There is a saying that exists – “Like attracts like” and, while simplistic in its expression, it is profound in so many other ways. It is the first thing that springs to mind when I think of Suikoden and its loyal fan base.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Suikoden series is the strong implementation of morals and values it instills in its storylines. Very often, the main character must make difficult decisions which result in tragic sacrifice; betrayal is not an uncommon theme, but very often such betrayal is not done with the intent to be cruel or selfish; this only serves to highlight the fantastic complexity of characters in this series. Emotion is an important aspect of Suikoden; courage vs cowardice, noble vs dishonour, strength vs weakness. And as emotion is such a crucial focal point of human existence, it is only natural that people who are particularly drawn to such feelings and challenges should be drawn to one another. This, from my experience and observations, is what has brought together the Suikoden family.
Like most families, the Suikoden family has its own share of values and beliefs: loyalty, honour, and the courage to stand up and do what’s right. They are qualities which, in a day and age where self-serving materialism and opportunistic gain lie at the heart of so many, are few and far between. This game has not only brought us hours of joyous play, bestowed us with some of the most beautiful music to grace our ears or tugged at every emotion imaginable; it has provided us with a community of like-minded thinkers and doers; people who embody attributes of the series itself. They are passionate people, dedicated people, courageous people; they have a strong sense of justice, a desire to make a difference and an innate thirst to do what’s right in a world where, so often, things go wrong. They are the type of people who will not sit idly by and do nothing in the face of corruption. They are, in essence, a reflection of the very games that stole their hearts.
The Suikoden family come from all walks of life; different nationalities, different races, different religions, different social backgrounds. They can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies; they can arrange delightful get-togethers, relishing in one another’s company; or they can fight like cat and dog, as many families do. Anyone can join this family and new additions are welcome with open arms. I do not believe I speak only for myself when I say that Suikoden changed me as a human being in more ways than one; this is the phenomenal power of the games and it is a feature that so many of us share.
And now, on the 20th Anniversary of our beloved series, the Stars of Destiny have gathered once more in a family reunion, a community rich with passion which does Suikoden itself justice. I am proud, as ever, to be able to say I am a part of it.
London – a city of the arts, vibrancy and multiculturalism. A place famous for its scattered landmarks and home to some of the most affluent individuals, both living and deceased. From the Dickensian streets to the regal abode of Buckingham Palace, this is one metropolis that has lain at the heart of many tourists’ desires, a place rich in history which very often holds out a welcoming hand to those who wish to explore its wealth of diversity, as they mingle with Londoners and residents alike.
But imagine a time where the attractions of this charismatic city vanish. Where thugs and hooligans rule the roost. Where ordinary citizens are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being attacked or murdered.Where a decline in morals and basic respect for our fellow man takes a dramatic tumble. And where, in the early twenty-third century, a fourth English Civil War brews menacingly under the surface, leading towards a clash of blood and fire that has not been seen since the dark days of the Cavaliers and Roundheads.
In the sequel to my debut novel, ‘How the Wolf Lost Her Heart’ this is the grim reality of a future London. ‘How the Tiger Faced His Challenge’ is the second book in my Young Adult Dystopian series and focusses on the inevitable war between the Renzo stronghold in the west and the Pearson family in the east. This book is darker than the first and much more sinister, but it is a roller-coaster of honour, love and betrayal that is guaranteed to set your heart pumping. Since its release in 2014, ‘How the Wolf Lost Her Heart’ has done extremely well, garnering praise and fans around the world and currently sitting with over 70 5* and 4* reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca. Now, the story of Morphers Skye Archer and Raphael Renzo continues in this exciting, action-packed sequel. Right now, the Kindle book sits at $3.00 for the American and Canadian versions and £1.99 for the UK version. Do get your hands on a paperback copy if you can though – it’s entirely worth it, if only for the striking cover! Below is an excerpt from the novel – enjoy!
‘There was a sudden, explosive bang outside which caused everyone to jump.
“What was that?” said Ricardo, alarmed.
