Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Understanding madness part 1 Henry VIII

How much in the history of mankind have the wrong things been done for noble reasons?

My mind truly worries me some times, most specifically when I study the acts of people whom history calls cowards, tyrants or bad people and in a way, it makes sense to me the way in which what they did could have made sense to them at the time.

My most recent foray into the mind of madness has been studying Henry VIII of England. Often considered a bad guy for several reasons the more I study, the more I feel I may see a reason for what he did, as horrible as it was. This is by no means excusing it, nor is understanding it excusing the mistakes those people made, but in understanding I feel it brings them closer to center, more human than demon, and fail-able just as we all are.

As I understand it the world in which Henry VIII was born was one of many contentions, since the line of succession from the Plantagenet's was not clear and direct, there were as many people who has as much right to the throne as the sitting monarch. Power, then as much as now, was a delicate balance. When the legitimacy of a heir could be in question after you were gone, it makes sense that you would do what you could to protect that. I am not suggesting that killing off 2 wives and divorcing 2 others was right, but in the context of the time, if a queen was not as strong candidate for ruler, and not only her rein, but life could be put into question if someone else had the backing to dispose her.

Again, I am not saying that what he did was right. But in trying to hold and keep power, especially when others have as legitimate of a claim to the throne, it becomes hard to let voices of dissent go heard, since one day you are the King, the next day your rivals gain enough support to claim the same and have you killed. It is a hard place to be in. If you allow your rivals to dissent and that in turn can lead to not only your death but possibly the death of your children and you fight with the tools you have to keep that. It would be as if, you owned your home and plan on that providing for your children and then a neighbor steps in, takes your home kills you and gives it to their child. Even more is the problem of a child of yours based on their gender could not inherit your home. If you have an heir who could, it becomes possible for them to look out for their siblings, but without such an heir none of your children are protected against hardships that could include their own death.

I will not suggest that he did not have other reasons, be they lust or otherwise, but I am suggesting that this may have been a part of it. Added to that is this. When you have been given lands or in this case a country, you want your children to have as much of that enacted as possible. You may even think of it as your noble right to keep the throne against all threats both foreign and domestic. (You may be wrong, but that is not the question.) At one time in our history if you were the Alpha male in a tribe or group, and someone else wanted to challenge that you had recourse. You could fight them and if they won they took your place. In this case, those who spoke ill were killed as they posed a threat, and if we have learned anything it is that a person who is in power may use that power to keep power as long as they can. Sometimes it involves killing off rivals so you can secure your place and are not killed or erased from history. (Such as Hatshepsut, was erased by Tuthmosis III when he became pharaoh in 1458 BC) 

Henry VIII is often categorized as a womanizer who divorced or killed his wives because he did not have male heirs from them. (With the exception of his third wife who died after childbirth) This may be the case. It may also be the case that he did as he did out of no noble reason but simply because he could. It may be that none of what he did, he did for more noble a cause but just lust. I would argue that perhaps his 5th marriage to Anne of Cleaves may have been partly that, but I find it hard to believe that it was all that.

The human condition is hardly an easy one. We have storms of emotion based on very little, and act sometimes on reasons that we do not know ourselves. Added to that is the fact that people do things sometimes for a number of reasons that point to the same answer. You may have a child because you wish to have the experience of raising children, or feel it is directly a commandment from your God, or you want a part of you to live on, or for countless other reasons, but rarely is it only one of those things. You may have a particular job because it pays the bills, or it allows you to do things you want to do, but it is rarely one thing only. I cannot say for sure that this king did what he did for one reason and only that alone, I am not sure any of us does, or anything would do. If you are hungry and anything will do, you should then eat anything as you have no actual preference, but the human psyche is not like that. We are like a trifle layered and our reasons add up to doing things people may view as only having one reason when it really has countless. Even something so simple as "How do I love, thee?" is continued with "Let me count the ways" as if something so essential as love needs to have a plethora of reasons for it to be valid.

