Live Fully Now- Some Thoughts

Big intake of breath…

P1080581As a 21 year old, fresh out of university and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, so many ideas have been floating around my head and today I wanted to share one!

The idea I want to talk about borrows from the tenets of Eastern Philosophy about living in the present, and never really ‘arriving’ so to speak. I want to start of with a quote from Alan Watts which goes something like this: ‘’and while as I said it is of tremendous use for us to be able look ahead in this way and to plan. There is no use planning for a future which when you get to it and it becomes a present, you won’t be there… you’ll be living in some other future which hasn’t yet arrived. And so in this way one is never able actually to inherit and enjoy the fruits of ones actions. You can’t live at all… unless you can live fully, now.”

If I look back with an honest eye at the past few years, there’s little doubt I’ve been preoccupied with preparing for my future. I’ve just graduated from University, where I spent three years looking ahead to what I would do when I had a degree; what job I might end up in, what adult life I 13108779_1706712886268685_375330620_n(1)might claim. Before that I was in college, working towards A levels that would help me get into the university I wanted so that, at whatever point in the future, I would be happy and I would be successful. I had an awful lot invested, and I suppose I still do, in the notion that one day, I would arrive. Everything would come together and I would somehow learn in a moment, the life I would live. But that hasn’t happened. I’ve arrived and yet I haven’t. I’ve ‘gotten’ to the future, and found that it ONLY exists in the future. There is no arriving – and I’ve been missing out.

We are inside of a system that prepares us only for a destination – not the journey that we live around and within every day. From a very young age, I have been learning how to prepare, but on this path my preparation will never end. We never reach ‘there’, wherever there is. We carry on preparing for the future all our lives and we never make it, because there is no destination. The future exists only in the future and it is useless to live for a future which shifts just beyond our reach each time we come close. Happiness can’t be possible in a future which is not guaranteed and joy for the future can’t, by its very nature, exist if you don’t try to be happy right now.

 

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May Reading Wrap-Up

I’ll come straight out and say it – May was a really bad reading month for me. I got around to reading a total of 4 books this month, 5 if you include the one I’m part way through and only one of those was a book on my May TBR so I didn’t do very well on the reading front this month, but I endeavor to do better in June. I am going away twice later this month so if all goes to plan I’ll be able to catch up on plane journeys a little bit!

But without further ado, the books that I did get around to reading were:

  1. HeynostadamasHey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland. This was the one and only book on my May TBR and this was on my TBR because I recently ‘rediscovered’ Douglas Copland’s writing after reading Life After God and fell in love, again. I picked up this and powered through it with much the same sense of wonder and appreciation for his wit and his dark humor and I just loved this book. This follows for separate peoples perspectives on a high school shooting and looking into questions of faith and guilt and regret. It’s just a very thought provoking, creative look at the human condition and human emotions and how they’re often very complex and I gave it a 4 stars.
  2. 276750I then read a short story collection – The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. I bought and read this first back in college, my second year I think, on a recommendation from my English teacher and I don’t really know why but I somehow figured I’d read this a second time this month. I must have been feeling the dark, Gothic vibe and if you like that kind of thing OR if you’re particularly into Gothic poetry then I’d recommend. If anything, I’d say this was more like a poetry anthology than a short story collection. Carter’s writing is very heavy and decorative and quite politically charged so maybe read this if you’re in the mood for dark, heavy, symbolic, ornate.
  3. Immortality by Milan Kundera. The third book I read this month was Immortality. I picked this up for a bit of a funny reason. So basically, after I read The Body by Hanif Kureishi I was really enjoying reading about mortality and aging and looking ba28634ck at life and wasted opportunity and the brevity of youth and it almost hit me more than it ever really has that I’m getting older all the time. Weird I KNOW, but true. So when I spotted this in the charity shop I picked it up straight away and I actually really enjoyed it even though it terrified me. Rather than being specifically about mortality, as I assumed, this was actually about legacy, and the idea of building a history that stays around once you’re gone. So Kundera looks at art for example and loads of different aspects of manifestations of the self and our memories. Again, a very heavy philosophical book but a really good one all the same!
  4. Then for the best book I’ve read in SUCH a long time: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I’ve had my eyes on this for the longest time, and when I saw this was 6604712half price on Amazon with free shipping it was pretty much a no brainer for me. I read this in about 12 hours flat and I just loved it. I may have vested interests because I eat a vegan diet and it’s something I’m very passionate about, but I really do feel that this is required reading for all humans capable of eating anything at all. Part informative non-fiction, half memoir and a small part animal-eating dictionary, ‘Eating Animals’ builds upon and challenges our cultural associations with food, questioning why our beliefs are as staunch as they sometimes are and suggesting ways in which we might aim to revise our ethical considerations. Foer looks specifically at factory farming; the mass production of animal products, animal rights or the disturbing lack thereof and the institutionalized cruelty often at play across the US – the mass cruelty and abuse we prefer to turn away from. It’s grizzly, hard to hear stuff. Yet what Foer has achieved with ‘Eating Animals’ stands far apart from the ‘exacting force’ of pro-vegetarian activism (perhaps supposed by many upon reading the title) and instead digs to the core of dietary ethics, in(conveniently) mapping a complex moral and ethical debate with a mild-mannered objectivity. It’s just so incredible, I couldn’t sing its praises enough.the-kite-runner-by-khaled-hosseini-cover-page
  5. And the book I’m part way through, well, half way through is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This is another book that’s been on my radar for a while and I’m finally reading it. I read A Thousand Splendid Sun’s by the same author and even though that was a very long time ago, it remains one of my favourites. I can’t really say much about this as I’m not finished, but so far it’s very sad but I’m enjoying it a lot.