Another ear-splitting boom blasted off in the distance, far more deafening than a clap of thunder and much more sinister. Every man in the room leapt to his feet. Seconds later, several more bangs followed. Raphael dashed to the window, his eyes darting frantically around outside to see if he could get a clue of what had made the noises.
“What the hell’s going on?” he exclaimed.
And then they heard it. The horn.
It was an ancient variation of a bugle horn that had been in the Renzo family for generations, dating all the way back to the 1600’s during the time of the English Civil War when Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads had fought King Charles I and his Cavaliers. Raphael’s oldest of ancestors had been a general in the Cavalier Army; it was said that he had died in battle having leapt in front of the king himself, taking a bullet to the chest. The general had been honoured by the king with a memorial plaque (which was later desecrated and demolished by the Roundheads after the execution of the king) and this bugle horn, which was formally presented to the general’s family. For centuries, it remained the most precious of family heirlooms and, in recent times, Lord Renzo had announced that when the time came for arms to be taken against the Pearsons, or when the enemy launched their attack, the horn would be blown, amplified by modern-day technological equipment so the blasts would echo across the entire city.
Now, this same horn resounded throughout the City of London. It penetrated the eardrum of every man, woman and child; and for those within the Renzo stronghold, there was only one possible conclusion they could come to.
“This means…” said Raphael, his voice trailing off.
“Yes,” said Trey, sounding gritty and determined.
They stared round at one another, realization sinking in.
The war had begun.’
Get your copies here:
I would like to share with you all an interview I gave for my new release, ‘How the Wolf Lost Her Heart’. The interview was held by a lovely young lady from Ecuador, Pamela Nicole. In it, I answer questions about my book and a few things about myself – you can read the interview in it’s entirety by clicking the link below. Enjoy!
We can sometimes measure how much someone is loved by how much laughter they bring to our lives. We can also measure it by how many tears are shed when they depart. Robin Williams was one such man where both of these are immeasurable, and it is genuine sorrow and despair that has gripped millions around the world upon hearing of his death early this week.
Growing up, Robin Williams was one of the most popular icons of my childhood. His exuberant talents as the Genie in Aladdin to his hilarious performance in Mrs. Doubtfire were just a few roles he fulfilled that brought laughter to the lives of many. Robin Williams is associated with smiles; he is associated with cosy family nights in, feeling the warmth and energy surround you and your loved ones as you watch one of his films; he is associated with laughter in the school playground, trying to mimic the many voices he used to do. And now, he is also associated with the other end of the spectrum: sadness, despair, shock and grief.
Depression can grip some of the best people, this is true. How could a man like Robin Williams not suffer from depression? This was a man who loved to make people laugh. He was someone whose warmth and compassionate nature was so powerful that it shone through his performances, right through our television screens. For someone who loved so deeply, strongly and whose ambition was to make others smile, how could melancholy and sadness not be a part of his life, when life itself is often swathed in misery, suffering and heartache? When events unfold that cause tears, not laughter, to flow from you, how can anyone not feel overwhelming sadness at this? I am of the belief that it was this constant battle with a world that was out of sync with what Robin Williams wanted, what so many of us want, that contributed towards his untimely passing. I don’t believe anyone will ever know what was going through his mind when he took his own life, nor the exact reasons behind it. Maybe things got too much; maybe he wanted to leave on his own terms; maybe we shan’t ever know. But for a person to take this route, we can only suspect one infallible thing: this is a sign of someone who has been too strong for too long and it is for this reason that we must acknowledge the strength and courage it took for him to keep going for as long as he did, not just despair at the ending itself.
His death, like his films, has taught us many things. It has taught us that money, fame and status are not the elixir of life, as so many are fooled into thinking. Material abundance is no guarantee of happiness. It is no assurance that those who have these things cannot fall victim to depression. As humans beings, no matter our backgrounds or status, we can all be susceptible to it. It can even be said that his death has brought the wide divide between the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’ closer together; Robin Williams has shown us that Hollywood is not a land of untouchable, immortal gods, but instead a place of human beings who can suffer just as we suffer, feel just as we feel.
