Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Heaven and Hell

My attitude towards life on Earth has undergone a few phases in my lifetime, from the usual childish conceptions, through my now defunct religious 'certainty', to a place where I think the line 'I was thinking to myself: this could be heaven or this could be hell' from the Eagles' Hotel California sums things up best. It's really all about one's own perceptions of life, and how they allow said person to behave, particularly in the context of their interactions with others. I recall an interesting story about Heaven and Hell: essentially in Hell there are a group of people sat round a table, with a pot of food in the middle. They are all starving, but the spoons they have are so long they cannot reach them to their mouths, and consequently cannot eat. In Heaven, the same scenario, but the people are feeding each other. Religious ideas of an afterlife aside, the point is an important one, and well made: if people were all to treat each other as well as we are capable of treating each other, then life on Earth would be like a Heaven of sorts. Instead, and of course because of our biology, and the practice and success of various behaviour types (e.g. promotion of self-interest over that of others in society), Earth is sometimes amazing, but many other times shitty and frustrating and downright cruel. And this just seems disappointing to me, is all.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Every once in a while you get a rare glimpse of your city from a new or rare angle. Flying back in to London in the early hours of Thursday morning (thanks to a little unplanned flight alteration due to the Heathrow strikes), I had the, I want to say privilege, if that doesn't sound too wanky, of seeing my adopted home from above, lit up in all her glory. She was slowly waking up, stifled beneath her usual blanket of grey cloud, which had the effect of making the lighting which was draped over her all the more beautiful. The familiar places stood out with an unusual clarity, and others made themselves known. I cast my eye over parliament and the eye, westward across the parks and on to the arch of Wembley, thrust defiantly into the clouds as if to say, 'Please, clouds. I see this shit all the time. Bring it on. No mere weather will tame me. I am the heart of England.'
The aeroplane descended, and I gazed. My view continued over residences and five-aside courts, past slow-pulsing streams of traffic and over the familiar-if-only-from-TV-coverage turf of Craven Cottage, balanced precariously on the edge of the ubiquitous Thames. As we dropped further it occurred to me, seeing my home in this way was not only beautiful, but perhaps leads me to an appreciation both of the strength and weaknesses of London, in a way I've had inklings of before. She is at once dynamic and sluggish, a city, like many in Europe, weighed down by the weight of her own history, struggling to move forward and at the same time stay true to everything she has done and all the lives which have come and gone inside her borders. And she is strong, she has presence, she has the benefit of a thousand voices and cultures spread across a million lifetimes, propelling her forward, feeding her inspiration.
She is at once familiar and yet strange, a city in which I could live a hundred years and still not fully understand her entire workings. I think this is part of the reason why, as she slipped away from my sight, draped in her electric finery and her stone monuments, I said to myself, choosing her was the right decision.