Although most of Sunday will be spent yelling ‘Wakanda Forever!’ as I trudge about the house, dedicating yourself whole-heartedly to one thing for your entire life is just weird. Yet there is great pressure on ‘the youth’ to find their purpose in life, to join companies and ‘make a difference’ before you’ve even found your desk. It’s what they are continually spoon fed. What is the meaning of your life? You’ve just completed your degree, what will you apply yourself to for the next fifty years? Kerrrriiiiisssttttt! (Note: if it is Christ, that’s fine too).
Einstein, one of the greatest minds in humanity, studied physics but couldn’t hold down a job (the putz!) so became a patent clerk for seven years, following his scientific interests outside of that. He wrote theoretical papers (that seems a dichotomy!), gained a PhD and taught theoretical physics. Visiting the US in 1933, he stayed to avoid Hitler’s iron-grip, wrote to Roosevelt about the potential for nuclear war, got involved in the Manhattan Project, published numerous more scientific papers, championed Zionist causes, and yet his biggest joy in life was actually music. This from a man that couldn’t even count.
Beyonce is a singer of which I know nothing (wait . . . all the single ladies . . . oh-oh-oooohhh!!), yet she is probably one of the most influential artists in history. From starting out as a songstress and quickly becoming one of the biggest-selling female groups of all time, she is a writer, producer, film-maker, dancer, founded her own entertainment company, has her own fashion chain and music streaming service, and has become involved in numerous philanthropic charities. Her proudest moment in life is being a mother.
Elon Musk followed his father into engineering (Errol was a pilot, sailor, consultant, property developer and engineer), studied physics and economics, then became a developer. Elon’s first company was creating internet city-guides, then he started a financial payment system which later developed into PayPal, giving him money to explore his passion for space exploration, founding SpaceX. In the last ten years he’s started companies in electric cars, solar power, underground tunnelling, the hyperloop and combining his love of artificial intelligence with directly interfacing to the brain – of which he announced a breakthrough yesterday. One of those is an achievement for a lifetime, to accomplish all of them is mental. I have no idea what Elon’s love is, although being a complete twat on occasion to British divers is fairly high up there.
Each one of the above examples though starts out on one arc and diverges massively. To quote psychologist, author and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning, the meaning of life is searching for your meaning of life. It won’t be the same now as it will be in twenty years, nor even in five years, maybe not even this week. Today? Well, that’s already decided.
If there was one piece of advice I could give, it would be to take more risks: try different things; be curious; spread your net far and wide, as eventually you’ll find one or many things that will ignite your soul. Perhaps start with this basic premise from another black icon, Will Smith: “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time”.
It’s quite something to start off a blog exclaiming how incredible I am, but there you go. Sometimes you have to just hold your hands up . . . and then simply marvel at how that happens: signals travelling millionths of a second from your brain down the spine, through shoulders to your arms, translating into actions where muscles, tendons and bones all seamlessly combine to perform the action. If you still have your hands up, maybe take the chance to sing ‘oooooh-ohh-oh, oh-oh-oooooh-oh . . . all the single ladies . . .’ whilst you’re there? No? Just a thought.
I spent the week reading Bill Bryson’s The Body – A Guide for Occupant, a tour de force of self-admiration. We are evolutionary wonder machines, true forces of nature. Every few pages inherently ends up in me messaging someone (usually an unsuspecting Regi) with another fascinating piece of knowledge. The genetic codes spanning millennia, the choices our ancestors made for you to even exist are ridiculous - for a glimpse of that, you can’t go wrong with Stephen Baxter’s Evolution. Through this evolutionary process we walk upright, communicate, developed opposable thumbs, have developed acute senses to interpret the world around us, can anticipate seconds or years in advance, can learn and adapt, sing and dance (oooooh-ohh-oh, oh-oh-oooooh-oh . . .), all controlled by using our big brains. To draw from the unparalleled Bill Bryson, everything you know about the world is from an organ that has never seen the light of day. Astonishingly, sitting quietly doing nothing i.e. everyone in lockdown, your brain churns through more information in thirty seconds than the Hubble Telescope can process in thirty years. It’s estimated the human brain is capable of holding two hundred exabytes of information, or looking at it another way, ‘the entire digital content of today’s world’. Makes you feel pretty damned silly though when you misplace your keys, doesn’t it?
Take another look at that jellified, pink body of yours, even that pot belly. You’re a goddamn disgrace! But also, you’re staring at probably the most biologically advanced species in the entire universe. When I was a kid, I was often shocked visiting friends’ houses – all right, all right, friend, imaginary – that their parents didn’t discuss the past 13.8 billion years and how we came to now. My Dad did, and does, constantly mention the infinitesimally small chances of alien life. Evolution takes time, and the universe is still young. For example, if you stretch your arms out wide (lots of exercise today!), let’s imagine your arm-span is the timeline from the birth of the universe on your left middle-finger to when all stars in the universe die on your right. Now, if the Big Bang started on the left, at the tip of the nail, how far do you think the universe has aged in that time i.e. where are we now? The answer is we’re about a width of a very slender human hair along. We may not only be force of nature, but freaks too. Some more than others.
