Friday, December 16, 2022


I feel like my world is narrowing. Moments of reflection and inspiration are becoming few and far between. Engaging with nature doesn't free the mind like it used. Meditation consists of mulling over the days concerns. The ego is taking over.  I've difficulty remembering my dreams in the mornings, making me feel like I'm missing out on a wealth of personal creativity. Whenever I do manage to engage myself in something, my dog steals away my attention because he's anxiously licking himself. All I do is sit at my window writing stuff and then putting it in a folder and leaving it there. I can't get people to give me feedback on my work because they're all too busy. I've a constant feeling of guilt about it all because I'm on an artists' grant which means I need to produce art. It's no longer my side hustle, it's now become my main thing. 

The last time I began feeling this way I started a family WhatsApp group with the purpose of getting people to visit museums and art galleries at the weekends. This was well received to begin with, but eventually devolved into me attending these places alone. It's very hard to get excited about inspiring stuff when you're on your own. I've been thinking recently that maybe this change in the state of my mind is because I'm isolated in my work. I'm alone with my dog for most of the day, so, I've started making more of an effort, socially, but still, this narrowing feeling continues. That's me out of ideas. So, since you are my therapist,  I've come here. It's okay, you don't have to say anything. That's the whole point of therapy.

After a powerful image from a dream, of my dog running around my brother's attic with a mouthful of rats, stuck with me for a few days, I started to believe that it must be highly significant. My relationship with my brother is contentious at the best of times, but overall, it could be improved if I was a little less judgmental of him, and my dog, as I mentioned above is supposedly suffering from anxiety, causing him to go into fits of obsessive self soothing. We were told by a vet somewhere to distract him, so now, I've been tasked with the responsibility of stopping him mid-lick, and playing with him, which of course is a major distraction for me. And sometimes he might just be grooming himself, but ever the creature of habit, I immediately stop him either way.  The combination of my brother's absentmindedness and my dog's debauchery led me to think that I'm trying to teach myself to embrace the chaos. 
Since deleting my personal social media accounts, I think I've been consciously trying to push all distractions out of my life and this has had an adverse effect than intended. As the stoics know only too well; the more that you try to control, the less control you actually have. So now, with that in mind, I'm leaving the radio on while I meditate, letting the little fella have some more self time, and building back up my relationship with my bro, and I have to admit, I certainly feels like the world is opening up a little bit more. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The difficulty distinguishing between instinctual good advice and fear of failure

I went to a Stanley Kubrick exhibition in LACMA once and the one thing that really stuck with me was a piece of advice he was giving to somebody which was to beware of running with your first ideas about something. He likend it  to a game of chess where one must play out each potential move in his head over and over before executing it. At first I thought to myself, surely some ideas just come instinctively, but as I've grown and had more experience writing I've come to understand what he meant. Our ego is forever trying to find the easiest answer. Over and over again I find myself trying to solve a problem in a script that I'm writing, and I have an idea, and I'm off to the races with it, thinking it's been solved, but something is niggling at me, somewhere deep down below language, something I'm ignoring knows that in two months time this problem will resurface due to the band aid I consciously put over it. And it's training myself to recognise this feeling, or alarm, that is very much intangible because you cannot get at it with language, that is the difficulty.

When your inner critic causes hesitation, it's usually easy enough to distinguish as it's probably laced with negativity, but when your instincts are nagging at you, it can be a lot harder to define. Negative thoughts about something can usually be understood as egocentric; they're trying to protect you from some sort of failure, but, as hard as it is to detach yourself from the ego, it can be a lot harder to catch a hold of the wise old man living in your gut. 

Right now I'm trying to write a feature film and I'm having an extremely hard time articulating my vision, so much so, that I've had to take a break from it because it was generating so much negative thoughts that I've been considering giving up on it all together. That would make it my third abandoned feature script - a scary thought that if fed could potentially evolve into one that indicates that the task is above my scope and that urges me to give up on it, so, we won't go down that road. Instead, we'll write everything down in a blog post that nobody will read, just for some personal therapy. 

See some days if I read my work I feel sick in my stomach and internally I'm telling myself that this is absolute shit and nobody will ever like it, but another day, reading the same work, I'll declare myself a genius! So from experience I know that I'm sometimes just not in the mood and should do something else but it's very hard to shake off that negative feeling, remain positive, and start fresh the next time.

