Were the Amish Right?

During a browsing session recently, I ended up looking at the Amish in America, I have no idea how but it was interesting so I stuck with it. While reading I came across something that stood out. I knew they didn’t use technology but I had never given any thought to their views on photography. I expected they wouldn’t have a camera but they also don’t like to be photographed, some feel more strongly than others but its best not to go around snapping them as an annoying tourist.

It wasn’t so much that they didn’t like being photographed that stood out, it was more the reasons why. There are some Biblical beliefs behind it but that wasn’t what caught my attention, it was the belief that photographs ‘may accentuate individuality and call attention to themselves.’ ‘They also want to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance.’

I like photographs and I have been guilty of taking the occasional selfie, usually with my family, before they became cool. How before cool, well before phones had selfie cameras cool.

I can’t imagine a world without photographs but then I can’t imagine living like the Amish do. Until recently I would have thought this belief a little silly however it is now difficult to argue against.

Since social media became commonplace and selfies became the norm I have to now admit, they really have a point.

A simple internet search will reveal stories of selfie addiction, selfies with people about to commit suicide, a Russian paramedic taking pictures with dying people and selfies with corpses. You can easily find a lot of negatives arising from the worlds obsession with selfies.

What’s the connection? Well what’s the reason for the selfies? It is purely to draw attention to themselves and to accentuate their individuality. Almost exactly what the Amish believed would come from posing for photographs. There is a constant drive for people to take more extreme selfies, any way to get likes or loves or whatever gives people the hit of social media dopamine.

A little further digging into the web and you will find studies explaining how people are unhappier now and how social media gives people an unrealistic expectation of life. Everyone loves to show what a great holiday they’re having, what celebrity they’re meeting or how amazing they look in their new expensive whatever.

Today, the young are bombarded with good looking people, having amazing times in exotic places. Maybe that’s ok for you but it really isn’t if you have self-esteem issues or are suffering depression. If you feel like everyone else is better looking or having a better life than you, a selfie proving that just rubs salt into the wound.

It’s not unusual for people to delete selfies from social media if they don’t get enough likes. The picture must be bad, they must look ugly or something else negative. Why else wouldn’t you get a load of loves for your new filtered pic?

We live in a time where everything is shoved in your face. The rich flaunt their wealth and super models pose with make up and filters. To a teenage girl feeling fat or a young lad without much cash it really doesn’t help to see a manufactured image proving their inadequacies.

I meet enough people and talk to them enough to know that everyone deals with problems everyday of their lives. I’m old enough to know that people present a fake front and I’m grounded enough to know that I don’t need to be ripped to be happy. I am now but I wasn’t always and I was never really someone who suffered the mental issues that now seem commonplace.

After some searching and thinking I really can’t help but think that the Amish were right. Photographs of ourselves, which the selfie is the ultimate expression of, have lead to a world where some people are so self-obsessed they will pose with a corpse to gain followers. People will sell themselves out for a few minutes of fame and anxiety and depression are commonplace. I’m not ready to give up my camera just yet but they certainly made me think.

 

My inspiration:

http://www.discoverlancaster.com/towns-and-heritage/amish-country/amish-and-photographs.asp

 

© 2018 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

Building the Tallest Tower

Life is like building a tower. Whether its wealth, self-esteem or any other measure of success you build it up like you would a tower of blocks. Whoever has the tallest tower wins and the taller your tower the better you feel. There are two strategies to this. One is to build your tower as high as you can so you stand above everyone else while the other is to pull down everyone else’s tower so they are lower than you. You can do both either alone or in groups, working together to improve your towers or working as a mob to attack other towers. Both will leave your tower as highest, one will make you a positive person, the other wont.

If you take a look around, what do you see? You will see more tearing down than building up. You will see worthwhile movements against wrongs expand and morph into mob attacks on people over minor things. You will see one political sides followers attack their enemy for a Tweet while ignoring and dismissing real acts and attacks from their own side. You will see insults like Nazi, bigot or racist thrown around until they lose their meaning. You may notice that entire groups of people build their very Being about being better than other people. That person is a racist, I am better. That person is a misogynist, I am better. That person is a snowflake, I am better.

All around you will see towers being knocked down by someone to make their own feel taller. The taller the tower the more viciously it is attacked and the lower the tower the more evil the attacker.

Orwell said. ‘Socialists don’t care about the poor, they just hate the rich.’ All of us have experienced Schadenfreude. All of us have witnessed the baying mob of media descend upon a fallen celebrity. Many of us understand the simple joy of knocking someone’s tower just a little or maybe just watching it fall from a distance.

