The Glass Vase a.k.a Life

Life, in the words of one of my favourite authors (Neil Gaiman) is “a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal“. With the recent deaths of musicians and actors that we have all admired (maybe even idolised or fancied) for many years; from David Bowie to Lemmy, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey, we feel we have lost part of ourselves as they wrote the soundtrack to our lives or a distant friend that never judged but was there in the background. As a result I have been thinking about the fragility of life, which to me is best thought of as like a glass vase held in a toddler’s hands, which could shatter in an instant.

No amount of preparation is able to prepare any of us for death only that that it will happen one day; nor can we protect ourselves or those we love from the impact of it. The shards of glass are like the bits of the person now gone; there are things we all may like or admire in a person, but equally there are bits only some people saw like the unique design that made them who they were or with the addition of flowers they became like an amazing support that many took for granted. At first we may try in vain to glue the shards back together before realising we cannot bring back what is gone, and the water on the floor increasing as the tears fall from our eyes like a river meeting the sea. Even when the shards are put in the bin, there is still part of them that will forever be part of us, as had a shared history (good and bad). Some may think getting a new vase will be the same, but it will not have the memories and identity that the one now gone had, and can never truly replace it.

However, it is important not to be scared of the vase shattering but remembering what the vase meaning is to us every day as can mean different things to different people, just as life can be different for us all. It can vary in the colours/shape/form because we all come in different ones, the only thing we share is being human and it is the diversity that is our true artistic self. It does not matter where the vase is, be it on a broken shelf in a run down house or a museum as created by some artisan of note, we all matter to someone. What that is can vary too; a vase may hold flowers that a loved one gave us to mark our birthday or Valentine’s Day, it also may have bought at an art gallery shop after enjoying an exhibition by a favourite artist or the colour fitted with the new décor of our living room. Finally, remember no vase is truly perfectly made, just as we all have flaws or hidden defects, perfection is a lie we tell each other as a way to convince ourselves as much as others. 

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Hollywood Love

Movies, who does not want to see the latest blockbuster at the cinema or curl up on the sofa with a loved one to watch one? Well I don’t and I have not been to the cinema in over six years. I do not subscribe to Amazon Instant, Netflix or I love Film as there is nothing that grabs my imagination or interest to say “oh I must make sure to see that” after hearing publicity or friends talk about movies they’ve seen. Certainly when it comes to Hollywood movies it feels like I have seen it all before with the amount of remakes, sequels, prequels and even the new ones have old themes that have been done before, often better, to the point of saturation. So where is the originality and/or creativity?

Is it because the big studios do not want to take risks, rather have a guaranteed income with star names people will go see? Take the current movie about the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, I have nothing against Meryl Streep, but why does she have to play yet another iconic Britain (having previously played former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) when there are many British actresses who could have played the role. The same thing echoed when Renne Zellweger first played Bridget Jones, when I thought of many comedic actresses in the United Kingdom that fitted the roll better. Have a Hollywood name and then can sell the movie not just within the United Kingdom but to America and beyond seems to be the order of the day, as providing the money to pay for the movie to be made and stakeholders want to have a large return on the costs.

However, this post is not about the creativity and/or actors of Hollywood, it is about the way movies portray love. In Ancient Greece romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it, instead love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other. Where as today when someone says to us they love us BUT just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. So when did this switch begin and what role has Hollywood played in this?

The idea of unconditional love is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god. Today we would almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. Yet what has influenced this and caused such a shift?

From almost the moment a child is born we read to them fairy tales of a princess and prince meeting after he’s rescued her from horrible existence and they live happily ever after. I should note if you have ever read the original Brothers Grimm versions you will know how sanitised these versions are of the tales, you will never read or see Sleeping Beauty the same way again. Little girls dream of being princesses, sometimes beyond, conditioned to believe one day their prince charming will come to free them the life that traps them. Despite the fact few of us look like the so-called princesses and even fewer are a real life one.

