Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rain, happiness and The Wheeler Centre

What an evening Melbourne offered last night for a discussion on being happy.

Blanketed by a foreboding thunderstorm and teaming rain, I walked from work in one end of the city to the the Wheeler Centre in the other, thinking that Sigur Ros got it wrong in their song Hoppipolla - the lyrics of which apparently translate to beautifully innocent childhood moment like jumping in puddles. Then I corrected myself - jumping in puddles is fun; just not while wearing a suit. If I were wearing shorts and thongs I'd be happy. Instead I was in a damp suit with uncomfortably wet socks.

I adore the Wheeler Centre. It's like going back to a study Arts again, but without the exams and it's usually free. God bless Melbourne. But this weather?

Yesterday I finally hauled myself out of bed to get to the 6.00am yoga class. A sucker for a sleep in (or lie in), it also gave me a rare opportunity to take my time getting ready for work and stroll through the city in the morning sunshine feeling relaxed and happy. It set the scene for a good day.

Last night's session was the third night of the Sad/Angry/Happy series. On Tuesday night, I left the Angry session energised and inspired, and having made the unexpected purchase of Brendan Cowell's book. Arriving at the Happy session feeling like something the cat had dragged in backwards through a series of puddles, I hoped to be uplifted by it, though I'll admit to being skeptical about the choice of Catherine Deveny as a panellist. She's someone I've thought in the past to be overly cynical and judgemental but I held judgement (and tweets).

Sitting shoeless in an attempt to dry my socks out while I listened, I was pleasantly surprised. She was genuine and positive - even disagreeing with a cynical question/comment from the audience about the obligatory check-out chick's insincere "Have a nice day" - as were all the panel, despite the recurring theme of depression, which is seemingly closely (even inextricably) tied to happiness, as hate is to love.

It delved into dark, uncomfortable places: is a distorted reality a necessity for happiness? Is the active pursuit of happiness futile, and even a cause of disappointment? What is the difference between happiness and joy? Does happiness only really exist in hindsight? Convener, Sean Dooley, cited novelist Jonathan Franzen's claim that he was happiest in the process of writing his books, but left with a certain emptiness upon achieving his goal.

These are thoughts are some of the types that have troubled me in the past, triggering anxiety that demands resolution but also grows as you seek attainable certainty, becoming more susceptible to irrational, troubling thoughts until you either let go or wear yourself out.

Luckily I've learnt to let go and accept uncertainty much better, which actually gives me a greater sense of certainty.

Afterwards, the walk from the Wheeler Centre to the Flinders Street tram stop was a contemplative one. The proposition that it takes a certain level of depression to get a true picture of reality sat a little uncomfortably did demanded some thought and resolution: How can I be happy if happiness requires a level of delusion? I thinking about it in an anxious, fearful way was counter-productive though. The only way for me to manage such uncomfortable uncertainties is to accept them, and often they resolve themselves.

Perhaps people that explore the darker sides of life and reality are be more susceptible to bouts of sadness or depression. That doesn't make happiness unrealistic, just many of the ways we people pursue it maybe?

My conclusion was that happiness is an underlying state of mind that can withstand hits and set backs, while joy is something that comes in bursts and fleeting moments that can be either meaningful or superficial - the birth of a niece or nephew (I don't have my own kids..) or watching Essendon win a game of footy (AnZaharakis Day anyone?).

I've found the best way to be truly happy is to live in, and appreciate, the moment - even if I'm still mastering that approach.

So, now soaked wet, I gave up zipping through the rain from one point of shelter to another - it became ridiculous after I sought shelter under a traffic light - and I embraced it, strolling through the city smiling at those who walked past huddled under umbrellas. Even when, standing at the corner of Russell and Flinders Streets trying to get across to the tram stop before the tram did, a car drove through a deep puddle and splashed water over my legs I soaked it up (badoom-chh). I was just glad the tram seemed to slow to catch the red light so I'd be able to cross in time.

A businessman boarded a few stops later, shaking out his umbrella and cursing, 'Fucking rain'. His suit only only half-soaked, he clearly hadn't reached the liberating point of nonchalance.

Now sheltered, I still wasn't entirely comfortable in my saturated suit, dripping hair and wet socks; but really I'd only feel uncomfortable by dwelling on how I could be more comfortable.

