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My name is Nick Grant and I have manic depression. I write every day about living with bipolar disorder. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Modern Art

8 min read

This is a story about creativity...

Crack

Those who are blessed with independent wealth - trust-fund kids - may groan at my unoriginal and clichéd ideas. Those who have been lucky enough to attend public or private school (confusingly similar things in the UK) have been educated to be discerning snobs who act as a kind of judicial panel, deciding collectively what is to be mocked and derided as worthless, because it has clearly originated from the lower echelons of society.

We may study a piece of text and detect traces of vocabulary, style and grammar use, which indicates the author did not have the benefit of an expensive education, and as such we decide that their words are meaningless. We presume that the author holds detestable values and baseless immature views which have not been properly forged in the crucible of a fine university's debating society. We discern a certain lack of intellect from any impression we form of a person of being from a more humble background than our own. We prefer to only read works by those who are posh and impeccably well-presented in their homogenised manner of written communication.

We can quickly tell if somebody does a lot of writing, or if their writing style is a clumsy attempt to put their spoken words down onto paper.

Who has enjoyed the privilege of being able to read a very great deal, write an enormous amount, and have somebody paid to pore over their words? English is part of the mandatory school education of every child in the UK, yet as a nation we manage to produce many millions of people who don't know the difference between homophones such as "your" and "you're", which the public and private schools would not tolerate.

While an expensive education might give every child who attends those fee-paying schools a posh accent, an extended vocabulary and better grammar, it does not assure an academic future. Many children will prefer art to the prescriptive subjects, where there are right and wrong answers.

The position of power, gifted by privilege, is to decide what the "wrong" answers are in an area where there is no such thing as a "right" answer. With no more qualification than a posh accent and some snobbery, one can embark upon a career as an art critic, quite unwittingly.

Art exists in late capitalism as another rich man's hobby, like yacht sailing, horse riding, game shooting, vintage motor car racing and skiing. While some of the hoi polloi might have adopted those leisure pursuits in imitation of the wealthiest segment of society, a number of mechanisms exist to ensure that the poor man's version is inferior in every way, and not to be mistaken for things which are reserved for the wealthiest families. As such, the act of patronage is contained within that small group of individuals who speak in the manner of their patrons.

Who can really afford to write or paint for long enough to master the craft, without making creative sacrifices in order to be commercially successful? How many brilliant artists have been forced to become draughtsmen or take dismal tasteless commissions from gauche clients? We might love our favourite comics and assume that the artists are living happy, authentic lives which are true to their beliefs, but those who have seen it as a purely artistic endeavour find unhappy outcomes if they ever need to monetise their talents.

I can afford to give away my words for free because I have another source of income, but it means that my writing will never be anything more than an open journal - a daily diary which is publicly accessible. I don't have the time and energy to plan, execute and promote a piece of serious art, and I am forced to sell the most productive years of my life in order to pay rent and bills. I like to think that I am developing my craft, but the skillset for creative writing is quite different from the stream-of-consciousness which I produce.

Innumerable photographers have captured an image of themselves every day for considerable lengths of time, and countless more writers have kept daily journals. What I do is neither imaginative nor original. It would be easy to say that my writing is not art, or it is bad art.

It angers me that I should be denied the opportunity to be an artist. It angers me that my considerable creative talents and boundless energy for artistic projects, is thwarted by economic factors. I need to pay rent and bills, so I must sell my labour, but if I were to attempt to combine my job with my desire to create art, then I would be creating products not art.

What is art?

For me, I want to turn an exceptional period of my life - addiction and near-death - into a piece of art. My experiences have been so extreme that few people who've shared similar experiences have survived with their sanity intact and enough of a grasp of the English language to express themselves clearly on a piece of paper. Many people are lost to religion and other capitulations of the mind, or simply embroiled in family life, such that the difficult task of creating a piece of art which conveys some of the suffering endured, is rarely completed.

We might assume that a particularly rousing motivational speech or an incredible painting resulted from some God-given talents, but that's complete hogwash. We are a product of the surrounding environment and things that has driven us to repeat behaviours until they are innate. Anybody who says "I can't draw" has not practiced enough. When we look more closely at child prodigies, we see that their pushy parents are the reason why that child practiced a skill enough to become talented. There are no gifts - everything must be paid for.

My own so-called "gift" is a perseverance for tapping on keys in such a way which is mandated to be harmonious. A piano will happily play incorrect chords but if you press the wrong computer keys you will simply be told "command not found" or simply "error".

While I know that my writing doesn't get tested with the rigorous logic of boolean algebra, I feel confident that I can master writing as a lucrative craft, through practice and repetition, in exactly the same way that I taught myself how to program a computer as a child. I am certain that the skill of creating hundreds of thousands of lines of programming code which assemble together to make a functioning piece of complex computer software, is transferrable to the task of writing a few tens of thousands of words which produce a coherent story.

Few would disagree that music is an artform, but music is a piece of code executed on a machine - whether it's the notation on a piece of sheet music, or the laser-etched indentations on a compact disc, the creativity of the artist is coded and played through an instrument which adheres to strict rules. A grand piano only has 88 keys, while my keyboard has more than a hundred.

It's true that we've entered an era where almost anybody can call themselves a photographer or a writer, given the ubiquity of smartphones and the ease-of-use of apps which allow us to publish our photos and our words.

I offer up the photo at the beginning of this essay and these very words because I find both aesthetically pleasing and to have deep and profound meaning, beyond what you see at face value. In my text I offer up a glimpse of my inner turmoil, but I can never fully capture the full extent of every thought that races through my mind. My photo captures a moment that has immense meaning for me, but the viewer could never possibly know or guess correctly what that meaning is, which makes it a piece of art because it could only have been created by me, the artist.

"What even is it? I could take a photograph like that" I hear you say.

Yes, you could take a similar photograph, but it would have none of the meaning behind it, so therefore it would not be art.

"What are you even rambling about? I could write down my thoughts like you" I hear you say.

Yes, you could write down your thoughts, but they'd be quite different from mine and you wouldn't have the same motivations, so therefore it would just be yet another blog post from yet another blogger.

How can I claim to be creating art? In truth, I don't. I worry a lot that I'm wasting my time and creating a lot of meaningless noise. I worry that my creative energies are squandered on a pointless folly. However, this is still an impressive monument, whichever way you look at it. How many people have managed to write and publish more than a million words in a single document, with a consistent methodical approach, with regularity and with something interesting to say? How many people have catalogued their thoughts so thoroughly?

Not many.

 

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NSFW

6 min read

This is a story about my big mouth...

So many screens

I have had a pretty simple game plan for my re-entry into civilised society: keep my damn mouth shut. Every time I think I've got something interesting to add or that I'd like to join in a conversation, either because I'm bored or maybe just because I'm feeling left out, instead of doing that I say to myself "that's a bad idea" and I attempt to busy myself with my work.

I'm trying to keep my head down.

I'm trying not to be noticed.

I don't do a very good job of keeping my big mouth shut sometimes. When I'm tired, sick and otherwise destabilised, I over-compensate for my insecurities by talking loudly and confidently about things I know almost nothing about. So far I've been patiently tolerated, and managed to luckily say things which have not been altogether wrong, useless, offensive or otherwise completely revealing the true extent of my imposter syndrome.

Sometimes I'm very good at quietly getting on with a difficult piece of work. Sometimes I'm able to do exactly what I need to do, which is to concentrate on producing a lot of high quality work, and staying out of trouble.

I'm highly opinionated and I've got a lot to say. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. The office is not the place to explore those ideas. The best colleagues in a large organisation are the ones who don't rock the boat. If you get too many people in an organisation who think they're hot shit, the whole place becomes hell on earth very rapidly. It only takes a few arrogant assholes like me to ruin a lot of people's day. The best possible thing I can do in the office is to rein in my motormouth.

Writing without a filter every day has gotten me into the habit of engaging my mouth before my brain. When I write, I do so without considering whether I'm making myself look like a dickhead, whether I'm upsetting anybody or generally thinking about the consequences of what I write. I generally assume that what I write is harmless.