Many Hollywood movies made in the 1980s and 1990s were aimed at the growing teenage market, particularly the so called Brat Pack, depicting how life was in an often exaggerated form to be that age. Girl meets boy, they secretly fancy each other but cannot be together until something happens. However, even when they get together there is a sting that he’s done something she won’t like so they split up until he finds a way to prove to her he loves her unconditionally. Like the fairy tales it is implied that they both lived together happily ever after. Conditioning us further to believe that this is how love is meant to be for teenagers.

The so-called romantic comedies play up the fairy tale notion of love conquering all to be with the one we’re meant to be with against the odds. They are like the teenage movie but aimed at all ages, in particular women. As a woman I am suppose to enjoy these kinda of movies as appeal to my feminine side, where as in reality most movies I enjoy are driven by a good plot and idea(s), particularly those set in the dystopian worlds as feel more realistic than the unrealistic utopian ones the romcoms portray. To me they are saccharine sweet and far from funny but add to a perpetuation of how a female and male are. They also almost exclusively heterosexual.

Another way love is shown in movies is how they show the so-called TRUE LOVE, which is filled with passion, romance, drama, desire, sacrifice, electricity, devotion! This is to typify the unconditional or fairy tale love. They long for the person that completes them or is their soul mate. We are led to believe that this love is everlasting as after all they did live happily ever after at the end of the story/movie, right? When a relationship ends we some times find people say that it was never true love they felt for him or her, which is often false, as what you felt for that person was love, it is the feelings that have changed with time. So yes (s)he really loved us and was true love, but it does not mean it lasts a lifetime for everyone.

Many movies now also have sex scenes, which show us its so called importance within a relationship. Wait stop, why is sex seen as so important these days unless due to us watching movies, TV programs, music videos and the media that have made it such an issue? For some sex is the ultimate expression of love, but in reality it is far from that, a person’s thoughts and actions is what matters not how often they have sex with us. For some it has such an important part of a relationship, a partner that does not want it is seen as weird or frigid, or force them to have it even though they have said no. The partner then looks for it elsewhere, thus affairs behind the back of this person we’re meant to love unconditionally. Many now think nothing of having alcohol and having sex with a complete stranger, which may or may not become a partner/lover in the future.

Some like myself are asexual, we have no sexual desire, but that does not mean we do not enjoy the other aspects of being in a relationship. Even within asexuality there are many differences, it is not an one size fits all definition. Equally for me sex is a trigger, I cannot watch scenes with it on as my head says please stop and I do not want to see that, so I avoid it where I can. Sex is not a dirty thing to me so do not get me wrong, it is more I feel it is something to do with someone we trust and comfortable in the company of, not a throw away line at the end of a night out with friends and the next morning it is like yesterdays newspapers best for wrapping fish and chips.

From observing the relationships of friends and family with those they love it can be seen how it is very much an umbrella term to cover many different ways we can feel about another human being. My closest friends I love unconditionally and will do anything for until my dying day as they have such a special place within me that when I think of them individually and/or collectively that I feel blessed to have them in my life. My sister in law said when she first saw my brother she knew that was the man she wanted to marry, compared with a friend that kept meeting a girl at the school gates, a fellow single mother, neither of which would have called themselves gay or lesbians then but fell in love with the person.

I often feel like the odd one out as see people in relationships and at almost 37 never experienced what it is to be in love. I never had a childhood sweetheart or did the drunken rumble as a student, as not something I looked for or did it call at my door. The one relationship I have had was nine years ago, long distance for nine months, that should have been nipped in the bud; it was a false start from the start as they did not respect me as a person nor would support me back as I was to their needs and wants.

I have had attraction once in my life, but have never told him how I feel, as like the Ancient Greeks friendship to me is just as special as romantic love if not more so. As for Hollywood love vs. real life love, I feel we need to stop being sheep or robots believing that is the way for us all, life is not an one size fits all t-shirt but human sized. Therefore, love is full of different quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies that are unique to the love we have for the other person and they bring out within us as play out the movie of our lives.

