The Fire Inside: A narrative for Peace, Change and Self Reflection
Living in a city has always felt unnatural to me. Besides the fact that concrete jungles are not the most organic spaces, there is a way of life and manner among city folk, which always seemed very grey and draining to me. A combination of the weather, the fast pace and the tight ambitions of the city left me feeling alien growing up. I came to identify in my young adult years a number of common personality features of city dwellers, which include the following which, although overwhelming, are simple, obvious and un-unique desires;
- To escape areas inflated by masses of people;
- To make sure whatever you aim for, is achieved, (came out to get is gotten), in whatever manner possible
- To escape the damp and brisk cold with certainty and immediacy;
- To escape inefficient service providers and ensure they never make the same mistakes again (tut! *rants at unrelated customer service rep*);
- To avoid noise and traffic, both literal, mental or emotional.
- Also very helpful for the omniscient city dweller is a consistent desire to not simply dispose of, but to unleash the pent up energy which occurs following the above interactions.
In the age of the tyrannous, large-footed human-shaped earth destroying dinosaur which has culminated from the lifestyle and philosophy that is encouraged by our ever-modernising and technologically advancing society, we find ourselves more and more lost within an identity whirlwind with no mental or moral fabric to hold onto.
We think restaurants and stores and cultural spaces are going to save us, but beget the multilayered self questioning needed to activate our cultural sensitivity, which may actually lead to us enjoying and learning from things rather than commodifying and draining these spaces and models of their resources and charm.
History books have warned us about the dangers of modernising, particular at the rate that we do and other things which do not beget memory. Self-help books line the shelves and have large point of sales particularly at New Year. TED talks are not only for the digital now or Californians and can often be found in your own city. The narrative is there but the focus is not. How many more ways can it be said that cities often house damaging psycho-social habits for people without wretchingly divorcing people from their identities and their homes? Or perhaps, is it that people need a culture shock in the form an ice cold water bucket?
Fortunately for the psychotic, capitalist melting pot that modern city dwellings have become, we have been given options for when we do want to release the mental frustrations within us. When we find the relevant methods for ourselves as individuals the truths, disappointing realities and subsequently very authentic enthusiasms begin to take shape in front of our eyes. Though this is often a strenuous and time consuming process, the end product is a fulfilling path and a much calmer temperament than the city ever expected us to be.
Emotional discernment and control is not necessarily on the top of the list for things people who live in cities often have requested of them. Very often we are minimalised to ego, confidence, some capacity to hustle or trade and to navigate systems with ease.
“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”
I grew up in and amongst my younger brother who is only 18 months younger than me, a multitude of cousins, god-siblings and family friends who also fell within a reasonable enough age range. There were an array of adults of all tones, shapes and sizes in my life who communicated with one another jovially and all made time for their solo interaction with me and the other kids despite us only being children aka still learning, still ignorant, still requiring guidance. We were not isolated entirely because of this and this became a saving grace for our adulthood relationships. The moments that were not good stick out like a sore thumb, but the moments that were good, equipped me to understand that sometimes things happen and it is not the end of the world.
I was lucky enough to experience the presence of a matriarch — my Mother’s Mother — who had a tender spot for my brother and which shone a light on not only my relationship with the world but, the value of my brother as a lovable individual. This has since become my prototype for loving him, an inseparable and pertinent bridge within the process of forging our relationship and my young adult identity. On a daily basis I am grateful for this consistent interaction throughout my childhood which allowed me to experience feelings of being revered, a sense of maturity and intelligence before my time, to truly make use of it had come — not clear.
I now recognise that this experience of love and acknowledgement, particularly as a child, is — by way of being a rarity — one of life’s true luxuries. With that said, seeing the impatience and insensitivity people often interact use with one another now, though those childhood memories are not impossible to replicate, vulnerability and susceptibility has become minimalised, less sought after, somewhat of a foreign art form, a dead language in the ever so loud and demanding world around us.