Noting this, and with a childish abandon, I disembarked at my stop and walked the few hundred metres home, stepping in every puddle I could, letting rushing water wash over my shoes. I wouldn't stand in the rain all night, but I wasn't cold and the dampness of my clothes was just a sensation, and therefore sensational, right?

And besides, how good the feeling of arriving home and changing into dry clothes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The day your favourite band breaks up

Do you remember the day your favourite band broke up?

I do - it was today.

REM have been together longer than I've been alive.  From the day I first heard them as a ten year old in 1993 they seemed 'old' to me, and the end always just around the corner.

The possibility of longevity with integrity was one of many things I learnt from these outstanding artists.

I feel like I've always been just catching up to them.

I got into REM just as they were hitting the peak of their commercial success, not that I knew it at the time. I was in Grade 5 and my oldest brother had just acquired three albums - the newly released Automatic For The People after hearing a few of the songs on the radio and a schoolmate put Murmur and Document onto either side of a casette for him. Those three albums captivated us both. It was my first real experience of albums rather than chart singles. I'd never heard anything like Murmur and Document in particular before.

He later picked up Life's Rich Pageant, Green and Out of Time and I felt like I had all the music I'd ever need access to.

Despite them being one of the biggest bands on the planet, few of my primary school friends seemed to know anything much about them so I had noone else to share the love with.

That is until Year 7 when an REM lyric - "What noisy cats are we?" - on a pencil case was the basis for the first conversation with one of my first, and now one of my best, friends at school. And, incidentally, the biggest influence on my music collection.

After Monster and New Adventures in Hi Fi their commercial popularity was waning, but my enthusiasm for their music only gathered more steam.

In the six months leading up to the release of Up in October 1998 I listened to nothing but REM. Nothing-but-REM. My mate and I made a small festival of it to the bemusement of our friends, me moreso, and I anticipated the release of that album like no other before or since.

With my brother overseas though, I had to buy it myself. I caught the bus from Lower Templestowe to Heidelberg on the day it was released to buy it at JB Hi Fi. I got there about 11am; it wasn't arriving until about noon. So I wandered the streets listening to one of those earlier albums on my walkman. On the bus on the way home I looked at the CD and wondered how many more these guys would put out - they were 40 now, surely they must be just about done!

Up proved to be the definitive album in shaping my music taste, and how I listen to music. I played it for the first time in my bedroom that day, hoping for the 'return to form' (ie. a replica of Automatic For The People) that critics were talking about - and would for the next 13 years. Instead, as I hit play on my CD player in my bedroom, I got Airportman, and a bunch of relatively weird, radio unfriendly tunes. It was far from what I expected. I hated it.

At school on the Monday, my REM buddy was surprised by my reaction and urged me to give it another try. I'd never really considered music as something that grew on you as you listen more, picking up on the nuances and subtleties of the art, as the need for hooks and catchy melodies faded. Heck, I still listened to Fox FM and largely chart pop-music that was easy to digest. A couple of weeks later, away for Melbourne Cup weekend with my parents, I spend the weekend listening to Up and letting it grow on me. From that time on I began seeing music differently.

The albums since Up haven't set my world on fire. They're good, have some great songs, but none of them really stack up against the first 10 or so albums for me. But, while I always felt an anxiety for REM to redeem their commercial standing, it never really mattered.

They made the music they wanted to make. And unlike the Liam Gallaghers and Anton Newcombes, they seem to be a bunch of genuine, decent guys. They believe in something beautiful and shared it through their music. And I respect them as people (from what I have read/heard) not just musicians, making my attachment to the band that little bit more genuine.

As much as I'd have loved another album from them, it's almost a strange relief that they've given it away. Now I can finally catch up and can look at them for their 31 years of greatness, not just what they are 'now' or will be 'tomorrow'. Murmur isn't what REM used to be, it is as much what REM is/was as Around The Sun.

Over the last ten years many other bands captured my imagination more than they did with the new music, but the REM section of my music collection - all 15 albums plus the extras - is the most significant part of it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We should be proud to shag beneath our flag

Ooh! Let it burn!
So now we can't be intimate with a loved one beneath the Australian flag? I'm outraged!

If I was getting any at the moment it would be an honour to be covered by our national symbol; and I'm not even that fond of its design, if I may say so without being offensive.

