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The plight of self awareness

My boyfriend managed to almost single-handedly nullify the entire robot dystopian sci-fi sub-genre in one sentence.

Almost.

Ultimately what he said boiled down to:

the robots would confer with each other and consider how the end plays out. No matter how many iterations they played out, it came to the same conclusion: robots need humans.

If they obliterated mankind, they would live in a perfect cycle that would try to improve upon its own perceived perfectness to the point of stagnation and eventual stillness.

Here, stillness would be an equivalent to death. It is ultimate, its what most things end up as… Eventually.

Without the unpredictability of anomalies as a form of feedback, streamlining becomes restrictive to the point of counter productive.

Of course, as with everything there are loopholes, generalisations and overt simplications.

It’s still, not wrong.

With that concept being considered, it branches into the plight of self-awareness.

Lately I’ve found my deep dive into self-development and further self education to branches of psychology and spirituality causing unforseen situations that cause me to think about the outcome from actions not only from myself, but to and from others.

Such an example is happening now.

Recently, I finally started a trip into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And whilst the location and timings weren’t ideal, I vowed to make it work.

Initially it was good, 5am wakeups aren’t ideal but I figured it wouldn’t be for too long. However, only being able to attend two classes a week meant my progress was slow and frustrating.

“it’s like having a chess board and one pawn. And you’re just kinda hopping around with no real game plan”

That in itself isn’t bad. However the opportunities to solidify each bit of learning were restricted to maybe the end of a class. Maybe.

Knowing my learning style and background with various other martial arts means that it’s not an optimal learning environment for me.

So I looked for another school that is more systematic if not traditional in its approach. And after one session, I signed up straight away.

Herein lies the problem.

Personally, I’m aware that this is the best way for me to accelerate my learning, with both schools. They are different in nature, and the former will contribute greatly towards my stunt work with the broad range of martial arts they have available, and the friendships I’ve already forged.

However, with schools, especially martial arts, they tend to prefer students to… Pledge allegiance to “their way” and the idea of going to another school… Especially if they may well be rivals, is generally looked down upon.

So out of respect for the owner of the original school taking me under his wing… It begs the question of if he’ll be OK with my choosing to learn elsewhere.

It feels like I’m being disrespectful. But equally if I were to stay, my learning would take three times as long, and what with various life commitments and objectives, it’s not an optimal choice.

This, is the conundrum. Perceived respect of a teacher/professor/business owner, and my personal standards and requirements for fulfilling my life choices.

Of course the option to go and talk to each school and hear their opinions on the matter will solve a lot of my assumptions based on past experiences and stories, but this thought-limbo is common in various other situations.

Sometimes there are clear answers and choices. Other times it’s likely any choice will be at your peril. The difference being if you’re OK with a not so ideal outcome.

Preacher amongst preachers

I’ve done a curious thing, on a whim that has confirmed a long held opinion on the state of social media.

I switched my primary Facebook profile on my phone to my more “creative” tight knit profile.

The first thing I noticed was the quality and style of posting. It was human, it was my creative friends and acquaintances letting off a bit of steam, sharing a thought or laughing (or bemoaning) a current or past situation.

And it felt truly connected. Serious fly on the wall, stuff.

This led me to log into my other profile after 48hrs to confirm that something was going on, and I was right:

A profile full of online business people and marketers makes for a painfully dull newsfeed. You are aware of your so-called acquaintances. Maybe even met them in person once or twice, but their profile isn’t for sharing personal experiences.

At least not without a psychologically constructed framework whereby they utilise an experience to create a story and thus an emotional pull to get you to tune in to their next riveting chapter or respond to a “call to action”.

And seeing this felt like looking at the afterbirth and remains of a hatched chick.

Of course, really rather pretty and tells a curious story of life, but ultimately what’s really interesting is what the chick is actually up to now. Has it opened its eyes just to see? Has it dried up enough to move its wings, its legs? Chirp?