© Fi S. J. Brown

21st Century Life – Is modern life rubbish?

From the videos of current popstars and actors to the celebrities who’s ‘fame’ is from who they are in relationship with to being on a talent show are shown in the media as rich, attractive, false, shallow, and sexual. Where are the healthy role models, those who express, love, understanding, compassion, charity, health, spirituality and more of what has real value in life? The people I grew up to admire were those that had achieved something in life from Emmeline Pankhurst leading women to fight for the right to vote to Anita Roddick highlighting animal testing in the cosmetic industry and Jane Goodall for her work with chimps. Equally as a music nut, I did not fancy the musicians I listened to, despite being bullied for not knowing which of Take That I fancied. For it was their talent that I admired from John Bonham on drums, Gary Moore on guitar, John Deacon on bass, and Freddie Mercury for his vocal showmanship. This still stands today.

If we ‘hate’ something, it is said the best way to deal with it is to ignore it as nobody forces us with an imaginary gun or got us trapped in a cage torturing us to look or watch. When the real reality of escaping from the modern world’s media is far harder as social media has meant we can see the impact upon our “friends” and their opinions like never before. For me the media has become like an imaginary prison, which we cannot see the bars of our cell. In particular music, movies and TV program us to accept certain ideologies as normal as we see and hear them all the time. I look to my grandparents’ generation, for example when they married it was for love and companionship, working out their problems, now we are amazed if a couple manage to stay together while their children complete secondary education. Have relationships like everything else become so disposable with a use by date now?

Sexuality has increased in my lifetime in the media. I remember “Girls on film” by Duran Duran caused such a stir in the 1980s and now we have people blaming Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga for the downfall of morality! All three’s record labels and management have used the adage “sex sells”. What may have passed for an X rated soft porn film thirty years ago is now to be found almost acceptable in mainstream popular music video or movie at the cinema. Music videos like Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s “Telephone” or Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” are designed to get people watching them in their millions and discussing them not just in the street but on social media too. Makes me wonder where will the makers or puppeteer go next with their “visual art” and what are hidden in messages within them as per Katy Perry’s latest.

Finally, we have become dependent on technology from our portable phones to our computers, it seems impossible for some to leave their phone alone for as little as ten minutes. UNICEF is currently trying to encourage people to do just that. Considering I can leave mine in a different part of the house from where I am working or in my bag when outwith, I find it amazing that one friend said she only lasted five minutes without touching her phone. I was once told that technologically we did not progress from the end of the Roman Empire to the start of the Industrial Revolution, which in itself I feel belittles the achievements of people we will never hear about both before and during this time period. Equally, technology I was told as a child was 40-50 years ahead of what is made public, which I can certainly believe is true if not even greater.

So are we now living in a wondrous age as have access to all this technology? For me, no, I much prefer a good chat with someone – in person or on the telephone, or even a good old letter rather than email. Call me old fashioned but I much prefer the feel of a book over a Kindle, the tactileness to the information inside I feel I understand better as focus more than on a computer or tablet screen. We have access to almost any information we could ever dream of, as well as some made up nonsense and disinformation for good measure. Yet many take what they read on certain sites as proven fact, when many things are theories or as good as Chinese whispers. Is life in the 21st century rubbish, I would say more depressing than rubbish, as we have almost stopped achieving and creating new things that matter to humanity? I look at beautiful art and architecture from hundreds to thousands of years old wondering to myself could this or that be made today, often saying ‘no’ as we have become focused on other things, which do not matter like TV soap operas to how overpaid football players are,. Perhaps if we switched off the TV and computer, left our mobile phones at home, and let’s spend time with those we care about and/or creating from just our imagination, rather than focus on the doom and gloom that is encroaching ever closer, before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown