How things are today

This is my first Mother's Day without my mother.  Earlier, I cycled up to the downs where we scattered her ashes, and spent a few moments - looking out over the wide expanse of sea - talking to her.  Then I cycled back.  As I did, so much stuff was tumbling around in my head.

The more time goes on, and the older I get, the less any of it makes sense to me.  Some things never change, of course.  People still get killed over differences of opinion or belief. And some of us who are civilised enough not to resort to the gun or the bomb can still use our language to call one another names, or shout one another down.  It's all so tiresome, idiotic, tribal and - ultimately - futile.  A billionaire can send his sports car into space, and astronomers can discover new universes... but some of us still call one another c**t over which channel should be on, or whether the railways should be renationalised.  We still lie, and cheat, and abuse, and rape, and murder... and treat the world - each other, animals, plants, trees, all living things - with contempt.  Or as commodities.  Everything becomes commodified eventually.  Even love.  We dump our crap in the oceans, or bury it in the earth for future generations to dig up and deal with.  Meanwhile, all more and more people seem to preoccupy themselves with is what their phones can show them and tell them.  They can no longer go anywhere without their gadgets, and seem to care more about the 'likes' on their selfies than about what we're actually doing to each other and to this planet, our home.  We ignore it, as we walk along - on a beach, in a forest, on a mountain trail - engrossed in nothing but the screen in our hand.

When I got home, I picked up an old book on sociology.  I opened a page at random and saw where - perhaps 40 years ago - I'd underlined a passage without really understanding at the time what it meant.  It must have pushed a button, though, deep in my brain somewhere...

'Society, as objective and external fact, is a form of coercion. Its institutions - family, school, workplace - pattern our actions and condition our expectations. We are rewarded to the extent that we stay within our assigned performances. If we step outside of these assignments, society has at its disposal an infinite number of controlling and coercing agencies. The sanctions of society are able, at each moment of existence, to isolate us, subject us to ridicule, deprive us of our sustenance and our liberty, and - in the last resort - deprive us of life itself. The law and the morality of society can produce elaborate justifications for each of these sanctions, and most of our fellows will approve if they are used against us in punishment for our deviance. Finally, we are located in society not only in space, but in time. Our society is an historical entity that extends temporally beyond our individual biography. Society ante-dates us and it will survive us. It was there before we were born and it will be there after we are dead. Our lives are but episodes in its majestic march through time. In sum, society is the walls of our imprisonment in history.'

So, we are all imprisoned.  But largely a prison of our own making, if we did but realise - as many of us here do.  We can escape it, if we know how.  Later in that book, the author says 'Only the madman or the rare case of genius can inhabit a world of meaning all by himself.'

I don't think I'm a genius.  So maybe I'm a madman.  Because I want to inhabit that world of meaning all by myself.  In some respects, I already do.

I hope I do, anyway.  Because I don't want that prison.  And I'd have to find another way out, which I'm doing my best not to contemplate.


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  • You’re in a great space Tom, it’s a good place to be. If you ever want any help to get out of the prison, completely, I’m always here to help. I’ve told you previously, you’ve got everything you need, the passion, the drive, the heart, the knowledge, skills, humility, temperament, everything. There’s just something you haven’t quite spotted yet, that’s still putting up some walls. With or without me you’re going to dissolve those walls so I’m not saying you need my help, I’m just making you aware that it’s there if you want it. 

    I don’t really know what that means about a world of meaning all by himself but I know that I am not shackled and never have been by society or men. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the struggles. I have experienced the same struggles, they’re just kind of the opposite way around to most people’s. But they’re still two sides of the same coin, so I also work from experience. 

    It sounds like your mum gave you yet another lovely day. Have a good week and as always be kind, gentle, patient and loving with yourself. 

    I was thinking this morning of the phrase ‘youth is wasted on the youth’ and I wondered how many of our loved ones are up there now looking down on all of us and thinking ‘life is wasted on the living’?

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