So we will grieve, all of us who have been affected by him in some way, large or small. Much bewilderment will continue, much sadness and many, many tears. But as time passes, the legacy he left will continue to grow stronger. Though he has gone, his ability to make people smile lives on. Whenever we flick on our TV screens and see one of his films, whenever we scroll through Youtube and hear ‘You ain’t never had a friend like me!” whenever we just think of an actor who made us crack a grin – that is the legacy he left. It is timeless, priceless and, above all, it continues to serve as a beacon for others who know what darkness is, but through Williams’ example, can retain hope that spreading light into the lives of others is a very real possibility and attainable goal. Robin Williams may have extinguished the light inside himself, but he has lit flames in thousands upon thousands and there really can be no greater achievement than that. I firmly believe life does not end when we die and that there is a place we go to where darkness, sorrow, illness and depression does not exist. It is a comfort, perhaps, to the many of us left behind that someone who gave so much to this world is now free from the very miseries that made him want to leave it in the first place. RIP Robin Williams.
Sooooo, slightly overdue as this blog post is, I am compelled to write about my experience during World Cup 2014. Do not be fooled by my dazzling rants about the unjust state of the world, nor my refined tea-drinking posts about what one should drink during one’s peaceful afternoon – when it comes to (international) football, I am right up there with your traditional English footy hooligan (minus the violence), swigging the beer, draped in a long England flag and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ in a loud, passionate, tuneless voice.
At least, I was at the very beginning until England proved YET AGAIN what a sloppy team they were. The last time I wrote about England and an international cup was here in 2012; needless to say, I have no desire whatsoever to repeat myself, which I’m sure would be a hundred times more scathing than last time. I suppose I should have seen the signs; on the day I uploaded the blog post, it received exactly 666 views worldwide. If that isn’t a portent of doom then I don’t know what is.
Moving on, this is not an article about England and their ultimately useless players. It’s about the World Cup as I experienced it, it’s about the excitement, thrills and countless gasps of awe that almost had me in a seizure, it’s about how I (by some bizarre twist of fate) found myself employed as a World Cup Commentator halfway through the Cup, and it’s about some outstanding performances and incredible players that really left a mark in my mind. If there’s such a thing as an unforgettable World Cup then this was surely the one.
Where do I begin? First with James Rodriguez of Colombia. That boy had some skills! I had never heard of this player before in my life (and I will not lie; much as I enjoy the international cups, I’m pretty much clueless as to who most of the players are – with the exception of Christiano Ronaldo. Who doesn’t know him? Didn’t the man create a museum in his own honour, comprising photos, waxworks and trophies dedicated to him, and him alone? The wonders of an over-inflated ego never cease to amaze). So. Rodriguez. How many goals did he shoot into the net again? And let’s not forget The Mystery of the Magical Locust. The enormous bug landed on his arm just before he scored a terrific penalty. Apparently, this critter represents good luck in South American countries and if anyone tries telling me that that wasn’t a sign then I’ll kindly tell you to open up your mind! Colombia did find themselves booted out, but I’m pretty sure that no one will forget their performance and how well they excelled themselves, same as I’m pretty certain Rodriguez won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
Who else really stood out for me? Well, of course, Ochoa of Mexico! The wizard goalie whose incredible, albeit ungraceful, blocking proved deeply frustrating for opposing teams. With his practically X-Men reflexes it was impossible to fault him during the matches – and did I mention how handsome he is? What I wouldn’t give to be a football flying straight into those magical hands! Hubba, hubba! You can save me any day! *Wink, Wink!*
Joe Campbell of Costa Rica really impressed me (also for the fact that during my more daring days, I was gambling on the Costa Rican team and they didn’t fail me once) and I also thought his humble, generally pleasant demeanor was a pleasure to watch. Quite possibly the most heart-stopping match I saw was the one between Costa Rica and Greece. Costa Rica were ten men down and completely exhausted, but they still managed to win on penalties. I was hugely impressed by the Costa Rican team and, like Colombia, they truly exceeded all expectations during the tournament.
