Saturday, 26 December 2009


^ A balloon.

So I've been thinking about balloons. Life seems to effectively be about giving and receiving balloons. You take who you are, blow it into a balloon, tie it up, and give it to somebody else to add to his collection, so that we're all walking around with scores of balloons above our heads, holding them with strings, which I guess would now make them helium balloons, but the image still works for me.

The problem with handing somebody a balloon containing yourself, is that there's no guarantee he won't take a pin out and pop it. There's nothing protecting it except a thin layer of rubber, and there's nothing supporting it - the very essence of our relationship with people - except for what has to honestly be described as hot air. It survives entirely on good faith and a common willingness to accept what is essentially a virtual reality.
These balloons only support a civilisation so long as the civilisation chooses to respect their integrity - not only by not popping them, but by treating them as if they have a say, as if they have weight and authority.

I'm very good - way better than average - at receiving balloons. I'm even very good at making them. But I'm not very good at tying them up and handing them to other people.

This raises the question, which I'll try to address fairly briefly, of whether it is about the giving or about the receiving of the balloons.
Obviously it's about both, but I think they serve very important but distinct purposes.
When you receive a balloon, at least if you're properly alive like a child, you get excited. You're moved and grateful and jumping up and down in a frenzy.
When you give a balloon, or, more precisely, when you're in the constant habit of handing out balloons, your life is imbued with a sense of meaning, because you are actively contributing to what life is about.

One is about joy, and the other is about happiness - that is to say, one about visceral rushes and violent aliveness, the other about a quietly glowing contentment. Thrills and satisfaction.

I'm not sure I can say it's more important, but you definitely need the second as a basis upon which to make the first meaningful. There's no use in enjoying things if you never have a second of inner peace. This might explain why I and similarly oriented people sometimes surprise people when we say we're deeply depressed, despite what is an outwardly - and genuinely - joyful appearance much of the time. We're just not giving out enough balloons.

The specific problem with my prospective balloons is that the air that would fill them is an unusual blend of anxiety, righteous rage, blathery metaphysics, and directer proclamations of love than people are used to.

What happens is this: I'll begin blowing up a balloon, stop to sneak a look at the intended recipient, decide he doesn't look receptive enough, and release my hold on the balloon, letting the rubber fly randomly away, pretending it only ever got to my mouth by accident.
Alternatively, and recently, I'll be almost completely out of air, but decide I ought to give people balloons anyway. So I'll dutifully take a balloon, drench its insides with spittle and phlegm, somehow manage to tie it closed, and hand the dilapidated, disgusting wet chunk of rubber to whoever it is, who'll usually take it anyway. But it's not a balloon, and would only look like a balloon if you were willfully ignoring the evidence of your senses and using a very selective and frankly idiotic definition of the concept. It's about the air, not the rubber.

The solution is to be less fearful, and then obviously less compensatingly frantic. Only arseholes pop balloons, and these are less common than people'd have you think. And even those who aren't trustworthy in this respect, aren't likely to mistakenly strike you as trustworthy. If somebody seems worthy of your balloon, you just give it to him. At worst, he'll just politely and bemusedly add it to his collection, without fully appreciating the significance of your gift. But he's not going to spit in your face.

So happy ballooning.

As a side note, this is the first blog entry, and piece of writing in general, to be (partly) written on Shabbat, so I reckon I deserve some kind of congratulations, so here I am giving them. I'm not sure how to explain it, but this is an important act of unshackling and reprioritisation. Writing, specifically.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "I'm very good - way better than average - at receiving balloons."

    Are you kidding me? You downright refuse to accept even the tiniest of balloons. How long has it been now since I gave you those comics?

    The balloon thing is a good metaphor, and you've extended it well. Clever post. But while I congratulate you on the content of the post, it makes me very sad to see the timing of the post. It strikes me as yet another symbol of your emotional decline, and I'm a little bit scared to imagine where this is going.

  3. This has nothing to do with anything, but have you seen the latest Doctor Who yet?

  4. This reception of balloons would be better expressed in my potential response to these comics when I eventually read them than in actually going after them. I maintain that you can be good at receiving balloons while being insanely lazy and passive, though it's not strictly necessary. Also, time is strangely slippery lately, probably because I'm not very used to trying to manage it.

    I saw The Waters of Mars, if that's what you're talking about, which I suspect you're not, and didn't get very excited. If there's anything new coming I really ought to look into that.

    ...but will I?

  5. Oh, also, I'm under some stress, but definitely not in decline. My happiness tends to be quite high-intensity in general, if that's what you're referring to. I am good.

  6. I'm not talking about The Waters of Mars, I'm talking about The End of Time Part 1. Go watch it so we can talk about it on Shabbat without me having to tiptoe around spoilers. :)