A few years ago I wrote this piece. It forever remains relevant to me and it felt like time for a bit of an update. Enjoy…
Ever felt there are things in your past that you just can’t let go? Can’t get out of your head or can’t forgive yourself for? yeah, me to. Here’s something to get your teeth into…
In case you aren’t aware 21st November is World Philosophy Day. A few years ago on Radio4, here in the UK, they were discussing the intention of introducing philosophy into the school curriculum. For all ages. When asked how you could introduce a seven year old to philosophy (or ‘Reasoning’ as they would probably call it) the studio guest said (in my own words)…
Imagine you have a boat. A wooden boat. As time goes by different parts of the boat begin to rot. As they rot you replace them with new metal parts. As time passes more and more of the boat is metal until eventually the whole thing has been replaced by metal. The question then is… Is it the same boat? If it isn’t the same boat at what point did it cease to be the original boat?
He then went on to say how this conversation can be expanded by pointing out that the same thing essentially happens with the human body. Cell replcement occurs such that every seven years the cells in your body have completely replaced themselves. Ok, not like Doctor Who when he regenerates in a single moment but you get my point. So am I the same person I was 7 years ago? Apparently not, although it certainly feels like it. This got me thinking about my life in seven year chunks.
I was born in 1961. An interesting year (not that I would remember) Marvel Comics started with Fantastic Four #1 and the Berlin Wall went up. Not at all relevant, but interesting. I then started to think about the subsequent 7 year milestones after that. The points at which I (in theory) became someone else.
Age 7. A very interesting time for me and one that I have considered and reflected upon many times. A very close family member was tragically and prematurely lost and a difficult and challenging incident at school (nothing weird, dont worry) has since been seen as part of my ‘Genesis of Identity’. Those moments in life that determines something in your character and creates who you are going to ‘be’ for the rest of your life. A moment that although I was not aware of it at the time was to establish how I relate to myself, others and the circumstances in front of me.
Fast forward. It’s 1975 and I am 14 years old. It seems like a lifetime ago since being 7. The teenage years present so many challenges. The standout moments? Well, the inevitable getting to grips (?!) with the opposite sex. This can really enhance or knock your levels of self confidence. For me, however, the most significant event was the unexpected death of another close family member and the way I learned to deal with not only my own feelings about it but also how those around me seemed to be dealing with it. It informed my understanding of how I thought situations like that were to be related to.
Fast Forward. It’s 1982. Life is very different now. I have left home and am at Art College. Leicester Polytechnic, or DeMontfort University as it is now known. In fact I was in my final year there. This is when you really spread your wings and take on the challenges of the outside world. Well if you choose to go out that is. I tended to spend a lot of my college years indoors. Wasn’t a big party animal but loved the company of like minded people. I wasted most of my time there only really scraping through by producing some work of a decent standard in the final week. I left with a degree, just about, a 2.2 or a ‘Desmond’ as they call it now (work it out) and then in that same year one of the biggest and most significant events in my life. I got married. I married the first girl who I met when I went to art college. The girl who opened the door for me on my first day when I turned up all fresh faced and confused.
Fast Forward another 7 years. I am now 28. A father, a freelance comic book artist, a house owner. Things looking good. Standout memory from around then? being moved to tears as every morning on the tv as I feed the kids their breakfast further news comes in about the opening of the eastern borders and the fall of the Berlin wall.
Fast Forward. 35 years old and feeling it. These are not good times. Work is not going well and I am experiencing some of the darkest days of my life. The inability to cope with some of the things life throws at you and it goes that way for a while.
Fast Forward. Very fast. It seems like its rushing by now and nothing seems to make too much sense. Have past the dreaded 40 mark and I reach a breakthrough point. The unworkability of life and work has me start to look at what is possible. The Landmark Forum opens up all sorts of things for me and creates a new view of life. Great stuff and a fresh approach. But its not all plain sailing. Try as I might the road seems to become even rockier. Enlightenment is a wonderful thing but it does open up all sorts of hidden areas that you were not aware of. Best not to leave them festering though.
Fast Forward. 41. Life begins at 40? Well strictly speaking your life ‘begins’ with every morning that you wake up. Or at least – as far as this 7 year theory goes – life begins every seven years. My 40’s are a very challenging time for me. My participation in The Landmark Forum back in 2003 has me on a long personal journey of self discovery and it hasn’t all been easy. When you open a can of worms it doesn’t all go back in. The only way forward is to transform your relationship to worms ;-) I continue my work in the field of comics, games and TV and every new project brings up challenges. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about oneself and to grow. Surely I know who I am by now but, given that I am somebody else every seven years I guess it is a constant voyage of discovery.
Fast Forward to 48 as I slide over the 50 mark. This is a very challenging and confronting time of my life. In a nutshell, I have hit the half century. Just a number but difficult not to be a bit freaked out by it. My father passes away after a long illness and that shakes me to the core. He was a great man. I have a granddaughter arrive into the world. What an amazing and beautiful experience that is. These things make me feel like a whole generation has passed, a new one has begun and I am kinda stuck in the middle somewhere with a sense of wonder and dread.
So here we are. Pretty much up to date. Where I am now is achieving some great life goals. We all have a book in us they say and mine is now fully formed and oozing out of me. Called HORIZON it is a true expression of me, my understandings of the world, my experiences in life and life coaching and all expressed through the medium I know best. The first two of three chapters are now published and work on the third and final chapter will begin in earnest in the new year. Best get it done before I ‘regenerate’ again. Talking of regenerating I have now worked extensively on Doctor Who as a storyboard artist. That really is a childhood ambition realised and a little ironic what with its underlying metaphors of perceptions of reality and the regenerating self. I worked on most of season 7 (coincidence), the 50th Anniversary Special – which will be on a screen near you in two days time – and I have recently completed storyboards for the upcoming Christmas special where The Doctor regenerates for the 11th (or is it 12th?) time. I have also been involved with the conclusion of the definitive Transformers storyline for publishers, IDW. This is not only a privilege but again has a resonance for me with the underlying theories of ‘transformation’ involved in the whole storyline
In conclusion? I have spent a long time being pained over difficult situations from the past (my kids call me an ‘emo’). Like most of us I feel guilt and regret about the past and a mixture of fear and hope for the future. Relating to it that way is not really going to make a difference to anything. As a life coach and friend of mine once ‘tweeted’ Love lives in the present, fear lives in the future and guilt lives in the past. ‘Guilt lives in the past’ I love that. I have spent a long time ‘completing’ things from my past, reconnecting broken relationships, finding ways to express love where it didn’t always occur as easily as it could, loving those close to me who have been along this journey with me, respecting those around me for who they are (even if they sometimes make you want to scream). All of this was further compounded by a car accident that left me all to aware of how easy it is to take life for granted. And what I also got from World Philosophy Day and the whole analogy of the boat is this;
Every seven years our bodies are essentially different. They have regenerated. Every seven years we have essentially ‘Transformed’. Who I was seven years ago is not who I am now. Sure, I am responsible for who I was then but the fact that I am not physically the same person makes it easier to let it go. Let go those things from the past that haunt you. Let go of those things from way back when that you thought were set in stone. Let go of ways of being that seemed stuck and that really don’t work for you. I am not who I was then. Amazing to think what the next lot of seven years will bring.
So, it’s all made up really. None of it is ‘true’. We don’t really regenerate like Doctor Who. I will never wake up one morning looking like David Tennant (shame) but as is the way with anything philosophical…
Makes ya think, doesnt it ;-)