It’s the basis of bullying and almost every evil act of human evil. How many serial killers and criminals come from a hard background where they had their towers destroyed? They go through life stealing, hurting and killing other people to destroy them, and try to make themselves feel better, to make their tower feel less low.

Although we see it and sometimes practice it, few of us understand that by knocking down someone else’s tower, we rarely build ours higher. We just bring everyone down. If we do manage to build ours higher it comes from rotten blocks, overtime the rot will spread and crumble until there is nothing left. Most of us will know someone so bitter and twisted that they just pull people down. These people aren’t happy, they don’t even know how to be happy, they just pull-down others so everyone is miserable.

Each of us has options. We can choose to build our towers higher, a little more each day. We can work with others, some higher who will help us and some lower who we can help. We can work as a team and raise everyone up or we can attack and destroy and hurl insults until all we have is a life built on negativity and hate.

Once you see the options you can choose. Choose the right way to build your tower.

 

© 2018 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

Stuck In A Rut

I heard a phrase recently which I haven’t for some time, it’s one that we’ve all used or at least heard used. ‘Stuck in a rut.’

It basically means a feeling of being trapped, like you’ve been doing the same thing for too long and need to change, often it’s a job or relationship but it can be any type of life situation.

It’s the type of phrase that people usually use after being in that rut for a very long period of time, they say. ‘I’m stuck in a rut.’ When what they really mean is. ‘I’ve spent fifteen years in this job and need to change.’

When I heard it recently though, it really wasn’t a long period of time in the rut and it made me think that life is basically a number of ruts. It sounds depressing but it’s true. Our progression is rarely a smooth climb up the happiness path or massive leaps on the success tree, sometimes it can be but it’s rare. Some people might view the stages as steps, it makes a lot of sense, you take a step up and up and you climb higher. The only problem is a step is a temporary place and people don’t stay standing on a step.

It’s more accurate to see life as ruts, some higher than where you are and some lower, like steps, but the key thing is each one can easily become a rut if we let it.

Perhaps you want to be a brain surgeon, that is your nirvana. Well first you must finish school and get into medical school. These are more like steps because at this point you can easily jump around and give up altogether, they are less like a rut because if you give up now there wont be a path or rut to follow, you are more likely to go with the flow.

What about after medical school? You still have a long way to go to become that brain surgeon but now you are a Dr, a Dr who could be earning good money doing  job you enjoy, its now a rut. You could spend the rest of your life in that rut unless you jump into the next one. The next one could possibly be a specialist Dr but no surgery, more money and kudos and a big old comfy rut to stay in.

Whatever the path we follow, the universe will put most of us into a rut which could sound a little depressing, nobody wants to be stuck in a rut. The key is to plan when to jump up a rut, what you need to do to make the jump or when to sit tight in the one you’re in. There’s also the chance that what looks like a rut will lead to happiness, many people have given up on dreams of traveling or super jobs in order to start a family. If having and spending time with children makes you more happy than being financially successful then so what? Is a happy family really a rut?

I’ve been in ruts in my life and I’ve jumped around too, the key thing I have found is to recognise how each stage of life can easily become a rut if you let it. Once you can see this, you can decide if you want to get out and how.

So the next time you feel stuck in a rut, take a look at what you need to get out of it but remember the next stage could become a rut too.

 

© 2018 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

Don’t buy the meal deal

Everyone’s seen a meal deal. You want a sandwich and maybe a drink but then it’s not much more expensive to have a meal deal with crisps or chocolate. So, we buy the meal deal even though the things we really want aren’t on the deal.

So, what’s the result?

We spend more than we needed to on things we don’t like and eat more calories than we would because it looks like a good deal.

It really isn’t a good deal but we do it all the time.

How many of us do jobs we don’t like to buy things we don’t need to fill houses we don’t own?

Some people want to stop smoking but know that having a coffee with that one friend means they’ll light one up. It could be the one friend they open up with. What they really want is the company of their friend but the coffee comes along accompanied with the cigarette.

Maybe we buy clothes to go out where we spend money we don’t have and suffer a hangover the next morning when we didn’t really want to go out but our friends do or it’s just something we just always do.

Modern life seems focused around doing things we don’t want to or need to do because it suits someone else by giving them our money or time or effort.

This could be a recipe for selfishness but maybe sometimes we need to be just a little bit selfish, not completely but just enough to do what’s best for us. After all nobody considers the people working at a cigarette company when they decide to quit smoking.

Most of these extra things creep in without us recognising what’s happening, the first step is realisation. Once you know what’s happening you can begin to use willpower and maybe then you won’t buy the meal deal.

