Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm about to spoil your day.

Can you imagine a society in which we stopped making burgers from cows and started to make them out of, say... kittens? Or puppies? Or, dare I say... babies? Let us imagine for a moment that legislation was passed enabling all restaurants to sell these exciting new burgers legally. Let us also imagine that the meat tastes and looks exactly the same.

Have no fear; this will not be a post tearfully exhorting you to consider the feelings of our bovine friends. The puppy/kitten/baby strategem was an idea borne of desperation: what will it take to rein in our obsession with the Burger, to get us to resist its insidious charms, to move on to (literally) greener pastures that await us on that menu or at the supemarket? Although I am all for the compassionate treatment of all living creatures, that's another post for another day. This essay, dear readers, concerns our health.

There are a multitude of enormous, teeming cities in the world today dealing with traffic problems that have become almost too big to even tackle. The reason for these problems lies in the paradigm of more requires more. I see it in the city that I currently inhabit, Los Angeles. Many decades ago the local government, presumably stocked up with loads of campaign cash delivered in Trader Joe's cardboard bags by the burgeoning automobile industry, decided to do away with the light rail system that not only was tremendously efficient in carrying large numbers of Angelenos (an insipid term, I know) all over the city at an affordable price but also added to the character, beauty and connectedness of the town, in favour of building many more roads through developing neighbourhoods. As the population (and the pollution) increased, the government saw the most obvious answer that would have been self-evident to all but the most unhinged... or far-sighted: build more roads to accomodate the ever-expanding car fleet. As more people and therefore more cars filled the city, the government continued to build more roads, all the while neglecting the health concerns of the city's people and the environmental and social degradation that occurs when neighbourhoods are literally passed over by massive construction. More Cars Means More Roads Means More Cars and so on.

It would seem that this same phenomenon is occuring around burger consumption.

It's a sneaky little critter, our burger. The old-fashioned Steak still seems to occupy rarified air. Restaurants charge more for it and we don't seem as cavalier in our consumption of it. McDonald's has not released the McSteak. It's as if we're all aware of the excess that might be inherent in devouring a steak four times a week. But the friendly burger? Ah, what the hell. Pick one up at the drive through on the way home. Order it at the diner. Order it at the three-star restaurant that is fleecing you with its 'gourmet' burger. Throw a frozen patty in the oven. No big deal. It's just a sandwich, right?

Burger King, McDonalds' stinky little brother who forgets to wipe his nose occasionally, currently has 8,700 'restaurants'. There were 756 new Burger King franchises opened last year and the corporation plans to open another 1,000 throughout 2010. The wonderful Wendy's franchise has around 4,900 locations and has opened some 470 more in the last year. As for McDonald's, they've moved into the direct-delivery arena. They're currently laying a pipeline that will stretch to your home, with a nozzle for each home; just stick the nozzle into your mouth (it's shaped like a snorkel- just bite down) and the good folks at Maccas will simply pump the product directly into your gullet.

Despite greater awareness and more media attention being placed on the consequences of over-consumption of artificial, fatty, salty and sugary food than at any other time in history, not to mention an abundance of evidence proving how problematic a diet high in red meat can be, we continue to munch away on them cows.

I remember back in Australia in the early nineties when McDonalds had its first ever closure due to lack of business. I remember how excited I was to announce "the beginning of the end" for the fast food industry, that people were finally "getting it" and renouncing their idolatry of the hamburger.

I was dead wrong. The burger has become fashionable. I can't remember how many times I've heard someone declare in their best shrill voice, "I just went to --- (fill in the blank here with your favourite overpriced, pretentious eatery- oh, wait... "eatery" is itself a pretentious term.. damn), they have a GREAT burger."

Really? A particular establishment's burger is that much better than another's? Has ordering a burger become akin to getting a massage? Can we really be that discerning over a piece of grilled red meat? Even if there is a discernible difference between hamburgers, maybe it's time we raised our sights a tad; if we're really that keen to be discerning in our food choices, let's shoot for foods that involve a little more preparation and care than a hunk of ground beef being rolled into a puck like a piece of playdough.

