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The Inklings: Chapter 64

D’arby felt tired when he woke up on Saturday morning. His mind had been rushing all day Friday, but not getting anywhere. His thoughts had been been stuck in a loop. He’d think about having to move, then about how things would be so much better if he could just finish his thesis because he’d be free to look for work and have money to rent somewhere. Then he’d think about what Guitarman had said about not going back to work until you’ve worked out what you should really be doing. Then he’d start wondering whether he should keep going with his thesis at all and he’d start worrying that he was just wasting more precious time. Then he’d try to think what he should be doing instead and he’d return to the start of the loop after he concluded that he had to find somewhere new to live before he could do anything different.

D’arby had promised Jinabu he’d come and visit on Saturday and had been going to ride his bike there, but now he just didn’t feel like it. What he really felt like doing was getting back in bed and crying. It was probably something he needed to do, but not just yet.

As D’arby put his shoes on he wished the restaurant didn’t have to open today because if John could come with him to visit Jinabu it wouldn’t be such an ordeal. Now that the restaurant was open again D’arby didn’t see John much. D’arby usually left for uni before John got up and, apart from Mondays, John was at work before D’arby came home. D’arby was worried that John would move in with Fanta when their flat sold. They hadn’t been able to discuss the impending sale yet. D’arby decided he’d wait for John to wake up so he could talk to him about the flat and then he’d decide whether he still went to Jinabu’s or not. He could always get the bus if he didn’t feel like riding.

D’arby went to the kitchen, planning to make breakfast but when he heard John snoring he changed his mind. D’arby looked at John, who was sound asleep on the sofa bed. He didn’t want to risk waking John and making him cross just before they talked about what would happen when their flat sold, so, as quietly as he could, D’arby put on his backpack, took two coffee mugs from the dish rack and went to the café to buy egg rolls and coffees.

John was in the shower when D’arby got home. D’arby put the egg rolls on plates on the table and wondered whether they’d need cutlery. He put out knives and forks, just in case, then poured two glasses of water. D’arby heard the shower turn off so he called out to John “Breakfast’s ready!”

“Won’t be long” answered John.

D’arby sat down at the table and tried to be patient.

A few minutes later, John and D’arby were tucking into breakfast.

“Did you see the sign out the front?” asked John. “Fanta says the block will be knocked down for sure.”

“Yeah, I guessed as much” answered D’arby.

“Maybe we should look for somewhere new straight away so we aren’t competing with the rest of the people in the block” suggested John.

“We’d have to take a lease in your name” answered D’arby. “I don’t have any income”

“Ok” said John. “Why don’t we go and look for somewhere this morning?”. John thought it might be fun to go flat hunting. He’d never done it before.

“Phew” said D’arby. “I was worried you’d have decided to move in with Fanta”

John stopped chewing. He felt a bit stupid for not having thought of that.

“That would make sense, but I hadn’t thought of it. Fanta lost her job so could do with me paying her some rent. I hope she wasn’t hoping I’d suggest it” said John.

“What do you mean ‘Fanta lost her job’?” asked D’arby.

“Lenny ran away. Hiding from the police, Fanta thinks. Fanta can’t just carry on without him and assumes things won’t be ok even if he does reappear” explained John.

“How’s she going to cope then?” asked D’arby

“Waiting at my restaurant” said John, smiling. He felt good that he could help.

“That won’t be enough for her to live on, I’m sure” said D’arby.

John felt a bit offended, but was worried it was true.

“You should move in with her then” said D’arby.

John felt there was something wrong with that though.

“I don’t want to move in with Fanta because it is practical” said John. “If we decide to live together I’d want it to be because we wanted to, not because we needed to. And now that I think about it, she probably wouldn’t want me moving in with her. We’ve only known each other a few months and she’s a pretty cautious person.”

“Ok” said D’arby. He knew he should stop talking but couldn’t help it. He was curious and having a new idea. “How many rooms does Fanta’s house have?”

“Four” said John.

“So she does have a spare room then?” asked D’arby

“Two” answered John. “Her sisters prefer to share a room”

“We could both move in with Fanta then” suggested D’arby. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about it being all romantic and serious. It would just be practical – her taking on boarders to help pay the bills. And you’d finally get your own room!”

John drank some coffee and thought about it.

