Tag: opinion

The Play Way

It’s almost three weeks since my previous WordPressing and so – concerned that I might be starting to run out of steam – have just gone back five years to my first ever post in search of fresh inspiration …

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost. No point in going over old ground, after all …

freerange

Reading that again, I’m somehow reminded of these opening credits to a groundbreaking TV show:

Many people of my generation will know every word of this off by heart. Back then we wouldn’t have missed the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, ha, for the world! Pre-moon landings, outer space was still sexy and post-Beatlemania but pre-Woodstock we were eager for alternative experiences. Boundaries were boring and Star Trek, by definition, didn’t have any. Plus it employed some clever sci-fi screenwriters to explore some radical new ideas … well, radical by comparison with the fusty old 1950s of our childhood! Yes, in 1966, Warp Speed was the only way to travel …

In many ways they were confident times in which to grow up. The following opening credits feature two stylish special agents with a refreshingly chilled-out attitude to the Cold War hanging over their – and our – heads:

Looking back, the appeal of both shows was their optimistic and playful approach to serious subjects. Escapist, even naiive, their exploration and make-believe brought welcome extensions to our childhood. And come to think of it, much of our playing had involved pretending to be grown-ups. Adults appeared resourceful, capable, powerful. The very last person you’d want to be was Peter Pan – I mean, what sort of lunatic would want to stay a kid forever?

But now, looking back with a nostalgic eye, how we revere those precious moments of innocent discovery! As so often, the philosopher Nietzsche nails this idea:

‘In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.’

Ironic, isn’t it, that children yearn for adulthood while adults still feel like children? I suppose this doubleness in our nature is the basis of empathy between the generations. I find in playing with my grandkids a way to re-live my past through younger eyes as well as sharing in their fresh discoveries. I’ve just read what follows and every word of it struck a chord:

Play is the most valuable way that children learn. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

As young children struggle to create a desired effect with a toy, they discover that it isn’t always easy. They realize that there is perhaps a problem to be solved and that they have to practice to acquire and improve the skills necessary to achieve their goal.

Studies have proven that play with other children is also critical for the development of children’s social skills, They are developing skills and habits and attitudes that will stay with them throughout their lives. Play is children’s work, and they give a tremendous amount of energy and effort to it. It promotes emotional well being – awareness, acceptance, personal integration, coping skills – and builds values including empathy, trust and respect for others while they play.

It’s good to know that even an old codger like me can help in this valuable process! And through it I learn that life goes on and – who knew? – that it isn’t all about me!

No Sex, Religion or Politics

These five words – according to my dad, a conscripted soldier in WW2 – constituted the unspoken rule that helped prevent unproductive arguments in the officers’ mess. I can see why. Vital to get on with people you don’t really know when you have to work alongside them in hazardous conditions.

Perhaps blogging isn’t all that different. No point falling out with each other over minor cultural differences when we all face major threats – largely of our own making – such as gross inequality, environmental damage and international conflict. I don’t know about you but all my instincts cry out for cross-border cooperation, our only real defence against these common enemies. As the age-old saying goes: United we stand, divided we fall.

It’s eight whole days since my previous post and high time to publish again. I was planning something uplifting, even utopian, only to find there’s an elephant in the room. It’s a big one, maybe a bull, and the smell of dung is now overpowering. I sure in hell can’t step round it so will tread very carefully and call it … the ‘B’ word!

Not that I’ve anything original to say on the subject. Like many others – on both sides – I’m all talked out. But here are two items I’ve found in the vaults. No idea where they come from but each, in its own way, is rather striking.

The UK Referendum in June 2016 asked:

Should we

Leave the EU
or Remain in the EU.

Simple. Well, for the 16.1 million who said Remain it certainly was, as it meant no change. All 16.1 million who ticked remain knew exactly what they voted for.

But the 17.4 million who voted to Leave without any true facts, figures, analysis or research voted for a personal version of “leave” as they could not possibly know what the end result would be. Hence all the Remainers spoke with one voice but the Leavers presented the Tory government the absolutely impossible task of reconciling 17.4 million different versions of Brexit.

After two years we have now seen this for real. It was never possible to deliver an exit that would satisfy all the Leavers.

