Sunday, 19 September 2010

Poem: Why the Pope has to admit Catholic church failings

Find your own way

When I was the youngest person I remember being
There was a building I was taken, with a vaulted ceiling.

While my mother stood up front and belted out God's name
I sat on pews and wondered if religion was to blame

for things like war, that's easy, sure, just look at Palestine
but was it God's fault when the big kid pushed me out of line?

Was it God that made me shout or joke with all around
am I a pawn in gods weird game, that seemed a bit profound

As I grew up and thought some more, my childhood error struck me
it wasn't God's fault, it's because the whole worlds out to fuck me!

But then if God had made the world, then he was still to blame
so I gave up on religion and just tried to play the game

Something in me lingered on the thought of my existence
so I tried a range of inputs,though with minimal persistence

Music seemed to speak to me, but I just couldn't play it
So I settled on my own way, I would simply say it

the arguments that I would make would have one sole reliance
theories were always tested, people called this science

This approach was more complete than any I had tried
and didn't mean I needed faith in something I'd denied

when as a man I searched about for company in life
I needed more than science now to help me find my wife

the thing that really settled me was not another change
but an addition to my position from which I could not be estranged

The thing I added to myself was, strangely, a belief
the strength of my own nature, this idea of me had teeth

Now I could see a better way that I could be defined
and finally I'm happy to leave other ways behind

I am the sum of many cells, with atomic bonds
I'll live, I'll breed, die and decay, but action might live on

So, logically if by these rules I can be judged myself
then opinion re others need not be made in stealth

Lets think a while at how the church will speak on it's position
They'll say that they are right, no doubt, in spite of contradiction

So is it not fair that we judge the arguments they make
by looking closely at the public actions they relate

currently the catholic church, as headed by the pope
is struggling to spin the angle on the latest dope

so many men within it's ranks have fiddled with a child
but Benedict won't let the law discover those defiled

Now I want to make it clear , I'm not trying to affront
each person is within their rights believe in what they want

As I write the final words to end my little song
the only point left is to say The Catholic Pope is WRONG!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

What would humanity be without music?

If you accept that we exist in the world, then it would be reasonable to assume that we can be affected by it. How we are affected by it depends on a great many variables, so many that it can appear that we have no control over anything.

Contemplating the way people react to any given input has been popular since humans have been able to communicate. I often find it exciting to be in a new situation; new stimuli are great when I need a distraction. However, I find there is nothing like a familiar situation or activity to put me in a comfortable emotional place, where reflection feels safe.

One of the greatest inventions of the human race is music!

For me, listening to music is like allowing my brain to emotionally reset and it works with almost every genre. Music can influence my mood and when I am in control of that influence I can choose where I want to go.

When I want mental excitement I have rock music, complexity; classical music, but my favourite tracks are the ones that mean something to me on an emotional level. Everyone has them, the songs that have a connection to an important time in your life, a date, a wedding, anything that makes the memories seem real again. Reflection on the past is a way of learning, and learning about emotions requires reflection.

Music I have not heard before is an opportunity to go to a new place, and just like any new adventure, you might not like it when you get there, but you still remember the sights and sounds. The journey is the key and music is a tool I use to control and guide my emotions in a safe environment.

Of course, there are occasions when the music we hear is not selected by us. These times can be good too, but are often annoying for me. I think the reason I do not enjoy music when it is pushed at me is because I can feel the influence of the music in a way that feels like someone else is trying to coerce or control me; An unwanted intrusion into my mind that is nagging me to react in a particular way. Elevator/Store music, somebody else’s earphones on the bus, loud car stereo’s; The music I am forced to hear may be occasionally pleasant, but it was never requested!

The concept of using music as a persuasive device is a well tested one, almost all major events in human history and social gatherings involve music. Think of Wagner and you get images of world war two, hear the sound of a bagpipe and you imagine Scottish highlands. There is a whole language to music which most of us speak, unconsciously, on a regular basis. Weddings, funerals, marching and particularly watching TV!