Every artist has learned over time that you have to ignore your inner critic or you won't get anything shipped, but, you also have to listen to that other voice that's telling you you're running away with yourself. I feel like you see this in many established successful artists, who, after having done incredible work in their earlier years, then, seem to phone it in for the rest of their lives. I used to think that was because when you're really successful, you're surrounded by 'Yes Men' who'll never be honest with you, and, I'd swear to myself that if I ever got to that position I wouldn't let it happen to me, but, now, I'm thinking that the 'Yes Men' might just be inside of you and were there all of the time, you were just a lot better at recognising them when you were more determined to make it.  

So let's, for now, call these yes men; The Schoolboys, standing around waiting for something to cheer for, and then that will leave us with a need to name the other wiser aspects of your mind. Maybe we should call them Stanley, for the sake of a circular narrative. Well the thing is that Stanley's not going to shout. Stanley's learned that shouting is heard, but rarely listened to, so, we're going to have to be patient and wait for the noise to die down, before Stanley will tell us what he thinks of our new idea.

Alright, I think we're ready to get stuck back in.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Somebody dishonest wants praise and somebody incapable wants to help

"Thank God your parents aren’t the only audience in the world. Go out and get professional option, ask friends and strangers. One of the things I found about very creative and talented people, people around them tend not to appreciated their talents until strangers do. Don’t get discourage, just try other people" 

This is a direct, unedited, quote that I pulled from an internet forum while trying to figure out a certain phenomena that's been bugging me for quite a while now. It's the strange habit that we succumb to when presented with our loved ones' artistic ideas or creations, especially when the works are in their infancy. We obliviously say something so insensitive and hurtful that the artist will vow to never ask our opinion again. 

I've been trying to unpack the reasons why we do this and I think that it's simply the result of a miscommunication. The advice I like to give young artists who are unveiling their creative ideas to their family for the first time is to realise that, apart from some special circumstances, their family are not qualified to give them criticism . We should ask ourselves why we are showing it to them in the first place; do we want some help with improving it? Or our we really just looking for praise. I think it's the second one. We can't deny that we have an inherent need to impress each other. The other day for example, I was picking blackberries and all the while I was thinking about how impressed everyone will be when they see the amount I've collected!

So if we're not ready for somebody to pick holes in what we've done then why are we showing it off? Maybe because we feel we are revealing our babies in a safe space. That's the major mistake we make because our loved one also knows this, and they'll instinctively become harsher with their criticism, as if to prepare us for the brutal and severe realty of the outside world. Here's the problem, especially for the timid young artist just beginning to find themselves, most ideas, though promising, are likely to fall apart with some rigid scrutiny, and need to be considered for many, many hours before becoming palatable for it's audience, and harsh criticism at this early stage can just evaporate the concept right there and then.  

If your art is any way challenging then you're most likely to experience push back from your family. They can become embarrassed by the very thought of association. I have experienced this because of my coarse sense of humour.  If we were all to adhere to polite society's standards and use good manners when we create then the world would be a very boring place. But I still get anxious when telling my loved ones about my latest projects and have to keep reminding myself that if they are embarrassed, or disgusted even, then I'm probably on the right track!


My mother is the epitome of compassion, and yet, one day, she told me that while telling her sister about my short film; she recommended that she not pay particular attention to the storyline and instead to the cinematography. She said this to me thinking that I wouldn't take offence. This is the same short film that won me an award for Best Writing!  And I'm not without guilt myself; whenever my brother, a musician, played me a song that he was working on I immediately felt the need to tell him what I thought was missing rather than what was good about it. And though I was keenly aware of this habit, I'd be fighting with myself internally to suppress my negative criticism and remain positive so much so that I'd likely just say nothing at all and then I'd witness his pure disappointment at my reaction. 

We seem to be on the fringe of a new era; one where a lot of people will find themselves with a lot more time on their hands, and if they want to avoid the madhouse, they'll need to start exploring their own individual artistic expression. This might help us loose any stigma associated with being an arty farty shmartist, but first we'll need get past this dilemma, and, I think it will take a great deal of honesty on both sides. Maybe just start with a simple question: "Are you looking for feedback or praise?"