I haphazardly picked up the Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo in the last fortnight, not expecting much, but came out with a whole new perspective. To found one multi-million-dollar company is enough for a lifetime, to manage it thrice (Pixar, Next and Apple) is alien. His sheer drive and leadership were simply astonishing. Could he have changed his clothes more? Probably. With his apparent adversity to washing, perhaps he was more of a ‘actually, you can leave your hands down’ kind of guy.
What am I listening to? ‘Science Vs’ Podcasts hosted by some insightful and funny women from America and Australia. The episodes on 5G and Sleep are excellent, only run for half an hour, and have enough bad jokes to make me guffaw as I get my steps in.
What am I reading? Bill’s book is a chunky one, that’ll keep me going a while
What has piqued my interest? 5G use-cases and how this could transform our world. A US $4.3 trillion industry awaits.
I refuse to turn 40. Not having it. Nope, no way, fu** off, blah blah blah!!! I’m not approaching my third-of-the-way-life crisis or anything like that, am more than comfortable with the miles on the clock, just that I refuse for this to be it in terms of celebrating in lockdown where I can’t go to a café or a restaurant, see friends (look at me, plural!!), walk outside past 8pm or actually be outside for more than an hour. I shall celebrate this properly at a later date. Still accepting cake, cards and well wishes though!
I just picked up The Body, which sounds far more ominous than intended. However, only a few pages in and I’m basking in the literate glow of Bill Bryson’s latest book, finding fascination from within. After finishing Stephen Fry’s book on Greek Mythology, Mythos, during the week, it’ll be a nice little introspective adventure with Bryon’s usual revelry. In the backlog is Richard Layard’s Happiness and The Spirit Level: Why more Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (lot of graphs!) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
To blow minds this week, I bored my team at work with a few facts about the magical number 40. Prepare yourselves, as it is assuredly fascinating i.e. using my week of HelloFresh cooking as a backdrop, let’s say it’s a sauté of tedium, a dash of tiresome with just a little drizzle of interest. To start, you nap for forty-winks, there is the Top-40 music charts in the UK and you work a forty-hour week (pardon me, ‘work’). Forty is the only number in English whose letters appear in alphabetical order, which is nice as it’s always been a worry for my OCD, and for those that can never remember the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion, you can draw comfort that both are the same at 40 below i.e. brisk. In religion, forty is often short-hand for ‘a long time’: Jesus fasted for forty days; the flood lasted forty days and nights; Abraham and his people wandered for forty years. UB40 was a band in the UK that made listening to records feel like a long time, and when read aloud, I do be forty, so that’s good too.
My favourite of all though, given the pandemic, is when the bubonic plague gripped Europe during the Middle Ages, ships would be isolated in harbor for forty days before passengers could go ashore. The Italian word for forty is quaranta, hence quarantine. Mind blown, or what? Oh, come on, are you made of stone!? Will look that up in Bill’s book and see if within the composition of the body, ‘stone = XX%’ appears.
In times when people are cursing their misfortune during the pandemic, I am absolutely counting my blessings. Regi asked me yesterday what my highlight would be of my forty years (apart from meeting her) and I’d have to say it’s the love and support from my family and friends, the countless people I’ve met over the years, from all walks of life, a kaleidoscope of cultures, beliefs and backgrounds. I am truly blessed. Thank you for your friendship, it means a great deal more than you probably realise.
Much love, take care, happy quaranta!
It’s very easy to become distracted, to forget how immensely good we’ve had it, and still have it. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend bouncing around a flat on your own for five weeks – naked Thursday gets repetitive when it’s daily - it has given rise to lucid yet outlandish, preposterous, exciting dreams. For example, this one time, I was going to the cinema, the smell of the salted popcorn wafting through the foyer, a delicious five-gallon drum of icy coke in my hand and some Snake lollies in the other, the air of expectation and electricity amongst the throng walking to the theatre, the audience quietening as the curtain lifted on the screen . . . and then the film began, and we all watched it, and had a nice time. Outrageous! Then someone coughs, and we collectively lose our shit.
There are many positives to lockdown though, and I’ve had to re-read old blog-posts and talk to friends and family to sometimes recapture that. I’m reading continually and deeply, without distraction, I’m writing a great deal (just finished the first draft of the second book, hit me up if you want to do some proof-reading!), working on a business idea with a friend, getting together some material for a magazine submission on an old motorcycle trip, fixing new spotlights to a motorcycle I can’t take out (ermmm . . .), submitting images into a monthly photography competitions, listening to audiobooks when trying to get my 10k steps in before the 8pm curfew, and occasionally exercising to keep my body, hewn from biscuits and coke, in prime shape. And that prime shape is round. Less barrel-chested, more biscuit-barrelled.
Reminiscing on David Schwartz tome, The Magic Of Thinking Big, the core message is that you’re a product of the environment you choose for yourself. I like that. The environment you choose for yourself. There is one term from the book I have used continually: psychological sunshine. Pack your environment with positivity to stimulate your mental health, enhance your down-time and make the most of the moments with those you love. Because tomorrow, who knows what the day will bring? Naked Thursday again, probably.
What am I reading? Stephen Fry’s Mythos on Greek Mythology
What am I listening to? The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo on BorrowBox, and also Rage Against the Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles. All hell can’t stop us now.
Writing and writing...