Setting Intentions by Emma Newlyn

Yoga philosophy. Very thoughtful. “There is no resolution and I don’t wait until 1 January to make one.”

Wellcome Collection Blog

We asked writers to talk about the idea of setting intentions for 2016. Picking up on some of the themes in Tibet’s Secret Temple each blog post relates to the exhibition from the perspective of the writer. Kicking us off is Emma Newlyn, a Yoga teacher, writer, musician and massage therapist.

Bringing ancient tantric Buddhist teachings into modern-day life

January is abundant with ‘newness’ and a new year often calls for a new year’s resolution or intention.

The word ‘intention’ has the potential to have different definitions within different contexts: it’s often described as a “thing intended; an aim or plan”, but interestingly within the field of medicine, it also refers to “the healing process of a wound”. The word is derived from the Latin intendere or intentio, which means both “stretching” and “purpose”. In essence then, when we make a new intention, we aim to stretch ourselves with the purpose…

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Thoughts on A Fictional Future | Fauxpocalypse

fauxpocalypse-front-cover-72dpiYesterday, to mark the date of the speculative end of the world in the anthology Fauxpocalypse, I posted a short piece of fiction following my character as they seek out the stragglers and survivors of the non-apocalypse. Having run from Switzerland through Milan, they enter an almost dream-like Venice, where murky canals are invitations to end one’s life and a community has been formed in search of a Communism of sorts.

Although the original concept for the anthology was to set our stories in the same world, the same universe, I think each writer has created their own universe, their own fantasy. After all, that is what speculating about the future is—a fantasy. It is highly likely that the world would have repaired itself, even a tad, in a year following nights and days like those depicted.

However, the image that came to me when I was thinking about what my protagonist’s future world would look like was one that had been broken a lot more. From ruin of home and religion and society, some people couldn’t stay where they had grown up, couldn’t remain in the cities they’d seen torn. Refugees and barriers became more common as racial tension once again became taut. Who was to blame for the speculation? Who was to blame for the destruction?

Everybody had a different opinion.

So, it followed that communities would try and rebuild themselves—either against the world as it had been, with a kind of hate, or against the world to make lives better, fairer. I guess the notion of floor-length robes was part of the fantasy, utilising one’s stereotype of secret society meetings—but flipping it with a community in the open that only tries for the best.

After all, robes are practical, and easier to wash if one desires so.

As animals, we will always have an evolutionary wariness of outsiders – the scientific phenomenon called in-group out-group mentality – and it is only (evolutionarily) recently that we have evolved reasoning and problem-solving approaches to problems of humanity. To me, from what I have observed of modern societies, it makes sense that an apocalypse, or apocalypse-like state/event, would reset our sense of logical community.

The same way that riots rose, as depicted by some of the other authors in the anthology.

Sacrifices have to be made. As I see it, the end of the world, or not, provides many opportunities for lives to change, to be given up or renewed—or both.

In a way, my character gives up a lot when they choose to cross continents looking for survivors: not family, no, as they were brought up in an orphanage and never wanted adoption, but a life of more ample living in an Oxford community that would’ve welcomed another Chemist back into the fold to help local survivors.

Instead, they opted for hardship, handiwork, and walking.

Of course, it is likely that, if this fauxpocalypse were ever to happen, society would repair itself far better than the communities and cities through which our protagonist has ventured.

But one never knows.

It’s been two years since I wrote the first draft of what would become my story Revelation, and in that time, I’ve had a lot more exposure to the hypothetical cultures that could surround or being involved with the fictional future-time portrayed in Fauxpocalypse and its follow-ups. I suppose I understand more now about the way different people react to different situations, and how this can change the future, hypothetically and in reality. The good, the bad, and the ugly sides of personalities.

For instance, during Eastertime, I went to a gig where Abney Park were playing, a band whose Steampunk-esque music is centred around the journeys of Captain Robert’s crew in a post-apocalyptic world.

After all, the end of days may not have come for the Fauxpocalypse characters, but the aftermath of the non-comet is certainly – at least in my mind’s eye – mimicry of what the apocalypse would’ve been like. And it begs the question—are we humans the ones who turn our world into post-apocalyptic dust?