“Maybe” said John. “If the topic arises I might mention you joking about the idea and see how Fanta reacts. But I’m still going to look at places to rent this morning. Are you coming?”


A thick cover of clouds was rolling over when D’arby got on his bike to ride to Jinabu’s place. He waved goodbye to John and peddled carefully off down the street. John walked off in the direction of a flat that was open for inspection that morning. He wished D’arby was coming with him, but didn’t want to stop D’arby seeing his sister.

D’arby was feeling energetic after talking to John and he was happy to see the cloudy sky because it meant the ride wouldn’t be stinking hot.

When D’arby arrived at Jinabu’s house he was feeling good, apart from being really thirsty. Andrew opened the door. Jinabu and the baby were asleep, and Andrew was watching TV. He got D’arby a bit glass of tap water with ice in it. Then Andrew sat down and, without taking his eyes off the TV, asked D’arby how his thesis was going.

D’arby thought Andrew was being rude and that he should turn the TV off so they could talk properly. D’arby also didn’t like talking about his thesis. He’d been asked the same question by almost everyone he bumped into for the last few years and was sick of answering it.

“What can I say this time?” D’arby thought to himself. He thought about how he’d been going and realized that his thesis had actually been going well. There wasn’t much more to write. He felt a bit silly that he hadn’t realized it before. He’d been too busy writing to think about timelines.

Andrew was beginning to give up on getting an answer from D’arby when D’arby said “I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will submit by the end of this semester.” As D’arby said this he calculated that there were eleven weeks left until then. To avoid talking about his thesis more D’arby asked Andrew how he and Jinabu were going.

“Pretty good” answered Andrew, “But sometimes I feel a bit down. I think it it’s because I’m too tired. I know that if I asked, I’d be able to work one less day a week, but I calculated that we wouldn’t be able to afford that without Jinabu going back to work and she doesn’t want to yet. I think I’ll be ok as long as I can find something to perk me up a bit. You don’t have any more of those pills do you?”

D’arby was confused. How did Andrew know about the pills? He wondered whether he’d forgotten about telling Jinabu about them, but he was pretty sure he’d never told her. He’d never told his parents either so it couldn’t be that they’d told Jinabu and she’d told Andrew.

“What pills?” asked D’arby – to see what he could find out.

“The ones you put in my coffee when we were staying at the farm” said Andrew. “You probably thought I didn’t see but I secretly watched you to see how you were making the coffee.”

D’arby looked at Andrew and smiled. He wondered what other things Andrew secretly knew and realized that he’d probably underestimated Andrew.D’arby opened his backpack and took out a plastic container out of the small inside pocket. He looked inside the container and saw that it had about 20 pills in it. For a second or two he agonized over how many he should give Andrew. D’arby was confused because the way the pills were supposed to work was permanent. Andrew shouldn’t have needed a second dose. D’arby wondered whether he should just tell Andrew that but he’d begun to wonder whether he’d been wrong all along. In his head, D’arby looked back at the data he’d collected so far – all the times people had taken the pills and what had happened. D’arby himself had felt no side-effects nor had he felt any effect at all. He’d assumed that was just because he hadn’t been addicted to anything. John’s result was instant and lasting and there were no side-effects that D’arby knew of. D’arby thought he saw instant results when Andrew took the pills but he wasn’t sure whether the effects were lasting. Did Andrew just think he needed some or had the effect worn off? He’d need to talk to Jinabu to know. John said he hadn’t noticed any changes in people eating pizza with pills at the restaurant but there wasn’t really a way of knowing if they didn’t know what people had been like before and couldn’t track what they were like after. When Syafika and Vincent took the pills there had been an instant result, perhaps – they’d agreed amicably that they would be happier apart than together, but it wasn’t very significant. D’arby wondered whether there had been any result at all.

D’arby handed Andrew the whole container and instructed “Don’t take more than four a week or more than two at a time”.

Andrew nodded. He put the container in his pocket and turned the TV off. “Want a coffee?” asked Andrew as he got up and walked to the kitchen.

D’arby said “Yes” without really noticing. He was too busy thinking about the pills in a new way – he had questions to answer.

Andrew kept telling D’arby about how he was going while they drank their coffees but D’arby wasn’t paying attention. He was trying to calculate probabilities in his head, and was impatient to talk to Jinabu. Fortunately for D’arby, the baby woke up and so Jinabu had to get up too.

