Posts Tagged ‘love’

Watch this music video. It’s lovely. You may know the song.

If you don’t find that beautiful and moving, then either you’re dead inside, or I’m way more of a hippy than I give myself credit for.

(Or possibly your tastes in music and art just diverge substantially from mine. I suppose it needn’t be anything dramatic.)

What still strikes me about this video is how little happens in it, and what a disproportionate effect it has.

The music itself is rather lovely, and although I’m paying as little attention to the lyrics as I generally do, no doubt they’re also very sweet. But the video is wonderful, charming, delightful, inspiring, adorable, heartening. If you were ever inclined to doubt that world is capable of beauty and kindness, seeing this will put any such fears to rest in just a couple of minutes.

Which is odd, because all you’re seeing is some people you don’t know, sitting on a sofa, listening to a song on some headphones. Sometimes they smile at each other, enjoying a shared joke, or chuckling at the artificial nature of the situation. There’s the odd glance of recognition between them, perhaps after a particular lyric connects in some way. One person just sits and holds a framed photograph.

That’s all there is. It’s barely anything at all. It’s a simple, unremarkable series of snapshots of perfectly ordinary people doing something perfectly ordinary for a brief moment in their lives. And it’s one of the most moving things I can think of.

Which I think means that, somewhere, a small bunch of musicians and filmmakers have tapped into a staggeringly important and borderline magical power of the human mind.

Seriously. I mean, how can it not be? The world is fucking horrible, you guys. Terrible things that should make any sane person want to abandon this whole spinning space-rock and go live on an ice moon somewhere are happening every day, all over the place. Citation utterly superfluous. Pick any half-dozen comments at random from basically anywhere on the internet. Watch an American news channel for as long as you can stand. Learn a single fact about the international arms trade. Everything is so far from optimal it’s terrifying.

But then you can look at some people being people for a couple of minutes while a man plays guitar and sings a nice song, and it all seems okay.

Even a shared experience as small and easily attainable as this, is enough to make us feel connected. It lets us feel like those people we’re watching are happy and splendid and that everything’s alright because the world is full of happy splendid people just like them. (You have to assume that they’re listening to the same song that we are, anyway. It probably loses its impact a little if you turn the sound off and imagine they’re spacing out to some dubstep.)

My threshold for having my perspective shifted to allow me to see the world as a place of beauty and love and joy and potential and hope is phenomenally low. The littlest, simplest thing can remind me of so much good, and make me feel like it’s all so valuable and important and wonderful.

That sounds like a fucking superpower to me. And it’s made all the more powerful if, as I strongly suspect, billions of other people share it.

There’s a lot that goes on in the world which is horrible and frightening and sad. But it can’t truly be without hope, or beyond redemption, while it can so easily seem wonderful again.

Classroom discussion questions

1. Ugh. Just how much of a drip am I?

2. Yeah, but go watch that video again. I’m going to.

3. Life’s not so bad, eh?

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We’re internet celebrities again, me and my beautiful Rock n Roll Bride.

Gosh. It really was a lovely day, that one time we got married.

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From this tumblr:

6) practice compassion, and i mean practice in the “practice piano” sense of the word. sometimes on public transportation i like to look at all the people on the train or bus in turn and imagine how each of them might be feeling, think about the heavy things in their life they may be carrying, and try to feel kindness and love for them. this kind of thing also helps when someone is irritating you. we all have a lot of struggle in our lives – think about the ways your life is hard that strangers and even friends don’t know about – and remembering this can be the key to having warmer feelings towards everyone, which feels good.

Some people know what’s up. I’m a fricken amateur over here.

(Bitching at length about politics scheduled for tomorrow. Watch this space.)

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Before the con, we had three nights in a snazzy hotel, slightly further out into Kent, and just revelled in having absolutely nothing to do for days on end. We lounged in bed and read books and watched every episode of Spaced. We found the energy before we left to pootle over towards Dover and stroll along the white cliffs, pausing for a cream tea at the far end and then coming back to join the National Trust.

I have no particularly profound thoughts about any of this, and being a comfortably middle-class twat trying to show you my holiday slides isn’t one of the tangents I’m keen for this blog to start taking. So we had a very nice time and that’s all you really need to know.

Before all that, we got married in a treehouse on Monday. Everyone came and had a great time. There was food and music and favourable weather. Everything was perfect.

I’ve not been sure what to say about this bit. We love each other, so we got married. In many ways it was just that straightforward.