Americans eat on average around 67 pounds of red meat every year. While no one can agree on just how much may be too much (and levels have come down from the all-time high in the mid-70s due to something called the 'national beef herd liquidation'- I don't think the words 'beef' and 'liquid' should ever be that closely associated), I think we can all agree that we're probably eating way too much- one only has to look at the levels of heart disease, colon cancer and digestive problems that are currently being experienced and attributed by much of the medical community to a diet too heavily laden with red meat.

But that won't stop us. Oh no. Just as we've come to accept The Soda as being the natural accompaniment to every meal, we also have been brainwashed into thinking 8 ounces of red meat paired with a bunch of fried potatoes devoid of all nutrition is just fine as a daily meal.

It ain't, folks. Let's start voting for fresher food with our wallets. Us men have a lot to answer for- somewhere along the way some construction worker spread the word that 'real' men eat steaks and burgers; the classic old Aussie farmer breakfast is steak and eggs. Steak for breakfast. Every goddamned day. Terrific.

Guys,  eating a lot of red meat doesn't mean you're tough. It means you haven't built a good log cabin in about a decade and your meat breath in the morning is melting the paint off the walls. Enough is enough. Real men, tough men, strong men eat salad and cry when watching Titanic... for the third time.

Some fun facts from a report done by LEAD, which is the Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative, supported by the Food and Agriculture Administration of the UN:

- Meat production by 2050 will double what it was in 1990
- Livestock currently provides a third of human protein intake
- Grazing lands take up 26% of the ice-free land on this planet
- Feedcrop production is 33% of all arable land on Earth
- 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is taken up by pasture
- Livestock account for 9% of all human activity related carbon dioxide emissions
- Livestock are responsible for 37% of all human activity related methane emissions, and methane has 23 times more global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide
- Livestock account for nearly two thirds of human related ammonia emissions
- In the USA, Livestock are responsible for over half of the country's erosion and sediment issues.

 The answer? Very simple. If you want to live longer, be healthier and feel better, do what nature intended you to do as a human being: eat more green plants. 

It's time for No Burger Week. Take 'em off menus, out of the freezers at supermarkets and out of the display window at the local butchery.

It could be one glorious week for our bodies: salads piled high, bunches of fresh fruit and healthy grains and legumes by the sackload. With the occasional kitten thrown in for some protein.

Sorry, folks. I'm a dog guy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I visited my local Target store today, located in the friendly confines of Hollywood. The idea struck me on our way out of the place- why not hand out free razor blades with which to off myself? It would save me the trouble of finding the means with which to end my life and the misery I felt after strolling down the antiseptic lanes, stuffed with useless detritus that people are talked into believing they need or want.

The mall culture, invented by America, is one its most insidious global exports. There are many sad things to behold in our world today- starving children, environmental decay, the most recent winner of American Idol; but the most depressing thing my senses have had the misfortune of coming into contact with is this verbal interaction between two people:

"So what are you doing today?"
"Going to the mall."
"Oh, what are you planning on buying?"
"Nothing. We're just going to go there and walk around."

Boredom is pervasive in our society. Most of us never have the privilege of having jobs that are stimulating, the kind of jobs that have us bouncing out of bed in the morning to get to. We also are not encouraged to create dynamic, fluid and daringly honest relationships with friends and family. Many couples live an entire life together and never really discover the true self lying next to them every night. For that matter, many of us never do the introspective work that can lead to profound personal growth and a more stimulating, vital life.

Instead, we go to the mall. People used to worship religious gods on sunday; now they worship the god of stuff. I witnessed people with flaccid, impassive expressions on their faces heading to the checkout holding onto large cardboard boxes. Were there objects to be found inside those boxes? Possibly. I don't think for the most part it really matters. What is essential is that we buy something, that we obtain a bright and shiny new object that we will inevitably tire of tomorrow. But no matter; we will have found something else to purchase by then.

I had a wonderful, austere, ascetic teacher who used to say, "boredom is a defense."

