4. Friendship. Although I have always been independent, self-sufficient, free-thinking and happy with solitude, I still cherish friendship, connecting with others, helping others, laughing with others, sharing the unspoken realisation that we are here, this is it and the troubles and joys that I encounter in life will be similar to yours. We are all on this ship together. I won't fawn for friendship, barter for it or buy it but if friendship comes I will embrace it, sustain it. To have good friends is a poweful antidote to nastiness and stress.
31 May 2006
Remember Cilla Black singing the theme tune to the British sixties film, "Alfie" - starring Michael Caine? She sang, "What's it all about Alfie?" A good question. What is it all about? This is not a matter that I often address. I usually just get on with my life yet sometimes we don't see the wood for the trees.
But tonight, in this post, I thought I might pause to reflect. Perhaps every life needs a philosophy so what is mine? What is it all about? Ten bullet points:-
1. Reproduction. Family. Passing the baton to another generation. As they say, the purpose of marriage is the procreation of children and I agree with this. I pity couples who are fertile and financially solvent but opt out of child bearing. I remember one couple I knew who had made a life choice not to have children - referring to kids as "millstones round your neck" - how sad. I guess I have been lucky to find a woman I could love and grow with. Our two lovely kids were a joy to raise. Problems were few and pleasures were many. They are our key to immortality. They bear our baton. If I achieve nothing else in my life, at least I fathered two wonderful young people.
2. Creativity. Why live in a world where you are surrounded by other people's creations? Make your own. I love every aspect of creation - composing music, painting pictures, taking photographs, rearranging furniture in a home, writing, planting flowers, knitting, carving, planning a holiday. Creative opportunities are endless. Through creation we make our mark, we say "Here I am. This is me and I am alive." Creativity is partly about taking control rather than submissively agreeing to live in a world created by others.
3. Justice. We shouldn't be blinkered. We shouldn't bury our heads in the sand. In life we will often encounter injustice - in the workplace, in the community, in the world at large. What should we do? Walk on by? Not me baby. No way! I put a lot of energy and time into countering injustice. We've got to be prepared to speak out, do our bit. Okay - you might not change anything but at least if you have tried your best you can sleep easier in your bed. I especially believe in social justice. The wealth differentials in the western world make me sick. As Jefferson Airplane sang, "We should be together/ All you people standing round."
5. Curiosity. To never stop learning. That' so important to me. To want to know and to feel a continuing hunger for knowledge. When I travel to other places, other countries, I travel like a junkie - looking for a fix. I soak it all up. I look and I listen and I wake up eagerly, anticipating the day ahead. The Internet may have been invented just for me because it answers so many of my questions and takes me both far away from everyday life and deeper into it.
6. Honesty. I can't bear liars or cheats. I believe that if you live an honest life, being straightforward with people and never cheating on others, your conscience will be clear. I have never made a false insurance claim. If I am given too much change in a shop, I will go back and tell them. If I make a mistake my instinct is to admit it, not to blame somebody else or pretend it never happened. Being honest gives you dignity and self-belief and the saying "Honesty is the best policy" is a credo worth adherring to in everyday life.
7. Laughter. Sometimes it's hard to laugh. One can't laugh on demand but the ability to make light of things, to laugh at oneself , to find humour in tragedy - this is a quality worth having. A good belly laugh is like a physical and psychological release. To have tears of laughter running down your cheeks, laughs bursting out of you in involuntary spasms - it's wonderful. And laughter is social. It brings people together. Life can be hard and it can be serious. We all have worries and doubts but laughter helps to lighten our loads.
8. Art. Although I believe that everybody should be creative, I think it is still enormously enriching to immerse oneself in other people's Art. The world of Art is like a vast forest through which we must be brave enough to pick our own paths, to make our own choices. When I speak of Art, I mean all aspects of Art - painting, sculpture, novels, poems, drama, architecture, music, song. The creativity shown by other human beings is quite astonishing. Art isn't like wallpaper - just there in the background, no, real Art grabs you and makes you see things anew. It embellishes life.
9. Environment. This planet is fantastic so why are we spoiling it? We seem to live for today like our short termist politicians. I admire all wildlife, all plant life and the extinction of dodos, elephant birds and Tasmanian tigers makes me shake my head in disbelief at man's arrogance and lack of foresight. I find it hard to kill insects because I appreciate their special characteristics. To me recycling is very important but every government should make the process of recycling mandatory and practically far easier. I hate to see gas-guzzling vehicles in cities and I think public transport should not be left up to profit hungry free enterprise - it's too important for that.
10.Simplicity. Keeping things simple helps to reduce confusion. Harvard's Professor Putnam, an expert in the field of social psychology, claims that television is the number one source of unhappiness and social division. It reduces "social capital" and complicates existence. Far better to live simply. Simple food, simple pleasures, a simple and fairly regular lifestyle. Simple, uncluttered homes, achievable and realistic targets. We should ditch the cult of celebrity which belittles our own lives and we should stop dreaming obsessively of wealth and materialism. Simplicity is partly about being able to relish what is ordinary and to see its special value.
I have found it quite cathartic to state my life philosophy in this way. It's not something I have ever done before. Other zones I could have highlighted might have been the concepts of equality and love, living without religion, the importance of identity and allegiance. So, is this what it's all about Alfie? I really can't say but for me, these ten bullet points seem to capture much of what life means to me and what I value most. And you dear blog trotter - would you agree with these principles or would you have other bullet points to add? Please leave a comment.