And yet it moves

The holy beer and the compassionate slice of pizza Vol01

...And I found myself in that place again. This little precious place of concentrated sunshine and happiness that you sometimes reach when your meditation turns out to be successful. What a bliss! I wish I could achieve this more often. Sometimes I get to wander a bit longer on this tiny spot of calm and peace in my mind. But this time I managed to break all previous records: I took a walk and stayed there longer than any other time.

A golden light was shining on a light blue background of an imaginary sky. There was no ground or horizon to be detected and it felt as if I was floating, feeling the cool sea breeze on my face. I had been there before briefly. I was floating and moving forward. Things seemed to be going perfectly well in my quest of inner balance and clarity, when I heard their voice. The most bizarre, irritating and confusing sound I had ever heard in my entire life. It was as if two creatures of some type were talking together, saying the same things simultaneously, the one while gargling on a mouthwash solution, and the other one, the more bass one, as if they were over-grilling a double cheese toast. I couldn't really make out what they were actually saying but at one point I realised they were addressing me. Surprisingly I continued floating and feeling the air on my shocked face. 'What are you going on about?', I managed to ask at last. Then I saw them. They were there, in front of me, floating as well on a blue background. A golden light was shining on my eyes and it seemed to be actually coming from them. A glass of cold beer and a slice of pizza. You would perhaps expect me to come back from my meditative status, but in spite of the shock I was experiencing, I felt it was completely acceptable to resume the encounter. 'Who... What the bloody hell are you?' I stuttered. The gargling and sizzling indistinct speech was unbearable. 'Can you please speak one at a time?' I asked obviously annoyed. 'Hello', said the beer in its bubbling voice.'We are here to support you', she said in the gentlest way a glass of beer could potentially talk. I had no idea what was going on. 'I am OK, thanks', I answered in a borderline rude manner.'I am here to meditate you see', I was eager to get rid of them. 'We already know', said the beer in its annoying but very reassuring voice.'We know all about you and your mind's troubles'. 'How come?' , I asked doubtfully. After all, we just met!' 'Let us introduce ourselves please, I am the Holy Glass of Beer and this is the Compassionate Slice of Pizza. We are all knowing wise beings. We are here to help', went on the beer as if any of this made any sense at all. 'Really?', my jaw dropped a little bit I think and I realised I was staring at them. Suddenly I realised I was on a diet and my low glucose levels must have caused me hallucinations. 'I have to go back folks, I think I might have missed a meal or something...'I started looking for a way out when suddenly, the pizza slice who never really spoke much before said in deep sizzling voice 'Wait, don't go yet. You are not hallucinating. We are here to help with your ... emotions'. Its voice was warm but I couldn't help feeling a little bit offended. 'Excuse me?', I pretended to be surprised. 'I am here to meditate. People meditate, it doesn't mean I have...' Suddenly I felt curious. 'What are you on about?', I asked in a puzzled voice. 'We are here to let you know it is fine. What you worry about, it is ok, we understand', it continued in the same irritating but also kind voice. 'I don't understand', I muttered. It was the Beer's time to say something now... I guess: ' We have noticed how unkind you are towards yourself and others and we are here to help. We are your Compassionate Image...' 'Noooooway!' slipped out of my mouth. 'I must have lost it completely!' 'See, you are doing it again', said HGB in a bubbling whisper. 'You have not lost it, this is a normal process and you are going through some tough times right now. Don't you think we know?' HGB explained rigorously in its less irritating now bubbly voice. 'I see...I am sorry', I said in regret. 'Don't be sorry', said the CSP this time. 'You don't need to apologise because it is not your fault and you don't need to be overly criticising simply because it is not going to help.' 'Right, I hear a lot of don'ts... Shouldn't you guys appear to be more positive? For example, suggest the things one can do to make an improvement instead pointing out the weak points?' I was irritated but while speaking these words I realised there was no reason to be. They were my Compassionate image and therefore I had to let them be... more like what they should be! 'That we will do as well!', said HGB in a reassuring tone. 'For example, you can now reward yourself for reaching at this point through meditation. It is not an easy task, you see! Have a sip!, HGB ordered me. 'Excuse me? You want me to have a drink? I managed to speak up. 'Yes, I am your favourite! Quick now before I get warm!' I decided to follow the order, after all I was very thirsty. 'Now, have a bite!', the CSP jumped in the already awkward conversation. 'What?' I couldn't imagine what would happen if I finished this deliciously looking slice. 'Don't worry, we won't run out', said the CSP as if it could read my thoughts. It could actually, because IT was my thoughts. 'Fine, I will have some', I said and took a big bite. I was hungry after all this concentration and effort to reach my nirvana. 'Now, you see, at this state you can have as much of us you want without any guilt', said the HGB. I suddenly remember I was supposed to be in a diet. I guess HGB could suddenly read a worry on my face since he eagerly followed 'Don't worry, we have zero calories! We are compassionate, remember? 'i guess you are', I said with what I imagined was a smile of content. 'I have to go back now. Thanks!', I said sincerely. 'You are welcome. come back any time. There are more surprises for you here. Just remember to give yourself some space. Let YOU be!', the CSP said in a kind and warm voice. The noise of the sizzling mozzarella wasn't as bad anymore. 'Good bye', I said while falling through a blue sky towards my sofa. 'Good bye!', I heard them saying in a distance.