Onto the significantly interesting moments of the Cup. Watching Portugal’s Pepe headbutt Germany’s Muller like some kind of angry bull during mating season was an entertainment in itself. Lesson learned, hopefully, Pepe (though judging by your past explosions, we can’t be too hopeful): never headbutt a German. You’ll end up red-carded and on the loser’s bench, frothing and spitting at the mouth.
And, of course, we cannot forget Suarez. The World Cup is hardly the place to be chomping and biting your fellow human being, but Suarez outdid himself with his enthusiastic gnawing on Italy’s Chiellini, whose subsequent panicked outcries and howling protests would have led us to believe he’d just been bitten by a rabid dog and had contracted a life-threatening disease. Still, Chiellini’s ultimate drama-queen showdown only enforced the incredulity of everyone watching that Suarez the Uruguay Star had just bitten another player on the pitch, and it was off to the airport for him. What was most bemusing was that Suarez gripped his teeth as though in agony right after biting the Italian player; it was almost as though he was shocked at the fact they had just pierced through Chiellini’s flesh. Odd. Perhaps his molars have a mind of their own and they had plunged him forwards without his consent. Either way, we’ll never know.
The thrashing that Brazil took from Germany (7-1? Don’t think any of us saw that coming!) was astonishing to watch and I say it with the most genuine empathy that I truly felt for the Brazilians and the fans watching them. I mean, I really did. Watching your home team (and worse, the host nation) be thrashed in such an embarrassing way really pulls at the heartstrings, and I say this as an England fan. Watching Neymar go down also was pretty shocking and his condition was closely monitored with concern by much of the world. I also want to point out a special congratulations to the U.S.A who did very well during this tournament – no doubt this has something to do with being led by the almighty Klinnsman! Speaking of Klinnsman – did anyone really doubt that Germany would win the Cup?
Probably one of the most amazing things about this World Cup was the bizarre shift, the topsy-turviness of traditionally ‘great’ teams being kicked to the curb. Reigning champions, Spain, reigned no more after they were booted out in the first round. Brazil’s performance was hardly superb from the start; Italy failed to wow. If there was ever a time for the underdog to rise, it was during this tournament.
So you may be wondering how I, with my extremely limited knowledge of football and being a woman to boot, ended up as a World Cup Commentator. The answer is, pure chance. Lucky, lucky chance, A very lucky, financially prosperous chance, might I add. And it didn’t matter to me that I had to endure the snide guffawing of men who rarely failed to remind me that I had little knowledge of the game, little knowledge of the players and, therefore, my commentating must surely be void. The fact was, I enjoyed the tournament, I enjoyed the matches and, ultimately, that was all that mattered. I commentated with such fervour that it wasn’t long before I was eating, sleeping and breathing football. So by the end of the tournament I was experiencing post World Cup 2014 blues and aching for the next one. But until that day … onto the Euro!
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I am a person who loves my tea. Literally loves. It was a few years ago when I decided to ditch the usual PG Tips (not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with black tea, I’m sure it sits very nicely with many people) and move onto green tea. Not long after that I discovered what would soon become the love of my life – white tea. Sweeter and more distinctive than green tea, it has a subtle, smooth taste that leaves you wanting more. Loose leaf tea is something I favour now and the loose leaf of White Peony and Silver Needle (striking names!) is something I cannot imagine not having as a part of my daily life.
Aside from the wonderful flavours, probably the best thing about white tea (which many people don’t seem to be aware of) is the incredible range of health benefits. White tea is famed for having a very high amount of antioxidants, more so than black or green tea. It is said that it possesses a profound power against cancer-causing cells, that it lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood sugar levels and also has direct positive impact on sufferers of arthritis. It also keeps the heart healthy – research shows that those who drink two or more cups of white tea a day are 50% less likely to die after suffering a heart attack. These little buds have a wealth of power inside them and each one of us would benefit from drinking it daily.
