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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Swimming in the Dark

The best bit about swimming is the silence under water. At the surface everything is going on - kids splashing and shouting, adults doing lengths and kicking. It is pretty chaotic above the water. But when you immerse yourself in the water, it feels like silence is falling like a blanket over your head. You can see everything going on, but there is a stillness that pervades the air. That's my favourite part, when everything is crazy and loud but all it takes is ducking under the water and suddenly everything just slows down and there is near silence.

When things are crazy around me, I often try and escape in my head to that place under the water. I close my eyes and imagine the silence and stillness that makes me so calm. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But when it does, I can escape to a place that no one else has access to. 

Sometimes life can be really isolating. Your experiences are yours and yours only, and although that means that you have within you a very specific and special set of tools, it also means that sometimes you get lonely. And sometimes you get so lonely that the whole world feels like it's filled up with water, and you're trapped inside a really big, lonely, swimming pool. But instead of feeling light and free, you feel scared and alone. Really really alone. 

The worst part of this feeling is that not only can no one access you, but you can't reach anyone either. It feels like everything around you is unreachable, locked. And the silence that you used to love begins to drive you mad, and makes you want to run in the rain or smash plates at a wall or scream into a pillow, just to break the boundary between sound and silence. 

And although you can't pinpoint the silence, or work out what is making you so sad, all you can do is wait until the feeling has surpassed, wait until your head comes up from the water, and you can breathe again. Sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes it takes days, or months and for some people it takes years. 

But when it feels like there are rocks in your stomach, or pains in your heart, like your ears are blocked or your head is filled with cotton wool, you should just know that sooner or later, you will regain feeling. You'll take a really deep breath one day and begin to hear your heart beating once more. So just hold on. 

You know, I write these posts to write the truth, to expose something to other people, and to educate. But more often than not, I write these posts to myself, because sometimes the words that are hardest to hear are the ones we feel the deepest. So to me, and to you, your head will come back out of the water soon, I promise.

LF, LR and MG xx

Monday, 28 March 2016

Why can't I dream big?

From a young age, I was the type of child to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up. At first it was a vet, like most children I suspect, as I had a love for animals and all creatures of the earth. But soon, I grew out of that dream, and moved on to another one. My mum did a psychology degree, so my next dream was to be a psychologist. And when I had exhausted that idea, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I settled on being a lawyer and for the next year or so, thought about all the things I would do once I had my degree. When people asked me what type of lawyer I wanted to be, and I didn't know, they told me to go into corporate law, because that is where the money is. So that summer, I did a week of work experience in a corporate law firm, and was extremely bored. At 16 I decided law wasn't for me, and began to search for something else to reach for.

Luckily for me, only a few months later, I began to fall in love with writing, and discovered that I'd rather do something that I love every day for the rest of my life, than something that was big and corporate but made a lot of money. Writing makes me feel fulfilled, it makes me feel happy and it also makes me feel like I'm making a difference. 

So when people asked me what I want to do when I'm older, I responded happily and confidently that I want to be a published author. This was when I began to notice that the response to my career aspirations were usually met with raised eyebrows, condescending concern and some sort of ill thought out advice. The most common response I get is something like "Well I hope you'll be the next J K Rowling because otherwise you won't be very successful." I love J K Rowling and I am very much part of the Harry Potter Fandom, so my point next should not be taken as a criticism of her unbelievable talent and hard work. 

But it is comments like this that make me believe that as a society our definition of success has changed so significantly. Rather than measure success in how much of an impact one makes in the world, we measure success in how much money a person makes. Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that money doesn't play a role in our lives, but I do genuinely believe that we should not let money be the indicator for how successful we are. 

When I tell people I want to be a published author, the follow up question is usually about what I want to publish. When I respond by saying that I want to write things that change the world, people have lost me all together. But why can't I dream big? Why can't I write something that changes the world, and publish things that change the way we think. Why can't I use my skill to do something good instead of just thinking about how much I am going to earn? Because when I talk about writing, I mean writing to educate. Writing to educate people around me about things that go on that aren't spoken about enough. Writing to bring awareness and writing to change the way we think so that we are more tolerant and accepting and happy with who we are. 

