A note to begin with. I started writing this before the riots and looting broke out in London. The addition of the section on that was inserted after the first draft was completed.
The other day, while I was waiting for a train, I was thinking about how different a life I lead from those around me; probably. We all inhabit the same world in a spatio-temporal sense, yet many of us live in completely “worlds.”
When I was a child, I was used to my environment. It was the very definition of normal. Any changes to this or different environments or lifestyles were completely alien and, to my mind, unnatural. I think I still live with something of this mindset, even if the framework by which I understand the term ‘normal’ is now somewhat different from what it was a few decades ago.
Before I give you a little window on my world, to see what defines a ‘normal’ life for me, I will tell you what I think many of friends and family consider normal. Most got married young, to people they met either at university or shortly after graduating. There may be between one and four children in the family by the time they’re 30. They live in houses (with a variety of terraced and semi-detached, with detached being reserved only for the richest) and drive cars. They work close to home and have a working day (which I define as the time between leaving home and getting home) of around 9-10 hours. They take holidays once or twice a year. At weekends, they go away and “do things” to relax.
I occasionally visit this world, but to me it is a strange, alien place; a kind of Middle Earth, if you will (albeit far more resembling The Shires than anywhere else).
For my part, I do not marry. I have explained at some length about this before, so I shan’t go into that again. Consequently, I do not have children of my own. I’m perfectly happy to be an uncle, and I hope my nieces and nephews find me to be entertaining, informative and a welcome occasional visitor into their lives. I live in a one-bed flat above a busy junction with the constant noise of traffic outside, which I have learned to block out for the most part. My work is a long way from where I live. Typically, I spend about 2.5 hours on a number of different trains every day (hence why I can get so much reading done) and, combined with longer than average working hours, my typical working day is around 13 hours. This would appear to leave me with 11 hours at home per day, which sounds an awful lot. But there are some things I missed out.
I sleep less than the average person, and typically get about 7 hours per night. Anything less than 6 and the effects on my health quickly become detrimental. So do I really have as many as 4 hours a day spare? Well, as noted above, I do not marry, so I am entirely dependent upon myself for all domestic chores. To prepare, cook and eat a decent meal from scratch will typically take at least an hour; maybe an hour and a half. Then I have to clean up afterwards, as well do any other cleaning and tidying around the flat, as I am convinced that my presence there accelerates the increase of entropy far more than natural. That would, of course, imply that I am doing something particularly ordered and constructive, though I do not know what that might be. My meals are typically done more for nutrition and taste than for presentation. So cleaning will take another hour. This has now left me with 2 spare hours a day. However, you may note that I have not washed yet in all this time. (*eeewwww* I hear you say). Well, there is a little more to that. I would estimate that washing, getting dressed and generally waking up takes about an hour. I’m not a morning person.So, as you will have worked out, the “me” time I get is about an hour a day. This time is where I try and squeeze in my bible study, prayers, food shops, blogging or watching tv. This is only an average. When I have been particularly busy, this can be zilch, leaving me with zero spare time from Monday morning to Friday night, which is pretty exhausting.
In spite of being a bloke, I can multitask a bit. Thankfully my home is arranged so that I can watch tv or listen to anything while I am doing the washing up or cooking, or ironing my shirts. I do in fact have a link on the right of this page to some lectures which I find very interesting. The Gifford lectures have very few recordings online, although I did recently spend a week going through those of Simon Conway Morris. The Faraday lectures can be quite interesting (though of varying quality of speaker) and the sound recording isn’t great, so you can’t really hear it if you’ve got a stir-fry sizzling away. If I miss church on a Sunday (if I’m away with family, or upstairs doing the childrens’ work) I can catch up mid-week via a download from the church website.
So that’s a rough outline of my week. It mostly consists of work, commuting and household maintenance. I’m sure, if you could somehow quantify how interesting someone is, I would fall into the bottom few percentiles. As for the weekends, I am perplexed at how people who “do things” can find that at all relaxing. Some friends go horse riding, some go scuba diving, some go bird watching, some race cars, some play football, some play golf. I fail to see how any of those things are anything but stressful. Maybe I’m strange. I find talking to people stressful. Even if it’s a so-called “casual” conversation, my heart rate goes up and I start to perspire. That’s why Saturday is always my favourite day of the week. I very rarely speak to another human being on Saturdays. Even if I do, it’s usually only the checkout girl at the local supermarket in order to tell her:
a) I prefer to use my own bags; they won’t split by the time I get to the end of the car park
b) I am capable of packing my own bags
c) If I had wanted cashback, I would have asked for it.
During a recent training course at work, I was told (amongst other things) that this was because I find supermarket checkout staff “intimidating.” I think this statement lacks truth and was a verdict delivered by someone who had only met me a few minutes beforehand. I would rather just get on with my day.
To further contrast myself with those around me, I neither drive nor take regular holidays. As mentioned above, spare time is at a premium, so finding a regular hour in the week to take driving lessons is just not a possibility for someone in my position. As for holidays, I had one last year, but I won’t be able to take any more than a day or two off work at a time for this rest of this year. My only hope is to try and get as far away from London this time next year, as I would quite like to be 300+ miles away from the Olympics.
So that’s the window on my world. If you’ve read this far, you may be as boring as I am – just consider that!
In spite of this, I am well aware that many people, not only this Western culture I inhabit, but many more besides, lead greatly differing lives. There are countless “worlds” which I doubt I will have the opportunity to experience. It is my firm belief that we are all shaped to varying extents by the environments in which we grew up and by those in which we find ourselves today. Our outlook on life is dependent on the things we see, the books we read, the music we listen to and the conversations we have.
As an addendum, it was very interesting to be in London the other week during the riots. I saw some horrific scenes on the television, and read some quite disturbing things online describing what was going on. And yet, had it not been for the media or for half-overheard conversations, I would have been none the wiser about it. I walked 3 miles across London, through several estates, and saw absolutely nothing. I “knew,” from the media that there had been trouble in the areas I was in, but there was nothing apparent. From my perspective, it might as well have been in a different city in another country. It raises certain epistemological questions, though I shan’t embark on those here.
OK, I think that turned a little bit rambly, but that just reflects my thought process. I am just in wonder at the different worlds we live in and how different they can be, in spite of their proximity to one another.