The people in our pictures

People we have never met still contribute to our memories. The strangers in our photo albums, frozen timelessly into each picture. These people will never age. They will always be wearing that dress, those sunglasses. They will always be holding hands with that partner, laughing with that friend. Where are they now?

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I wonder how many people making up this crowd are still in South America today, maybe in Rio itself. Living a life that I only managed a glimpse of whilst travelling around Brazil for four weeks. I love this about travelling, that first time experience whether it be eating a forkful of new food or sipping a local traditional drink. What is new to us is all that some people may have ever known. Knowing this is true for tourists to my region has made me want to venture out as much as I can. Life is far too short to only sample our own neighbourhood, especially considering our location is purely down to chance.

What lives did the other attendees travel back to? The 78,000+ capacity stadium is three times larger than my hometown, and my hometown had plenty of stories. Many would have married and possibly had children since I snapped this crowd shot. How many people have not made it to see the day this post has went online. Even if they did not make it, their footprints did and this presence has contributed to my memories. I thank them for that.

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It is wonderful to consider the thousands of people we have preserved in time through photographs. All the emotions and behaviours present that very second… I bet there are some incredible stories hidden behind the anonymity. It is hard to see these individuals as anything but extras, obviously this couldn’t be less true. We simply don’t have the time or opportunity to hear them all. Maybe one of these people are following my blog, I could well be following them.

Even though we did not realise they brushed shoulders with us somewhere in the world, they did. Some of these people may walk right by us again someday, somewhere. How would we know? How would they know? It may take 50 years before we look at that photo again, too late to ever knowingly brush shoulders once more.

Their boat may sail before we can watch it depart, this doesn’t mean we cannot read the story they left behind for us.

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Our normal needs more crazy

I don’t think this horse has a name, just a legacy. It is a recent addition to this street and has heads turning every single time. Why wouldn’t it? It is a horse on roller skates for crying out loud!

Then again, that is all it is. A horse and roller skates. Two very normal things combined to completely throw us off guard. Add some bright colours into the mix to truly go off the rails.

Normal+Normal=Crazy.

Something so simple is very effective at grabbing attention, it is that easy to stand out. Our everyday is very repetitive, our work patterns and dress codes, our watercooler conversations and elevator silences. A dog rocking pink shoes at the beach is like an oasis in the desert for our under-stimulated eyes and boy, did he like the attention.

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There is a reason we weren’t satisfied with black and white television. There is a reason colouring books exist. Colour adds so much more to our lives. Nothing compliments a sunny day like a burst of colour. Nothing gives hope to a cloudy day like a brightly painted house or bright yellow camper van. We need colour to stay sane and these bright blessings aren’t given enough chance.

My flatmate never wears black socks with his suits. He insists that avoiding them makes him happier and more motivated for the day ahead. I insisted that my fathers funeral was a colourful one. Even the darkest days need light, you could say they need them the most. Can you imagine if we all decided to wear greens, yellows and pinks everyday? It wouldn’t seem attention seeking or over the top if it was the new normal.

We set the standard for what is normal, why not raise the bar a little? There would be an even greater appreciation for those that go beyond that.

To infinity!

 

Relaxing is pretty easy 

It has taken great effort to get to a point in which we can sit and have a coffee in relative safety. To gaze across the beautiful blue waters and distant hills without looking for an immediate threat behind us. It is something I try not to take for granted. Some of the worlds most beautiful landscapes are no-go areas for so many reasons, for how long is anyone’s guess.

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This could be due to war, secret government operations, radiation levels. I took this photograph in Rio shortly before my lunch arrived, in the same area as the featured image in this post posted earlier this month. I snapped the image as the person in front of me was using his phone, I don’t know what it is but it seems to add something. It is as if he was oblivious to the view he had in font of him, although I am sure he has seen it a thousand times before.

Thanks to the implementation of police and armed forces we can enjoy time that isn’t spent evading evil. An iced coffee by the sea or drifting in and out of sleep in a hammock. It doesn’t mean danger is never there. Someone holding an umbrella for you doesn’t mean it isn’t raining, even if you are doing little to prevent getting wet. For that I am incredibly grateful. This doesn’t mean that it will stay this way forever.

I was debating with a friend yesterday about what it is to be on the ‘left’. I consider myself a centrist, I have tried speaking to both the left and the right and on both occasions feel like I have been pushed into the centre. The left have been overly trigger happy when it comes to using labels such as bigot and racist and the right have been, well, too bigoted and racist. Where is the middle ground? How can being on either end of the spectrum give us a better overview?

I gave the following analogy, you can of course let me know your thoughts.

A serial killer has successfully escaped jail. Dark, I know but of course a reality. He is walking down a street of a dozen houses. He takes his time knocking on each door, waiting for an answer. Let’s say each resident has one of three views; far left, far right or central. On his first knock, a far right resident answers and kills the killer. There was little time to find out about the man knocking and no time was spared. You can probably tell already that depending on each outcome we have to rewind the clock to the killer walking down the street again, groundhog day style. So here we go again.