Are we reasonable beings?

Was it last month or 4 months ago that I unsuccessfully tried to open my children their very own bank accounts? I couldn't remember. What I could remember though was the extreme difficulty in booking an appointment in order to sort out something seemingly simple. Thank you corona virus.

So, here I was, sitting in a tiny windowless room on the top floor at Barclays, staring at the bank employee who was sitting behind a Plexiglass screen and typing rigorously in front of his computer. ''Is your son living with you?'', he asked me with pretentious interest. His thinning blonde hair was shining under the artificial light of the inadequately ventilated room. He was many years younger than me but he had the aura of an older person, emitting conservatism and rigidity with every word he uttered and every gesture he made. 'Yes', I answered patiently while hoping for this barrage of silly questions to end sometime soon. ''It seems this utility bill is printed off the internet, is that so?'' ''Yes',' I answered, impatiently this time. ''I am afraid I cannot accept it if it's printed off the internet'', he exclaimed. ''There are no paper house bills coming under my name, we've gone paperless. There still validity there, isn't there? These are the genuine pdfs from the official sites!',' I eagerly tried to explain. ''I understand',' he said, ''but there is a URL printed on the bottom of the page. I don't mind if it is actually printed off the internet but it shouldn't really LOOK like it is.'' At that point I think I stared at him with my mouth left slightly open. I was trying hard to process the information and make some sense out of it. I couldn't really. ''Do you have a bank account?', he went on. ''Of course I do!'', I answered this time obviously annoyed. ''Great'', he said, ''Could you open your banking app and print out a recent bank statement for me please?''. I am sure that my mouth was wide open at that point. I stared at him for a couple of seconds trying to apply my calming breathing technique as much as the time and place allowed. ''Let me just try to clarify things here'', I finally pulled myself together. ''Would you like me to print my bank statement ...off the internet?'', I cried while trying to contain my bubbling objection. With his most natural tone he answered 'yes'. I suddenly remembered my severe allergy to human incoherence and unreasonability. I can't comply with this, it is against my personal values, I thought. ''I don't do banking on my phone, I don't think it's safe. I am sorry'', I managed to say in a condescending voice. That was it, my inner bitch was out, now I just had to control her and make sure she doesn't bite too much. ''Sure'', he said, ''I understand''. He finally accepted another utility bill that looked... less like it was printed off the internet. ''Does your daughter live with you?'', he continued with ticking the idiotically engineered boxes. 'Yes...', I sighed silently. Hopefully I would be out of this asphyxiating room soon. ''If you could please sign here and here... Here are your account numbers and sort code!'' He gave me the numbers written on the back of a copy of my password. ''Could I make a deposit today? I asked with an instant regret. ''Do you have cash on you?'', he replied. I didn't. ''You need to go to your bank and withdraw some money then and then come back here to make a deposit.'' That was it. I couldn't contain myself any more. I felt I didn't have to. ''Cash?? But I am at a bank after all! Cash and paper bills?? You people at Barclays need to catch up with the evolving world and update your services'', I barked at him. He gave me an apologetic smile and pretended to agree with me. I thanked him and I got out of there in no time.

