Friday snuck up on me. My head is pounding. This is the second day in a row I’ve developed a headache in the late afternoon. Trying to think if I’ve changed anything that may be the cause. It’s not a migraine, just a normal headache. Today I’m half tempted to snort a couple of shots of whisky. It is Friday after all.

I had an interesting conversation this week with Sarah on the podcast. We explored the idea of super artificial intelligence and the idea of robots becoming self-aware and what the consequences of that might mean for us human beings. Of course that lead us down all sorts of rabbit holes like should a self-aware robot have rights? There are those who believe we should teach robots how to feel so they can be empathetic to humans. Which leads to the argument that if they can feel, they can suffer and if they can suffer then they should have rights.

One of my favourite sci-fi books is Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s the book that Blade Runner is based off of. It’s also the first book that made me stop and reflect on what our relationship should be to artificially intelligent robots/Android’s. Should we be obligated to treat it like a human if we make it look, act, sound, think, and feel like a human being? Technically it’s a machine – a machine that can be shut down, turned off or decommissioned. Why should I treat it any different than I treat my toaster or my smartphone?

Other rabbit holes we ended up down: is it intelligence that gives us our humanity or is it something else? People like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawkins say we should be very concerned about creating artificially intelligent beings or machines. Once a machine becomes super intelligent enough to think independently of it’s creators, then we lose control of it and we end up in a Skynet situation.

So now I guess I need to prepare for the zombie apocalypse and the machine apocalypse. Personally I’d rather face zombies than self-aware machines.

Soundtrack:

You don’t want to go where this leads
I dropped my airpod on your breasts
You never give me your honey but
the coffee you serve is the best

I stroke my terror to find joy
Oh I’m going to burn in Hell alright
I promise I’ll burn well though ‘cause
mother said if you’re going to do it do it light

myself on fire, drop dead on the spot
i’m happy to be hurt by your mysterious
ways, the abyss is underneath the table
if you’re able to second guess my (intention)

I’ll play the role of darkness and you can
be the light that lights my perversity.

Soundtrack:

And maybe it’s language itself that has disconnected us from our feelings. We are corralled into this constant striving to be happy as if happy is the only emotion worth feeling

Why so glum chum?

When we meet a glum chum we make it our mission to cheer them up, to get them back into a happy place. Why not let them stew in the glum? Perhaps they might learn something essential to their being if only we’d let them spend a good length of time swimming in the glumness until they understand what they’re feeling and know it’s nature.

Turn on your TV, radio or flip through a magazine (hehe how old school of me) and 99% of the adverts try to convince you that the good life will be found through the use of their product or service

Buy this shit if you ultimately want to be happy is the underlying message.

And it doesn’t stop with consumer goods… politicians seeking your vote…vote for me and your life will be better… you can lead a happier life if you vote for me…vote for the other guy and you’ll be miserable, life will truly suck.

Cathy shared a link with me that says we have 27 emotions.

Admiration
Adoration
Aesthetic Appreciation
Amusement
Anxiety
Awe
Awkwardness
Boredom
Calmness
Confusion
Craving
Disgust
Empathetic pain
Entrancement
Envy
Excitement
Fear
Horror
Interest
Joy
Nostalgia
Romance
Sadness
Satisfaction
Sexual desire
Sympathy
Triumph

How many of those do you go through in a day? Better yet, how many of those do you spend time with getting to know it intimately? Maybe that’s job of the poet, to do a deep dive into the emotion to understand the nature of the feeling – the rest of us have work to do, bills to pay etc so these emotions for us are fleeting at best.

I have one of these facial recognition apps (it’s still in beta) that scans your face and detects how a person is feeling in any given moment. It’s interesting to watch the face flick through emotions in seconds.

We can use language to avoid feeling. Through our self-talk we can side-step any emotion even convince a situation right out of existence.

George Orwell wrote in his Politics and the English Language essay that language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

The misuse of words can lead to all sorts of abuse and self-abuse and desensitisation.

Such is reflected in a speech Pope Francis gave back 2013 to a crowd on the small island of Lampedusa:

“Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters.  We see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: “poor soul…” and then we go on our way.  It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others.”

So this is as much a language problem as it is a spiritual problem.

To avoid desensitisation, self-delusion and even monstrosity, we have to think about what we are saying and avoid euphemisms and cliches.  Only then can we establish a deep connections with our feelings.  Strangest thing, as I wrote that sentence I had a momentary sense of fear.  A fear of actually connecting with emotions. Will it make me soppy? Will it make me vulnerable? If I open the emotional flood gates, can I shut them again.

That reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld when Jerry’s girlfriend complained that she had never really seen him mad. Jerry tries to prove to her that he can be angry.  The more he tried, the more she just laughed in his face until finally he makes a breakthrough and manages to actually get angry.  But once he opened the gate to one emotion, the rest came flooding through.  He can’t stop crying.

I think I’ll tackle that list of 27.  Ooh that sounds like an interesting poetry project – to write a poem that expresses each of those emotions.

Speaking of poems, here’s one I posted on Tumblr yesterday:

Good Faith

good faith is hidden
in the fear of a country
girl in a short black dress

she sips cherry coke, bats
her erotic eyes and smiles

people fear me she says
but I am just living life
the way I think I should live

drop out and snuggle with me
and we can be human building
blocks and lie on the rocks

until dawn.

Soundtrack:

It was a day of being everybody’s Yoda.  A role of which I am ok with, but by the end of it, I’m mentally drained.  Normally I’d pop on some tunes and veg out, but I have lots to do in a short period of time.

How do you know how you feel?

e.e. cummings wrote that “a poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.”  The trouble is this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  I mean I am human right? Feeling is just something that happens automatically. But is it really? As e.e. cummings goes on to say:

“A lot of people think or believe or know they feel – but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught how to feel.  Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

I often question whether or not I feel.  I have a lot of empathy towards others, so I’m not a Mister Spock or anything, but sometimes deep feelings escape me or I’ve forgotten how to feel.  This isn’t coming out on paper like it sounds in my head. Sometimes I look inside to see how I feel and see nothing but the void.

Maybe that’s my problem right there – I “look” to “see” my feelings instead of feeling my feelings.  So back to my original question, how do you know how to feel? Can trust that what you feel is really what you feel?  Or just a response to how you have been conditioned to feel.

e.e. cummings again:

“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

What feelings do I feel the most?

Supposedly the typical male only has three emotions on his dial – mad, glad, bad.  Everything else is a variation in degree for each of these.  Most of the time I’m just happy.  I do have periods of extreme melancholy.  And on very rare occasions, I get mad.  And some times, I have this crazy feeling of love for everybody and everything – I know that sounds very hippie, but its true, in those times, I feel immense love for everybody.

I’m able to suppress my emotions completely, which I guess must mean I have some Vulcan blood in me.

That said, I want to feel more. It’s on my list of things to do to make me a better human being.

Soundtrack:

I awoke this morning to the hammering sound of rain. Just what you want out of your Monday morning – dark, wet, gloom. I made a batch of strong, dark coffee to match the mood. I turned to my one true source of motivation – books.

I cracked open Matthew Zapruder’s new book, Why Poetry. He’s on a mission to bring poetry back to the people. He argues that the way poetry is being taught in schools puts most people off of it for life.

“So many of us have been taught to read poetry as if words mean something other than what they actually say.  In this version of poetry, poems are designed to communicate a message, albeit in a confusing way. Everything that is in the poem – metaphors, similes, imagery, sounds, line breaks, and so on – is decorative, that is, place on top of the message or meaning of the poem.  The student’s job is to discover that meaning, and to repeat the central (often banal) message or theme back to the teacher, or in the exam.”

Liz Lochhead, former makar (poet laureate) of Glasgow, had this to say:

“The way poetry is taught at the moment is absolutely appalling…they teach poetry as a problem, rather than a joy, and that’s disgraceful…It’s clear that even teachers think poetry is code. I have been asked by a boy, who emailed me once: ‘when you wrote that poem about a bull, what did you really want to say?’ His education had allowed him to get the misapprehension that a poem is a code trying to get a message across.”

And that’s the trouble with poetry, it gets a bad wrap in school and few people, except sad sacks like me, ever recover.  It’s funny for as much as I read poetry is dead and that I should be a writer of a different sort, I can’t shake the poetry bug.  I love it and it’e my favourite form of self-expression with words. I love the wild ride poetry allows you take with language.

My favourite poems are those that are self-contained, that is, you can use your literal imagination to enjoy the poem as it is on the page without having to have an extensive knowledge of obscure literature or need a guidebook to help your navigate the many allusions and references (which is ironic, seeing how the poet that got me fired up about poetry when I was 16 was T.S. Eliot, but to be fair, I didn’t understand what the heck he was on about in the Waste Land, I just loved the pure language. And Prufrock and Hollow Men easily stand alone).

