Banter with Buddha

New year’s resolutions are often mocked for how ridiculous they are….after all they are the result of arbitrarily linking the end of the year, and the start of a new one, to the thought that you will suddenly metamorphose into a bigger and better you with close to 0 effort. You’re not a Pokémon, and as a result such a thought process is doomed from the get-go. The sad reality is that real change comes from…real…change, and that’s that:

‘Everyday feel like the one before. Hunt the money, don’t hunt the hoe…if you do what you always done then you get what you always got, you dumb buffoons!’ – Gunplay (Gangsta’ Rapper,  and gardening equipment enthusiast)

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Well said Gunplay, and that’s exactly it – as hacky as it is to joke about, resolutions are going to remain as fickle dreamy ideas if we don’t institute real changes in our lives. Which is exactly why I made the leap last weekend of buying 4-ply toilet paper as opposed to 1-ply…I just thought; “John – you can do this…you deserve this. You owe this to yourself – pick it up.” And I went for it, I pushed through the pain barrier, and intend to keep it up for the rest of the year.

Not inspired by that? Okay…hard to please, jheez…what about this instead: last night I visited a Buddhist centre to attend a meditation class. You see to speak seriously-ish for a second I hate the idea of just plodding through life, with horse-blinkers on; simply living out your allotted days until you expire, never really experiencing things, or for that matter enjoying what you actually have in the first place. Groundhog Day, Groundhog Day, Grounhog Day – DEATH. Yeah, no thanks.

So I wanted to try new things…at first I thought of horse riding! I would be like Aragon stomping around the place – striding across the open plains of…Sunderland. I even Googled local stables in my area, and there was one close to my work which came well recommended. Ideal! I would finish work and then go play with-ah-shit…you have to be under 12 stone. Back to the drawing board you HUGE FAT GIMLI LOOKIN’ CRETIN!

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Ahem…so the next idea was meditation – and as there is no weight limit rule for sitting on a cushion on the floor, I figured it was ideal for me. Regular readers of my articles will probably protest this, but I am a little bit of a hypochondriac. No, no…come on. I get stressed out easily and then exaggerate about the severity of my situation, I can’t sit still, I tell people about my toilet paper habits. I mean objectively speaking I am strange sort of guy! So anything which could help de-stress me would likely mark a positive step in the right direction.

I went along with my sister, my friend, and his girlfriend – who at the last second decided it wasn’t for her. She didn’t want to talk to people, didn’t want to do the meet and greet, didn’t want to have to introdu – “WAIT…WHAT?!”  I hadn’t even thought there would be any sort of social element – I don’t want to be in there doing trust exercises with my genitals alongside total strangers (or whatever the hell they get up to in there). She was going to go off to a cafe instead, de-stress with a book and a good cup of coffee. What the hell was I doing? Why wasn’t I doing that? I don’t even like the smell of incense this incen-

I went anyway. You know I used to think that sitting was the best thing in the world, aside from maybe lying down…but let me say this, it was one of the most uncomfortable sitting sessions I may have ever experienced. It actually makes me wonder whether meditation classes are just a bunch of people packed into a room pretending they don’t have pins and needles the whole time: “Think of a looooved onee-send your love to them” YOWWW MY BIG TOE IS RINGING – “feel the energy of the universe pulse through your body” – ARGH IT’S TWITCHING AND TWITCHING – “let your body float into a state of pure posiiitivityyy ” – RIGHT THAT’S IT – LOST ALL FEELING – WILL NEVER WALK AGAIN.

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I have been back a couple of times though, actually I think I am going again tonight – so somehow the feeling that I would never ever get to walk again wasn’t enough to put me off. There must be, after all, some good to it, ey? So what if whenever I close my eyes and try to think of waterfalls instead it’s just flashes of painful childhood memories, peppered with looming doubts about the future – that’s great, that’s normal, that’s…I like that, it’s great…it’s…

…off to cry now (whilst standing up), tah tah! 

Love you all, old and new -and I truly hope you have an absolutely magic 201, are any of you try anything different this year? Going to try and get more articles out for you whenever possible. Shout out to Meagan for giving me a nudge!

