2016 was the year the world imploded. Trump. Brexit. Probably some other things too. At least that’s how it seemed at the time to a bourgeois semi-progressive like me.
2017 was actually better than expected. Not so many celebrities died. No nuclear war. about as many terror attacks as the trend. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as many people said or believed it would be.
2017 has been a bit of a neutral year for me too. It’s a year in which I’ve worked incredibly hard on a huge number of distractions, got quite tired, and ended up pretty much where I started. Older. A bit more experienced. A few more dead brain cells. Not so much drinking as some years before.
And I managed to pay off my student loan with money I’ve inherited, so that’s a big “yay!”
It’s also been great fun. I’ve met a lot of new people, made new games, recorded my own advert, written quite a few articles and one or two short stories.
In the spirit of renewal, here are nine 2018 resolutions:
- Pursue and make progress towards realistic career goals. (Sorry my idealistic friends/past Mungo)
- Sing more.
- Slow down with side projects.
- Meet new and delightful people.
- Go somewhere sunny with someone I’ve never gone on holiday before.
- Make side projects into intrinsic fun, not alternative-career stressgasms.
- There is no ninth resolution. This is a lie.
A Zen master who was known to never smile received a student who came to inquire about Brexit.
“You told me Brexit means no phased negotiation,” the student said quietly. “But now we have phased negotiation.”
The Zen master was stone-faced.
“You told me Brexit means no divorce bill,” the student said. “But now we are paying between £35 and £39 billion in our divorce bill.”
The Zen master was stone-faced.
“You told me Brexit means no customs union” the student said. “But now we are staying in the customs union in the absence of agreed solutions for upwards of two years after we lose our seat at the table.”
The Zen master was stone-faced.
The student paced the dojo, becoming more and more animated with frustrated energy as he waited for a response. Finally he shouted.
“You have told me so many times what Brexit does not mean. What does Brexit mean?”
The zen master smiled.
“Brexit means Brexit”.
I want to be special. By that I mean I want to be uniquely brilliant. A magical star-being who floats brightly through the cosmos, lighting up every face I encounter and bringing joy to the universe.
Most people are not magical star-beings. Most people are human beings made of bones and flesh and skin. Of prickly anxieties. Of uplifting smiles. Of tired, heavy heads. And so on.
Star-beings are the same, except when you encounter a star-being, you don’t just pass them by, you tingle with cosmic resonance. You vibrate, however briefly, at their frequency.
But the chances are, because so very few people are star-beings, that I am not a star-being. The chances are that you are not a star-being. And, for me, not being a star-being is unacceptable.
To want to be a star-being is a strange desire. It is the desire to be followed, monitored and remarked upon by strangers. It is the desire to be known by people you do not know. It is the desire to be a freak.
So why do I want to be this kind of aberration? Why am I not content to be a normal, human kind of person? Why do I wander my kitchen when I think nobody is watching, giving acceptance speeches to prizes I have not won to an audience that does not exist? Why, when I enter a room, do I not stand near the far corner, nor in the centre, but float up towards the ceiling? Why can I pass through solid objects as if they were vast, infinitely thin cobwebs?
The answer is that I am insane. Not insane in the sense that I am illogical or delusional, although I am, like everybody else, certainly both of those. I am insane in the sense that I have a feeling and a belief, despite all contrary evidence and knowledge, that I am special. That I am luminous. That I have some magical lesson to impart to humankind and our successors.
The problem is this; when I see a person and speak with them for an evening, conversation inevitably turns to the big questions of how and why we got here as a species, and where and how we are going as a species. These conversations are invariably filled with unverifiable generalisations, but my observations seem superficially wise. So wise is my persona’s appearance that I have come to regard myself as if I actually am wise.
So there it is. Charm leads to praise. Praise leads to self-confidence. Self-confidence leads to self-aggrandisement, and now I am talking about myself as an interdimensional elf-man. A healer of universes. A real-life Dr Who.
So how do I deal with not being special? I don’t. I can’t. I am special. I am the glimmering gold dust of a thousand worlds. Feel my yellow light billow through your tiny brain. Meet me in your dreams.