So that’s all for my May Reading Wrap-up. Despite not having read very much, I was happy with the things I did read and I can’t really say I didn’t enjoy anything, which is good. Keep an eye out for my June TBR, which will be up shortly and let me know what you got around to reading this month! H x

Perfection: Some Thoughts

 

One of the fundamental axioms of all human life is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. And if it did exist, we wouldn’t, so why worry ourselves with the idea that we’re not exactly as we should be.

Hello everybody,

Today we’re out on my lawn trying to make the most of the good weather and I want to have a little chat about a quote that I read recently which rang very true to me. I think it helps to put things into perspective a little bit, especially for me where body image and self-acceptance are concerned – a little reminder of something that I do know, deep down, but very often forget.

So the quote reads as follows:

‘Looking out into the Universe at night we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars or between wonderful and poorly arranged constellations’.

So, I, like everybody, have times when I feel very flawed and times when I feel like I’m not as good as I should be, whatever it is that I think I should be, I often feel I’m falling short. I think this is a very human thing to do, a very natural thing to do, but also a really restricting things to do, and I think we do a great disservice to ourselves when we put this kind of pressure on.

It seems to me that we have this habit of picking apart perceived imperfections in ourselves in a way that’s not only really quite cruel and self-destructive, but also in a way that we wouldn’t do to anybody else, or to the natural things around us.

And one of my biggest targets is the way I look, specifically the way my body looks. I’ve never been very accepting of my body, which is strange because I feel like I’m very able to rationalize ‘bodies’ in general healthy, accepting way. It’s different when I’m looking inwardly, and I don’t know why but I think that’s probably the same for most people.

I don’t look at other people and think that they should be different. And I don’t look at things in the natural world and think they should be different, even if I can see that they have ‘imperfections’ conventionally. In nature, and in others, nothing is perfect and everything is then perfect, if that makes sense. Trees can be bent and twisted, people can have moles and freckles and hairy bits, and scarred bits , flowers can be asymmetrical but they’re still beautiful. There are so many natural design flaws and yet the natural world is for most, an incredible beautiful place, that we love and marvel at no less for its flaws. And so why do we look at ourselves any differently?

One of the fundamental axioms of all human life is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. And if it did exist, we wouldn’t, so why worry ourselves with the idea that we’re not exactly as we should be.

I came into this world, if created or otherwise, exactly as nature intended, just as the most contorted tree or the most jagged mountain came into the world, exactly as it was supposed to be. Humans are not perfect and neither am I, but I am just as beautiful.

