philosophy

Back to Normal

“We just want to go back to some semblance of a normal life that everyone else has”
(Eric Van Balen)

Humans are conservative by nature; they love normal, they desire normal whenever life seems… abnormal. An excess of normal is often seen as being boring.

Normal is the rock on which we build successfully. Normal is the level base upon which we grow, from which we develop. Normal is sane. Normal is rational. Normal produces a healthy intellect, encourages imagination and innovation.

Normal is the calm before a storm, and the calm following a storm (unless on Jupiter where the storms have been raging for thousands of years. For a Jovian, that’s normal).

Normal is peacefulness, a time free of trouble and conflict, unless you’re a child born in Yemen or Syria where war is continuing. Fear is normal.

Normal is routine. A morning begins with fresh coffee, from a pot which has already been cleaned from the previous day’s use, the coffee jar not yet empty, fresh water in the jug, sugar in the sugar pot and clean mugs.

It’s getting ready for work at the right hour. It’s regular work. When I explained to my father-in-law that I worked freelance for short contracts, he was aghast. He’d told me, with some pride, how he’d been with the same firm for forty years. I have known people who started work after university and are still at that same company, the same commute to the same office, the same lunchtime routine, the same time going home. The way the company works, the way it likes to do business, has become second nature. That’s normal. Though in that time, they say they have seen changes. That’s normal.

Normal. Even the sound of the word appears to grind to a standstill.

If you’re an adventurer, if you’re a party goer, if you grab life by the balls, carpe diem, and all that, and you do all this, then that’s normal for you.

Normal is what we want unless that’s all there is, and then we want something else. And that’s normal too.


Written for Reena Saxena’s Exploration Challenge #68 – “Back to Normal”

It’s a train of thought piece which is how posts normally start though it’s not normally how I publish them.

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The Upright Creator

Sue Vincent’s comment on The Name of the Cloud That Ate The Sun has me thinking about a creator and its motives.

The idea of God, the creator, of the Abrahamic faiths has Him creating us in his image. This is understandable as we readily create imaginary beings in our own image, or partly so. Intelligent alien life is usually bipedal, with limbs and a head on top with eyes and ears and a multi-functioning mouth – and many of them speak fluent English in an American accent. The popular idea of a robot is also a bipedal machine.

Given that bipeds came last in line, whether it’s creationism or evolution, what gives with all the other stuff which came before? Well, robots might be the clue. Getting the things to stand upright and walk. It’s not easy and with a lot of robotics, this is an unnecessary fancy but it doesn’t stop a lot of technicians struggling with the concept. They will succeed but more because of god than being good designers, I think.

But why would a creator be bipedal, being, as it were, out there in space and existent throughout all time? Why would it need to stand up when there is no up in which to stand?


image from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam

What is Love?

What is Love? as Haddaway once sang (over a rather catchy electro-funk backing track which, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, I’ve linked at the bottom of this post a version of it with some natty street dancing licks.)

What is Love? We know when we feel it but what is it? Is it inexplicable, as is God and Art?

Of all Art, the most inexplicable form, probably, is Music. What is Music? You should hear some of the things I hear presented as Music; it’s hard to differentiate it from just Noise.

But then I was once asked to listen to an egg frying as a piece of, well, Music, in as much as it was featured on a music programme. The recordist had put a contact mic on a pan and recorded from beginning to end, the frying of an egg in some fat. Listening through earphones, is was wonderful, though it did make me hungry.


As promised, here’s Haddaway. Now, does it make you wanna Dance too?

image: “Lovers’ Hands on Sand” by Wilson Sánchez via Unsplash.com

How long is now

My first thought is that poster ought to have a question mark. My second thought is maybe not; perhaps How Long is a name. Perhaps Now is also a name and the claim is that this How Long, an individual or group, is an alias of this other person or group known as Now. So, How Long is Now.

That clears up a lot of confusion, or maybe just discloses a secret, who knows?


My third thought is there definitely should be a question mark.


My fourth thought returns again to the subject of dogs. Does a dog, or another intelligent animal, possess a sense of Now, and if yes, is their Now the same as ours?

I know our dogs have a sense of Now by the way they pester us whenever they think it’s the moment for their food or time for a walk. It’s as if they have an innate sense of the passing of time, an inner biological clock – assuming they can’t actually tell the time from the clock on the wall. Has anyone tested this?

But like most clocks, theirs is slightly flawed. It leads real time by around half an hour. Now, Now, Now!, they implore. Too early, too early, too early!, we stress. Of course, their clocks might not be faulty at all, it might just be emotional overload as excitement builds as the Now approaches.