 

© 2018 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

Jigsaws With Missing Pieces

I’ve never really watched anything by Dave Gorman before, no reason not too, he just hadn’t come to my attention. Then a guy at work suggested it so I tried an episode of Dave Gorman’s Modern Life Is Goodish and the first one I found had a segment about jigsaws. Basically, he found that jigsaw manufacturers used the same patterned pieces just with different pictures printed over them for different sets. He was able to mix the pieces up to make amusing results and it was all entertaining and very clever.  I have no idea how he noticed it but it made for very good viewing.

It was months later while working on a story when the episode randomly came back into my mind. I’d forgotten about it completely and then it popped into my head with a new relevance attached.

Each of us is like a jigsaw. We are all made of the same things but our different experiences and beliefs give us a different picture on the surface. Everything we have seen, heard, read, watched or felt all build up to make the composite of who we are.

The perfect person would have a clear image, mirroring exactly what’s printed on the box. Most of us are not perfect. Most of us have had bad experiences in life that leave us with damaged, missing or defaced pieces. They’re the things people try their best to hide but are always visible even if it’s only when alone and you try to look at yourself in the mirror.

So what can we do about those missing pieces? Some people try to pretend they aren’t there while others try to fill their life with experiences to patch the holes. This is why you often see damaged people with obsessive behavior. The crazy cat lady probably didn’t have a perfect life. The homeless drug addict didn’t decide to one day sleep rough and take heroin. It’s the broken and missing pieces that scar us and when the voids become too big to hide we become unrecognisable from who we should be.

Another way to think about our jigsaws is that people can damage the pieces but people can repair or replace them too. Sometimes you will meet someone who has a piece you like and you might emulate it. It can be called inspiration, success breeds success and it’s the same reason Britain spent millions ‘Inspiring A Generation’ with the 2012 Olympics. Someone sees a successful runner and thinks that a running piece would look good in their jigsaw so they buy some trainers and hit the pavement

The same method works by copying other pieces. I once left a show in Brixton and watched as hundreds of people walked past a homeless guy sitting on the corner. Nobody gave him a look until one guy stopped and handed him some money. The people who saw him hand over the money then followed suit and repeated the same act of kindness.

The final and most important way to fix your jigsaw is through meeting people and opening up. This can be hard for jigsaws that have been stamped on and kicked around but with care you can find someone. When you find that person, you won’t have to emulate their pieces because they’ll hand you one of theirs. When you meet the right person they will give you a piece of theirs to fit into your broken jigsaw. Then something odd will happen, the hole they should have from sharing will vanish. In it will be the broken piece you had but it will fit into them and become part of their picture while the part they gave you will remain forever as a reminder of them.

This is why the people who give the most of themselves often have the fullest picture of who they are. They understand that by giving a part of their jigsaw to help someone else, they will build a better image of themselves.

 

© 2017 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

The Tree On The Tracks

tree on tracks

I took this picture some time ago. I was on my way into a city for a night out if my memory serves me correctly. I stood on the platform, surrounded by people all going their own direction and as is usual on public transport nobody paid much attention to everyone else.

I expect people looked at me as a little odd when I stopped to take a picture of a straggly looking sapling growing but to me the little tree stood for something.

At first, I saw it and it made me think how nature will always try to reclaim the earth for itself. Right there in the middle of those tracks a seed had landed and against all odds it was growing. Nature literally took root and began to flourish seemingly oblivious to the thousands of people passing by in long tin tubes every day.

I took the picture and while travelling I changed it to black and white, nothing makes a picture look more artistic than black and white so I tinkered with my phone and made it look swish.

As I played with the picture I started to think a little deeper about that tree. It became more than nature trying to reclaim the planet. I started to wonder what we could learn from the tree.

Each of us will meet adversity at some point in our lives. Some of us will land in fertile soil in a beautiful field with nothing to stop our sunlight. Some of us may land on concrete and sadly we may never be able to take root at all. Many of us though will fall somewhere in between. We will land somewhere like that tree on the tracks.

We will struggle to grow, we may never be able to reach as high as if we landed in a prime spot. We will constantly be surrounded by noise and hustle and people rushing by without noticing. We will face the hardships of the year alone. Some of us may even be hit if we try to spread our branches too close to the trains. There are countless hardships we will face during our lives and ultimately some lives will be cut short just because we didn’t land in the right place.

What is important though is that we try. We make the most of what we have. We push our roots into whatever bit of crappy soil we have, we grow as tall and as wide as we can. We accept the fact that people push past us every day, unaware or uncaring of our plight. We must do this because the only other option is to give up and never try. We quit and take drastic action or blame the people on the train for our problems. We either thrive or quit and die.