I hardly believe anyone is that simple, and though the primary reason for something may be larger, the truth is that it is hardly as cut and dry as it is made out to be. My mind worries me, but to be fair, it is interesting to me to try to understand the way in which something may have made sense at the time because to me it makes these people more human and sometimes we need more humanity in our experiences.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It should be your choice, and it should be OK.

Warning: This has nothing to do with swordsmanship, my personal journey, and may be a bit too soon and too fresh for some people. I do not mean any disrespect, and please know my intentions are clear. I need to vent about something that is getting to me.

Last night I cried. It was the first time I remember crying over the death of a celebrity, but my life was touched by this one in particular, so I felt a genuine sadness for this one lost. In light of that, and many of my friends who I have lost over the years to their own hands, despite the sadness and grief, and the holes left in our collective hearts, I still believe it should be your choice.

There are people hurting in the world. Many of them, without the world seeing it in the light of day. The happy, spunky friend who always has a good attitude during the day, when they are alone with their thoughts may be going through things we have no idea about. To those who are hurting I suggest reach out. I suggest talk to someone, anyone, but if what you need is to talk find that. It is a lot better that way than doing something as a cry for help that may hurt you long term, could even kill you, when all you needed was to talk, and maybe some antidepressants to help balance things out some. Last night it wondered if Robin Williams had known just how many lives he had touched, and mattered to, would that have changed it? I have no answers, none of us will ever know.

There is a finality of death. It is the nature of the beast. I have also been there. When the only answer is out, anyway you can get there. When the sadness and grief, the pain, seems so much that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes people need a hand up, sometimes no matter what you say or do for them will not be enough, and their choice becomes to pull themselves up, or to find a way out. I do not know if knowing the lives he touched would have pulled him out this time, no one knows for sure. But despite that I still believe that it is (our should be) your choice.

Things are not always cut and dry. I cannot say with absolute certainty that if we, as people were kinder to each other that it would keep everyone from ending their own lives. It is not that cut and dry. But I know some lives may be saved, and that alone may make the difference. We need to be a society where it is OK to ask for help and get it. Where there is not a stigma attached to being depressed, like it is something so wrong with a person that if they go to get help it means somehow that they have failed at life somehow. That kind of thinking needs to be over. We all have our down times, the times when we are sad or feel loss for something, or someone. It is a part of life that as a society we brush over, like it is not OK to be down and be having a hard time sometimes. We need to change how we see things. It is OK to be down, it is OK to ask for help, or need to talk to someone about what is going on without the stigma attached to it.

But even in this loss, even in the losses of friends over the years something else is also clear. It is OK for people to decide about their lives. Sometimes the hand up is not the answer, and that has to be OK too. It should be OK to decide on your own terms how your life comes to an end. If you are sick and the only way out is that way, it should be OK to go that way. No stigma attached, but safe ways that are not going to end others lives in the process. If it was OK to go your way, rather than in a fiery crash on the freeway that ends others lives.

As a people we are not OK with death. It comes to all of us, but we absolutely are not OK with it. When a ninety something year old person dies who has been in constant pain for the last 30 years we face it with sorrow, as though we want them to hold on forever so we do not have to face death. We want people who are on life support and who are alive because machines are keeping them there to stay alive forever, no matter their pain or quality of life, we want them alive so we do not have to face death. As if it is some curse that if we hold on long enough will skip us, keep the people in our lives alive and well so we never have to face it, or be sad because of a loss.

They are tied, the stigma and the holding on to those who it is their time to go. To me that needs to change. It is OK to die. It will happen to all of us in our time. I have been mad at my friends who choose their way out, I am hurting and somehow it is their fault. What is wrong with that is that I am sad that they are gone, I can even shake my fist at the sky because they choose to go the way they did, but ultimately, at the end of the day, it is their choice. I can be mad, but it was their life, and they choose how to go with it, and I have to respect that choice. It should be your choice. It should be that getting help was easy, no stigma attached, we all go through hard times, and it is OK to be down sometimes. But if the only way that you can see through the darkness and pain is out, we need to allow that to be OK too.

