How cynical are you?

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How Cynical Are You?

Just thought I’d make a quick update as I haven’t posted in a while. I’m still not feeling well which is why I haven’t been online lately… I think it’s just a virus but it’s frustrating. I haven’t been able to answer comments yet either but I wanted to thank everyone for their thoughts on my last post; you’ve given me a lot to think about and I’ll be following up with another post in a few days.

I haven’t done much writing either but I’ve been thinking about an idea which could be different for me… it was sparked by a dream and I’m just debating whether it should be a screenplay or a story at the moment. I had this image of a man emerging from a fire, a shape-shifter, and everything’s just fallen into place from that scene. I’m leaning towards the screenplay, but we’ll see… I’ll post a short synopsis once the details are worked out.

Anyway, as I haven’t been able to do a normal post, who’s up for a quiz? 🙂 I found this one earlier and thought it was interesting. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a cynic but I am with my writing; I’m confident but I try to keep myself in check. Apart from that my result seems about right… I’m fairly positive but I know how the world works and my impressions are pretty accurate.

I wonder if being cynical is so bad, though? A cynic is often portrayed as pessimistic but I think you can have a healthy scepticism about anything; sometimes being a little cautious can be a good thing. What’s interesting is how our impression of cynicism has changed from its origins, though. Originally cynicism wasn’t about seeing the world in a misanthropic way as much as advocating a simpler lifestyle in the pursuit of virtue. It encompassed a number of Greek philosophies but now a cynic is someone who always believes the worst in humanity… as a philosophical movement you can see its benefits but now it seems somehow dishonourable. Strange how times change.

So are you a cynic? Do you think cynicism has its place? I’d be interested to find out. And I’m looking forward to catching up with your blogs again too. It feels weird catching a virus when it’s still 26° C outside… must be Murphy’s Law. Or maybe I’m just being cynical. 😉

Nature's Fury

Sydney Surf

If there’s one thing I’ll never get used to it’s the weather. Sometimes it has a mind of its own. The last few weeks have seen some bizarre weather conditions across Australia; it was pleasant in Sydney over Christmas, but the other cities sweltered in 45°C heat and for the last week or so we’ve had wild storms sweep across the eastern coast.

The rain’s been intermittent but annoying; it’ll stop quickly, but you’ll get soaked if you’re caught in it. What’s been amazing, though, is watching the gigantic waves crashing against the beaches. I’m not sure how well the picture shows it; some of the waves are up to four metres high. Most of the beaches have been closed for the last week, but they’re still attracting people to watch.

Foam

Even stranger has been this sea foam that’s washed up on a couple of the beaches. I’ve seen it once before and apparently it’s a lather of crushed up plankton and seaweed; it almost looks like yeast. A few people tried swimming in it; not sure I’d want to, but it’s amazing to look at. This guy looks like he’s had the bath from hell. 😉

The weather’s caused a lot of damage but it’s still strangely beautiful. Just reminds me that with everything we can create, there’s nothing more beautiful than nature’s fury.

Nature’s Fury

Sydney Surf

If there’s one thing I’ll never get used to it’s the weather. Sometimes it has a mind of its own. The last few weeks have seen some bizarre weather conditions across Australia; it was pleasant in Sydney over Christmas, but the other cities sweltered in 45°C heat and for the last week or so we’ve had wild storms sweep across the eastern coast.

The rain’s been intermittent but annoying; it’ll stop quickly, but you’ll get soaked if you’re caught in it. What’s been amazing, though, is watching the gigantic waves crashing against the beaches. I’m not sure how well the picture shows it; some of the waves are up to four metres high. Most of the beaches have been closed for the last week, but they’re still attracting people to watch.

Foam

Even stranger has been this sea foam that’s washed up on a couple of the beaches. I’ve seen it once before and apparently it’s a lather of crushed up plankton and seaweed; it almost looks like yeast. A few people tried swimming in it; not sure I’d want to, but it’s amazing to look at. This guy looks like he’s had the bath from hell. 😉

The weather’s caused a lot of damage but it’s still strangely beautiful. Just reminds me that with everything we can create, there’s nothing more beautiful than nature’s fury.

7 things I want to do before I die

The beginning of the new year’s made me think about a few things. Well, that’s not unusual; I’m always thinking. 😉 But particularly I’ve been thinking about some of the things that I’d like to achieve in my life. Recently I’ve decided to have a look at my priorities, so I thought making a list of some of those things might be a good place to start.

It’s just a short list; I plan to add something new each year so it stays fresh. They’re things I’d like to be able to look back on in later years, things that would make me feel I’d achieved something and could remember with fondness. I wonder how many would be on your list?

7) Learn to dance.
I’m a terrible dancer. I always feel self-conscious and awkward. A large part of that is I’m very sensitive to noise, so being near loud music is difficult. But I’d love to be able to dance; to dance with my wife at our reception would be something I’d remember for the rest of my life. Of course, first I’d need a wife…

6) Spend time on every continent.
I’ve always wanted to see more of the world. Over the next 10 years I hope to see more of Europe and the Americas and it’s my dream to see the Pyramids. Eventually I hope I’ll be able to spend some time on each continent. Antarctica will be the difficult one, if you believe Al Gore.

5) Make a pilgrimage.
I’m not sure where I’d like to go yet but making a journey I’d remember for the rest of my life is something I’d love to do. Jerusalem would be one possibility, or tracing Rome’s history… probably what appeals to me the most is tracing Darwin’s route through the Galápagos.

4) Sleep under the stars.
This is probably the easiest one to do but one day I’d love to get out of Sydney and spend several nights under the stars. You can barely see the stars at night here and the sky is never clear; I imagine being away from the city, the darkness would be beautiful.

