Archive for April, 2011

Cultivating your dreams can be a deeply therapeutic process. Mostly I’ve found the effects to be subtle, your outlook changing gradually over time as more of your unconscious knots are straightened out and the threads drawn up into consciousness, but every now and then a single dream can usher in a dramtic change of outlook.

For about a year now I’ve found myself in the apparent midst of a storm of anxieties that’s had my mood plummeting in a seemingly irrecoverable nose-dive. It’s been a combination of things – a series of terrible world events, the slow motion train wreck of the western economy, and the erasing of any sense of a secure financial future for myself and those I love. It seems relentless, with the media gleefully swinging one meaty cosh after the other at us, as if to reinforce on a daily basis how truly awful things are.

Am I being overly pessimistic? Of course I am, but that’s it when the dark clouds settle in; they amplify the slightest thing to apocalyptic proportions and you suddenly find yourself embattled, taking cover and bracing yourself against things that might never happen.

The darkness seemed to deepen over a long, bitter winter and steadfastly defied the loveliest of springs, even as the blossom came out and the first mow released the heady perfume of fresh-cut grass. There seemed to be no escape, but then at the beginning of April I made a trip to the Lake District and while I was there I spent a meditative hour by a waterfall. I think this single act granted me a bit of a breathing space and ushered in a subtle change of direction.

 On my return from the Lakes, I began idly leafing through my dream journals from 2002 and 2003. I had no particular aim in mind – at least none I was consciously aware of. What struck me though was the richness, the detail and the frequency with which I had once dreamed. By contrast, in more recent years, I’ve fallen out of the habit, recording only a few dreams over the course of a year, when once I’d dreamed most nights and applied myself dilligently to the Jungian interpretation of the symbols that arose.

I don’t know why I stopped cultivating my dreams like this. I suppose it came down to necessity and I’d apparently felt more of a need in those days, while recent years have been marked, I’d perhaps pompously assumed, by a philosophical resilience, and an outlook that had seemed to require little by way of bolstering from the denizens of my inner world. And if you don’t court your dreams, they vanish on waking.

Inspired anew by these old dreams, I began cultivating them again recently. Cultivating one’s dreams is no more complicated than lying down of a night and simply asking yourself to try to remember them. Things didn’t happen straight away – I think it took a few nights before I was permitted leave to recall my nocturnal wanderings again, and it was yet a few more nights after that before I was rewarded with a series of dreams that were highly detailed, visually startling and emotionally charged.

The last of these dreams occurred on the night of April 18th, the night of the full moon, which in imagination at least I’ve always associated with a peak in imaginative energy. In the dream I encountered an unknown woman – the classic symbol of the soul, or in drier, Jungian terminology, the Anima archetype. She was once a familiar visitor, chosing a different disguise each time – sometime evasive, sometimes challenging, sometimes downright lascivious. But whoever or whatever she was, on this occasion she restored in me a sense of the most profoundly transcendent love. In the dream she seduced me into thinking the love I felt was for her, but on waking the feel of that love remained like a warm glow in my guts, and I recognised it as a connection with something old and fundamental.

I rose into a world unchanged in any tangible way. The news from Libya was dire, and the fiscal pundits on the radio were bleating as usual about our financial ruin, while the politicians traded insults, and the media sought with tiresome pedantry to find the cracks between them as if it mattered or we actually cared any more. But it was a world that no longer assailed me. I was a man in love with something, or rather I was a man who had been reminded he was in love, that he had somehow forgotten – but it was all right, his lover was constant and patient, and she had apparently forgiven him.

I drove to work, past the petrol station whose regularly ratcheting fuel prices have become a curious indicator of my rising anxieties – and though the price had jumped overnight to a record high, I was unable to muster much of a reaction.

Indeed it seemed trivial. I had regained a more balanced perspective and was able to let it go.

I only hope it lasts.

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I’ve been looking into hypnotism recently, a subject I know nothing about, but which has been cropping up in another area I’m interested in – namely the early work of the Society for Psychical Research. The Society was founded in 1882 with the aim of studying reports of so called paranormal phenomenon – things like extra sensory perception, spiritual mediumship and other apparent indications of some form of survival of the human personality after bodily death.

