Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reality checkpoint: curiously convoluted thoughts on thinking

I didn’t make any resolutions this year, but if there’s one thing I’d like to do, it’s to trust my intuition more. Do you ever have those moments when you feel as if a greater force is trying to get a message across? The sort of times when everything seems to somehow be linked together, and falls serendipitously into place?

It happened to me this week. First I went to see The Iron Lady at the cinema. The film has had mixed reviews, though there’s a general consensus that Meryl Streep’s performance is outstanding. Personally, I liked the way the storyline focused upon human elements as well as history - the struggle of womankind in a man’s world, the juggling to make ends meet (with the application of home economics to the nation’s finances), the balancing act of marriage, and of bringing up a family – and, above all, the complications of ageing and death (a reality for each and every one of us). There was one line in the film which particularly stuck in my mind – it was when Margaret Thatcher said, “what we think we become.”

I was reminded of this again, when, a couple of days later I attended a talk by renowned astrologer, Shelley von Strunckel. One of her observations was that 2012 is going to be “a year of thinking.” In relation to this, she quoted the famous line of Jacob Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: "I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

I considered this as I watched a curious new ‘reality’ television show called the Fat Fighters on Channel 4. I wondered if the fact that, to quote TS Eliot, “humankind cannot bear very much reality,” accounts for the extreme things people do to change their appearance, even their essential character, out of fear, self-loathing or vanity…

Then at a new play called the Art of Concealment, about Terence Rattigan, (read ShopCurious’s review in the following post) the main character says, “plays aren’t real but can contain more reality about human nature than anything else.” So is this unreal reality the sort of reality that humans can bear?

And how do we measure our reality? “Am I really living, or just surviving?” asks student jewellery designer, Jelka Quintelier, an exhibitor at the Royal College of Art’s current show. Her reality is ‘cycling and recycling.’ She sources things for recycling, whilst cycling from her home in Brick Lane to college in South Kensington, and has made a primitive looking tool from shards of glass - pieces of broken bottles that are regularly strewn across the street outside her flat by drunken revellers.

I reflected back in time to my own student days in Cambridge, where a local curiosity is a lamp-post called Reality Checkpoint (see photo above right). How does my reality compare to Jelka’s? Or Terence Rattigan’s? Or Margaret Thatcher’s unique experience? And does our reality even matter, so long as we are happy? That being said, what makes us happy? Is it a trip to the cinema? A nice box of chocolates? Being thin? Getting drunk? Running the country? Creating an artwork?

Or is happiness just a state of mind?

And if we create our own reality, I suppose we can simply think ourselves happy? Or think whatever we want - and that’s exactly what will happen…

Just trust your intuition.

Will you?

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