So the answer is that I can dream big. I can change the world with my writing, even if it's just my world. I don't have to be motivated by money, and nor do you, if you don't want to. It's going to be a darn sight harder to make it big in this world, but then again is that what really matters? 

Maybe I will be the next J K Rowling, but on the very large chance that I'm not, all I want to know is that I can still dream big and change the world with my writing, regardless of the number in my bank account. 

LF, LR and MG xx

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Who is Moral?

I asked google to define what a moral person is. Google said that a moral person is someone who 'conforms to a standard of which is right and good. This implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right or wrong.'

The psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg uses four stages to explain the development of morality. These stages work on the understanding that as a person goes through cognitive development, their morality develops to. If abiding by this theory, we should believe that people start off with a very limited perspective on morality; using our role models to determine from a young age, right from wrong. As we develop, we should therefore seek to determine our own code of morality, partially based on societal values, and eventually depart from societies conventions or 'accepted notions' as google called it, and make moral decisions based on our own understanding and perception of right and wrong.

When understanding Kohlberg's theory, I struggled to believe that this quantification of an abstract concept could truly be used as a tool for which we define the development of said moral compass. Yet, when grappling with this idea, I saw my issue was not the abstract concept, but rather the way the definition of a 'moral' person tends to over simplify the human condition.

According to Kohlberg, a person that chooses to return an item that they have purchased amongst other items but not paid for, is morally upstanding. This person, theoretically, has achieved stage 5 in moral development. But does this make them a 'moral person'?

I sincerely doubt it. To me, Kohlberg's theory seems to suggest that one morally upstanding act means that you are a morally upstanding person. But what about the person who returns the item to the store, yet is cheating on his wife? Or the person who hides behind his charitable public persona, but beats his children and abuses his wife? Kohlberg's theory didn't seem to have any answers to the real moral dilemmas that people are faced with. To me, the essence of a truly moral person is someone who acts in private exactly how they would in public - if they give charity publicly, they would do this privately as well. A person does not abuse his children in private but behave beautifully in public yet remain a morally upstanding part of society. The implication that one good act makes you a good person is narrow minded, and ignores the complexity of human nature in so many ways.

The age restrictions that Kohlberg seemed to impose on moral development was the second thing that frustrates me immensely. Kohlberg seemed to suggest that morality develops with age. This would imply that children and young adults are incapable of making complex moral decisions. And that would be wrong.

When faced with a decision that would change everything, what would you do? Being someone in this predicament, having to make a decision that would change everything was the hardest thing I had to do. Before making my choice, I consulted a few adults, who were about as much help as one of those 'motivational posters' that aim to cheer someone up but in reality do nothing. Adults were sympathetic with the difficulty of my choice, but could offer nothing themselves, mostly admitting they had no idea what the right thing to do would be. So all alone, at seventeen, I had to come to a decision myself about the right, or 'moral' thing to do.

Admittedly, I might be haunted by this decision a year later, but ultimately, when weighing up two extremely difficult realities, I chose the one that was most moral, according to my own definition. So, no whilst my moral development according to Kohlberg should have prevented me from making a moral decision, I was able to anyway.

So in an attempt to answer my own question, who is moral?
I had to ask myself what is moral? A question that I don't think Google, or Kohlberg have answered particularly well. One good deed does not make you a good person, just as one bad deed doesn't make you a bad person. Being moral is about acting out of principle with good intentions, in order to do something that you understand to be correct, no matter the circumstance.

The truth, when I really thought about it, is that moral is not a mutually exclusive character trait. Morality is a sliding scale that we use to measure the intentions of our behaviour. It is a empty word, with shallow meanings, that society uses in order to fit actions into boxes.

So if I really ask myself who is moral? The only real answer I could come up with that didn't make me uncomfortable, is to say that moral is the person that acts with good intentions and deeds both publicly and privately. Moral is the person that gives charity publicly, and treats their family with respect and the way they deserve to be treated. Moral is the person without double standards or contradicting ideas. But moral isn't really a person at all, its a persona that we choose to take upon ourselves, a continually evolving entity that isn't bound by age, rather by experience.

-LF, LR and MG xx