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The Land of Confusion (Japan)

Japan ~ Osaka – 2015

What do you think of when you hear Japan? Probably a lot of things flash by in an instant…from the deep rooted cultural elements, to the checkered history, the strange and bizarre…all the way to Pokémon and Dragonball Z (as well as so much more) – it’s safe to say that Japan has always painted a colorful tapestry for themselves, one unlike any other place on earth.

Like most western folks I confess I have a rather bare knowledge regarding the so-called land of the rising sun…but that’s alright – as it’s always more exciting and rewarding to go into a place totally unprepared! Every sense is more receptive – your eyes wide like a newborn baby…not wanting to blink so as not to miss anything as you stare up and around at all the newness in front of you. Like being unplugged from The Matrix – all of the preconceptions and travel guides can go out of the window, as you are witnessing it all first hand…you are truly living it in real time. And if you are lucky, nothing will be like it seemed from your armchair back home.

Exhilarating right? RIGHT! So how would all of these aesthetic commodities manage to impossibly mesh together then ? I didn’t have the foggiest idea – but of course I was still beyond curious! I mean…what would I find behind Japan’s veil of mystery?

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Well my friends I will say this…Japan is weird and wonderful – no actually, wait – let me rephrase that…Japan is weirdly wonderful. You see many things in Japan are weird; very very weird – but the weirdness often makes them wonderful…and the things that are wonderful, wellllll they still often cling to a certain sense of weirdness. Sorry…I know I’m sounding like some sort of deranged Willy Wonka right now…but this is the best way I can think to sum it up! 

You see there’s battles on every single street corner! And by “battles” I don’t mean Pokémon battles (to my great disappointment), but battles between juxtaposing cultural elements…it’s bizarre, it’s crazy…but they manage to meld together in the strangest of ways…it shouldn’t work…they shouldn’t be able to coexistbut somehow they do in a way only Japan can manage. 

Think the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang – two opposing forces that form together in perfect unison…well yeah it’s like that except rather than good/evil, or light/dark it’s Buddhist temples and pornographic manga characters…to give just one of many examples…

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There’s also a perfect fusion between the old and the new which I found rather fascinating. On the one hand you are ordering your food through a machine in a restaurant rather than dealing with humans…very Bladerunner-ish…but then on the other side of things you are paying in coins to get a paper ticket stub to ride a rather dated subway!  I like this idea though…not everything has to be updated, smooth, and futuristic – then again I’m biased as I still dream of living in a castle with a moat in the next ten years, so perhaps you shouldn’t pay attention to silly old me!

Mind one thing I didn’t quite enjoy as much was the confusing nature of the transport system…it actually seemed intentionally difficult. The lines criss-cross in the most nonsensical ways imaginable – I would assume because they were just built one after another, and so the map took shape without forward-planning…either that or the architect dropped a bowl of noodles and thought “mehhhh, good enough!”

Anyway, what that means for the user is that they are sure to pull their hair out attempting to understand that which cannot be understood! I’m not even talking about the fact that it is all strictly in Japanese; which sure is frustrating but as I was in Japan I felt was fair enough! I’m really just raving at the layout of the tracks, and routes…my advice is this; attempt to be constantly partially intoxicated on Japan’s surprisingly good, and cheap selection of beers – that way you won’t mind as much, and will just go with the flow!

“Oh, we went the wrong way by 20 minutes? Never mind…these things happen! Let’s go!” as opposed to: “FUCCCCK! WHY DOES THAT LINE GO THAT WAY?! WHY DOES IT HAVE THE EXACT SAME STATION NAME MINUS ONE NUMBER! WHY AM I NOT DRINKING BEER RIGHT NOW?!” – it’s really your decision, but I feel comfortable with my choice.

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I came to the end of my trip seriously wanting more…which has to be a positive? Sure there had been some lows – losing on Tekken to a young Japanese kid which basically destroyed my entire belief that I was a master of that game…continually relying on body language rather than spoken words, so much so that I now feel like a professional body-popper…and finding out there are so few vegetables in the Japanese diet that I may have scurvy, BUT – despite all of this it has piqued my interest massively as both a country, and as a culture – due to that I want to return very soon…next time Tokyo I reckon, so I can experience a change of pace – mind, I’ll still be going in as a rather clueless and ignorant tourist; and you know what?

That suits me just fine. 

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