If the real Julia Gillard - whichever one is real - was to drape herself in the flag in her intimate moments with the first bloke, I'd think that shows excessive patriotism, rather than disrespect - but that's the joke right? Was tonight's episode of At Home With Julia any worse than wearing an Australian flag bikini, which risks getting the wrong kind of salute on a summer’s day?

Well we can't joke about the flag it seems, according to certain members of parliament and the RSL. These pouty conservatives! First they seek to put the brakes on (same sex) love, now they decry (flagged) intimacy! How bleak their hearts?

What's in a flag anyway?

Is it really something sacrosanct that soldiers fight and die for - symbolic of a world divided? Well, no. I'd like to think it's more positive than that. It's meant to represent the people - as well as perhaps the character and values of those people - that soldiers sometimes fight and die for. Values like freedom, characteristics like poking fun at ourselves with good nature. Let's not insist on defining it by war and conflict, please.

John Forrest even called for tonight's episode of  At Home With Julia to be pulled... what was that about fighting to protect our freedoms?

Where was Mr Forrest during the Cronulla riots when the flag was being proudly brandished as to reaffirm an anglo vision of Australia while chants of "Fuck off, we're full" rang out? Thing is, as disgusting as that display was and as much as I await the inevitable day when the union jack is removed from our flag, those bogans had as much claim on the flag as any other Australian. It represents us all ... even if it does a fucking poor job.

People who invoke dead soldiers to back up their own opinions are being a little disrespectful, not to mention presumptuous, I'd think. Who's to say what any soldier's point of view is on the design of our colonial flag, let alone the use of it in a sitcom. Not me, not John Forrest, and I dare the the views are as varied as they are in the community.

So why do people get so precious about the flag? Sometimes moreso than the treatment of real, actual people?!

I haven't found At Home With Julia particularly funny, but far from offensive. It can't be pulled from air, just as we can't ban bogans from wearing the flag as a cape. And more offensive to the office of Prime Minister than a sitcom is the carry on by both sides of politics every day in Parliament.

I’m not gonna lie, I don’t much care for our current flag. I respect it as our flag, but it makes me cringe a little seeing that it carries the symbol of a colonial history that is now dwarfed not only by our significant indigenous history before it but the impact of the multiculturalism we've embraced since. And while I do I love singing along with Peter Garrett in Truganini – “I see the Union Jack in flames; LET IT BURN!” – but I’d never actually burn the flag that represents my country (right or wrong), flawed as it may be.

Of course, a new design is a massive ask of a designer. But I reckon, keep it simple; don't try to include everyone, just focus on something simple that can unite people of varying cultures who live together (ideally in harmony!) on the same land. Like Canada's!

A flag we can all be proud of. So proud we want to roll around naked in it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meds or meditation - what's killing my anxiety?

At my last appointment, after signing off on another prescription for relatively high doses of the two medications I've been on for almost two years now, my psychiatrist asked me what I though was behind the improvement in my thinking and reduction anxiety in the last twelve months.

I rattled off a few factors, mainly yoga and regular exercise. He was intrigued by my response, insisting that it was the drugs taking effect. They take about 12 months for them to really kick in, he told me, explaining the apparent lack of correlation they had to my significant shift, unlike yoga, which made an impact almost immediately.

He said that the only way to really know for sure how much the medication was at play was to see how I went on a lower dosage, but the doubtful way in which this experimental notion was put forward left me hesitant. "Let's stick with what I'm on," I said, disappointed but comfortable.
He's a well respected man, and rightly so, but I personally think a little off the mark on this one. He's a psychiatrist, it's his job to fix problems with medication, so in a way I guess he would say that or see that as the major contributing factor, but it was a little disappointing that he was so dismissive of the natural and cognitive factors. I think I have a good idea as well about what's been working for me.

Then I read and related to this article in The Age, looking at the preferred methods of treatment of mental illness in Victoria.

No doubt the medication has served to take the edge of my anxiety, allowing me to address the underlying issues and - I would like to think - eventually reduce and come off the medication. That seems less likely or a prospect further away following last week's discussion unless I really push for it.

