There are good people in the world. There are strong people in the world. There are knowledgeable, informed, active people in this world, and they are doing good things. And if we just keep being positively rebellious and rebelliously positive, every little thing will be okay. Trust David Tennant: he’s a Doctor.
Last Friday I mentioned that one of my favourite composers, Kerry Muzzey, had composed a track including the sounds of the Earth as ‘heard’ from space. It’s seriously amazing, so of course I had to share 🙂 (And OHMYGOSH when I went to find the video for today’s post, I realised THERE’S A VERSION WITH DANCE FROM THE LXD, who, as you’ll know from last week, is one of my favourite dance troupes! I either missed this a few years ago when I first found the track, or had totally forgotten, and OHMYGOSH SQUEE THIS IS SO MUCH AWESOME YAY).
So, uh, yeah. Ahem. Here’s the blurb from YouTube, explaining the ‘sounds of Earth’ bit:
In October 2012, NASA satellites recorded mysterious radio waves emanating from Earth. These radio waves known as “Chorus,” were given an audio rendering. This is what they heard. For the very first time, we could hear the Earth speak. So we decided to speak back.
See? How cool is it?! (Or is it just me, happily geeking out over here? :D) Leave a comment and let me know what you thought, and if you’d heard of the idea of the Earth making sounds before!
I found this the other day when I was searching my old Blogger blog for something else. I wrote this in 2012, but it’s Relevant To Our Interests in this post-truth age, methinks. Hang in there, my lovelies. Be good.
The Small Person is in bed, again, at last, and I’m reading, again, but not books, because books can’t hold my attention right now when I’m restless, and tired, and vaguely guilty for the fact that my house looks like it’s lived-in and there are toys in the corner and folding on the lounge and unfinished paperwork on the table and dishes in the kitchen, though all the non-dishwasher dishes are clean and really I just need to unstack and stack. There’s a basket of wet laundry waiting to be hung out on the line like flags, colourful flags that symbolise everything we are and have been, because we wear our clothes every day and they make us, and we make them, the caterpillar suit that belongs to Small Person that is my favourite, the shirt I should have thrown out months ago but that I love, the sheets that my husband and I bought together, lie in together, change together.
All of this is calling to me, but I’m sitting here reading, and my soul is full. I’m reading about courage, and hope, and change; I’m reading about things that outrage me, things that try to excuse themselves saying they ‘didn’t mean’ to be offensive, and so therefore aren’t – to which I silently, furiously, blood-boilingly disagree, because when you are the powerful one, you don’t get to define what offends those in less powerful positions. And I’m reading about love, and life, and wanting to uproot everything you are and have and just get out, change, do something different because what you’re living is so empty, so small, so nothing.
I, too, was raised under the unconscious message that bigger is better, that more is more, and I’m not talking about the world, about acts of greed and selfishness and plastered billboards and enchanting lights and beautiful people with beautiful drinks and cars that change your life and computers that sing and dance and long slim legs and long thick hair and sparkling eyes and full breasts in bikinis and clear skin and stuff and things and more-more-more. I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about other things, unselfish things, things that help and heal and minister. Things that change the world, that can only BE big because what can small do against a world of greed, a world of pain and hurt and envy and pride, large gaps getting larger and privilege and wealth and so much poverty that I never, ever see. I’m sheltered, spoiled, I don’t even KNOW anyone who qualifies as poor, and we’re not rich and we have bills but we also have a car, and a motorbike, and a house and new furniture, a dishwasher for Mothers’ Day and fishing rods for Christmas, thousands of dollars of books and a flat-screen TV, and how dare we think that we need stuff in a world where people die so easily at the end of a gun wielded in a bar brawl, in front of their wife, with two small children at home?
And I’m doing nothing, or so it seems, because we’re told that the only things that count are BIG, that if you’re not serving overseas it doesn’t matter, that soup kitchens and street alleys are the only places you can make a difference, that unless you’re fighting to stay alive with everything you have your perspective isn’t valid, doesn’t count.
