Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Meaning of Life

 I’ve been reading a bit of philosophy lately. I suppose we all have some interest in the questions of philosophers. In my case though, I just wanted to read up on the philosophers so that I’d sound intelligent down in the pub on a Friday night. If someone said something like ‘I can’t stand all this clerical abuse stuff’, I could turn around and say “a tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.” Then I’d murmur ‘Aristotle’ under my breath.
But it didn’t work. I’ve ended up bogged down in all these questions about the meaning of life that I just can’t get my head around. At the moment I’m on Spinoza. He’s the guy who asks these five questions:
Spinoza: a genius with popping
out eyes who ended up
as a lens grinder

Why does anything exist?
How is the world composed?
What are we in the scheme of things?
Are we free?
How should we live?

 I know that the answers are all in the book, but I keep falling asleep when I read it because it’s one of those books that have all these little numbers in it that refer to some point or other that you have to look up in the back of the book so I tend to get a bit lost. If I understand him correctly though, the man is cool. He argues for freedom of thought and religion, and we’re talking the 1600’s here. Guess what he wanted to do? He wanted to take political power away from the clergy, and criticized organised religion. He was into a pantheistic view of God, and was all for the idea of a democratic and secular society. So it was kind of like what Ruairi Quinn wants to do with the primary schools, just 500 years earlier.
Then he wrote a book called ‘The Ethics’, and it only got published after he snuffed it. I don’t know much about that book because it was written in the form of definitions, propositions and axioms, and it’s all about metaphysical stuff and logics. Bottom line is this though: he believed that everything in the universe is one single substance that you can call ‘God’ or ‘Nature’. Everyone, according to Spinoza, is a localised concentration of the attributes of reality, because the only true individual is the universe as a whole. And with that in mind, to become free, you are supposed to understand that if you see how everything is one, then you are aware of the totality of the universe, which is to be free. Well I think that’s it.
Obviously, the same thing happened to Spinoza that happens to most thinking people. He was expelled from the synagogue and denounced by Christians as an atheist, so he gave up the aul’ philosophy and spent the rest of his days earning a living as a lens grinder.
All the same though, I’m still stuck on the first question. Why does anything exist?
I remember years back one of my kids was doing a course in philosophy for gifted 8 year olds. Before going to it he claimed that he shouldn’t really be giving up his Saturday for a subject that he already knew everything about. ‘What do you mean’ I asked him. ‘Philosophy asks the question as to what is the meaning of life’ he replied, ‘and I already know that.’ ‘Great’, I replied, ‘tell me, I’d love to know.’
‘Life doesn’t have a meaning’, he said, ‘if it did, there would be no need for evolution.’
Sounds plausible, but it still leaves you stuck on the first question ‘why does anything exist?’
I think I’ll talk about football down in the pub on Friday. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sex: the Place and the Time

For someone who feels most at home in a tent and claims to be able to sleep anywhere as long as I’m tired; I’m surprised at how picky I am about location when it comes  to having sex. Years ago I hiked overland to China, sleeping mostly on trains and the floors of hostels that swore there were no snakes. I’ve been one of those bums sleeping on the beach in Greece. I slept under a boat in Italy, on a roof in some hot country that I can’t remember the name of, and I once even slept in a phone box when I was locked out of my house back in the days of no mobile phones.
It’s different when it comes to sex though. Beaches are out for a start. I mean, I don’t even like exfoliating in the shower, so why the hell should I have to exfoliate every crack and orifice of my body whilst trying to perform the love act? A mouthful of whatever tickles your fancy is just not hot when it comes topped with sand.
Then there are cars. I remember dating a guy years ago when I was more ignorant than innocent. We had a very romantic night out. It started in the pub (anyone remember Macs in Dalkey?), from there we went to the Chinese, going halves on a bag of chicken balls with sweet and sour sauce. It was the exotic upgrade to a spring roll, and came with chips. From there we drove up Killiney Hill and parked in the car park overlooking Dublin Bay. I thought it extremely romantic that a number of cars seemed to be there too, enjoying the night lights twinkle across the city.
Once we’d eaten, he put his arm around me leaned over. ‘Do you want what I want?’ he asked. ‘I think so’ I replied. He leaned back on the drivers’ seat and with a grin said ‘come and get it.’ So I did. I picked up the polystyrene cup that the sickly sweet sauce had been in and fished out the pineapple at the bottom. Looking back, we were obviously both after different things, and I did cop it that we were misunderstanding each other on that fateful night when he said ‘great view, isn’t it’, as we sat awkwardly side by side in his car. ‘Yeah’, I said, ‘you can see right across the bay’. Only then did he point out the even better view. There was a very white arse filling the window of the passenger car beside us. It rapidly appeared and disappeared. So this was what it was all about I  thought, no longer feeling sorry for people whose windows were all steamed up not being able to see the great view all the way over to Howth. I’d screwed up, I knew it, but at least I’d gotten the piece of pineapple.
Not to say that I never had any follow up experiences in cars after that, but no matter how much passion, sex in cars is really only good for those emergencies when there isn’t a bed available. Clutches are ruthless and if you lose a pair of knickers in a car in the dark; forget it.