At work, the tiniest slip of the tongue could be disastrous. There are things which are simply unspeakable at work, and it's best if you don't even hint that you might have an opinion. Gender, politics, religion and other emotive topics are best avoided in their entirety. To express liberal-minded sympathies with the wrong thing could cause your colleagues to assume that you're in favour of legalising murder, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, terrorism and the distribution of syringes filled with heroin to newborn babies.

It's best to say nothing.

Although it's very difficult to do, I avoid looking at any websites which are not work-related. I don't want to take the chance that somebody might even glance over my shoulder and assume from the title of the Wikipedia article that I'm reading, something about who I am.

Obviously, it's a patently absurd situation, where I spend a very great deal of time writing and publishing a public document which explicitly declares every single weird thing which goes on inside my head, as well as my unflattering mistakes of the past. How can I go to so much effort at work to present a bland beige nondescript and mostly absent personality, entirely designed to obfuscate any identifying features, and yet at the same time put so much time and effort into making every minute detail of my entire life publicly accessible?

I suppose if I didn't write like this, I would struggle a lot more to keep myself contained at work. My inner turmoil would express itself in unhelpful and unprofessional ways in the office, through the way I speak, write and interact with my colleagues. I often have the impulse to sneak a little bit of my real personality into the dry technical work that I do, but I'm able to resist that urge, because I have a creative outlet.

Today was not a good day.

I've been tired and unwell, which compromises my ability to think before I speak. I've been procrastinating, because I've got a difficult piece of work to do and my brain hasn't been fully functioning. I have some interesting and eccentric colleagues, who are truly delightful to spend my working week with, but I've been unable to resist the temptation to keep myself to myself and stay out of trouble. In short: I've been far too outspoken and unguarded.

I'm not such an idiot that I haven't carefully considered most of what I've said. I've managed to deliberately stay out of conversations which almost definitely should never be held within the four walls of a respectable organisation. I've managed to remind myself to be evasive and vague most of the time but when I left the office this evening, I was suddenly filled with regret that I was not more secretive and opaque.

It's hard to resist the temptation to have an unguarded social interaction with somebody, when they genuinely seem interested in who you are and what makes you tick. When colleagues are showing a genuine interest in my life outside work, beyond simple nosiness, it's flattering and makes me feel wanted. I have such a desperate need to belong and to be accepted, that it's hard for me to maintain my defences and keep my mask in place.

I fear there may be unexpected negative consequences. I'm paranoid that I'm damaging my reputation and weakening my position. I'm more worried than ever that my spotless image is being tarnished, by my own words.

I live constantly in the exposed and vulnerable position of having more than a million unflattering words easily accessible to anybody with an internet connection and the ability to use Google, but it's the comparatively few words I've uttered in the office which trouble me the most.

Perhaps I should feel heartened that my colleagues want to know who I am but I'd almost prefer it if they read my blog, rather than got to know me through my thoughtfully considered and highly sanitised words, designed to be safe for office consumption.

I feel like I'm repeating the mistake I made in 2014 and 2015, where I was so confident in my technical abilities, the quality of my work and the value of my contribution, that I relaxed too much. Being myself in the office was not a good career move.

It's hard work, putting on a corporate mask, but it's financially rewarding. I really don't want to be the architect of my own destruction.

 

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Insignificant Speck

5 min read

This is a story about sonder...

Supermoon

Is it useful to have a realistic appreciation of your own insignificance? Is it useful to correctly perceive that you're not significantly different from any of the 7.6 billion other people on the planet, or the 108 billion humans who lived and died since homo sapiens first appeared as a new species? Is it useful to be conscious of your cosmological insignificance, where the entire human race will be obliterated so completely that it will be as if we never existed? Is it useful to understand the fundmental laws of physics well enough to know that there isn't going to be a technological breakthrough which might allow us to travel to another star when our sun dies? Is it good to know that in the long run, nothing matters, because we live in a godless universe with no afterlife, and we are destined to be forgotten?

Just as we might become aware that every other person has a rich and complex life of their own, we can equally become aware of humanity's wider insignificance.

Warp drives, wormholes, time travel, cryogenics and hypersleep are all lovely sci-fi fantasies, but we can't even solve the basics, such as the fair distribution of wealth so that we can all have clean drinking water and enough to eat. There isn't going to be a colony on Mars. We're as likely to kill ourselves in nuclear armageddon as we are to die because of runaway man-made climate change. Yes, we've made great strides in science and technology in recent years. All those advancements are being used for killing each other in increasingly nasty ways.

The population growth trends are easy to extrapolate, along with predictions about our ability to use the available land to produce food, leading to the unavoidably obvious conclusion that we're going to have mass-starvation of billions of people, in barely a couple of decades. If you like to trot out the tired old lines about what a monster Stalin was, you ain't seen nothing until you've seen what capitalism can do to billions. It's already easy to see what industrial capitalist society has done to the environment, causing all manner of extreme weather events and natural disasters, which are anything but natural, because things are exacerbated by man-made climate change.

It's easy for me to write about the need to show some restraint and forego some luxuries, because I've been lucky enough to have enjoyed those luxuries for quite a long time. What about all those people who haven't yet had a taste of Western imperialist decadence? Isn't it unfair that those who've only ever known poverty and deprivation will never get to live a decadent lifestyle?

Many in the guardian class would prefer it if you just damn well knew your place, and stopped trying to improve your standard of living. How else are the guardian class going to snobbily believe they're a cut above the rest of the society, if every man and his dog is able to have a nice lifestyle? Get back in your place, you proletariat scum.

Thus, we arrive at the new class warfare. We ALL think that we should be at the front of the queue, and we ALL know how to get there, thanks to the internet.

The internet is a humbling place. Where else can you face such an enormous deluge of individual people who all think they're special, unique and different? Everybody's going what they think is an important opinion to share; that they have a voice that needs to be heard. Everybody thinks they're good looking, talented, intelligent. Everybody thinks they're capable of original thoughts and ideas; that they're creative.

It's hard to maintain your own sanity when you see all those social media accounts controlled by all those individuals, who've carefully chosen their name, bio, profile picture, and then carefully creates and curates their own content, according to their personality and the image they wish to project. It's hard to be a homo sapiens with the same hardware that evolved 350,000 years ago, when the population was 99.999% smaller and we didn't have any technology except fire and pointy sticks. Our brains really aren't built to cope with constant reminders that we're an insignificant speck.

We might hope to build up our social media following - our celebrity status - and begin to broadcast ourselves to big audiences, hoping to make ourselves feel somewhat less insignificant, but it's delusional. A judge and jury might convict a person of a serious crime, locking them up for life, but all 14 of those people will die at more-or-less the same time, be cremated or buried. In 4 or 5 generations, those 14 people will be completely forgotten - the criminal will be indistinguishable from those who sat in judgement. For a psychiatrist to diagnose a patient as having delusions of grandeur, is also a delusion of grandeur - both are suffering from the delusion that they have any importance at all, when clearly they are both equally insignificant.

Significance is an invention of the human mind, as a coping mechanism for the increasingly inescapable realisation that nobody matters, nothing matters, we're all dead in the long-run and every piece of evidence that we ever existed is destined to be obliterated some completely, that even alien archeologists with futuristic gadgetry, would never know anything about our entire race; our whole history.

It's pure vanity to think that you're important; that you'll be remembered.

 

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Five Minutes of Your Precious Time

4 min read

This is a story about daily habits...

Apple watch

The average amount of time my readers spend on my blog per visit is 3 minutes and 12 seconds. The average number of words in one of my blog posts is 1,318 and an average reader reads at 200 words per minute, so I'm writing double the amount that people want to read.

I'm lucky enough to have had a handful of very dedicated people who've actually read everything, from start to finish. It should be noted, however, that at least two of them were people who read as part of their profession, and they can probably read at about 1,000 words per minute.

The average casual reader doesn't want to read a 10,000 word blog post which was written in a state of sleep deprivation and mania, and published with very little editing.

Less is more.

