24 Jun 2011

The Evolution of an Atheist

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

I was an atheist from a fairly early age.

Like perhaps the majority of the Western World’s greatest sperm, I was born. As such, my geographic location just north of London meant my dance with the divine began in an old, cold building with a white man in a dress putting his wet finger on my confused baby head. He splashed me a bit, read something from the best-selling book of all time, and a lot of older people I would later become aware of smiled cooperatively while pretending not to give a toss that they could have been three or four Bloody Marys happier somewhere else. At that moment, even though my cognitive function was not yet developed enough to avoid shitting myself all day, I apparently earned the rite of passage into the Christian Church. I know it might seem initially exploitative that I had no apparent free will when entering such an important spiritual contract but I can honestly tell you, at the time, I didn’t give two milky tits about it.

In fact, all that Christianity stuff worked out fine for years. This God bloke, despite being all-knowing and all-powerful, generally seemed to keep His nose out as I thundered around nursery school, falling over and bonking girls on the head with a big rubber hammer. He didn’t stop me making faces at the teachers, or peeing on the toilet seat, or putting my dinner in my hair. I liked Him, and it seemed pretty obvious that He was kind of fond of me too. He let me get away with loads of naughty stuff, sort of like a cool, hip dad that let's you drink some beer and shows you boobies if you promise not to tell your mother. One time, while all the strict adults were out and I was misguidedly trusted to look after a dog, God even let me take a decorative Shaolin sword off the wall and try and slice an apple in half with it, just like in all those movies I wasn’t supposed to be watching and getting ideas from. To my naive surprise, the apple didn't splice in two, cleanly separate, and slide apart like I had expected. It fucking exploded. I spent the next hour frantically cleaning up an incredible amount of apple matter from the walls, floor, ceiling, furniture, sword, and dog. There was almost definitely a commandment about not doing that kind of shit, I was sure of it, but it still didn’t seem to matter -- I got away with it again. Me and God, we were mates.

Not far from this time, then, did it seem entirely silly to the increasingly thinky thing inside my head that the World might just revolve around me. Boring adults were always telling me it didn’t, of course, especially whenever I did something obviously clever like eat all the jelly... but how could they prove it? I certainly couldn't. For all I knew, adults left the room and suddenly disappeared, just like my foreskin did that time I woke up in a hospital. On the other hand, I knew that I existed because I could smell myself. When I went to bed, the whole world went away just because I wasn’t awake to look at it, and then it magically came back again exactly as I finished sleeping. Then I got thinking about that definitely real, true story that I was told about Jesus. He was due back any minute now, apparently, but nobody knew exactly when. Well, I was the only person that I knew definitely existed, and I also seemed to me like a pretty nice kid, especially when you ignored all those times when other people thought I wasn't.

... well, couldn’t I be Jesus?

With all those songs they made us sing about being God’s children in primary school, no wonder the idea occasionally fluttered on the nose-picking periphery of my subconscious for a while. I was a good lad. When I was punished, I remember, it was always unfair. Whenever I did something wrong, it was never my fault. Whenever I was bad, it was only an accident. There was certainly no way in Heaven that I deserved to go to Hell. Burning, flaming, awful, unbearable torment and torture for all eternity just because I found swearing hilarious in school, pulled a wardrobe on my head, crashed a golf cart, threw fruit at cars, lied about kicking a mirror while practising karate, and occasionally stole a Twix? Yeah, right, I thought as I planned out my dream mansion in the clouds, complete with Sega Megadrive game library, Pop Tarts at every meal, and my beloved Right Said Fred tape on endless repeat.

It was around this time, though, that God stopped doing Himself any favours. On one hand, He kept making me taller, which I obviously liked for the immediate benefit of being able to reach more stuff that I shouldn’t, but on the other hand, he was giving me a bigger head. There was literally more brain in there, and it was using all the extra space it had annexed from the outside world to do more thinking about all the stuff going on out there. By the age I was falling out of trees with frightening regularity, I started to understand that not everyone in the world believed the exact same things about God, life and death as I did. On other parts of the planet, apparently, people didn’t think that Jesus was the virgin-born son of God who could save your eternal soul if you loved him telepathically, or that all animals exist because two of each species got on a boat with a 600-year-old farmer and survived a genocidal flood sent to cleanse the blood of humanity, or that evil exists in the soul of all people because a woman made of dust and rib talked to a snake then ate a forbidden fruit from a magic tree. No, these other people believed in all kinds of nonsense.