And I’m thinking all this because of what I’m reading, because the woman whose blog I’m reading has felt all this and I do too, and it’s guilt, and it’s more guilt, and I am so. sick. of guilt. Guilt is poison, a spider bite in the vegetable garden, a snake curled in the blankets of your bed, a fire-ant sting at a lavish summer picnic, ready to flood your senses without provocation, devouring, destroying, souring the taste of the cherries because cherries are expensive, and out of season, and you shouldn’t be eating them because the cost to ship them here from America ought to be prohibitive, and people in the world are dying from lack of sustenance and you’re eating things that cost a year’s worth of food for these people, and you’re enjoying it, and you must be perverse.
Sometimes, even big things aren’t enough.
But I’m reading, reading, feeling and still reading, and a sentence makes me pause. In all of this, the quiet reminder that even if we don’t feel like they do, the small things count, because we’re not in this world to fix it, it’s broken, it’s crumbled, and one day maybe we will rebuild but for now there are just as many working against as there are working for and really, ultimately, there’s nothing we can do. One day it will all be gone and we’ll start over with everyone, everyone, who wants to see that, regardless of race colour creed size shape gender age. We will all be there, and then it will be fixed.
But now, here, we’re not fixing things, no one can do that, we just can’t, we’re fighting against powers and principalities not of this world, and here, on Earth, it’s a losing battle, though ultimately it’s won. But I’m reading, and I know: that doesn’t mean that what we do doesn’t count. It’s like the starfish, which has been retold so often it’s cliche, but it matters, it still matters even if you’ve heard the story a thousand times, just like what we do. We do it so often, all that small stuff, that it becomes cliche, and we’re inured to it, and we forget that it still matters, that even though we’ve never seen a smile of ours make a difference, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. That giving a few dollars here and there still helps, even if it’s boring, even if it’s tiny, even if it’s ‘done’.
And I’m reading, and I find the thing I didn’t realise I was looking for, the sentence that gives me hope. We’re not here to fix things, we can’t, it’s too much. Instead, all we need to do it tip the scales. We’re striving for justice, for mercy, at least I am, it’s what I burn to do with everything that I am, every time I read something that makes my blood boil it’s because I hate, I hate injustice and I hate unfairness and I hate that there are people in this world that think that privilege is okay, that power over others is God-given, that discrimination is alright. I long for justice; I ache for mercy. And in the end, that is what we are to do, all we are to do, everything we are to do: to tip the scales in their favour.
And I read this, and I remember: it only takes a grain of rice to tip the scales in the end. We don’t need ‘big’, or loud, or bright or shiny or dazzley; we just need. Everything tips the balance, one way or the other.
A woman’s body is broken for her children in a way a man’s can never be. We carry our children for nine months — and then an other nine months, and another, until they are simply too big to carry, and then we can only hold. Our bodies are changed forever: stretch marks and scars, feet perhaps a different size or shape, hips wider than before, breasts perhaps larger, suffering the lingering after-affects of gestational diabetes or loose joints or back pain, RSI in wrists and elbows – not Tennis Elbow, but Mother’s Elbow, holding them when you are just so physically sore that you can’t possibly hold them any longer, our bodies are broken down again and again and again.
I can carry two giant bags of dog food by myself, thanks Mr Pet Store Man: I have mother’s arms.
Can you please carry the baby upstairs for me, husband? My wrists are broken and I can’t face one more stair climb.
Our bodies are broken, and rebuilt; we are weakness, we are strength.
Christ said it best: Here is my body, child, broken for you.
Possibly the single most beautiful and profound discussion of racial discrimination I’ve ever seen. It’s gentle, it’s lovely, and it’s all in pictures!
But seriously, it’s lovely. And profound. Check it out.
There are days when you just want to wash your hands and quit humanity. You know the kind. Maybe someone (or a whole host of someones) was rude to you; maybe people were petty or spiteful or jealous or rude. Maybe the news is a nightmare, with people taking advantage of everybody else, with the powerful lording it over the under-powered, with other people not caring or people whose opinion you respect and admire turning against something you believe in, and you feel betrayed. Maybe you’re just tired, stuck up to here with your own problems, and the next person who tells you to put things in perspective is going to be smashed into ‘flat on the ground’ perspective.
