The End of an Era

Queen Elizabeth II was buried today. It seems fitting that I write something to mark the day. I’m not a royalist, and never have been, but I appreciate a life well lived, and a life that must have been constrained by endless rules, expectations, and obligations. A life in service. A life not chosen. I’m not sure I could have done it.

I’ve been watching the coverage throughout the day – of the procession through London, the church service, the journey to Windsor, and finally the service in the chapel.

While watching the various high ranked clergy carrying out the procedures handed down to them over hundreds of years, I remembered a moment recreated in the “The Crown” TV series, concerning the televising of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It was the first time any sort of coronation had been televised, and the church was dead against it. In their own words “it would remove the magic”.

At the end of the day, the monarch in a hereditary monarchy is a normal person. The leaders of the church – even back then – knew that all of the pageantry and exhibitionism on show is an act. None of it is real. They were petrified that pulling back the curtain would expose them.

You know the funny thing? Nobody cares. Nobody still cares. People believe that they want to believe, no matter how ludicrous it becomes in the face of the best level of education the world has ever seen.

I do sometimes wonder though – how much longer until people start to open their eyes? Perhaps they don’t want to, and that’s why they don’t.

It’s a bit like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. People know they are made-up, but they continue to go along with the act. I wonder if monarchy and religion are following the same path.

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Hello Midnight, Old Friend.

Here we are again – watching the clock slip effortlessly from one day to the next. Our marking of time is a curious thing, isn’t it – we place such significance on yesterday, today, and tomorrow – when in reality we’re just specks on a ball of mud floating aimlessly through space on a path it has been repeating for millions of our years.

Many try to convince themselves that we are somehow special – the product of a mysterious creator sharing a similar form – a master puppeteer pulling the strings of everything we know.

I’ve always thought that view tremendously conceited.

We really are specks. Tiny specks on a fairly normal ball of mud in a quiet backwater of a normal spiral galaxy. We are here quite by chance. Yes, we are sentient, but then so are the billions of other creatures that no doubt exist in the far reaches of “space”. Far is of course a relative term – relative to how far we have managed to travel, in timescales we understand.

For nearly a thousand years the rulers of ancient Egypt sold their citizens intricate stories of gods eating each other in the sky – of animal headed beings that birthed the sun in the morning, and consumed it at night. Over time ideas changed – evolved – with early scientists being silenced for daring question the “accepted wisdom” of their day.

We look back now and try to separate ourselves from the powers that fought against Copernicus, Kepler, and Archimedes – but we really haven’t moved on. We haven’t moved on at all.

Children all over the world are still instructed to believe in imaginary beings in the sky – backed up by weighty tomes interpreted by scholarly liars trained to pray on the gullible and weak. We protect freedom of choice – freedom of thought – freedom of speech. We allow people to be exploited by a placebo that has persisted for millenia – taking different forms on each continent, and in each epoch.

Anyway. Enough mental rabbit hole excavations.

Time for bed.

Tilting at Windmills

I planned to write a blog post late yesterday evening, but somehow it didn’t happen. That seems to be the story of my life at the moment.

If nothing else, this week has succeeded in detaching me from the mass media. I’ve become increasingly aware that modern journalism isn’t so much about reporting a story – it’s about attracting attention to grift advertising revenue – and if that means repeating the same story everybody else is reporting in order to syphon off a few eyeballs, well so be it. Don’t even get me started with the legion of “nothing new to report” stories that regurgitate an entire story before adding one new sentence – teased in the byline – in the final paragraph.

It feels to me like “the news” has become some sort of strange placebo. I read a fascinating article on the VICE website a few days ago, that likened celebrity news to the stories of the greek gods – where we interpret their actions to make sense of our own – with everybody having a take on everything.

I guess at the heart of all of this is a dislike of being told what to think – who to believe – what to believe in, even. I have my own mind. I have eyeballs, ears, and a brain. I can watch, listen, and read. I can make my own mind up.

The thing that worries me most is that so many people seem to be so happy to be told what to think, like, do, trust, or believe. It’s not just the news – it’s everything that gets marketed at us – lifestyle, religion, culture, food, health, fitness – everybody seems to have a take on everything. Everybody has “alternative facts”.

I’ll stop ranting now.

Perhaps another coffee will distract me for long enough that I won’t write “oh, and ANOTHER thing”…

Comfortable in my own Skin

I decided about an hour ago that it might be a good idea to update my profile photo everywhere – to better reflect what I have looked like for the last six months or so. It struck me while posting it that something unexpected has happened in recent times – I have become more-or-less comfortable in my own skin. In my thoughts too. Things haven’t always been this way.

When I was young, I was always the gawky kid that didn’t quite fit in. I found it difficult to make friends, and then difficult to maintain friendships. I thought about things too much – I still do – and worried about perceptions of actions and words by those around me.

I wouldn’t say I’ve started to care less about what other people think – I think perhaps I’ve just become a little more confident that my view or outlook is ok – that I’m not a lunatic or monster. If somebody else wants to have an agenda, or a mission, that’s up to them – we don’t have to share opinions, ideals, or world-views. Differences are almost always what make people interesting, and a chance to learn from. I suppose the only problem with that is the most vocal are often the most resistant to other points of view.

It doesn’t help that historically I have sat on the fence about so many things.

For years if questioned about my religious beliefs, I would say I was agnostic – because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. These days when questioned, I will freely admit that I have no faith or belief in any sort of higher power. That’s not the same as atheism – by the same logic that you can’t prove the existence of a higher power, you can’t disprove it either. Just because you haven’t observed something yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

A few months ago I probably lost a few friends while defending J K Rowling’s defence of women’s rights, in the face of an opinionated mob weaponising social media against her. When a public response against such attacks on social media was then signed by several hundred of the foremost writers and thinkers of our time, I will admit to exhaling somewhat.

A similar situation happened about a month after the COVID19 pandemic had swept the world. For a time our prime minister was in hospital, being treated for the virus, and the people were behind him. Then slowly but surely, all manner of keyboard warriors and armchair experts started weighing in on every decision, both past and present. I commented about it on Facebook, and spent an afternoon defending even the thought that I might defend our government. Somebody I used to work with eventually saw my point, and commented “see that’s the thing – you’re a nice person – you’re calm, objective, and reasonable – so you expect others to be too”. There were no more comments after that.

Stepping away from blogging over the last few months has caused quite a bit of reflection – about why I write, what I write, and who I write for. Although I have often stated that I write for myself, if you know any sort of audience is out there, it obviously influences you to an extent. I’ve begun to wonder if I now care less about that audience too – not in a bad way – but it’s difficult to express why.

Maybe it’s a realisation that everybody has their own story – their own journey – and it’s not about worrying what others think – it’s more about being true to yourself, and affording others the chance to do the same.