My answer will be limited by two constraints. First, I don’t know what it is like to be you, so I will inevitably miss certain points of difference. Second, I don’t know what it is like to be me. Experiencing my conscious existence and remembering it are two different things, and expressing it is something different altogether. That’s three constraints. I lied.
Given these difficulties, I will now try, as best I can, to give you some sense of what I experience on a continuous basis, being identical with myself.
First of all, I think in a constant monologue. Perhaps you do too. It is on basically from the moment I wake up, to the moment I disappear into sleep. It may be going on whilst I dream, my memory is not reliable enough to answer that with any certainty. If I sit down to write, then the monologue – which speaks in an entirely neutral tone automatically, but can take on an accent if I wish it to – will slow down to my typing pace, which is considerably slower than my speaking or reading or thinking pace.
As I type, my monologue speaks with me. As I read, it speaks with me. When I am alone, I often speak it out loud because it is more effort to keep it silent and internal than to let it out. And because I love the sound of my own voice. Those people you sometimes see talking or shouting at nobody in the streets? A lot of them are probably vocalising their inner monologue. YouTubers? They’re letting their inner monologue out. People who talk a lot about the same subjects? Monologing. Monolinguists.
I’m not a psychologist and I won’t pretend to have the final answer on what the monologue is or how it comes about, but I believe that it is a vital part of what makes me me.
Often the monologue turns into music, which is another fairly continuous element of my experience. At the moment it’s the car wash song. The underlying rhythm and tone of a song is almost universally in the background for me.
Since four years ago I also have tinnitus – a high pitched ringing in my ears, like the sound of a television on standby. The tinnitus is different from the music or the monologing, in that it sounds to me identical as if there is actually a high-pitched noise in the world. The monologue and the music, by contrast, are not the same as actual noises out in the world. The tinnitus is more intermittent, somewhere between 50% and 90% of the time I am awake. Sometimes I can’t hear it, either because it has resided, or because I can’t make it out amongst other sounds I can hear at the time. I have tinnitus in my dreams.
Second, I have a more limited ability to visualise images. I can’t “see” any memories or imaginings to the same fidelity as I can “hear” words or music, and I certainly don’t see a stream of ‘inner’ images constantly when I walk down the street as I do hear a stream of ‘inner’ words.
Third, my body is generally united in purpose. Most of the time it is solid and responsive. It does not weigh me down, or tense up uncomfortably or generally emote in ways that are unhelpful. My hands are sometimes inaccurate, missing the keys I tell them to press, but not to an extreme degree. Sometimes when I try to hit a tennis ball, I see the right movement to make, and my arm simply fails to make that move. Occasionally,when doing a maths sum, I will visualise one number, but I will ‘hear’ my inner monologue say another. The inner monologue is almost always wrong in these cases.
Fourth, I am very rarely sad. My mood is generally either directed purpose, or happy realisation. My “highs” come with realising things or coming up with new takes on things. Sometimes tiredness takes over and I have less energy.
I have generally cried less and less as I have got older, changing from a child who would cry quite dramatically, to an adult who has cried perhaps once in the past two years. Those times that I did cry, I was not devastatingly sad.
I have been sad more often in the past, and it took the form of a sort of heavy weight and longing to hold onto something that is not around.
I do get angry, and that takes the form of me raising my voice and swearing a lot. I get angry almost exclusively with inanimate objects, and of those, I am nearly always angry with a computer not doing what I want it to/what I believe I told it to.
I shout a lot, and I am generally not aware when I do it. Do tell me if I shout, I won’t be offended. I need to shout less.
I am not regularly stressed, but when I am, I feel it in my chest and – this may be unusual – in my crotch. I am more inclined to be stressed about things progressing to slowly/being to boring, than about there being too much going on.
Fifth, I rarely “switch off”. I learned as a child to sit through church services, but I hated them, and I still do. Church, like bad movies or padded-out TV shows, is unbearably boring. I need everything to be constantly stimulating. I can grind on a game (although less than I used to), as long as it involves a lot of little decisions I can think on.
My hands, too, are interminable fidgets. A phone or a portable console will keep them occupied.
That’s me. I hope you feel ever-so-slightly enlightened by this article.