As I exited the building and started to stride down Princess Street, I felt I needed to reward myself for being as patient as I was. A good dose of reason and a generous portion of sarcasm was what I needed. I went home and later in the evening I decided to watch again one of Frankie Boyle's shows...

The battle of the chromosomes and human ungratefulness

I came across a much upsetting piece of news a couple of days ago: Richard Dawkins, the British evolutionary biologist, world renowned author and activist, had his 1996 Humanist of The Year award revoked by the American Humanist Association over a recent tweet of his. The tweet was posted on the 10th of April and was intended to inspire debate on transgender ideology. Specifically, Dawkins wrote: ''In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.

Discuss.''

You can imagine the extend of the online outrage this tweet caused. We live in a world where 'liberal' opinions on gender and identity have become a form of new, secular religious dogma that no one seems to have the right to say anything about, or even attempt to discuss like Dawkins did! A man who I have been admiring for his scientific integrity and commitment to the truth since I read his 'Selfish Gene' when I was 15. He has been one of the greatest British scientists and thinkers ever, a devoted humanist and activist who has dedicated his life trying to make the world a more reasonable place. His ways have not always been the smoothest but during his active years so far he hasn't shown any disrespect to people on the base of their gender, sexual preferences or race. People who have read his work know it's quite the opposite actually. His criticism of Abrahamic religions is actually a cry for reason and an attack on patriarchy, including racism, misogyny and homophobia that come with it.

So what is this man's crime that caused a turbulence and disruption big enough for him to be treated by some as an online villain ? He initiated a discussion. He asked a reasonable question. Why can't a person identify as of different race than the actual genetic one, but they can identify as of the opposite sex? It's a pretty reasonable question. After all, the genetic differences between people of different races are less than than the ones between men and women. What is the basis of this distinction, who decided this is how things are now, and why can't we not talk about it? If an evolutionary biologist does not have the right to discuss such scientific matters then who does? Politicians of course! Now, I see two problems here. The first and bigger one is the ongoing attack on free speech. Social media banning users, deleting posts and videos, people losing their positions and dignity over something controversial that they said ages ago and new hate crime laws being voted for recently in the UK and Scottish parliament. So are we supposed to be afraid to express our opinions and beliefs? Is this part of the new normal? As much as I would like to I cannot see this not being related to the pandemic governments rhetoric, our confinement in our houses and the slow and gradual acceptance of our loss of personal freedom. And what is most controversial about these opinions and conformist beliefs, is that it is the 'liberals' and 'lefties' who strongly express them. The people who have traditionally fought for the ideal of democracy and against the restriction of freedom of any kind. You cannot have democracy without freedom of speech, a five year old knows that. So, what is going on?

The second problem I see is less obvious, and although it is a part of the first problem, it also has a life of its own. Is this about male entitlement again? How is it naturally assumed that it is so simple to be a woman that you can just decide one day that you are one? I feel that this is another attack on women. Lets not fool ourselves, we haven't so far reached a point of equality between men and women and there are still a lot of issues to be addressed. We are not even close. Sexism is bigger than racism and homophobia, mainly because it affects half the human population. And yet we still let religions abuse women in the name of religious tolerance (or better, fear), men bully them and discriminate against them at work every day, parents and husbands sabotage their confidence every other minute since the time of their birth. It is still there, it is often subtle and not many like to talk about it. I feel we need to celebrate women first. We need to celebrate every aspect. We need to celebrate the menstruation and the clitoris, or at least start acknowledging their existence and function. We need to help women to stop being embarrassed for being female. We need men to feel that it is OK for a woman to be better than them at work. Thousands of years of suppression and now they tell us everyone can be a woman if they feel like it. No! It is not that easy. Nobody has proven anything like that yet and until then people have the right to doubt it. And since we live in a so called democratic society, we can doubt it openly and without fear.