People also want to read stories not rambling nonsense. When I was live-publishing a chapter of my first novel draft manuscript every day, my readers were hooked. During that period of November 2016 my blog became 'sticky' - visitors came and then stayed; they kept on reading because there was a story being told.

I've gotten into dreadfully bad habits during the past 25 days because I was so fixated on word count. Also, I've lost my way a lot this year, not really knowing what I was writing about, for whom and why.

I keep a list of writing prompts, which are generally just titles of future blog posts serving as an aide memoire of topics I want to write about. The topics are quite eclectic but usually revolve around social issues. Anti-capitalism, pro-socialism, anti-organised-religion, anti-natalism, anti-psychiatry and generally liberal and left-leaning sentiments are themes which often recur. I often write defensively about how people with mental health and addiction issues can participate positively in society and shouldn't be stigmatised, demonised or thought of as flawed or weak. I write a great deal about my frustration with the great futility and inefficiency of working doing bullshit jobs until the day we die. I often despair aloud about the total absurdity of wasting our finite mortal lives on utter nonsense. I can't hide my anger at being denied the opportunity to be an artist; to be creative. I feel trapped; I do not feel free at all and my resentment of the prison bars always seems to bubble to the surface.

I'm a writer. I create another little piece of my artwork every day. How could I possibly not feel free? Why do I want something I've clearly already got?

In fact, I'm an irrelevant commentator who's not even on the fringe, let alone participating in any political, social, artistic, creative, journalistic, literary or academic movement. I'm just a reclusive lonely isolated man who writes in obscurity, mostly unnoticed and unheard. I'm fighting what feels like an unwinnable battle, to have a say in my own life.

I'm practical and pragmatic enough to realise that art and writing is never going to pay the bills. I'm realistic enough to see that everybody is trying to get noticed and to promote themselves, with the hopes of being heard. I'm cynical and pessimistic enough to believe that there isn't a newspaper column, book deal or 'viral' event which would ever have enough of a life-transforming impact for me to be able to quit my day job. There's simply not enough room at the top for everybody who wants to be a bestselling author, award-winning journalist, entertainer, commentator, influencer, politician or otherwise have some impact on people's daily lives and a pleasant and rewarding career in the creative arts.

So, in my infinite frustration with the ways of the world, I'm taking what I want. I'm doing what I want to do anyway, even though it's costly to me and doesn't appear to benefit me in any obvious way. I spend my precious spare time writing, editing, proofreading and publishing my creative efforts, and giving away what I write for free. In many ways, I am an enemy of those who have enough trust fund money and inherited wealth to be able to be artists, because my contributions must surely devalue the commodity.

I write because there's only one thing I can possibly get: exposure. If I write enough, slowly but surely I get noticed. Writing and publishing a million-word suicide note is a ludicrously hard thing to do, so it's notable.

Have you ever noticed how overnight successes actually take very many years to perfect?

My next challenge is to try to make my readers feel that it was worth their while visiting and reading.

 

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Godless

10 min read

This is a story about faith...

Church

I have far too much of a skeptical inquiring mind to foolishly believe that religions are anything other than a terrestrial invention, born in the minds of mortal men who were afraid of death, during unenlightened pre-scientific times. I've had access to far too much knowledge and information to ever believe in fairy tales about omnipotent sky monsters. However, it does mean that my existence is pretty absurd and meaningless. Religion gives a sense of community and belonging - those who have chosen to follow a particular faith are able to identify others who believe the same weird things, because of their weird customs, their weird traditions, their weird buildings and the weird books they read. It must be nice to have that sense of belonging, and to strongly believe that there is order, purpose, meaning and easy-to-grasp comforting explanations for everything that happens in our otherwise hostile and chaotic universe... it's all part of God's plan.

I used to pity those who have religious faith as deluded simpletons. I used to want them to wake up and consider the evidence - or lack thereof - and to have a scientific awakening; to become atheists. However, I think it's those who don't subscribe to any kind of philosophical or theological framework, who should be pitied. What do you believe in if you know - from the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence - that the universe is nothing more that a cosmic accident; the byproduct of the universal laws of physics and nothing more. Why are we here? What meaning and purpose is there? Humanity will be wiped off the face of the Earth and everything that we ever thought was important will be erased; as if it never existed. We're not even a microscopic speck in the unimaginably huge - and ever-expanding - universe.

The author Douglas Adams wrote in one work of fiction, about the worst torture being to be shown the entire universe all at once such that you fully perceive your own insignificance, which would blow your mind and destroy you. So many good novelists are more imaginative than our best scientists, and they foresee the cultural and social problems which the inventors of new technology don't, because the inventors are too in love with their creations. Our thirst for knowledge, and the invention of the biggest and most complicated machine ever built, which connects most of humanity in a world wide web - the internet - has not brought with it any comfort, unlike religion. Having this incredible information vault accessible anytime, anywhere, along with the ability to communicate and connect with anybody, is something which no engineer who built the internet thought might lead to incredibly awful social and cultural problems. Engineers are utopians, but they invent things not ideas, philosophies and belief systems. Engineers created the internet and they left it up to others to decide what to do with it; they've left it to us to make sense of things.

Google and Wikipedia appear to be unopinionated. In theory, you can use Google and Wikipedia to simply discover the information which you're looking for, and consume it. In theory, Google and Wikipedia will not tell you that certain ideas are heretical, or ascribe a sinfulness to the pursuit of certain knowledge. You're free to search "anal fissures" out of pure morbid fascination with the disgusting and depraved, and you won't be judged - it's all just between you and the computer. You can ask Google the questions that you would have asked your priest 100 years ago, and Google will give you the information so that you can make up your own mind. In fact Google is giving you the information that the most people clicked on, and some information which has been growth hacked by people with a commercial objective. Wikipedia presents the prevailing consensus of opinion in academia, with some degree of peer-review process, however it's just the opinion of the handful of people who wrote the particular page you're reading.

None of the stuff you read online is informed by an over-arching unified goal of shepherding the flock towards a state of existence deemed better than pure anarchy. Perhaps certain online news sources have editorial leanings which border on the paternalistic, but the vast majority of what's published online is done so to satisfy the particular individual's personal goals, and not as part of any master plan.

You might think it's the role of the government to think about the future of society and civilisation, and the government will be strongly opinionated about the purpose and meaning of our lives, but in fact governments are simply the victors in a commercial popularity contest, driven by individual egos and the survival needs of the massive party-political organisations. As such, governments simply parrot back whatever the people are demanding.

Progressive policies which have advanced our society have not come about because people demanded that we drag ourselves out of the dark ages, but in fact as a result of opinionated elites pushing through changes in the law which were not at all popular with the public. The death sentence is not something the public wanted to see repealed. The public are barbaric baboons and the idea that true democracy would lead us towards a progressive liberal utopia is completely wrong - instead we'd legalise xenophobia, racism and the persecution of minorities, if we left it up to the masses; mob rule.

It's wrong to assume that we have within us a moral compass; a strong sense of right and wrong and social justice. It's wrong to assume that people are basically good; they're not. People are selfish assholes. People are only interested in them and theirs, at the expense of anybody who's not like them. People are just dirty beasts with fancy clothes.

Yes, I'm pro paternalistic elitism. I'm pro social engineering. I'm pro giving people what's good for them, even though they don't like it and it's not what they want. Any move towards greater democracy is a move towards barbarism and the collapse of civilised society.

In my experience, people want simple fables; they want to believe in goodies and baddies; they want to believe in a black and white world, where everything can be simplified into easy to digest nonsense, which strips away all the complexity of reality and replaces it with comforting falsehoods. In my experience, people want to believe in lies, because lies are easier than hard truths. In short, people want religion.

Nobody much cares about the universal laws of physics and the optical illusion which makes solid objects appear to be solid, when in actual fact they're made of mostly nothing; a scattering of particles with indeterminate positions. People don't want to know about the deeply unsettling subatomic world, where things behave in non-intuitive ways. People want to believe that the world is a magical, mysterious and unknowable place, invented by a sky monster, because it's easier than grasping quantum mechanics.