At the time, the scientific establishment was busy defining the world along strictly rational lines and sweeping all before it, enabling society to make rapid advances in technology and medicine, but there was (and still is) among champions of the “scientific method” a deep seated aversion towards anything that could be labelled paranormal. The Society for Psychical Research was formed outside of the scientific establishment, though headed by a group of open minded scientists who sought to apply the rigour of the scientific method to the investigation of the paranormal – the aim being to see once and for all if there was anything in it. They’ve been going about it now for 130 years and have uncovered much that still isn’t generally well known, as well as debunking a good deal of what was and is still being claimed as fact by the more credulous proponents of the paranormal.

Two distinguished early investigators, as well as being the founding fathers of the society, were Edmund Gurney (Phantasms of the living 1886) and Frederick Myers (Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, 1903). I’ve recently been ploughing through both of these substantial works, and fascinating reading they make too, but that’s another story.

Myers and Gurney began their psychical investigations with the study of spirit mediums, an avenue that turned up unambiguous evidence of fraud on the part of all but a few. Discouraged, Myers and Gurney abandoned this line, and began to study instead evidence for the apparently anomalous faculties of the mind. This proved to be a more fruitful avenue and a great deal of data was documented in support of the concept of extra sensory perception – the apparent transfer of thoughts or sensations from one mind to another. These early studies suggested there was something about the human personality, the psyche, or whatever you want to call it, that extended beyond the boundaries of the brain, and was able to interact with the minds of others, regardless of the distance by which they were separated.

Myers, a classicist and poet, also established himself as one of the few British depth psychologists of his day. A contemporary of both Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud, he was also an influence on Carl Jung’s emerging theories of a collective unconscious. Rather than attempting to trim away the anomalous and somewhat untidy fringe of human experience, Myers insisted one could not formulate a comprehensive understanding of the nature of personality or “mind” without including a study of its occasionally anomalous though well documented feats of extraordinary cognition – from the calculating savants, reports of preconative dreams, or the laboratory-controlled evidence of extra sensory perception, all of which defied rational explanation.

Myers and Gurney were interested in hypnotism because it had been observed that anomalous feats of cognition could be more reliably brought about with a subject in hypnotic trance. Their work with hypnotism also raised the question: could the experiences of apparent contact with discarnate entities – in other words “spirits” – be explained as a form of super-extra-sensory-perception, emanating not from the minds of the dead, but from the minds of the living?

One of the earliest advocates of hypnotism was Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) who built up a reputation as a healer by the use of what he called “animal magnetism”. He claimed this was different to the better known magnetism associated with compass needles, that it was inherent in the bodies of people and animals, and that it was possible for one person to have a “magnetic” influence over another. His methods eventually came under scientific scrutiny, and a board of inquiry concluded that his technique, at the bottom of it, involved nothing more than a form of suggestion, working upon the mind of the patient.

This of course is exactly what hypnotism is, but the board’s findings had stripped it of the glossy mystique Mesmer had wrapped it in. As a consequence Mesmerism fell into disrepute until the middle of the 19th century when it was taken up again by the Scottish surgeon James Braid, and what we now call “hypnotism” became respected once more as a therapeutic method.

Rather than uncritically accepting Mesmer’s claims of a mysterious “animal magnetism”, Braid approached the subject from a purely rational, psychological and physiological angle, and was the first to identify a definite trance state, or a state of deep relaxation, in which a subject became more easily suggestible to the thoughts or the will of another.

One of the biggest drivers of early research into hypnotism was its potential use as an anaesthetic, since it had been found that hypnotised subjects could be “persuaded” to feel no pain. This enabled surgical procedures to be carried out that were unthinkable before. It was only the later development of more reliable chemical anaesthetics that led to hypnotism being abandoned as a means of pain control, and it became instead a tool for opening up and investigating the dark recesses of the mind.

It was in France, through the work of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) that the greatest advances in the study of hypnotism were made and used to good effect in the treatment of hysteria. It was also through Charcot’s work, and that of his pupil Pierre Janet (1859-1947), that anomalous forms of cognition were first reliably documented. It was these cases that came to the attention of Myers and Gurney, and were used in support of their own investigations, and their subsequent reports to the Society of Psychical Reasearch.

Speaking as a layman, what hypnotism seems to point to is that the unconscious mind is really rather powerful, that its true nature is still largely unknown and that its reach, rather than being confined spatially and temporally to the insides of our own heads and the span of our own lives, is potentially infinite, and independent of our current understanding of the nature of space and time.

What hypnotism seems to reveal is that many of our most remarkable psychical and even physical abilities are obscured by the simple fact of our conscious awareness, that our consciousness filters out or restricts our actual potential though possibly for very good reasons. Hypnotic methods bypass the controlling or patterned instincts of our conscious mind and reveal traits of behaviour, cognition or personality that we can pass our whole lives in ignorance of.

