London life continues: week the third.
By now, not that I’ve done very much at all coz COVID, I’m beginning to feel more at home in this city. As a result of hour-long walks every lunch time, during which I call my brother Charlie on the phone and complain about a lot of different things, I have got the lay of the land pretty well.
My sharehouse, which is located in Streatham, sits on a strange invisible border. If I turn left outside my front door, after two hundred metres or so I find myself on Streatham High Road, which is very long and loud and broad, thick with red buses and humming mopeds, and lots of people in beanies waiting on street corners to ask you if you’d like to buy a watch.
“Time is but a meaningless concept,” I whisper to them as I sweep past, on my way to buy frozen pizza and pink gin.
I don’t actually say that—that would be rude. Time is on my mind because I started reading a book called The Power of Now last week, after ordering it off the internet for five pounds. I started reading The Power of Now because I was browsing a forum on Reddit late one afternoon, after deciding that I would quit smoking once and for all, primarily out of a fear of dying but also of becoming both ugly and impotent.
It was in this Reddit thread that I found a comment. The comment recommended, in order to quit any bad habit, that whenever you hear that little nagging voice in your head saying ‘Oh go on, just once can’t hurt’, that you recognise the voice as separate from yourself—as an imposter, seeking to cause you harm. You then personify this imposter: if you are trying to quit smoking, you create a physical manifestation of that little nagging voice; a stinky, grey-skinned old man with a crumbly cig-end in his hand and a hole in his neck, perhaps. This voice then becomes that much easier to resist.
I liked this idea, and riding a high of motivation, I found a subsequent comment in the thread which breathlessly recommended The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I ordered it immediately, expecting more of these clever cognitive-behavioural tricks.
How wrong I was. The Power of Now is, with not the fleetest shadow of a doubt, the hottest pile of shit I’ve ever come across in my life. In the opening of the book, Eckhart Tolle takes one paragraph to describe a sudden epiphany he had at the age of 30, before which he was deeply depressed. After this epiphany—which constituted him being sucked into a universal void and hearing a voice tell him to ‘resist nothing’—he awoke to find himself conveniently enlightened.
Eckhart Tolle’s enlightenment consisted of realising how to live perfectly in the present moment. He saw beauty in the trees, and in flowers, and in the wind—beauty in all forms!* In fact, as Eckhart Tolle writes, he was in such a profound state of bliss and euphoria that he lost his home, his job and all his friends, spending all his time for the next two years sitting on park benches rocking back and forth and grinning to himself.
*Except for in modern art, modern music, modern literature, and modern architecture, which he describes at various points throughout the book as being disgustingly ugly and horrible. He does not expand on what constitutes ‘modern’, which consequently makes it difficult for a humble follower such as I to know which bits of human culture I am allowed to like.
Placing himself as a teacher alongside the likes of Buddha and Jesus through regular critiques of their theology, Eckhart Tolle spends the next 190 pages or so rambling through vague new-age phrases, giving his own interpretations of ancient scripture, and slagging off his unenlightened readers in general. ‘It is impossible for your feeble mind to comprehend what I am telling you,’— that sort of thing.
I struggled through half of the book, finally reaching breaking point at the page when Eckhart Tolle, Lord and Saviour of Humanity, claimed that old age and disease were a result of negative thought patterns, and of not being present in the now. I am currently laid up in bed with the flu, which is my only reasonable explanation for why, at this point, I tore the book in half and threw it on the floor—something I had been resisting the urge to do for the previous hundred pages.
I have never torn a book in half before, though I have often wanted to. It felt very liberating, and I shall do it more often from now on.
Thus ends of my brief foray into self-help literature.
If you take a right turn outside my front door, within one minute you will find yourself in the middle of Tooting Common. When I first saw Tooting Common I found it rubbish and ugly, however now I quite like it. You adapt to your surroundings. Coming from rural Yorkshire, an inner city London park ringed with litter bins and covered in sparse, patchy grass is a bit of a let-down. After two weeks sauntering up and down Streatham High Road however, it looks comparatively lovely.
After Tooting Common there is Balham, which I like very much. A lot of people in Balham are young and very attractive, and they wear outlandish clothes. It makes me feel tremendously self-conscious. There are plenty of bars and cafes and restaurants, and further down the road from Balham is Clapham, where my friend Sam lives. He has lived in London for four years now, and is very settled and established and happy, which is something I hope to achieve also.
Sam and I have decided, along with a colleague of Sam’s called Mike, to make a band. Sam and I used to be in a band called Sex Rain when we were teenagers, however with Mike on drums we would need a new name. My suggestion was Idiot Bastard, inspired by the 45th President of the United States**. Unfortunately, we discovered there exists already a group called The Idiot Bastard Band, however they have only 3000 followers on Facebook, and also they are old men in ill-fitting jeans. For these reasons I feel we could soon outshine them.
In the coming weeks I hope to read more books, find a full-time job, and establish a circle of brilliant clever friends who support me all the time and who love me like crazy and show up at my front door with bottles of wine and mischievous grins. I also would like to finish editing the novel manuscripts I’m working on—at least one of them—and begin the process of attempting to become a published author. I would also like to perform (to rave reviews, naturally) the first live show of Idiot Bastard.
There is much to do. Baby steps.
**See also: Eckhart Tolle.