By my fingers-and-toes counting estimations there were thousands of people on the planet and the majority of them, it turned out, followed entirely different religions to the one I did. There were ones that sat down a lot, some who wore bedsheets or hats, others who didn't like women very much, some that pointed in a specific direction every day, ones that wouldn't eat burgers, and another lot that knocked on your door and pissed you off. At first I thought I was pretty lucky to get the right God, but then my increasingly pesky head started to think that it actually seemed a bit strange that most of the world’s population were going straight to Hell just because they weren't born in the right country, continent, or hemisphere. How could so many people believe such different things and still believe they were definitely right? It started to seem to me that there were more gods than Pokemon, and they couldn't all be in the sky, surely, otherwise there would be no room for the birds and the aeroplanes and Superman and Santa. I was young, but I was starting to figure out something that some of these taller humans seemingly hadn't.

Either nobody was right, or my friend God, the ultra laid-back babysitter dude who once let my young cousins and I entertain ourselves by throwing live crabs into traffic, was not really giving everybody a fair chance. To create a world and universe just for People, then send the majority of them to Hell just because they weren't born in the right place to read His autobiography seemed a bit devious and arrogant to me, especially when it was Him who chose to create them in the first place. It was sort of like hiring a teacher, stealing all their clothes, and spraying them with lighter fluid, then hysterically blaming them for being a dangerous, flammable pervert that ruined the carpet.

I started getting a bit brave with the Almighty. Testing him. I called him an idiot first, then a sky idiot, then a pretend, useless flipping cloud-twat. No lightning, no boils. So I swore at him, ‘God, you dicky twatcabbage... you tossy slapping prickhead.’ No floods, no plagues. It was then, somewhere between the age of seven and whenever I figured out how to swear properly, that I realised the World was the same colourful, silly, chaotic, fun, strange, dumb and indifferent place whether He was there watching it or not, and, quite obviously it seemed, He wasn't.

However, there were still times as a child that I would get scared, and my faith in my lack of faith would suddenly seem less certain; perhaps on rainy nights with coloured, cartoon covers bundled to my chest, and when the looming anxiety of getting caught for something particularly bad would creep under all defences and grip me like a vice; when I felt entirely powerless to prevent the unfolding of some uncertain future, I would still pray.

“Please, God, help me... please... I promise if you help me not get caught I will believe in you again... please... I promise, God, just help me.”

I knew it wouldn't change anything, I think, but if I did get what I wanted there was still one last thought I couldn't help but direct towards that expansive sky with no one in it.

“Haha, tricked you again.”

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

22 Jun 2011


2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

The gigantic smiling head that orbits our planet belongs, of course,  to Brian Cox. He’s a particle physicist and a university professor who also makes decent telly programs about space for the BBC and makes your mother a bit aroused. He seems like a nice, cheerful sort of a chap -- certainly the kind of person that you would rather hire a boat with for an hour than purposefully direct towards a sniper battle in a landfill.

So in a pub last week, if I had been the Supreme Leader of Planet Earth instead of just mildly alcohol poisoned, he was the person I would have chosen as my ideal ambassador for humanity in the eventuality of aliens ever landing here.

I think I owe Brian Cox an apology.


Aliens almost certainly exist. If you don’t think they do, you might just be a bit confused about how big the Universe really is. Have a look at this for a cheeky refresher – that’s just the bit of our galaxy and beyond that we can see and take photos of. Each one of those dots is a star like ours, and a source of energy to the planets caught in its gravity, just like ours, each a hub in space for all of the same elements we’re made of, and each governed by the same physical laws that arranged those elements into something like us. There is estimated to be between 200 and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, our galaxy, and at least hundreds of billions of galaxies in just our bit of the Universe. Not that these numbers mean anything beyond stonkingly flipping massive by this point, especially considering that the pesky Universe hasn't proved itself to be anything but infinite just yet. Basically, we might as well say there’s a sillion bananillion gorillion stars and planets for the amount it helps us to comprehend the situation.