Any foray into the subject of the true nature of human personality is to kick over a can of existential worms, and I don’t want to go on too long here, but a good example of one of the greyer documented areas of personality are the many cases of so called automatism. This is where an apparently sane person begins to produce communications, either written or verbal, that appear to come from an intelligence other than their own. Perhaps the best documented and most perplexing of these cases is that of Patience Worth who produced millions of words of published literature through the mediumship of Pearl Curran(1883-1937), a young woman of modest education and no prior literary expertise or pretensions. Then there is Seth, communicating tomes of existential wonders through the mediumship of Jane Roberts (1929-1984).

You’ll find Seth’s books on Amazon, also the works of countless other latter day chanellers, though of course their voluminous nature does not in itself provide proof of their veracity. However, the material clearly comes from somewhere and evidence suggests it comes from the mind of a personality that is removed from the apparent personality of its physical author. The lesson of hypnotism however is that none of this material – remarkable though it might seem – can be taken at face value. The work of Patience Worth, largely poetic and fictional in nature, can be enjoyed for what it is, but when these chanelled personalities begin transmitting information as truths regarding the nature of “life, the universe and everything”, then we need to be careful we don’t become so open minded we let our brains fall out.

My own view is that the extraordinary cases of automatic or chanelled material are too extensive and intellectually coherent to be dismissed as fraud, self-delusional fantasy, or the mad “ravings” of a sadly afflicted “human” author and I’m prepared to accept that secondary personalities (fragments within one’s own psyche) provide as convincing an explanation as the theory of a discarnate agency. Were Pearl Curran and Seth real? I think the answer is yes, but my next question is: in what sense were they real?

What this tells us about the nature of human personality is no less breathtaking, perplexing, or disturbing – that within each of us, there may lie channels of communication to versions of our selves that are both independent of what we think of as being our primary self, but also of quite different intellectual endowment and personality, that these other versions of our selves can far exceed our own ability – and equally, at times, be so infantile as to be easliy eclipsed by it.

The use of hypnosis in the latter part of the 19th century opened the door, or rather the mind, for the field of depth psychology, and its use therein has been long established, but what it actually reveals about the nature of human personality proved so difficult and controversial a thing to deal with it led at least one pioneering psychiatrist, Carl Jung, to eventually abandon it in his therapeutic practice because he said it seemed to pose more questions than it answered, and revealed far more of the human personality than could be explained.

Nowadays we are most familiar with the use of hypnotism as a means of behaviour “modification”, a therapy to be tried in cases of addiction or in overcoming phobias. This was its original function, going back to Mesmer, but even now, as then, we have little understanding of how it works, why it works, or even what it works upon. All we can say is that a person  is gradually relaxed into a trance-state, one in which they become suggestible, and the hypnotist, to quote Myers: suggests to the patient that they get well. And sometimes they do.

The fact that hypnotism is still unexplainable in rational terms is one reason it gets a bad press and is viewed by the layman with suspicion,  either that it is simply fraudulent – an act between a charlatan and his stooge – or that it is a dangerous and half-understood technique that has left a trail of subjects suffering psychological damage as a result of it.

One of the most frightening aspects of hypnotism is that it can apparently modify our memories, preventing us from recalling events that have actually happened, or it can convince us that events that did not happen actually happened, or that the blatant nonsense we’ve been fed by the hypnotist is true, or it can convince us that things other people can plainly see, are simply not there. Our memory is very much associated with our sense of self, and the thought that another person could come along and modify us, change us, or even rob us of that which is most intimately our own is deeply disturbing, and earns the subject of hypnotism, rightly or wrongly, its notoriety.

Given the power of the unconscious mind, and its apparent suggestibility, I would err towards the view that hypnosis is not a subject to be treated lightly, and certainly not a thing to expose oneself to at the hands of an inexperienced practitioner, nor one whose art extends no further than the entertainments industry.

Practitioners of therapeutic hypnotism are required to study at recognised schools, though I note in the UK many of these are in the “private” sector and seem vulnerable to infiltration by opportunist charlatans. Certification is regulated, but conversely you need no medical qualifications to enrol on a course of certificated study. Even yours truly, whose medical knowledge extends no further than opening a box of sticking plasters could apparently obtain the necessary certification to set himself up in therapeutic practice, and begin poking about for the secondary personalities of my unsuspecting clients, and doing all manner of untold damage in the process.

certification or no, we can all perform a harmless kind of hypnosis, at least upon ourselves. It involves nothing more than a form of relaxation, breath control, and “talking to oneself”. I tried it out one night on one of those middle aged aches and pains we get from time to time, with good results – the sort of thing which if you presented the symptoms to the sawbones he’d mutter something about it being muscular, and tell you to take an aspirin.

