Be Nice

Be Nice

As someone who views organised religion as an operating system, I found the book by John Niven, ‘The Second Coming’, an absolute hoot. The intro says it all.

God takes a look at the Earth around the time of the Renaissance and everything looks pretty good – so he takes a holiday. In Heaven-time this is just a week’s fishing trip, but on Earth several hundred years go by. When God returns, he finds all hell has broken loose: world wars, holocausts, famine, capitalism and ‘fucking Christians everywhere’. There’s only one thing for it. They’re sending the kid back.‘ …

… as a struggling musician…

The God Niven creates is laid back and despises what’s being said and done in his name. Let me put it this way, Niven’s language is somewhat ‘ripe’ to put it mildly; his view of intolerant religious fundamentalism, mainly in Christianity, is excoriating; and as for the ten commandments, there should have been only one – Be Nice. Erm, that’s it. Be Nice.

Not only is the book very funny it also challenges those who use hate to promote their views. Worth reading, but only if you’re not precious about your religion.

So, why am I mentioning this in what is currently a confused and, in some cases, frightened world? Well, put simply, there are a great number of people who are doing just that – they’re living the Be Nice commandment.

For example, a friend of mine whom I’ve mentioned before lives her faith-based beliefs daily. Her sense of responsibility to her family and community means that she is currently unable to attend her church or the local homeless kitchen initiative for which she volunteers.

Another, a fellow writer, lives in London with her self-employed husband and family. She also lives her faith-based beliefs daily and gives time to her mosque to help her community. She has to balance practical issues, e.g. finance, and keeping those she loves safe and close.

Both of these incredibly caring, strong women, of different faiths, live the Be Nice commandment daily. You’ll have your own examples.

Obviously there are those who will try to weaponise this situation to suit their own ends. The current incumbent of the White House calling Covid-19 the ‘Chinese’ virus and declining to take responsibility for the handling of this emergency is but one example. There are others.

In this hyper-chaotic world, the ‘law of unintended consequences’ applies. This means that we have no idea where we will be when the initial challenges created by Covid-19 begin to be addressed. Will we have learned? Will we apply what has been learned? We can only wait and see.

We will get through this, of that I have no doubt. However, as I wrote previously, it’s how this particular challenge is dealt with that will define us.

So – Be Nice.

J J Mitchell

‘No one left behind’


The power of words

The power of words

This is a blog about the power of words.  

The reason?  The loss of someone close to one of our dearest friends.  It was with humour and incredible bravery that he stuck two fingers up at Death as it approached.  He just didn’t blink.  He used words to make people laugh, he used words to let folk know that they should celebrate who he was with him.  Pity and sadness were not allowed, especially the former.  The latter could, and would, come later as it has now.   

As Love Of My Life, LOML, and I discussed this delightful and loved human being it brought to mind the poem that was spoken at the funerals of LOML’s father and mother.  

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep 

I am not there. I do not sleep. 

I am a thousand winds that blow. 

I am the diamond glints on snow. 

I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 

I am the gentle autumn rain. 

When you awaken in the morning’s hush 

I am the swift uplifting rush 

Of quiet birds in circled flight. 

I am the soft stars that shine at night. 

Do not stand at my grave and cry; 

I am not there. I did not die. 

Mary Elizabeth Frye

An example of how beautiful words can be.  How moving.  How inspiring.  

A quick search on Wikipedia provides some background.  Mary Elizabeth Fry was an American born in November, 1905 and died September, 2004.  The genesis of the poem, written in 1934, was inspired by the story of a young Jewish girl, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who had stayed with the Frye household.  She was unable to visit her dying mother in Germany due to anti-Semitic unrest.  

Anti-semitic unrest.  A horrible phrase, created by an obscene philosophy that pilloried a discrete religious / racial group and, in the end, exterminated in excess of six million of them.  

An example of how words can stir up hate.  

An example of how words can result in the death of millions.  

You will have your own examples of these promoters of hate and populist manipulation.  They tweet, they (mis-)use Facebook, (that dreadful, irresponsible publisher with no moral compass at all), they lie in the press and on television.  Without any sense of guilt or responsibility.  

And yet, and yet, we know that words can inspire and bring people together.  So, let’s use words that counter the hate and vilification espoused by others;  let’s use words that create laughter;  let’s use words that move us to a higher level of our humanity.  

Just like the man I have written about at the beginning of this blog.  

J J Mitchell

‘No one left behind’ 

Mixed feelings

Mixed feelings

I started writing this on 11 November, the day the Armistice was signed which brought the end to the First World War.  After millions of human beings, note the term, human beings, were killed, maimed, disfigured and mentally scarred.  For what?  A home fit for heroes?  Most went back to the same poverty they’d left when they’d joined up to protect their country from the enemies they’d been told they had.  