He is walking down the street again, on this occasion a far left resident answers. The resident has sympathy for the killer asking for shelter in the rain, invites him in for tea and is killed. Again, little time for discussion. In such a scenario, what is wrong with using the peep hole? Speaking through the door or upper floor window asking why he was knocking at the door at this specific time? If I had any bad feelings about this man, which neighbour would I warn? The right winger that will probably go on his own killing spree, hunting down people of a similar appearance or the left wing one that will accuse me of bigotry or a lack of compassion by refraining to fully commit? I feel the most productive decision would be to speak to other centrists. I know that I have decided to speak only of extremists on both sides, however even the apparent moderate-left have made it difficult to talk to.

Our minds are a wonderful thing, they can seek out irrational behaviour and allow us to calculate whether or not we should be concerned during an encounter. I certainly want to be able to use such an amazing human system, there is nothing wrong with a little unease. We have evolved to take everything with a pinch of salt and treat everything as a possible threat. It is natural and can be life saving. There are plenty of people out there with a strong desire to take this away from us given the chance and if anyone is willing to have conversation, I will make time for conversation. Opinions that contradict our values aren’t the threat, it is the unwillingness to sit down with someone and have that conversation. A lack of desire to understand the thoughts of someone that has a completely different mindset. I know some of my views may offend someone that has a different view, my duty is to realise this and listen, not accuse and evade.

I truly do hope that in the next few months of travelling I meet like minded individuals that will sit down with me and talk, regardless of differences. It seems like this world is increasingly shoot first, talk later.

On top of the world

Blogging is great therapy. My daily routine has changed completely since deciding to write every day and with that, my motivation to do so much outside of blogging. It is like obtaining a master key but not to enter a room, to escape one. A dark room that left little desire to spread a message, one that I wouldn’t want to spread without a healthy frame of mind.

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That master key thankfully works to unlock so much more. I get out of bed earlier. I have breakfast. I will do twenty push-ups if I know I won’t be able to go to the gym today. I spend the day looking around for motivation for my next post instead of looking for a clock telling me when I will be able to go back to bed. I have more reason to get out of bed and more meaning to my days between sleeping.

Healthy eating is another, I don’t need to seek as much happiness from junk food. I have never been a very unhealthy eater but I am still seeing benefits. There is less boredom in my day, less desire to find excitement in areas that don’t benefit my body and mind. If my mind is constantly stimulated I have less time to rest my head on that pillow of procrastination. It is simple but effective. I used to be Indiana running away from work ethic, I prefer to be the ball of motivation chasing my doubts and pessimism away. Once it is rolling, it is much harder to slow down.

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I enjoy being the ball.

I am saving money as I am not spending it trying to pass time. Saving for greater things to blog about. You will see where it takes me in the next few months, providing I don’t lose my passport before then. Ah! There is another positive. I don’t hate waiting for fun things I have planned later in the year as I am having fun today. They say good things come to those who wait. Why wait, and why not have fun everyday? It is possible. There is a huge wasted opportunity when living for something you have planned later in the year. All attention is on that calendar date and crossing the boxes until it arrives. What happens to the days that have been crossed off? Were they just seen as stepping stones? Each one consists of 24 hours, that is a huge chunk of time to let slip by. After a few of these it isn’t days but life that is slipping by. Don’t make that mistake.

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The more I aim to do the worse I feel when I do not keep busy. As long as this busy consists of things that I enjoy, I feel good. It has been said that one of the biggest regrets from people on their death bed is working too hard. I believe that if work is your ambition and consisting of things you enjoy, it won’t be work. Our aim is to find work that we want to do, not that we need to do to keep going.

If I can live a life mostly consisting of what I enjoy, I will feel good. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best day is today. There is no quicker way to get to where you want than to start right now, and hopefully I will not have to ride so many cable cars to feel like I am on top of the world.

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Good willed insults

I was buying a last minute birthday present on the weekend, shortly before heading to the birthday BBQ that I posted about on Saturday/Sunday. 

‘Don’t forget it’s fathers day soon!’ the girl at the checkout told me. I started blogging about it as I like to write when something is fresh in my mind, I just didn’t get round to posting. I don’t forget Fathers Day but I do get a different feeling when I see advertisements for it in stores. Times change and with that, our perception of so many things.

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She didn’t know my dad died a few years back, I think as I am still in my twenties there is the assumption that I still have both parents. Sadly this isn’t the case for so many people. Does this mean she shouldn’t have said that to me? I don’t think I would say that. As sad as it was to agree that fathers day was coming up and that I should need a reminder, it was a lot better for me to play along. She was being nice, engaging in conversation and for that I have respect. I respect anyone that is trying to be kind, even if that kindness doesn’t have the desired effect. Was I wrong for lying to her? I don’t think so, it would have been inappropriate to make the situation awkward considering how little of my day was taken up by the quick chat.

