Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

(First off the bat, how surprised are you that I was irritated by the typo in the Will Smith movie title to which I am now reacting? It's not even relevant to the story!)

Did you know that Paulo Coelho (aka 'him wot wrote that Alchemist book') has a blog? Sure he's not one of my favourite writers, nor would he be on my top ten writer/blogger wishlist (No. 1 - Oscar Wilde; no. 2 - Gabriel Garcia Marquez; no. 3 Bret Easton Ellis... don't make me go on...) but the fact remains that the man's got mad wordsmithing killz and so I was very intrigued to stumble across it. Check it out.

Anyhow, the post that set me back on the on/off path that has been blogging is his latest post, provocatively monikered "Joy is like sex". Huh. After my mind, which has been pretty darn filthy of late, allowed me to silent chortle while wondering if the 'like' was superfluous and extend the metaphor in both puerile and semi-intellectual manners (was so tempted to write some these up!) I read it and it smacked me right in the mind hole. I won't attempt to paraphrase the whole lot in any detail, I don't want to do Senor Coelho any injustice and I want you all to read it, but the crux of it is this: "Joy is like sex – it begins and ends." In this case, 'joy' being happiness. The state of being happy.

Quite honestly, this is not a concept of which I had previously thought. I honestly struggle with trying to 'find happiness'. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a prologue to a suicide letter, but rather just one of the many mini-crises I undertake every so often. Maybe that's the point, and why the blog post spoke so much to me. I think about it every so often: interspersed with what I had previously classified to myself as flights of fancy or distractions. My bids to be entirely selfless for extended periods of time ended in frustration, my admittedly docile attempts to be hedonistic lose steam a lot faster (the latter feels rather less comfortable than the first). My interests make me dive to the deep end of obsession then want to get out of the pool mere minutes later. I wonder 'why?' so very often I'm surprised still find the time to live my life. And more often than not I lose interest in a perfectly wonderful girl a few dates into a relationship (in a lot less terrible way than it sounds, hopefully y'all know me a little better than that by now).

But perhaps that's OK. Not for everyone is that blissful nirvana that puts a permanent grin on their face for years until they pass away, no less joyful than the decade before. Perhaps not for me is the deep-set satisfaction of having a raison d'etre to sink my teeth into. No, instead for now I shall satisfy myself in the knowledge that I am not alone is this seemingly futile search for the elusive lifetime of happiness, and keep on searching. Keep hopping along the stepping stones of pleasant conversation, shelter under the boughs of family and friends and find solace in the sunsets and beauties that the world occasionally tosses my way.

Che sera sera.

p.s. I've missed writing! Yeah, sure I might 'write reports' for a living now (they're treating me with kid gloves though and not giving my much to do, I feel like I'm going to claw my eyes out with boredom sometimes!) but it is nothing like the joy I get from writing what I want, when I want, just for me. I'm going to write more these days, if only as cathartic relief and another rope to the lifeboat of happiness. Thanks for the kick up the arse, ALH! x

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cool stuff wot I bought

Because I bought this stuff and reckon they're all pretty nifty in their own way, because I'm suffering from a severe case of writer's block, because I wanted to try out the camera on my phone and because I wanted to show that not everyone agrees with the Oxford comma.

Books! Oh so pretty books! Because I'm tragically behind on Chekhov reading (I've only read Uncle Vanya! For shame...) I found this Collected Plays in one of those quaint little second bookshops that somehow still subsist off Shaftesbury Avenue. When they're in good condition I quite enjoy the idea of second hand books: knowing that someone's read and loved that book before gives me a sense of continuity. This is the same reason I like giving people great books as presents. Besides, based on the publishing notes and the handwritten note in the front (I also love that too!) this book is older than my parents. Weird.

And yeah, I had no idea before I wandered into HMV like a lost puppy that Tim Burton had published a book! Not a book per se so much as a dark twisted collection of short children's stories and pictures. Think twisted.... hit Quentin Blake? Think darker.... hit Roald Dahl? Darker still... Love it.

 Y Tu Mama Tambien, which I named checked a while back as a cheery film, is still worth a namecheck. It's one of those films that documents an experience

And the other one? Because if you have an ounce of fun/childishness/hair gel left in you, you love 80s movies. I bought this mainly for Ferris - RIP John Hughes.

Have I bigged up Kina Grannis yet? If not, check her out if you like Colbie Caillat et al, wonderful acoustic singer from California. You can almost hear the sunshine in her voice.

The other one is a collection of Schubert pieces transcribed for piano by composers including Liszt! For someone who had these names forced upon them during classical music training, this is music geek heaven!

And also this. Needs no intro, the blaggers' guide to Art!

I think I do retail therapy pretty well, hmmm? Apparently better than I write at 4 in the morning. Hope you're all doing well, you beautiful people!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thnks Fr Th Mmrs*

I've been insanely busy for the past week or so, averaging more than an interview a day, blowing my meagre money on people's birthdays and drunkenly falling asleep and leaving my phone on the night bus. Yup, I'm that cool.

