For the pixels

July 3, 2022

This blog will not be for everyone. There is mention of poo, some swearing and my usual relentless oversimplification; one to swerve if you would prefer a quieter few minutes.

It has not been a good week for optimism has it? In this week’s cavalcade of crap:

  • Polio has been detected in London.
  • Deborah James, a beautiful soul and an extraordinary campaigning woman, has died far too young with bowel cancer.
  • A shopping centre in Ukraine was mercilessly attacked with Russian missiles,
  • And the US Supreme Court overturned an historic and settled ruling with consequences that have reverberated around the world.

The litany of sadness, misery and missed opportunity is therefore longer this week than a week ago. If you are keeping score, in our head-long hand-cart race to hell, pessimism has gained a seemingly unassailable advantage.

But that’s not how life works and that’s not the whole narrative of our days. We do not live by the editorial decisions of TV news channels. Our individual happiness is not an algorithm of all the good things and all the terrible things to create a sort of misery coefficient app. The TV news may appear to be a highlights-show of the best terrible things this week, but there is no league table at the end. We are not relegated because Huw Edwards frowned deeply at the camera last night.

I am not saying we should be unaffected by these things, clearly we are deeply affected, but neither must we be manipulated.

In our rush to make sense of terrible things we inevitably want answers, but in wanting answers we are also guilty of wanting simple, unchallenging truths. We seem increasingly to live in a binary world, where we talk of us and them. I think we do so because we are overloaded with information, so we try to simplify things. We want debates to delineate neatly into “for” or “against”. We try to reduce the most complex and unfathomable situations that have evolved over decades (even centuries) to a few column inches. An hour-long documentary is presented as an in-depth study.

But that is not how life is, is it? What has happened to you in just the last hour would take a lifetime to explain to a stranger. So, let’s not trade headlines and hot-takes on twitter as if they offer a reliable rounded view.

This blog is guilty of the same thing. Some of you will agree, some of you will disagree. That’s because I am both a little bit right and a little bit wrong. However, when we are dealing in sadness and misery, we should be careful not to act like we are a consumer at an “all you can eat” buffet.

Time to give our heads a wobble.

I was once asked to help a team devise their mission statement. They wanted to be a “world class” this or that. They weren’t. I suggested instead, “We will try not to fuck things up too much or too often.”

I’d like to suggest that this should be the only mission statement any company will ever need. It is also the only truthful political manifesto, and the only personal objective in any development plan that we should aspire to.

We are here, for now. We are infinitesimally small. We are not even a pixel in the feature film of our planet. Time then to worry about things that only a pixel should worry about. It’s not about what happens, but it is about how we behave. That’s the one thing we can influence. Life may be fortuitous or capricious, but how we behave can be certain.

Polio has been detected in London. Thank goodness for science. Thank goodness for the means to find out and control it again. Meanwhile you and I can still be kind and loving people.

Deborah James lit up the world. We also now know that we must absolutely check our poo. Please check your poo. While checking our poo we can still be kind and loving people.

The missiles are a devastating reminder that any war is a tragedy wherever it rears its ugly head. We are all diminished when life and livelihoods are taken violently, but there are seven billion of us and only one small troubled white guy in the Kremlin. Our collective mark will be more indelible than his, and therefore even more reason to be kind and loving people to prove it.

The US Supreme Court decision on abortion rights is a reflection of a world divided. Also, a timely jolt that we need to be collectively and constantly vigilant to protect the rights fought for by generations before us. Complacency is the enemy of our freedoms far more than any politician or judge. Today, I cannot change the US Supreme Court decision, but I can support and fight for those who need to feel supported at this time. We can be kind and loving people and still fight like hell for what we believe in.

Bad stuff has always happened in this world. Some events will take the energy from our souls and sadness can envelop any of us at any time. We are all vulnerable and everything we have won is only held if we work together. For everyone’s sake a little more kindness and love will not make anything worse and may just make some things a whole lot better.

This blog hasn’t been written by Pollyanna. I am inadequate, sometimes lost, often wrong, and always weak, privileged and guilty; but I have a capacity to love and to be kind. I also know, more than ever, that we must never passively submit. We should be angry. It is important to shout at the world sometimes and loudly exclaim “FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WHAT NOW?!

I cannot control much, and I can influence very little on my own, but I am not helpless and I am not without hope. I promise I will try not to fuck things up too much or too often.

You and I may only be pixels in this mad world, but we are beyond measure precious pixels for all that. Even more reason therefore to check our poo. Please take care.

Paul xx

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