After all, we need scientists like Richard Dawkins, and not ignorant politicians with neo-totalitarian agendas, to discuss subjects like this and come to a conclusion based on scientific evidence and good old fashioned reasoning.

Ghaihir Ennostiel

Chaos and Order

I don't believe in destiny, karma or faith. Although it seems deceivingly orderly for a large part of it, life can be random and chaotic. This usual orderliness makes it more difficult for people to accept the chaos. We get angry and confused because we don't get it, this hostile reality wasn't cut for us. We often don't seem to believe it either, even when the scientific facts are laid in front of our feet. It is contra-intuitive and most importantly inconvenient. The inconvenient truth. Your are not as special as you think, there is no big plan for you, there in no greater picture. Not the way you were made believe at least.

However, it doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense. Who cares if you are not as special as they told you you were? You are still a lot special. You are unique. And you are lucky to be alive. You are here to make a difference or enjoy life, or both. You are here to love. So, I would say stop whining and start living successfully and decently. The instructions are simple: embrace chaos but don't let it drown you. You can control what is within your power as perfectly as you can by accumulating as much knowledge and information possible on the initial circumstances. Let go of what you cannot control. Persist even when it looks like you are losing at that point and most importantly: pay attention and never forget the ones you love.

A walk in the town and the dictatorship of the apps

It was another one of these photocopied days and in order to make a difference for myself I decided to stride down town and make the best out of my daily exercise combining it with what otherwise would have been an unpleasant chore. I had promised my little ones that I would open a savings account for each of them, in an effort to teach them the value of money, savings and financial planning. I had unsuccessfully tried to do this online and on the phone until a very helpful lady on the Barclays hotline suggested I should just walk in one of the brunches and hope to be lucky! I was not impressed with their organisation and customer service I must admit, but I needed to walk anyway and to be honest I had missed the sight of our mighty castle and the idea of a less crowded town centre felt appealing. I took a long and intense walk enjoying the half empty central Edinburgh streets under an undecided over the past few days grey sky. Sweaty and puffing, I arrived at the bank. Unsurprisingly the people at the brunch couldn't help me. 'We don't make appointments during the lock down I am afraid', a young female employee told me through a pair of manually half opened automatic doors. 'Unless...' she mumbled through her mask. 'Unless what? Is there a way to do it from home?' I asked her eagerly. 'Well you would have to download our app, and then we could arrange a video conference with you in order to show us some identification and open the accounts for your children'. Here we go again, I thought. The app. Of course. 'No, thank you. I will see you when the lock down is over!', I reassured her while stepping away from the inhospitable slit door opening. I am not sure what exactly the story with the apps is. There are definitely other ways to use technology in order to achieve the same wanted results but we are often called to download another one of these apps. These apps that sit on your personal phone and send all your data to a zillion highly interested companies in order to make a fortune out of them (us!). You cannot really control or change the app settings in order to prevent it from spying on you. I just firmly believe that companies and organisations should be providing people with an alternative option. I am not in any way obliged to use Google or Apple. This is a free market society, a capitalistic world where there should be healthy corporate competition and options, right? How come are we suddenly, or not so suddenly evidently, all so happy to fill our phone memory with all this rubbish? Why don't people opt for the browser version of software where you can potentially disable cookies and have some control over what you share with the corporate vultures? Shoshana Zuboff amongst others has been warning us for a while now but nobody cares to listen. We all live our restricted lives in our restricted space, trapped in our restricted social interactions digital world. Deprived of our mental health and in some cases of the meaning in our lives, we have within months lost a great deal of our feeling of community and in some ways our civilised manners too. What matters equally if not more at this point though, is that we have also lost our feeling of freedom and consequently have given away our rights of free speech and dialogue in a ridiculously easy manner. We behave as if democracy is irrelevant, the same way we have been recently behaving as if our privacy rights are irrelevant since 'we have nothing to hide'. We do have a lot to hide, and democracy or privacy are never irrelevant. It feels like a crime to give away in a blink of an eye, all this rights that our ancestors have fought and spilled their blood for. Maybe it's time to re-evaluate our current situation weighting the pros and cons. Is the virus related threat to our physical health greater than the threat to our mental health, functionality within our communities and most importantly the threat to our most precious democracy? T.N.T.