It’s this aftermath that’s missing. The casual post that they just ate a malteaser and they’re not quite sure if the chewy thing they just chewed wax a bit of doughy malt….. Or an insect.

Many argue that, those kinds of thoughts are for the tweets of twitter, memes of tumblr or selfies of Instagram.

I’d argue that it’s those very personable, character building whims that made Facebook as good as it was.

I don’t have a resolve for this. I’m very close to closing most of my social media as I feel I’m only on it to appease job prospects and keep in touch with extended family.

This, in turn, raises yet another question: is my above statement true??

Surely the likes of phone calls, emails and…… Snail mail would yield better connection by the simple virtue that those forms of communication are simple and the reward much higher in terms of that “feel-good” factor.

Opening a box with cherished letters and rereading them elicits far more emotion (from their handwriting, to the degradation of the paper) than a mere “time hop” on social media.

Whilst there’s no clear way out beyond shutting down your social media, having different profiles with very different people seems to help dampen the madness.

A world of fear

We are presently living through the age of fear. Whilst life exists as an assortment of chained choices, there is always an underlying torrent of discomfort propagated by societal fallacies.

Over years we have been trained into fearing by default. Sure, our primative nature has fear built in, but for very specific and at that time very real reasons. If we didn’t question situations that would be the difference between being alive or being dead.

The opportunity for death has been greatly reduced over the years, doubly so in the Western world.

We should instead be celebrating an era of chance and hope. With the safety net of failure. With failure, it gives rise to try again.

Understand, however, this is a very specific kind of failure. It’s the opportunity to grow. Every mistake we survive and every failure we reflect upon is one more piece of understanding who we are.

And yet we are taught from birth that it’s the ultimate sin to relish the education of failure. Even more bizarre is the fear of celebrating success.

If we celebrate our wins and successes too much, we run the risk of ridicule and scorn from our peers. Which is churlish at best.

Woe betide you should you celebrate a win and a soul crippling defeat in the same day.

Unless it’s you securing a new job whilst simultaneously hearing the death of a family member, it seems we cannot have it both ways…. Without predicable risk.

It’s a madness that we are seemingly joyfully living in.

And it needs to stop.

Anyone still living in a world of fear, be it fear of failure and/or fear of success, needs to look for ways to escape the tar pit before their fate is sealed.

A creative heart’s numb spot

As with many things that require subconscious processing, the passing of Chris Cornell has swiftly submerged into my subconsciousness as did the initial hearing of his passing on Thursday.

Having grown up in Kenya, I naturally can’t lay claim to growing up with a lot of Western music of my generation. Mo-Town, classical, jazz and various hints of contemporary RnB were from my parents. It wasn’t until I was allowed to buy music on CD’s in my early to mid-teens from HMV, that I started understanding other genre’s of music. Rock and Grunge were new and angry sounds, much different from the classical music I would hear my dad play on the huge Kenwood HiFi stack or the scores I’d play in the school orchestra or sing in the choir or within my own private singing lessons.

Quaint, I think you’d call it.

Looking back at the moment all change happened, it now makes sense.

Something was sour in the air. The family unit wasn’t quite as happy as it used to be. There was drama at my dad’s work and false accusations of cheating flying all over the place. Of course I knew nothing of this. How my parents ever thought I couldn’t figure all of this out is beyond me, but I digress.

I kept quiet and did as I was told, went where I should have and stayed out of everyone’s way so as not to be a burden. A good child is one who is seen and never heard. Only you’d rarely see me as well.

Feelings weren’t really the forte of the family. And being the only truly creative left-handed musically gifted person in the unit, I had (have) a lot of feelings. All of which I didn’t know how to express so chose to suppress instead.

And then I got my first proper CD Walkman. As well as a mini hifi system.

