Exploring other roads.

Whilst I was travelling I would often research places online when I was trying to decide where I was going. I would Google a few places and read a few articles. After I was finished I headed back to Facebook and started catching up on my messages and checking the feed. The next thing I knew, I was being flooded with ad for places where I was searching. My email box started getting great offers and newsfeeds were suggesting many relevant sites.

This is nothing new. I understand that the cost of business on Facebook is that I lose my privacy. I end up on mailing lists that will be spamming me until I die and long after my trip ended, I would still be receiving “Great Offers” for one or more travel destinations that I was yearning to see. None of this bothered me. As I said, it is the cost of business. What I started to realize is that with the abundance of information out there, I could filter the information so specifically that I only needed to be exposed to the information that fit my system of beliefs.

There are so many hours in the day and only so long anyone can spend surfing the net. Between the clickbait, the targeted ads and the constant stream of useless information we only have so much time to allocate to the rest of the world. In order to find out as much as possible, we choose, very specifically, our sources of information. Those sources know their audience. They get very specific feedback about them. They then try to provide more of what their audience wants to keep them. It all makes good sense. It’s also incredibly limiting.

I have liberal tendencies. I make no effort to hide them. I like guns but can’t understand why anyone who lives in a city needs one. I have a preference to explore alternative therapies and will avoid all contact with Doctors unless absolutely necessary and I believe in science, climate change and that social justice is a good thing. The trouble is, when I only expose myself to the things that support my views, I run the risk of limiting new ideas and becoming a little less tolerant to those who hold opposing views.

I like an argument. Not a shouting match, but intelligent argument where someone tries to convince me of his or her point of view. One of my favourite arguments I ever had was with my little brother. He won me to his side after a long discussion. My older brother is a constant source of political information that I would otherwise make no effort to explore. He constantly is making me aware of things that I would otherwise be happily ignorant about. I have a cousin that is very pro gun. He has yet to put together an argument regarding his position that in my opinion genuinely moves beyond, he likes guns and bad people have them, but I enjoy the back and forth. I won’t ever change his mind and he won’t ever change mine but that’s okay, besides, we agree on a lot of other things.

I think that it is important to ensure that you are constantly exploring sources of information outside of your usual sources and especially those that challenge your ideas. That is not to say that everyone has a valid point of view. Being selective is important. Someone once told me that they could scientifically prove that climate change was a hoax. I politely suggested that they should publish their evidence, get it peer reviewed and get back to me when it is done and I will happily read it. (And if they ever do, I most certainly would.) Ludicrous statements that have nothing to support them can make you switch off to another perspective but it is always worthwhile trying to find to cogent argument at the heart of the matter. After all, everyone out there approaches the world in their own way and just because I have learned one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better one.

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Interpretation

One night on my travels, whilst I was in Split I ended up at the Marcs Marvlvs bar. (as I frequently did) This night in particular, there was a poetry night on. Random strangers crowded in and recited poems, original or ones that just stuck with them. My friend, Tin, the bartender was an accomplished poet and had several on hand, (in Spanish) and knowing that it was a passion, I thought that I should make an effort to contribute to the evening. One poem was scratched out over a glass of Dalmatian Red on my phone.

I charge to damage and wound

The absence of malice irrelevant

The rhythm of the feet a drum

The blood rises, the fever overtakes

I fly and the fire explodes

Sanity returns

The fever subsides

I press off the ground and charge again.

What I didn’t realise that was after every poem people would talk about the poems and about how they interpreted the poem. It was an interesting experience. The depth that people brought to my poem was astounding. I’m certain that the alcohol had some impact but as I listened I was amazed at how wrong some of the ideas were.

All through high school and college, I struggled with the idea of breaking down epic works to what the author was really getting at. “Clearly the author was referencing blah…” Time and again the discussion raged and I couldn’t help myself attempt to disrupt the class by asking the same question. “Isn’t it possible the author was on drugs or something and just telling a story?” Usually the only response was a glare from the teacher.

Now I don’t pretend for one second to consider myself a writer of the calibre of Twain, Shakespeare, Atwood, Keats, Yeats and of course Wilde, but the poem above was nothing more than me trying to describe the feeling that occurs when, in the midst of an Aikido rundori (basically a group of Aikidoka, Aikido students, attack a single target in a series of attacks), you get thrown across the room, and land on the hard floor, your legs slam together and catch your balls between them basically knackering yourself. Not wanting to make the Tori (Executor of the techniques) look bad, you drag yourself from the floor and keep attacking.

When you read what I actually meant, the poem, (such as it is) makes more sense. I guess this is my verbose way of saying that the next time you are dealing with someone whose behaviour frustrates you, consider that perhaps, despite your own insightful observations, you may not be reading the tale with the same context as the author. Slammed

Too buff for the wet suit.

