I’m more a Doctor Who than a Star Trek kind of a guy. For a long time, my life was pretty Star Trek: shinny costumes, loud bangs, competition, desperate dog fights with a hierarchy dependant on brown nosing, and the constant thought that some of the best and the brightest, yourself included, were being sacrificed on a shoddily built planet like a red shirt wearing extra. ‘Has Rich gone mad’ I hear you cry? Not at all; I am talking about the musical part of my life, my life as a musician.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved playing music and I still do; the composition, recording, producing, mixing, performing and all that is fantastic. But the Phasers set to kill Borg-like groupthink horror of the industry itself was a huge turn off. All the joy brought by, for example, performing to thousands of insane Scottish homosexuals (as I did) was tempered by the Vulcans that ruled the labels forcing mediocrity and, as they are now, shying away from any suggestion of emotive content in music, making it bland, safe, easy to sell. Really, when I look back at it, it wasn’t for me at all.
So now I think of myself as a Historian, a writer, a critical thinker and, hopefully one day, an academic. This is a Doctor Who world, a world where thinking matters, where battles are won by wits and analysis, where then only weapons are the Sonic Screwdrivers of argument and the ability to [mentally] time travel. Often you are alone; occasionally you have assistance but in the end it is about you and only you, you don’t have to rely on all too often unreliable ‘others’ to do what you want do and get where you want to go. I am much happier in the Tardis than I ever was on the Enterprise, and the beauty of it is that, as a Timelord, I can go anywhere, do anything, I am not confined to the here or the now like Kirk and Picard are. As a Timelord, I can still visit the Enterprise from time to time and remember, even indulge in, the good bits without having to worry about the Federation breathing down my neck. In short: I can love music again for the music and only the music.
Many of us find ourselves on paths we love only to find an insurmountable cliff in the way, some bit of logic, some action, some reality making it hard to continue the way we were going. The problem is that emotions are, themselves, the product of our goals and so to find an obstacle to those goals causes a whole raft of negative emotions; it rarely creates what is needed- a logical response, an evaluation and an affect free reflection on whether it is worth pursuing the same path or finding another. It also taught me that no matter how focussed on one path we believe ourselves to be, more often than not we can find another which is equally worthy of our attention. In my case, I swapped the guitar and the recording studio for books and a library; I swapped musical notation for Latin.
Don’t get me wrong, again, History is not without difficulty and my hardest times lie ahead, but it is a difficulty I can see a way around not based on kinship and arse licking but purely on talent, and I hope, in history at least, I have a little.
But this is why people who believe the unbelievable get caught up in what Stephen Law calls ‘intellectual Black Holes’. Be it religious faith or tarot reading or homeopathy, they and their goals are invested at an emotional level. For many people, all the logic and reason can go hang, so long as they ‘feel’ that their path is the right one. The unmovable objects are simply walked around and ignored. ‘Faith,’ as a character in House once put it, ‘is not an argument.’ It is often when those who have such beliefs hit intellectual rock bottom that they begin to rethink. When all those pesky little thoughts that kept popping-up start to attach themselves too firmly to escape from; a drip drip drip that leads to their current goals becoming more painful than pleasure, more a chore than a joy. When this moment comes, and only when this moment comes, the need to stop, work out why they feel so bad/wrong/uncomfortable and the need to find a new goal, and new path, to shake of the music world and travel back into history or leave faith at behind and look sceptically forward, become overwhelming. When trying to argue the case for Skeptisism or atheism, these are the people we are really talking to, not those entrenched in their faith-based world. We are all guilty of it to some degree, and we could all do with looking at those areas that are becoming just too damn hard and thinking ‘what is going on here’ from time to time.
What I am saying is this; don’t keep trudging along in a life you wish were someone else’s, you don’t have to keep going down the path just because you set off that way, there is another route. And whatever you do, don’t go after Klingons, when you really want to be fighting the Daleks; it’ll just end up far too complicated and unfulfilling and your guns will be too big. You have one life, one attempt: do it right.