Perhaps without the drugs I could not have pulled myself up from the rut I lived much of my life in. Being drug-free for a few months in 2009 (after five years on, firstly, Zoloft and then Movox) seemed to be going well until an overseas trip triggered a nasty, lasting increase in anxiety and the current prescriptions were set in place, and did make a difference.

It was discovering yoga 12 months ago, however, that really had an impact on the way I think. I'd read about the cognitive therapies and tried to practice the techniques, but it wasn't until a few sessions of yoga that I actually learnt how to let go of thoughts. Simply because I had to. I had to bring all my attention to the mat and let those niggling, unneccessary, irrational, anxious thoughts float past.

I want to be able to write about what it does for me mentally, but I just don't have the words just yet without rambling on and sounding like a wanker. It's been amazing for me, that's all.

Some sessions felt fairly emotional, as if I'd opened feelings suppressed for 15 years. It was liberating and exhilerating. And realising I actually could let go of those junk thoughts, with a platform for how to do it too, gave me hope and a way of doing so in daily life. It's something I still need to work on but that was the single biggest revelation or progression in my battle with and understanding of this condition I live with.

Could I be where I am now without the medication? It would be possible, but much harder and I'm not sure I had the strength. Could I have progressed as far as I have without yoga (or at least something similar)? I doubt it. The drugs eased my anxiety, yoga has taught me how to manage the thoughts that cause it. Even though I knew and attempted strategies for doing so before I started yoga, such as mindfulness, it wasn't until I began practising that I was able to properly implement them.

I go a day or two without medication and I seriously feel it, most notably with nausea and disorientation. I've recently missed yoga for about 10 days and noticed and (possibly coincidental) serious decline in my ability to manage my anxiety. I dragged my sorry arse back there and after one session felt the best I had in days.

As always when talking about mental health, it's important for me to say this is just how things are working for me as I see it right now. Obviously doctors - of varying Degrees - are the best ones to give personal advice, and I am not one! I think it's an important part of the mental health discussion though - what's causing us so much stress and anxiety and are there natural lifestyle choices that can improve our mental health?

Both my GP and psychologist (the one I actually chat to about how things are going) tend to agree with me that there are a variety of factors at play, each important and interrelated.

I'd love to be off medication completely as soon as possible, but I'll take it as long as I'm advised to. Yoga I'll keep doing for as long as I'm physically able.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Public transport, communal isolation

The tram is packed, 50 people or more. All silent. Societies most anti-social space is one of its most confined. We are together alone, plugged into iPods, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter or playing games on iPhones.

Welcome to the digital society - technology that brings together people from opposite sides of the world, yet pushes apart people sharing a seat on public transport.

Together alone, commuters sit and stand in silence. Put these same people into the MCG after a match-winning goal and it wouldn't be unusual to high-five or embrace one another, yet here to engage in conversation could be deemed creepy and weird.

A man on the footpath along Flinders Street is singing, maybe he's drunk, maybe not. People glare without daring to engage him; shocked, amused and amazed. Initially, I fall in line judging the crazy man before realising, no, good on him! More of this I say! It's public space. We all sing and dance - admit it - so why not in the street if you're feeling it?

Sad, depressing tram ride. I look at people, all within ourselves; the attractive, the forlorn, the exhausted, the caffeinated, the attractive again. Isn't this public transport? At least car drivers interact with each other - with the wave of a hand, toot of a horn, flick of the finger or projection of an expletive.

I've sat in pubs with five people that had much more discussion. Perhaps if this tram had a bar we might be a little more social? After all, none of us are behind the wheel.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I was about six when I told my mother, with subdued distress, that I didn't want to die but neither did I want to live forever.

It's my earliest memory of anxiety. Having become aware of the implications of an unstoppable clock, the struggle between holding on and moving on played out for the first time in a mind that wasn't prepared for it.

Seven years later, when my parents bought me the dog I'd been promised for my eighth birthday, my excitement quickly turned to anxiety. Where any ordinary kid would have been straight out into the backyard playing with and getting to know their new pet, I was consumed with thoughts about how I was that I was going to get attached to this dog and someday it was going to die, which would hurt me.

The only certainty when something begins is that it will end.

Yesterday was the end of an era, finishing up at a job and with people who have been at the centre of my life for five and a half years; yet a job I've been trying to get away from for almost two years. Through a long and frustrating job search the thought of moving on was a dream that felt like it would never be realised. Now the time has come it is, of course, a little sad. That's life.

