Friday, September 28, 2007

Who's the Philosopher?

"So how did your philosophy class go last night? "

Brilliant! I was on a roll. They laughed, they learned, and they all intend to turn up next week too.

"And your energy held out? You didn’t slump halfway through?"

I didn’t! The first half was run on adrenalin and the second on a really strong cup of coffee.

"This was about the ancient Greek philosophers wasn’t it?"

Aye, Thades, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Dirtinees…

"There wasn’t one called Dirty knees."

Sorry, got carried away there.

"But they enjoyed it?"

Oh yes, especially my drawings on the whiteboard illustrating Xeno’s Paradox.

"What’s that?"

You don’t know the tale of Achilles and the Tortoise?

"Can’t say it sounds familiar."

Ah, right then, imagine this mug is Achilles and this spoon is…

"Not that spoon, I’m using it."

Oh, OK, then let’s say this mobile phone is the tortoise and my bowl of muesli is the finishing post.

"Finishing post?"

Sorry, didn’t I say? Achilles and the tortoise are having a race.

"A man and a tortoise?"

Yes, and Achilles is twice as fast as the tortoise.

"That’s not very fast is it?"

That doesn’t matter. For the purposes of this tale it just makes it easier if we say Achilles is twice as fast as the tortoise.

"If you say so."

Good. Now Achilles, being a generous chap, decides to give the tortoise a head start of nearly half the track…

"Very generous."

…because he figure’s he’ll still beat him.

"Just don’t tell me Achilles is going to have a nap just before he gets to the finishing post because he’s over confident."

No, that’s The Tortoise and the Hare. Different story.

"Oh, OK."

Where was I?

"Achilles is twice as fast as the tortoise and has given him nearly half the track head start."

That’s right. So you would expect Achilles to overtake the tortoise just before the finishing line wouldn’t you?

"As long as he isn’t caught napping, I guess so."

But the fact is he never overtakes the tortoise.

"Why not?"

I’m so glad you asked that. This is what the paradox is all about. You see when Achilles reaches the point where the tortoise was, the tortoise will have moved half as far again. Look – if this mug of coffee has moved a foot across the table, then the phone will have moved 6 inches right?


Now, what happens when Achilles reaches the phone… er, the tortoise… now?

"The tortoise has moved half as far again."

That’s right, and when Achilles reaches where the tortoise was, it’s moved again. And so on, and so on. So logically, Achilles never actually reaches the tortoise, because every time he reaches the point it was, it’s moved on. Brilliant, eh?

"There’s an easier solution than that."

What do you mean?

"If the tortoise doesn’t want to be overtaken by Achilles he just needs to kick him hard in the heel at the point he’s about to pass."

His heel?

"Yes, that’s Achilles' weak point isn’t it?"

Hrmph. Just as well you’re not a philosophy tutor then isn’t it…

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And suddenly the nerves hit.

It’s half an hour or so until I leave to teach the first class of a new Philosophy Adult Education Evening Course at the local Community Centre.

Last year I ran an Introduction to Philosophy course; then in the New Year I ran an Introduction to Moral Philosophy course. Both these courses are ones I’d created and run several years ago, before we moved to SW Scotland. However, most of the people who’ve been through these courses wanted another, so I agreed to run one this autumn called “The Great Philosophers

I panicked a bit last week as I realised I only had 10 days before the class started and I hadn’t written any notes.

At the beginning of this week I got into my stride and felt damn pleased with myself for producing some excellent notes on the Pre-Socratics for the first class.

All week long, Maggie’s been asking me if I’m nervous about Thursday evening and the truth is I haven’t been.

Even earlier today she told me she was getting nervous for me, but I’ve just been tootling along, calm and serene, putting the last bits in place.

Then, tonight, while eating dinner I suddenly realised I was wolfing my food down while feeling jumpy and agitated, my mind racing with whether I had all the bits and pieces I need, and all the things that could go wrong.

Not least of which is my concern about whether I’ll have the energy to keep everyone interested and focused for 2 hours.

I can see myself requiring an extra strong cup of coffee at the mid-session break.

20 minutes to go. Better make sure I’ve packed the coffee

And then the sun came out

Perhaps I should have been clearer in my last post that when I refered to “normal”, what I really meant was “normal for me”. Perish the thought that I, or anyone for that matter, should ever be called “normal” as a term of praise.