However, this isn’t about politics, this is about mixed feelings felt by the individual.  

The mixed feelings people have when they remember those who have died in war.  The First World War, the Second World War, Vietnam, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Yemen, the list could go on.  And on.  And on.  The mixed feelings people have when they think about why people went to war and died.  The relief that people feel when they heard the loved one had died quickly.  The regret.  The anger at the waste.  The loss of someone you loved, knew, cared about.  All of that.  The relief when that person comes back apparently unharmed.  It needs to be remembered that the wounds might be hidden, sometimes for years.  We call it PTSD…

Then you have people having mixed feelings at a personal level.  When their Mum dies, or their Dad dies.  Or a friend you cared about lost a battle against an unwelcome ‘guest’ – liver cancer <here>  (Semper Fidelis, Bill.)  I find it with everyone I know, the mixed feelings they have when someone they love, or have known for what might be decades, is dying or suffering a lingering illness.  They love, care, respect them to the extent that they don’t want them to suffer.  They love, care, respect them to the extent that they want them to stay.  To remain and make them laugh.  To allow them to care.  To remain and continue to make them whole.  To complete, maintain the balance of their world.  

Then the person dies.  

It leaves those left behind feeling guilty that they wanted them to go and go quickly, with no pain, because although the body was there, the soul, the essence as it were, is no longer present.  And that’s where the mixed feelings come in.  Relief that the suffering is over;  anger at the person dying before you were ready to let them go;  guilt at wanting them to go because them staying was causing them physical and mental pain.  

Mixed feelings, eh?  Such a pain.  Such a load of confusion.  Such a maelstrom of emotions.  Good.  Bad.  Never indifferent.  

So very human.  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

Some thoughts on humour, music and smells.

Some thoughts on humour, music and smells.

It’s a bit of a grey, overcast day here in Edinburgh so I thought I’d blog about something to lighten the day up – humour, music and smells. Why? They can add depth to your writing. However, all have to be appropriate otherwise it will ‘jar’ with the reader. 

Humour:  Here’s an awful joke for you, ‘What do you call a guy who likes to jump into leaves?’  Answer: ‘Russell.’  I know, I know, dreadful and it can make you wince, but there again, it made me smile when I first heard it. I also used it in the book.

Then there’s this three part joke: Q1: What do you call a donkey with only one eye?’ A: ‘A winky donkey.’ Q2: What do you call a donkey that only has, one eye and three legs?’  A: ‘A winky, wonky donkey.’  Q3: ‘What do you call a one eyed, three legged donkey that can also play the piano?’  A:  ‘A winky, wonky, honky tonky, donkey.’  Again, dreadful but also very funny.  (Tell this to a young child and just watch them collapse with laughter.)  I’ve also told this joke to a number of the guys I was with when I worked offshore – the ridiculousness of it invariably doubled them up and it soon became the rig’s in-joke for that hitch.  Most probably I won’t use it, but there again, if the situation warrants…

Music: It’s the same with music. There are times when you just stop what you’re doing and listen. With the development of web radio we now have thousands of stations from which to choose.  My own preference is for a more ambient style as personified by Soma FM and their station, ‘Groove Salad – a nicely chilled plate of ambient / downtempo beats and grooves.‘ Very restful and is the music to which I listen when writing. Advert free and supported by its listeners, it’s a delight. Try it out and think about supporting them as well. 

I’m also interested in stringed instruments since being given a ukulele a couple of years ago by my once in a lifetime love. Unlike me, Mac, one of the Normal characters in ‘The Kold Kronicles’, is pretty good at the ukulele. The downside, as he likes to phrase it, is that Linn, ‘when she’s had a few, likes to dance…  Not a pretty sight…’ Thus a mix of humour and the impact of music – and, it must be said, alcohol in Linn’s case when she decides to shimmy.

By the way, Mac’s uke isn’t a standard uke, it’s a tenor sized harp-ukulele and as you can see, it does actually exist.  Created by an outstanding luthier, Alistair Hay, Emerald Guitars. I have one and I love it.  

Synergy Uke Red Artisan (NPU) as Smart Object-1

Smells:  Then there are memories created by smells. They can be evocative of so many things.  

The good – the smell of the back of a newborn’s neck – beautiful. Fresh bread also comes to mind. I make my own and love the smell.  It is a smell of home and all that that word means – comfort, laughter, love and delight in being with another to name but a few.  

The bad – other smells, some of which are not so pleasant, but that’s for another time and a more dark mood.

So, think about using all the above when writing.  They can be evocative and powerful as a ‘mechanism’ if you want to create a particular scene. 

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’