The shower. My message to fat bottomed girls like my good self who live in a country where the water pressure is underwhelming, is this: if you are into a splash of water running down your arm, whilst trying to copulate in a standing position (and remember, doing it standing requires certain compatible height elements which are rare), whilst the rest of your body begins to freeze as it is a little bit wet but mostly cold, well if you like that sort of thing and if you think goose pimples look sexy, best of luck to you, but remember you also have to get out of the shower and dry off. My one further tip to anyone who likes doing it in the shower is that if you choose to do it in the home of your partner’s parents when they are away, don’t leave the bathroom together naked because there is also the risk that the parents have arrived home unexpectedly and you didn’t hear them what with the sound of the shower and the thump of the loofah. It sounds funny but it’s not. Believe me; having supper after such an incident is a real conversation killer with the future in-laws.

Then there are public toilets. I remember doing it in the toilet of an aeroplane. I mean, you kinda have to when you’re on a plane, because you can’t really step outside or get a room. What I wasn’t thinking was that once we’d done it we’d have to put up with everyone on the plane grinning at us. I hadn’t realised in advance that my copulative partner in crime was a screamer. If they could have kicked us out they would have, but the walk of shame up and down the isle of that transatlantic flight for the next few hours was punishment enough.

There’s only one good place for sex, and I know, because I am an expert on this matter. And that is: bed. You get a big comfy mattress, blankets, walls and a roof. In my case there is also an en suite bathroom, an electric blanket, suggestive lighting, good music and a great lover all at hand. In fact, I'd even go as far to saying that the cocktail called ‘sex on the beach’ would be much more popular if it were called ‘sex in the bed’. Yum. And most people can relate. 
The only thing that's really getting to me now that I’ve found the perfect place is wondering how the hell we're ever going to find the time?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Fat Lot of Good

 This may not be a new and groundbreaking thing for a middle aged woman to do; but I’m on a diet. Probably what makes my weight issues a little different from other women though, is that I just don’t see how fat I am. While many women will look into the mirror and go ‘my arse looks huge in that’ or ‘I can’t go to the party, I’m the size of Roscommon’, I tend to look in the mirror and think ‘I look good today’. I can’t understand why I am size extra fatty when my reflection just seems the same to me as when I was size skinny bitch.
But then something happened. My American cousin sent me some photos following her recent visit to the homeland, and one of them was of this really obese woman slouched into a chair. At first I didn’t like to judge the obese lady, as I am aware that there is an obesity problem in the United States, and this woman probably lives in a house where Coca Cola comes out of the taps (they’d say faucet), instead of water.
It was only when I realised that the woman was actually no other than my good self that I sat up (out of my slouch) and did a reality check, because fat bottomed girls are not all that sexy really.
Fat Bottomed Girls are actually not all that sexy really
It was true that none of my clothes fitted me anymore and that I weighed more than a heavyweight boxer on the scales, but it wasn’t true that this was merely because my clothes had all shrunk in the wash over time or that the cheap poor quality scales must have been long broken.

So I did it. I joined weight watchers. It was a bit like the King’s New Clothes story. Once I realised that I am pretty much on par with a walrus, the scales fell from my eyes. I also came to a few realisations. Firstly, the idea of eating when you’re hungry and having whatever it is you feel like eating; doesn’t work. Possibly it just doesn’t work for me, because on reflection it seems I was the only person in the office who ate their way through the day, and once I started comparing notes with other people on eating habits, it looks like it’s just me who tended to pop into the petrol station for a 99, a few do-nuts and a bag of crisps on the way home. It also turns out that ready made meals for two are actually not just for one and apparently, not everybody orders pizza once a week and it seems most of my peers only go to fast food outlets the odd time, whereas I would have been hailed as a regular, with a special area cordoned off for me.
Then there’s the exercise. It looks like walking from the car park into the supermarket is not going to do it after all. So I joined the local gym. I came across this kind of masochistic machine called a cross-trainer. Yes, even machines can be cross. It makes you move every part of your body that might just hurt afterwards. But hey, I’m going to get fit and slim and gorgeous, so I kept at it. After about a week, I managed to do it for 15 minutes non-stop, even if the woman beside me was at it for an hour, and deep down I knew that the other members of the gym were only smiling at me because they felt sorry for the fat lady trying to get fit.
The worst part of it is that I’ve lost a stone, that’s what, 14 pounds, and I’m so fat that nobody has even noticed yet. Everywhere I go I’m faced with beautiful skinny people ordering sausages and chocolate cake in cafés, while I sit there miserably with my skinny latté. It's just not fair.
To make things worse, my partner is a dietician who keeps helping me by suggesting I eat this piece of spinach or that piece of turkey with the skin cut off. I badly need to hang out with people who can convince me that there are zero weight watcher points in chicken korma followed by a cheescake. I should never have gone official with it really. Even the kids are getting to eat their chocolate bars without me grabbing half of it off them claiming that I have to ‘check it’s all right for them.’
There are good things about dieting and exercise though. Firstly, you can go to the gym for 15 minutes and then spend an hour in the Jacuzzi, and secondly, you can blame letting off wind on all the greens you are eating. The worst thing is wondering what you are going to do when you reach your goal, do you start pigging out all over again, until you get the next wake up photograph? I suppose it’s a bit like a dog chasing a car really, what do you do if you actually get it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Cure for Depression