Carrying a healthy dose of narcissism, I always liked the idea of watching my own funeral. The ultimate celebration of you - where everyone dwells on the nice things and says the words they never did while you were around.

I found this farewell flattering but a little over-the-top and drawn-out. In hindsight, I'd prefer to have said a few quick, quiet goodbyes to the important people and sneaking off stage would have been nice, as opposed to many farewell conversations with people I'm unlikely to ever see again. It's imperative to have the future potential of contact to make a goodbye easier; it's difficult to say to someone you like 'So, all the best with the rest of your life'.

So vague plans are made with the people that matter, and illusionary plans alluded to to others as you say 'Seeya 'round' (i.e. it's been great, but...). And, of course, there are those with whom it's just easier to avoid and move on altogether.

After five and a half years it was almost a bit of a shock that it's now over, and a stark reminder of the ever-changing nature of life. I was a little melancholy during the week, not helped by reading about Albert Camus, but while it's the end of an era it's not as dramatic as all that.

Sure, everything ends. The only certainty with a beginning is the unavoidable ending. Everything you do will come to an end, every person you ever know you will someday say goodbye to, or miss the opportunity. This past week has made me think how horrible it must be to know you're dying and having to say real goodbyes.

It's easy to be nihilistic and question the meaning of things in this state of mind, but whether you believe in fate, reincarnation, an afterlife or a dead-end road, it's the moment that matters. Even Camus was a big football fan, a superficial interest that really has little meaning but can bring great joy.

Everything passes, one day all will be gone, in the end life is a lonely, individual experience; but why get caught up in all that when it just distracts from the beauty of the moment. Memories, experiences and relationships maketh the man (and woman). The moment is all there ever is - enjoy it, be immersed in it, and allow yourself to let go when the time comes.

The dog is fifteen now, a little less energetic but still running around. I'll keep in touch, at least for a while, with a few people from the job who are worth having in my life. I will take many learnings and good experiences with me, and move on to a new, exciting phase of life.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The perks of volunteering

Today is my last rostered day off - a fortnightly luxury that I'm about to lose as I embark on a new job next week. Not one to squander a good thing when I've got it, I awoke to my final RDO nursing a very mild hangover thanks to last night's perfectly scheduled 'Volunteers Party' for those of us who gave some time over the last week and a half to help out at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

I was one of the last to leave the party, enjoying the free wine - no beer, damn Melbourne high-brow arty types - until the bar closed.

For me the experience was enormously fulfilling and inspiring. The festival that is, not (just) the party. I even walked away from the bar having made a few new friends.

The tasks were menial - collect tickets, set up tables and chairs, shop for fruit to feed 50 people, hand out programs, light candles and attempt to drop them into jars without the flame going out, scatter random and anonymous written apologies around the floor of a performance space; the usual sort of thing. But the people I met, performer and ordinary volunteer alike, were a wonderful breed of human, almost without exception enthusiastic, positive people keen to discuss their passions, discuss common interests and expose each other to new ideas.

There were perks ('payoffs'): free admission to most events (provided there was space), discounts on books and drinks at Fed Square, a t-shirt (!) and free wine last night. Of course there were people who didn't show or were disinterested and unhelpful - maybe expecting more engaging duties - and others who just saw it as an opportunity to get close to industry people. It's a great thing for budding writers to be involved in, but if that's the sole reason you're there its probably best not to bother.

Just about everyone I met was involved for the experience and to be part of something they were passionate about. The mood was almost always positive and energetic. In a week where I've felt increasingly disillusioned by the cynicism and superficial nature of another area of interest - politics - it was amazingly refreshing to be surrounded by such great energy. It sounds like a total wank but it was uplifting to be involved in such a communal, positive experience.

One lady told me she volunteered to meet like-minded people. It was true of both of us in a sense, but we both also wanted to step outside our normal circles and meet people from varying places, backgrounds and demographics who shared a simple passion. I mixed with people a few years younger and many years older - and not much inbetween - taking in everything from reading suggestions to analysis of the Dr Who phenomenon (I'm yet to see an episode, though I think I'll start with the ones featuring Billie Piper).