So, you lie in bed and you go through a fairly standard relaxation technique, identifying in turn each part of your body – feet, legs, torso, arms, neck head,… and you progressively relax them, breathe into them. You take your time, and when you feel deeply relaxed you go through a prearranged script, something about counting yourself down to ten or something, at which point you say you are in the zone of suggestibility. Then you start breathing into the achy bit, telling yourself to imagine it as a physical thing about the size of a golf ball – and once you’ve got the measure of it you tell yourself you’re going to shrink it down to the size of a marble, then a grain of rice, then a pin head, and finally, you tell yourself that by morning it will be gone completely. You come out of your self-induced trance by some other pre arranged method, counting yourself up to three or perhaps, and as daft as it all sounds, my ache, which I’d had off and on for months had gone in the morning and has not returned.

So, either it was going to get better on its own anyway, or it was all in the head. But there are apparently many things in the head, that we are entirely unaware of.

Michael Graeme

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Easter was a bit strange this year with schools finishing a clear two weeks before the festive weekend, which meant those of us who work outside of the education system had a problem fitting our modest allocation of holidays around the more generous leasure time of our offspring. It also meant the hotels and hostelries in the Lake District had a full two weeks to charge a hundred pounds more than they do normally.

As in previous years my destination for an early break in the Lakes is the little hamlet of Hartsop, and a Scandinavian style cabin set in a bowl of craggy hills. As usual these days, when I travel more than twenty miles from home, I wondered if old Grumpy was going to make it without literally blowing a gasket or slipping a disc, but we made it in one piece, the final section of the run being over the Kirkstone pass on a beautiful sunny Friday evening – which bore much promise for the weekend ahead.

As usual I packed up a load of gear I thought I might need, most of it battery operated, so I had to lug all the chargers as well, and as usual the only thing I actually used was my camera. I’d put a copy of my current work in progress on the iPad, thinking I might crack the problems I’m having with it, but in the end I didn’t touch it – becoming bound up in the detoxifying feel of this heavenly place instead, and simply letting the everyday details of my life dissolve back into a state of pure being.

The first reminder you get, when you come to a place like this, that you’re living in an unnatural way is when the sun goes down and the stars come out. You see more stars, and you are better able to perceive their colours, so that the heavens shine and glitter as they should. Also, the cabin being generously overhung by its eaves, tends to be a shady sort of place, so that when the lights go out the blackness is like that of the deepest cave. I remember waking up in the small hours and opening my eyes, but the action made no difference so that I wondered if I’d gone blind and had to grope for my watch which lay under the bed so its luminous dial could reassure me.

There are some massive walks converging on Hartsop, all of them stunning in what they reveal of the mountainous nature of this corner of Westmorland, but there are also plenty of modest hikes that give you an opportunity to view the mountains at a safer distance. I tend not to walk the high-fells when I’m with the family, as I seem to be alone in my hill-fever, so it was the modest jaunts I sought out fro this weekend and none can be finer than the circuit of Brother’s Water. This is a couple of hours of perfectly flat walking on good paths. Setting out mid-morning, you can plan the perfect pitstop at the Brother’s Water Inn for a drink or an excellent bar lunch. On our walk we were especially lucky in spotting this little creature:

He’s only about six inches long, one of our native common lizards, just woken up from hibernation and looking for a sunny spot to bask in – he just happened to pick the same spot I’d chosen for a rest, and was dozy enough from his long winter sleep to pose for photographs. At any other time of year they’re hard to spot, and faster than greased lightning.

I have to admit to feeling a bit rubbish this year. It was a grim winter, old grumpy’s set me back a thousand pounds so far in repairs, petrol is becoming truly, frighteningly expensive, and there have been some unsettling changes with the day-job as well. All told I’ve not been as bright and positive as I’d like, so I was ready for a break. I think the negatives have been affecting the writing too, refusing to allow me the peace of mind to blast through the block I’m having on the work in progress. I scanned through it briefly on the Sunday of the weekend, but set it aside, untouched, and took a short hike from the cabin to sit an hour beside the most sublime waterfall instead.