Now where do I get my tea? These white and green teas I drink can’t be found in your local supermarket. You can get the teabag variety, including green and white (though finding white teabags in the supermarket is pretty difficult in itself and the strength of taste is not quite the same) and, as for oolong tea (which is used especially for weight loss) it is near impossible to find them. The place where I get my tea is a company called Chah Teas. Now, I had been browsing around several online tea companies and tried out a few here and there, but when I stumbled upon Chah, this was the place I decided to stick with. Their loose leaf tea is incomparable and their White Peony in particular has such a unique and vibrant taste that one of my favourite things to do when I come home from work is to sit down with a nice pot of Peony – all the stresses and problems seem to fade away with each sip. As well as White Peony, I have also tried their other varieties. Dragon Phoenix Pearl (yet again a cool name!) is a type of green tea and it has a very distinctive, powerful taste; very little of it is needed at one time so it ends up lasting you for many months. Flowering tea is a fascinating type of tea – you dissolve it in hot water and it literally opens up into a flower. Remarkable to watch if you have one of those see-through teapots. I have also tried their Ceremonial Matcha tea – this drink is supreme in a number of ways. It is a type of ground green tea and can be used to drink or put in ice-cream or even in baking cakes. Again, little is needed at a time, but the taste itself is quite extraordinary. It leaves a distinct aroma and at the same time can be quite filling. Milk Oolong tea is a type of oolong and – well, it tastes a lot like milk! But some of the richest milk I’ve ever tried – the flavour in Milk Oolong is pretty uncanny. There’s a collosal amount of flavour in one little bit so it doesn’t require too much either. If you’re a fan of Bubble Tea, oolong often features in those drinks and you can recognize the taste right away.
One of the great things about Chah is that they’re not too expensive; the prices are excellent for the quality and quantity of tea you receive. I have been to special tea shops that will charge something like £20 for 50g – Chah, by comparison, can save you 50% to 80% of this. The day I stumbled across their website is one of the luckiest days I ever consider having – I get my fix of the finest teas and at the most reasonable cost! Their variety is superb – black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, fruit and herbal tea (for fruit and herbal lovers, there are some real gems in this section!), flowering tea and macha tea. I would strongly advise tea lovers to check them out. You can find them here at http://www.chah.co.uk . If you’re anything like me and you love your good tea, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Now, time for some White Peony …
117 years ago today, Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, was executed by the Spanish Authorities on false charges of rebellion, but ultimately their fear of him sprang from his written works about the mistreatment of the Filipinos by the Spaniards. To rub salt into the wound, the Spanish had ordered Filipino soldiers of the Spanish army to act as firing squad and even had a backup force of Spanish troops on standby to shoot the executioners in case they failed to obey the orders of the commander.
Rizal requested to face the firing squad before they executed him, but he was refused. In a last defiant act as the triggers were pulled, Rizal twisted his body in an effort to face them – but the bullets riddled him and he died facing the morning sun. His last words were “consummatum est” which means “it is finished”, the same last words of Jesus Christ.
Jose Rizal was brave, compassionate, well-educated and gentle. He didn’t fight with the sword, but with the pen. He always retained his dignity, never hating his enemies, but instead forgiving them for their wrongs. He was the biggest inspiration for the uprising against the Spanish and he has inspired future generations to love their own country and strive to have a good education; he is right up there with the other great men of history who, through hardship and self-sacrifice, made a significant difference for their people, no different to Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi (the latter of whom spoke of his enormous respect for Rizal) and all the others who strove to attain a better life for the many generations to come. He was an all-round brilliant human being and it makes me proud of my Filipino heritage to know that such a person fought tooth and nail for his country without ever lifting a hand to anyone else, using his brains and heart as opposed to brute force.
Above: The death of Rizal, December 30th 1896. At the last moment, he turned to the side in an effort to face his executors.
There are a lot of people who seem to be utterly confused about this phrase:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
For some bizarre reason, people seem to think that this means you MUST believe in organized religion, that you MUST worship God accordingly, that you MUST religiously follow the Christian faith and that if you don’t, you’ll be condemned to the fires of hell …
Nope … It just means that you believe in being what Jesus was: loving, compassionate, forgiving, strong and not acting on evil thoughts that may be forced into your head. It really doesn’t matter what device you follow as long as you live with these things in your heart and do your best to do right by others and yourself. And, personally, I feel that those who choose to be evil, who live just to hurt others, who do sick twisted things like kill innocent people or rape little babies, they deserve to be thrown into the fires of hell (wherever that may be; I’m not necessarily talking about a pit of lava). I can’t think of any decent person who wouldn’t agree with me. How then can people get angry when we’re told that those who don’t believe in Jesus will be condemned to hell? The only ones facing this are the ones who do things such as those mentioned above because they are doing the opposite of the representation of Jesus, not of the Christian religion itself. That’s my theory anyway.