I guess I could have helped her realise that the reminder may not be relevant for everyone that walks into the store. It is easier for me to realise and be conscious of what I say to people, to learn from these encounters. How often do I say something similar? More often than I would like, I’m sure. I feel it is my duty to take it in good faith and take the goodness out of such a situation instead of poisoning it. 

I wouldn’t ask anyone to stop celebrating it or be too overly cautious of offending by talking about it. Too many people are personally offended and ask for others to work around their personal issues. This happens daily and if we just a little bit better at controlling the inevitable emotions that are triggered everyday, society would be a little more tolerable. Religion has a duty in my opinion to do so with ever more multi-cultural societies.

Like an old cannon looking out to a sea for an army that is no longer a threat, things change and with that, the purpose or meaning. What was once a weapon is now an attraction. What was once a pleasure is now a painful reminder. Our perception of what we see changes and we need to adapt!

Ignorance

The walk must have been a mile from the subway station to the Maracanã Stadium. On route, there was an armed guard every 100 yards or so, observing every spectator walking through what must have been the most heavily guarded public road in the world that day.

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Not that I found this intimidating, I felt reassured if anything. Behind the soldiers, a tank or army vehicle. Behind that, a deserted residential area with what I can only assume were snipers or security with an advantageous view, standing on the roofs of high rises. It’s fascinating listening to debates regarding terror. Listening to apologists telling me that the threat isn’t enough for me to discuss religion. I found it hard to consider this opinion whilst walking through the Brazillian armed forces. I wasn’t going into war, just the opening ceremony of Rio 2016.

Look at the drastic measures needed to keep us safe. Admittedly, this was a huge event. It could be argued that such a presence would be necessary regardless of what age we are in and the societal problems that manifest, however as Manchester is a couple of hours drive from me, I wouldn’t be surprised to see armed police walking around my city today. I have seen such measures taken after similar events Europe, today will be no different.

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Last night, as I am sure you are aware, there was a suicide bombing during a concert in Manchester. Multiple deaths, many more injuries. I know a girl that attended, thankfully she posted on Facebook of her safety shortly after the incident. As much as I tried to prevent it, I glanced at the continuous posts related to the incident and got exactly what I expected. It always seems to be one of two extremes. ‘Extremes’ may be a little extreme, feel free to let me know of your opinion.

On one hand I see a lot of sympathy towards religion and believers, highlighting that many Muslim taxi drivers helped escort people to safety and that if all Muslims wanted death, we would indeed be dead. In the other corner, right wing memes and ‘Close the borders!’ style comments. Can I take a little middle ground? It is hard to stray slightly from the far left without being seen as someone sprinting into the racist/ bigot corner. Can I please talk about the fact that despite the kind actions of theists, theism breeds violence? A danger that is seen as a gateway to paradise for some? A gateway desired by one person that can affect the lives off hundreds, even thousands of people that fatefully cross such a path?

I want to talk about religion and the fact that both good and bad people can read from the same book, only different pages. I want to discuss whether or not such a book is relevant in today’s world. As much as I respect the taxi drivers that turned off their meters to ensure safety was a priority, I want to talk about 21st century life involving terrorists that wake up and feel it is a good day to explode. I want to ask why a criticism of religion is more of a threat to some than the religious minorities killing those that criticise religion.

I do not feel like a bad person for asking such questions, I just think about a world in which our children can attend sporting and music events without the risk of being blown up. If that offends instead of inspiring conversation, then that’s too bad.

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Unknown priveleges

The american lady on the left has been to every Olympic Games since 1984. She told me that she is writing a book that I have to look out for, I have the name of it written down somewhere. I am sure ‘1984’ has already been taken…

Her pet dog seemed surprisingly composed on the subway, accepting the belly rubs and neck tickles from commuters in the packet carriage, travelling from the Maracanã to Rio.

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It seems that we pay more for things we enjoy. Pets go free, it’s not like they are there to enjoy and appreciate what we do. I guess it has to do with demand, the more dogs request to attend sport events and concerts, things may change. This dog was completely oblivious to the magnitude of the event, and what it symbolized. He was also unaware of how much we had to pay for a ticket and how lucky he is to attend without spending a penny.

I see life in a similar fashion. I want to acknowledge each moment as best as I can whilst I am still here and try to make sense of this crazy world without the various forces making this difficult. Social influence, men with machine guns, cognitive bias, we face a lot of obstacles telling us what we should believe. Unlike this cute pet, we have the option to enjoy this moment and not be oblivious to the truth if we really want to and I really, really want to know the truth that is out there hiding behind such bias.

Care to join me? There’s a seat, in fact there are plenty…

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I would love for my blog to continue growing and to hear your stories. Thank you to my followers for inspiring me to keep posting. By following my blog, belly rubs and neck tickles are coming your way.