"Isn't hindsight great?", said no one ever

Hello one (and all)

It’s been a while since I posted anything, largely down to three factors: 1) I was busy, 2) I’m always lazy, and 3) I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to spill its contents onto the internet. Having wrested myself out of the sleeper hold of the first two of these restraints I figured that instead of doing things I really should be doing now, I’d write a post. 

The summer flew by like a swallow swooping after its dinner, and I barely even noticed its passage. Being in Kuwait was a great experience and gave some much needed distance from life in Genoa. Now I’m back, albeit fleetingly, filling my days with reading and drinking beer on my balcony. There’s nothing like staying ten weeks in a dry country to give me a thirst!

While sitting on my balcony, I’ve been slipping into the concentric circles of thought that swirl round my brain and thinking about life and decisions we make. Having been lucky enough to have grown fat and weak on the ephemeral plentitude of capitalism, my life has generally been uneventful in the grand scheme of things and, as a result, I have enjoyed many big-decision-free years. Unfortunately it now seems that the last (really only) big decision I made was woefully wrong, but at the time my muddled thinking made it seem like the right one, if not a good one. What a difference a year and a bit makes.

As you may or may not know or be interested, as previously mentioned, I spent the summer in Kuwait teaching English. While revising conditional forms with some students, I asked them if they came into an arbitrarily huge amount of money, what they would do. Their faces met me with a look so blank you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the first page of the book I’m trying to write. The same thing often happens when I ask Italians the same thing. What they’re doing when they’re in meetings or being nagged by their partners, one can only speculate, but it seems that it’s not daydreaming about being somewhere else. The mind boggles as to why not.

I have a detailed plan for exactly what I’ll do in just such an eventuality, which for expediency is tiered depending on the size of the gold heist I carry out. These are the kinds of decisions I like making, because they are all of course entirely hypothetical situations and decisions. When faced with an actual decision, I freeze faster than an Inuit’s testicles on a New Year’s Day swim. Paralysed by the need to make a decision, I torture myself for weeks surrounded by the detritus of my brain and the various possible outcomes.

Without wanting to get even vaguely topical or insightful, is our society getting more slapdash and knee-jerk when it comes to making decisions? Of course, that’s really a rhetorical question, as in no way proving my point I’ve just spent five minutes on my balcony drinking a beer and thinking about it. I think it might be though. Going off of what I remember from high school, the European powers that were dillied and dallied in the run-ups to both the First and Second World Wars. While I don’t think it was just because of political inertia, and with hindsight (what a fantastic thing that is, no one said ever), they probably should have moved earlier, but if my Higher grade C in History taught me anything it was that a) I wasn’t as naturally good at History as I thought I was, and b) appeasement looks like a bad choice now, but at the time was an attempt at stopping more millions of people dying on battlefields. Instead nowadays there’s a sense that politicians are just making the shit they say up on the hoof. 

I think that 24/7 rolling news and immediate Big-Breaking-News!!! alerts on our phones make us less inclined to spend a bit of time when making decisions. Personally, I curse the offspring of whoever had the idea to put adverts on Youtube that you can’t skip, so I’m not immune to the lure of quick fixes and instant gratification either. After all,  if a politician takes their time to make a decision, they are seen to be indecisive. We all want someone with a strong hand on the tiller, but as the majority of politicians these days are suits with changeable smirks, can you have a strong hand if you think the tiller is a bar near Henley? Surely taking an extra day or so and doing a bit of research and speaking to people who are experts would help find a solution that’s better in the long term? Dodgy dossiers and 45-minute claims aside, presumably making informed decisions rather than hopeful punts is the best route to success.

There must be a middle ground between boil in the bag resolutions and the kind of slow cook, tagine-of-torture way I go about deciding things. Technology’s great, but it’d be nice if we hadn’t become quite so addicted to its cheap thrills, myself included. 

There’s a parable I heard years ago from where I don’t remember anymore, about a donkey sitting in the sun. On either side there are piles of food, but both look so deliciously tempting and equidistant that our equine protagonist can’t decide which he’ll eat first. He sits and thinks under the beating sun as the food slowly starts to go bad and he grows weak with hunger and dehydration. Finally, after days of sitting and thinking without coming to a conclusion, as the flies that have started swarming around the food deafen him with their buzzing, he keels over and the last thing he sees before the bugs close in on him too are the piles of food gone bad.

Sometimes I feel like that too, and if you’re thinking that that’s because I’m an ass, then award yourself ten points for wit. I’ve recently had another big decision to make, which has now been made, but largely for factors that are out of my hands. So, I’m leaving Genoa. Ironically, the next step I took, which in theory is a very big one, seemed as simple and natural to me as night following day. I now know that if I’d made that same step sooner, life would be very different and absolutely lovely. It’s not to be though. 

One of my favourite TV programmes is Community, and an episode I particularly enjoy is one that deals with multiple timelines branching off from a roll of a dice. We get to see six alternative paths of time, which is in line with a theory of time and realities. If I’ve understood it right, every decision we make creates a different timeline, all existing at the same time but in different realities. Therefore, all of our decisions, be they big or small, are played out to their conclusion. I like to think that somewhere in one of my timelines I didn’t make the big decision I alluded to a little earlier, but close my eyes and stamp my feet all I like, it’s not this timeline. 

If you don’t like your perception of time and reality to be branchy though, the book I’ve recently (re-)read is One Hundred Years of Solitude, and as Aureliano and Ursula realise, “time wasn’t passing…..  it was turning in a circle”. I like that too, if only for the blind hope that if it doesn’t work out this time, it might the next spin round.