How am I different

In this article I want to share with you one of my favourite musicians Aimee Mann and to discuss what her work means to me and how important it is for understanding mental health.

When I was about 20 years old I watched this film called “Magnolia” and it touched my soul. The feel of the film is very sad but contains some of the best drama I have ever seen on film. The film has some big stars like Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Juliane Moore. One of the elements of the film that attracted me was the music. On investigating this I found out that the director of this film Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) was in love with Aimee’s music and so he asked her to score the entire film using her music. The music was like nothing I had ever heard so that inevitably led me to look through her catalogue of music.

I started with an album called “Batchelor No.2” which I believe to be one of the best albums I own. In this album Aimee doesn’t just give you music, she gives you a window to her own personal fears and anxieties. Many music critics have described the music as raw because it has a lot of depressing lyrics though the melodies are not always in a minor tone.

If you are the sort of person who has an inner dialogue that criticises you and tells you you’re not good enough like I do then you can hear this argument in her music. Aimee isn’t always writing about herself she plays the parts of different characters and can be offering advice too.

Lost in Space is one of my favourite go to albums when I’m feeling a bit low. The album is about people who have a drug dependency. Aimee would compare taking taking heroin to being lost in space. The album has a number of fascinating rhymes which really stretch the imagination. Aimee once rhymed “Margaret Thatcher” with “Compound Fracture”. For me the most moving track on this album is titled “Its not” which I have included an excerpt of below:

“So here I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light. I keep waiting for a change, but I dont know what.

So red turns in to green turning into yellow, and I’m just frozen here on the same old spot.

And all I have to do is to press the pedal, but I’m not, no I’m not”

I find these lyrics beautiful and very clever in the way they play with metaphor to describe a feeling we all have in life. Hidden expectations we are all expected to live up to. People around us who all seem to know the right way to live their lives and know all of the choices they need to make it happen.

I think if you don’t like to think about your music then this isn’t for you, and if you’ve never dabbled in self deprecation then this perhaps isn’t for you but I’d try it anyway. This music might be downbeat but it sends an important message that we’re not alone in how we feel.

I recently found out bizarrely that Aimee in the past lent her vocals to Canadian rock trio Rush for their famous single “Time Stands Still”. Aimee also plays the girl who had her toe chopped off in the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski”

Mental Illness is Aimee’s new album and lends itself to the territory of how people with mental illness cope in their day to day lives. I haven’t yet fully explored the content but I’m excited for what new fruit will come from it.

Aimee is still touring, I had the pleasure of seeing her in London and picked up a signed copy of Charmer. Aimee is such a bright and funny woman that you might not think she is capable of writing such sad music but perhaps this is one of those ironies in life, the funniest can often be the saddest inside. Please give Aimee’s music a try and let me know what you think.


Why I can’t be an Athiest

Childhood belief
When I was a young boy I prayed at bed time and went to Church every Sunday.  Many of my friends at school went to church, and I was used to saying grace and singing hymns. My mother and father are both Christian and have a faith in God and they brought me up the same way. As a child I was always told to follow the golden rule “Treat others as you would wish to be treat yourself” and other preachings in the Bible. In my youth nobody was talking about their beliefs in God and it wasn’t at the forefront of my young mind. In school we learnt about religion and I don’t remember there being any challenges from the class. The main focus in classes  was on studying religions other than Christianity such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Church Life

Every Sunday my parents would take me to church. I remember pleading with my mother whether I could stay home like my other friends, but she insisted I went. It wasn’t hard for me to go along with it after a while because as a child there were numerous things I was made to do that I didn’t want to. I remember being in church and not fully understanding the rituals, and what it all was supposed to have meant. I remember noticing there were mostly older people in the church. I used to close my eyes and pray but in my young mind I genuinely thought that God was listening and considering my prayer that I would get a bike for my birthday. Still to this day I am in awe of the beauty of Churches and the amount of attention gone into making them look grandiose and elegant. I have visited churches throughout Europe, which in my view intensify the beauty found in British Churches.

Adult beliefs

Rightly or wrongly I like to look at things in my life through a lense of reasoning. Unless I am reading fiction I cannot just accept a story as being true without sufficient evidence. As I grew up I have spoken to many people on the subject of religion and have found lots of strong arguments that refute religious claims and beliefs. I have read the bible and have looked into many of the arguments for religion. When I was at college (like many young men) I found so much wrong and unfair with the world. Today I still have a permanent chip on my shoulder about inhumane disgusting bigots, who still get their way because of certain powers they hold. It only takes looking at the history of North Korea or Donald Trump to realise that power is not in numbers.

People who hold religious beliefs should be allowed to do so. I also believe that anyone who tries to belittle people for their beliefs is nothing short of a bully. Humans should be a free spirit allowed to try out any belief system for themselves. I am always open to a discussion with people about religion, but normally it ends up being heated for reasons I don’t understand. If I have a discussion with someone and they end the conversation saying “I understood what you said but I don’t agree” then I respect that. It is when they say in an angry way “Well, thats your view and this one is mine” then I think no shit, we are both adults having a conversation. Faith at the end of the day is a matter of personal opinion. The anger in their tone of voice tells me they don’t like being challenged on their views?