Nobody much cares about the complex history of humanity and all the inter-breeding that's gone on, such that there are no 'pure blood' races. People just want to separate into "us" and "them". People want to belong to clubs, clans, tribes, nations, parties, teams, dynasties and every other conceivable way of slicing and dicing ourselves, such that we feel part of something. People want to hate. People want war and they want to dominate.

Nobody much cares that there are perfectly viable ways to divide our wealth and peacefully co-exist. Nobody much cares that billions of people could have their standard of living dramatically improved, at the expense of greed and selfishness. People want to live under hierarchies; they want to worship prophets and elevate ordinary mortal men to positions and status which are obscene and unjustifiable. Do you really think that a TV pastor deserves to live in a huge mansion while there are people starving on the streets? That's what people want - they want the haves and the have-nots.

Our terrestrial mortal destiny is in our own hands, and we know - in our heart of hearts - that when we die it's all over. There is no afterlife. There is no promised land. It's all bullshit that was invented to lessen the fear of death and make our lives of suffering appear to have some meaning in an otherwise ludicrously absurd existence. In the end you. just. die.

If our destiny is in our own hands, why aren't we making our existence on Earth into a more pleasant experience? Why aren't we bothered about making the most of the short time we're alive? Why are we content to have so much struggle, pain and suffering? We're quite capable of alleviating that suffering, but there's no will to change. We busy ourselves with absurdities, like getting jobs as bakers so that we can earn money to afford to be able to buy a slice of bread, from one of the loaves which we baked. We've constructed ludicrous inefficient systems which only serve to enslave us and make us desperately unhappy.

Of course none of this is God's plan. If there is a God - which there isn't - then why would He have us punching made-up numbers into a spreadsheet, at a desk, in an office, in the middle of a concrete jungle? Why would He have us exchanging pieces of paper with each other until the day we die? Why would He have made the money lenders into the richest and most powerful people on the planet, when His son was evidently not a big fan of usury when he drove those money lenders out of Herod's Temple?

Those who are afflicted with the madness that is religious faith might in fact be onto something, because at least their lives have meaning and they're looking forward to something, as opposed to enduring awful suffering until the day they die. We end our lives afraid and in pain and we know we're not going to see our children and grandchildren again. It might be insane to believe in an immortal and everlasting afterlife, but it's a damnsight better than anything on offer in a world run for the sole benefit of the mega-rich, which we have willingly allowed to come into existence.

In a godless universe with no afterlife, what's the meaning and purpose of anything? Nothing has any meaning. You might as well go and commit whatever crimes you want, because we all die anyway. You might as well indulge hedonistic pursuits to the maximum, because none of us are getting out of this alive.

In a world without religion, what fills that void? It can't be the pursuit of wealth, because that's even more insane.

 

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Chore

11 min read

This is a story about strict routine...

Washing machine

I don't feel like writing today. I saw something in the news which I wanted to write about and I even started a blog post, but then I kinda lost my way when doing a bit of research. I had selected a photo - different from the one above - and I started to feel that it was unwise to use it because it shows my face without my cunning and infallible disguise. I'm starting to think more and more about how people perceive me and the damage I could do to my own reputation if my blog was read by my work colleagues.

There are certain things that will cause people to look at you in a completely different light. There are prejudices that are so powerful that they can warp reality and turn good people into twisted grotesque imaginary monsters. To write about addiction is to bracket myself with baby-eating, granny-mugging, child-raping, ethnic-minority-murdering, every-other-bad-thing-you-can-think-of, demonised people who are blamed for all the ills in society. Your average injecting crack and heroin addict is going to commit a hundred or maybe even two hundred crimes every year to feed their habit. However, it's a non-sequitur to think that everybody who's experienced a period of drug addiction in the past is an immoral murderous criminal. "Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" cries the tabloid press and the public lap it up, even though the vast majority have never been a victim of crime, nor are they aware that the so-called character flaws which potentiate addiction live inside all of us.

I was going to write about that oft-used song lyric: "there's a monkey on my back". I can't say that I ever felt like I had a monkey on my back when I was a drug addict. "I'm waiting for my man" is another famous addiction-inspired song lyric, which again is something I can't relate to at all. In fact I can't relate to any of the addiction references in popular culture. I've never 'scored' drugs from a dealer. I've never been part of a drugs 'scene'. I never adopted a drug as part of my identity - I never wore clothing with a cannabis leaf or some other drug reference advertising my addiction.

There's a lot I don't understand about drug addicts even though I was one myself. I don't understand why many addicts buy crack cocaine when they could easily make it themselves with baking soda. I don't understand why addicts buy their drugs in small quantities. I don't understand why addicts buy impure and weak products at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why there are heroin addicts when they could easily bulk-buy fentanyl, which is much more powerful. I don't know why addicts don't just stop being addicts and get rich - like me - whenever life gets tough.

Of course, I do understand all those things. I understand that the only difference between me and an injecting crack and heroin user, is that they were exposed to a drug 'scene' which brought them into contact with dealers, street drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia. Addicts are caught in the never-ending cycle of scoring drugs, turning tricks, petty crime and everything else that's part of the chaotic life of an injecting drugs user, and the only difference between them and me is that I know that there's some hope that I can escape a miserable life of poverty. What hope does your average crack and heroin addict have of earning a 6-figure salary a month after they quit drugs? What hope do they have of ever earning a decent wage?

I've been able to use my wealth, intellect and other privileges - such as my science and technology skills - to research and obtain high purity drugs of the maximum potency at rock-bottom prices. Instead of messing around with £10 bags of crappy cut heroin, I'd do the research and find out what the chemical with the biggest bang for my buck would be, and then buy it in bulk.

What happens when you have access to a practically unlimited amount of drugs and a practically unlimited amount of time to use them, is that you discover the meaning of the word: practically. It's practically impossible to satisfy a desire for addictive drugs. Given enough drugs and enough time, you just die. Eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, bathroom breaks and other bodily functions are put on hold for as long as possible. There are some addicts who are perfectly functional - they go about their daily business under the influence of drugs and they can carry on like that for years. That's not really addiction though. Addiction specifically means harmful drug use. Smoking, for example, harms the health of the smoker and the health of those who have to breathe their second-hand smoke. Arguably a pill-popper isn't an addict at all, if the pills are not causing health damage. My own addiction took the form of the very worst kind: the insatiable appetite for a drug to the exclusion of everything else, including the basic necessities for human survival.

At some point drug-taking either becomes a chore - it's something which has to be done to stave off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms - or it becomes so destructive that destitution and death become certainties. I'm sure there are a handful of homeless people who could see that their addiction was making them unable to work and unable pay their rent or mortgage, and they would be evicted eventually, but they didn't want to stop the drugs: they'd rather be homeless, living in a tent or otherwise sleeping rough, and able to carry on with their addictions. Most homeless addicts probably couldn't see any hope of avoiding homelessness if they quit - there was no incentive. The drug-taking becomes a chore and there's no hope of escaping the dreadful circumstances when you fall too far; the health damage is too severe and the behaviour patterns are too entrenched... rehabilitation would take years, and the best possible hope for those people who dropped out of mainstream society for a long time, is that they could become burger flippers, shelf stackers, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. I have nothing against the untouchables on the bottom rung of civilised society, who do the worst jobs for the worst pay, but it's hardly an enthralling prospect to be shackled to a dreadful job which doesn't pay enough to cover rent and bills, and robs a person of their time and freedom. Given the choice, I'd rather be begging on the streets.

My life is a chore. I'm doing things which I've done a million times before - so there's no doubt that I'm extremely capable of doing my job - and I'm working on projects which are exactly the same as every other project I ever worked on. It doesn't matter if it's Space Invaders, torpedo guidance, stockbroker share prices, computers for schools, public transport, investment banking, government... whatever. Same shit different day. I make systems which are just like the old systems. It's like painting a white wall with white paint, over and over and over again.