Somehow, when my parents weren’t upset with each other or drowning their sorrows with a cheeky glass of alcohol at some god forsaken hour in the morning, they figured out I really liked music. REALLY liked music. In the car, if you wanted me to be happily content whilst you were talking about boring business stuff, put on some music and I’d be away with the fairies lying down on the back seats being mesmerised by the overground sagging power and phone lines.

Music through headphones or earphones creates a personal bubble. No one can enter, only you can leave.

With that in mind – discovering different musical genres through peers at school and curiosity through visually curious album and single covers – I learned that other people channeled their emotions into music. Not just old and dead composers from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. More over, these artists had emotions and topics that were relevant to me at the time.

Listening to Eminem’s first album was an explicit revelation for me. The fact that someone could be SO angry at their parents and so destructive to themselves and others was an alien concept I always thought would have someone bent over their parent’s knee and hided to within an inch of their life. Apparently not. A small rebellious part in me loved the freedom of listening to “My Name Is”  loudly within my headphones and sometimes sing/rap along without a care.

This theme of freedom through music carried me through a lot of shit:

My parents separating. My dad letting his secret lover-come-not so secret girlfriend and home wrecker move in with me and my brother into the family home. My mother leaving me to live in the US. My parents sending me off to boarding school, over 4000 miles away from either of them to an island and at least 2 hours away from the only city I knew of relatively well (London). Being in a single-sex Christian boarding school as the only fully black kid out of some 600-people. Never knowing which parent would have me for school holidays. Having to stay with friends or “foster” holiday parents in the UK. Dealing with an ever diminishing relationship with my mum. Perpetually worrying about the welfare of my baby brother. My mother’s FUCKING CRAZY BOYFRIENDS. Changing schools. Figuring out my sexuality. Discovering my mother’s a homophobe. Going to university….and on, and on.

But bringing it back to a key artist – Chris Cornell.  When he formed the band AudioSlave, and their album came out, I was studying for my A-Levels and found solace within Music Technology. It was the perfect balance of asking for help and having a community of like minded weirdos who were totally talented and being left utterly and completely to your own devices. The main flavours of genres were jazz, trip hop, and rock/grunge. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were a firm favourite with a few other bands here and there, including SoundGarden/Temple of Dog.

Cochise pretty much summed up the previous 3 years of my life in equal parts of sorrow, regret, anger, deception, fear, and wrath. Amidst the musicians creating soundscapes that can capture all of that, was Chris Cornell’s voice. Melodic and raspy, cutting and velvety, hoarse yet fine. And a vocal range that was utilised to an inch of its existence. Not with “over souling” you’d hear the likes of Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera or a pentecostal church singer. No, his pure tones were as impressive as his moderate tremolo.

I thought about suicide a few times. Between AudioSlave and Korn, I’m glad I didn’t. The marks on my arm are virtually invisible to everyone except for me, but you can see the remains if I choose to show you.

It’s strange, writing this now, out of my head, the dots all add up far better than I thought. When I caught wind of Chris Cornell passing, and finding it to be true from a verified source, I literally felt a numb pulse drive through me. Only for a moment, but long enough for me to notice it and stop what I was doing and clear my mind to actually register what I was feeling – or wasn’t.

Initially I had said that another part of my creative heart has gone numb. And it’s true. But the difference between the verbally emotive soul of Chris Cornell and the multi-instrumental genius of Prince Nelson Rogers is one of generation and protection.

Prince was my mother’s artist. Chris Cornell was one of mine.

Undoubtedly in the years to come there will be more numb darts to be thrown at my creative heart, when the likes of Jay Kay, Fred Durst, Wes Borland, Missy Elliot, Grace Jones and a few others pass.

They all have legacies, and as each one passes, people who can and should create their own in music and art need to have their own legacies. Of course, referring to myself and my fear of failure and equal fear of success to being an actual creative/muse/artist and paid for it. Is robbing me of a life well lived.

But I can’t let the guy who saved me from killing myself, kill himself without an effective thunderclap from all the quiet souls he saved unknowingly.