~

If this kind of thing interests you, you can get a print/ebook copy of the Fauxpocalypse anthology at Amazon and other online retailers – just search. We’d appreciate a review if you have the time. 🙂 We are also celebrating with a Facebook page at the moment the date in which the fictional end-of-days was meant to occur.

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Alexandrina BrantAlexandrina Brant has a revived hope in independent arts, since performing at the Institute for Contemporary Arts this week. She’s currently surviving off using the university internet, and alternating not-sleeping and not-writing (!). At the moment, she is thinking of posting snippets of her NaNoWriMo project, of Steampunk MRI machine monsters.

As a note of interest, she was inspired to set her story in a ruined Venice, as she is going there next year. Alexandrina has a particular interest in Italy, its past and its future, and its linguistics.

Finding God in the Happiness

Spring_Alex_B_Daff5

As Lent rolls around again – and with it, the first-year anniversary of my Rite of Election – I find it apt to reflect on spiritual health. Now, in terms of the other levels of health one can have, I have been pretty physically healthy over the last few months (praise God!), my mental health and anxiety has been mostly stable, and emotionally I have hardly in my life been as happy as I am at the moment, in spite of the stress of work.

But have I been spiritually healthy?

First instinct – be that my disparaging mind or the voice of God – says no, loudly and clearly. I am a sinner and sometimes I am not as humbled or penitent of the fact. I can count the sins I commit every day, and sometimes my sincerity is lacking when I ask Him for forgiveness. I try to pray to some extent every day and to read a page of the Catechism every day, but I fail often as more than weekly, and sometimes through my own mind, saying I can’t be bothered.

These thoughts of forfeiting God’s attention for living in the moment have haunted the Christian throughout time. Wherever there has been Christianity, there has been the Devil in the temptation, sometimes of Sloth – and sometimes of giving us a happiness that we think we do not need the Lord by our side.

You see, it is so easy to forget God when one is having a good time. I don’t mean the act of going out and, for instance, indulging ourselves on substances and activities (though the stoic may argue that we offend God with our pleasurable sin), but in the emotional resonance of having a good time: being happy.

When we’re happy, one may argue, we have no need of petitionary prayer. We have nothing for which to ask God. Why pray when all one would be saying to God is thank you and praise you?

Well, that exactly. For starters, God appreciates it when we acknowledge that He is behind the source of our happinesses – He is happy that we, His children, are happy, and He will always be happy when we thank Him for even the small joys. God is worthy of our praise, regardless of how we are feeling in the transitive moment.

Too, there are always things for which to pray to God. It is easy to slip into the mindset that we can only pray to God when we need something, but actually God’s creation may be suffering elsewhere. It is always worthwhile to extend prayers to God for the needs of others, be they friends, family, the old lady who lives down the street – or those on the other side of the world suffering famine and tragic loss. We will always need to pray for our souls and others’. In the same vein, the human will always be the imperfect sinner, so it is best to pray for forgiveness even if one does not know what sin exactly has committed today.

However, I understand that this is easier said than done. I have been trying to say grace before my main meal every day, but I’ve found my memory so lost in the day’s activities and the people I have seen to remember to say grace.

How can we find, or remember to talk to, God in those giddy-positive and happy moments in our lives? How, my question is, can we stay spiritually healthy and aware when we are living in the moment and enjoying it?

It is the little things, I think. Little moments of quiet one can seize when companions have left or popped into the next room. That little thank you prayer to God after a moment of success. I find that statues and tokens in the house help me remember to think of God as I bustle around my busy life.

Because even the simple act of giving Him thought – acknowledging that He is the Master of all life and time – is a start towards keeping Him in mind in whatever we may do.

With every day that I consider my spiritual health and that I may have strayed from God’s plan for me, I am in the mere act replenishing my spiritual health. With this in mind, I am thankful for Lent, thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice, and thankful that God knows exactly what the plan for my life is. I believe that the happiness I feel is a gift from God, rather than a Devil’s temptation, and so I try to keep my mind turned Heavenward for His sake.

Why Don’t We Talk About Intangible ‘Firsts’?

The whole world seems to put a great deal of significance on ‘life events’ and romance checkpoints – first kiss, first time…first marriage (in some cases) – which leaves out a great deal of people, not least asexuals or aromantics.

However, society appears to be missing a certain chunk of what it is to be human – that other side of ‘firsts’ that can’t so easily be tallied down by the amount of winks one gets. The un-countable aspects of kindness, morality, and social equality that occur between more than simply the lovers.