Life's a stupid pathetic pointless game. Money is the 'score' and the more you have of it the better player you are, supposedly, but everybody starts with a different amount and the ones with the most are cheating the most. There are other ways to score points, such as academic qualifications, but again, those who start with the most money have the most leisure time to pursue academic interests and surround themselves with people who'll help them obtain those qualification. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if the game wasn't on the clock. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if you were raised by chess grandmasters and your entire childhood was structured around a single purpose: to make you into a brilliant chess player.

As we scurry around desperately trying to comply with the rules of the game, which mostly means being exploited by capitalists and living in constant fear of losing our job, our home and our children, we surely must stop and think that this is insanity. Why would mortal creatures waste their precious time playing a rigged game, for the benefit of the rentier class who oppress them and profit from their labour?

It must surely be due to drugs and drug addiction that the present situation is allowed to continue. How else are people able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee if they don't have miserable exploitative jobs? How else could we tolerate the intolerable except with massive amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills? Why would we bother with the miserable commute and the horrible work, unless there was the promise of some artificial and chemically induced bliss during our breaks and at the end of the working day?

You can have as many slaves as you want, but they won't work without coca leaves, khat, betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco, tea and coffee. Fear, intimidation, pain and torture will only get you so far. There needs to be carrot as well as stick.

If you watch enough X-Factor and Pop Idol on TV then you'll see that all anybody has ever wanted for their whole entire life - more than anything else - is to be a singer. Why then are those who succeed against the odds in becoming a rich and famous pop singer, are very often afflicted with addiction problems and many die young?

Consider how hard it is to escape from the poverty trap. Consider how hard it is to escape the rat race. Consider how hard it is to accumulate enough wealth to be truly free. Consider the effort and exertion necessary to break the chains and liberate yourself from the shackles of capitalism and bullshit jobs.

Unfortunately, most people's idea of freedom is flawed. Are you looking forward to your retirement? Why? You'll be old and your health will be declining... why didn't you retire when you were young and fit? Are you looking forward to fame? Why? You'll be working for your sponsors; you'll be working for your fans. Are you looking forward to being rich? Why? What are you going to do when you are? If you spend your money you'll be poor again, and you'll be just as much of a slave as you ever were, except you'll have developed expensive tastes.

Drugs strip away all of capitalism's artificial constructs. A £10 bag of heroin will get a billionaire just as high as a homeless penniless person. Drugs can - in a way - become a way of life which has much more meaning than the pursuit of wealth. However, the insatiability of a drug addiction; its intrinsic destructiveness and lack of meaning beyond the internal experience of the drug addict, leads inexorably to the desire to use drugs as a form of protracted suicide.

Art is the only known antidote, but art is denied to the vast majority of humanity. Only wealthy spoiled trust-fund brats are truly free enough from the tyranny of capitalism to be artists. Of course many of the spoiled brat offspring of the ultra-rich will become drug addicts, because they're too stupid to appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be able to be an artist.

Perhaps the other choice is to bury ourselves in bestial behaviour. If you're blessed with enough stupidity and ignorance to be happily consumed by your reproductive efforts, all the best to you - enjoy yourself. Sadly, this isn't an option for those who've read too many books and newspapers, and have become aware of the absurdity of existence - ignorance is bliss, and there's no returning to those blissfully ignorant times once your eyes have been opened to the stark reality of human life.

In a godless world with no afterlife, free from magic, spiritual and otherwise ethereal non-existent mumbo-jumbo, there's little which is comforting and inviting in a hostile universe which obeys strict mathematical laws. Just a few hundred kilometres away there's the vacuum of space, where you'd just turn into a frozen corpse and float around weightlessly for billions of years. And you're worried about losing your minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob cleaning toilets just so that you can give every penny you earn to a capitalist, even though you already give every waking hour of your life to a different capitalist? Don't you feel conned; cheated?

I don't feel like doing much, but is that really surprising? Is it so surprising that life feels like such a chore?

 

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Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

Most people want a secure job, secure housing and to feel prosperous. Most people don't care about freedom of speech and a free press. Given the choice between security and freedom, most people would choose security every time. It's only a handful of paternalistic elites who dictate that we the people care a very great deal about freedom, when in actual fact this is not true at all.

Freedom has a very narrow definition. When we talk about freedom of speech and a free press, we do not also acknowledge the freedom to be hungry, the freedom to be homeless, the freedom to be marginalised, excluded and abandoned by our "fit in or f**k off" culture. While we might enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, those luxuries are only useful to a privileged few; the wealthy elites; the rich and powerful. While you are theoretically free to run for political office or broadcast your opinions, you are not at all free in practice.

The only freedoms that ordinary people have are the choice between virtually identical minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs; the choice between conformity or social exclusion. You can be a free tramp, if you choose: you can be homeless, penniless, destitute and free, or you can be enslaved to the capitalists... it's up to you; you're free to choose.

Further, for those who are not neurotypical you have to choose between social exclusion, stigma and poverty or the chemical straightjacket of powerful psychotropic medications. You're free to accept the diagnoses and swallow the pills, and allow yourself to be 'normalised' so that you fit the rigid static definition of how a 'normal' person should think and act, or you can choose to be excluded from most economic and social activity because you don't fit in.

Many of us willingly and indeed eagerly beat a path to the door of our doctors, demanding medications that will return us to 'normality' when we find that we are deviating from what we perceive to be the norm. We see millions of others around us getting up at dawn, commuting to bullshit office jobs and being uncomplaining, so when we're troubled by depression, anxiety and other disruptive changes which force us to confront the purposelessness of our absurd existence, we 'choose' to be made normal again by psychiatry.

Society should be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the people, such that the stress and exhaustion in our lives is reduced or at least kept constant, but instead we see that the people themselves believe that they are the ones at fault. Students take amphetamines, modafinil and methylphenidate in order to artificially increase their concentration spans and stay awake during marathon exam-cramming sessions. Workers drink tea, coffee and energy drinks in a desperate attempt to stimulate their brains and fend off tiredness. We take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications so that we can withstand the horrors of a society which places greater and greater demands upon us, while also giving us less and less security: our jobs are under threat, our homes are under threat, we and our children are under threat. Where has the feeling of prosperity and the sense of optimism gone? We presume that it must be us who have faulty brains, as opposed to seeing that it's society itself which is failing to deliver the things we need.

As is oft-quoted: "it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

When more than 50% of the population are categorised as suffering from some sort of mental disorder, we must surely accept that it's the minority group who are the sick ones. Why should society continue only to serve the ones who are not suffering? Why should our idea of what is 'normal' be based on something which is abnormal because it is less common? Why are we trying to conform to such unrealistic and impossible ideals, which do not serve the majority of people?

"I'm miserable, so you have to be miserable too"

I think the above quote accurately sums up the attitude of powerfully influential figures in our society, who are blocking any progress towards a better way of life for all our citizens. I had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of a doctor who hated their job, their commute, the daily grind and - seemingly - their patients. This doctor made it their mission in life to deny time off work to anybody they could. Their reasoning was simple: because they were miserable and hated their job, they were going to make everybody within their power suffer too. A doctor has the power to dispense medications which might temporarily mask the symptoms of a sick and broken society, or to sign a piece of paper which excuses a person from the charade of having to go to their bullshit McJob every day. A doctor has the power to inflict misery on potentially thousands of people every year, and we must presume that as many doctors are as miserable as the general population as a whole, which means that more than 50% of doctors are perpetrating this kind of awfulness on the people they have power over.

We worship medicine and medics as a force for good, but in the increasing absence of organised religion in wealthy western democratic countries, we are seeing doctors elevated to a social status beyond what is reasonable, creating demi-gods who abuse their power. Just as with organised religion, we have suspended rational thought, cynicism, curious inquiry and skepticism, and have placed blind faith in the medical establishment to cure the ills of society. We reject politics and politicians as corrupt self-serving liars and we have lost faith in the ability of our vote and other democratic instruments to be able to influence our lives for the better.