 I suffer from depression. Actually, no, I don’t, I’m just moody. Then again, you could say that I’m not moody at all, but that rather, I am enlightened as to how miserable the world is, so therefore, I am neither depressed nor moody. In fact, I am an enlightened soul who realises that being bitter and twisted is actually the most realistic way to view this world.
Let’s face it, by the time you reach middle age you’ve probably been cheated, robbed, disappointed, sick, broke, bereaved, bereft, hurt, betrayed, stabbed in the back and taken for a ride at least once. You may also realise that you have become your mother, your father, your schoolteacher, the bin man an imbecile, all rolled into one.
Funnily enough, most days I am blissfully unaware of all this tragedy and sorrow that fills the world. Most days I am too busy looking for a pair of socks or going down to the shops to get milk. But then you get a day that there’s plenty of milk and all your socks match and you start wondering what to do with yourself and then you ask yourself what life is all about.
That’s when I start to get cantankerous. Because when you have milk and matching socks in abundance, you begin to ask yourself if it’s really worth spending your days chasing same?
Then you ask what else could you be doing that might be better, and you realise it doesn’t matter whether you’re scouring the toilet bowl or writing the definitive Irish novel. In the end, they only matter to you anyway, and you’ll die and a month after that the designer outfit you worked your ass off for, both physically and metaphorically, will be on sale for tuppence in a Charity Shop, and worse; nobody will want it. And despite realising that whatever you do, ever, is a waste of time, you also feel that this may not be true, and that perhaps you should have done other things with your life to now, but you didn’t, so here you are at middle age, wondering what the hell excuse you have for creating the ozone hole with your farts.
You slouch on the sofa eating chocolate and drinking wine, because after all, it doesn’t matter that you’re ass is the size of Roscommon, and this is the closest you’ll ever get to being in a Bukowski novel.
But then one of the kids comes in and says we have no milk and that they want some cereal because we have no lunch or dinner either. That’s when you get in the car and go to the shops for milk, and then you’re busy again, and you forget that you suffer from depression, or do you?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Goodbye Facebook

 I’ve left Facebook. But there’s a problem. Now I’m wondering where to post ‘I just left Facebook’ as my current status. I suppose Twitter. But if I do that I might get too addicted to Twitter, and then I’ll have to quit Twitter too and if I do that I won’t be able to pour out my innermost thoughts to the whole world in 140 characters.
I left Facebook because I only have six years to finish my novel before moving to New York, and let’s face it, in six years time there’s no way that having an incredible high score in Bejewelled Blitz and two thousand friends who like my latest status is going to get me Brownie points on a Visa application to the USA. And besides, the book won’t be finished, and I really don’t want to still be a wannabe writer when I’m well over fifty.

I’ve convinced myself that the three extra hours per day that releasing myself from Facebook will bring, will be spent writing my novel, and so far so good, I’ve been at it all day. But realistically the novel writing is just a stop gap until I find a new time wasting addiction. I’m thinking chatting to neighbours (the old fashioned Facebook), writing letters of complaint, phoning in to chat shows and Bingo.
Of course Facebook is a bit like a bad lover. I’ve ditched it before, but I keep going back, just because there’s nothing better and it starts luring me again. And when that happens I start to convince myself that it’s going to be a great way to network and get noticed. But as they say in the money spinning self help books – if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. And from Facebook, all I’ve gotten so far is a lot of addicting games, news about other peoples successful lives; people who seem to be able to juggle success while living on a Facebook page, Farmville requests and pleas to help save the old bridge somewhere on the outskirts of Leicester.
But I’ll miss it. I’ll miss envying how great everyone else seems to be doing and I’ll miss logging on and then hating myself for being on Facebook at all. But the worst thing is the wondering if anyone notices I’m gone. I remember a few years ago I set my status to something like ‘I’m leaving Facebook in five days, goodbye everybody.’
Of my five hundred and something virtual friends two of them said they’d miss me. Not great considering that one of those two people live with me, and the other one was the stalker who I leaving Facebook to avoid. And worse, a few people clicked the ‘like’ button, which I wasn’t sure meant that they liked the fact I was as good as virtually dying, or whether they liked my bravery for turning my back on the world of having my social life removed from my living room.
So there you go – goodbye Facebook, hello staring into Space book. And of course considering that my greatest link to the blog was via Facebook, there’s probably nobody reading this blog right now. Or is there? Hello? Hello?
Damn this is lonely…