Journal October 2022

The blank page or the origami bird

It is interesting to note that the history of mental health care is one of barbarism. The mentally ill in many respects have been understandably marginalised throughout history; thought of as being possessed by demons and the devil, used as guinea pigs in efforts to comprehend human behaviour by science. It is also interesting to note that there are more people incarcerated in prison today thought to be of sound mind who have committed murder, child abuse, rape, torture and much more who are deemed to be of sound mind than you will find in Britain right now incarcerated under the Mental Health Act guilty of the same. This is not to say that some do not become violent or that their behaviour can seem alarming though.

The Victorians thought it possible to identify the mentally ill and for that matter criminality by looks alone. They believed that there was some outward appearance of a disturbed mind even when the individual was placid. Last century it was still possible for you to just say that a person was mentally ill for them to be bundled off to the funny farm never to return into mainstream society so that you could get rid of your neighbour, a rival even a troublesome family member on mere hearsay to settle any dispute.

Yet to me, the mentally ill could also be seen as canaries in a coal mine, as one nurse put it, indicators of dangers looming that all ought to take heed of. The invisible miasmas of danger lurking ahead it seems affect some people more readily that others. Thanks to Covid, many children and adults are struggling to even return to normal activities following lock downs. Anxiety and depression are on the rise amid the turmoil of these times.

I now feel grateful for my personal journeys into mania and psychosis for I have repeatedly come out the other side. It has enabled me to be adaptable to world events once I have a grip on them. In many respects climate change, covid, natural disasters, price rises and wars all coinciding at this same point in history remind me of the final phases of psychosis whereby layer upon layer of inescapable foreboding consumes every waking moment of every day. That said, I even now sometimes have to pinch myself that all this is happening and that I am not imagining it. I yearn to wake up from this nightmare to discover it to be a psychosis after all. Mostly I long for it to be over.

What can I do to alter any of it? What could I possible contribute to help turn the course of history toward the prospect of a more peaceful, pleasant and safe future for all. One whereby we all unite toward a common goal of living in harmony, not just among ourselves but with the myriad of lifeforms that we share this sublimely complex and beautiful planet with that have enabled us to evolve and thrive.

I could and have written to world leaders in the past, but with my health condition my thoughts on how to resolve things has never courted any interest. Not least because my mental state was not always coherent at the time. I have had some written acknowledgements via snail mail though but not for some years. Someone’s thoughts will though, and indeed many do, make a difference and some get as far as inspiring the world to stop and think. Beyond the likes of Ghandi, it is of comfort to me now to see the little acts of ordinary folk that trigger reactions from many to do something positive. Captain Tom during Covid in support of our NHS was not the only to do so. Russian protestors against the war in the Ukraine being arrested for holding up a blank piece of white paper most recently.

If ever there was a symbol for our times, it must surely be that. A blank piece of white paper. Nothing need be a foregone conclusion, nothing need be written in stone or indeed is until we ourselves determine what it is we stand for to carve it there. We can shape paper as well as make our marks upon it. What finer sight could there be in our minds in times of war than that of a bird in the blue expanse of the sky? What a wonderful response it would be to automatically launch millions of origami white doves  instead of weapons in times of war.

I have to confess to being disenchanted with world leaders and the world of politics now. All too often the most valiant of efforts by diplomats and advisors, experts in their fields are undermined by them and ignored. This is nothing new. It is nothing new for nations or individuals to form strange alliances that subsequently dissolve into feelings of bitter regret. There many instances in my own life when I have had strange bedfellows that I have long since abandoned but once thought good to have in my life. They are but temporary companions on our journey to personal understanding, all serving the same function in that regard. I am glad and proud to say I belong to no political ideology and never have because to join any group is to become tribal. Few I have met seek compromise as I do.

To be accepted as a member of any group you have to adhere to it’s precepts regardless of passionate exceptions you may hold dear. It’s it why there are wrangles within them is it not? And subsequent divisions.

I prefer science which allows that conclusions on theories are always open to being challenged and revised. I find it less confusing in that respect. I have tried and had better success in sharing positive solutions to our shared concerns on climate change. It is not for a lack of ideas that we struggle so. Most often it is for the lack of investment in them.

I spent yesterday on Twitter. It was a bad day at the office for me there. None came to my rescue to steer me clear of my troubled mind. We all need a break from troubles as an unsettled mind is less likely to find solutions that are viable. A mind hell bent on seeking the worst and sharing it will inevitably miss the very thing that would resolve and restore a more manageable equilibrium. Campaign if you will on human rights, but the more you look for fault the less you will see what good there is, remains and is being built upon. The angrier and more unsettled you will get. Better to build than be eternally on the sidelines being critical. There is to be no Utopia for us while we continue down that course of perpetual dissatisfaction. It is necessary to be aware of what there is to fix and improve upon but that is all.

Take heart, dear reader. Take hold of your blank piece of paper now. Let it be a symbol of your wishes and desires for peace. Let it only become a mark of our intent to endure to become a species of harmony, respectful of all diversity to make the concept of humanity our guiding core of existence while being the guardians and custodians of all other species upon this Earth that serve to make life in any form here possible at all. We need each other.

Yesterday I did a painting and shared it on Twitter of a ruined building. With it I stated that tumultuous times in human history were nothing new. People survived. They will now from wars and plagues.

I have been making my marks on blank pieces of paper for a long time, but few have or will be sharing my thoughts. I find myself craving solitude more and more to provide me with the sanctuary of silence to enable me to think. I want to some preserve for all time a pristine blank sheet of white paper and turn it into a fossil or to somehow turn it into a time capsule for others to find and wonder at. I should at least frame one pristine sheet untouched to mark this moment for all recorded history. For me it is as a newborn child in a deep sleep. Almost silent. I can only just hear the gentle vibrations of it’s breathing softly the promise of new beginnings.