The only thing we believe we're able to change is ourselves, with the assistance of doctors who can give us "magic bullet" pills to alter our mood and perceptions, as well as keeping us youthful and protecting us from death. We have fake tits, white teeth, hair implants, botox and numerous other procedures to alter our appearance, because we're powerless over anything except our looks. We can be reasonably sure that our lives are protected by hospitals and medicines, but our power to influence anything else in life, such as our socioeconomic prospects, is precisely zero.

While a sharp-elbowed tranche of middle-class society obsesses about their children's exam grades, places at the most desirable schools and universities, internships, graduate training programmes and otherwise attempting to give their precious little darlings a head start in life, this blinkered myopia ignores the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and older but living longer and longer, while also amassing asset portfolios well beyond their means, and preventing those precious little darlings from having any hope of having secure jobs and secure housing. In order to pay grotesquely unjustified and disgustingly greedy defined-benefit pensions to the generation who've contributed the least - except to national debts, global warming and a decline in living standards - the pension funds demand that workers are paid pitiful wages for longer hours in terrible working conditions, so that profits, capital gains and dividends can keep sustaining the unsustainable, unrealistic and ridiculously greedy selfish demands of those who are taking out far more than they paid in.

A small segment of society is free to write, paint, photograph, travel and generally enjoy the freedoms that we would all love to have, but the very vast majority of us are too busy trying to survive in an ecomony which is built to benefit the few, not the many. Only the old and wealthy are free, and they did not work hard to earn their freedom: they have stolen that freedom from the young and from the future generations who will inherit all the problems of today and tomorrow.

If you're an artist and/or an academic and you enjoy your life and your job, you need to remember that the position of privilege you're in is very rare and a very high price is paid by a huge number of people, so that you can swan around having a lovely time. Your freedom ends where mine begins, so if your freedom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of society's then you're being greedy and antisocial; you're an enemy of society. While it's very trendy to talk about freedom being important, we must be mindful that most people want security, not freedom. Think about the price that's paid by the whole of society for your luxury privileges.

To be truly free and happy, we might have to re-evaluate our priorities. We can't demand cheap food and cheap goods if we want to be free, for example, because those things are only made possible by the exploitation of workers. We can't demand passive labour-free unearned income, for example, because that's only made possible by tyranny, economic slavery and exploitation of the vulnerable. Most importantly, we can't expect to feel contentment and security, when we need unhappy, insecure people in order to sell consumer products and to keep our entire workforce on the treadmill, by heavily indebting them and denying them social housing or the ability to buy/build their own home.

You might teach your children that a strong work ethic and academic excellence are the route to getting ahead in life, but it's not true. Being a compliant hard worker means you will be exploited, and obtaining academic qualifications incurs a substantial amount of debt. Servicing debts and paying rent is a form of tyranny which has encroached on personal freedom to the point where only a tiny fraction of society enjoys any kind of meaningful freedom at all. Your children will not be able to escape the trap; there's no hope. The depression and lack of optimism for the future is driven by a rational, reasonable and sound assessment of our younger generations' prospects.

Our heavily indebted and heavily medicated society is also controlled by draconian laws which were ostensibly introduced to counteract terrorism and industrial unrest, but have been abused to undermine the strength of trade unions and prevent the establishment of any counter-cultural movements which might challenge the status quo. While we should be living in an age of alternative lifestyles and people dropping out of a society which clearly no longer serves the majority of people's needs, we are instead witnessing a miserable dystopia, where we're all trapped on the treadmill because the only alternative is hunger, homelessness, persecution and social exclusion.

Yes, I'm free to write whatever I want, provided I do not defame the powerful figures who are responsible for maintaining this miserable state of existence for so many millions, but those in power are quite comfortable in the knowledge that my ranting is safely confined to an echo-chamber filled with so much noise that, as Aldous Huxley predicted, the truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance - information overload.

We are somewhat hoisted by our own petard. Almost none of us of us demanded freedom, but we have collectively made freedom of speech into something useless; toothless. We are not free at all and we have no mechanism by which to affect any meaningful change. What is supposedly our most powerful tool to speak truth to power - the freedom to express ourselves - has in fact become the reason why our voices are not heard and our suffering goes ignored.

All that's left is the freedom to be hungry, homeless, persecuted and excluded.

 

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How to Become Irreverent

14 min read

This is a story about the values you raise your children with...

Church window

It seems like I have had the sentimental attachment most of us feel towards everything we revere in society systematically thrashed out of me. If you pick one thing that summons feelings of safety, security, comfort, respect for authority and faith in the divine/spiritual, then I will tell you how exactly how I came to question everything: every institution, everything sacred, every tradition, every profession, people who are normally considered beyond reproach and ultimately even existence and its purpose.

Starting with my birth, I'm literally a bastard. I was born outside of wedlock. My parents never married and always planned to remain unmarried, such that I took my mother's surname instead of my father's. Ironically, my mother had once been married, and I have the surname of her ex-husband instead of her maiden name. Confused? Imagine trying to explain that to your fellow pre-schoolers when you're 3 years old. I didn't really understand it at the time, but I understood that I was different; unusual.

My schools would often address letters intended for my parents to Mr & Mrs Grant, and my father would always tell me that I was the only Mr Grant in the house and therefore the letter was addressed to me. My mother would tell me that she was no longer Mrs Grant and she was Ms Grant. "Why not Miss?" I would ask, and she would explain that she had been married, and Miss was only used by women who hadn't been married. If anybody telephoned the house and asked to speak to Mr Grant, my father would hand the receiver to me and say "it's for you", which it never was, of course.

I understood that there was divorce and some of my school-friends were raised by a single parent, or a step-parent. My peers would often ask if my father was my step-father, to which I would reply "no". Nobody could understand how I came to have a different surname from my biological father, or entertain the notion that I could have been given my mother's surname, not my father's.

At some point, a fairly clear question formed in my mind: "why aren't my parents married?". 

The reasons why people get married had become quite clear in my mind, for the very simple reason that I had endured years and years of people's reactions that suggested that not getting married was very atypical behaviour. Nobody wants to feel unusual; freakish. Nobody likes to feel odd.

When I posed my question - "why aren't you married?" - to my parents, they replied with their own question: "why should we get married?". I had a pretty easy answer for them, as I've explained: because that's what everybody else does. "Do you want to be like everybody else?" my parents asked. "Yes" I replied.

[I just burst into uncontrollable sobbing. If it wasn't what you experienced, I don't think you can begin to understand what it's like to spend your entire childhood as the freakish weirdo; the odd one out... the one who's different from everybody else]

Having covered marriage there is a natural segue into the topic of religion, and the origins of my atheism.

For a number of formative and important childhood years I lived in an attractive terraced house in an area called Jericho, on one of the most desirable roads in central Oxford. These houses are the most expensive in the world, far exceeding real estate prices in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong, in terms of their affordability. However, these £1.5 million houses were bought by the first wave of gentrifiers, when academics and young professionals with families started to move into slummy areas because they couldn't afford family homes in the more desirable parts of the city.

When your immediate neighbours include an MP, a barrister, a heart surgeon, a City banker and a number of promenant Oxford dons and professors, their children were raised in an environment which was knowledge-rich and encouraged the exploration afforded by a curious rational mind; critical thinking. Nobody went to church. My friends, whose father was a consultant at Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital, went to Quaker "friends meetings" occasionally, but my peer group - the sons and daughters of the intellectual elite - had little place for God and church in their lives.

We should rewind a little bit, back to the village our family lived in before we moved to central Oxford. If one were to imagine the most quintessentially English picturesque Cotswolds village, with the manor house, the village green, the workers' cottages, the post office and village shop, the village pub, the village school, one should not forget the church and its graveyard. The church's presence and influence is not to be underestimated. My religious indoctrination began as soon as I started school, with the vicar regularly present. Village social events are very often church-linked, like harvest festival, and of course everybody who grew up in such an idyllic village wants to get married in that particular church, have their children baptised there and be buried in that graveyard.

Essentially, the church's opportunity to exploit a child's vulnerable immature mind were scuppered by my father. For everything that the church had a comforting but incorrect explanation for, my dad cited a lack of evidence and instilled in me the skepticism which gradually became integral to my developing personality: "show me the evidence".