The delicacy and the consideration with which confidence within another is built and sewn requires attention to detail and individuality, a genuine belief in that persons capacity, whether vague or specific, and a sense of time which fosters a feeling for the everlasting in people.
The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.
James A. Baldwin
Fast forward to today’s world and there appears to be little place for that consideration and vulnerability. Might I say, fast forward to this awkward in-between stage between adolescence, maturity and tangible semblances of independence (I daren’t call it adulthood for fear of overstepping our capabilities) and there is a void we struggle to fill because of the disparities between what we have received in the past as vulnerable people, what we missed out on and still require, plus the additional needs of vulnerable people who have never been supported before, which become deep wounds when not carefully potted.
“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”
― Flannery O’Connor,
Reflections upon childhood are healthy and can occur frequently because they offer safety in terms of our identity wherein we are able to affiliate that time in our lives with memories, this period is the prototype for what we see potential in. The result of not having been supported during that time period can often be masked by ones own desire to be independent, despite it being an even more arduous and taxing process but, again, this can turn into a far more fulfilling and enlightening process if consistently worked at with the right social support mechanisms.
It seems the most important thing a person can do for another, prior to their times of need or any kind of crisis during young adulthood or mid-life, is to offer them a view of people and interaction with kindness which is shown by way of a living example. How often do people pay lip service to the role of nurturing people to happiness and intelligence, without ever really building a lifelong bond with them? What a lot of adults seem to forget is that the growing person will always have a child within.
The child within retains all the memories and the memories trigger the reality. Essentially, if lip service is all the adult world has to offer, then no wonder we are in a world of insecure, frustrated people who are unable to source or communicate their real desires and frustrations within the world they exist. No wonder the city is so grey and mundane in all its activity and kerfuffle. Furthermore, no wonder the child of wonder struggles to cross that border into adulthood, if it means resisting being genuine, caring, rigid and stiff, which results in a sense of trauma.
Children thrive in good feelings, attention and learning. They are sponges as we so often say — but they are also people which means a continuum of ages, not a stagnant holdall. The child you birth and ween is the same child who grows into an adult and the process of growth is not stratified because of physical growth, which often deciphers how we feel about age and maturity, but rather it is undermined because ten days of experience vs the overnight growth spurt or emergence of boobs does not make you the person you are, albeit very human processes indeed.
We are lucky to be here today to witness the days of narrative building within communities and the concept of Self-Care. If you go on any online platform there will be a number of critical conversations taking place around concept and practice, usually focusing on the latter. It is this particular type of conversation which provides peace and security to a lot of the milennial populations across the world, city based and otherwise. It is these kind of conversations which encourage us to support one another on our different journeys, to understand and accept the variety among us but also the similarities which weave through the conversations.
It is also our immediate access to one another which has forged our interconnected narratives and reiterates the feeling of family which those who have raised us, who were raised without the internet are often at pains to understand. Our parents oversee us reading online and wonder how it is possible for us to be so enthralled by the short-form, sentiments of strangers across the world and with such concentration skills. They, and we, often forget that the human connection is transient and existed across dimensions and wavelengths before the internet even existed.
It is the very same thread which reminds us what we are missing, what we desire, what our frustrations with the world around us and our experiences within this world have been, and it is the same thread that becomes our hanging rope OR the start of a new village. It is our choice what we become, meaning everyone in our community around us, not just our own fate. But it is also our responsibility, because if we do not have a universal view of our purpose and our experiences, someone who could have been saved by a smile, by a tender word, by a companion might fall through the cracks. And the more simple human cracks we have the more technology we create to cover and appease our sense of worry or dismay that at the very end of the day all we have is us, all we need is in us and everything we stand to lose is within ourselves, our human habits and our communities.
Naturally, we cannot distance ourselves from technology, the built dwellings we encompass and the ease of physical life these things bring, it would be audacious to say the least, but the very, very memorable things in life come down to the memory of interaction and the lasting lessons it leaves between you and I and the world as influenced by us as human beings.