Zapruder nailed it for me though when he said, “poetry can only fully be pursued when the writer is not ultimately preoccupied with any other task, like storytelling or explaining or convincing or describing or anything else.” The poet must “be ready to reject all other purposes, in favour of the possibilities of language freed from utility, is when the writer becomes a poet.”

I finished the The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison. It was an interesting journey. Morrison didn’t date his notebook/journal entries so the editors had to work extra hard at determine which writings belong to which time period. Morrison wrote his poems in layered drafts and often wrote and rewrote them iteratively and across multiple notebooks. So making sure they had the latest version of poem was a herculean task for the editors. I liked the book for the most part, some of Morrison’s poetry is quite trippy, which I like. Others were quite childish (which I didn’t like). My favourite poem was the last poem entitled As I Look Back. And this one:

Those who race toward death
Those who wait
Those who worry

I paused to consider where I might fit on that spectrum. Am I racing toward death, waiting for it, or worrying about it? I think there’s also a fourth category, those who ignore death all together. Ah yes and there is a 5th category, the Bushido warrior option which is to accept that you are already dead.

I probably flitter between racing toward death and accepting that I am already dead. And sometimes I think, it’s going to happen anyway so let’s get this shit over with, why delay the inevitable, why do we fight so hard to stay alive? I guess that’s Nature for you. Her prime directive is make more life and to do that you have to be alive. Feeding, fucking, and fighting – that’s the baseline, everything else is just window dressing.

These are some whacked out thoughts for a Sunday morning. Reminds me something Hunter Thompson used to say, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn Pro.”

But enough about death.

I stepped out into the garden.  It was surprisingly warm considering earlier in the week we had a taste of winter.  The sky was clear and blue and sunny.  Just what you want on an autumn day.  I decided to take advantage of the break in weather and go for hike.  The Cotswolds are nearby, just right for a quick getaway and a Sunday stroll.

I hastily packed a small rucksack, grabbed some trail mix, and hit the road.

I usual lust after mountains, but today I didn’t need the drive. Plus there are some lovely walks in the Cotswolds.  I have this AA pack of 30 walks in the Cotswolds.  I thought I’d make it goal to do all 30 walks.  I choose Edge Hill, one I like battlefields, and two it’s only 25 minutes from my house.  I picked up the trail near Radway and headed toward the Radway Tower.  When I got to the tower, I was suppose to go straight, but the trail to the right looked more interesting so I deviated from my planned route and headed southwest along the Macmillan/Centenary Way.

Considering I spent my morning thinking about death, it was apropos that I strolled through two graveyards along my route.

All in all it was a grand day.  I did about 7 miles all in.  Met a few people along the trail., and ate some fresh blackberries straight off of the tree.

Soundtrack:

It’s been a relatively quiet day.  You need days like these from time to time.  My buddy Z stopped by for a couple of Coronas in the garden.  We are of similar age.  Consequently we’ve bee having similar thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. I think we’ve both concluded that tapping back into the simple pleasures of life and the things that made us happy back in the day when life was long and there was time to kill.  What that looks like for me:

adventure,
books,
poetry,
music.

For a couple of years now,  I’ve been trying to find my photographic style. I’m must drawn to documentary photos and the snapshot.  I also like doing digital manipulation and making surrealistic abstract photos.  The quest continues:

Soundtrack:

Friday night.  Pizza consumed. Beer consumed.

No client facing work today.

Instead I met Cherry, my new co-author, in town for coffee and cake and to go over the first draft of our chapbook.  I’m supplying the words and she is primarily supplying the imagery.  Cherry and I are both high yellow energy so it’s no surprise that by the end of meeting we have now committed to this full blow multi-media extravaganza.

Our humble little chapbook is now also going to be a gallery piece, a series of Youtube videos, and lord knows what else.  Fun times.

I did some busking today.  I was rushing from one meeting to the next.  And as I passed this band in front of Marks and Spencer, someone called out my name.  It was  Adam, the drummer from Chasing Deer. I stopped to listen and say hello. Before I knew it, Adam had thrusted a tambourine in my hand and put me to work busking. I made the band three quid during my stint.

It was a night to remember

Ok, you’ll never guess where I am right now as I type. Well maybe you will if you follow me on Twitter. I’m at a Christmas party!! Yeah, crazy I know. The Holiday Inn in Coventry needed some guinea pigs so they invited a load of local small business owners to try out a Christmas party event they’ll be offering this year called Feastival. It’s a nice concept if you’re a small operation and want to have a huge Christmas party experience like the extravagant Christmas affairs Merrill Lynch used to put on back in my stockbroker days.

