I was in the US during the latter end of the Clinton/Trump campaign in 2016. I recall being bemused that anyone would take Trump seriously. Despite the flawed Democrat candidature, I felt certain common sense would prevail. I think I may even have cried the day of the results.
And I got sucked into the world of news, news updates, opinions, pollsters… I had always taken a healthy interest in world events, but I think this became unhealthy. I’m British, for what that’s worth, and was more invested in US politics than the increasingly bizzare nonsense happening back home.
Disclaimer: I left the UK in 1995 and have not lived there since. I’m not allowed to vote. I’m more European that British. I’d swap my UK passport for a European-wide passport, were such a thing to exist, in a heartbeat.
Four years of increasingly incredulous nonsense in the US, with the UK desperately trying to keep up by launching it’s own brand of ridiculous, Brexit, and I’m now tired of it all. I kept it up through Biden and Harris’ campaign, victory and its aftermath. And now I’m done. Brexit’s a thing. The UK government has lost the plot. I trust Biden and co. to do the right thing. I’m over second-guessing lockdowns and vaccinations. I’m over gawping at conspiracy theorists. I’m over losing sleep about populism. I’m done with feeding my own anxiety.
Obviously, I’m not going to live in a cave. But I’ve uninstalled news apps from mobile devices. My news consumption will be deliberate and healthy. My only notifications are for messages from my currently absent wife. I’ve unfollowed news organsiations on Twitter and – sorry – accounts focussing solely on endless discussions of the same. I’ve only ever used Facebook for it’s original purpose – keeping in touch with friends. If you are not my actual friend, you won’t be a FB ‘friend’.
My social media use is now restricted to promoting my writing (and following writers’ communities), mindfulness and counselling. For the rest, I’m giving myself a brain break. I feel lighter already.
An Irish form – ‘Ae Freislighe’
Symbols of love requited
Climbing from beds of manure
Hues and fragrance delighted
Vigorous thorny splendour
A gift for my Valentine
Fated emotions arise
Bodies and lives intertwine
Floral power we summise
Here's the really amazing thing
There's nothing to lose, nothing to win
Sunday morning silence surrounds
A realisation profound
Listening to Jeff Buckley's 'Grace'
This is the time, this is the place
Coffee aroma, birdsong abounds
Releasing confusion unsound
Beauty in its simplicity
Letting go of complicity
I'm never going back underground
Life once more conspires to astound
He's now singing Brook's 'Lilac Wine'
But his melancholy isn't mine
I'm alive and on the rebound
In this moment, acceptance crowned
So my wife made me a poetry scrap book – inspirational titles collaged into a notebook. I’m planning to investigate a different poetry form each day, and try to produce something vauely relevant to the titles she has proposed. So this offering is not an indication of my current state of mind…
The poetry form is a Glose, or Glosa – a Spanish form which takes a famous quatrain, and uses each line as the end line in a 10-line stanza, traditionally with four such stanzas. Oh, and alternating line rhymes and rhyming ending couplets…
My prompt was ‘Pain’ and the quatrain I’m quoting is by W.H.Auden, from ‘Funeral Blues’:
"The stars are not wanted now; put out every one
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood
For nothing now can come to any good."
So with apologies to any purists out there, here goes…
Investing in ultimately impossible dreams
Grasping at any likely-looking hand-hold
But nothing is quite what it seems
Solid ground and certainties get old
To get back up and sportingly finish the race
Brush off broken bones and worse
A smile worn in deceit upon my face
Too bone-tired to even utter a curse
There's nothing left, the will is gone
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one
This joyride careers to its inevitable end
How likely that I choose to ride again?
No dusting off now, it's too broken to mend
Walk away and refuse to play, what then?
Melancholy drains the colour from flowers
Insipid greyness pervades every corner
Climbing down from crumbling ivory towers
The spirit and demeanor of a mourner
Nowhere now to hide, nowhere to run
Pack up the stars and dismantle the sun
The sweetest melody transcribes to dirge
The simplest plan failing at birth
No desire, no hope, no future, no urge
Unimaginable that anything could have worth
This is beyond defeat and giving up
A withdrawal from a reality too hard
Take from me this bitter cup
Pluck from me this broken shard
Nothing can change this, and nothing should
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood
Slowly dawning consciousness reveals its trick
Here again this never-ending now
The joke's not a good one; the joke is sick
This has to stop, but I can't see how
Another pointless drawing of breath
For what purpose do I fuel this soul?
No solution offers less permanent than death
Nothing matters, existence an empty whole
I wouldn't stop this now, even if I could
For nothing now can come to any good
Have smartphones really destroyed a generation? We don’t know. But here’s how to find out: Scientists need to ask better questions — and big tech needs to help. Full article here
The 2017 Twenge study reported that in one of the surveys it analyzed, the correlation between social media use and depressive symptoms was .05. Among girls, the correlation was slightly higher, at .06. Include only boys and the correlation dropped to .01 and was no longer significant.
Correlational relationships, in social science, are scored between negative 1 and 1, with negative 1 meaning there’s a perfect negative correlation (as one variable goes up, the other goes down) and 1 meaning a perfect positive correlation.
So .05 is a pretty small positive correlation.
And from The Guardian in January….
“We would, in the light of this paper, reiterate our advice that families spend time interacting as a family, that screens are not allowed to interfere with sleep, and that screen-based interaction is no substitute for in-person contact.”
Screen dims young minds – Frequent use of screens by children aged two to five has been linked to developmental delays by researchers in Canada. The more time children were reported to be spending in front of screens, the worse they did on development tests. The researchers say parents should be cautious about time spent with devices – on average, the 2,400 children they studied spent about 17 hours a week in front of screens at two years old, increasing to almost 25 hours a week at three years, before falling to 11 hours a week at five. Meanwhile the electronic bullying of young people has grown significantly worse in recent years, according to the UK’s media watchdog. Ofcom says 9% of 12- to 15-year-olds report being bullied via text messages and apps.
An absence, a deep rest, a re-birth and a renewal
A renegotiating with myself
Whatever ‘self’ might mean
Modular-mind theories revising our essence
Darwinian prerogatives running out-of-date drivers
For obsolescent software
A return to study
The mind, psychology, mindfulness
And a recognition of the physical
This imperfect perfect body
As optimism peeks out, seeks out, speaks out
A blank page
Greeted with a blank mind
An empty stage
Greeted with empty thoughts
A new day
Greeted my new possibilities
A darkness descends
But not nocturnal
This darkness pervades
The darkness infects
A mocking joke
The darkness taunts
But the darkness won't prevail
Not in this tale.
Bigger, better, faster, more.
More than enough
More than I need
More than I wanted
A future in jeopardy
And reason defied, alas
Achievements in summary
An optimistic trespass
I’ll not take this treachery
This sinking into crevasse
Awake from this reverie
Resist and surpass