In the end, we all die. It does not matter how hard we try not to, death comes anyway. Hold those in your life who matter near to you, show them that they matter, make a difference in the lives of others. Today I am sad for the loss of someone I looked up to, but he touched so many lives I cannot say that he did not make a difference. I also cannot say that it was not his choice to go as he choose, and ultimately that is and should be his choice and despite the pain, that is and should be OK.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Some clarity from the cloudiness.

Last night I took a walk. This is not news. Since the first part of June I have taken many walks, mostly because I did not get my steps where I needed them for the day, so I have been boosting them by taking a walk usually around the neighborhood.

Last night was a bit different. I had arranged to meet a friend and do a little fencing, then when she left the park, I began my laps. As it was not the neighborhood which is easy to keep my mind busy it was a good "clearing my head" kind of walk. From it, came some realizations, and from that the steps forward seemed pretty clear.

The first thing that occurred to me, is that though I weigh something that is considered considerably over my "Ideal" I do not feel super fat and out of shape. Yes it is harder to do some things, but I feel like I do OK overall most of the time. The question then became, if not what I look like now what is my mental Idea of what I weigh. What occurred to me is that it is likely that most people do not have a complete self picture of what they look like to others. Plenty that are very overweight do not always think that they are that bad. Plenty of others who have just a little I would imagine, feel like that 10% fat or something is WAY too much and feel like they are 400 pounds because of it.

So where mentally do I put myself? I weight 322 pounds as of this morning. I know I am over weight. Every time I go to a doctor they tell me. It could have nothing to do with what I am talking to them about, they tell me, believe me I know, this is not some huge revelation. But where do I put myself? Last night, it came very clear. I feel like I am a healthy person most of the time. Ask me to do 100 push ups and it gets a lot different but overall I feel like I am some over but not 150 pounds over. (If you look at BMI my ideal is 170, but at that point I think I would look sickly)

Also to that point was the idea that I know that guy. I know what the Healthy guy would look like or feel like, I know what eating decisions he would make, and how active he would be. The funny thing is that I half expected him to just show up fully formed. One day, eating burgers and fries and drinking a coke for lunch, the next day, this other guy with healthy habits. It was crazy, but somewhere I half expected it to happen. This was dumb, it would not happen, and I think that was almost a security blanket for me. "What? I am not that weight today either? Guess it does not matter what I eat, since it is not happening today."

Then something else occurred to me. I do know this guy. I can feel what it would be like to be him. but nothing is going to magically bridge the gap. It will take time being him before I look like him. It will take work to get there, it is not going to happen over night. If somehow I was 100 pounds less tomorrow. Could I keep it up? Not without the right tools and mindset. This was something I did not have, and something that it would take some doing to get. I heard somewhere once that a huge number of diets fail because even if people reach their goal, they gain it back because they go back to old habits. "I just lost 50 pounds, now I can eat whatever I want." kind of crap.

A huge part of this goes back to something I realized back in June in regards to sword. Not "I can't do it" but "How can I do it?" it gets my mind working. Things are not dismissed, but rather another way is found. That is who that guy is. Not the one who complains without a solution, but one who sees a problem and figures out how to make it work. I know this guy because he is me, his mind is not foreign to mine, his actions are not so far off that I can't see myself doing them. He is walking around in my skin right now with some extra baggage. But we will work that off, all I need to do is to be that guy, be the best I can be right now knowing that tomorrow it may be a bit different but right now he and I are one.

I am not there yet, but I am taking steps. This afternoon I had tuna without mayo or anything else, that is the kind of thing he would do after all, and found that it was not bad, in fact, I liked it. I am not there yet, but "That guy" is me and together we will make it.