However, the reasons that aliens almost certainly exist are also the exact same reasons why we will probably never meet them, and also the exact same reasons why we never want to.

Our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 4 light-years away, or 24,000,000,000,000 miles from us. To not help put that in some form of perspective, the interstellar probe Voyager was launched 33 years ago and has only just begun to breach the edge of our solar system 10 billion miles away. It will be another forty-thousand years before it reaches even the very nearest planetary system to us.  Me, you, Earth, the solar system and even Brian Cox are all effectively lost in this cosmic quarantine. Even the 100 light-years our radio broadcasts have travelled seems as about as significant as a widowed ant's anniversary plans when we consider that our Milky galaxy alone is 100,000 light-years from end to end. The space we’re hiding in is just so massive that the statistical improbability of advanced alien civilisations finding us is great enough that you could assume the word astronomical was invented for occasions just like this unnecessarily insulting sentence, idiot.

That’s also based on the slightly smug assumption they would want to find us at all. There are more stars just like ours than there are grains of sands in all the deserts in the world, so if life exists here and at least one other place, then it’s logical to assume it exists everywhere. Suddenly, we’re not the special, magical wonderstuff that invented trousers and bread; we are insignificant, common, generic. Like every commodity in existence, life is worth less when it is in abundance. We treat pandas kindly because they are rare, but we’ll happily plough a minivan through a parade if we think there’s the slightest chance we might kill an extra wasp. Aliens, if they’ve found us, and that’s generally the kind of thing they like to do, could have found so many other planets and life-forms that they would probably regard us with the same level of enthusiasm we’d devote to Paris Hilton’s opinions on anything more complicated than a sausage. The chances are, they won’t fawn over how impressive we are, or invite us to join some intergalactic ride-sharing space union, or begin imparting their advanced scientific knowledge to us. No, they’ll probably stop for a photo, giggle at an aeroplane, and move on.

The other common thread running through many science fiction stories and UFO conspiracies is that we want to meet aliens because they’ll probably be somehow like us. Even NASA, which you’d assume must contain at least a few people you could trust to hold a hot coffee without dipping their ears in it, seems to subscribe to this idea as they launched with Voyager a golden long-play record complete with a map of our solar system and an audio track of uncharacteristically peaceful messages from a planet that’s been at war almost non-stop since it was clever enough to invent nations, gods, sharp stuff and things that go bang. And right there could be our problem.

It’s exactly because they might be like us that we don’t want to meet them. To reach Earth, extraterrestrial life would need technology whereby they could travel trillions of miles in their life-spans, and we’re still executing each other with lumps of metal to get the best price on a finite, black liquid we have to burn to get to the shops. I mean, seriously, have you fucking met us? Think about how well humans historically have treated life-forms they see as inferior to themselves. Ask the Native Americans how being friendly to visitors turned out for them. Ask an African a few centuries ago how excited he was to see a boat. Ask the dolphins and penguins in the zoo how they came to the peculiar decision to move to a fish-tank in North London. Humans don’t discover anything and think ‘look at this thing doing absolutely fine without us.’ No, we bomb it, dig it, skin it, mine it, catch it, poke it, spill it, lose it, break it, plant a flag for the press conference, move in the bulldozers and set up a gift shop.

So while “Hello. Let there be peace everywhere,” might sound like a confident message to sling deep into the cosmic dark with a trail of breadcrumbs home, perhaps we’re more like the lamb that’s rolled itself in herbs and butter and is lolloping happily towards a man holding a pita bread, a shotgun and a barbeque.

