Monday, May 05, 2008

The meaning of life

I had a strange dream in that moment of transition between sleep and wakefulness, the exact details of which I can no longer recall. I do recall though that my sister Linda was there - an unusual occurrence in itself given that she suffers from schizophrenia, and our relationship is not exactly what you call best friends.

From the few details that I do remember, the dream was based around the island of Lundy, where I retreat to two, maybe three times a year, in order to recharge my batteries. Somehow or other I had got locked out of the cottage, with all my possessions inside - everything that I needed to sustain me and keep me warm from the rapidly encroaching darkness as night fell. Linda and I needed to get help to get back into the cottage before this happened, and while she seemed totally unconcerned, I was searching around, desperately looking for help and wondering whether we had time to get that help before it was too late. It was at that point that the alarm clock went off and I had to get out of bed. I would not normally set the alarm clock of course for a Bank Holiday, but I do work in retail, and so to me, it is just another working day - albeit slightly shorter and with more pay.

It occurred to me while I was in the shower, that perhaps this is about letting go of my own baggage. Diana Summer mentioned some while ago that the Terminal 5 baggage fiasco was also about this - where thousands of bags belonging to air passengers failed to arrive at their destination, and weeks later have still not been found. The fact that the darkness was encroaching was also no doubt, about my own willingness, or perhaps lack of it, to look at my own darkness. I think most of us are afraid of this, and I am no exception here. I also think, or rather feel, that I have made a very good start.

For the first time I actually understand experientially as well as conceptually what that phrase "choose a new reality" really means, and I also understand at last, just how powerful our words and our thoughts really are. It is not something that you can explain to another, as to coin a phrase from Genesis of Man "Words are the least effective way of describing our experiences, as they are merely symbols which are used to describe our thoughts and feelings". When Descartes said "I think, therefore I am" perhaps what he should have said is "I feel, therefore I am".

We have to be willing to let go of everything that we are, and everything that we ever have been if we are to understand who we are truly are. When I think about this, I see transsexuals in many ways as the ultimate in this - for these are people who are willing to give up their whole sense of identity - changing their bodies, their names and literally starting all over again to order to find who they truly are inside. On the other side of the coin are the refugees and 'victims' of various atrocities, who have lost their livelihood, their homes and their loved ones - and seen things that are the stuff of nightmares.

Nadine Laman has an interesting take on this in her May newsletter, where she speaks about the recent Amazon debate and relates this to the need to appreciate what we have and support what is important to us. Most people take for granted that which they love, until it too late and it is gone. She relates this to changes within the book industry, and how one day we will wake up and find out that print books are no more, and have been replaced by emails and CD-roms instead. She urges her readers to not wait to buy books that are interested in, or one day they may wake up and realise that it is too late - those books are no more, as their authors have been forced out of business, unable to make a living.

You could equate this with anything I suppose, like failing to vote, or not valuing your loved ones, but the world is changing before our eyes (change being the only constant in the universe), and if we allow ourselves to get too complacent, and just sit around not looking to the future, then that change will happen regardless, and we may not even notice.

Most readers of course have no idea of what is going on in the book industry (I have very little idea of what goes on in music, even though I buy CD's), and for that matter, many writers and authors do not keep up to date either. One thing we can be sure of is that although the format for books may change, books themselves will always be here in one form or another. Books will also have a shorter life and shelf span (it is currently between three to six months on average), as more of them become available, and the window of opportunity will gets shorter and shorter for an authors success. It is important then not to be complacent, and to support the writers that you like, and not wait until those books are off the shelf.

So, don’t wait (or worse still, expect) to be given a free book and then loan it to everyone you know. Writers, like you, are entitled to make a living, and cannot do so if no one buys their books. As Nadine says, one day, it may be a day late and a dollar (or pound) short to have what you treasure. Life is precious indeed and all too short, we should embrace it and live it fully while we can, for one day it will be gone and we will be left wondering where it all went. Don't take it for granted that the things that you enjoy and get meaning from will always be there, they won't unless you nurture them and look after them. So, value life, value books, and most of all, value yourself.

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