I’ve always loved the fact that both the following phrases have such a ring of truth to them:

Everyone seems normal, until you get to know them
Everyone seems weird, until you get to know them

Anyway, maybe the meds have finally kicked in, or maybe it’s just a brief moment of respite, but I’ve noticed a distinct change in the past 24 hours, like I’m no longer wading through treacle.

Do you ever go out to a wood or parkland and take a deep breath, filling your lungs, and think “I’d forgotten just how wonderful this smells.”?

It’s a bit like that - remembering what it feels like not to be weighed down and worrying when the next depressive bout will suddenly pounce, and realising you’d forgotten you could feel that way.

Maybe it will be gone again tomorrow, or maybe it will stick around for a while. But for the moment I’m going to enjoy breathing it in.

P.S. Is anyone else having problems with Blogger giving them posting instructions in German (other than German readers, that is)?

Monday, September 24, 2007

To feel normal again...

What is normal?

I’m not sure I really know anymore.

Since the doctor upped the amitriptyline to 25mg instead of 10 a fortnight ago, I’ve not had one of those out-of-the-blue, crushing mood drops I’ve written about before (see Bollocks and Light at the end of the tunnel or just spots before my eyes?), but that’s not to say I feel like skipping down the street, smiling at strangers and handing out flowers to anyone who smiles back either. There’s still a feeling of fragility and a concern that a mood drop could be lurking just around the corner.

But, and here’s the rub, even if the mood drops were a chemical imbalance which are now being counteracted by the anti-depressants, it still doesn’t change the tiredness and low energy and all the other problems life likes to throw at you.

Even if I was “normal” I could still be depressed. It’s perfectly normal to worry about the state of your life and all the things going wrong. The difference is that if I were truly “normal” again, I would then set about changing my life to deal with the crap. Only because of the fatigue I don’t have the energy to do that.

So, if I’m feeling low, is it because the anti-depressants aren’t working, or is it that they are working, but I’m feeling helpless and yucky anyway?

2 months 'til I see the specialist

...and counting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I'm off for a couple of days but wasn't sure what to post, so here's a wee selection of things I meant to write more about but haven't.

First up, Friday 21st September is our Silk wedding anniversary. Maggie & I have been married for 12 years now, and together for nearly 17. I could have written about how we met and why our relationship was doomed to failure from the start but somehow we overcame all the obstacles, but I found I'd covered it all already, 2 years ago on our Tin wedding anniversary.

Next up, Kanani, over at Easy-Writer has bestowed upon me a Quality Time Wasting Prolific Blogger Award for keeping her from doing all the stuff she really ought to be doing with her time instead. It's a compliment, I think.

I'm supposed to then nominate other bloggers who keep me away from doing what I should. This, in fact, covers just about everyone I link to on my side bar. Unfortunately, you lot being the petulant, insecure bunch you are, if I name some but not others there will only be sulks and tears before bedtime, so let's just say you all deserve it.

I've divided the above picture into a 9x9 grid - take a section to stick on your own site.

Finally, or I'll never get away, a couple of weeks ago the local primary school had a "Dads & Kids Day" which I took Meg along to. We learned about stone-age man's activities in this corner of Scotland, had a go a prehistoric-style painting using our fingers and poster-paints and were even introduced to spear-throwing (mock spears, not real ones - we are talking primary school here).

In addition to all this, Meg & I got our photo taken. And if there's one thing I've learned after 2 and bit years of blogging, it's that a father & daughter photo posted on the blog carries a considerable aaaahhhh factor.

So just for you, and you have to realise I wouldn't just do this for anybody, here's the photo of me & Meg.

Have a good weekend and I'll hopefully catch up with you on the other side of it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What a guy!

I don’t always have much desire to praise my former self. In fact, if I’m honest I tend to find myself increasingly annoyed and pissed off at earlier versions of me.

I mean, if he could just have bothered to take the time to learn another language, just think how useful that would have been for me now. And what if he’d decided to take a bit more care of his body and eating habits a little bit sooner? Well, I wouldn’t have had to fight so hard to lose all that weight now would I? Frankly, I have to say the guy is mostly something of a disappointment.

But today I could have pinched his cheek, and given him a friendly slap on the shoulder followed by a manly hug, while saying things like “come here, you…” and grinning warmly.