Music is so prevalent in all societies that it is hard to imagine our world developing without it. So, to illustrate further why music means so much to me (and, I believe, to a great many others), I want to describe how our world may have developed without music.

Music is essentially a rhythmic recurrence of sounds, such as may have been deployed to communicate non-verbally, but to qualify I feel it should be more than just communication. Music could be the combination of voices, stamped feet or drum beats, etc. but not an individual sound in repetition. So an early use must surely have been celebration around the primal fire and boasting of prowess for mating purposes.

If this had not developed, what would have taken music’s place? Discussion and argument by committee about the right to mate? Could our ancestors have truly expressed the joy at having surplus food, without music, why would you dance if there was no music.

Music is so embedded in human culture that communication today would be entirely different without it. I will finish this post with a final question.

Can humanity ever reach a place where music is no longer part of our vocabulary?

Dark Scribbler

Does our Job define us?

Most people need to work, or should I say most people need to get paid for doing something but why is it that when we find ourselves out of work, we experience a disproportionate amount of worry?

I do not believe that the thought of running out of money is the key to this anxiety.

Adults will regularly ask children “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. This is considered to be a helpful conversation starter and an insight into the interests of the wonderfully changeable mind of a child, but it also performs the unintended function of defining a person by their chosen career path.

As we get older the trend continues, schools will direct pupils in a direction that the student (or parent) chooses. At the age of 14, when I was asked by the English schooling system to decide which subjects to study I felt I was being asked to decide what I would do for the rest of my life, a daunting proposition for a confused teenager. This is the point that the conformity issue raises its head. As a teenager, one is under an immense pressure to conform with pre-determined classifications and through the eyes of a teenager, the peers who seem to find it easy to choose a “career” appear to become the socially acceptable.

Teenage angst aside, the pattern continues through adult life. Most social gatherings will at some point contain the question “So, what do you do?”. I am fortunate to have enough confidence to answer this question honestly whenever it is asked and field the inevitable questions when I cannot be pigeon-holed, but I can imagine that even as a “grown up”, this situation can be stressful.

So, when we have a traditional career (doctor, teacher, fireman, etc.), we are usually proud of the hard work and long hours of study that we have put in to reach the point we are at. This, quite reasonably, means that when we are asked the “What do you do?” question, we are happy to be assessed on the perceived “ranking” of our career, since its prerequisites are normally well understood by our audience. On the other hand, when one does not have a traditional career (I have a feeling that is most of us), then the thought of having to explain the intricacies of why we are doing “X” or “Y” at the moment can often deter us from wanting to be involved in that conversation at all!

I do not mean to belabour this subject; there are many other factors at work in this scenario. For example, group status, self belief and the behaviour of others will all have an effect.

Moving on with the subject, I feel I should also highlight the other, rather obvious, influences put upon us by society, telling us to “…get a better job…” or to “…go for that promotion…”. The greatest of these must be the well established dynamic of consumerism. To live in modern society we need money and having a job usually gives us that income. Modern society, as we all know, exposes us, through advertising, to numerous ways for us to be parted from our money. Rather than simply paying the mortgage and the bills, we choose to spend our income on slightly less necessary consumables; a better car; a bigger TV, etc.

All these additional desires lead us to require more money and, more than that, reward us with pleasurable experiences that serve to temp us into further spending. This is not really all that bad; after all, most of us would be happy with a new car, or a new house, wouldn’t we?

The point I have been leading up to is this. The job we have does not really define us as a person, but more usually it simply provides a route to achieving all those things you desire. In a utopian world, maybe we would all be able to perform a job which fills us with joy. Would it still count as “work” if you loved every moment of it?

I have to admit that I don’t believe there will ever be a massive social change, removing the stigma from certain jobs. I do, however, believe that we should not be judged solely on the basis of the job we perform. These were the thoughts that directed me towards writing, something which I have rarely done publicly. I would prefer to be remembered not for the task I perform, but for the thoughts I provoke in others.

