Ending 2016 With Lorde

So, it’s the end of 2016, which at times seemed like a pretty apocalyptic year. Trump got in, Brexit got voted for, Syria still rages through war and not to mention the 6th mass extinction and resource depletion. It seems all those stories about humans conquering the world, about technology solving all our problems, about the forward trajectory of human civilisation, well, they turned out to be pretty shoddy stories with a shed load of plot flaws and inconsistencies. Fortunately, we’ve got Lorde, the singer songwriter, to offer us some guidance and it comes in her song Team.

The video and the lyrics go hand in hand as they paint a picture of faded grandeur. A city that’s slowly falling apart, the sort of place “you’ll never see on-screen, not very pretty,” – nothing like the Kardashians’ numerous houses. It’s a place where guys joust with baseball bats on motorbikes and grin chipped tooth smiles as the blood trickles down their noses. It’s an apocalyptic rite of passage as people get initiated into meaningless. “Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams” and that’s where we seem to be retreating these days, to inside our heads, far away from the dangers of the world, far away from the grim realities of climate change and refugee crises. Although even for Lorde that palace in her dreams is falling apart. It seems nowhere is safe anymore.

But maybe, in and amongst the debris, there’s hope. “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, So there.” Maybe Lorde’s bored of being told to give up and surrender, maybe she does want meaning in a culture that’s regularly telling her nothing matters and we should all just give up. Sure, the old stories might not make sense – that everything would end happily ever after – but the people telling those stories were clearly quite deluded (and probably very privileged). What if it’s this naive belief in stories – that life has clear and well-structured beginnings, middles and ends, like fairy tales – that’s the problem. What if finding meaning in today’s world will take more than a simplistic story structure.

“And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive, ‘Cause what this palace wants is release.” Lorde’s right again, we are competing, constantly hoping this life of high consumerism, economic reductionism and endless comparison will give us meaning as we shove one another aside to get what we want and get happy trying. That seems so much to be the dominant story of now. But beyond the credit card transactions and the debt, like Lorde, we crave release – release from these highly conditioning bonds of consumer capitalism. Or maybe this is just an exceptionally self-indulgent blog written by a directionless yet privileged millenial – a bit like the sort of people Lorde sings about perhaps.

But, as self-indulgent as I can be, I do want to do something about the mess we’re in, even if the contribution is small and it still all ends in apocalypse (bearing in mind that countless people are already living and dying through various incarnations of hell on earth). And I think Lorde’s song holds the key. She offers us the answer for getting out of this debt-heavy, meaning-lite existence because “you know, we’re on each other’s team.” Somewhere beyond the narratives of endless competition there is a story of teamwork, a more meaningful story in which we join forces and learn to share. And it will be so much more than a story, it will be real human experiences of compassion and community. Better to rebuild ruins together than be forced to live in them alone.

How To Flake Well

So, you’ve been invited to more than one New Year Eve’s event and a couple of them look pretty fun. But you can’t quite decide which one to go to so you’ve said a vague yes to all of them. And as the days count down and it gets closer to 2016 so the last-minute cancellations/changes of plans/surprise illnesses start to appear as you begin flaking on the events you don’t want to go to. Yup, it’s that time of year – the festive period – when statistics reveal that flaking is at its highest.

It’s not an uncommon phenomenon – flaking. It takes many forms: not turning up at the last minute; texting half an hour before to cancel; getting a better offer and changing your plans; deciding you’re going to spend the day in bed. All of these, providing it involves reneging on a planned social event, constitute flaking. Quite a lot of people do it but they tend to do it very badly, getting caught up in webs of white lies and half-truths as they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Unfortunately, webs of deceit can get a bit tangled and sooner or later the truth will out and not only will you have disappointed your friend by not turning up to their event but you will also have upset them by lying to their faces.

And that’s the crux – when it comes down to it, which is worse – declining an invitation or lying? The latter, of course. And herein lies the solution, herein lies the trick to successful flaking – telling the truth. Yup, it’s as simple as that, no elaborate stories about lost cardigans, surprise tickets to see Adele and long-lost lovers appearing, just plain, simple honesty. It doesn’t have to be brutal honesty – “I’d hate to go to your boring party where I’ll meet only self-righteous, pompous boring people” – it can be sugar-coated honesty instead – “Ah, that’s such a lovely invitation but no thank you.” This might appear to fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught about being ‘polite’ but I think honesty trumps politeness. People are more robust than we think and can probably handle the odd rejection better than being lied/patronised to. We all have a right to refuse an invitation after all, it might not be an actual right recognised by the UN but there’s no law saying we must go to everything we’re invited to. Sometimes staying home and watching Netflix is just more fun.

Furthermore, flaking well is very important in this day and age when people don’t have much time and are just so busy. So the trick here is to manage other people’s expectations from as early on as possible – “Oh I’m just so busy” hours before an event starts that you’ve known about for yonks doesn’t really cut it but “Gosh, I’m just so busy at the moment, I’m finding it hard to commit to things” said a suitable time before the event is better, and also lets others flag you as that overly-busy, potentially-flakey person. So good luck flakers, here’s to 2016 being a year of flaking well. Consider this fantastic video a How-To guide….