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How de Beauvoir saved my sex life

Having read the Second Sex with the simple intention of developing my female characters a little more comprehensively, I, instead, exposed a wealth of bias I'd been harboring towards the female of our species for my entire life. The myth of an earthly maternal protector was very much ingrained in my psyche. Her role in my stories thus far had been to try and talk my male hero down and keep him from his transcendence. This would be unconsciously brought on by her fear and lack of understanding of the outside world. Had I continued to use this model when developing my characters I'm sure I would find my scope of storytelling would diminish greatly. What's worse is, I was projecting this archetype onto my partner and I think, ironically, keeping her from her own transcendence.

It's very easy to dismiss these ideas as a man because they don't emerge in our every day discussions but if we look at our history of literature, our mythology and subsequently our religions, they are very much centered around the male experience. The truth is we carry an abundance of historically biased baggage that we obliviously succumb to. Like for instance, I never even thought about the effect of the ritual where the father gives away the bride to her new man as if she were an asset that's being handed over from one family to the next. Little things like this that could possibly diminish a woman's sense of autonomy are in fact the things that I never thought about.

De Beauvoir posits that a man can be incredibly clumsy during the first sexual encounter with a long term partner and this can have an effect on the woman potentially causing some deep seated resentment.  Upon first reading, I have to admit that, I gave this statement a very surface assessment; taking the word 'clumsy' as something akin to poor aim, but, as the text went on I realized that it was a lot more psychological than that. This was when the feelings of guilt started to set in. My partner is five years younger than I am which was enough for me to adopt the position of teacher in our sexual relationship even though I, myself, was a novice. Without knowing it I was creating a scenario analogous to a child who is otherwise an ace footballer but can't seem to score when his dad is watching him. I introduced an unnecessary unhelpful pressure into our relationship and at the same time I formulated an exchange where I was unlikely to learn from her. 

I'm a big believer in the idea that our bodies harbor attributes that our conscious minds simply can't fathom. For me it's psoriasis. If I'm unhappy about something, and I'm not actively trying to work through it, my skin cells start to multiply and I'm left with scales. I think that my partner's body now holds a resentment that she has long given up trying to comprehend. Upon some research I discovered a condition called vaginismus. It is an involuntary contracting of the required muscles and it is usually caused by a previous trauma, which made my partner disagree with my opinion that it was relevant. I'm aware that there's a serious case to be made against male doctors ignoring female's subjective reporting in our culture but my hypothesis relies on the condition being unconscious. 

Whenever I imagine myself playing with my partner I usually have my index finger extended and it's trying to poke her, usually in her most precious regions. With this, and the odd pinch of a nipple or bottom, you can see why we don't make time for play that much anymore. The unfortunate truth is that my male instincts in both play and sex are to penetrate. This is something I need to work on (avoiding pornography is a good start!). De Beauvoir hypothesizes that the simple difference in the make up of our sexual organs can have a profound effect on our psychology; where a boy's organ points out into the world, giving him permission to explore, a girl's is hidden away and shrouded in shame. This is potentially the source of the "Mystery" in woman that we are accustomed to in literature. 

This is a very difficult blunder to try and atone for, especially when the victim herself, doesn't agree with the theory in the first place. All I could think as how to make a start was to relieve the pressure somehow. So after a discussion we concluded that going forward, I don't expect penetration out of our sexual encounters anymore. This did, I think, make her feel less objectified and for a while we only did oral when making love. I then encouraged masturbation to try and help her acclimate the area somewhat and I on the other hand would decrease my private pleasure sessions in order to make my climaxes more memorable for both of us!

Now I know this sounds like she didn't have any input on the resolution of our problem but she certainly did. You see the hardest thing I've had to comprehend about female sexuality is that it's like the erosion of a coastline; very, very gradual. I could make a small misstep at the beginning of an evening that'll throw the whole thing off track. She thinks that I'm too negative. This conception is usually spurred by my complaints about banal TV shows or advertising tropes, the same ones that hook her by the heart strings. This is something I need to work on but it's hard, there's a lot of shit out there! The inner critic can be a dangerous companion but sometimes he's just fucking right! But it seems to be a turn off  so I know to limit it, at least on the days where we have made time to get intimate. Etiquette is another one of my "negative" traits. I have a tendency to be quite surly in my daily interactions with people. It's, perhaps, a deeper reflection of my personality type; I take a very long time to trust people, so theatrical use of manners offend me. I find them to be disingenuous. But ultimately these are just excuses and if a random stranger is short with me I get offended just like everybody else. So I'm watching more crap TV and being over friendly to strangers and do you know what? I think it suits me!

