Good times, bad times

Hola mes amigos! 

As you can see, I still haven’t learned Spanish. However, I’m apparently not one for learning lessons anyway, so not to worry (about my Spanish, at least).

The past couple of weeks have been strange. One day good, another bad, my mood’s been as changeable as a chameleon touring a Jackson Pollock exhibition. I try not to let things bother me, and generally that does the trick - I (like to) think that I’m usually quite zen, and that much like a duck, I let things run off me. 

Not that this works all the time, but what doesn’t kill me will only make me more powerful than you can possibly imagine. It’s something that I had to learn to tell myself when I was travelling around Italy watching football matches (oh, you didn’t know that I’d done that? Where have you been? Buy. The. Book.). I’d either miss a connecting train, come close to it, or kick myself when I didn’t have the courage to approach strangers in pubs to ask them for interviews. I realised that I could flagellate myself all I cared, but ultimately, most things were and are, out of my hands. If the train didn't arrive on time, I could kick and scream and gnash my teeth all I wanted, but the train wouldn’t move any faster. In fact, it often seemed as if the bastard would start to slow while I nervously refreshed, refreshed and refreshed again the train tracker app.

Being too shy to speak to strangers was, of course, something that was under my control, and slowly but surely, it got easier. Still, introducing myself to new English speakers is already daunting enough - doing so in a second language is another kettle of fish entirely.

As I say, though, there’s no good crying over spilt milk. One thing that missing trains and waiting in stations offered was time to think about Things and Stuff. In this respect, I was my own worst enemy, but Stuff’s another story that’s best not told. One Thing that I spent a bit of time thinking about was pessimism and optimism. 

So, when someone the other day suggested I was a pessimist, I was ready. See, I don’t think I’m pessimistic. Nor am I optimistic. I consider myself more of a nihilist; the fence-sitting companion to my agnosticism. I don’t think that the glass is either half full or half empty. It can’t be - if it were then you wouldn’t be drinking anything, but rather just staring at a glass. At some point, logically, the glass is full (yay! Good times!). Then at some other point it’ll inevitably be empty (noooo! Despair!). When it’s empty, you can choose to refill it (hallelujah!) or leave it (gah, the pub’s shut!). 

Nothing is good all the time. Days grow dark. Limbs get weary. Eyes grow dim. To dwell on this state would be bad (I’m not necessarily one for taking my own advice, mind, I do have a playlist on iTunes called ‘Music to wallow to’). If we did wallow forever, we’d miss the smell of the first coffee of the morning, or the sunrise that preceded it.

Equally, and logically, though, nothing is bad all the time. Summer will arrive (apologies to Scottish friends/family - I’m not trying to rub it in). Children are born. You fall in love again. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say. And it’s only because of the dark cloud that we see the light dancing behind it.

Again, though, to my mind, always seeing the positive in things isn’t necessarily good for us. Somethings are just, well, shit. We’re too insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos to think that there’s always going to be an equaliser, a reason, a new day. 

When I was younger, one of my friends died in an accident. My granny, who was witheringly religious, told me shortly after that it was a Good Thing and that he’d gone to a better place. She was raised to believe that God has a plan for all of us. If He does, He’s a bit of a tool, as presumably in His great wisdom He would have seen the effect of His masterplan on my friend’s family, those who knew him and those who were also in the accident. Like I say, somethings are just crap. There’s no reason, no plan. Was it Plato who said: “Shit happens”?

So, some things are good, some things are bad, some can be redeemed and some can’t. This is life. Unless in the most dire circumstances, we all face a choice - to accept or to deny. What happened, happened. We can choose to try to get on with life, or not, and sink into the (admittedly) rather warm embrace of self-pity, wallowing and wine. 

I said earlier that my moods have been a bit topsy-turvy. Equally, so my thinking can change - I am after all human and haven’t got around to writing my ideas in stone yet. Indeed, I dare say that if something bad happened to a loved one I might temporarily forget this hippy-dippy nonsense. However, at least for now, I happen to be of the mind that most things that I do don’t have any great effect on people outside of my immediate circle, or the way that their lives will run. I try to remember that the glass, like Schrodinger’s cat, can be a wee bit full, a wee bit empty, or maybe a wee bit of both. What’s important is to enjoy the last drops of it, as much or as little as that may be. 

Barring some revelation, I’m not going to change the direction of humanity. If, as is postulated, there are more people alive now than in the sum total of all of history, then clearly, one of us can’t make all that much difference unless they’re in a position of immense power or influence. We are all insignificant. 

That doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful in our own ways, or that we can’t squeeze as much of the juice out of life as possible (unless it’s a lemon and you think that if life gives you lemons, you get bitter). 

We’re not here for long, and so we have to find our little corners of happiness. At the same time, no man is an island unless he’s Madagascar, so we also have to bear in mind the feelings of others. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: be nice to other people. We can’t control or influence most things in life, but we do have power over our own behaviour and attitude. An act of kindness can make a big difference to other people’s days, while an act of indifference or ignorance can have an equally negative effect. Ultimately, either way, whatever you, I or anyone else does doesn’t matter all that much. Much of life is out of our hands, and one day we’ll all have gone to dust and memories, until even the memories of us disappear. What good would anger or general unpleasantness have achieved us then? 

Probably not a lot, however the world will still continue to turn, and trains, in whichever future form they take, will carry on being late.

Peace, love and buy my book. Or don’t, it’s up to you.