Going back to the hypothetical, generic social gathering… I love ‘em! Who cares if you get asked a few ice-breaking questions like “What do you do for a living?”. I am more interested in what I do for a life. Pushing other peoples understanding of the world, pushing my own, is stimulating (and occasionally annoying).

I don’t mind being defined by my job, as long as I can be heard. I can’t stop myself from thinking, so I had better not stop myself from writing.

by Doug Miles

Wanting to write (or how Tim Minchin and my wife helped me make a decision)


I believe that from time to time people encounter something new in their lives which cause them to pause for thought and wonder if they are actually a bit insecure.

Allow me to give you a personal example; I have recently discovered the work of a stand-up comedian/songwriter/pianist by the name of Tim Minchin. Many of you have probably heard of him. Channel 4 recently aired a live show and as I watched I was entranced by his wit and sheer ability.

He is an outstanding pianist, playing in a beautifully untethered way, he combines this with a fantastic singing voice, earthy, floating, soft and booming at once powerful and comic. With these tools he performs a range of well crafted and considered songs each with meaning and humour and an introduction that prepares you for laughter, despite an expectation of a serious subject matter.

I have long believed that serious, difficult messages are best delivered through the medium of humour. If someone is laughing, they are less likely to try to kill you! This is not a skill I particularly possess, but I admire it in others.

The point I'm getting to is that seeing such pleasantly crafted work made me feel as though I should be trying harder to be better at something meaningful, how I wish I could sing like Tim! I find myself feeling a bit rubbish, simply from exposure to real talent. Just by watching something good on TV, I feel a little worse about myself. I am insecure!


This insecurity gives me a desire for self improvement, so naturally the questions arise "What skills do I have?", "On what can I improve?".  Brief contemplation produces a shortlist; Mechanical/Hands-on aptitude, a brain full of opinions, computer literacy and an ordered approach to work.

Of these, I think the one that I work at least is the brain full of opinions. I tend to keep them inside, unless they are tempted out during conversation, or I decide to volunteer them in some unhelpful way, as a "solution" to anothers problems. What I don't do, is work them through in any meaningful way. I do not allow myself the opportunity to explore the limits and conclusions that could be reached when developing a simple premise.


For this reason, I see benefit in developing this area of "ME", so I decide to drift back into writing things, something I have always been drawn towards, but with which I have never persevered.

I believe the reason I have never pushed forward with writing is that I have previously looked upon it as something I can use to tell other people about me, a tool to push my persona onto others. This usually didn't evoke much of a response or often a response I didn't want to hear. I don't take critism well!

However, I have realised more recently that I can write to fulfill my own needs. I can be selfish and use this method of mental stimulation to develope my opinions into properly crafted plans and ideas. This can help make structure in a brain that is random. This process could help me understand the most confusing person I know, Me!

Now the decision must be made, how to implement this new course of action into my life. What should I do to ensure that this doesn't drift off into the ether, as before. Do I set myself a timetable? Do I target a certain number of words per day? Should I embark on a massive endeavour like a ficitional novel? Should I write small articles? Argh! Help, now I need to consider the way forward.

How to move forward

This was starting point of a discussion with my wonderful wife, and the decision she has helped me to reach is that I should blog on a regular basis. This will allow me the freedom to write about anything and everything that comes to mind. As infrequently as I desire, or as regularly as I need.

So it only remains to thank the larger of the influences that pointed me in the direction of something I have long considered.

Thanks to my environment; I know it sounds a little strange, but without the things that impacted on me throughout my life I would not be the person I am today. I learned to express myself because the family group I grew up in would not have listened to a subdued introvert and required verbal and emotional strength.

Thanks to Tim Minchin (as mentioned above). By being so good at what he does, he helped me to realise that my insecurity is a function of my desire to push myself in a direcition that I can take pleasure in. It is not neccesary to succeed in the eyes of other. The only person who can measure my success is me!

Finally, thanks to my beautiful wife; I have never felt anything but support from the most wonderful person I have ever met. Intelligence, wit, insight and understanding are only the beginning of a description of the joy she brings to me.

by Doug Miles