The food was good, and he atmosphere was decent. They had different food rooms – Chinese, Indian, American, and that old British classic fish and chips stand. Oh yes and a sweets room. There were various themed activity room.  We played air-hockey and foosball in the rec room.  And then black jack and roulette in the casino.

So yeah, I had my company Christmas party in September, for free (being a lab rat and all).  The packaged deals for normal customers looks reasonable as well (and no, I’m not being paid to add that link, nor will I get any kickback). Just thought it was the least I could do seeing how I just had my Christmas party for free.

Soundtrack:

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. – Revelations 3:16

I’m tired. So if I nod off please forgive me. It was one of those drive 2 hours, deliver a 2 hour workshop, and drive 2 hours back home kind of days. A strong black coffee is in order before I really get going on today’s post.

It was sunny when I left this morning, but I was in a dark mood. I’d been reading Richard Halliburton‘s The Royal Road to Romance. It’s a classic traveler’s tale, Halliburton’s first adventure travel book, published in 1925. I read the first couple of chapters and was both excited and pissed off at how much time I’ve let slip by since last I’ve been out on a proper mountain adventure or any adventure for that matter.

Halliburton reminded me of my lost uninhibited lust for life that I have kind of put on hold to pursue other things. But now the out-of-doors sirens are urging me to breakout of the prison of necessity and return to the open road.

To view the world through adventurer’s eyes is my true disposition. I’ve been so linearly fixated that I haven’t allowed myself much time to meander, to deviate from the path with no real aim other than to see where the path goes.

I recall a mandala I did once. I’ll have to try and dig it up. I remember it showing a tangle of red lines that deviated off of a main line. I remember thinking at the time that the steady line was ultimately my destiny and the red lines represented all the times I’ve deviated from the path. I remember being more excited about the red lines than solid straight line.

Time to storm Mount Olympus and drink nectar with the gods there.

Soundtrack:

This is what we’re up against fellow blogging revolutionaries:

This has to stop! We have to resort to guerrilla tactics and use the big boy’s strength against them! Bloggers unite.

What if you looked inside and found nothing there? What then?

That’s what I feel sometimes when I’m staring into the void and find there’s nothing there. I scream into the void and hear only my voice echoed back.  There’s no-one there.  No-one to answer these questions that I have.  I don’t know whether I should look down, up, or in.

I’ve tried all three at one time or another.

Of late, I’ve been hanging out at the primal level little more than a beast.  Maybe that’s a bit harsh.  By default, I’ve been more embodying the image of man as painted by Hemingway that is “to do what men do – fish, hunt, fuck, fight, howl and die.” This makes life simple and easy to understand.

I’ve looked up. It was peaceful and very Zen.  Being one with yourself is nice, but it’s also very boring.  I feel much more alive when my hair is on fire (and yes, for those of you who know me, I don’t have any hair, well that’s because I burnt it all off!)

I’ve looked in.  The trouble there is you get lost inside yourself if you stay too long. Sometimes you can’t find your way back.  I’ve lost several friends this way.

As I write this post, I’m thinking maybe there’s something about a balance – that we need all three to balance.  I’ve been stuck in Hemingway mode for some time now having turned my back on any spiritual pursuit and run away from self-development. I’m out of balance.

There is a tide in a man
moves him to his moon
and though it drops him back
he works through ebb to mount
the run again and swell
to be tumescent I.

– Charles Olson

I feel drawn to my moon, but wary of the other paths. Either all good could come from them or none.  To sum this up, I think, if there is life after death, then pursuit of enlightenment makes sense. However, if there is nothing after they turn the light off, then it’s gotta be the way of the hedonist.

Until then, I think i’ll keep trying to push through the void…see if someone or something answers me back.

I think I’ve found the theme for this blog. It’s part journal, part diary, part love letter to you my friend.

I think I’m going to get back into doing challenges that are physically and mentally challenging.  I was inspired by the link my friend Cathy sent me.  It’s  something from the makers of the Art of Manliness called The Strenuous Life.  I don’t think I’ll join the program – ’cause that’s not how I roll – but the idea of doing stuff that taxes my ingenuity, physicality, mentality and practicality is intriguing.  And I have the perfect opportunity to kick it off.  One of army buddies is in-country in a couple of weeks and he wants to do some sort of challenge.  Open for ideas from you if you have any. My buddy will be in-country for 4 days, so the challenge has to fit in that time frame.

Ok, that’s it for today.  Until next time,

happy

trails

to

you

my

friend.

clay

Soundtrack: