I’ve started performing a new poem called Journeys – The Poet’s Track. It’s kinda like a ‘day in the life’ of me as a poet. Kinda. It goes much deeper – touches on the struggles, the ambitions, the inspirations, the journey, I guess, of me pursuing this poetry thang , and it follows he course of me taking a walk through the city.
There’s a few lines that read like this:
I’m passing billboards telling me to get wealth
That true health lies in status and the kingdom of thy self
To stack heavy on the shelf and steady on the balance
That the numbers I own are what matters
I’m searching for my talents
The word on the street tells me to be esteemed
I gotta be seen
Gotta be working on my image and polishing my celebrity
Spend energy on fame and make my name legendary
To leave behind a legacy that’s all about me
It’s true, right? That’s what the expectation is on all of us in this little place called the Western World. The mentality we’ve got into; to live a good life, you gotta build the Kingdom Of Thy Self. Get a good career – for me. Get healthy – for me. Get money – for me. Realise my ambitions, fulfill my dreams. You know, the people who’ve achieved this – they’re the heroes, they’re the role models – that life is the pinnacle we’re constantly pressured to attain to.
I was watching a TV show the other day about a couple who were building their dream house. I mean, it was pretty impressive – a beautiful house, an architectural masterpiece, no doubt about that. What truly defined it, set it apart, was its total, pin-point-perfect minimalism – I mean it was astounding how they’d achieved such non-detail in the architecture and the décor.
The woman whose house it was, was talking about how she needed it to be like this cos she found it so hard to relax, so she had to have absolutely no clutter in her home. And it hit me – what a desperate place to be in. The woman, and her husband too, put such value on her need to relax according to her desires, that they built this palace in dedication to it. Spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, time, labour, effort – even a freaking TV programme about it – because this woman needed to relax, in her way, in the environment that she needed. I mean, maybe I’m doing a disservice to them – cos I guess there was more to it than what I’ve described, but you get what I’m saying right? This obsession to serve my need cos my need is so important.
But then what disturbed me even more, was, as I was watching this couple build the kingdom of thy self, I realised – man – this is my life all over. OK, so I’m not building a literal house in order to suit what suits me, but I still build my little kingdom, get others to build it, impinge on their lives and desires, so that it’s built. For me.
I notice it when I start to shape my day around the exact number of hours of sleep I need. When I cut conversations short, cos I need to get somewhere else that fits into my precious timetable. When I get pissed off at my wife for interrupting me reading or writing to talk about something that’s important to her. It’s a disease that runs through my very blood. It’s a sickness I suffer from. It produces nothing but filth and yet I cling to it so desperately, protect it, nurture it…
Anyway, onto armoured polar bears:
I’ve started reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. I’ve found it’s rocking deep places in me; Lyra and The Gyptians and the freakingly-cool-talking-armoured-bear-dude going on their honourable quest, risking their lives for the sake of saving the kids trapped in the North. It’s the same when I watch Lord Of The Rings, Indiana Jones and, screw it, I’m not ashamed, Harry Potter (genuinely one of my top 10 literary masterpieces). Adventures, quests, risk, comradeship, death, battle, and, if possible, talking animals…with armour. What is it about these things that stir so me so deeply? My conclusion is that it’s because these characters are living for something outside themselves, something greater than themselves. And that changes your entire perspective on what’s important.
I mean, you wouldn’t see a conversation in Lord Of The Rings like this:
“Aragorn – why you so stressed man?”
“I’m not Legolas. Get off my case dude”
“You quite clearly are bro – I mean, I could see you blatantly distracted in that Ork fight back there – something’s clearly on your mind…”
“Ah, ok, ok, Legs – yeah, you spotted it. I mean, man, it’s just so frustrating cos, like, due to that surprise Ork attack, it means we’re not gonna get to Eisengard til like 10pm. And taking into account dinner, getting showered and bedtime story with Gandalf, it won’t be lights out til like 11.30 man which means I’m only gonna get like six and a half hours tonight man. Plus, I’ve only had 3 of my 5-a-day today. It just affects things, Legs, you know?”
There’s just not time to get stressed out on this kind of stuff when you’re busy fighting to save the entire of Middle Earth from certain destruction. But, me, in my little world of building my kingdom, I find myself getting caught up in stuff that I step back from and think ‘seriously, what am I doing?’.
The kids at the school I work at are studying WW2 right now. It blows my mind what happened to Britain in those years – literally the whole nation pulling together, to sacrifice life, family time, food, comfort; whatever it took for the sake of the war effort. I mean, the whole nation fully dedicated to live for something completely beyond themselves – to the point of death – to the point of sacrificing ‘me’ for The Greater Build. The Kingdom Of Thy Self becomes irrelevant when it stands next to The Greater Build.
You know, I wonder how Britain would react to that kind of situation now. I used to think we wouldn’t be interested – we’d be too caught up in laziness, comfort, to agree to conscription, evacuation, rationing etc. But now I’m not so sure. I think that there’s something innate in the human spirit that, when forced to live for something greater than itself, rises up to new levels of glory, valour, courage, freedom.
We were made for this kind of stuff – it’s in our souls, in our blood and if it’s coaxed out, it’s so much greater and stronger than that sickness of ego. Put me in a position where I’m inspired, passionate about something or someone outside of me, I don’t think twice about sleep – couldn’t care less, cos being awake is so awesome. Give me a project I’m passionate about, I don’t think about food, I don’t find myself making a mental timetable to ensure everything’s fitting in place. I am simply caught up in the Greater Build.
We were made for it. So why do we live in a world where everything is pointing inwards – to me? Why do we use so much of that energy, inspiration, desire, which was meant for something great, to build…me? Who, believe it or not, will one day die and cease to be of any importance in the great scheme of things. I won’t live on in this realm we call life, and the stuff just for me – that’ll be buried with me. But, the great stuff – the stuff beyond me – and the stuff I built into lives outside of me…how about that stuff…?
You know, alongside these thoughts, I’ve been thinking about God a lot. Well, I pretty much think about God all the time – can’t escape it. But, yeah, I’ve been thinking about why we live in an age where atheism is the pervading mindset, where spirituality is laughed off for the name of ‘fact’, where those who thrive are those who can give us easy-to-digest answers.
I think that a result of this self-centred mentality, is that we can only commit to something, only give something worth or validation, if it makes sense to me, in my way of thinking, my way of understanding. If it rocks my boat, then surely it can’t be real or of-worth, right?
But does this not mean, in its worst form, bigotry, ignorance and cynicism? And, I wonder if we’re so wracked with cynicism about the supernatural, the ‘beyond’, because the thought of it simply rocks this precious, predictable, world we’ve created where we are the authority, and anything contesting that must be dealt away with. But, you know, the older I get, the more aware I am of how little I know and understand; that my ideas and theories are not so freaking incredible as I thought they were. And when I let go of the me, step into faith, wonder, humility, there’s a whole wealth of the sweetest of freedoms just waiting to be hatched…