General Specific

Why do you watch films? Because. Why do you read books? Because. Why do you listen to music? Because.

It’s like asking why do you live life. The general question deserves only a general answer, and it really does boil down to the fact that there is something in the activity that recommends it as a thing that should be done because it adds to your life. Yes, even living your life because it is living your life adds to your life. Seems more than a little circular, but has a truth in it.

When you get specific then you can say this movie has this message and makes me feel this way. You can say that of a book, an album, and a song, and an area of life as well.

The general is a blank slate almost designed to act in the way that giving your enough rope to hang yourself might work. It also says of the interrogator that they perhaps do not know you well enough to ask a truly pertinent question. It is the question equivalent of a gift card as present – it has an intention behind it, but it hasn’t sunk its teeth into the meat of the thing.

A lot of the engagement we experience in this digitalised world is like a general question, a memetic communication, something that flows through us, rather than coming from us. A certain emptiness can enter into the action, and it is perpetuated. When people talk of the echo chamber, what is the echo really of? We hear something and become an echo of it, and then we feed an echo into the echo chamber. We make the mistake of thinking that those echoing us are communicating with us and that we are having a conversation. Feed the echo into an arena not full of echoes bouncing around that sound like our own echo, that are met with opposing echoes that try to drown out our own sound, we again think we are having a conversation, or an argument, but it is just a different kind of echo chamber.

General anxiety comes from generalities, and tends to melt when specificity is entered in. Ideally we would become more specific, and as this happens, and the communication becomes more personal, the echoes of others will be drowned out, and we will really connect, and we will really understand.


Unlearning Self Hatred

Self hatred is a cul-de-sac, but self hatred is something that seems like a very natural place to live. Agreeing with others about how worthless you are is a tactic that you develop early on when you are getting the shit kicked out of you.

In a lot of circles the bullying drops the physical aspect and it just rolls along as a verbal thing. It is kind of like how your parents are less likely to hit you when you grown up and match them in size.

Physical beatings are a little bit more honestly delivered – and they are understood more easily. It can take a while to unpack a nasty statement, and to fully nail down what the essence of it is in its slipperyness.

It is hard to stop becoming a mirror to the hatred you have experienced. When you write you train yourself to observe people and to be able to replicate it in fiction. When you work as a therapist in therapy you have to use similar tools so that you can understand what the person you are trying to help is going through. Your whole thing is to be sensitive to others and to make something out of that. At some point you make some part of yourself out of this too – you go from worrying about attacks on you to believing that there is some truth in them, because they happen to you a lot.

I often get told that people give me a harder time because I can take it. I’m used to performing under pressure. I know that biting back doesn’t often do you much good in terms of handling a situation. But what do I do with the experience once I am past the point where the data acquired is applicable? I would like to say that I put it down and didn’t keep looking at it. But it is like my childhood eczema – I knew I shouldn’t scratch it, but it generated a signal at a pitch that demanded attention.

It’s hard for those around you that see why you should be liked, and that like you, to see you not feel the same yourself. The insecurity and the reason they like you seem almost bound up tightly together for you, and there gets to be a feeling that you can’t have one without the other. I know that isn’t true though, because I reached a place in the creation of art where I knew I didn’t have to be angry to write angry – I unhooked those processes. The project is to unhook the need to keep going from the self hatred as a survival mechanism in myself. I think for anyone that was picked on as a kid and maybe past that, the idea of laughing at yourself and belittling yourself before someone else does is a thing you learn, but it is a thing that is very hard to unlearn.

A Duty To Be Dangerous

I think it was in the introduction to a collection on the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde that I read that he was a proponent of art for art’s sake, and it is a freeing thing. I win because Wilde is on my side, right Stephen?

I mean, you can get way too fucking serious about the whole thing, and you sap the fun out of it, and then you aren’t able to write or do anything.

It annoys me that I periodically get sucked into this seriousness and get shut down and stop creating, and I have to dig in and find out what it was that slammed on the brakes.

More often than not it is some person who impacts you in a way that makes you not want to communicate. The thing which I have problems fighting back against in this frame of mind are all the things that tell me not communicating is a valid way to fight against the whole heap of bullshit. It isn’t – you need to talk more, and you need to produce more, and in a very real sense you need to produce more of exactly the thing which you have ceased to put out there.

Creating art is an act of war. Artists are dangerous. Writers are dangerous. If this were not true they would not attack freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Books and paintings would not burn and sculptures would not get smashed if they posed no danger.

You have a duty to be dangerous. You have a duty to provoke. You have a duty to push back against the rulers who would squash you down and try to tell you that you are less than what you are. Art is a gateway into godhood – it is the cocoon we build to facilitate our transformation into higher consciousness. Art is important, and if you create art you are important.

The Release Valve

You resurrect things sometimes because it seems fitting – you created a tool that is multi-purpose and general in application.