It takes a place like that to remind you of the truly elemental things in life. For an hour everything was stripped away and I was just this human being tuning in to the white noise of the crashing water while the sun shone and the spirits of this delightful place gave me back my sense of self and sent me home the next day with the feeling that all was right with the world.

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I’m quite a timid person in real life – very non-confrontational. If you’re looking for an argument, you’ll find me very slippery – always switching the subject back onto neutral ground where we can both agree and get along fine. The original fence-sitter – that’s me. Break the law? Never – not under any circumstances, because it’s the law that protects us and keeps us from turning into an uncivilised society. However, sometimes it seems you just can’t help yourself.

I remember as a child, a mate and I were playing with a boomerang in a meadow at the back of our street. It had cost me 2’/6p, and we were having a great time with it. The field was fallow – no crops, no livestock or anything. Suddenly, my mate’s face took on a look of pure terror and he ran away as if he had the devil on his heels. Wondering what was up, I turned to see, not the devil, but the farmer, bright red with steam coming out of his nostrils in a comically bovine fashion. What was up with him? He looked angry over something. Surely, it was nothing we’d done. But then, why was my mate running like that?

Such delightful innocence proved to be no excuse and I was landed a kick up the rear end, which stung because the farmer was wearing shiny steel toe caps as I recall. This got me going and I duly caught up with my mate as we hopped back to safety over his garden fence. The farmer kept my boomerang and consequently still owes me 2’/6p. Yes, if you’re reading this, forty years later, you bastard, I remember who you are, and I know where you live!

Though the incident was largely forgotten (honestly) until quite recently, I think it instilled in me an abhorrence for laws that are either stupid, or applied in such a way as to deliver a kick up the backside to an innocent person, for no other reason than they seem easier to catch than people who are really naughty. Now, okay, technically we were trespassing that day, but my defence is that there was no harm intended – we were kids playing out. Some farmers don’t mind kids playing in their meadows if there’s nothing growing in them but this guy had zero tolerance, and I think I have him to thank for my own intolerance of arbitrary authority delivered by jobsworths, especially when it comes to land access issues.

A more recent example was when walking through a meadow attached to my home village. There, a sign asks us to keep to the alloted path – in other words keep off the grass – but the grass is wild – it’s a wild-meadow for pity’s sake. I was there recently with number two son, having gone to take a look at some wood carvings that had been done by way of decoration. The carvings – life sized statues of religious figures stand in the field, away from the path. I wanted a closer look, so I wandered over with my camera. Number two son was horrified that I’d be told off, and I was horrified that he was so sensitive. Duly chastised I crept away, but felt angry that such unseen nannying was curtailing my innocent freedom to come and go as I pleased. I was pushing fifty for heaven’s sake! It’s about time I was allowed to grow up. I can guarantee the person who will eventually hack those statues’ heads off or carves irreligious graffiti upon them will have no such sensitivity. And they will never be caught either.

All of this might sound like the bleatings of someone with nothing better to whine about, but I should advise you, I have also been subject to a warning by the police for his  misbehaviour – oh yes, Michael Graeme is a real bad-ass! (Is that the right phrase?)

Some years back I happened to have my finger in my ear as I was driving past a side-road. Allow me to explain: it was momentary thing – a bit of an itch that needed a desperate scratch, so I scratched it. Unfortunately, down the side road there was lurking a police car which duly emerged from its lair and sat on my tail for two miles before pulling me over. Was there a problem, I wondered? Had I a tail light gone? No. According to the otherwise charming young lady officer, I had been using a mobile phone, faced three points on my licence and a hefty fine and was I not aware that it was an offence “sir”? 

I was nonplussed and politely denied all knowledge. I hate it when I see people driving with a mobile ‘phone pressed to their ear, because it’s dangerous, they don’t seem to care, and there’s never a policeman around to catch them – so this felt like the ultimate irony. My mobile phone was requested, but did I even have my mobile ‘phone that morning I wondered? Cue a rather undignified emptying of pockets: pens, pencils, MP3 player, snotty hanky, small torch, swiss army knife, curious piece of bassalt picked up from the beach at Porth Neigawl,… calculator,…. backup calculator, oh yes, there it was: the tiny phone was located, in a zipped pocket, fastened in a case and switched off.

It was a mistake, obviously, a simple misunderstanding; and I could readily accept that a man with his finger in his ear could easily be mistaken for a man using a mobile ‘phone. But was Michael Graeme sent on his way with an apology and a friendly “mind how you go, sir”? Not exactly. He was given a warning and sent on his way with the feeling that he’d been lucky to get away with it this time – and he’d better watch out in future. But a warning against what, I wondered? The question was on the tip of my tongue but circumspection got the better of me. I tugged my forelock and went on my way.