Previously, I hadn't even attended the festival since going with a school group 11 years ago. I think it was the fruitful experience of an old friend who volunteered at a small art festival last year that inspired me, and deciding I wanted to broaden my own experiences in an area of personal interest. I highly recommend it, and I'll be back in 2012.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Time for the labels to be left right out of politics

There's mutual love and respect there somewhere...
The coverage and commentary following the High Court decision that the government's Malaysia Solution was unlawful this week drew a clear line between those interested in the social outcomes of public policy and those frenzied by the sporting contest that is politics. Sadly, most of what I read fell into the second category.

In the mainstream media, David Marr provided one of the few articles that actually discussed the real implications of the decision - that is for asylum seekers, not politicians. Politics really does seem to be turning more into a topic of discussion where people can pretend to care about issues while really just arguing about the players in the game; a 'sideshow' as someone might say.

'Tweeps' from both sides showed their true colours, however what disturbed me most was seeing usually progressive people instinctively go into shock or try to defend a policy that their usually progressive opinions would suggest they wouldn't otherwise support. After all, if you criticise your own side it looks, and feels, like your supporting the opposition. Meanwhile, Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, took the opportunity to slam the government and claim the policy high ground, even though the policies of both major parties are morally - and potentially legally - unacceptable. But I expect it from him, I know he's an arsehole.

This is one of the hottest political footballs, a proven points scorer, and as usual most of the discussion, debate and analysis was directed towards the political contest - or worse, direct involvemnet in it - while the people affected remained abstract scraps of data. As most mainstream commentators and journalists scurry to predict the fate of the government, and indeed the parliament, they are providing us with largely useless information - telling us what we think of the major parties - and dehumanising one of the biggest humanitarian issues in this country.

Politicians from both major parties are just as bad as the people smugglers they rail against. They all exploit asylum seekers for personal/party gain, but at least people smugglers are attempting to deliver them to safer shores. I want to know how we can break the politicians business model.

To me this issues hasn't put another nail in the coffin of the Gillard government, but the coffin of intelligent political discourse.

Initially I was angry about all this, but this morning I attended a discussion at the Melbourne Writers Festival where Robert Manne, Marieke Hardy and Richard Flanagan discussed in front of a large and engaged audience, the place of writing (essays in particular) in politics and how we can turn this mess around. I gave me a little hope and inspiration - a much better platform from which to express yourself than anger.

So this is what I want in my utopian political environment:

I want positive and engaging debate, not bitter and divisive 'team'-orientated feuding.

I want a parliament that is an arena for the contest of ideas, not a colloseum for the battle for power between the Coalition and Labor, left and right or progressives and conservatives.

I want politicians who are not afraid to be vulnerable; to say "I don't know the answer" but be genuinely dedicated to the cause, rather than pretending to know the unknowable and avoiding the discussion.

I want a political system that allows Peter Garrett and Malcolm Turnbull to once again publicly display their passion for social issues and truly inspire people.

I want Peter Garrett and Malcolm Turnbull to start speaking their mind publicly and accept whatever consequences the party deals them. Party stability may trump personal opinion, but shifting towards a society that can handle debate trumps the superficial appearance of party stability and debate does not equal disunity.

I want media reporting to return to the public interest accepts the complexity of issues, not trash journalism that pursues conflict to make money.

I want a mainstream media that can handle complexity without needing to boil issues down to the simplistic framing of the sporting contest, where substance gets evaporated. That judges parties on policy not polls.

I want more episodes of QandA without party politicians until they can freely and openly engage in the political discourse without party lines and points scoring; and panels that aren't judged by how many there are from each side but the quality of ideas and discussion.

I want an Opposition with policy that adds value to parliament rather than attempting to bring it down. An opposition that won't use critical and sensitive issues like climate change and asylum seekers to advance in the polls, but rather is interested in the advancement of our nation.

I want politicians to be able to genuinely shift their opinions - as any thinking person does - and adapt to changing cirumstances without being endlessly labelled a 'liar'.

I want more parliamentarians like the late, great Peter Andren - people of courage, conviction, honesty and humility - to show the way.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but the discussion at today's Melbourne Writers Festival event showed I'm not the only one. At least it's positive, and I'll happily accept incremental progress.

In the meantime, I'll seek my information out from people that I trust; not those I necessarily agree with but those I respect, even - especially - if it means they challenge my way of seeing the world.