Soil of the Soul

A few weeks ago, I was trawling the internet and reading various blogs and website articles on the subject of personal direction. Something that has been gnawing at me for some time now is my lack of direction in life and every so often, I find myself trying to seek the answers or at least some pointers to how I can get my arse fired up and motivated to do something more fulfilling than the dreadful 9-5 (or – in my case – 7-5) grind as a servant of The System.

It was while seeking enlightenment (spoiler alert: I’m still me, for better or for worse) that I came across an analogy that did at least strike a bit of a chord with me. This analogy compared the human soul to fertile soil and reminded the reader that we could all plant seeds in our soil, nurture said seeds and watch them grow into mighty trees. The main problem for a lot of us is that the soil has been tainted and the seeds left unwatered and unfertilised thanks to invading external forces that have seen fit to turn our plot of soil into a rubbish dump.

I quite liked this analogy and thought about it some more. I saw my own patch of fertile soil enclosed within a field. Seeds labelled “Direction”, “Passion”, “Happiness” and “Purpose” were planted but I didn’t get chance to water or feed them. Y’see, the field has a gate and just as I was skipping toward my patch of sown soil – watering can in my hand – there came a loud crunching noise. It was the sound of a dump truck reversing right through the gate! The bastards! Before I could verbally assault the driver of the truck with a multitude of PG-18-rated words, he tipped the bed and unloaded his cargo of garbage all over my patch. I was too aghast to act but I caught the registration of the truck as it sped away, leaving a cloud of diesel fumes behind. It was a private plate that read “LIFE”.

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We all plant seeds in the soil of our soul. Some seeds take longer than others to germinate, break the surface and bear fruit but we do plant them subconsciously, most often as children when we aren’t even aware that we’re doing it.

Or so I have been reading anyway.

You have to take any advice or points of view that you read on the internet with a pinch of salt of course; especially when it comes to the optimum way to live your life and be happy/successful. Everybody has their own philosopy or tried-and-tested ‘secret’ that worked for them but we are all different and what works for Bob won’t necessarily work for Dave. I personally believe that it is perhaps better to listen to different ideas and solutions then draw your own conclusions based on everything you have read.

However, one recurring self-help tactic that is supposed to help the individual work out what they want to do with their life, is to go back to the past and reconnect with your inner child. You know, that previous version of you that enjoyed doing certain things or making use of talents/skills without realising that they might take you somewhere. Before the fly-tipping began and you turned an unwitting blind eye to the dumping of truckloads of garbage on your precious – now poisoned – patch of soil.

Before the superficiality, materialism and greed of society poisoned our minds.

Before you graduated childhood and were inducted properly into The System, encouraged to accept a status quo and pour all of your energy into unfulfilling jobs in order to service unavoidable debt and keep a roof above your head.

Before you were trapped in that 9-5 cycle with those wonderful dreams shelved as you play the part of just another cog in the machine – a machine that works for the rich and powerful and runs on the blood of the working class.

Shit got a bit dark and gloomy there but it really is how our human society functions. Breaking out of this cage and finding a way to live happily – without being sucked dry by others who don’t have your interests at heart – is the ultimate quest in my mind. It’s not an easy quest by any means and there are a lot of boxes to be checked as you are pushing forwards but is there a more rewarding journey to embark upon?

I’ve been trying to reconnect with my inner child and cast my mind back to past. What I remembered was that I was crazy about drawing, writing and being creative in general. I would spend hours doing this sort of thing, improving my skills and simply enjoying what I was doing without feeling the pressure to turn it into a career or money. Somewhere along the way, I ran out of steam and stopped. Society, people and working a physically-demanding job left me tired and more likely to turn to mindless entertainment in my spare time rather than enjoying the arts and continuing to improve my crafts.

One of the last things I drew was this picture of the character, Blaze Fielding, from the videogame, Streets of Rage 2. That was in 2015 (according to the date on the back). I’m not proclaiming myself to be a good artist or anything like that but comparing this picture to what I was doing a few years prior shows dramatic improvement. It’s also a stark reminder of where I could be at today had I kept at it. As it is, the cubby-hole in my desk is a stack of outdated portfolios and half-finished pictures living in plastic wallets, awaiting completion.

I’m not going to blame society or other people for my lack of work. After all, it was me who allowed this to happen and it was me who chose to numb my tired brain with the likes of videogames and Youtube and lock my creativity away in a cupboard. That said, external influences and the necessities that come with living in the way that society expects you to live have had a part to play. Of course, it is my responsibility to push back and not allow external factors to affect me.