I have always felt that writing acted as a release valve for me in those moments where some kind of detrimental emotion was spinning through my mind and about to transmogrify into words and spill out of my mouth.

It’s more than that too. I never had to be experiencing a certain emotion in order to be able to write, or be in a certain place, or really have any kind of requirements at all. But the release valve was useful.

Poetry is alchemy, but so to is the short essay or thinkpiece … a way of defusing the situation. I hate drama, and dramatic people are kind of bullying you with the expression of their emotions sometimes. I am all for free speech, but using it to cause problems for others, and by this I mean people who are doing no harm to you or anyone else, is a problem. You are abusing the right to do what? Act selfishly.

Anyway, maybe it’s good – maybe this blog is the silver lining … a gradient step back into crystallising my thoughts again. At least a certain type of thought – one that doesn’t need to be bouncing around inside my beaten skull.

My site skull cull, in that name, captured very succinctly what the act of writing is for me a lot of the time – culling the herd of thoughts that pass through my mind. I catch them, skin them, stuff them, and put them on display for you. Hopefully I do it in a way which is useful to you; and if not, then at least useful to me.


Modern life seems replete with chances for a person to be out-etiquette, and perhaps it isn’t such a big thing anymore, but it should be. Why? Because it compensates for some people’s lax attitude to how they treat others.

Why is being late acceptable? Why is shouting into your blue tooth headset okay? The excuse that everyone does it is more than a little lame. It is a shame that it is not a meritocracy where lemming behaviour gets points detracted from you and affects your social standing. Well, maybe it is not that immediately measurable, but to be sure, you will slowly damage yourself with your actions.

Why does this happen? It happens because polite people area reasonable and reasonable people stand by while things happen because they don’t want to be rude. You can be both polite and uneasy able though. Hit at the people who don’t work to makes the world a better place … let them know when they step out of line, and you may eventually draw a line that people are less willing to cross.

What You Look For; What You See

It’s funny, you talk about what other people think about you and you are really announcing what you think about yourself. The expression that you see on other people’s faces and the communication you sense being transmitted from their eyes is just paredoilia … you are digging patterns out of the clouds.

If you are capable of thinking of yourself in a positive light then the reflection you see in other people likewise changes. You get out what you put in works on this basic level.

It can be hard to put that kind of thing out there, because sure, sometimes what you perceive is coming at you, but when you go out there looking for it, and you start expecting to find negativity, you have recalibrated your instruments to detect something altogether different.

You get told by those who love you and care about that you should just shrug it off, and they are the important ones, so why would you listen to the others? There is something a little perverse to go seeking out this negative crap to confirm to you that you are the shithead that you have always believed yourself to be. Why is it so hard to believe the people who say you aren’t?

Some of it is, if you are a good person, and you are as capable as they say then you have to be as responsible and good as that demands of you. Being a sickly fuck-up is so much easier; being an arsehole means you expend so much less energy than a helpful person would have to.

It gets tiring destroying yourself though, but you continue to do it. You should really stop – you are hurting yourself, but you are also hurting the ones you love, and that is not something you want to do. How much would it hurt to think positively about yourself?


I have been watching  some cool films of late – I love Paul Giamatti, so I finally replaced my copies of American Splendor  and Sideways, and it is odd, but the thing that has struck me, and stuck with me from those films are the moments with children in them. The connection that is there, and how transformative and significant that can be.

For  a brief moment in time I was a parent (not a very good one; probably as good a parent as a husband … which being divorced stands testament too) but there are things I miss about it. Things I never thought about.

When you get divorced because the love has seeped out of the leaky container, or been forced out by the displacement of some other heavier emotion, you may not recognise (and I don’t think I did) how the impact of losing the kids will affect you.

In  some respects I may come across as a cold fish, and there is a selfishness in me that I know made me act in a petty manner sometimes, but there was something about refracting all thoughts through the lens of family, versus through the lens of self, that is valuable. You have to grow up – or you should (and it should be faster than I managed to pull off. I lost something more than a relationship with my ex-wife, and I don’t know if I have ever fully looked at this or acknowledged it before.

I have no kids of my own, and I know it isn’t going to happen now, but it is a special thing, and I think that people who have it and don’t appreciate it … in the way I didn’t appreciate it … they are missing out on so much. Those who see it for the gift it is, you can see that their world is transformed by the presence of their child. Wanting to be the centre of attention when you have children, instead of making it about them is a way to fuck the whole thing up – and that egocentric attitude is a great way to break a relationship too. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?

I don’t like to dig into regret and wear it as a badge, and this isn’t about that – I recall the magic moments. Being called “dad” is special, and to fail to see that is a tragedy, but I am better for having experienced it, than I would be if I had never had the experience. I did take thing away from the whole period that I think I can now use to improve my lot and that of others I meet. I wish life were not an omelette but something you could make without breaking eggs. I haven’t found a way to do that yet; I have succeeded in breaking eggs and having no omelette to show for it in the end.