Her postulation was that wherever we are, if we are truly present and possessing a quiet mind, we can find anything fascinating with which we come into contact and if we feel bored it is only due to a resistance on our part to opening up to the immediacy of the moment. While I find those words ultimately incontestable, there are difficulties we all face in arriving at that quiet mind, that state of sensual curiosity. Somewhere along the way our society decided that 'shock and awe' qualified as entertainment. We have become spoonfed, our tastes and likes decided for us by corporations. We stand mute before so many bright lights and deafening sound, murmuring 'wow' to ourselves, all the while being  anaesthetized to such an extent that we forget to check in with our feelings in time to discover that in fact, the 'entertainment' we shelled out our hard earned money for actually made us feel bad. 'Bad' in this case could mean emotionally shut down, depressed, frightened or even angry. There is a reason for certain restrictions being introduced to prevent some 'entertainment' being experienced by children. The effects of extreme violence and sensory overload is usually clearly visible in infants, but we have made the mistake of assuming greater maturity and life experience renders that same stuff harmless to adults.

It isn't. The more in touch we are with our feelings, impulses and urges for creativity and greater self-care, the more dissatisfaction we may discover with movies that deaden us, food that constipates and fattens us and possessions that do not fulfill us. They may briefly quell the needs of our all-consuming ego but they do not go close to even touching the unconscious mind, the one that dreams and the voice inside us that seeks creativity and self-expression.

We have accepted boredom as a common state, something to be tolerated and assuaged by external salves that only leave us with a more profound sense of that same boredom. Many people, when asked how they are, will respond with the murderous cliche, "same shit, different day".

The bar must be lifted. It is never the same day, never the same shit. The mall will usually leave most of us drained, tired, lighter in the wallet and just a little more cluttered at home, yet we are all surrounded by nature, which is free, renewable and usually leaves us feeling better, more at peace and with a renewed sense of kinship with the people who are sharing the experience with us. The same could be said of authentic interactions with other people that transcend small talk or creative enterprise that doesn't necessarily involve the outlay of large amounts of money.

For make no mistake: there are countless corporations who are actively seeking, on a daily basis, to ensure that we do not find more authentic, vital and nourishing forms of entertainment and fulfillment. They do not want our minds to become quiet; human beings tend to like feeling good, and it is only our ignorance of those states of greater peace, joy, stimulation and aliveness that prevents us from seeking out places and ways of being in which to experience them more regularly.

Nancy Reagan said Just Say No in the 1980s, even as her husband said Yes to the greater corporate dominance of our society's politics and culture through massive deregulation and disempowerment of the citizen by divers means, including media monopolization.

Illicit drug abuse is a problem, but there are more universally accepted drugs which are far more harmful to the general population.

Let's starting saying No more often to empty forms of 'entertainment': too much TV, violent and hyperactive movies, the consumption of useless toys and awful, chemical food that is killing us.

What do we say Yes to in order to replace those activities?

I guess we'll have to start getting creative.

Post script:  In the interests of full disclosure, I bought a packet of tank tops, 2 t-shirts, a soccer ball and an air pump. I had no intention of buying any of those items upon entering the store. I suggested to my girlfriend Victoria that we get some people together and play soccer. Let us hope I turn that idea into a reality.

Friday, June 11, 2010


No messing about. Let's get to your winners and losers in this year's World Cup, brought to you by myself and my local soccer expert, Victoria. Don't mind her mood- her beloved Austrians just missed out on qualification for the tournament, which is kind of like saying BP's deep drilling in the Gulf almost went off without a hitch.


Group A

The South Africans almost beat Mexico in game 1. The problem is, due to the low value of a goal in soccer (1 point in case you usually watch entertaining sports), everybody almost wins. I don't see the home team getting through to Round 2 which is fantastic because those horns the home fans blow are a disgrace. I haven't heard so much useless noise since Lindsay Lohan said she'd stop drinking. Although I resent Uruguay as a nation because its name is difficult to pronounce, I see them getting through with the Frogs.

Group B

Greece has been doing it tough lately. The team had to hitchhike to the tournament. That's a long way. Whoever happens to be on the bench during a game has to sell hot dogs. Very embarrassing. But due to the adversity the Greeks are facing, I see them making it to Round 2, along with the Argentinians, who continue to try to stop Diego Maradona from eating those Greek hot dogs. It's not working.

Group C

I don't know exactly who or where Algeria is. North Africa? I believe so. Wasn't an Algerian woman mentioned in a Michael Jackson ballad? Yes, I suspect so. Which is why they're getting into the second round. Joining them will be the poorly educated, unwashed English team. England may be a third world, second rate nation now but they still can play a bit. As for the Americans, playing soccer for these leaden-footed but very patriotic fellows is kind of like having universal healthcare. Nice idea, ain't gonna happen.

Group D

Tough group, with only one clear standout: the majestic Australian team, nicknamed the Socceroos. This team has it all: tight bums, sexy accents and rampant alcoholism. They also almost win a ton. They're going through to Round 2.  Joining them will be the Krauts, who I have going down to the beer guzzlers in the first game. But Germany will bounce back. The energy they save from avoiding all kinds of humour, spontaneity and laughter will serve them well.


Aaah.. and we come to the group featuring the eventual winners of the whole shebang. No, not Japan, who I'm sure are a charming bunch of chaps- they'd better be, since their football stinks like a five day old spicy tuna roll. I'm talking about the NetherRegions, also called Holland, whose people we call Dutch. About as confounding as their footballing skills, which will leave the rest of the group in a daze. The lovely Cameroonians will join them in Round 2.


I am sick of these greasy Italians winning all the time. Maybe they should play less soccer and have more sex to kick start their population. In the meantime, they're getting through, along with... the Paraguayans. Paraguay is also known to South Americans as Corazon de America- the Heart of America, due to its location on the continent. I think it's between Kentucky and Ohio. Missing out, much to my glee, will be the extremely untalented,  strangely accented, sheep-deflowering Kiwi team. Their football team is one of the great comedy acts in the world today. You can catch them performing at the Mandalay Bay in a double act with Andrew Dice Clay next month.


This is the easiest. The players from North Korea are a little rusty, having just been released from a work camp where they've spent the last eight months after the team's captain was caught on tape making fun of Kim Jong Il's pyjamas. You can't question their desire, though- if they get to Round 2 they've been promised a brand new 1983 Datsun to share between the entire squad.  Cassette player included. Alas, they play about as well as the New Zealanders so forget it. The hated Brazilians, with their beautiful, talented players who get my girlfriend all hot and steamy are through, as are the Portugese, allowing the North Koreans to return to their cells.


I know how Australia can win this thing- make the Arizona Immigration Bill the template for qualification. No team who speaks Spanish can come. That will knock out the two best teams in this group- Spain and Chile. Oh, wait. And Honduras. So that just leaves the dull Swiss. I cut myself on one of their useless, overly-complicated knives when I was a kid. Who the hell needs tweezers in the wilderness, anyway? Screw it. They're out. Spain and Chile are through.

Okay, I'll make the rest quick. Greece's dream run ends in the their Semi Final against the Dutch. But many hot dogs sold in the meantime, allowing them to jump a cargo ship back to the motherland. Argentina shocks the men in the red checkered table cloths. The Nether Parts defeat Argentina in a fantastic final during which Victoria has to wake me four times.

The following day, the Free Pot and Prostitution Act of 2010 is written in celebration by the Dutch Prime Minister.

It passes both houses unanimously.

Eliot Spitzer jumps on a plane.

The US team are given a parade. Just because.

We all get on with our lives.

Picture:  Don't get ahead of yourself, Nelson.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


 As I was sitting here at my desk pondering the possible subjects of this column today, I heard the wardrobe door perform its little slide on its wheels. It could only be one thing, of course; Victoria, preparing to head out for an appointment, choosing her costume for the day, perusing the exuberance of colours and styles to be found in the clothing on display inside her cabinet. I imagine her scanning the different possibilities with that sharp, expert female eye, much like a choreographer scrutinizes a row of dancers as she attempts to whittle down the contenders. As I imagine these things I find myself enjoying the simple realities and their resultant actions and behaviours that manifest in us as human beings. It occurred to me that a rich life can be led when we can occupy that realm in which small children move.