It is my responsibility to fit a stronger lock to the gate that the dump truck forced open before tipping its load all over my patch of soil (no dirty innuendos intended…). Heck, I should be investing in 24/7 security and watchtowers.

But what is done is done and now the clean-up must begin. It’s past time that I hired a skip and put in the work to clear out all of the dumped rubbish that hides that soil and the seeds that are buried deep, awaiting their oppurtunity to sprout.

And with that, I will spare you any more long-winded analogies.

Red or Blue pill?

Don’t worry; you haven’t stumbled across the diary of a drug addict. This is simply me being incredibly original uninspired and treading a well-beaten path, about to get my analogy on and talk about pills that are far more powerful than any Class A drug.

I’m fairly confident that most of you have watched 1999’s The Matrix but if you are perhaps too young to have been there at the time, first of all, stop making me feel old damn it. Second of all, you should go and watch it. Actually…don’t. In period, The Matrix blew our minds with cutting-edge CGI and the infamous “bullet time” effect, the latter of which was subsequently imitated just as much as electronic products are imitated by dodgy Chinese copycats. I haven’t watched The Matrix for some years now but I have a sneaking suspicion that it hasn’t aged particularly well; less so in the eyes of anybody viewing the movie for the first time in 2019. And the less said about the sequels, the better.

There’s a funny thing about The Matrix though. When we were younger, we came away from the movie wowed by the fights, bullets hanging in mid-air and – if you were a boy – Carrie-Anne Moss in leather. Today however, I take something else away from The Matrix – something more resonant with REAL life. I am of course talking about Neo being asked by Morpheus to choose between the red and blue pills. Back in ’99, Neo’s decision was simply part of a sci-fi plot in a futuristic bit of popcorn fodder. The deepest thinking that I can recall doing in relation to The Matrix‘s plot is wondering whether WE were also living in a Matrix created by Terminator-like machines or even aliens. How even that level of theorising managed to take place in a teenage imagination otherwise filled with videogames and women’s breasts is a wonder in itself.

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But now I’m far more interested in the symbolism behind the red and blue pills, and Neo’s choice. In The Matrix, taking the blue pill will allow Neo to remain in the false world of the Matrix, living a comfortable, ‘normal’ life of acceptance and ignorance. Opting for the red pill on the other hand is to choose to wake up and enter the real world. This ‘real’ world is a world of war and hardship where the last humans are fighting for their freedom against the machines and computers that all but destroyed mankind. The machines’ human victims are kept in stasis, their electrical energy harvested while they “live” in the Matrix. They live in a dream, unaware of the truth.

Away from the big screen and back to reality, I believe that we all have a choice between a red and a blue pill. We are choosing which pill to swallow every single morning when we wake up. We choose which pill to take whenever we make a decision. We choose every time we interact with life and the world around us.

Anybody who plays around with the red/blue pill analogy probably has their own definitions of what it means to choose between the two but for clarification, these are MY definitions and just my personal opinion on the idea:

The Blue Pill – To live a life governed by materialism and following the crowd. To not question authority. To keep oneself “drugged” on entertainment, material items and celebrity rather than seeking to improve oneself and push back against the system.

The Red Pill – To reject materialism and blind consumerism. To not be easily influenced by the views and lifestyles of others. To question the oppressive nature of the system here in the “democratic” and “free” Western world and to push back when necessary. To be yourself and not try to fit into a mould of another’s creation.

If you happen to be a hardcore revolutionary and are expecting me to suddenly morph into an anti-authoritarian guerilla fighter then I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you though. Perhaps you think I’m taking the pussy-boy halfway house approach to knocking back a red pill but I cannot escape the fact that I am a child of “the system” and as such, waking up fully isn’t an instantaneous process. We have been moulded and shaped into what we are by parents who might not have been aware that it had happened to them and as such, we cannot lay the blame at their feet.

Education and governments are to blame. Corporations, greed and capitalism too.

So yes, while I have been shunning materialism more and more as of late, I’m still materialistic to a degree and I highly doubt I will ever not own anything of material value. Likewise, I am still living in the system and working a crappy job; still living by the rules of a society that I often disagree with on a daily basis.

But asking questions and taking a look outside of the box is the first step to – hopefully – a better life as I see it. I have plans for further posts linked in to this subject coming up very soon where I look at the likes of education, The System and reassessing life and our surroundings.