This month’s issue of Brain Storm centred around the theme of community, both the good and bad parts of the wider communities involvement in mental health. I wrote about the stigma surrounding PTSD, and why we need to work to get rid of it. The issue is full of beautiful and heartfelt stories and poetry and art by some incredible writers and creators, and Brain Storm is a project I’m truly proud to be a part of. You can read my piece (pages 8 and 9) and the rest of the issue here, and check out some of the previous issues if you enjoy it (as well as my previous work for the magazine).
The universe is a confluence of infinite possibilities. Of all of the possible arrangements of atoms the universe could contain, you are here. You, reading this right now, and your eyes and your ears and your skin and your bones. But you’re nothing more and nothing less than an arbitrary collection of atoms. As Bill Bryson details in “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, ‘if you were to pick yourself apart atom by atom, all that would be left is a pile of atomic dust, none of which had ever been a life, but all of which had once been you’.
Every atom in that pile had at one point come together to make you, reading this right now, and your eyes and your ears and your skin and your bones. So what I’m asking is, could it be possible that billions of years in the future those same atoms could come together, in the same way, to create the same you? The same eyes and ears and skin and bones?
This is certainly an interesting concept, and we cannot say that it is absolutely impossible – we have no way of knowing that, just as we have no way of knowing that everybody who is alive right now isn’t a reoccurrence of the same atomic combinations occupied by humanity thousands of years ago. The underwear you are wearing today may well contain an atom that was also present in the underwear of King Henry VIII, just as the fingers you are using to scroll this page may well share atoms with the fingers of Henry VIII.
But you are not Henry VIII, you are you, and you are completely and utterly unique. What I am questioning is what it is that makes you unique. If it is our atomic makeup that makes us unique, and the same atomic makeup could occur again, then we are not unique. But what if it isn’t our atoms, our formation, our science, but is instead our memories, our ideologies, our family and friends, our culture?
You could put together a pretty solid argument asserting that even if a person completely atomically identical to you were to exist by chance in the year three billion and two, they would not be you. There is something happening now that makes you different from somebody with the same atomic makeup as you three billion years in the future.
After all, the atoms that make you are not what makes you, you. The atoms are not you, the atoms just happen to be you. If those same atoms comprised a person in an entirely different situation, that person would not be you. The atoms that were once you would be somebody else. It is the conditions we live in that define us, the time and place we are born, how we are raised and what we believe. If there’s a close-to-zero chance that your atoms will reunite in billions of years to create another human, then it is even less likely that the same atoms that made your parents will make two other humans in the future who happen to meet each other and have a child together.
You are you because you were born the day you were born, raised the way you were raised, and think the way you think. Somebody born on a different day, who is raised differently and thinks differently, would not be you. So, I guess the answer to my question is that your atoms could potentially come together, in the same way, to recreate somebody with the same eyes and ears and skin and bones that you have, who, if picked apart atom by atom would become an identical pile of atomic dust. But this person would not be you.
Identity is socially constructive, reliant on your position in time and space. Nobody else has the exact same position as you in both time and space, ever. Your identity is solely yours – nobody, regardless of the atoms they are made out of, regardless of their eyes or their ears or their skin or their bones could ever have your identity. They could never be you. But this raises an entirely new question, a question for another day – could your identity implant itself into somebody with a completely different atomic makeup?
No matter how many people are doing it (or aren’t doing it), why they’re doing it, who they’re doing it with, how many people they’re doing it with, and how they get off from it, sex is still a taboo subject for a number of people and across a number of platforms. Humans, particularly those from older generations, often struggle to talk about sex. Oftentimes people have difficulties even saying the word “sex” without getting embarrassed – but why? Why are we so afraid to talk about a behaviour so natural, so common?
Additionally, how can we really be so afraid to talk about something when we don’t even have a solid definition of what sex even is. Think about it. What is sex? The most common definition that seems to be accepted is penis-in-vagina penetration, but this says nothing about sexual activity where nobody involved has a penis, and can even be seen to class rape between a man and a woman as sex, while I’m sure rape survivors wouldn’t be ecstatic with this definition. When a man rapes a woman, or a woman rapes a man, there is often penis-in-vagina penetration, but pretty much everybody I know presumably wouldn’t class this as ‘sex’. When a woman has sex with a woman, there is no penetration (at least not with one another’s genitals), but again, pretty much everybody I know would class sex in an all-female situation as sex.
Is the definition of sex, then, something more mental than physical? Is it sex if you think it’s sex? But then, how can you think of something as sex without knowing what sex actually is, or what it’s supposed to be? This is where Greta Christina comes in. In 2006, she published this incredibly eye-opening piece on her blog, which I think is one of the most valuable personal accounts available to anybody attempting to find their own definition of sex.
The third issue of Brain Storm came out at the beginning of this month, with the theme ‘on the road to recovery’. I chose to write about the things nobody told me about recovery, to give an insight into the ups and downs of recovering from a mental illness. I wanted to show people who’ve never had an experience with mental illness how much work goes into getting through it, and potentially help people struggling with their own demons be better prepared for their own recovery. You can read my piece here, but the rest of the issue is packed full of phenomenal work by incredible writers and artists, and brilliantly put together by Hana, so if you like my piece please check out the rest of the issue here.
These are some poems I wrote that were published in the latest issue of Brain Storm Magazine, an independent mental health e-magazine based in Toronto, founded and edited by Hana Wilson, a good friend of mine whose journey inspires me in my own.
The poems are focused around the topic of learning to love and trust somebody again after going through a shitty time with a previous partner, and letting yourself feel everything you were scared of. They are about healing, and recovering, and patching yourself up with the help of somebody that you love.
My poems can be found here on pages 17 and 29, but please do take the time to read through the rest of the issue, and take a look at the previous issue if you like the look of it. Hana is starting up something really amazing with Brain Storm and I’d love nothing more than to see the project get the love it deserves.