You see, Kim of a year ago realised, when he was struggling with sorting out his accounts on a spreadsheet, that Kim of the future would probably have forgotten the system he used. So, after compiling the spreadsheet of income & expenditure for 2005/6, he created a template for 2006/7 and filled in the first month.

So when I came to start going through the receipts and invoices and panicked at the idea of having to create a spreadsheet system I could work with, I was delighted to discover one was already waiting for me. And because it had the first month filled in I was able to work out how to do the rest.

It was one of those few times when I would happily have bought my past self a drink. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen so I had to have his one.

Mind you, even though I now have the figures I need, the selfish bastard has always used an accountant in previous years to fill in his self-assessment tax form*. The lazy sod had more money than me so felt he could fritter it away on the services of such professionals. This has left me in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how to do it myself for the first time.

I hope my future self is suitably grateful next year.

*Due for the end of September

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Past, Present or Future - Where Do You Live?

Very few of us truly tend to live in the present; for the most part we live in the past or the future. At it’s extreme this can lead to either an “Eden” or a “Utopian” narrative.

The Eden viewpoint is based on the idea that the best was in the past - nostalgia, rose-tinted memories, school days were the best days of our lives, yearning for the lost innocence of childhood, the good old days, and so on – while the future is doom and gloom – imminent catastrophe from global warming, terrorists, spread of capitalism, growth of communism, over population etc.

By contrast, the Utopian vision of the world is the idea that we are moving towards a better future – the past was a place of greater division, less education & understanding, more disease, shorter lifespan, and the like – whereas the future will be a far greater place – cures for diseases, longer healthier lives, more advanced technology, the global village, an alternative to Windows Vista operating system and so forth.

Which of these camps you fall into will fundamentally affect the way you view, and interact, with the world.

But this same past-dominant/ future-dominant idea can play out on a day-to-day level too. Are you the kind of person who spends the majority of their time mulling over what’s just happened, or are you the type who is always wondering what’s around the next corner? Of course we all tend to be a mix, but inevitably one tends to dominate.

By nature I’ve always been the kind of person with one foot in the future. I don’t tend to dwell in the past much; perhaps I do slightly more now as I get older, but the majority of my attention is still focused on what could happen, or what’s about to happen. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the now; I can easily miss out on what’s happening right under my nose because my sights are set in the distance.

The Eastern Philosophy of Taoism (pronounced Dow (rhymes with cow) - ism) is all about living in the now – the past is gone, the future doesn’t exist, so if we are to extract all we can from life then we should take notice of our surroundings and our actions, and “be” (a superb introduction to the principles of Taoism is Benjamin Hoff’sThe Tao of Pooh” which explains the concepts through looking at the behaviour of Pooh Bear from the A.A. Milne stories, and is well worth sticking on your birthday or xmas list).

Of all religions and philosophies I’ve looked at, Taoism is the one that has always had the most appeal, although it’s one I find almost impossible to implement.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Bumper Crop

The brambling was good this weekend.

Rogan, Meg & I went on one of our most successful bramble hunts ever. The briars were laden with thick, juicy, ripe, tasty brambles within easy reach. Between us we managed to pick over 5lbs of them in less than an hour and a half and were rewarded by one of Maggie's divine Bramble Crumbles and the promise of bramble ice-cream this Xmas as we froze the rest.

And this year we were even able to use the ones Meg picked, although she has yet to learn you shouldn’t rub your face when your hands are covered in purple juice…

Meg managed to get nearly as many in the tub as she did in her belly and over her face and clothing...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Selective memory

It never ceases to surprise me: my ability to filter out and selectively forget my condition.

It’s nearly a year and a half since Maggie first told me my levels of tiredness were unnatural and I should really go and see a doctor about it. Almost every day I have to have a lie down in the afternoon for 45 minutes or more, and if I don’t I really notice the difference. On a daily basis I’m reminded I don’t have the energy I ought to have, and several times a week I experience chronic bouts of extreme emotional pain.

And yet, give me a few hours of feeling relatively normal – not too tired and not unhappy – and I begin to believe that things aren’t anything like as bad as I’ve been moaning about. I seem to instantly forget how crippling the emotional lows can be and that at any moment I could suddenly feel drained like I’ve been unplugged.

You would think I would understand that when I’m not feeling exhausted I ought to be conserving my energy, not assuming that I’m probably over the worst of it now so need to get on and do things.

You would think so…

You would…


Tuesday, September 04, 2007