A momentary lapse of reason

There aren’t many things that scare me… well, beyond the obvious stuff – scary thugs in dark alleys with sharp knives, my kids falling into open manholes on the street (yes, I know it’s unlikely, but it’s a recurring day-mare I have).

But wasps do. An irrational fear I’ve had since childhood when my brother was badly stung by a colony of hornets in a stupid prank which involved the nest falling onto his head (aided by a long stick, wielded by a ‘friend’).

I’ve got better with this fear since having children. A parent can’t afford to panic in front of a child, so I guess wasps don’t really scare me anymore – though if you were to put me in a locked room with a million of them you’d see Terror.

The other thing that scares me, often, is Irrationality itself.

Several years ago at the seaside I overheard a conversation between two women – an old dear in a wheelchair and her carer. The older woman was bemoaning the summer, the younger woman, presumably on an hourly rate and just going through the motions, was mainly uninterested.

“It’s the wasps, you see. I can’t stand the wasps,” the older woman said with some exasperation when she realised the younger one wasn’t showing any empathy.

“Oh well, you can’t live in a bubble,” the nurse replied.

I wrote this bit of the conversation down. Don’t know why really but it satisfied me, in a dark way. The kids thought it amusing that I’d recorded it and in the intervening years it’s become a bit of a catch-phrase for anything we don’t like or don’t want to do. “You can’t live in a bubble” we’ll say.

But I wrote it down in case I ever found a home for it, and then I never did. My eldest brought it up again this morning – asked me if I’d used it yet – and I figured what the hell, maybe I can get a blog out of it and then it’s done. It’s put to bed, I can score a line through it in my notepad and it won’t stare out at me any more.

I haven’t blogged for months. Not here or on my personal page. Again it’s a measure of irrationality that I go through phases with these things – not phases of motivation, but phases of Belief. There’s so much crap out here, on the internet, do I really want to add to that? There’s so much I’d like to say here, on the internet, why should I not have a voice?

Over and over these arguments with myself go.

I fear Irrationality so much I conjure it up by default. I swing widely between these two opinions and in the process have a horrible habit of scoring lines through stuff… there’s never really any middle ground for me.

I looked at someone’s blog yesterday. It’s the guy who’s now heading up Authonomy, Scott Pack, who’s a dynamic finger-on-the-pulse kind of person when it comes to the internet age. His blog (which is worth checking out, btw: MeAndMyBigMouth) is an amazing mix of business and personal – he even gives out his home address, which sent chills down my spine (Luddite that I am).

And it left me wondering about my fears over the last few months about blogging, Twittering, Facebook status updates, forum posts and the like – all that crap we shove out there that reveals so much about us, and that lingers as testimony to Who We Might Be. I wondered whether my fears were Irrational – here, after all, is a professional guy willing to stick a whole load of personal information and mouthy opinion out there… his blog reads as normal and natural. It doesn’t seem a vanity, it doesn’t seem Too Much Information.

But, still, I’ll argue with myself anew, I’m sure. And I’m really interested to hear other’s views on this issue.

Now we’re nearing the end of summer. It’s that time of year when the wasps become drunk on fermenting fruit – they become aggressive, dangerous, irrational. Here where I sit on my terrace is a wasps’ nest, formed inside an old railway sleeper which supports the fencing. They are literally right behind my chair – constantly in and out of the hole they gnawed some months ago.

I deliberately didn’t destroy their nest when I first saw and heard them building it. Though it’d be good for me to leave it there. Share my smoking spot with the creatures I fear most.

Can’t live in a bubble after all…


10 Replies to “A momentary lapse of reason”

  1. I like bubbles. Sometimes spending too much time online feels to me like a larger self-constructed bubble. Is it "true" interaction, true sharing, or just an extension of self-obsession? I too have pendulum swings and simply do not know how much I want to be "out there," online. A wasp flew in out bathroom window last week. I am afraid of them too, but have no real reason. I watched him slowly climb the shower door, almost feebly, but then beeline through the slat of the window I had opened, hoping he would get it. He got it. Maybe that's what scares me about wasps…don't know why, but they seem so much smarter than bees.M

  2. I'm glad someone else sees it this way – that all this might be a form of Ego and no better than standing in public shouting "look at me!", despite not really having much of a performance to display.It all becomes a bit noisy and messy, like toddler playgroup. Perhaps (she said, Libran to the last) it's just a matter of balance.Is there anything other than bubbles of varying breadth? I suspect not.

  3. Blogs. I never give much thought to what I post up there because, in the wide scheme of things, no one really reads them anyway. Just a few hundred people most days. Perfectly respectable numbers for a personal blog but bugger all compared to all the people currently online.Also, hard to get people to come to my wife's Open House if I don't tell people where it is.Wasps. People's fear of them is out of all proportion to the number of people they sting. I have been stung twice on 40 years, doesn't seem like an unacceptable strike rate. They have left me alone for most of that time.

  4. Balance, that thing we all strive for, has to be the key. It's so easy, particularly for writers – or anyone working at home – to get sucked in to an online, virtual existence. But being online, blogging, or having a presence on twitter, doesn't mean you have to bare your soul, spill your guts, or post pictures of your kids etc. I TRY to keep my online *activities* confined to my writing, so that most of what's out there – 'published' – relates to that, books, publishing etc. But it all depends on what you want to achieve from being online – blogging, tweeting etc, whether you're there to promote something, network, or to simply make friends and have fun. If you're there in a professional capacity, promoting yourself, or something, then that online presence inevitably has to be managed, to some extent… and we're back to balance 🙂

  5. Scott, Judith – thanks. Yes, the points you make are valid. Hardly anyone's looking… ha ha, this is true, so true… and balance. And where balance temporarily evades, there's nothing quite like a good sturdy virtual brush to sweep a room clean again.

  6. Living opposite a woodland we have been plagued by wasps for years, especially in the loft and I have killed some massive nests. Got two waspintors and hung one in the loft. No more wasps. You have to make sure there are no existing nests about before you put them up. I keep the other on the landing and have had no wasps in the house. When sitting in the garden we take the landing one out and hang it up….no wasps as the effective area is approx 15 metres. They mimic an enemy wasp's nest. Wasps are an essential part of nature….these things leave them to go about their business elsewhere.

  7. Thanks, Jobo… hadn't heard of artificial wasps' nests before – will probably give that a go next year.Jane… does it? Yes, I think it does – even when (or perhaps especially when) we think we're filtering ourselves. I did think long and hard before answering that, btw, because the urge is to say "no, of course not". But I think we reveal ourselves in strange ways – our fiction does the same, even when we think it's not about us, etc etc. What we put in, what we leave out, the perspective we use, the tone… all of this reveals so much, I think, and far more than we might want to believe.(ask me again next week and I may have changed my mind… there. another unwitting reveal.)

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