Whatever it is, it’s got you tempted to quit. To just wash your hands of the whole, ugly mess of humanity and give up, give in, pack it up, get out. You want to run away and hide on an island somewhere, in a desert far away, in a lonely log cabin, at the top of a mountain where only the truly pure in spirit can reach you.
There’s a time for looking outward, for extending your perspective and taking in the troubles of the world, for feeling the full intensity of other people’s suffering, for acknowledging the role your lifestyle plays in the oppression of others (all of us do, all our lifestyles do in some way or another, even if we don’t mean to, even if we’ve got the raw end of society’s stick, society’s mess up and unequal and founded on prejudice and injustice and so if we live in society, we’re part of this mess too)… But there’s a time and a place, and if you feel like giving up, if you feel like quitting, that time and place isn’t now.
If you feel like quitting because humanity’s greed and pride and pettiness has rubbed you the wrong way and left you raw, now’s the moment to put your head down, to look inward rather than outward, and to be reminded of all the little goods you do each and every day. Now’s the time to remember what it feels like when a stranger smiles nicely at you in the supermarket. Now’s the time to remember what it sounds like when a toddler laughs. Now’s the time to remember how easy it is to remind your friends and loved ones that you’re here, that you care. Now’s the time to remind yourself of the difference you make every. single. day. in the life of at least one person on this planet, just by the very act of your existence.
There will be a time for fighting, a time for standing up against the horrors and injustices of our world. But today, if you feel like you’re about to break, if you’re raw and hurting and helping seems so, so much harder than quitting… Look down. Look in. What you do matters, even if it isn’t huge, even if it isn’t grand. Someone, somewhere, has a better life because of you.
So don’t quit. Just come sit down for a while, and we can hold each other’s hands and hurt together, and maybe the carrier bats can bring us tea and cake and cookies, and we’ll just look – inward, downward, at the small things in life. Just for a while.
Today, the big things can wait.
In a similar vein to the last repost, and again, applicable to a lot more than just writing……..
I was originally going to title this post ‘A New Cure For Writers’ Block’. But really, it’s not a new cure, for either the world in general, or myself. You’ve heard me talk about it before; the cure is simple: listen to your characters.
But it occurs to me that the principle involved has so many more applications, and can be summed up in just one word: listen.
Most of us are not so crash hot at the concept of listening. The fact that it’s a primary skill taught in relationship seminars speaks to this point. Sure, we hear other people talking, and we can repeat back a rough idea of what they’ve said, and we can even respond appropriately, but how often do we actually listen?
Listening is hard. It requires focussing completely on the speaker, clearing your mind of everything but what they’re trying to convey. No wandering off onto tangents of your own, no pondering what you’re going to say next as soon as they finish speaking; just listening.
One of the primary reasons we’re so bad at listening is the kind of world we live in, where minute-long soundbites are six times too long and an article nearing a thousand words is more like an essay. We’re used to doing ten things at once – we call it ‘multi-tasking’, and we’re proud of it.
As I type, I’m also half-watching The Flintstones on tv, I’m chatting to my baby sister via gtalk, I’m discussing puppy care with my husband, looking up a timetable on the school intranet, and uploading photos to my webalbums. I also have my email inbox open, a short story I’m editing, the spreadsheet that reminds me I need to weigh the puppies, and a host of writing related articles to read. Oh yeah, and Twitter.
Is it any wonder, then, that we struggle to really listen?
I mean, seriously. I’m a writer. I know I need to listen to my characters. I know my characters should have personalities that are well-rounded and unique and individual, and that motivate all of their actions. I know this. I know that this requires listening to them, letting them be.
So why am I so bad at doing it? Why, every time I butt my head against another wall in my story, does it take me forever to remember to stop, breathe, relax, listen?