These bloody aliens apparently possess wizardry that allows them to bound across time and space just for a laugh, and I was going to send Brian Cox to go and shake their hands/claws/tentacles like we’re equals? No, no, no, I’ve changed my mind. I’m so sorry, Brian. At the very first sign of a spaceship landing, please take my lovely, smiley Brian Cox, put him in a helicopter with a pencil and get him up a mountain somewhere thinking up new ideas for super guns.

If I can choose again, I vote for someone with at least one finger up their nose, a face that could divert traffic and a name like Wally Fumblebricks.

Better still, send a pig in a cardigan and hope they don’t figure out we’ve got 20,000 nukes.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

7 Jun 2011

Old Age

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

The fact that something called 'anti-ageing' cream exists in our society tells us three things: Firstly, in a world of relative scientific enlightenment, a lot of people are still very confused about the relationship between moisturiser and Time. Secondly, this confusion about how lotion can somehow disrupt the linear sequencing of events means that the same people would probably continue buying it even if it was called something less subtle like Time-Idiot-Nonsense cream. Thirdly, it tells us that an entire silly industry can exist just because a lot of people aren't very keen on the idea of looking as old as they are, or getting old at all. Perhaps it's easy to see why, though, as older people are always gumming on about things being better in the old days, youth being wasted on the young, and cautioning us pups for not appreciating our fragile limp hinges. While they stare fondly back into a romanticised past that often seems more golden because they've forgotten the dullest lumps, the young are conversely obliged to resist their future of disloyal knee caps, talcum powder, mild-to-moderate racism, and putting their glasses in stupid places like the oven. Unfortunately for them though, no matter how many inch-thick layers of expensive fib cream they smear on their bodies, there will always be a grey, silly version of them waiting just the other side of their mortgage. However, to prove it wont all be completely dreadful, here's a list of the 23 best things about being old I could possibly think of, arranged for no good reason beside a bunch of photographs that absolutely fucking delight me.

The 23 Best Things About Being Old

Short-term memory loss means you can do things for the first time, lots of times. It also means you can forget names or birthdays and blame your batty old brain.
People have lower expectations of your physical and mental abilities. As well as making it harder to disappoint them, it also means it's easier to impress them. Watch Country’s Got Talent, for example, and you’ll quickly realise that all you need to win an audience's respect is the ability to do a normal thing whilst being old.
If crosswords and knitting are suddenly so entertaining, think how much fun you’d have at anything called a 'cocaine horse fight.'
Been there, done that. Now you've got a monopoly on twaddle, bullshit, jabbering nostalgia. “When I was your age," you'll say, "all we had was a Nintendo Wii, 14 megapixel camera phones and Facebook installed in our fingernails. Kids today don’t know they’re born.”
Wheelchairs. Stairlifts. Mopeds. No more of that leg nonsense.

You’re a drain on society, but it's basically an unwritten rule that nobody’s allowed to say it to you. In fact, as long as you look like some daft old fucker in a cardigan, you can get away with practically anything from stealing, to telling your relatives they’re fat, to using the word ‘coloureds.’ You can blabber on about any lunatic opinion you like and people will still defend your attitude as being "from a different generation."
You’ve forgotten more than most young people know.

You can grow an excellent beard, regardless of gender.
You don’t need to worry about how quickly science and society are progressing; you’re old and deranged, it’s a ‘democracy’ and all of your age-group vote. If you don’t want them young people to have their marijuanas or their raves or their human rights, don’t let ‘em. Humbug.

Who? What? Where? Exactly, it doesn’t matter. You’re staying in and trying to remember your name and which hole to put the biscuits in.

Viagra yaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

You can hang hang stuff on your Zimmer frame like it's a mobile storage unit. What about some shelving, a wind-chime, or a selection of fine, Italian cured meats?
There’s booze and buffets at funerals  (and normally at least one widow if you fancy a steamy session round the back of the crematorium.)
Morgan Freeman.
You get some money every week, or a bus pass, or free wood in the winter or something, don’t you? You're also worth increasingly little to kidnap. It's the little things.
By the time you reach old age, technology will be insanely, terrifyingly advanced. Just ask Japan. Toilets that clean your arse for you, years ago. Air-bags that catch you when you fall over, you bet. CarerBot9000 simultaneously writing your will, blowing on your soup, and scraping a layer of tough, orange fungus from your ankles, it can't be long.
Maybe death is a little worrying, but it’s got to be better than watching 20 adults fail to grasp the concept of probability every fucking day on Deal or No Deal.