When we moved to the centre of a city whose university is globally recognised for its academic excellence, I never encountered another simple-minded fool who had been persuaded to believe in Gods and other aspects of religion, which are so obviously irreconcilable with the pursuit of knowledge. Religion encourages ignorance but I had been raised to question everything and remain skeptical until I had seen convincing proof. "What are atoms made of?" I remember asking one of my friends who lived on my street. "Quarks" he replied. We were perhaps only 5 or 6 years old - the product of a childhood immersed in academic culture, as opposed to the sentimental and traditional.

The disturbing and unpleasant consequences of an irreverent life can impose themselves on a child at a worryingly young age. I've already been uncontrollably sobbing about just one thing - the tradition and sanctity of the institution of marriage - and I haven't even mentioned how a child deals with the concept of mortality and threat of death without the comfort of religion.

A US Air Force pilot who drank at the village pub which my parents later bought and now live in, drunkenly boasted about the ability of the United States to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. I was definitely no older than 4 years old. With my friend with whom I had discussed subatomic particles, we talked about the temperatures which could be reached near ground zero of a fission or fusion nuclear bomb, and how the radiated 'heat' (electromagnetic radiation) had instantly vaporised human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with only their shadows left behind, permanently etched into the walls of buildings.

If you believe you live in a Godless world with no afterlife you naturally want to know what everything's made of if God didn't make it; you want to know why it's here. How did it get here? Why is it here? You start to pick everything to pieces by iteratively asking what each thing is made of: humans are made of cells, and cells are made of molecules, and molecules are made of atoms, and atoms are made of quarks and leptons... and you can in fact keep asking the question. There's good proof that the electron is not a fundamental particle, as had originally been thought.

When your schoolmates are smart-arse little shits, because their parents are brilliant academics, teachers and school loses its awe and authority. If you're being taught science that's almost 100 years old, and sometimes even 200+ years old, the whole exercise is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise to be endured.

The other thing to consider is that my parents used illegal drugs on a daily basis, and had strong views about the legitimacy and usefulness of the law, certainly in the instances that suited their own addictions. As with many drug users, they were very paranoid. They viewed the police as corrupt and not to be trusted - the enemy. My father's criminal conviction for drugs not only poisoned his views on the police, but also made him very anti-American, as he believed he would never be allowed to enter the country due to his criminal record.

[I'm crying again]

It was only because of first-hand dealings with the police that my viewpoint changed from skepticism due to lack of evidence: the police had never caused me any harm, and in fact I had never had any dealings with the police at all for most of my adult life. You might be surprised to learn I adore and respect the police. My accumulated experience of police encounters has consistently shown that they are some of the most kind, patient, empathetic, forgiving, reasonable people, who have always gone out of their way to bend the rules and simply help as opposed to ever enforcing the letter of the law.

One shouldn't mistake my respect for the men and women of the police force for reverence. I would never for a minute expect that a 999 call is somehow going to be the answer to my prayers. I don't feel safer or more secure, knowing that I can call for police assistance. I wouldn't feel any more comfortable in a stressful situation if there was a police officer present. Of the very many police men and women who I have had first-hand dealings with, they have always treated me very fairly and kindly, and it's quite clear that they deal on a daily basis with a huge number of very vulnerable and damaged people, which they do so with incredible compassion - they are the living embodiment of humanity not deities who should be worshipped and revered.

[More crying]

So if I don't revere priests, vicars, teachers, headmistresses, marriage, religion, military superpowers, soldiers, the police, the law and my own parents, what else is there left for me to lack reverence for?

Cumulatively, I've spent almost 6 months having my life saved in hospital - often in high dependency and intensive treatment unit (ITU) wards. Shouldn't I revere doctors; surgeons?

I think that if there was one thing that would make almost anybody feel more secure and happy in a stressful situation, it would be knowing that there's a doctor present. It's such a clichéd question: "is there a doctor here?".

To explain my irreverence for doctors, we merely need to explore the reasons why I have ever had to deal with one, and the outcomes of those interactions.

Having been lucky enough to escape congenital abnormality, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what I want from a doctor and why. You don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body has been dealing with pathogens since the species first came into existence. You hardly have to be brain of Britain to figure out whether you're dealing with a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, and furthermore, which is likely to be treatable. In actual fact, I've never been to my doctor for antibiotics: every infection has always cleared up on its own. Fungal and parasitic infections can be dealt with without a doctor obviously: head lice shampoo is available in every pharmacy, without a prescription, for example.

At the age of 28 I went to my doctor wanting treatment for depression, but I knew which specific medications I was prepared to try and which medications I didn't want because the side effects were not acceptable. Having my choices limited only to SSRIs provided firm evidence that doctors were an obstacle to be overcome, not a panacea.

When we think about the first time I was hospitalised, do you think I didn't know that I was going to end up there and what the problems were going to be? Do you think it was an accident that I ended up in hospital?

Again, you don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body needs water, salt, glucose, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and myriad trace elements, or else the bodily functions haven't got the fuel, carrier fluid and raw materiels they need. You don't need to be a doctor to know that human body temperature needs to be homeostatic as much as possible - much like every other measurable thing in the human body - and any extreme variation too high or too low is going to have dire consequences.

When you are making choices in full knowledge of the likely consequences, medicine ceases to be lifesaving magic, and instead it becomes another simple case of what do you want and why?

One must consider the very last time I was hospitalised to truly understand my irreverence.

Not only had I quite carefully pre-planned my suicide attempt, when I arrived at hospital against my will, I gave very clear instructions: do not put activated charcoal into my stomach, do not perform gastric lavage, do not intubate, do not provide life support and most importantly of all, do not resuscitate. "Do you know what's going to happen?" the A&E doctor asked. "Yes. I'm going to die of a combination of organ failure and serotonin syndrome, with a lot of seizures" I replied. "Do you think you'll be unconscious? Do you think it'll be painless?" the doctor asked. "No. I expect that it will take a long time to die and I'll be conscious and in a lot of pain for most of it" I replied. Then I started having seizures.

Doctors see a lot of people who are scared and they don't understand what's happening to them. They're desperate for somebody who seems to know what they're doing and what they're talking about; doctors are an authority figure. I have no doubt that for feckless simpletons and those who lack access to medicine, the arrival of a doctor or a priest/shamen/witch-doctor is incredibly soothing and comforting. If you don't know what you want and why, your reverence is misplaced, but it may still ease your passage from life to death.

When shit goes bad, who are you going to turn to? If you have to pick your team of people to survive on a remote island, who are you going to pick and why?

Why revere anyone? Why kiss anyone's arse and tell them they're great because they did the study and training that you could've done if you wanted to. You could have passed those exams. You could have gained those qualifications. You could have followed that path if you wanted to. If you wanted it bad enough, you could put on that uniform; you could get that job title; you could prefix or suffix your name with the bit that tells the world just exactly why everyone should drop to their knees and worship you.

Nothing's sacred to me. I could do your job if I wanted to.

I'm not smarter than anybody. I'm not better than anybody. That's the whole point: I'm lucky enough to not have anything that's holding me back; limiting my potential.

I really don't recommend telling your kids they can follow their dreams and be anything they want to be. I really don't recommend telling your kids to question everything, and understand everything about how the universe works, to the point where they reach the very bleeding edge of scientific research. I really don't recommend raising your kids to challenge the status quo and resist the urge to fit in with wider society and their peers.

Take it from me: there's a mind-destroying kind of cold uncaring "nothing matters" bad feeling that comes from being too rational; too much of a free-thinker. Take my word for it: understanding the absurdity of existence will destroy your mental health.

You should probably experiment with hard drugs. That's probably way less likely to fuck up your life than going down the rabbit-hole of picking everything to pieces and trying to reason from first principles and pure logic.

 

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One Two Skip a Few

2 min read

This is a story about daily routine...

