Smile

Life’s hard. This is something we all have to accept at one stage or another and we have a choice whether to let it get us down or to rise above it and be the commander of our own emotion. We’re not children any more, there’s no-one there telling us everything will be okay and reassuring us that we’re doing well. It’s your job to do that now. So smile. You may not feel like it, you may not feel remotely happy but you can let that emotion own you or you can show it who’s boss. Truthfully, it’s not even just about you. The person next to you on the train, the cashier serving you your sandwich, your co-workers, your family, you friends are much more likely to feel happy if everyone around them is smiling. And the same goes for you; it’s a beautiful loop.

So smile. It can’t hurt.

What’s wrong with sport?

Sport is an aspect of society that is nigh-on universally celebrated in one form or another. You find it littered across the back pages of newspapers, on the most expensive television channels and flaunted on the clothing of hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts around the world. We love it and there’s something about it that holds our interest. But is it something that we should be holding in such high esteem or have we got too caught up in something that should never have held the influence in our culture that it does now?

As a British man, being asked the question, “which football team do you support?” is much like the question, “what kind of music do you like?”sports – the person asking the question expects you to have an opinion. In my experience, other men find this topic very comfortable and are happy to launch into into a well thought out discussion or argument about some team or manager or player or transfer or goal etcetera. I have seen this subject dominate the conversations of men for hours but, apart from being extraordinarily unimportant, is there actually anything wrong with their enthusiasm?

On the surface it seems ridiculous that there could be anything wrong with sitting down and enjoying a good game of football but when you look deeper it doesn’t seem as straightforward as one might expect. Firstly, it shouldn’t matter so much to the general public who wins or loses a game. I find it interesting how people can justify identifying themselves with a club without playing for them or working for them. Sure, it used to be the case that football clubs would be made up of local people and so the community spirit was understandable but these days players are often not just from different counties but from different continents. It seems silly to me to be traditional about this; there is nothing Mancunian about Manchester United F.C. any more, that’s just where they happen to play. So when I see people screaming at television screens or crying at stadiums it leaves me wondering if there mightn’t be a healthier outlet for these people’s emotions, perhaps they should give up the pretence and save their feelings for something real.

I just think we have a responsibility as human beings to commit ourselves to the things that are really important in life. If you’re one of the people that finds yourself shouting at the television screen, furious with your team’s performance, then perhaps if you looked a bit deeper you’d find what you were really angry about. Life is very short and can be lived a lot better if we are honest with ourselves, look past our pride and humble ourselves. If something makes you happy or sad, let it be because it’s something that matters, something that means something.

So I think sport should be enjoyed, yes. But as an appreciation of excellence or a way to keep fit. Not as some tribal battle. As adults we should be in control of our own emotions and look up to people worth looking up to.

We can do better.

Hatred

Your parents probably told you that ‘hate’ was a strong word and not to be used lightly – mine did, anyway. At some point or another, most of us forget this and begin to use it casually in conversation; “I really hate that advert” for example. The interesting thing for me is that the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that contains it is almost always that which holds most emphasis by the person that speaks it. It’s a word that holds our respect even when used improperly.

But what ‘hatred’ really means and whether its use can ever be justified takes a little more thinking than a throwaway comment about a cheesy advertising slogan. To me, hatred represents a seemingly irredeemable repugnance and dislike for a person or thing. Now, the dictionary disagrees with me on this, insisting that hatred can be described simply as “intense dislike.” The reason why I stand by my definition over that of the dictionary’s in this instance is that the dictionary is a representation of language as it is used in its current state. This is why pathetic excuses for words like ‘selfie’ find their way into the dictionary; if people consistently use a sound to represent a thing enough that it becomes generally accepted, then it becomes a word. So people have diluted the meaning of the word ‘hate’ over time by expressing their dislike for petty things like television advertising. I stand by my definition because of the respect we still seem to have for the word even when used carelessly in these situations.

Anyway, I’ve managed to digress as I so often do. Can hatred be justified? Short answer: yes. Long answer: sometimes. It’s at this point I realise that the long answer isn’t all that much longer than the short one – so I’ll expand. For hatred to be reasonable I think we can agree that the subject must have a negative impact on you, otherwise there’s nothing to dislike or be repulsed by, and it must be defined by its impact, else it is redeemable. So, in short, you can justifiably hate anything that falls within these highly selective criteria.

