You may have noticed I’ve been increasingly more active with my website and on social media lately. I have a few reasons. After a few years of being shy about putting my art out into the world, I have come to realise that like some try-hard Apollo I’ve been resting on my laurels and letting much of my creative ideas go to waste in the dark unseen corners of my cupboard drawers. And yet, this is a greater tragedy than any negative criticism I could ever receive by setting them free.
As a writer, I must remember:
‘’Tis better to have published and lost, than to never have published at all.’
And so here I am, unleashing my creativity, my humour, and my philosophy upon the world. But there is another reason for my recent surge in productivity. Let me explain.
For a long time I feel like I’ve carried the state of the world on my shoulders. Society has had its issues of late, after all. And seeing how messed up the world is impacts me in such a significant way that I have found myself numerous times over the past couple of years being stopped in my tracks, incapable of putting into words how I feel about bombs being dropped, the Great Barrier Reef being bleached, and paying-customers being dragged off aeroplanes. I shut-down. In a last-ditch effort to combat this depression, after seeing the ridiculous fate unravel of bad people controlling the world, I forced myself to repeat to myself an ancient Indian proverb:
‘Control your mind and you control the world.’
My way of dealing with the external was to remind myself that a lot of the bad things happening in the world are out of my immediate control. There is no use stressing over things that I can’t change. What is in my circle of influence, I ask myself? I can only control my mind. But then, I thought, what if my mind is my world? What if I took things one step (or even several steps) further? And so, I started looking at myself as if I were a nation. But I saw too that I had been embroiled in dramas with other nations that could not be escaped. At the end of my tether seeing war and corruption and greed on the daily news and on Facebook and everywhere I seemed to turn, I overthrew my old form of self-government with a swift coup. There was no militia, no battles on the streets. The change in government was gradual and relatively gentle. My first executive order however was extreme. It was to place a strict embargo upon the following things:
Television, all forms of advertising, movies that prioritise the selling of merchandise over creating a sound story without plot holes (hint, hint, the new Star Wars), news on television, tabloid newspapers, magazines, dairy products, materialism, Christmas, Easter, the gifting of materialistic presents, and Game Of Thrones.
Fair enough, said a lot of people. Milk is weird. It comes from cows. Do you see squirrels milking cows? Iguanas milking horses? No, that would be plain silly. Most interestingly however, my ‘allies’ (let’s call them that) were most distressed when they heard they could not export to me their tales of Game Of Thrones, or they could try, but I would simply not engage. The threat of unleashing spoilers still had no effect. ‘But it’s so good,’ people told me. To which I replied, ‘I’m sure it is. Doesn’t mean I have to watch it.’ ‘You’re not allowed to boycott Game Of Thrones’ said another friend. ‘Of course I can,’ I replied.
I told myself that I didn’t need Game Of Thrones because I would watch Japanese anime regardless of whether my friends (or even myself sometimes) understood what I was watching, I didn’t need Star Wars because I had Douglas Adams. I embarked upon forging a new society for myself, regardless of the society that surrounded me, a society which would be about love and not money, reason and not hate, a society that would enjoy the early Stars War films as canon and reject the ‘new testament’ (because come on, Rey developing her Jedi powers in the space of five minutes what took Luke Skywalker and entire film and constant counselling from Yoda to reach – is this the kind of storyline that earns your respect?), a society in which every day was an excuse to celebrate nature and not commercialism in the guise of Father Christmas, and fertility and not sugar in the guise of the Easter bunny, a society rich in resources which would forever enjoy a plentiful supply of coconut milk, iguanas or no iguanas.
And in many ways, things were lovely. I had a lovely bunch of coconuts. The problem was that it was partly because my society was an island. And no man is a … What’s that famous quote again?
The problem was that like Cuba, my life was impacted both positively and negatively by such strict embargoes. Because sometimes when you shut things out you also shut things in. Thus, after writing four hit plays in Europe and living overseas and feeling once upon a time like the sky was the limit I found myself laying low for a while, and I became more and more withdrawn. But though I still had ideas and comedy teeming within my brain I had shut down all methods of export.
I’ve realised finally that shutting your eyes doesn’t make the monsters go away. And unfortunately, if there is going to be change in the world, then you have to open you eyes and try to push through the pain of observing the destruction. I also have to be active in putting myself out there into the world. And so here I am, writing, illustrating. Creating. With a new hope (new Star Wars films will still be boycotted).
‘Those who love peace must be just as organised as those who love war.’ – Martin Luther King.
That saying really chimes with me. Not just because Martin Luther King is an example of someone I would nominate to be a leader of my ideal society, but because now I realise that you can’t fight what you can’t see. When I look at the news, when I see what’s happening in the world, I still can’t help getting down feeling like the world is doomed. More and more the world is becoming like that movie Idiocracy. And empty minds are louder than full minds. But that’s why I have to remind myself to be loud. Indeed, I think we all do. Strictness is not necessarily strength. The truly wise person learns to let the waves of destruction, sadness, and regret wash over them, and then finds a way to impact the world around them.
The question that has often stopped me posting my creative works on my blog and on social media in the past is this eternally nagging question: ‘Why does anyone care?’ Okay, Martin Luther King and Charlie Chaplin, those are nice quotes and all, but how do I get organised? How can I fight for peace? And as corny as it sounds, how can I fight for love? There are bombs going off in Syria, there are leaders blindly reaching for their nuclear deployment buttons, and here I am posting a short story about caterpillars. How does that help the world?
‘You need power, only when you want to do something harmful. Otherwise, love is enough to get everything done.’ – Charlie Chaplin.
The thing is, it does help. You see, not everyone can pick up arms and fight extremists on the battlefield, not everyone can get engaged in politics and tackle corruption on the front lines, not everyone was born to run into burning buildings and save people’s lives and actually enjoy the thrill. If you can do any of these things, then I would like to say thank you right here and now. The point is, everyone has different skills. So the question I’ve been asking myself for so long when on the verge of hitting the ‘Publish’ button: ‘How does posting this change the world?’ really was the wrong one. Instead, all along I should’ve been asking myself, what am I doing to chime? Yes, chime. The world needs us all to chime right now. The world needs us to sing like pipes in a church organ and to drown out the angry and the insane. Whatever it is you love doing, whatever it is that makes you feel passionate, creative, cultural, there is a good chance it will make others feel that way to. And that matters, because people need to remember to laugh, people need to remember to take an interest in other cultures, people need to remember to look at the world with a creative mind, people need to remember to think with reason and philosophy.
‘Control your mind and you control the world.’
Yes, fill your mind, and then tell people about it. Engage, connect, share, spread love and happiness. Be the antidote to the negativity in the world. Be the world you want to change in the … Yeah, you get the idea.
The world is already full of so much darkness. Whatever you can do to bring light into the dark corners of the world indeed counts in the fight against destruction, oppression, and greed. You’ve just gotta chime. The change might be small. But even the ocean is made up of drops of water. Corny? Maybe. True? Yes.
From now on you’re going to see a lot more of me online.
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