Be warned, therefore, I am not so innocent a soul as my writings might lead you to believe! I also try to keep my mobile phone in a bag in the boot now when I’m driving, but I’m not sure that will be sufficient defence if it were to happen again. In my novel Durleston Wood, I have a character who’s so paranoid at the sight of a police car, he’s no longer able to drive without feeling like he’s going to have a heart attack. Hmnn, I wonder where I got him from?

And then there’s the recent troubling story of a man, (fortunately not me) sitting in his garden one summer’s day while a group of jolly local youths take delight in throwing apples at the side wall of his house. It’s annoying and it happens a lot, and there is never a uniform around to prevent it from happening, so the man goes out, remonstrates, ends up in a tense stand-off with several strapping youths encircling him, jabbing fingers and uttering profanities. The man grabs the ring leader, saying he is making a citizen’s arrest. He feels alone, vulnerable. The yobs close in. He punches out at one in self defence. The police arrive. The man is arrested for assault and spends weeks entangled in the machinery of the law, awaiting trial. From sunny afternoon to nightmare in the blink of an eye.

The message is: don’t get involved. The last thing society wants is its citizens acting on their own initiative and doing what they think is best, or right, or common sense in any given situation. So, stick to your email, your twitter or your blog, or any other means of indirect communication, but do not under any circumstances engage face to face with your fellow human beings unless you’ve got a solicitor on speed-dial. Oh, and watch out for scratching your ear because there’s never a policeman around, until you’re least expecting one.

Sorry boys and girls. You do a tough job, but you really ground my gears that day.

Graeme out

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I’ve been a follower of the development of computer technology for as long as there have been computers. My 1984 HND dissertation was on “the use of computers in the solving of problems in mechanical engineering” – oh, heady days – and was based upon the somewhat primitive computers of the day – including my own Sinclair Spectrum. The conclusions I drew back then were that computers had their uses but the engineer had to be discerning and not fall into the trap of specifying a computer’s use simply because it sounded sexy, when a pen and paper would yield a more efficient result.

I still measure the development of technology in these terms, and try to separate its true potential from its often overhyped promise. The early pioneers of the personal computer envisioned us using these things to control our home appliances, heating, security,… things that have yet to capture the public’s imagination, while things they never imagined – like the internet, and email – now dominate our workaday lives. I’m therefore always a bit slow in jumping on the next bandwagon, wondering first if it’s heading in the direction I’m interested in or not. I have a Facebook account, but admit I’ve not really made sense of this medium yet and can boast only one friend (thank you Marie). I guess writers of my kind are simply not gregarious enough to make use of its networking potential.

And Twitter?

Well, Twitter has been on my list of intrigues for a while now – for those of you not familiar with it, it’s like micro blogging – you upload a very short message to your Twitter account – 140 characters – called a tweet. You can do it from your computer, but also from your mobile ‘phone. Much of the early information that came out of Libya regarding its disintegration escaped the state media blackout and came to us via the tweets of ordinary souls swept up in the chaos. I found this deeply moving and impressive – information and communication in the hands of ordinary people shaping world events via a medium that had yet to turn even a dollar’s profit. At the other end of the scale we also have the great and the good getting their secretaries and PR minders to tweet their selective thoughts, or their carefully sanitized itineraries to their fanbase via that same medium. This is of less use of course, though transparent enough to the intelligent.

But what of the ordinary soul?

“I filled up my car with petrol today and it cost me £1.35/L” Good tweet? Interesting? Important? Hardly. There’s a lot of tweeting going on and in the great cacophony of sound, the humble tweet can seem rather pathetic. If you’re poetically inclined, you can massage your tweet into something resembling an Haiku, but really unless someone knows you’re there your profound, Zen-like Haiku is lost like so much noise in the background.

What use then is Twitter to the ordinary soul? Well,… if you have any kind of interests, you can follow the tweets of those who share your interests. In this way, logging in  to your Twitter account you can see at once what others in your field have stumbled across, enabling you to follow up useful leads on the internet – a bit like listening to gossip, I suppose. In practical terms I’ve found it focusses your web-surfing.

If you’re a writer there’s no reason not to tweet. Sure, no one will read it, but then who are you writing that personal diary for? It doesn’t matter. If it strikes you tweet it.

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