The one area where myself and De Beauvoir differ is when she claims that; "to ask two spouses bound by practical, social and moral ties to satisfy each other for their whole lives is pure absurdity" and that "Marriage is a perverted institution oppressing both men and women". I just think it takes a phenomenal amount of effort from both parties to try and be the best and most understanding person that they can be. I couldn't think of anyone I'd prefer spend the rest of my life with other than my partner. She is the most attractive woman I know and when we make love it's bliss.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Patience, attention and participation (This one's a bit woo)

I have a recurring dream where I am standing over a large blue barrel of stagnant water, one exactly like my father used have in our summer house in Wicklow. I am trying to submerge an old beach ball that's floating on the surface but every time I take my hands off it, it bobs back up. When I was young I was terrified of becoming sick. That nauseous feeling just before you vomit was unbearable for me, worse even, than the vomiting itself. Sometimes when I'd be feeling fine and I'd experience a hint of nausea I'd desperately try to avert my attention and keep it away from that underlying feeling, just like that beach ball. I think I've been doing this surface bobbing for most of my life, afraid to face what's lurking deep down inside of me.

It sometimes happens that I'll be in a specific place and a memory of another unrelated place will bubble up into my mind. This phenomenon sometimes repeats itself at a specific place and no matter how much analysis I give it, no matter how much I try to find some kind of link between them, I can't for the life of me figure out why it's happening. If I was to guess why it happens, I'd say it's some kind of unconscious emotional resonance; some way I felt at that first particular place is recurring in the new place and the associated visual experience is accompanying it. Now obviously an actor might not hold any weight when arguing in the frontier of neuroscientific debate, but this sole experience solidifies my opinion that we are barely conscious most of the time.

I recently said to somebody that I was working on expanding my consciousness and was stopped and loftily asked to explain the statement. When I began I was interrupted and the subject was quickly changed. The truth is that it was far too woo for lunchtime discussion, but, If I had been able to unpack it, I would've given an example of when you enter a room and feel like something is wrong. You don't know what it is but every part of you is telling you to leave. It's only afterwards, upon reflection, that you start to put together what was wrong about the situation or event that you skillfully avoided. These were your instincts, basically unconscious recognition, saving your ass from something unfavorable. As a vital part of evolution we can sometimes have signals enter our eyes and bypass our visual cortex going straight to the amygdala so we know to get the fuck out of there immediately! The fact that our visual perception of something would slow us down and maybe even get us killed is so fascinating to me. What other aspects of our lives are limited by our eyes?

When you sit with anything for long enough it begins to change. Whether it is the repetition of a word, a slight pain somewhere in your body, or a fowl smell, like, say, your gym socks; if you pay close attention to it, for long enough, it will take on new characteristics. If you meet somebody who you initially think is ugly, you can be guaranteed that after a few months of knowing them, you'll find their appearance more favorable. The very nature of time itself will change if you pay attention to it; a minute where all the seconds are counted, will seem a great deal longer than one that's not. I've come to believe that the very fundamental objective of our existence is where we focus our attention. Subjectivity is the only area of our reality that science has not been able to touch. It's yours and yours alone. There must be a reason for it, like maybe, you'll need to fill out a report for somebody some day somewhere. Maybe that's your job. Are you doing a good job? Or are you spending most of your fucking time on Instagram?

Panpsychism is definitely a cagey subject around most. The idea that all matter has some level of consciousness leads to snorting in even the most polite of people, but, as we simply have no idea what consciousness is, or, where it occurs in the brain, then I think we should be a little more open to the idea that there may be levels to it, and, that we may not hold the title of most endowed. We like to parade around as the top echelon of sentience, but when I'm out walking my inferior K9 specimen and he keeps trying to drag me back to the house, it's only when it's starts to rain a good five minutes later, that I realize that his consciousness of atmospheric pressure must be far superior to mine!

