As my laptop is STILL in hospital I’m rebloging Mr Adam Pain….again.
I can’t help it, the man seems to jump on all my topics and get there before me.
You are reading this on the morning of Sunday October 12th, my little sister’s birthday. A very happy birthday I hope it is too. I can say happy birthday to her. Unfortunately, as regular readers of the blog will already know, my elder sister, Katy, no longer can. This is a complete bummer, both because it is the one birthday present I’d dearly love for her to receive, and because it has put a monumental downer on this opening paragraph.
This will come as no surprise to chirpy TV psychic, Sally Morgan, who I imagine read this blog post yesterday, before I’d even thought about writing it. Maybe Katy was sat next to her in gas form as she did so, occasionally whispering little secrets to her to exploit for profit, next time she’s passing through this neck of the woods.
I take great comfort in the fact that our deceased loved ones chose to share tittle-tattle with enigmatic pensioners from working class backgrounds. It must be a relief for a family, when their beloved Nana chooses to commune through a stranger stood on a provincial theatre stage, in front of an intimate crowd of a thousand. A huge weight off, when they learn that she doesn’t blame them for the fall down the stairs – it was those bloody slippers she’d insisted on buying from Lidl.
Nana still loves you, but I’ve got to go now – Gandhi’s about to start calling the bingo numbers out, and I’m due a bit of a lucky streak.
I’m joking, of course. It’s a fucking offensive trick played by charlatans purely for money. Sally already knows this, with or without precognition. I’m going with without.
But I’m not going to spend another five hundred words putting the boot into stage psychics, as much as I’d gleefully do so. Besides, the problem would be stopping my metaphorical leg from swinging. But it would certainly provide no hope.
I was out of hope last week, as you may remember. But as the saying goes, hope springs eternal.
I don’t really believe in the idea of eternity from a personal perspective. I do believe in Eternal, and hope one day they’ll put their differences to one side and do one last tour with Louise Redknapp. Get BeBe Winans out of his box for the big finale too – that would be epic. But I do believe in providing hope, even when all hope seems lost. So, I’ve decided to let you in on an idea that brings me comfort almost every day I continue to bumble around on this space rock we call home. An idea rooted in the physical that tickles the belly of the numinous.
Every decision, every turn, every mistake, every triumph, every laugh, every salty tear tasted, informs us. Every one of those things is likely to have been informed in turn by somebody you love. Therefore, our lives are truly intertwined in a way only the most well resourced hermit orphan could refute. And not just humans – as anyone who has felt a profound connection with a pet will tell you. That moment you connected with a tiger, as it peered at you through bullet proof glass in the zoo, informed you too. (It annoyed him, of course. Imagine constantly seeing a tasty looking sandwich appearing in front of your eyes, trapped in a plexiglass bubble.)
Every bit of life is input data – like a tiny little satnav update. It might take a while for your system to register it properly, but if handled correctly it can make your own little map of the world more useful and precious. It will help guide you home, no matter how lost you may feel. The only downside is you must constantly remind yourself where home actually is. This is why spending time with the people and places you call home is so vital. You’re filling up your tank with homing information.
When the people we love die, I believe their map dies with them. They don’t need it anymore. But by which point, their data is shared around thousands of other people, places and animals. Their input can be seen in every tree they once climbed, every garden they sowed, every path they trod, every mouth they reared. For good or for bad, they left their gigantic fingerprints all over the chip shop, for all the world to see.
So when I miss my sister, as I so often do, or long for my mum’s kind eyes to twinkle at me when I’m feeling lost, I can always find something that will bring them home. It really isn’t hard to find. They live behind me eyes, and in my fingertips. They hang on my walls, they grow in my garden and they spring up in my children’s most colourful memories. They are bloody everywhere, those impish scamps.
All of life boils down to a simple choice – do you actively spread good data or bad data? Like all systems, bad data tends to end up getting rejected, whilst good data sticks around for as long as it is useful – so the smart money long term is on good data. But it must be conceded that bad data sometimes offers a good return in the short term.
I like to think of my mum as being someone who provided an overwhelming amount of good data to a vast number of people. Their own little maps have been made better as a result, making their own journey through life a tiny bit less bumpy. Perhaps they’ll pass that good data on. Who knows when it will stop, or if it ever will.
The bad guys spend their lives propagating bad data. They steer many good people off-road, making them lose sight of home. Scared and lost people without a sense of home are prone to driving like complete twats. Some may even start to view their off-road existence as their real home, and blame the original road for letting them down. It doesn’t occur to them that it might all just boil down to them accepting bad data in the first place. By the time the bad guys have pulled them off the map and washed, wiped and waxed their memories clean, they won’t remember where home ever really was. This is how you end up clutching a machine gun in a desert, convinced a massacre can lead to martyrdom.
Every cult, terrorist cell and shady member’s club trades on bad data – it keeps the funds coming in. It’s why so many ‘modern’ churches have such expensive AV equipment, why modern terrorists aren’t armed with blunt sticks and why you’ll still occasionally receive a funny handshake and a shifty bit of eye contact at swanky cocktail parties. The profits of bad data are as gaudy as they are superficially impressive.
The problem is that bad data is so easily jumbled up with good data. It’s a minefield we all wander through constantly. A quick flick through any newspaper with a critical eye will show this to be true. Even ‘The Sun’ has some good data – it’s just buried, out of context, amidst a cloud of pernicious bad data designed to knock you off course.
The aim is to get good at spotting bad data and prioritising the good bits. This is much harder than it may appear, so you must be comfortable knowing that you will often confuse the two – and stop beating yourself up if you do. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, more than once. I saw both Joel Schumacher ‘Batman’ movies, for instance.
The home button will hopefully get you back on the right path. That’s the hope, anyway. Sure, there will be bright lights and distractions along the way, and some of them will be worth the detour. Others really won’t.
The next time you see a poster for a stage psychic, be it Sally Morgan, Derek Acorah, or any other fraud in a Peacock’s jacket, let a little alarm go off in your mind. A blinking, red light, furiously burning into your consciousness. Warning, warning – bad data.
Then go home.
For more information on why I take such exception to stage psychics, click here to read The Independent article that inspired the post – or watch Derren Brown’s brilliant ‘Infamous’, available on 4OD.