My motive, the bug and democracy in distress

Anger. Raw and bitter anger. That's what brought me here. Or at least what is left of it now. It is usually not the first feeling that you have when things go wrong, but it is often the most intense one, the one that wakes you up, the kick starter. Anger is misunderstood and frowned upon in our civilised society although it can be such a useful emotion for the individual since it goes hand to hand with our basic survival instincts . Maybe that's why. It is not a 'social' emotion and therefore potentially dangerous and not socially accepted, hence bad. I am not going to explain my personal reasons behind this unfairly treated emotion. Not today at least. It is more important to look outside at this strange point in our lives. Not because of the virus itself and its lethality, not even because of the psychological impact on our lives. Yes, sure, these are very important matters, but what I am more concerned about is something else, more subtle initially but I think it has started now to show its true colours. It seems that sometimes we can be so self absorbed that it is painful to look outside. The limitations of the human mind? I am talking about the hit on democracy. Intentional or unintentional, it doesn't really matter. Democracy is in grave danger and dramatically wasting away day after day. It is not that it was ever whole, or as it should be ideally, but it is for sure shrivelling further over the past year or so. For people that have experienced the unpleasantness of a coup d'etat or a dictatorship, this doesn't feel much different. It is actually worse. Imposed curfews after 6 in some countries, prohibition of basic social interactions, excessive police presence, isolation and thus lack of dialogue, fear amplified by the lack of human interaction and exchange of sane ideas. The threat is real but the fear of the bug feels exaggerated, its consequences overrated. The measures taken seem excessive at times. Slogans and headlines seem to be universal, although in different languages across the media: 'The new normal', 'It is here to stay' and other as such. We have passively accepted all these, numb from being too self-conscious and anxious. Isn't it bizarre that governments, although they seem to care an awful lot about our health when imposing measures that restrict our personal freedoms, don't seem to care that much about it when failing to make the vaccines, the one and only true solution to our problem according to them, immediately available to everyone? Is this a reasonable time for protecting patents and big pharma profit? We have gone way beyond what had so far been accepted as normal when it comes to pretty much anything else but we find it a grotesque idea to expect the WHO and our governments to help free a patent or two? Shouldn't we in the light of a global emergency situation perhaps overlook the intellectual property rights and free the vaccines patents in order to achieve a mass production that will make them available to everyone sooner rather than later? These companies, like AstraZeneca and Pfizer received billions of dollars from the US via the operation Warp Speed and other governments to help develop the vaccines. Shouldn't they at least pretend they care by giving a little bit of the love back? Isn't the estimated $13 billion dollar profit from the Pfizer vaccine enough of a motive? Where do we draw the line when it comes to corporate greed against human lives ? Why should we accept the prolongation of this unnatural situation in order to help increase company profit? We couldn't have given up our rights of personal freedom and intimacy faster or more willingly. It feels that we were initially caught off guard and it was probably what was the right thing to do at the time, however it's been a while now since the pandemic started and fortunately or unfortunately we had plenty of time to think. It is only fair for us to expect that the power of the state will be used benevolently to impose rules and regulations on the corporate world as well as the individuals, especially when indicated by a state of global health emergency such as the one we are currently experiencing. TNT