I think there’s a clue in what I said about the kind of society we live in. Our lives are so fast paced, we’re conditioned to believe that everything can happen at the click of a button or the speed of thought. I sit down to write, and I expect that the words will be there, waiting for me – and if they’re not, I get restless, dissatisfied, think I’m doing something wrong.
I procrastinate, because I know it will take me fifteen minutes or so of concentrating on writing for things to start flowing each day, and fifteen minutes seems like a Really Long Time.
But here’s the thing: Creativity takes time.
It takes time for ideas to filter through our mind, for connections to be made, ideas to be formed. It takes time for these things to consolidate, to shape themselves into more than ephemerality, to live.
It takes time.
So I need to remember to give it time. I need to slow down. In the scheme of things, fifteen minutes isn’t that long; and it’s certainly less time than the hours I can fritter away through procrastination otherwise.
Turning off the distractions doesn’t help; if I’m not committed to sitting down and pushing through those fifteen minutes, I’ll find other things to keep me occupied – dishes, dinner, tidying, puppies…
As writers, it’s so tempting to look around and see how much progress other writers are making, and to let that get us down. I need to work faster, I need to work harder……
Well, maybe. But that’s only going to happen if first, I slow down.
New post up on the Darkness and Good blog. This one… eh. This one is.
First of all, go and watch Maggie’s characteristically awesome list of the top ten things that inspire her.
I want to talk about number 5: lying on the floor. Because, you see, last night I had a perfect moment. No, better make that a Perfect Moment, because it was. It was late at night. SmallBoy was asleep in his cot in his room. Husband was watching TV. Most of the lights in the house were off. I’d just had a shower – blastingly hot, because my shoulder had been hurting me off and on all afternoon – and emerged pink-steamed and damp to discover – alack – yes, in fact, a lack – an entire lack of clean clothes awaiting me.
My own fault, of course; I’m not the kind of person who has a maid to lay out clothes for me when I shower 😛
But. I toddled down to the spare room (aka Place Where Laundry Goes to Languish) half-dressed to retrieve the other half of my dressings – down the warm, dim hall, soft carpet squishing under my feet, the murmur of the TV a faint, comforting soundtrack to the adventure. I switched on the light, rummaged for pajamas, and caught a glimpse of my bookshelves. (Because the Room of Laundry Languishment is also the Room of All Books, though not a library, because that is too grand and single-purposed.)
So I stopped. I lay down on the floor, mostly, yes, on the clean piles of washing. I snagged a stuffed polar bear for my pillow, and dragged a handy SmallBoy-blanket from the clean washing to cover me.
And #5: I lay on the floor. And it was brilliant.
And then it was Perfect: Husbical switched off the TV. Scouted for me in the bedroom. Realising my absence, followed the trail of light to the spare room. Stared in bemusement at me sprawled carefree in the clean washing, staring at nothing but shelves full of books.
“Come join me,” I asked him.
He declined, but I insisted, and he – because he is wonderful – relented.
And so I told him. I told him what I was doing there, and why I love my physical books so much.
“I’m looking at photo albums,” I told him. “Only it’s better, because instead of just a photo, you get a whole story.”
He seemed confused.
“I can tell you where I was when I bought nearly every single book on my shelves. I can tell you where I was when I was reading them, and I have whole swags of memories attached to each because of when I read it, where I read it, who I shared it with. It’s just like looking at a photo album, only it’s even better, because instead of a photo that you can really only look at for a minute, you get an entire story that you can read for hours.”
And I wrapped my arm around him, and I showed him. These are the books Mum and Dad bought when I was seven. They wrapped each one individually and it felt like magic. Those ones are high school with my best friend. That series is my middle sister, those books my baby sister. That’s my trip to America to visit the Twinny One. These ones are countless hours of lining up in bookstores, waiting for them to be released. That one’s getting to meet and interview the author at a signing. Those are the first time a friend gifted me a book for helping her with her website; these here the first books my parents bought me as an adult. That one I got as a thank you at school.
So this is me, telling you why I love my books, and why lying on the floor is totally inspiring: my bookshelf is my photo album. And last night, I had a Perfect Moment.
Often, being still with someone you love is all you need to create one.