There was a time when I was ripped. Not an ounce of fat could be found on me. I could (and did) swim a 20km swim to raise money for something and I was firing on all cylinders like a champion. I was twelve. At the time, I was swimming 13 times a week, average session length was 2hrs. I was about as fit as someone can get. I don’t swim like that anymore. I can’t imagine how I did it at the time. I have a life now that precludes that insane level of training. As I slowly stopped swimming the fitness dropped. What can I say, there was high school and of course there were girls. The idea of spending that much time staring at a line in the bottom of a pool lost its importance.

Time went on. I still maintained a fairly good figure with little effort. I was doing a little martial arts, occasional swimming and always up to stuff with my mates on the weekend. My metabolism was incredible. Not matter how much I ate, I burned it all off. Then one day I turned 30. It wasn’t like the Cinderella and the midnight sort of event. I didn’t simply hit 30 and boom, the spare tyre appeared. It was a progression. I was eating like I did when I was a teenager but sitting down more. Worse, I had money so my diet was becoming something that was more completely under my control. These days there are so many diets and articles floating around, analysing food types and what does what, but back when I was younger, this stuff just wasn’t as prolific as it is these days. I started writing when I wasn’t sitting at a desk and work and exercise became something I did a couple of times a week. After a few years of that I noticed that the spare tyre just wasn’t going away. The crystallising moment for me was the day I went to try on a wetsuit and couldn’t fit into my usual size. Sure the humble wetsuit isn’t the slip on accessory we all imagine but even after excessive inhalation and contortions, I had arrived at the conclusion that, I had pulled that suit on as far as it was ever going to go. The store assistant called from beyond the flimsy moth eaten curtain. “How you going in there?” What I am certain he really wanted to tell me, was that if I split that suit I was going to be buying it. I admitted defeat and called out. “Sorry mate. I’m too fat for this one.” His response was what you would expect from a male surfer and was very much indicative of the male mindset as you start to add a few extra kilos. “Mate, around here, we say, you’re too buff for the wetsuit.”

These days I eat better, my health is excellent, (I made it through India and Nepal and never got sick once.) but the spare tyre hangs around. I know women have all those body issues and I even hear now that men are also now struggling to meet rise up to the expectations set by the models and actors that we see plastered all over the place. (I am fairly certain that if a single issue of Men’s Health went to print without the promise of “Rock Hard Abs” somewhere inside, it would unleash untold horrors onto the world. (As Bruce Campbell is about to do in the new Ash vs the Evil Dead series. Sorry, but I’m really excited about it.) My abs may indeed be rock hard but they are carefully packed away under a little extra padding. I never gave those magazines and films that much time. I know how hard those guys work. For me, the drive comes from the Santa Cruz crew. My friends clustered in and around Bondi. They eat well, exercise and as a general rule, all look in pretty good condition. (Those sons of bitches.) They don’t really care if I am sporting a gut but it helps as a reminder that I should be making an effort, so I am motivated. I don’t want to be the buffest guy at Bondi, but I always make an effort to try and get into shape other than Buddha shape. The trouble is exercise. And food. And the fact that I enjoy writing.

Exercise and I have an interesting relationship. I always enjoy when I am doing it. Getting the pump, the stretch, sweating, the fresh air. Early morning wakes ups don’t even bother me. Getting out of bed though. That is where the problem lies. I’m no fool. I set an alarm. It goes off, and even when my mind is sharp and I am feeling refreshed, the evil monster inside of me reminds me of how comfortable my bed is. How good that perfect warmth is. How the pillow is now in the perfect mould around my head. The idea of forcing myself from this condition and completing even a solitary push up is sometimes unthinkable. I’m staying with my parents as I rebuild my finances. The place they live has a heated lap pool. Yes, that’s right. Heated. And if you think for one second I am going to leave my cosy bed and jump into a pool at 6am, you are out of your mind.

Food, glorious food. I love food. I eat well. I love a simple meal of steamed veggies, salad and a bit of meat or eggs. Not much in the way of pasta, grains or potato in my diet. I have even cut out the desserts (mostly) and the late night chocolate or biscuits (on occasion, though that is mostly because I didn’t pick some up from the shops.) Of course when I start writing, I like to snack. When I binge watch TV a snack or two goes well. Go to the movies, better get a choc top. Visit friends. Food time! Yup, I love my food. I like to cook too. You can bet that they are all meals that aren’t going to help with the weight loss, especially when it tastes so darn good that I have a bit extra. Luckily there is wine to wash it all down.

Yup. The war between myself and the spare tyre goes on. I will be moving back to Bondi in time for some of the summer and I am looking forward to the runs on the beaches, the work out on the bars. The swimming in the ocean. My favourite butcher, coffee shop, gelato bar, fruit and veggie market, and places to have a cheeky drink or three. Luckily I have my friends as a reminder, except when they are busy exercising. (Because screw that.) It’s a war of attrition and sooner or later one of us will emerge the victor. Let’s just hope it’s not the Michelin Man.