In other words, here is a complex issue reduced to a simplistic binary choice and Parliament – the authorised decision-maker in a parliamentary democracy – reduced to the lowly status of a rubber stamp. No wonder they’ve fallen asleep on the job.

Image result for rubber stamp

Today’s cancelled MP vote means this unfunny farce is certain to rumble on through the so-called season of good cheer. Perhaps we ought to keep calm and turn the whole bally shooting-match into a Panto, along the following lines:

 

Image: CharityLawyer

Pop Music (Part Two)

Where was I, by the end of Pop Music (Part One)? Banging on about freedom, I’ll be bound!

Or rather, I’ll not be bound. Anything that restricts my freedom of movement – my natural right to become a fuller, deeper, happier version of myself – is utterly intolerable. I won’t conform to anyone else’s idea of who I should be or how I should behave.

Most of all, I reject any attempt to limit me to any particular culture. The age-old tactic of those who seek power over others is to divide and rule. Convince people they are surrounded by enemies and they will be putty in your hands. Allow them to Flaunt their imagined superiority over others and turn them into little Hitlers.

I’m sure most people have seen this fairly short documentary film about an anti-racism classroom exercise. If you haven’t, I can thoroughly recommend it:

50 years after this startling little film was made, education is still the battleground for hearts and minds. Telling is no substitute for experiencing. And empathy is the most powerful educational tool. To use the teacher Jane Elliott’s favoured phrase, Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins. 

So I prefer to assume everyone is my friend unless and until I see evidence that they’re not. Evidence of my eyes, not hearsay. Innocent until proved guilty. I base this on the fact that I belong to many cultures which reach out to include the vast majority of my fellow-creatures. Not only that, but these cultures overlap to provide an intense and overwhelming reassurance that my faith in most others is firmly grounded and impervious to interference from above.

I use the word ‘culture’ to describe a broad affinity arising from a perceived similarity. There follows a list of the cultures I belong to, in no particular order:

reader
parent
writer
grandparent
music
human
sport
animal
walker
European
sibling
art
friend
pacifist
theatre
internationalist
cinema
sentient being
green
philosophy
history
quizzer
voter
egalitarian
partner
teacher
science
blogger

Yes, blogger. Last but not least. In a way, it includes all the others. And that, of course, is true of them all. They intersect with one another and all (plus others I may have left out) combine to bring me the fullness, depth and happiness I require.

You, I’m sure, could make a similar list and a similar case for its indivisible totality. We have an affinity based on perceived similarity. We belong to so many common cultures, it makes sense to imagine we share one culture. No one can put a name to it because no name would be sufficient to describe it. It is in the process of development, invention, evolution. And no one can possess it for it belongs to us all.

It remains to be seen whether we can keep it in our sights amid so many calls to withdraw our empathy from those that somebody hidden in the shadows deems to be different, alien, other … whether the circles that bind us will remain unbroken.

Turns out I’m happy to be bound after all …

OK, I’ve done my link to WordPress Daily Prompt. Now all that remains is to justify the title. Bubbles pop, you see, and ‘Bubble’ was yesterday’s Prompt word and then there was that Bert Weedon track and … and … oh, never mind, here’s Joni Mitchell !!!

Pop Music (Part One)

B ig me
U p, Promoter Man,
B oost my image if you can!
B ring me
L oads of ready cash –
E xtra cushions when I crash!

Image result for shooting star

Easy enough target, of course, the pursuit of short-lived fame by people – often young and low on self-esteem – who are easy prey for the cynical Svengalis that feed the ever-hungry maw of modern media!

The search for novelty is relentless. Get famous and instantly the hunt is on for new (and now not-so-nice) things to say – scandals, skeletons-in-the-closet, stylistic faux pas – and if there is any dosh most of it will go to publicity agents, libel lawyers and anti-stalker security protection.

What do I know about it, you ask, whose only brush with fame was the soft brush I once wielded when washing Bert Weedon’s car as a Boy Scout during the fund-raising Bob-a-Job Week? Bert who, you inquire? Ah well, none other than the man who shifted a million guitar-tuition books entitled, somewhat optimistically, Play In A Day. Made it sound easy, you see …

And how much did this guitar megastar fork out for his carwash? A bob. Twelve old pennies prised with some difficulty from a battered leather purse. It was clear fame hadn’t turned his head.

