fleming. Anders Celsius. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Jane Goodall.

However, one certainly lacking in divisiveness, was you You were iconic. You are iconic. You were wonderful.

An irrefutable example, of triumph by the mind, when the body fails you. A scientist, a physicist, a teacher, a student, an unstoppable force. You showed the world how a bit of stubbornness to the cause that is the universe, and positivity in the face of literal certain death, could go so far.

You fathered theories on how our universe concerns to conduct itself, and helped us understand our brief history of time.

There are certain people whom I am saddened for the world, when the opportunity for fresh adventures with them is revoked. And you were certainly one.

At the same time, I am humbled by the fact that you shared your knowledge, so that even in your passing, we are left enlightened. And we will persist. We will continue our pursuits.

In this life, work to leave some part of you left, when you pass. And you undeniably did this. The whole world over will remember your name, and as they share unique stories, and opinions with you in mind, we will be reminded that you never will truly leave us.

Thank you for your time, Dr Hawking.

See you among the stars.

 

 

BUT WHAT IF?

What are you worrying about?

Being worried doesn’t make any sense. As my Grandmother always says, “You worry and you’ll die, you don’t worry and you’ll still die.”

And the ironic thing about worry, is that you know you shouldn’t worry, but that doesn’t mean it goes away. But you’re aware of it. So now you’re going to worry about the fact your worrying, and you know you’re doing this and you worry about it. It’s a vicious cycle and it doesn’t go away – until something else distracts your mind. Work. A hobby. That thing you worry about.

You could wager that there are things in life where it’s perfectly acceptable to worry – how much money you have left in your bank account, how well your current relationship is going, if your relative is going to survive another winter. If you’ve been mentally nodding your head, then your missing the point.

These are perfectly acceptable things to dislike about life, to get angry about, to get sad or emotional about – but not worry about. All these other things make sense, you dislike something because it makes you or someone you care about unhappy, you get angry because your frustrated by a person or thing, you get sad because of loss or desire. But you worry – for nothing. There is no psychological, evolutionary or societal advantage to being worried. All it does is stress you out. And that’s no good.

Now there are three very distinct kinds or worry:

  1. Worrying about something you are going to make happen.
  2. Worrying about something else that might happen upon you.
  3. Worrying about something else that will happen upon you.

If we look at the first kind – think of that thing that you will not do, for fear of the consequence of doing it. You have to make it happen, or you strongly believe that you want to, but you worry about it going wrong. Well just think about it.

Really think about it. What are you waiting for – is anything actually holding you back, or are you holding you back?

Well it’s scary – nonsense. Everything is. Everything you have ever done is scary. You’ve just done it before, so it doesn’t seem scary to you anymore.

Well I’m unfamiliar with – ridiculous. You want things to be different, but for nothing to change?

Well if it goes wrong – stupid. A lot of things go wrong – a lot of things happen differently from how you anticipated them to go, and that’s okay. It got you to where you’re most proud of today.

The fact of the matter is, you can not do it, and wish that you did it. Or do it, and wish that you didn’t. And every good story I have ever told starts with a variant of “I shouldn’t have done that.” when in fact I did.

We’re so afraid of what is broken, ugly and messy that we’re unwilling to break our cycle of boring constancy. Doing the same things, with the same people because we worry. Usually it’s about what people will think of us, how they will react. But it was Olin Miller who said it best, “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do!”

One day, you’ll lie old and grey, and you’ll tell people of all the things you did. Most likely when you did the thing, you can justify why you did it. Most likely when you didn’t do it, all you’ll say is that you wish you had.

But when it comes down to it, the reason we hate the first kind of worry is because we don’t want to live with things worse than we have it now. If we never had it, then we wouldn’t miss losing it. But if we make a mistake now we might lose it and that just might be difficult to live with.

But do you really want to live a life, where nothing ever improves, because you were afraid it might get worse? The only thing stopping you is you. Get out of your way.

Now what about the second kind, the things that might happen to you. You’re worried you might be drifting from that group of friends or they’re actively pushing you out. Or your workload is ramping up and you’re not sure you can handle it. What if you’re not moving as fast as you thought you would be by now? All I can say to you then, is that odds are, everything will okay. It might take time, it might be uncertain for a while. But it will most likely be okay. The odds that your Earth will be completely shattered tomorrow are not very likely. Think – on a purely personal statistical basis, how many times has the thing you were worrying about actually came to fruition? If the answer is less than 100%, then don’t waste your time on thinking about such things. You’re guess is as much good as chance.

And finally there are things we worry about that WILL happen, of which there are few. You’re worried you will get fat. You’re worried politicians are becoming corrupt. You’re worried that a peer is performing better than you at this current time. You’re worried that you’ll die.

To that I say, you will get fatter, but you can reverse it just with a little extra work. Your weight fluctuates over the years. You’re perfectly fine the way you are for now, because you want to be. Politicians will corrupt, but they always have been. Don’t concern yourself with it, because it probably will never change. Sometimes you’ll do better than your friends, sometimes they will do better than you – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Just be happy for them, and have faith that in turn they will reciprocate. And finally to the last morbid point – unfortunately you will die. Everyone, everything does.

But if you’re dead then what will there be to worry about?

You’re dead.

You should be no more afraid of dying, than you should be afraid of what was before you were born. Literally, everything you have ever worried about is gone – to you. Everything will be okay. Once you’re gone, so is everything, everything to ever be worried about. So just make sure you have one hell of a time while you are here, that you have plenty of stories to tell on your way out. Don’t spend that time worrying.

You don’t want to get to the end of your life, and worry that you never did anything with it.

So with that being said, what are you worrying about? If you worry, you’ll die. If you don’t worry, you’ll still die.