Okay, let’s not delay tackling How Long a “Now” is. The human idea of Now is, I think, a timeless quantity. It is immeasurable. Yet it lasts for ever. Well, at least as long as there is a sentient being in the Universe, and only up to the point when the Universe ceases to be.

It’s like this ineffable thing, a pinpoint of being moving along the timeline, for ever. It is both no time at all and all time, at the same time.

It’s made all the more odd by knowing that our senses to our environment are lagging behind real time, the senses informing the brain and the brain’s synapses firing to make sense of anything, all take time. Thus, the Now we think we experience was really the Then; we spend our time in futile pursuit of the Now, always nanoseconds behind it but never able to be up with it.

But, strangely, in our imagination, we can be ahead of it. Like the dog wanting her meal or his habitual stroll around the park. Now is before Now, and after Now, and forever, but never actually Now.

Okay, I’m going to post this now, but I maybe be some time.


Inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge – week #52.

image supplied by Reena via Maria Popova (click on it for the bigger picture)

Give me a straight line any day

Last night, I watched Last Bus To Woodstock, the seventh episode of Inspector Morse. To give you the gen, this is a British police telly drama, set in Oxford, and which ran for 33 episodes, over eight seasons for 13 years; each film-length episode runs for almost 2 hours, so that’s a lot of time investment. I have also caught up with the much newer UK police series, Unforgotten, on the “catch up” app and now I’m on the current season showing every Friday. The thing about all these police-crime solving telly dramas is they are very cyclic in nature. With each episode, and with each series/season, the story begins just like the last one.

We should be happy with that and I think we are. Lots of things in nature go about in cycles: day and night, the moon, the Earth around the Sun, the comets around the Solar System, the Solar System around the Universe and the Universe, for all we know, goes regularly around a flying turtle called Derek. We cannot get away from cyclic events so we may as well accept this fact and enjoy it.

But with me there is a rub. The thing I never liked about work was the dailiness of it. You get up, you go into work, you work, you go home, you go to bed, you get up, you go into work….. whaaaa!

Not only this but the work itself, and I’m sure I can’t be alone, is excruciatingly cyclic. You get one project out the door and what next? In comes another, much the same as the last, and the process is the same, on and on, until they give you a small party and a clock. Yeah, and that clock.

So it occurred to me this morning that I must be some kind of Linearist. A natural straight-liner. Entropic, Time’s Arrow, ever forward. I hadn’t the foggiest whether Linearism was a real thing, and I’m still unsure and if it is a thing, whether it applies to what I’m talking about.

I can’t think it’s never been thought of. Unless we’ve been going around in circles and missed it.

This is Life: That’s Entertainment!

When I write about Life and the Meaning/Purpose of it as being simply Procreation (as a work around to a kind of sense of continuum or immortality) and Entertainment, I don’t mean the second to be entirely of the passive sort, like couch surfing the big game, or watching a clown riding a unicycle and the fenders and doors falling off his tiny yellow and red car…not entirely.

Certainly the Entertainment part is the greater part of it, broad and all encompassing. It is there to give Life a Sense of sustained purpose, before and after the relatively brief Procreative part. It’s as if nature first bestowed on us the Procreation part but gave us too much time to do it in, so we came up with the added value of the other part, to make Life bearable for the overthinking beings we are, although sometimes this doesn’t appear to be working as well as it should.

Entertainment is superficial. Entertainment is profound. It is simple, and intellectual and cerebral, and practical. Dexterity, creativity, imagination, philosophy and, yes, I think education, and everything really. Even in matters of Procreation, it helps enormously. So, Entertainment is everything.

Phew. Glad that’s sorted.


Now here’s Weller’s take on it, performed by the English band, The Jam…


image: “clown riding unicycle in town yoga mat” by Simon Bratt

A Dabbler’s Education

I had been thinking about those little GIF cartoons I attempted some years ago, and then how and why I came to blog, and it’s probably right that I self-identify as a bit of a dabbler. If you can’t be a Master at any one thing then at least try to be a Jack of all things. This I believe.

If I see something I like, I’m interested to find out how it works and what better way than to have a go at it yourself? That way you get an understanding and a better appreciation of the thing, and, by extension, the whole world. Or at least as much of the world as you can cram into a single lifetime.

This education began with my Mum and Dad. They were, and still are, the most self-reliant people I know. For them, I think it was partly out of necessity, not having a lot of money, but they are practical people too, in spirit.