“True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Einstein.
Well, that’s exactly what Jesus was all about; self-sacrifice, goodness and righteousness. He wanted to set an example to others; nurturing our good side and fighting our bad side. And every great story in history has been about good vs evil because it doesn’t get much greater than that, sacrificing oneself and protecting the underdog. Are you a fan of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games and the majority of books out there which have a heroic protagonist? All of them are brave, noble, honourable and think of others before themselves. Every great hero in history, however everyone may view them, (Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Jose Rizal and so many more) also had these qualities. The parents who sacrifice themselves for their child have these qualities, the friend who drops everything to help his companion has these qualities, the soldier who willingly gives his life for his captain has these qualities. By the logic of these jeerers who scorn at Jesus, they surely also sneer at these ordinary individuals who become extraordinary heroes because of their remarkable deeds. Jesus Christ was the first of these great heroes – and he is still being mocked today, just as he was when they crucified him. Imagine the pain and suffering of being tortured, laughed at, whipped, beaten and ultimately murdered simply because you want to share the love in your heart or fight for a cause you believe in! It personally angers me that anyone could scorn or laugh at someone who had such courage, compassion and resilience.
It’s a shame the name of Jesus itself has been twisted and tainted by religious zealots who use it for their own selfish means or pompous ‘educated’ individuals who view him as old-fashioned, outdated and even laughable – how many times do these people express contempt for someone who claims to love Jesus, even though they don’t understand what the name of ‘Jesus’ actually means? For the meaning stays the same and it’s not one I’d take lightly.
Jesus does not mean being forced into a religion; it doesn’t mean going to church every week; it doesn’t mean following the scriptures; it doesn’t mean condemning homosexuals into the fiery pits of hell; it doesn’t mean following the rules of a priest or a bible. It means love, compassion, understanding, sacrifice, doing what’s right when it would be so easy to do what’s wrong and courage in the face of adversity. Jesus means putting others before yourself, being selfless as possible and doing your best to live with these qualities in your daily life, even though the evil inside you is always fighting to get out; it’s a never-ending war with evil in yourself and evil in others.
So it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself religious or not – if you believe in all these things, then you believe in Jesus.
I personally believe in a whole host of things: God, reincarnation, negative entities, positive entities, good people, bad people, angels, demons … the list goes on. And I believe in Jesus because his heroic qualities and deeds are worthy of admiration and respect. This belief is the foundation for all sorts of faith and faith is the foundation for strength. And when you work with compassion and love, not selfishness and evil, it’s imperative to be strong in this world for yourself and others because this world is forever doing its best to bring you down. As a person who’s looked right into the face of demons, both in human form and spiritual form, I can’t ignore what’s being placed so blatantly in front of me. That there is good out there, there is evil out there and there are warriors fighting on each side, always fighting for us to join them, swarming around us all the time, even if we can’t see or hear them. Jesus was a warrior and he exemplified everything great and good about this world and showed us what we ourselves are capable of: strength, determination, compassion and forgiveness. Why hate or mock someone like that, simply because a few bad eggs have managed to taint his image? Maybe people shouldn’t allow themselves to be influenced so easily and instead make their own minds up, perhaps realizing there is nothing about Jesus that is worthy of resentment or hatred, other than that there are those certain people who came after him that do their best to crush the very reason he died for us in the first place.
