Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them?
We live in amazing times. To a fairly large extent we can thank science and technology for that. What do I mean by amazing? I mean that it is surprising where society is today, how we got here and the potential we have for the future. The key word in that last sentence was potential. Despite the progress made in quality of life, health, the ability to travel and communicate, to explore and ask big questions, something has gone, or is at least going, wrong. We could be doing so much better.
Seriously, people, WTF? It is like we have collectively decided that what we really need is another “dark ages”. We are still sending the faithful to foreign lands to kill to save lives. We are constantly terrified, or should that be terrorfied? The faceless terrorists and terrorism conveniently taking the place of the wonderfully effective cold war threats of communism.
So this year has seen me swamped by work. Again. Still…. I’d estimate that I’ve been working around 70+ hours a week since the start of the year. This is not the first time that things have been so out of control. It is not a badge of honour, I am not proud of this, nor do I encourage it. In response to this, and the long list of things I “need” to do this weekend, I’ve been reading about how and why we should reduce the normal work week to 3-4 days, 20-30 hours etc. There appears to be a realisation that this is primarily an option for the affluent, but there is also a growing awareness that significantly increasing the minimum wage and even moving to a unconditional basic income- everyone gets to survive – is an absolute must if this is going to be tenable for everyone.
The problem, which is not directly mine or yours, is where does the money come from? It would appear now that we, as a society, need to pay two people to do one job. The reality is actually that we have all been taking on more and more – for whatever reason, but usually need – and doing two jobs for one salary. People’s time has been devalued, especially those at the “bottom”. I’ve been at the bottom and I’ve worked plenty of crap jobs to survive, so I do not say that with any disrespect – we all do what we have to, and what we can, to survive. So all this requires is a shift towards paying people what they’re worth, rather than what the market can afford.
I’ve never been one for making New Year resolutions, but the end of the year, and a few days holiday, do give one the time to reflect. So reflecting I am. This year I complained a lot about time, specifically, the lack of it. Sorry. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been reliably informed that 2016 will not be coming with more time. Nor will time expander packs be available. More’s the pity.
It would appear that the only solution is to do fewer things. Which is exactly NOT what I am going to do. Seriously, I don’t respond well to “slow down”, “take it easy” or “don’t do so much” and similar expletives.
So, in the interests of getting to know me and given that LifeHacker are probably not going to ask me how I work, directly, I’ll just borrow the questions they typically ask – How I Work.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland Current Gig: Scientist and Writer – mostly more science fact than science fiction recently but I’m trying to fix the balance. One word that best describes how you work: Chaotically Current mobile device: iPhone 6 Current computer: Macbook pro – getting a little old now but it’s running light and without distractions – for writing. The science gets a newer macbook air and there’s an ipad in there as well to replace paper.
Is your writing scaring you? I’m not calling out all horror writers but people looking to push themselves, find the limits of their writing comfort zone, and push through it. It is hard to do this because we are such creatures of self-preservation, but it is typically here/there, in unchartered waters, that we find that something special. As a writer, hell, as a person, I am always looking to stand out, to be different, to look at the world in a different way. What is the point of everyone being the same? If you’re starting to worry that this is some rant from a newly-enraged teenager, then you’ll be happy to know that I’ve been enraged for nearly half a century.
The other primary … primal?… thing that holds us back, makes us hesitate, is that we are also creatures of vanity – who wants to be seen to fail? Well, for a start, as a writer, you can fail a lot in private first, so no one can see you. Eventually though, you’re going to have to step out, stand up, and declare yourself.
This is me, this is what I write, and this is how I write.
There are times in life when it all hangs in the balance. Now, is one of them, at least for me. As the blurb says, I write science fact to science fiction, however, these two worlds do not always find a peaceful way to coexist. In life we always have choices even if some of them don’t seem like it at the time. And so it is that I find myself here, at one of those decisive moments. Concentrate on the scientist, or concentrate on the writer. Let’s be clear, science is what puts food on the table, while writing is a passionate pastime that is very much in its infancy.
So on the science fact front I face an uncertain future. In six months time I might be out of a job OR I might be spearheading an initiative that will take most of my time for the next 15 years. There are a lot of “ifs” to fall into place for the latter. So it appears, at least for the next 6-12 months, that the “decision” is not so hard, or at least not so complicated – I need to concentrate on the science. My apologies but this will have to remain cryptically anonymous for the moment.
You often see people/memes saying that anger is a bad thing. Anger is negative. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Bollocks! If you replace “anger” with the word “violence” then I agree, but most of the time people seem to confuse the two. Perhaps you could replace “anger” with “frustration” but only up to a point.
So, what am I angry about? Well, not everything – I think – but a lot. I’m angry at me, at the world, at people, sometime, maybe, possibly, even you. I am angry that we are not doing more to stop destroying the planet. I’m angry about equality. I am angry with organised religion for exploiting people. I’m angry at banks and governments … for exploiting people. OK, I’m angry at anyone exploiting people. I also get angry at people driving cars with headphones on, or who change the settings on the toaster. Mostly, I’m angry about people accepting this as the way it has to be. I’m angry with people for not being angry enough!
If you’re not here to make the world a better place and leave something lasting, why not?
This was the thought that hit me recently whilst on holidays. I was sitting in a boat on a canal in England with an old – in both senses – friend. We met as students at uni, I was late twenties and he was nearly 60. We would regularly meet for coffee and it was on one of those occasions that he decided to be serious and ask me THAT question – What do you want to do? I don’t recall whether I paused enigmatically, puffed on a cigarette, or finished off another espresso before responding – I was quite good at all three… I was young… relatively. I had forgotten my response but after all these years he still remembered. The response was simple: “I want to make a difference. I want to leave something behind.”
Simple, yet completely ambiguous. Probably quite pretentious as well. Looking back, I love the response. It screams attitude. The problem in real life is pulling that off. How does one go out and make a difference. There were no courses on making a difference at the uni – I checked. Actually, I didn’t, I just threw that in there for effect. Not sure it worked though. So this is where I put my old person hat on – it’s not mine, I borrowed it off my friend at the start of this post. Pay attention! That was directed at me, not you.
As promised, this is the home and playground of Harry Tuttle, part enigma, part machine, mostly confused and trapped in modern life. If anyone has ever read more than one post then it should have become clear that I am mostly confused. Actually, in the real world, I like to feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on things… but this is not the real world. At the moment, I have to apologise because the posts are coming, or not, like a drunk trying to hit the side of a barn with a shot gun from a thousand yards out (that makes sense to me – you know, like hits but mostly misses… If I have to explain everything this is going to take some time.). n.b. I used yards so the Americans among us don’t feel left out. No, I don’t have a problem with Americans I just never understood why you decided yards were that much better than cubits but a meter is the devil’s work?! OK, I know that’s not entirely your fault either. Anyway, whose idea was it to start picking on Americans? To be fair, I was only referring to the USA. Just to be clear.
So it is that I realise that this blog, like so many before it, has run off, like a metaphor from a poorly educated person struggling to sound like they at least went to school for a few weeks, most notably around exam time, which was a pain because it was in summer and the waves at the beach were so good and what a shame to miss out on that for what? … oh, look, a squirrel!