Why I can’t be an Athiest

I don’t think that it is correct for someone to call themselves an Atheist. Atheists believes that there certainly is no God. It is impossible to prove there is no God because he cannot be proved through conventional means in the first place in order to be disproved. Having a certainty that there is no god mirrors the certainty that there definitely is a god. You have to have some capacity for chance that God does exist as well as the chance that he doesn’t exist. An Agnostic on the other hand would normally say the chance is 50/50 but this also doesn’t work because you have to lean one way or another. Agnosticism should be put to a 7 point scale. As Bertrand Russell beautifully put it in the celestial teapot argument: “If he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong”.

Just because something cannot be disproved doesn’t mean that by default it is true. Christopher Hitchens worked to the assessment of “That which can be postulated without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”. This I agree with wholeheartedly. When we are speaking in the context of Art or Poetry then we can talk about subjective sensations for as long as we please, but when talking about an anthropomorphic, immortal, all seeing all knowing deity then I believe we need to apply more skepticism.

Why I can’t believe in God
To make life easier I am going to write a list of arguments which I believe refute the existence of God enough to stop me from believing. This list clearly isn’t true to everyone because there is a wealth of people who still believe despite all this. I struggle to understand how they continue to believe in God despite all of the below. Without someone explaining to me the reasons why; I can only assume it is blind faith which is very deeply rooted, and would never come unstuck even if the right evidence presented itself? Philosopher Sam Harris when writing about death said that when you tell someone there is no afterlife they don’t always hear those words, instead they hear “Your daughter that died in a car crash is not in heaven” and so they take it very personally. I believe the same can be said for religious views. As religion plays such an important part in people’s lives they wrap themselves up in the fabric of it, and an attack on Religion is as good as an attack on them! Before I write this list, I want to be clear that this blog is not aimed as an attack on anyone. This is a list of my own personal doubts about God and I would welcome anyone to put something to me either in private or on this page to help me with my beliefs. Any response will be treated with dignity and respect.

My list of Unrefutable Arguments

  • Who created the creator? If there is a complicated being such as a god with the ability to create world’s and make wishes come true then who created God? Many would say God was never created he was always there! If this is the case then why don’t we just say the universe was always there instead? Normally special language is used poetically to skirt around this question, painting God in such a superior way as to not need a beginning.
  • Indifference for Billions of years most people believe the process of evolution which states that over billions of years creatures evolved. As part of this process many creatures suffered through the battle of species, some of which were born without characteristics to help them beat natural selection. During this whole process God presumably watched on with complete indifference? After Billions of years he decided to intervene and approach illiterate parts of the middle east? This doesn’t sound like a supreme being to me? We have to remember at the same time China could read, write and scrutinise.
  • Moral Compass in the Bible there are some good lessons such as do not steal, be good unto others and there are bad lessons that Advocate rape, slavery and the degradation of women. It takes common moral belief to say that we will ignore the bad morals in the Bible and accept the good ones. It makes me wonder whether we need the bible at all. When you examine “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself” this doesn’t quite work because if you like to be spanked then perhaps others will not like this. The lesson should perhaps be “Treat others as they would like to be treated”. There is an example of our own moral compass superseding the morals inherent in the Bible. If you think there is one book that gives you every answer in life then you would be kidding yourself.
  • Do we share the same heaven? When we go to heaven for being good, do we all go to the same place? Is your grandmother 80 in heaven as you’d imagine her or is she in her 20’s? How do the rules apply? Do we follow a set of rules and are programmed to feel blissful? The whole premise of a shared heaven sits in the idealism that we have a dualism of a body and a soul. If you are your soul and that is seperate from your body then why do people in car crashes sometimes have brain damage? Should they stay the same if the soul is seperate from the material body? In respect of hell and punishment it bothers me that so many people who were born into the wrong religion will be banished to hell because theirs and the other hundreds of other religions are decidedly wrong. I don’t know if this is truly believed but animals apparently do not go to heaven? Do animals not have souls? That doesn’t seem very nice.
  • Working in mysterious ways we are given the idea that prayer is worthwhile but whenever our prayers do not come true we are told that it is God’s will. If God does whatever he wants then what is the point of praying at all?
  • Free will We are told that the reason that God allows such evil things to happen is because he gave us free will. We were never given the choice whether we wanted to have free will or not. This feels like a blanket excuse for a lot of unexplained issues.
  • Born sick and commanded to be well we are told that we act in ways which are considered as sinful and that if we do not obey the rules we will go to hell. The fact that we were created in God’s image means he gave us the capacity to undertake sinful acts and then we are told we are to be punished for this design. This is inherently evil and is the construction for a masochist.

From my observations to get around the above, excuses will be given to say certain things are metaphorical and are not to be taken literally. The issue is that lots of people can misinterpret this belief.  Some will transcend the words in scripture and will claim to know the word of God as it has been personally revealed to them such as a Pope. Being religious doesn’t by default mean you are a good person but even in all cases it did prove to make you a better person it still doesn’t demonstrate that the beliefs are true.

Despite many glaring contradictions many people still hold a strong faith and I find this incredible. I don’t find this incredible in a arrogant way, I find this incredible because there must be a strong reason that this brings meaning to their lives. Life is painfully hard even when you have it very good and to believe that there is a plan set out in the stars just for you must be very tempting. I suppose that if people knew deep down inside that they didn’t believe in God they would never tell anyone because by doing so it would mean they would break the spell of belief. Given the way that some magic tricks are performed in this day and age I would find it very hard to tell you what evidence for God would look like, but I would certainly be open to new things and new beliefs just so long as I don’t have to disregard my critical faculties.