Actually, I’m glad it never came my way. I’d only have gone off the rails. Mind you, it might have been a hell of a way to go …

Nowadays, of course, the high-point of hubris is looking up my Stats when I’ve linked to the WordPress Daily Prompt. Today it was Bubble. A celebrity bubble may go pop but if you live in one it could be suffocating. So there! Usually my posts go pop but I’m letting this one run on a bit, if only to prove I’m no flash in the pan … though it could be smoke and mirrors if I don’t come up with a subject soon …

Yeah, fame for its own sake is a dead end. Famous for fifteen minutes, anyway. Famous for being famous, even worse. But fame that’s earned, well, that’s a different story. Last year I posted a list of my personal heroes – Guiding Spirits is the link. Perhaps you share my belief that we carry within us everyone we’ve known or been influenced by. It’s not a religious idea but it is, nonetheless, an idea I think of as sacred. If we are not guardians of the past and gatekeepers of the future, we are nothing.

Something of this is behind the poem in my previous post:

Avatars

M any selves set out at first
E xploring many lives.
N ot one returns without a tale
T o tell of hates and loves.
O ne story holds them all at last –
R emains until one leaves.

There’s a slight tension here between the acrostic word and my interpretation. I made it plural. Having a single mentor has sinister overtones – makes me think of weird cults – whereas a range of influences orchestrated from within speaks to me of freedom.

Any culture worthy of the name encourages a multiplicity of viewpoints. At the risk of repeating myself – and what old codger isn’t? – coming of age in the 1960s was a gas because so many new voices exploded on the scene all at once. OK, maybe under the shadow of a bigger explosion but still …

Such a heady experience of freedom stays with you and any subsequent limitation of liberty always sets off alarm bells. Any attempt to put people in pigeonholes, niches, corners, classes, bags or boxes always gets my goat – maybe the mountain kind that leaps from crag to crag!

Which somehow reminds me of the Lakeland hermit who wrote on the wall of his cave: Don’t waste words, jump to conclusions! 

Haha, am I any nearer that subject yet? Let’s bring in some big guns …

Image result for whitman multitudes

Trust

Oh we’ve got to trust
one another again
in some essentials.

Not the narrow little
bargaining trust
that says: I’m for you
if you’ll be for me. –

But a bigger trust,
a trust of the sun
that does not bother
about moth and rust,
and we see it shining
in one another.

Oh don’t you trust me,
don’t burden me
with your life and affairs; don’t
thrust me
into your cares.

But I think you may trust
the sun in me
that glows with just
as much glow as you see
in me, and no more.

But if it warms
your heart’s quick core
why then trust it, it forms
one faithfulness more.

And be, oh be
a sun to me,
not a weary, insistent
personality

but a sun that shines
and goes dark, but shines
again and entwines
with the sunshine in me

till we both of us
are more glorious
and more sunny.

D. H. Lawrence, 1885 – 1930

Compare this with the spotlight of fame which fixes people into set positions, rather like jelly moulds. A famous star is often called a ‘personality’ – perhaps the ‘weary, insistent personality’ that Lawrence so dislikes? Such a person lacks the facility to reflect others and thereby engage with them. They become a closed book and their life a frozen repeat performance.

A book that remains open for me is The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart. This tells the story of a psychiatrist who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions based on the roll of a die. We are all, the novel suggests, restricted by our culture in the choices we make and must take active steps to break out of a straitjacket we may not even know we are wearing.

Our current climate appears to engender fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unalike. Labels and soundbites swirl around the internet like the swarm of furies unleashed by poor Pandora. Superficial judgements are the order of the day and the sensitive feelers of empathy are withdrawn out of harm’s way. The big question becomes Whose side are you on? Unfriending is the default act of a faulty, fragmenting society.

Bluuurrrggghhh!

Do you know what? My bubble has just burst. Outside the sun is shining and I’m off to catch some calming rays. But soon enough I’ll return to the fray in Part 2, my stubborn and perhaps dangerous openness to new ideas symbolised by the next WordPress Daily Prompt – whatever it turns out to be.

Will I fly high or crash and burn?

Click on Pop Music (Part Two) to find out …