Why don’t we talk about those intangible firsts in life? The ones that matter to people who don’t or can’t experience the same levels of emotional or romantic ‘achievements’ as those who have been on a thousand dates. As a society, we spend far too much time on the physical, but abandon what is more important to the health of our people: the life spirituality (whatever that may mean to you – gods or aether or self-concepts).

These can be anything, from the smallest things to the biggest things. Things that made you feel respected and your unique true self.

The first time someone treated me like an adult individual.

The first time someone validated my opinion, or disagreed with it in a scientific and organised manner.

The first time someone called me beautiful. And meant it.

The first time someone truly grinned at one of my super-eccentric moments.

The first time someone listened to one of my wine-fuelled rants, and didn’t end up with a condescending expression.

We are acting as if these moments mean nothing, when actually they mean a great deal. Who cares about who kissed whom where and with what? The bad and the good of real, everyday life should be considered when we talk about first times – for the sake that they are more inclusive, and for the sake that they mean a deal more.

Words Are the Images of the Soul

A thought-provoking quote to end your Monday on. Linguistics is so fascinating that it’s no surprise how much consideration has been given to how it reflects the world. With our souls, we paint metaphysical pictures of our world unfolding; with our mouths, we do our best to vocalise the ineffable.

Plot Line and Sinker (Ellen Gable, Author)

Words are truly

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A Thought for Today: Bunny Bennett’s It Gets Better Video

I may be a cis-gender heterosexual and mostly-heteroromantic woman – and Pride month isn’t particularly a well-announced thing here in England, so I didn’t really know about it – but I wanted to share with you this video by steampunk performer Bunny Bennett.

Yes, it’s an old video, but the band Steam Powered Giraffe has really inspired me these last couple of months, in imagination – and self-confidence.

“Maybe you’re just tired of all the hate in the world.”

One thing I’ve learnt in my year at uni, something much more valuable than Heidegger’s continental approach to considering the world’s existence or how the brain acts on sensation signals, is that the world and its opinions are not narrow. They are not the product of a Catholic girls school (take from that what you will; I’ll only say that the opinions of your school-friends will always be unrealistically petty). Life is not the sole opinion of your parents; you can have your own views, beliefs, loves and that’s more than simply acceptable.

Laws are there for a reason – to keep us safe – and, although political correctness has veered off the helpful track, opinions are not the same as laws. You can feel one thing and act another, and, yes, that doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Hate and love are not spectra, and, yes, it is possible to feel hate but to show love and turn the other cheek.

The Steampunk community rules!

As Bunny says in the video’s description: “This video isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for everyone and anyone that needs it. We all go through tough times. We all have seemingly impossible odds against us.”

I have a friend who lives down the corridor from me, a beautiful, charismatic girl who happens to dress like a 40s pin-up because that’s the kind of fashion she loves. She gets flack, but we all get flack. Everyday. It’s the life we live. Yet, that’s no reason for my friend to stop being pretty with her looks or for me to deny that I do enjoy NeoVictorian and modern NeoVictorian (wearing non-Victorian shirts and trousers but jazzing them up with steam accessories like belts and bows and frills. I love frills.).

And your start is to start loving yourself, and forgiving yourself. We all do silly things and feel arguably silly feels, but beating yourself up for how you feel does no one any good.

I know – this post is comprised of nothing novel. I just wanted to share this beautiful video from a beautiful amazing woman.

Well, life’s too short, so share the love. You know it is. You know it is. Don’t do things that you shouldn’t do, because that’s bad. 😉

 

My Thoughts on ITV’s ‘Endless Night’

Here I discuss the recent for-TV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s crime novel of the same name. It is worth pointing out that I’ve not read the book yet. Also SPOILERS. That’s the point.

Endless Night has certainly been portrayed as one of Christie’s darker pieces – more thriller than cosy. The story follows, and is narrated by, Michael ‘Mike’ Rogers (played here by the immensely brooding Tom Hughes) as he courts and marries rich American Ellie Guteman and they buy the supposedly cursed piece of land known as Gipsy’s Acre and live in the house designed by an old friend of Mike’s, Robbie, whose brother Mike attempting to save years previously. Yes, the story takes place over a year, maybe a year and a half, at least, judging by the way it was narrated.