To explain, I shall draw up one of my famously extreme examples, in this case the murder of a child. There are things you can hate in this scenario and things I think you shouldn’t. I’ll start with things you can hate – the act of murder being the obvious candidate. A murder is characteristically negative and can only be defined by the extinction of someone’s life, thus fulfilling all of the criteria. Now on to things you shouldn’t hate – firstly, the murder weapon. People say they hate guns, which seems fair when you see what they can do and what they have already done in the world… but this does flout my criteria I’m afraid. Obviously, guns can have a pretty negative impact on people, I won’t dispute that, but I don’t believe that they are defined by this impact; that undoubtedly falls to the act of shooting someone. People will argue that guns weren’t designed for anything else but I think that’s irrelevant. Yes, they can be seen as a symbol for murder but that doesn’t make them murder and I think that distinction is very important.

Lastly, is it acceptable to hate the murderer? That’s an interesting one – some people would say ‘definitely’ and you can understand why. Others would say ‘only if they showed no remorse,’ which seems equally, if not more, sensible. I would say ‘no.’ Let me explain myself. We said that it was justifiable to hate something that was defined by its impact, else it was redeemable. After all, you can do nothing to change the past – you are only who you are in each moment, so showing remorse allows you to be redeemed. If they show no remorse then they can’t be redeemed so you can hate their thoughts at least. But should you hate them as a person? I can see how this is a bit of a grey area and I would still say ‘no.’ This is because I would argue that this person is mentally ill. I would argue that they never chose to be a person who showed a disregard for human life, that they should be rehabilitated, and not persecuted. But this is a question of free will and one that I know many people will disagree with. It is for you to decide what you think about that.

Love

You’ve only to look through a smattering of the world’s literature to realise that love is a big deal to the human race. It seems as though every film, every novel, every song is infused with a love story to keep observers’ attention; it’s what we want to engage with. It seems fitting that such a complex species should be so obsessed with such a complex feeling. There’s no black and white to love – it can be a source of joy or pain, and often a mixture of the two – it affects anyone, anywhere, any time and it cannot be controlled. Previously straightforward decisions become clouded and overwhelming and strong opinions can be toppled in seconds. Love is not a force to be meddled with. It is so complicated, just finding words to define it is mind-blowing. It is a feeling, an emotion, an obsession, a compulsion, cruel, kind, beautifully simple and yet so hideously problematic. We are far closer to understanding time than we will ever be to understanding love.

Of course, it could just be an evolutionary compulsion adapted to give us the best chance of surviving to produce fertile offspring…

But that doesn’t sound nearly as romantic.

Why Should People Suffer?

One of the most common arguments used against the concept of a perfect, divine entity is that there is so much evil and suffering in the world. You don’t have to look far away to see pain, anguish and horrific mistreatment and to many people this is conclusive evidence that if there is a God; He cannot be both good and omnipotent. I’ve heard responses to this point that have been awful, and have seen some that completely dodge around it, ignoring the object and instead feeding you a decoy lined with uncommon theological jargon.

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White Lies

We’ve all told that little white lie occasionally, perhaps our friend looks “absolutely wonderful” with their new life-sized tattoo of a cat’s head on the back of their neck. Or your mother has a “simply beautiful” singing voice when really it takes every ounce of self control not to cover your ears and run – we are just trying to be polite. Unfortunately, we undeniably live in a world where we can’t just go around saying what we think, we often have some fairly hurtful opinions that our minds do not hesitate to put into the clearest of words. Even the least intelligent of people seem incredibly practised in their use of imagery when talking about the new haircut of “that idiot over there;” it can be anything from a ‘dirty mop’ to a ‘dead cat.’ So, quite reasonably it seems, we are prevented from saying exactly what is on our minds.

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Morality Versus Desire

Too often in this world, people are judged by their desires. It’s easy to criticise something that you can’t relate to and makes very little sense to you, particularly if it appears to damage people’s lives. Heavy smokers, sadomasochists and drug addicts are just some of the people that fall into this broad category. The majority of people in the Western world struggle to comprehend why anyone would participate in recreational drug use or sadomasochism and so the people that do are stereotyped, just as all minorities, whether that’s sexual preference, religious belief, ethnicity or anything else for that matter.

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