Succulent

I'm a little superstitious. When you've been on the journey that I've been on you can start to have some pretty strange ideas about what makes the difference between success and failure. If I'd ever been so afraid and desperate that I'd turned to religion you can be pretty sure that I'd now believe that the sky monster is responsible for the improvement in my situation. If I'd sold my soul to the devil then I'd be Beelzebub's biggest fan right now. It's easy to attribute credit to the wrong things when you're in a desperate situation.

Should I credit my veganism? Should I credit giving up sugar? Should I credit drinking 2 litres of water every day? Should I credit jogging? Should I credit yoga? Should I credit mindfulness? Should I credit antidepressants? Should I credit mood stabilisers? Should I credit a faith healer? Should I credit acupuncture? Should I credit homeopathy? Should I credit quitting alcohol? Should I credit my voyage of self-discovery? Should I credit being single for years? Should I credit my vow of celibacy? Should I credit my vow of silence? Should I credit any of the myriad charlatans who claim that they have the cure for the agony of human existence?

I'm writing today because I'm superstitious. I believe that I've got to write every day, because my daily writing habit provides stability in my life. Who are you to say I'm wrong? You probably believe in sky monsters or have weird eating habits. You're just as superstitious as me. You're just as much of a creature of habit.

I'm not going to write much because I'm busy. I'm having quite a nice time at the moment. I'm stressed as hell that something's going to go wrong - such as my attempt to rent a place to live failing spectacularly - but perhaps that's because things are going OK and I'm a little paranoid. I'm loathe to change anything. I'm loathe to stop doing something that I've been doing regularly, because I've become a little superstitious.

I take a photo of the plant on my desk every single day. Routines are awesome.

 

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How to be a Philosopher

8 min read

This is a story about thinking...

Thought bubble

There's a bit of a monopoly on thinking. I mean, you're allowed to think and stuff, but you're not allowed to share those thoughts. Well, you can share your thoughts but nobody's going to care, because you're a nobody. People want to know the opinions of a rich spoiled heiress who's famous for having her sex tape plastered all over the internet, but not your opinions. People want to know the opinions of those whose opinions are already well publicised, and those who already have a platform and a group of devout followers. Nobody wants to hear any new thoughts, ideas or have their cherished philosophies challenged.

Thus, we arrive in the quagmire of modern day living. We are heavily weighed down by our attachment to notions of what we consider to be virtuous, conferring greater social status and conforming to acceptable social behaviour - norms, if you like.

If you wish to conduct a real-world philosophical experiment, try asking a person on a crowded bus or a train if you can sit where they're sitting. There's nothing written into law to say that you're not allowed to ask if you can sit down without a socially accepted reason, such as being old or pregnant, and I very much doubt you were taught by your parents or in school that you shouldn't ask for somebody to give up their seat for you, so where did the protocol come from? How did it become enshrined that we accept "they had it first" as validity for possession of something we desire?

One might argue that thieves are an example of an antisocial behavioural pattern that, nevertheless, allows a person to get the things that they need in life, just as any one of us might steal the milk from a cow, or the seeds from a plant - we see numerous examples of behaviour that is criminalised and stigmatised in some forms, but accepted and even revered in others. Why is it that we call welfare claimants "scroungers" and "parasites" but we don't we criticise bosses, managers, slave-owners and similarly idle people who profit from the labour of others?

I feel compelled to caveat what I'm writing, and say that there's a kind of absolute morality which decrees that any action which has a victim - rape and murder, for example - is always wrong, while theft and fraud could arguably be said to be victimless, because wealth always needs to be redistributed. In actual fact, in a godless world with no afterlife, there is no place for morality - when you're dead you're dead, so you might as well do whatever the hell you want, provided the profit to you is greater than the potential societally-imposed consequences.

If you were asked to say what the prevailing philosophy of the present day is, what would you reply? Would you say that we are still religious and subscribe to the ancient belief systems of the major religions? Would you say that we have adopted the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks? Would you say that we have adopted modern politico-economic philosophies, which could broadly be described as socialist or conservative? How would you react if I suggested that we are like a rudderless ship at the moment - we have no guiding philosophy and we are led by vapid celebrities who are incapable of imagining a culture beyond wealth worship and superficial bullshit.

The terrifying truth is that atheism and capitalism have won, ushering in an era of scientific progress, technological advancement and incredibly efficient industry, but without a guiding philosophy. Nobody seems to care that we've forgotten to ask a fundamental question: Why?

Why are we here? Why are we doing what we're doing? Why are we even alive?

Ultimately, we may come to realise that we might as well live completely hedonistic reckless irresponsible lives, because it's immediately rewarding and death is inevitable. In a godless world with no afterlife, what possible reason is there to consider anything other than maximising our pleasure, right now? There is nothing after this - we just die.

Because it's deeply disturbing to see your family and friends dying, and to know that we are mortal too, we arrive back at the need for religion: Comforting bullshit to allow us to cope with the fact that we're soon going to die. Religion offers an answer where there is none to be found. Science needs no opinion on what existed before time itself, because the question is nonsensical. Science needs no opinion on where our consciousness goes when we die, because it seems self-evident that it doesn't go anywhere at all - you just cease to exist.

Taking the thought experiment - life without any guiding philosophy - to its ultimate conclusion, we can see that we might as well perpetrate rapes and murders and leave the surface of the planet scorched and barren, as we wring every ounce of pleasure out of the present instant. Who cares about tomorrow when we're all going to die? This seems to have a ring of truth about it, when we consider the direction the human race is travelling in. Our laws are nothing versus the power of global capitalism, celebrity, wealth worship, drugs, slavery and the general abandonment of philosophies that sought to make the world a fairer place, where human excesses were curtailed and greed was considered sinful.

There is a vacuum at the moment, left behind when we rejected religion as superstitious bullshit, which of course it is, but religion is also the glue between the pooh - religion at least gave us a kind of consensus of opinion about right and wrong, and why it's better to live life with some view to improving the world for future generations. Governments, politicians and civil servants are not the right people to become a new church. We cannot rely on power-hungry busybodies to provide us with any kind of societal structure, because rules and regulations are nothing if there's no guiding philosophy that people subscribe to. It's a bit like speeding: we all know what the speed limit is, but very rarely do we feel like it applies to us, because rules are there to be broken.

We have created a generation who believe in nothing and want to commit suicide. We have created a generation who are smarter than ever before, but who have nothing to look forward to, and we don't have an answer for them when they ask: Why was I even born?

If you're looking to me for an answer to the big question - why are we here? - then I can give it to you but you're not going to like it. In fact, it rather deserves a blog post of its own, although I've hinted at my answer when I mentioned the scorched earth, created by raping and pillaging all the planet's resources, and the death of consciousness. I've written before about quantum immortality. You really don't want to hear all that stuff again - it's not very nice, even if there's a pretty decent chance it could be correct and it'd be really easy to prove.

Are you still looking for an answer to the big question? If you are then I have good news [sic]. The argument for not being hedonistic and short-termist is that one person can make a difference. Of course, one person on their own is just a blithering idiot who can rant and rave in isolation. We might see that those who live their lives as an example to others are often taken advantage of and lose out because they don't cheat, steal and otherwise conduct themselves without a shred of moral decency. What's the point in voicing an opinion in a world that doesn't care who you are or and whether you live or die? Well, there's a slim chance that your tiny contribution might become part of a bigger movement - a billion whispers become a deafening roar. In a world where no almighty church is going to impose itself on you and declare any wayward views heretical, we have both collective and individual responsibility to formulate our own life philosophies, that are hopefully capable of improving the world, rather than continuing to perpetuate patterns of behaviour that will destroy everything.

Our current thought leaders have provided nothing except the perpetuation of the status quo, the nihilistic vacuum left behind by the decline of religion, and the boom of free-market capitalism. The free market believes in nothing. Politicians believe in nothing. We can no longer survive in a world where we are led by leaders who simply tell us what we want to hear. We can no longer survive as a species when we worship those who exhibit the least capability for free-thinking, the highest preference for elitism and the concentration of the monopoly on thinking in a few powerful hands.

To call myself a writer, a thinker, an intellectual - these things are laughable, of course. However, why do you think that?

 

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