It is a realm where everything around us is accepted without judgement and where very few intellectual decisions have been made.  Inherent in this state is an allowal for the many responses we will have to that flow of stimulai being given permission to enter us. The consequent effect of this steady intake and expression is one of extreme aliveness, something which is usually nullified and repressed in most of us by the time we reach adolescence.

While some judgments are necessary for our very functionality and survival as human beings, many serve to simply shut down the mental and imaginative faculty which sets us apart as living creatures.

That of curiosity.

One of the most salient features of one who is emotionally, spiritually and imaginatively shut down is a lack of curiosity in the world around them. We all know this state: it manifests itself in us when we find ourselves in an argument with our loved ones; often we will discover ourselves in the middle of a verbal battle, defending a point of view that we suspect to be false or faulty, completely ignoring what is being said to us, a condition that is ubiquitous in our political dialogue today: we no longer have any interest in arriving at a constructive truth, whether that be a subjective truth that will serve our growth and allow for greater openness and connection with others, or a truth that can be shared by the parties involved and assist in forward movement.

In those moments, as in so many others, we are what my brother, who works in the field of conflict resolution, calls non-curious.

Yet it is gratifying and potentially exciting to know that we can actually work on our mental and spiritual states of being, that mindfulness is something we can practice. It’s possible to take a simple enjoyment from seemingly mundane tasks if we are fully present and are able to enjoy our own presence and grace in the execution of our daily callings. All that is required is an appreciation of the moment and the sensual wonderment that is always on hand and can be most frequently witnessed in the behaviour of children, who have not yet burdened themselves with decisions that often end up shackling their inner lives and their beauty, which of course is to be found in the magic of their feelings, imagination and spirit and those qualities’ expression.

Take a chance today. Question a judgment or decision you may have made long ago about yourself, someone you love or a person about whom you may be harbouring indifference or more painful feelings.

In the surrendering of judgment, lying just beyond its hard walls, we may rediscover the bounteous gifts of curiosity which, if we’re not careful, may lead to fascination which, if we continue to be reckless, might just cause another sensation, renewable and absolutely free: that of joy, a sensation which can just as often be expressed in a quiet contentment as much as in whooping and hollering.

It can sometimes be found in the exploration of the seemingly plain box that houses the expensive gift,
or in the opening of a wardrobe.

The wonderful poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us."

In a refound curiosity about and fascination in the things which hitherto have bored, scared or wounded us, there are riches to be found which may manifest in a new and more frequently experienced kind of peace, happiness and possibility.

It can begin now. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I’m burning up with resentment, an emotional response that is ignited anytime I can see that some other lucky bum has a talent that I do not possess. When those familiar feelings and thoughts of inferiority hit, I have one stock response: to denunciate everything related to that particular skill and the person who possesses it. In this case, that person is my partner, Victoria. Let’s begin.

I asked my darling for the definition of ‘Feng Shui’. I didn’t need perfect Mandarin pronunciation; just a simple elucidation on the exact meaning of two accursed words that have haunted me my entire life. Loyal readers, it is not hyperbolic on my part to say that the nightmare that is the paranormal phenomenon called ‘Feng Shui’ has been nothing less than the bane of my existence.

It all started on the day of my birth. The doc gave my fogies the all clear to take me home. My father was in a mood because my hair was red and there hadn’t been a ginger in his family since his great great uncle Marty Sekl back in Poland. Marty spent his last days in a Russian gulag in the late nineteenth century after being caught soliciting for sex in a public toilet in Warsaw. The problem was, two days after checking in to the gulag he was caught soliciting for sex in the bathroom there as well (apparently the local convicts had a thing for red ringlets- I forgot to mention there was an Hasidic branch of my Polish tree), so Marty spent his last days separated from General Population. I only have to say the word ‘Marty’ and my father collapses in a disturbed cocktail of despair and embarrassment. Suffice to say, when my father saw the first signs of red hair on my softened dome, he went into a tailspin, neglecting the task my mother had assigned him, which was to go straight home after my birth and get my room ready.