Over the last couple of years I've started suffering from postural hypertension. When I get up too quickly enough blood doesn't make it to my head and I start to loose control of my senses. I feel a tingling sensation come over me, my vision, hearing and my balance go and I'll usually have to grab something or I'll fall over. The funny thing about this scenario is that even though all my external senses are failing I still feel one hundred percent conscious. I feel like i'm going somewhere else, like I've stepped into another room for a bit. I've had my doubts about mind body dualism over the recent years. I was brought up catholic and conditioned into thinking that my soul will go somewhere after my body fails, but as that dogma couldn't withstand intellectual scrutiny, I began to search Philosophy and Neuroscience for answers eventually settling on monism; the idea that your consciousness is generated somehow by your brain and will end when it stops functioning. These bouts of hypertension leave me unsure again.

When I was a child I paid great attention to the things around me, but as I matured, and thus accumulated more responsibilities, I began a process of evaluation that consumed more and more of my mental energy, narrowing my attention to a sort of tunnel vision, a beam with some plan at the end of it. Now, hopefully somewhere around the midpoint of my life, I'm trying to shed this self evaluation and smell the roses because otherwise I'm left needlessly carrying around a self inflicted anxiety. Mindfulness, you say, and yes, that's exactly it, but, 80% of the time I spend meditating consists of me trying to justify why it is that I meditate. And these thoughts don't go anywhere unless I write them down, and, there's not really much point in writing something down unless somebody else is going to read it, so, thank you.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

This post won't make me any friends...

I'm finding it harder and harder to think of a good retort for people when they ask me why I don't drink anymore. Telling them that I've left Plato's cave of debauchery doesn't do me any favors. Recently I've started simply saying that it's for of the same reason I gave up the smokes; I just don't need it anymore. I can have just as much fun on a night out without booze. The only difference is that I understand when the crescendo has been reached. It's usually about 11:30 to 12pm or four or five drinks in when the substance of discussion starts to fade rapidly and those with the responsibility of relieving a baby sitter, or, with work in the morning will leave, but those who associate fun and alcohol will stay."Keep her lit", they'll say, desperately clinging on but never realizing that it only goes down from there.

The fact that I don't drink was never an issue in America, but, as the old stereotypes will tell you, it has been one in Ireland. My true feelings are that alcohol is a social tool for the average Irish person. We're known across the world for being uber-friendly but I think it's a surface reality only. Growing up, if I had a problem that I needed to discuss with somebody, it would be done over pints. We can't really open up and feel comfortable until we've a few on board, and this is dangerous because we ultimately associate the two. I think the high level of alcoholism in Ireland is because we can't really feel like ourselves unless we've pacified that reproachful monster in our brains.

If I'm organizing a social gathering with some new friends and I ask them out for pints, somewhere along the way I'll tell them that I don't drink. That's when the awkwardness sets in. They wonder what I'm going to do for two or three hours sitting in front of a sparkling water as if the alcohol was the company and not them. And I think that it runs deeper than that. I think that really, they are worried that they'll be letting their guard down and I'll have mine up and that they may be exposed. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system making people feel more at ease with themselves but when you take alcohol out of the equation you learn to get over that wall all by yourself. I remember feeling not quite relaxed at certain social gatherings until I'd had two or three drinks now that feeling lasts only seconds.

Hangovers are something I'll never miss. Not just the physical effects but the psychological ones two. The fear and anxiety caused by a dip in neurochemicals the next day might be outweighed by the benefit of a super fun night, but, when you find yourself shouting at your phone three or four days later that's when you see the real downside of alcohol. We tend to think the effects are confined to the proceeding day but the reality is they run far into the next week. This short tempered impatience and general mind fog are detrimental to a persons happiness especially if they're not too fond of their job and would find it difficult to get through a week with pure equanimity. And unfortunately this turns into a cycle of self destruction because, as we all know, the only way to get over a hard week is to spend the weekend drinking!

My family, I suppose, are like any big family; full of deep seated resentments and conflicts with each other and when we get together and sail through the pleasantry's and first few drinks that's when the true feelings start to surface. These Ill feelings which should've been addressed directly long before over coffee have a habit of popping up with great surprise and seemingly out of the blue. This then causes the accused the become defensive immediately and a row almost always ensues. It's not like it's directly responsible for my family's wounds but rubbing alcohol into them certainly doesn't help.