Jinabu came in smiling and asked D’arby if he’d like to hold little Amadi. D’arby was happy to. He liked the name. But Amadi didn’t like D’arby holding him and started to cry.

“Why don’t you take him for a walk” Jinabu suggested to Andrew.

When Andrew and Amadi had gone, D’arby asked Jinabu how she’d been but didn’t pay much attention to the answer. He was impatient to move on to his next question.

“How’s Andrew been?” asked D’arby.

Jinabu stopped and thought for a little while. She was a bit offended when D’arby asked questions like that because she could tell he didn’t like Andrew, but she did have something interesting to say on the topic so she forgave him for asking.

“Actually, he seems to have changed. He has become quite reasonable – good at communicating. I think the main change is that he tells me what he is feeling as it happens, so we can discuss things. Before he’d stay quiet until things mounted up then explode and say awful things. He used to tell me how I should behave and what I should do. Now he tells me what he is feeling and about what he wants and so we can usually find a way to make us both happy, or at least neither feeling hurt.”

D’arby wondered how Andrew was able to communicate his feelings. D’arby didn’t usually know what he was feeling himself, or at least it was hard to know at the time – he could usually work it out a bit later.

D’arby nearly crashed his bike a couple of times on the ride home. He wasn’t concentrating on riding because he was too busy worrying about whether his pills actually worked. By the time he arrived home he’d decided that it was likely that his pills only had a placebo effect and he was impatient to discuss this with John.


If you take too long to decide you end up with no choice

What would you give up to save the world? Hot showers? Chocolate? Alcohol? Make-up? Driving? Your reputation? Your freedom? I’m not asking because giving up these things would directly result in the world being saved. I’m asking to get a sense of how much saving the world is worth to you (whether for your own satisfaction or for your kids or for nature or your legacy). Your answer should give you an idea of how much effort you should put in, that’s all. Because we can’t expect to be able to save the world AND still have everything we’ve ever wanted. Just like you can’t expect to be able to balance your household budget and buy everything you like. Living within your means and living within your ecological means are similar.

What should we do when greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate (and while we can’t be sure of how bad the consequences will be we do know that they won’t be good)? Should we try to keep the economy growing and see if we can reduce emissions a bit at the same time? Or should we aim to control emissions first while doing the best we can for the economy?

What should we do when worldwide electricity demand is anticipated to grow? Put all our efforts into meeting that anticipated demand (fulfilling the prophecy) or think about whether the cost is worth the gain?

What would you do if your kids wanted more and more lollies? Get a second job so you could afford to buy an exponentially increasing amount of lollies and be able to pay dentists to repair their teeth and doctors to fix their diabetes and personal trainers to take them running to lose weight? Or only buy lollies occasionally and learn to put up with some whinging?

Maybe it isn’t about having to make a choice – maybe the choices are already clear. Maybe it is just about admitting that we can’t have everything.

The sweetest thing is that once you have accepted that you can’t have everything, you realise you didn’t want everything anyway. We are more adaptable than we anticipate!

When Sparks are Ignored: Egotism

One of the greatest pleasures for a Spark is to reside in the brain of a human who has what people like to call a “small ego” – someone who thinks of themselves more as a part of something larger than as an individual. When a person with a small ego has an idea they are likely to attribute it to something outside of themselves (something they plucked out of the air as it was floating past). People like that are usually very receptive to the ideas of Sparks, and they often go on to become very successful people.

The trouble is that the size of a person’s ego can change, and in most cases when a person is successful their ego grows and before they know it their ego has well and truly taken over. They no longer think of themselves as part of something bigger, but think only of themselves. An egotist thinks that any ideas they have had were entirely their own creation – they not only start ignoring their Spark, they start denying it even exists. So, you can see why they might find that their Spark decides to leave them.

This is a common story – lived out by artists, business people and revolutionary leaders-turned dictators. At the start they recognize their small part in the world and long to do their best or something “good”. A Spark tunes into their longing and joins them and the ideas and energy start flowing. Then the person starts doing something well. If this is recognized it leads to success and then praise, which are both good fertilizer for growing egos. Then, just when the person has grown an enormous ego and the world is watching and waiting for them to perform, they lose their Spark.

