Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Scots Wha Hae

Stop me from generalising but, meet the average Scot, and you'll marvel at the sheer dourness that encircles them as they bewail their misery and misfortune.

Even when nothing that bad has actually happened, there's normally an arsenal of enemies awaiting character assassination, or an assortment of seemingly miserable anecdotes, to regail onlookers with over a pint or two on a Friday evening

People like to say this attitude is based on a Calvinist understanding of life that sees pleasure as sin - one that certainly resonated with my parents who approved of anything they deemed 'character-building' - but I think it's equally to do with the pleasure of watching others squirm from behind their rose tinted spectacles, as we methodically destroy their naive world views.

The funny thing is, dourness is something we Scots actively enjoy. Yankee style positivity and platitudes simply don't work in our neck of the woods. Black humour is considered the thinking man's opiate and - even when things are working out famously, with your job say, or your fiance - it just wouldn't be the done thing to applaud success or happiness, at least, not without puncturing it with the odd jibe.

I grew up with that approach to life, and it's one I both understand and appreciate. More than anything, curiously, I enjoy the looks of bewilderment passed at us by passing foreigners who simply don't get why, for the love of God, we are not more positive about life. For many Scots, moaning is a kind of humourous code, a bit of mindless banter.

But if we're not careful, it gets too wrapped up in the way we view the world, blinding us to the good things and making us focus exclusively on the bad.

As such, I've resolved to try and free myself from the desire to moan, mostly because it breeds apathy instead of action in the face of difficult situations that it would be a good deal better just to move on from and forget instead of dwelling, Bannockburn style, on the injuries of the past.

After spending far too much time resenting an array of people in my address book I am going to take the advice of Selim, the prisoner condemned to life in a light-less dungeon in Tahar Ben Jelloun's magnificently dark, yet inspriing, novel 'This Blinding Absence of Light', in which he says:

'I had no enemies. I was not giving into my worst instincts any more. I understood how draining it was to spend my time chopping into pieces all those who had done me harm. I had decided not to bother and that is how I got rid of them, which amounted to killing them without dirtying my hands or stewing forever in the desire to repay them with the same misery they had inflicted on me.

I had to move beyond the idea of revenge once and for all , become impervious to (it)...because revenge smelled strongly of death and did not solve any problems. Search as I might, I found noone to detest. This meant I had returned to a state of mind I loved above all others: I was a free man'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey sweetie, I have just read this entry in your blog, tho it's probably not new, and I found it so inspirational that I have copied a large chunk into my notebook where I record fab quotes from books. Including the quote about revenge. Too right! what a waste of energy. But it can be compulsive mental behaviour, that's the problem - an attempt to mentally resolve an unresolved situation. Want to move on from this, though, as you do. Hurrah for healthy peaceful thoughts! Eve xxx