As a result, the first room that would ever be called my own was a shambles. Old, dilapidated pieces of furniture lay scattered about, as if upset by a tornado. My older brother’s seamy collection of Hustler magazines were piled high in a corner, favourite editions marked by little squares of paper stuck on the top of the cover, on which was written the reason for his liking for that particular issue. He never used sticky tape to attach those little pieces of paper… I’m not prepared to speculate on how they were affixed but he did go on to invent the Post It in later years. God bless him. Also clogging up my future sleeping area was my father’s 24 volume Oxford Dictionary set. The word set, by the by, has the longest definition in that dictionary, running over 20 pages of tiny text in length. It is Saxonal in origin, dating back to…

My father lost his virginity at 44. Which explains his moodiness at the sight of my red locks and, more importantly, his concomitant suspicion and sulking upon the revelation of my mother's two pregnancies. But the story of our local milkman is for another day.

Let us return to the arrangement of my room. My mother, horrified at the sight of the rubble which confronted her when she got back to our house, began to scream at my father, telling him there was no way I could sleep in there. When my father pointed out that my cot, randomly placed in the centre of the chaos, was ready for use, and that my idiot 1-day old brain would not notice what was around it, my mother’s rage only intensified. It was then that I, and my father, were first exposed to the phrase: “it’s all wrong ENERGETICALLY!”

Energetically. My father rejected the concept outright, silently scorning the idea as he begrudgingly cleared out my room, hurriedly tucking the Hustler omnibus into a secret compartment under the spiral staircase that was unknown to my mother. We moved across town a couple of years later, my father having completely forgotten about his little cache. It’s comforting to know that my brother’s rich inner life will be known to generations centuries from now. Some things must not be lost.

My mother had never heard the term Feng Shui. She doesn’t even use chopsticks. But instinctively she had a feel for an art in which my girlfriend now owns a third degree Black Belt, a belt with which she never fails to slap the hell out of me. The first time we went back to my place, in the throes of passion, clothes coming off at a dizzying pace, Victoria suddenly declared that “there would be absolutely no salami hiding” on my bed (okay, the salami part is my invention- she mentioned something about “lovemaking”, a concept she later explained to me) as long as it stayed the way it was. I asked her what the flock she was talking about. “What?? Don’t you know that a bed should never be behind the door?!” After indulging in a blank stare for a few moments, we set about moving the bed away from the door, during which time I accidentally farted and threw my back out.

No “love making” occurred that night. My victimization at the hands of Feng Shui and its most evil practitioner, Victoria, had begun.

Since then, I’ve been forced to take down photos of my family in the bedroom – “hey moron, don’t you know that it’s bad to have people watching you while you sleep?” – I’ve lowered the pictures hanging on my walls – “you frigging idiot, they’re hanging too high, it makes your ceiling look too low” – I’ve shifted the bed (and threw my back out a second time, all the while controlling my flatulence) to face the door – “you drooling troglodyte, you need to be able to see if someone comes in” – all with the desire to please my disdainful soul mate.

But she’s never pleased. On the contrary, as time goes on, her contempt for my lack of spacial and energetic awareness only deepens in intensity. This woman would make Eskimos cry in their igloos (“that’s an AWFUL place for that mound of stored polar bear fat, you nose-pressing dolts”). I live in a constant state of terror, all due to two seemingly harmless Chinese words.

Six thousand years ago, people in the area we now know as China began to build dwellings with a focus on their place in and relationship to the Universe, using as a reference the stars, bodies of water and the directions later defined by the magnetic compass, a device actually invented for the application of Feng Shui. As I write these words, I realize that my goal of denunciating this black magic and the woman I love who practices it has not been attained. In fact, I've once again fallen pathetically short- it's not easy making a mockery of someone who continues a tradition rooted in, amongst other things, the invention of the freakin' compass.

You know what? Screw the compass. I'm not a member of the Scouts. I can do without knowing which way is north.

If I can just, pretty please, have my life back.