Another reason I might be terrified at the thought of jumping off the wagon is that I may then loose interest in meditating. The shift in my state of mind when meditating is far less than that of a few drinks but the long term benefits between the two practices are not even comparable. And really who's going to sit down for ten minutes with the intention of listening to their body when they're doing their best to ignore their complaining liver?

I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't become one of those 'holier than thou' assheads who preach about how life is better without alcohol,but, when I consistently see my closest friends promise themselves, whilst hungover, that they'll never touch the drink again and then the quick glimpse of shame when I see them a day or two later, drink in hand, I know that I've made the right decision. The thing about the cave analogy is that when the remainers hear what the leaver has supposedly learned, they think he's nuts, so I guess I'll just have to grin and bear the bewildered faces each time I'm asked "What''ll ya have?"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My Psoriasis Crisis

Ever heard the expression; "He was thick-skinned"? It makes me think of someone who's body has developed a defense mechanism of producing so many skin cells that he has a suit of scaly armor to protect him. Wouldn't that be a nice way to explain psoriasis?

Sometimes I can look at a patch somewhere on my body, and almost by sheer will, I can make it worse. It's as if my skin is trying to communicate with me. Psoriasis is a physical manifestation of a psychological problem. It took me a long time to realize that and I got no help from the medical system.

Upon my last and final visit to the dermatologist, having tried dietary restrictions, topical steroid creams, and, UV light therapy, all of which were unsuccessful, I asked my doctor what was next, and he told me about a new medication from the USA that would slow down my skin cell reproductive system, but, it would put my at high risk of getting lymphatic cancer. I asked why the hell I'd sign up for something like that and he replied; "It depends on how long you want to live". So basically, do i live a short life, comfortably free to take my shirt off ? Or, do I live a long life looking like I just got into a naked motorcycle accident? There's no cure for psoriasis. I left that clinic wondering how it's possible that we can replace a persons heart but we can't cure a miserable skin rash.

When I was in the third year of my electrical apprenticeship, I was working in a pharmaceutical factory. This was a point in my life where my psoriasis was at it's worst, and coincidentally it would seem, when I was pretty fuckin' miserable with my own existence. For you see, I wanted to be an actor, but a 'Plan B' seemed like a good idea at the time. My skin got so bad that I had to become an in-patient at a hospital for two weeks of treatment. It cleared up in this time but returned shortly after I went back to work. I managed to get myself fired from that job and my skin's never been as bad since.

It always lowered my confidence. Throughout my late teens and early twenties I was terrified at the thought of getting naked with a girl. As I got older, and began to realize that most women aren't so superficial and are more impressed by a guy's vitality, it then became more about awkward conversation starters, and how no matter what predetermined response I spewed out, they'd still look embarrassed for bringing it up. After a while I then began to view it as exactly that; their embarrassment, not mine. I was starting to accept this part of me. I would be the guy with the patchy skin. So I started trying to get people to notice it, by flaunting it, but then a funny thing happened, it began to get better. This was the moment when I decided that the first step is acceptance. This is a hard concept to swallow. It's like somebody saying; "Don't worry about it", but, that's not what I'm saying. My body tells me when I'm unhappy about something. That's what I'm accepting. We have an abundance of shit going on in our lives, and, our conscious minds struggle to scrutinize it all. I believe that our bodies will try to tell us when some of that shit is toxic.

I started meditating in my mid thirties. This is when I saw the most improvement in my skin. Meditation slows down cognitive noise for me, stuff I'm carrying round in my head all day, and sometimes reveals deep seated thoughts. The kind of thoughts that are so subtle that you might've been using your neck muscles rather than your brain to house them. It certainly put me further in touch with my body, and I believe this let my body know it doesn't need to shout for my attention anymore.

Even though we are in the midst of a scientific revolution, we still can't shake off preconceived 'age of enlightenment era notions' like mind body dualism and our medical practitioners like to see empirical evidence before they'll get behind an idea that a skin disorder begins with one's mind. But, if you're dealing with it, maybe go see a psychologist, or try some meditation, or get more sleep or just stop and ask yourself; "What am I not dealing with?" Either that or get those drugs and maybe lymphatic cancer!


I feel like my world is narrowing. Moments of reflection and inspiration are becoming few and far between. Engaging with nature doesn't ...