You can now use words like ruffian, hoodlum, scallywag, delinquent, scamp, rapscallion, hooligan, scofflaw, lout, and rascal to describe any one under the age of 30 who is sitting on a bench.
After decades and decades of seeing ridiculous styles and trends come and go, every young, ‘fashionable’ twonk on the street will look like a yohgurt-minded fool to you while you loaf around shopping centres in your your warm, durable corduroy tracksuit.

Your piss? Yep. Your poo? Yep. Your problem? Not any more.
It’ll be exponentially funnier when you make crude, rude or cheeky remarks. Ever heard a sweet, doddery elderly woman say, "phwoar, I'd smash his back-doors in"? Me neither. Be hilarious though, I reckon.

You’ve made it this far, right? Global warming, peak oil, unsustainable population growth... - who gives a spine? Pass the smack and the nail-gun, let’s get on the motorway and drive at some traffic.
Life imprisonment”? Bitch, please.
I hope that cheered you up about your impending biological collapse, and if it hasn't, remember that growing old is a privilege not granted to everyone. Now I hope you're not too confused to get back to whatever whipper-snapping social media site you came from.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

Twitting? Click? Facewhat? Get out.

1 Jun 2011

Procrastination (Part One)

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

I was going to write a thing about procrastination, but I haven't yet got around to it.

That sounds like a shit joke, and of course it is, but it's also really, really, exactly, actually true.

I'm procrastinating. The thing I think I 'want' to do, of course, is actually a thing I don't really 'want' to do at all, especially compared to the things I'm doing instead, apparently, otherwise I'd be doing it instead of them, wouldn't I? That's basically what procrastination is and I'll go into more detail about it soon when I'm not as heavily involved in it as you are now.

That must be why you're here, presumably, as reading this definitely isn't as important as cross-referencing all of your available skills and assets against the projected cost of your perceived life goals in order to maximise your directional potential for long-term happiness or, I don't know, sewing.

I bet you haven't tidied that place where you can never find batteries, manuals or your passport?

Or e-mailed that quite important person you've clicked 'Mark Unread' on 8 times?

Or booked those tickets to that thing you know will definitely be good but is too far away to not guarantee something better will come up?

Of course you haven't.

I bet you haven't even written that article about procrastination yet, have you?

Didn't think so. Neither have I. Well, while we're both not doing the things that we should be doing, we might as well be looking at a list of other things that other people are doing while they're not doing the things that they should not be doing. *

From the Basement - a performer-friendly and classy-to-fuck video project that aims to showcase the close-eyed, soul-bearing artistry of today's best song makers.

Romantically Apocalyptic - a funny, engaging and stunning web comic crafted with live actors, stock footage, green-screens, Photoshop and, presumably, an elephant bum-load of patience.

The Daily Mash - savage, brilliant satire and often the antidote to whatever bonkers 'real' news we shouldn't be wasting our paper and ink and and eyes on.

Post Secret - people write secrets on postcards and send them anonymously to this mega popular community art project blog jobby. It's anonymous, it shows, and it's a real treasure.

Decadent Lifestyle - a simple, multimedia blog of a lot of people having more fun than you.

Sky Survey - a big, zoomy picture of the night sky. Sounds dull, but a few minutes with it regularly will at least make you go oooh and stop worrying about anything less significant than destroying your head in a lawnmower accident.

TED - all the best people in the world talking about all the best things in the world and you can watch it all from your desk with the added convenience of realising you're a useless, chair-wasting pleb in comparison.

That's enough for now as I have other things I need to avoid to do, which I can now start not doing now I've not done this.

Part Two coming soon...

It isn't.

* [Incidentally, this is the point that my friend came round and I even stopped writing a post about not writing a post for hours while we binge-watched funny videos on YouTube like a pair of socially inept gonks.]

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.