Joanna Vanderham as Ellie Goodman and Tom Hughes as Mike Rogers

Oddly enough, I’m going to start my thoughts by looking at the end of the performance, not counting that contemplation on “my beginning is my end” in his jail cell. I want to look at the two very contrasting, yet so linked, images that stuck in my mind: the (remarkably controlled) explosion of Gipsy’s Acre house and the ice-locked brother of Robbie, Pete.

By the camera angles and colours, we are left wondering throughout the piece until its denouement whether Pete’s death really was an accident, thus shadowing Mike’s narration with heavy watcher foreboding throughout. Granted, this, unlike Ellie’s murder, was unplanned, sudden slaughter, the weakness of the criminal mind yet its utter unlocking and lust-bringing.

If one murders once, it gets under one’s skin, and Mike realises this towards the end. I don’t think he really wanted to murder his lover Greta (after all, he’d only just admitted to Marple that they were getting married), but the disease of murder gripped him, pure murder-lust. I’ve seen this in Christie’s characters before, just as I’ve seen chaos-lust in my own characters.

People with curious minds might want to think the best of Mike from this…but, in the back of their minds, there will always be that idea… Did he deliberately kill him?

Just for a pricy watch.

And that brings me to Mike as a character.

I empathised with him, especially at the denouement, and not just because, in those final scenes, perhaps he doesn’t want to kill when the disease is strong enough to misdirect his mind. One wanted to like him, but for his lack of morals.

Yet, he is a ‘cold-blooded’ (to borrow a cliché) killer, utterly clear by the final ten minutes’ screen time. What surprised me, however, was Mike’s shock at Marple’s words – “that would be like killing your mother” – when he has had that desire in him for many many years. And who can tell whom is to blame for that? Mike may be innately…evil, perhaps.

I think that’s a line that will hit home with a lot of viewers, for the reason that one will be either revolted – or that one will know exactly what that’s like.

And I can tell you that the latter will be more likely.

I cannot account for what the prose elicits, but I suspect this relativity was part of Christie’s intention in her unreliable narrative.

Another reason is not of empathy and human nurturing, but that of tearing life down with morbid curiosity: fear – and fascination. Part of the human psyche we cannot, as a reasoning species, ignore.

Fire and Ice and Foreshadowing

Perhaps Mike’s actions on the ice traumatised Robbie, too, hence his own rather morbid fascination with the death. In the end, although he never murders exactly the way he wondered, his words, his mentality, still foreshadows his own death and destruction of the house he himself created – after all, revenge bears logic when one has nothing left to lose.

Christie and the ITV team use the themes of foreshadowing/mystic guesswork a lot in this piece – Mrs. Lee’s palm-reading and its effects, for instance – though, one could argue, fatalism takes actual hold or precedence here, through the characters’ obsessions with death that ultimately lead to their own demises (heard of don’t play with fire, yeah?).

Too, their minds may have been twisted by the stunning landscape tapestry.

The post-modern architecture was never going to survive in Gipsy Acre’s wilderness; but the canyon – where numerous characters go to reminisce about their deaths, and, uh, push people down – also provides a good metaphor for the themes. The drop, of sanity. The descent, into amorality (this happens to most of the characters, if one gives their actions a broad sweeping sense). The fall, from riches – or by riches. Take the ablative however you like.

Other Characters?

I guess more is said of Ellie’s new friend Claudia (and her relationship with Doctor what’s-his-name) in the book, but, personally, I felt those characters were never really introduced in the more personal way Christie has done in Poirot and some other Marples. This may also be accounted for by the exceedingly long drag of the beginning (as I said: over a year in plot…).

Not counting Pete’s murder, Ellie doesn’t die until the 1-hour-15 mark, would you believe! Even the omens of the gypsy’s curse, though fake, seem to float into the plot very loosely and sporadically, or irrelevantly.

This I expect of Murder, She Wrote, but not of Marple.

So…

That lack of in-depth Secondary Characters and the slowed pacing put me off the adaptation. However, I enjoyed the story immensely. In the words of Poirot: “I look at the psychology”. Indeed, the twisted sense of mind Greta, Robbie and Mike have bleeds from their pasts, maybe their present ideologies and humours, and their overriding psychology, like their constant desire for money and success.

And, as this is a murder mystery, we all know it’s going to go wrong.