Finding a place called belonging

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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When I look at the world around me, and when I consider the world in which I live, I realise I am incredibly fortunate. It came at a price and it costs me daily in pain but the spiritual awakening which my breakdown has led to is something which isn’t ceasing to cause me wonder.

The current state of the world is somewhat depressing, the UK in particular. But we might be seeing the start of something new, by sheer virtue of the fuck up we recently made. It was a prediction I made in a recent post, or rather, I laid down a hope. That hope was for warring factions to unite against a common foe. Well, the Richmond Park by-election wasn’t quite so dramatic but it’s a longed-for tremor in British politics. In that other blog post, I said that we needed a new, centrist political movement: A progressive, inclusive coalition. My fellow learned atheist Richard Dawkins wrote eloquently of what’s needed next, in a letter in this Saturday’s Guardian:

Following its victory in the Richmond byelection (Report, theguardian.com), I write to suggest that the Liberal Democratic party should change its name to The European Party. We of the forgotten 48% are surely more numerous today, now that Brexit’s rudderless fiasco is becoming as obvious as the shameless lies earlier told by its advocates. Even the lead rat of the leavers has signalled his inclination to leave the sinking ship and become a migrant to America.

Today, we of the swelling 48% are cheering the Lib Dem victory in the byelection. This was a genuinely democratic, constitutional victory (Britain is a parliamentary democracy not the mob-rule “democracy” conjured up by David Cameron for the purposes of internal Tory politics). And it is widely agreed that the byelection was fought mainly on the issue of Brexit.

The Lib Dems, along with the SNP, are the only major party with the courage to stand, unequivocally, against Brexit. Unfortunately, as anyone in marketing will attest, their brand is tarnished by association with the first Cameron government. The Lib Dems need to change their name. And the obvious name is The European Party. No need to change policies. Just the name. And no long-winded “Liberal Democratic and European Party” stuff. Just “The European Party”, plain and simple.

I venture that huge numbers of the growing 48 percenters would flock to join, in a great revival of party fortunes. Probably some Labour MPs threatened with deselection, too. Maybe even some principled Tories. And I’m sure I’m not the only former supporter of the Liberal Democrats who would gladly make a generous donation to help the newly named European Party on its way.

Richard Dawkins
Oxford

So, there’s a glimmer of hope. If we get it right, I envy the next generation. With so much technological advancement in my lifetime, my kids could see some really exciting things, in all fields: Science, space exploration, entertainment, gaming and communication. If we get it wrong, there are some truly terrifying scenarios which we can’t begin to imagine. The trouble is, I can. And that’s why it helps to be a writer.

There simply isn’t time in this life to write it all but I’m confident that there’ll be a way of writing from the next life, made possible by some future technology. That world will be one in which one never loses one’s deceased relatives. They continue to send mail. There’s at least a long short story in that idea and possibly a book but I don’t know if I’ll have time to write the latter, with everything else which is bursting to escape me.

Yet I’m creating worlds around me: Declaring an independent state (pending with the UN), just so that I have somewhere I can always call my own and have a place to think. I’ve come to accept that in my position, any home is unlikely to be permanent. The Studio is perfect and I wish it were forever but there are no guarantees. But I also have another world which travels around with me: The typewriter (my pimped laptop), my Filofax and pens. And wherever I am, I’m a citizen of my own non-nation state. Just as I’ve created a private page for my old Pink Hearts family on Facebook, I may create another for my province. It’s another place to belong.

The way I order my brain is really no different to one of my other passions: computer gaming (albeit I’m a retro-gamer). But in the Second Life universe, in online RPGs, in No Man’s Sky and any other game, we are creating a place for ourselves in another universe. My way of living life (of coping) is just an extension of VR into my own world; a kind of imaginary reverse engineering. Somewhere to belong. I write it all around me.

VR is going to be huge. 3D TV was a failed venture but the two will combine soon. As a sci-fi writer and futurologist, I’m really looking forward to AV entertainment five years from now. The great thing about my life is that I can imagine it and create it in the present. Of course, there is a theory that everything we see is merely an illusion and that we’re part of a computer simulation. It’s more fuel for the writer, the fans flamed by the cannabis I smoke to deal with anxiety.

And then there’s the fuel from my Savage Cinema. My slightly idiosyncratic movie collection grows and evolves as I happen upon new titles. I’m approaching 1000 DVDs: A mixture of the extreme, affecting, cult and downright WTF. Feature films, TV series, documentaries…It’s quite a mix. Rarely does an acquisition for the collection call for it’s own announcement, but Sharktopus Vs. Pteracuda is one such title.

My selection criteria when acquiring titles: Roughly speaking, above 7.0 or below 3.0 on IMDB will qualify. There’ll never be time to watch them all, as the collection keeps growing. But there is a place: I wrote about it in The Paradoxicon, when I was recovering from my breakdown and I realised what life is really about.

Not long ago, I found myself in a situation. It was around about then that I realised something: Like most writers, I struggle. Many writers have mental health issues. More people with mental health issues should be writers. It helps.

Right now, I’m a pot-smoking, liberal anarchist who subscribes to democracy as being the best way for now. I’m an atheist, in that I don’t believe in God as a human construct. I believe that the soul continues to exist, long after the human body breaks down. I’ve got a load of holes in my face, including a safety pin through my ear: a symbol of safety, welcome and inclusion, and a nod to punk. I’m a rude boy with ska and reggae in my blood. I’m a spaceman, with David Bowie as the soundtrack to my life. This is me, and I quite like it.

I bucked the system and fucked people up, including myself. I live with regrets like the life sentences they are. I’m alcohol dependent. I have depression, anxiety and PTSD many times over.

And I’ve learned to love that too. It feeds my writing.

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