3) Listen to someone’s life.
I’ve always liked the idea of a speaker for the dead, to use Orson Scott Card’s term, someone who would learn and speak about a life honestly. One day I hope to listen to someone tell me their story, to truly get the chance to know them… and then if someone wanted to know about them after they had passed, to share it so they would live on.

2) See John Williams and Howard Shore in concert.
I talk about music a lot, but I’m actually more interested in classical music than I am pop music. I write to it and I think movie scores are the closest thing we have to the great compositions of the past. For me John Williams’ score for Star Wars and Howard Shore’s for The Lord of the Rings are the greatest scores ever written (Miklos Rozsa’s Ben-Hur a close third). I’d love to hear both performed live, given the opportunity.

1) See all 4 Grand slams.
Tennis tragic that I am I’d love to see Wimbledon, the Australian, French and US Opens live. I haven’t been to the Aus Open in Melbourne yet but I hope to go next year; if things work out well, that might be when Federer overtakes Sampras’ record. Hopefully I’ll be able to see the others too at some stage. Maybe I’ll be able to see Agassi’s and Graf’s daughter win Wimbledon. 🙂

Is happiness a state of mind?

You know, one of these days I’m actually going to finish a post when I mean to. Recently I’ve got into the habit of starting posts and not finishing them… I’m not sure why, there’s nothing particularly wrong with them. I just don’t feel like posting them and they get put aside.

I started doing it again with this post; I started writing it on Boxing Day and only got back to it today. I needed a couple of days to clear my mind anyway, so it wasn’t a bad thing… it’s just annoying and feels too much like writer’s block to me. I have enough of that in my life already, thanks.

Anyway, I’ve found myself thinking about happiness a lot lately. What started it was when I had dinner with my parents on Christmas day. A funny thing happened. It was just the three of us as we’re never that fussed about having a big Christmas. A couple of hours before we were going to eat, my mother decided to use the good china and we spent about ten minutes trying to find the good glasses to go with them. I think they must have vanished into the Twilight Zone because we couldn’t find them, so we settled for some champagne glasses instead.

I don’t drink much, so it was just ginger ale and it probably would have been easier to have drunk it out of the bottle. But it seemed like a nice idea, so I went along with it. My mistake. I’m halfway through the meal – a nice salad; we can’t imagine a roast on a hot day – and start to take a sip. Except I can’t. The glass won’t go past my nose.

I’ve never thought of myself as having a particularly large nose, but I must have as I just couldn’t get the glass past it. Maybe my nose was broken when that sandbag hit me ten years ago; maybe I’ve been telling too many lies like Pinocchio. Either way, it wasn’t working and tipping my head back didn’t help. I had a decision to make; either admit defeat (ha!) and get a different glass, or work out some other way.

So very slowly I started to slide down in my chair. I was able to angle the glass more and eventually the drink started to tip out. Of course by this time my parents were in absolute hysterics and I’m busy studying them, trying to work out which was to blame for my humongous nose. Strangely they’re both quite normal. I guess the gene must have skipped a generation. 😕

Later on I thought about it and I realised that, in a strange way, it was a nice experience. I mean, yes, I was being stubborn, but I didn’t feel embarrassed or stupid; I was with family and it’s been a while since we’d laughed like that. Even now when I think about it, it still gives me a happy feeling and that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.

Happiness is a strange thing, isn’t it? It’s something that can feel so different; contentment and peace can give us one kind of happiness, intense joy another. The way we each experience happiness is different, as is what makes us happy. Something I find funny – a show like Seinfeld or Friends – might be annoying to someone else; likewise some of us might go through our lives without showing much emotion, but might still feel peaceful and content. Happiness is so hard to define, but plays such an important part in our lives.

What I’ve been wondering recently is, do I feel happy in my life? Am I a happy person? If I’m being honest then I’d have to say I’m not sure. Most of the time I’m probably not; I like to laugh (and make people laugh) and try not to take things too seriously, but I consider things carefully and that’s my natural response. At the same time I’m not unhappy or sad either. I actually think I’m at peace most of the time. Happiness or sadness is an emotional response for me; I’m neither all the time, I’m just going about my day.

I think a lot of people confuse being “positive” with being “happy”. Being positive is a way of looking at life; being happy is an emotional response which comes from your mindset. You can choose to be positive, but usually something happens that makes you happy. I’ve heard people say they’re positive and so they’re happy, but I’m not so sure. For a lot of people having a positive mindset is a great thing; it lets you look to the future and it’s helped sportspeople and people in everyday life. But I’ve met several people who I’ve thought are so positive that they’re miserable. They work so hard at creating their outlook that they bring everyone down, including themselves; their relations with their families and friends are strained and though they’re positive, they never seem particularly happy… they always want more.

I think having a positive outlook in life is more likely to make us happy, but doesn’t mean we will be happy. And I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve been reading some articles recently that indicate if you’re happier, you’ll be healthier too. One study found that “happy” subjects were one-third less likely to develop a cold, while another found that people who thought in happier and more positive ways were more likely to increase their longevity by an average of 10 years.

If that’s right then there’s a definite reason to want to be happier. And so maybe I should make more of an effort to be happier and not let things bother me… although again I don’t feel like I’m unhappy or particularly negative. I’m content with who I am and think I’m a fairly realistic person. Plus isn’t the whole idea of what makes us happy all relative? I’m writing a new poem at the moment and like a lot of my poetry, it’s quite melancholic… some people might find it depressing but even though it’s sad, it makes me happy because it’s something I want to write. I think the key to happiness is respecting yourself, and in that way I’m at peace.

I wonder what you think? Does being happy make us healthy? Is happiness a state of mind? I’d be interested to find out, and I wish you all peace and happiness in the new year. 🙂