So throughout my adult life, it’s astonished me how many times I’ve heard men say, with undisguised pride, how they “got in a man” to fix something that any fully functioning and reasonably intelligent person could do for themselves in no time. Seriously, I have known men who don’t even possess a screwdriver. It’s just bizarre if you consider how man is identified as a user of tools, a thing that sets us apart from most other animals, and yet there are examples here amongst us without a basic tool, the screwdriver – in a world of screws! And don’t get me started on men who (again, proudly claiming) don’t know their way around a kitchen…!

But back to education. It’s a source of dismay to me how it is in our co-called civilisation that educational support seems to shudder to a halt in adulthood and thereafter is only a real option for the wealthy and privileged. Not that it appears many of them take it up beyond the necessity in getting the right qualification to begin a career – normally a very straight and narrow path to the end.

Ignorance abounds, and it seems as if we’re proud to be dumb. Ironically, we are also very opinionated, and adamantly so. Though, to me, this is likely a symptom of the malaise. I believe it’s true that the more you learn, and the broader your learning is, paradoxically the more there is remaining to be understood.

This dabbler’s education is a work in progress.

In pursuit of happiness

I see there’s a trend for saying happiness isn’t something that can be pursued or sought. You have to let go of that idea and somehow happiness will happen, all by itself.

That sounds too much like waiting at any arbitrary bus stop and expecting a bus to arrive eventually bearing the destination, Never-Neverland.

I think maybe the problem is Happiness is not really understood and no one actually knows how to achieve it and there are always those who, for esteem or money, or possibly both, will persuade you into buying their magic roadmap. Like the old Irish joke about tourists asking a local man for directions, he always tells them, “Well now, I wouldn’t advise you to be setting off from here”.

So what is Happiness, assuming it actually exists, assuming it’s one thing, and common to all sensibilities?

I wonder, hypothetically of coirse, whether God is happy. Not He of the Abrahamic faiths for sure, at least not most of the time judging by the holy books. Curmudgeonly, disappointed and dissatisfied, it paints a likely portrait of the archetypal Perfectionist creator (see earlier post). Not a happy being, perhaps.

But if He is Happy, could it be down to His omniscience? How can we ever know that? But at the opposite end of the spectrum, we believe in the happiness of childhood, the age of innocence and naivety. Ignorance is bliss, we hear.

Consider Thomas Gray’s poem, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. Apparently, Gray was never happier than when he was at school, though ironically a place he was sent to to learn stuff. Here’s the end lines where he gives us the famous phrase,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemn’d alike to groan—
The tender for another’s pain,
Th’ unfeeling for his own.
Yet, ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their Paradise.
No more;—where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

Who knows? Philosophy is folly or a consolation, or salvation, in an inescapable process of loss of innocence; it’s not easy unknowing the things we know by the process of simply living in a complicated societal world. So should you give up? Not on your nelly, I think.


Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

On something Bertrand Russell wrote

This the other day from Brain Pickings on something Bertrand Russell wrote,

“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls.

Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”

Exactly! This is why I can’t go to work anymore: my interests are now too wide and my specialism is just too personal. Well anyway, I’m going to make this my excuse, if ever I need one.

It’s interesting, a river as a metaphor for existence or life. Not the first time, I know, and not the last. I rather like the idea of a meander. Though with respect to work, we talk about “Career”. Then I like how Career has two meanings: a) that job thing, but also b) progressing in an uncontrolled way.

Yep, that’s been me.


Portrait by Larry Burrows

How To Grow Old by Bertrand Russell (Brain Pickings)

The Why?

Anyone who has been around little children will probably know that sometime between the ages of two and three, they get a handle on that potent single word enquiry “why?”. A typical conversation may go something like,

“Why did you make the dog get down from the sofa?”

“Because someone might want to sit there.”

“Why?”

“Because they might be tired standing up.”

“Why?”

“Because they might have been standing up for a very long time.”

“Why?”

“Maybe they had to go shopping.”

“Why?”

“To buy you spaghetti hoops, and banana yoghurt and gingerbread men!”

(A pause; a quantum of hope, but then,)

“Why?”


Then there comes a time when “Why?” mercifully goes away. Maybe they learn how infuriating ad infinitum questioning can be, how socially unacceptable it is, or maybe they just move on, accepting some things are what they are, just because. Or they think they’ve worked things out by themselves, with the little knowledge they’ve acquired. And so, onwards into adulthood, we accept the way things are before questioning “why?”.


When was the last time you felt like asking a whole string of “why?”s?

I suppose the thing that holds us back is the thought that others will think us crazy; it’s not done to question conventions or conventional “wisdoms”. Some things are done simply because they are and we are loath to upset this basic order of life. We’re safe in our boxes, clearly labelled and all pointing the right way. And woe betide any childish person who comes along asking “why?”.


Photos by Markus Spiske and Louis Blythe on Unsplash.