Rest in peace, Marty.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I was deeply affected by the film The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button. I could barely move nor speak as the lights in the cinema began to rise. I saw the film, which details the life of a man born old who proceeds to get younger as the years progress until he finishes his life as a baby, at a particularly vulnerable moment in my life, a time during which I spent many hours contemplating the reality of getting older, of being keenly aware of the fact that we can never go back in our lives; moments come, moments go and once past us, they move inexorably further and further away in the rearview mirror of our experience. They cannot be retrieved except in our memories and even then will always be tainted with our views, so often having grown pessimistic, of the present.
A well-worn cliché that people often use is, “you’re only as old as you feel.” While trite, the grain of truth in that statement is evident. However, as I watch myself move into a different stage of life, I see that feeling “old” has much less to do with one’s feelings and more to do with one’s perspective, for our feelings and emotions will always obey the mind- that is, they are causal in nature: how we perceive our world, its happenings and our place amongst them will dictate how we will feel about those events and the person who lives at the centre of our own little corner of the world, namely us.

The person who goes to bed mourning the loss of joy, love or adventure in his life must be the same soul who no longer believes in the possibility of their emergence in his present and future. This person awakes to a new day with no sense of hope,  only dread, for to fill a day that holds no foreseeable chance for any dream, desire or ambition to be fulfilled or satisfied is to climb a mountain with no peak. The
earliest incarnation of Humanity found in each day a set of tasks to be fulfilled and whether or not they were aware of it, completion of those tasks assuredly resulted in a sense of satisfaction, purpose and meaning. Equally probable is that, in the failure to complete those same tasks, there would result an added urgency and meaning in rising at the dawn of the new day to set about their completion.

We now live in a world where urgent, life-sustaining goals are not built in to our existences. Indeed, we are told from an early age that the goal in life is to arrive at a place where we have no urgent need that cannot be easily met. Even the poorly paid bus driver can return to a decent living environment (at least when compared to the same kind of worker who lived in earlier times), eat a plentitude of food (albeit, in all probability, little of it healthy) and find ready-made, spoonfed ‘entertainment’ emanating from their large television which now would cost them no more than a week’s pay and of course it is no different for the wealthy citizen;  the only discernible difference is the size and grandeur of their material possessions.  Even the one remaining commonality that should bind all of us, that is being part of a family and/or broader community in which we are able to feel nourished through acts of giving and receiving love and nurturance, has been eroded; so many people have created walled-off existences for themselves, feeling a sense of disconnection from their families and their own inner lives.

Must it be that an inevitable result of the aging process is a gradual loss of joy, of possibility? That we must , on a more regular basis, live in our memories of the past as a way to medicate away the pain of a lifeless, dull present? Certainly the society in which we live hints at that: we are told in so many ways, overt and subliminal, that we must stay young, that to grow older is a negative phemonenon that must be kept at bay for as long as possible, that marriage, family and “settling down” must also mean the cessation of self-exploration, of the passions, of adventure.

Certainly some processes do slow down. But others within us have the potential to grow in power. I have always believed that we should become freer as we mature, more expressive, more spontaneous and passionate about the meaningful things in our lives because we can free ourselves of the self-consciousness and judgement of earlier years when we were more tightly bound by our egos.  Our power of focus and concentration can improve, which then can have the result of enhanced focus on the tasks and productive habits which have real meaning for us and a greater  ability to mentally forego those which no longer serve us.

Maybe it is just part of our humanity to glorify the past, a trap into which people young and old can fall. But we must always endeavour to come back to the massive potentiality of the present. The adventure we long for is right here; it lives in the strange impulses and feelings always bubbling below our conscious minds; it resides in the interactions we have with those around us, whether they be filled with love, fear or indifference; it bursts forth in our desires and libidos, which can be expressed and channeled in so many powerful, exciting and productive ways and above all it stems from the irrefutable fact that our better days are a collection of the day we live today, holding in our mind the possibility of tomorrow.             

I wasn’t aware of that reality when I saw The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button, which may explain why its story made me so sad. But I’m a year older now. And freer, wiser and more alive to boot.