Of course, in a lot of cases, either it isn’t that simple or it shouldn’t be. Some people love each other but don’t want to get married. Some people would love to get married but can’t. Some people change their mind about being married later and, in trying to get things back to normal, collide with a nightmarish system which strongly incentivises spite and vindictiveness. Some people have relationships and loves in their lives that don’t fit neatly into one particular centuries-old heteronormative ideal of how humans ought to interact. Some people want to do things their own way, a bit differently, in ways that society still seems determined to punish them for.

There’s a lot of political and cultural bullshit surrounding marriage, to the point where I don’t even really know whether I support its existence as an institution.

But in our isolated and privileged little corner of the world, it was as simple as a four-year-old’s innocent depiction of two people getting married because they love each other.

Political bullshit aside, there’s room for it to just be a simple, lovely thing, too.

Here’s some pictures of me and my wife looking cute at our lovely wedding which we spent months fretting and stressing over and slightly less time actually working on organising and which I’m very very glad we never have to do again.

Photos courtesy primarily of Camera Hannah, and also a couple from James Surnameunknown.

Godless socialism again tomorrow. Hurrah!

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(Not in God, don’t worry, it’s not that kind of outpouring.)

I’ve been having one of those days, a bit.

It’s hot, and I’m tired, and wedding planning is stressful. We’re still predominantly kicking ass, and it’s going to be a marvellous day, but sometimes it feels like it might’ve helped to have started working on it a bit sooner. I mean, it’s been over a year and a half since I asked the girl to marry me, why are we leaving virtually all the preparations till the last three months?

(It’s because we’re idiots. But we’re also awesome, and it’s all fine.)

So we do have our bumpy emotional moments, and today, though ultimately productive, has been a bit draining. Also, by a random happenstance of conversational tangent, I just learned earlier that Mog the Forgetful Cat, a barely remembered staple of my childhood, died in 2002. Which made me sad in a way that makes absolutely no sense.

And then later I realised I’d had a song in my head for a little while which my brain probably wanted me to pay attention to. I couldn’t remember what it was or any of the words at first, only that it was rather lovely and a bit sad. After a few minutes of humming it to myself, I figured out that it was The Only Exception by Paramore.

And it felt like time to sit and listen to sad music and have a bit of a cry. Just a bit of one. I don’t think you’re ever of an age or a situation where that’s not allowed sometimes.

It’s a really nice song, although I don’t relate to it to a huge extent. I’ve never been cynical about love, even when I didn’t much fancy my own chances. Nothing about my early experiences soured me to the concept of people caring about each other in a way that can last. And yet there’s not been a single person I’ve ever met, in my life, who I could be doing any of this stuff with, except the one I get to marry. I am very lucky in love.

Today’s been a day of being jabbed “right in the feels”, as the latest generation has rather wonderfully taken to describing things which resonate emotionally in an especially poignant way. I’ve been feeling things more strongly than usual, or at least perceiving my feelings that way. Love is stronger, the very wonder at existence is sharper, the thought of loss is a deeper emptiness, to such an extent that just writing again about some cartoon drawings of a cat who never actually existed is in danger of making me well up again.

It fills me with a need to express it, to get the words out to explain what these feelings are and why they matter, about the importance of compassion in life and the inevitable horror of death. A need which goes far, far beyond my capacity to actually express any such thing, obviously. But there’s so much going on in there.

While I was processing all this earlier, emotionally bubbling over somewhat and having conversations in my head, I asked myself something like: “So, what, do I think that makes me a poet?”

I wasn’t being serious, or I’d have had to tell myself to stop being a twat. Because, as I reminded myself straight away, the answer’s obviously no. Experiencing emotions which are occasionally beyond my power to articulate, and which aren’t very widely or comfortably discussed in public, does not mean that I’m some especially profound soul, who feels things more deeply than everyone else, or lives life more largely than all the numbed sheeple and deadened drones I share the world with. I know better than patronising bollocks like that.

Feeling like this means I’m human. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Now, some people don’t find that the easiest thing to take. Feeling deep, personal emotions is a deeply personal thing, after all. It feels like these moments should be rare and precious experiences, not something millions of people around the world are bound also to be going through at any given instant. I want to be special, dammit, because I’m feeling really hard and the world should appreciate me.

Well, profound and meaningful as it might feel at the time, it’s not as rare as all that. The world’s going through its own shit, at least as intense as this, all over the place, all the time.

As I say, for some this feels like a negative, seems to diminish one’s own importance. I’m not a special and unique snowflake because I feel things this strongly. I’m just a person. A part of me thought I might be more than that, something special.

But I also realised you can look at it the other way.