During one of said interviews, I was given 30 minutes and an article to précis and add my own thoughts and 'commercial awareness' (one of those very management-speak phrases for 'actually reads the newspaper and isn't a socially-retarded hermit').  Not to be too immodest but I find those sorts of things fairly simple which meant after triple-checking what I had written I had some 15 minutes to play with, and after texting someone with plans to meet for lunch after, I ended up idly flipping through my old texts. This being my replacement phone due to aforementioned Sambuca aftermath, these were very old texts, ones I had received during my China trips in 2008.

This was a very surreal experience: I am not often prone to such self-indulgent delving into reminiscent revelry, least of all during an interview, but I was running at least mostly on caffeine and this was the final stage of the interview at any rate. But there were enclosed in those texts plans to meet up at our old haunts, texts from a short term flame, emotional outbursts from my homesick counterparts.

For a brief moment, if only a couple of minutes, I was back there. I wasn't a bored suit in a pokey conference room in central London, I was a fish out of water experiencing southern China.

As I mentioned at the top, I have been attending shedload of interviews, which brings as part and parcel of the process a shedload of questions about myself and my past. Now, I am not one of those interview machines: you know the type, the type of people who wouldn't get ripped into by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (can you tell I finally got around to watching the Oscars?), the type of people who get coffee and steak knives. I'm very realistic about my shortcomings and hesitate to emphasise my meagre strengths. So whether or not they find my honesty refreshing or endearing I told them that in real terms I am something of a blank canvas career-wise, having been in no role for longer than four months, only a handful of letters to my name and the ability to manipulate words. Which is fine, I have been through four years of higher education and taken a year out.

Some would find it depressing that at the age of twenty-three I have condensed my life into a curriculum vitae, that it so readily fits into two sides of A4. But that is not all I have been doing with my life. If by some misfortune (knock on wood a thousand times over!) my life was to end tomorrow that would not be what I remember. I would remember the people, the sensations and most importantly the memories. The time I literally laughed so hard I fell off a bar stool. That time my friend slipped over the same bit of banana peel thrice in one day. The book I read on the beach that almost drove me to tears. Sitting on a balcony with an ex as the sun rose on a morning after. A laughter of hundreds of children. Sweating with hundreds of others at a massive outdoor Muse concert.

I have not made it much of a secret that for a while now I've been hitting my quarter life, post-grad crisis stage. When you hit a wall in that x-year-plan you set for yourself it is all too easy to question things, the reasons why, the very existentialist crisis that has plagued greater minds than mine for centuries. (FYI, try a bit of Kierkegaard, it'll blow your mind hole. Screw the more depressing guys.)

To be flippant, minimalist and peppy, maybe this is the big 'Why?' The pursuit of great memories, and the creation of those instances for you and your loved ones. The creation of a flipbook of life-defining moments that exist like a imprint on our souls and that have lead us to where we are today. Not just the 'Kodak moments' mind you, 2-D photography can be manufactured, heck, make great friends with James Cameron and WETA and you might even be able to swing it in 3-D (oh yes, I'm all current and whatnot) but the memories, laden with the way the moments made you feel. If the human soul exists, intangible as it is, surely it is expressed in empathy and emotions, enhancing our experience of the present beyond recordable media and colouring our recollection of the past.

So I implore you (and myself) not to get too caught up in the long term. Obviously as mature adults it is important to always have one eye on the future, but this should not be at the risk of the present. A life not enjoyed and lived is one diminished and wasted. What will you remember when you think back on what you have done?

*Because my mind inexplicably turns phrases (all the time) and goes on tangents, when I thought of this concept, I thought of this song and the post title. And because in a really perverse way I find some of Fall Out Boy's stuff pretty catchy.

Also I'll try to write better soon when I'm not running on fumes but it's been a while since I have written 'for me'!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Rice Bags

The thing about rice bags (beside being an ever-so-slightly race appropriate metaphor)  is that they're designed to be tough. I mean, these bad boys aren't terribly thick but they have to carry kilos of rice, withstand being lugged and chucked around onto vans, off vans, onto forklifts. Because they're tough, your less well-equipped martial arts schools fill them to the brim and use them to train kids to punch. Rocky used slabs of meat, these kiddie-winks use rice.

The rice, with its sheer numbers, provides a reactionary force to the blow, resistance to whatever circumstantial abuse the bag might be subjected. But the rice has nowhere to go, and eventually the punches take their toll on the bag which has to be replaced before it bursts.

Maybe we're like these bags. Maybe the rice is our history, our abilities, the nitty gritty of life in which we surround ourselves like blankets. Maybe the bags (are they flax? are they plastic?) themselves are the tenacity and natural human resilience on which our race relies. And maybe, sometimes the punches start to take their toll and the bag starts to fray and lose its structural integrity.

You have one of those days. Every passerby seems irrationally filled with resentment. These days start to pile up.
Your friends are distressed. You try to help them, they say you are, but the words sound hollow in your throat. Actions are required, not cliched platitudes.
That job you'd been waiting for and could almost touch with your grasping fingers gets back to you three weeks later to tell you the position is no longer available, not because you're not good enough, but because sometimes life just sucks that way.
You return to the hospital which you thought and hoped you'd left for good just over a year ago. The fear, as if lying in wait, returns. The colour co-ordinated wards and the pictures of pandas, rainbows and dolphins designed to lift spirits do nothing to distract you from the waiting. The pacing. The worrying.
Surrounded by people but still the solitude and darkness flows around you, playfully swiping at your limbs.