You can imagine the feelings of helplessness that develop in this situation. Rage often follows. Then comes the decline, which usually includes humiliating attempts to cling to fame and/or power. Lies and murder are possible. The egotist watches their friends and supporters fleeing. You can imagine the loneliness and feeling of betrayal. Finally they are alone, and not part of anything anymore. As a final blow to the ego, the person may find that history remembers them for their desperate acts in the dying days of their power rather than for their initial good deeds and intentions.

The pattern of success driven ego growth followed by decline can happen on other scales too. It is a common cause of project failure because when egos take over people place more importance on getting things done in “their” way than on the success of a project and spend time arguing over unimportant details instead of cooperating. A similar thing happens between people who are fighting for the same cause but all want the victory to be “theirs”.

Good ideas don’t have to lead to egotism though. There are some people who are able to keep their ego small even when they have great success.  When these people have good ideas they realise that their inspiration came from outside of themselves. They attribute their idea to things such as the colour of the sky that morning, the song they heard on the radio and a conversation they overheard on the bus. Small ego people know that they cannot exist alone. They remember that they wouldn’t have been able to even feed and clothe themselves without the things other people have done. Even a billionaire needs to realize that they could not have generated that money on their own. Not only do they rely on a workforce that could probably find something much better to do if they weren’t slaves to their mortgage or “lifestyle”, but that the workforce relies on the rest of society. And just as everyone relies on other people for their survival, our ideas are also products of the same system. Acknowledging this is a strategy that cannot lose. Not only are you more likely to keep your Spark, but if you remember that you aren’t doing everything on your own then when things go wrong you aren’t on your own either.

When Sparks are Ignored: Lobotomies

Humans are capable of some brilliant things, but they can also do some really stupid things. Sometimes it is the most brilliant people who do the stupidest things, and sometimes it takes a while for everyone else to realise how silly these things are. Lobotomies are one example that causes particular pain to Sparks.

A lobotomy is an operation where the connections between the prefrontal cortex (part of the frontal lobes) and rest of the brain are severed. The prefrontal cortex is where the executive functions of the brain are performed (such as reasoning and understanding, creativity, planning, attention, problem solving, inhibition, mental flexibility, and the initiation and monitoring of actions).The idea behind disconnecting the prefrontal cortex is that this leads to the uncoupling of emotions and intellect.

Lobotomies were developed in 1935 by neurologists Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz and Dr. Almeida Lima as a treatment for mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. If you were considered extremely emotional, difficult or moody you might also have been given a lobotomy. They were given to criminals, to problem family members and to patients who would otherwise have taken up hospital beds.

As you may know, when Sparks visit human brains they inhabit the frontal lobes. This is because Sparks are looking to interact with the intellect and because the frontal lobes are where all good ideas are formed. If you were to lose the function of your frontal lobes you’d be left with what is sometimes called the reptilian part of the brain. The reptilian part of the brain runs on reward and punishment. It is not capable of abstract thinking (like imagining the likely consequences of actions or understanding another person’s feelings or motives). Obviously if you lost the function of your frontal lobes you’d also lose the opportunity to be influenced by a Spark.

Many Sparks joined forces to try to stop the lobotomy craze taking off, but they weren’t successful because not all brains are receptive to Sparks and the type of people who sanctioned and performed lobotomies turned out to be the least receptive. The potential patients were far more receptive to Sparks, but they were also often powerless or overcome by other problems, and in the end there was just not enough time – most people seemed to want a solution that was convenient rather than good.

Instead, lobotomies were made even easier by Walter Freeman. The first lobotomies involved drilling holes into the skull on either side of the prefrontal cortex and injecting the connecting fibres with alcohol to destroy them. So that lobotomies could be given to more people, Walter Freeman came up with a technique that was faster, more accessible and less expensive. This involved getting to the prefrontal cortex through the eye sockets instead. His method has become known as the “ice pick lobotomy”, because he developed the technique using an ice pick and eventually used an instrument (orbitoclast) that resembled an ice pick.

The ice pick lobotomy could be done by non surgeons and didn’t require an operating room. It took around 10 minutes to perform. The patient was made unconscious using electroconvulsive shock instead of anaesthetic. The orbitoclast was pushed up through the top of one eye-socket. Then, after a light tap on the end with a hammer, the orbitoclast would break through the thin layer of bone and enter the brain. Next the fibres connecting the prefrontal cortex were then broken by twiddling the orbitoclast around a bit. The procedure was then repeated on the other side (via the other eye socket).