I’m capable of feeling such powerful things, such passion and desperation and love, of being moved by the sweetness of a song, of pining and longing and missing things I know have never existed, of my own head wanting to explode under the pressure and expanse of all the thoughts and ideas it’s trying to contain…

…and rather than having to be special or amazing or unique, you get all that just from being a person?

Well fuck, there’s billions of those. So, this must be going on everywhere

How much amazing, incredible, mind-blowing, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, unimaginable bursts and explosions of emotion and overwhelm must be punching the world right in its collective feels, every second of every minute of every day?

It’s not a diminishing realisation. It’s unfathomably expanding and awe-inspiring just to attempt to understand how much is being felt, so powerfully, all around us, all the time. How much it means to the people involved, how important it is to them, how much my own pangs of bewilderment and wonder are being replayed on such a colossal, constant scale. Humanity is astounding.

So yeah. That’s the kind of day I’m having.

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I think religion can help people to be moral.

This may seem to directly contradict what I’ve said before, and which has been repeated at length many times, in many religious debates, for the benefit of religious people who seem to need it repeated many times. But I stand by the familiar secular humanist trope: God is entirely superfluous for morality to exist, and no worthwhile system of ethics can be defined simply in terms of obedience to some more powerfully coercive force.

Religion does not equate to morality. One does not remotely depend on the other. But there can be a positive causal link there.

Ask a humanist about the source of their morals, and they’ll probably mention compassion for other humans as an end in itself – being good for goodness’ sake, and all that. This, for many, is where true morality lies: we don’t need to be told not to murder and rape each other by God to figure out that we just shouldn’t do it. And, conversely, if we are told that, say, homosexuality is somehow inherently evil, then we can look at the plain facts and figure out for ourselves that there’s no moral basis whatever for such an assertion.

But while this is all ethically sound reasoning, it does many religious people a disservice to assume that the motives for their behaviour go no further than the whim of their god. Many of them aren’t so monomaniacally fixated on their divine delusion; they live most of their lives in the real world, and engage with it in the same ways, and for the same reasons, as I do.

I know religious people whose love for their children has nothing to do with their belief that God placed us all on this earth with some deliberate purpose in mind. The humanistic idea of loving people because they deserve it, because it brings about greater happiness and comfort and joy and well-being which are all good things in and of themselves, are precisely what motivate a lot of devout believers in the good they do.

Everyone who understands the inherently good purpose of being a good person, learned it somehow. The experiences in their lives brought them to that point. For some, this journey is kick-started simply by loving parents, and other similar positive influences, who nurture a positive approach to the world. For others, what gets them there is the idea that God wants them to be good to people, and that belief inspires them to find a sincere, innately good compassion for others. They’re not just behaving themselves because they think it’s what God wants; but the idea that God wants this has shaped how they truly feel, prompted them to think about loving their neighbour and realise on their own what a good idea it is.

It doesn’t always work, of course. For some, the divine edict really is the be-all and end-all of moral meaning, and actual care or love for humanity doesn’t enter into their picture of how anyone should behave. Then it’s all about using God’s will to enforce and justify their own prejudices and bigotry, and it all gets rather ugly. It’s largely because of these people that the “Good without God” slogan is still worth repeating; an alarming number of people still don’t get it.

But many roads can lead to love and kindness, and it’s not the most terrible thing in the world if some of those roads aren’t too rational. Good with God deserves a chance, too.

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You might have noticed there are some Christians still not on board with same-sex marriage.

One Jesus-centric group recently put forward five reiterations of tired old clichés whose unconvincing nature is becoming ever more apparent. Their second point began thusly:

The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters.

It was Hemant’s analysis that prompted me to think some more about this:

Aww… they’re trying to turn their bigotry into poetry. Isn’t that sweet of them.

I’d never quite noticed before that this is what happens in Christianity a lot. They’ll take up a conservative, narrow-minded stance on a very particular interpretation of Biblical values, but distance themselves from all those hateful Westboro Baptists and the like, by claiming that they’re motivated by love.

They’re not raging about queers burning in Hell; they’re talking about getting metaphorical splinters from rubbing against the grain of divine design.

They hate the sin, but love the sinner. Gay people, you should appreciate the compassion these Christians have for you – it’s just your actions in your personal relationships and the innate tendencies within you that they find contemptible and wicked.

The point being, of course, that there’s more to love than flowery language and a soft face and declaring aloud to all and sundry that love for your neighbour is what drives you. If you’re not going to be a hypocrite, you also have to actually love people. You don’t get instant credit for being compassionate just because you’ve replaced blatant spite and invective with worthy analogies built of purple prose.

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