 

Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland | Book Review

4/5 stars

This weekend just gone, Hey Nostradamus strutted onto my American literature radar, reminding me again of my admiration for a writer who can make me feel so sad, yet so hopeful at the same time. HeynostadamasA deeply thoughtful and engaging novel, tinted with a delicate wit and irony so very characteristic of Coupland’s writing, Hey Nostradamus grapples with questions of faith and acceptance, compounding its themes almost as much as it reconciles them.

Each quarter of the novel takes a different focus, and Coupland shifts between the years with each short chapter. From these four separate yet connected vantage points on a high school Massacre painfully reminiscent of Columbine, we come to understand the depths of grief, sorrow and anger felt by those involved, and those left behind.

Driven first by 17 year old Cheryl, killed in the shootings, the book wanders from a secret marriage and pregnancy, through the horror of the mass killings, to Jason, Cheryl’s grieving adolescent boyfriend. We then meet Heather, Jason’s adult partner before the book comes finally to rest with Reg, Jason’s god fearing, spiteful father. Each character negotiates the aftershocks of the shootings; their nuanced, scattered responses building a rich narrative framework, a structure turned inwards on themes of faith, destiny and remorse and brimming with the same wistful sentiment that keeps Coupland firmly atop my favorite authors list.

It took me a while to understand the true scope of Coupland’s ambition with this book, in so much as I didn’t realize immediately that the indents in Cheryl’s chapter we’re actually prayers, filtering upwards from those struggling to cope with the tragedy, and I didn’t fully appreciate how grounded this story was in redemption until the final few sentences, yet this book stood out to me as all Coupland’s work seems to; as an incredibly visceral, courageous look at humanity and it’s discontents. So intent on truth and unvarnished authenticity, Hey Nostradamus details such growth and hope, guided by a truly unique, collaborative narrative. I’m almost sorry I didn’t read this sooner, and almost wish I had it yet to come.

Gratitude

“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realize that that is enough to be happy. There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”

The less free time I have, the more time I enjoy. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, if you think about it for too long but I think I’m realizing more and more that the small moments spent feeling carefree and content are the most valuable. Weekends spent like these ones, exploring the woods and bouldering in the sunshine seem to divide the constant, self-made pressures of life on fast forward so much that I can’t really help but think that life was intended to be simpler. Yet I’m more appreciative than I can remember. I think it all comes down to a gratitude for what you have, in the here and now, because things will never be the same as they are in this moment. By not stopping to appreciate the small moments, I’ll lose them. And eventually, my life will go the same way. I’d be a fool to miss it.

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

4/5

“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide… the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope’’. So begins Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, an epochal American coming of age story set in sleepy suburban Michigan during the early 1970’s. 12965791_242946172759994_1629830747_n(1)

The book opens with the suicide of young Cecilia Lisbon, arching then over the remaining year, during which the five Lisbon sisters—mysterious and elusive to the young neighborhood boys who watch them – systematically follow suit.

The ill-fated tragedy of the Lisbon’s is strung together and recounted by the now adult boys, chronicled in a compelling first person narrative enhanced by the benefit of 20 years distance. The naive sentimentalities of adolescence are captured without fault and the boy’s fervent observations give the novel an almost suffocating sense of mythology. The Lisbon girls, or the ethereal image of the girls from the boys clouded vantage point, present budding embodiments of an eerie surrealism. The weight of nostalgia is heavy in our minds as the story rewinds and plays out again; plotting the fatal 13 months following Cecilia’s death and the Lisbon family’s subsequent emotional collapse.

Eugenides handles the difficult topic of teenage suicide with a gentle hand, an approach in parts countered with injections of acutely dark humor and a lucid, near fairy-tale tone. In many places, the prose exudes an almost sublime aura, with the Lisbon girls practically transcending suburban Detroit; canonized by the rose-tinted glasses of youth and the recollection of our teenage years. If not for the grounding themes, The Virgin Suicides may well have lost itself in its own peculiarity and for many, this bizarre and macabre story might at first feel alienating. Yet perseverance with the story of the Lisbon sisters offers an enigmatic, timeless reward; a melancholic reminder of mortality, loss of innocence and the power of memory.