Sparks weren’t even able to stop Dr Moniz being given the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his lobotomy work. Things began to turn around when the USSR banned lobotomies in 1953, but it was really the invention of drugs as a replacement that meant that Lobotomies began to decline in the 1950s.

Some people were happy with their lobotomies, as some people are happy taking drugs today. But many people suffered and many died. Those of you who still have the connection between intellect and emotion may like to listen to Josef Hassid play the violin (pre-lobotomy) while reading about him and nine other notable lobotomy patients.

Valentine’s Day has very little to do with genuine love

My husband didn’t get me anything for Valentine’s Day. Do you think that means he doesn’t love me enough?

Without knowing exactly what you consider to be “enough” love, it’s difficult for me to give you an answer.  It’s also difficult to know how much weight can be given to Valentine’s Day as a measure of your husband’s love towards you.  Valentine’s Day may be completely irrelevant to your husband. If your relationship is based on respect, friendship and soulful connection, then the idea of making obligatory gestures as part of a commercialized, mass-frenzy of superficial love giving could seem insulting to your husband.  His love for you may be so solid, deep and unquestionable that he doesn’t see the need to show you any extra evidence of this. Maybe he is just not an overtly affectionate person. This doesn’t mean that he is incapable of love, or that he doesn’t love you enough, it could just mean that he is more sensitive with his feelings and he prefers to keep them well guarded.

Having said all that, I can see how his indifference towards Valentine’s Day could be interpreted as indifference towards you, or that by him not making any effort, you could be left feeling that he thinks you are not worth the effort.  These are reasonable conclusions to jump to, but not necessarily the only ones.

Has your husband been more romantic on past Valentine’s Days? It could just be that he expects you to know how he feels now, so he doesn’t see the need to go on reminding you again and again every year. Maybe he considers Valentine’s Day to be a cliché and feels that he shows you his love more frequently, in other ways.

Perhaps more important questions to be asking yourself are: Do you feel loved and appreciated by your husband in other ways?  Does he value your opinion?  Does he like to see you laugh? Do you tell each other your hopes and fears? Do you feel empathy for one another, and enjoy one another’s company?

Valentine’s Day is for people who want to make a show of their affection.  It has very little to do with genuine love.  I wouldn’t take it too seriously.  Did you get your husband anything for Valentine’s Day?

The Spark.

Holy Sheet

I’m so sick of fitted sheets.  I hate them!  I can never fold them properly, so they are always rumpled when I go to put them on my bed and they take up too much room in my linen closet. Does everyone have this problem?  Is there a secret method to folding a fitted sheet neatly?

Rest assured. You are not alone.  Every house-proud adult has undoubtedly struggled with a fitted sheet at some point in their lives.  It’s normal, and the good news is that it needn’t be a struggle.  Here are some suggestions which may help you to overcome your loathing of fitted-sheets:

1. Pay less attention to the disorderly state of your linen closet and enjoy the rumples in your sheets when you put them on your bed.  Why do you rumples upset you?  I think they are expressive and have interesting unique patterns.  Perhaps you have too many things in your linen closet and that is what irritates you when your fitted sheets are a bit bulky.  Do you have anything in there that you don’t use anymore?  Maybe you could clean it out a bit and donate what you don’t need to a charity shop.  Most people cope alright with bulkily folded fitted sheets.  Why not just do your best and not worry about it.

2. Have a look on YouTube for some video demonstrations on how to fold a fitted sheet.  Here are some good ones to try.

3. Don’t use fitted sheets.  Why do you think that hospitals and many hotels and resorts don’t use fitted sheets on their beds? This is because professionals who need to make multiple beds and wash loads of linen know that fitted sheets are a con.  An experienced housekeeper can strip and remake a hotel bed using two flat sheets more quickly and neatly than it is possible to do using a fitted sheet and a flat sheet.  There are techniques, such as the ‘hospital corner’ technique, that use two flat sheets, which (when practiced) are quicker and give a far more professional finish to the bed.  You will also discover that it is sometimes more economical to buy single flat sheets and pillow cases than sets.

Here are some demonstrations of methods for making a bed using two flat sheets.

Have fun!!

The Spark.

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