Hopefully you will make the decision to try, to thrive and accept that people will rush past us on their lives journey. Hopefully you will do this because maybe someone will see your struggle, appreciate it, respect you for everything you’ve tried to do and learn something to help them grow in their own lives.

Make the most of what you have and strive to grow. Be like the tree on the tracks and you  too will get to feel the sun on your leaves.

 

 

© 2017 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.

The Othering

So here we are in 2017, we had a Brexit vote and Trump elected. Two results that shocked the establishment and left people crying and ranting like nothing I’ve seen before in politics. There are a number of things that can be taken away from these results:

The first being that mainstream media cannot be trusted in predicting results on important matters.

Secondly, those in positions of authority have become isolated from large swathes of the populace and have completely underestimated the anger and frustration some people experience on a day to day basis.

Thirdly and possibly most worryingly is what is known as ‘Othering.’

People have and will continue to talk at length about the first two and many others however I want to think about the third. So, what do I mean by ‘othering’? Basically, it means thinking of someone as something else, not like us or different. Obviously, everyone is different but this relates to a sort of tribal mentality of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies.’

I’ll start with Brexit:

The country agreed to have a referendum on whether to remain or leave the EU. This was agreed beforehand to be based on the majority of votes being the winner. Then we had two groups form, each put forward their view, there were debates and discussions. The campaign was fought on three main points: immigration, money and freedom. There were clear statements about what Brexit meant and there were clear statements that remaining would mean remaining, there would be no renegotiation.

The Brexit side presented numbers which were challenged and in general the campaign could be accused of being a blue-sky vision that made the issue look simple. The issue being that everything on this side had to be estimated or predicted as the move was unprecedented.

The Remain side presented a dystopian result where everyone would be unemployed and wars would rage.

For me the decision was made before the campaigning started so watching the news felt a little like being trapped between a snake oil salesman and an abusive partner. One offering the world while the other threatened that nobody else would want me and I’d suffer and die in loneliness.

 

Next to Trump:

In what was possibly the harshest American election in history we saw two people who had strong supporters on each side with a group of people in the middle who wished there was a third party. Eventually Trump won and depending on which camp you sit in you either cheered or cried.

The same issues with polls and pundits came out to play and everyone was shocked.

So, within a couple of years we’ve had two huge political upsets that have divided countries more than before. The issue though came after the votes.

Anyone who voted Brexit was called anything from uneducated to racist or bigoted to selfish or if they were being nice someone who simply didn’t understand the vote. A Brexit voter faced everything from insults to ridicule, a Remoaner was simply viewed as boring and moaning.

After Trump things got more heated. We are at a point now where anyone who voted for Trump is called a White Supremacist, a non-white is called anything from an Uncle Tom to a Black White Supremacist and we have people being killed in the streets while a media ignores anything positive Trump has done.

To anyone sitting in the centre or doing their best to understand both sides is either reaching for popcorn to watch the end of the world or is being pushed into one camp or the other. To some, this might all sound harmless but it isn’t.

All it takes is a little research into history or crime to see why this is going to go wrong. Every dictator in history has in some way derogated the opposition before beginning killing them. Hitler never said ‘We must kill those humans of a different religion.’ You will find the same everywhere. ISIS do not call the victims of their bombs ‘Families having fun.’ They are likely called dogs or whatever the equivalent is. If you take a look at serial killers or rapists they all typically have a hatred for their victims, they are ‘Whores’ or ‘Sluts’ or ‘Teases’, they may even be doing society a favour by removing this ‘Scum’ from the streets. We see the very same logic used in the military, every step to dehumanise the opposition is taken and this is true from the early war propaganda to modern weapon sights which turn people into heat blobs.

Every victim must be turned into something less than human because it makes murder easier, this is why we see soldiers struggle when they come home and have flashbacks about what they saw and did.

This may seem dramatic by comparison however in America there are armed mobs of ‘Nazis’ fighting other armed mobs. The media has tried to pick sides and create the ‘Goodies’ and Baddies’ but this is false and dangerous. Anyone willing to physically attack another person for a political opinion is bad. There’s footage of violence from both sides but the result is civilians and Police being killed.

Perhaps the violence won’t spread, but labeling anyone who thinks differently to you is small minded and divisive and will do nothing to improve the situation. Someone who voted Leave did so because they probably have a different daily experience to someone who voted Remain, calling them an uneducated racist is ridiculous.

As for a solution, I don’t know but what I do know is the old saying of ‘Never judging a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’ would be something people should consider before we have more deaths.

 

 

© 2017 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.