Some time ago, I was reading a copy of BBC History and came across an article by one Richard Sugg who wrote an article titled, ‘Belief in Vampires’ concerning supernatural entities. Rather than bore everyone with the details of his article, the jist of it was an entirely mocking tone of voice, littered with a number of useless facts and, most disconcertingly, an opinion that was styled as fact, as well as a bewildering assumption that all supernatural creatures should be classed as one and that there was no room for individualism among them. It was an opinion that clearly scoffed at anything pertaining to the supernatural – worse still, Richard Sugg teaches ‘Literature of the Supernatural’ and apparently considers himself as an ‘expert’ on the subject. But what kind of expert immediately closes his mind to the possibility of the supernatural being real? It is not possible for ANYONE to be an expert on the supernatural because there is no evidence to support it or disclaim it – there is only the experience of individuals. This is where Richard Sugg is horribly flawed and it is extremely worrying that someone such as him is allowed to command such influence over a topic that he knows so little about.
Feeling troubled by his article, I wrote one in response and sent it off to the BBC. The BBC History magazine undoubtedly has a lot of influence over its readership and I felt it entirely unfair that only one side of the issue was presented. The article was swiftly sent back by the editor who told me to write in a 500 word letter if I wished to comment on it. Naturally, I laughed this off. So much for history, I thought. There was me thinking that the subject of history itself was all about presenting all sides to a story so that a fair conclusion may be formed by the reader – but according to BBC History, this is not the case at all! As long as their articles coincide with the current ‘trending thought’ of modern society (and of course that their authors are, erm, highly educated professors), then that is what they shall give them. So below is the article I originally wrote and I hope you will finish reading it with an open mind, noting that anything truly is possible and the only flaw in dismissing something as a work of fiction is to dismiss it at all, for in a subject such as the supernatural, nothing can be discounted.
Vampires, witches, voodoo and the supernatural – these things have become the basis of stuff and nonsense for today’s modern society. As Richard Sugg demonstrated in his ‘Belief in Vampires’ article, the idea of something existing that does not coincide with our society’s beliefs is quite ridiculous. Attacks from demons or monsters in the night are no more than the works of an overactive imagination during the sleep phase … they are primitive concepts that should have died out a long time ago; people dying upon hearing they’ve been cursed is because they have ‘died of fear’; nightmares and sleep paralysis are medical conditions; and, of course, vampires really can kill you – if you believe in them. I can’t begin to touch on the numerous flaws within these bold statements, which speak as though they are fact when, in reality, they are mere theory. However, what I can do is highlight the fact that those who close their minds to the possibility that absolutely anything is possible will very rarely consider alternative explanations. In this case, it appears that demons, vampires, witches and all manner of ghastly ghouls must not exist. The question is, why are some people so utterly convinced they are figments of the imagination, despite thousands of reports that claim otherwise? And not just from the remote villages of Romania and Africa, but right here in our Western society. Has medical science really become so arrogant as to believe that there is nothing we do not know? Why is it that so many doctors, professors and sceptics will dismiss the possibility that these creatures are real, despite not actually experiencing it for themselves? Why do they automatically judge anyone who has had these experiences as suffering from some kind of ‘mental condition’? In essence, this sounds suspiciously like disdainful conceit dressed up as diagnosis, for the sufferer’s explanation is immediately disregarded and the sceptic will reach any conclusion, as long as it doesn’t correspond with the supernatural. If indeed this is just the imagination playing tricks on us, why is it only evil things that visit the sleeper? Yet another puzzle that boggles the mind.
So many questions and yet so many unconvincing answers. Perhaps it is the victims’ turn to become sceptical of the sceptic. Sleep paralysis is an interesting phenomenon and the truth is that medical science knows just as much about it as anyone else – which is practically nothing. Factors for sleep paralysis can be assessed – stress, alcohol, poor dieting, etc. etc. But these are not facts, they are speculations. It is impossible for medical science to come up with a reasonable explanation for why these things happen because they simply do not know the answers. But no different to the college student who is accustomed to reading every book available and excelling in every exam and assignment, the thought of not being able to provide an answer to a question is abhorrent. Subsequently, any answer must be given, even if there is no evidence to back it up. And this is something which many sceptics suffer from on a grand scale, not realizing that in their desire to be a fountain of all knowledge, they are unwittingly achieving the opposite.
Rather than provide support to the theory that supernatural entities are an illusion, comparing the Twilight books to the incident of a girl in Romania (who believed her deceased uncle was visiting her during the night and feeding from her heart) only reinforces the notion that we as a society have become so influenced by Hollywood’s and the media’s portrayal of the supernatural that any supernatural-related event much clearly be a work of fiction. Whether the Romanian girl’s story holds any truth in it is unknown, but I find it deeply disheartening that all unusual events or stories that do not fit inside our frame of thinking will instantly be labelled as imaginary. To put it bluntly, if you are closed to such things, you will not be affected. If you are open (whether by choice or not), you will experience the unusual. Sceptics by default are closed because they do not believe in anything they cannot see; here is the catch-22, where it becomes impossible for them to effectively judge what they don’t understand, purely because they will not allow themselves to understand it in its entirety. In another article by Richard Sugg, he writes:
“Owen Davies explains that “sleep paralysis” is relatively common, occurring in 20-45% of people. More rarely (about 5-20% of people), sleep paralysis can be combined with a nightmare. This is no mere bad dream. It might include hallucinations and a powerful sense of an alien presence in your room. One soldier, who had fought for 13 consecutive months in Korea, stated of his single nightmare attack: “Never, before or since, have I experienced the fear of that night.”
If Robert Pattinson sat on Kristen Stewart’s chest in the middle of the night, we can well imagine the censors would be pretty terrified – at least about losing their PG certification.”
This is a clear indication of the contemptuous attitude from sceptics toward those who suffer from sleep paralysis. The attempt at humour in reference to Twilight at the end marks a sneering attitude, one which astonishingly categorizes all supernatural concepts in one box and makes a mockery of the actual dangers sleep paralysis poses to its victim. This is ignorant at best and, at worst, patronizing. Interestingly, Mr Sugg quotes Owen Davies’ theory (the key word being theory, not fact) about sleep paralysis statistics and how, on rare occasions, they can be combined with hallucinations. Yet he fails to provide evidence that they are actually hallucinations. Why? Because there is no actual evidence to provide. Furthermore, in his ‘Belief in Vampires’ article, Mr Sugg recognizes that not all deaths relating to the paranormal can be so easily explained – only to then go on and say that it is probably because they died of fear, before explaining that people who believed they had been cursed became so afraid that they experienced a ‘physiological shutdown’; they died soon afterwards. ‘Probably’ is the most important word here, once again demonstrating that this is all speculation styling itself as something more concrete. Now, why is it that a person dying from a physiological shutdown is so much more believable than death from an actual curse? It is because the concept of cursing goes hand in hand with the supernatural – and, of course, the supernatural is a complete fabrication of the mind, according to the sceptic. One does not hold more evidence than the other and yet, for a variety of reasons, it is easier for people to dismiss the supernatural reasoning.
I often wonder why people will appear so closed-minded in regard to this issue. Sometimes I feel it is because the concept is too frightening for them to acknowledge; other times I put it down to the influence of society. I wonder if it is because their minds cannot stretch far enough to consider something outside of their immediate reality or if the media really has succeeded in just making a mockery of the whole thing. I do question as to whether I would be exactly the same as them if I hadn’t gone through the experiences that I have, but I like to think I would keep an open mind. As someone who was born ‘open’ and therefore highly sensitive to such things, I have experienced ‘sleep paralysis’ from the age of seventeen. Prior to this, I witnessed two apparitions, once as a child and once as a teenager. I have had dreams about events that had not yet happened, but which occurred hours later. I have had nightmares where I felt my wrists being grabbed. I experienced occasions where something I couldn’t see committed lewd acts on me. The memory of feeling cold hands on my various body parts, hearing loud breathing and feeling a great weight on top of me still stands out vividly in my mind, for this was not just a nightmare, but a memory where I was conscious of the events at the time they were happening.
I am not the only one; there are thousands of people out there who have been through similar things. Like them, I avoid discussing my experiences with others because I know the automatic reaction from people is to scoff and assure me it is all in my head. To be immediately labelled as mentally disturbed or a liar either implicates that I am being bamboozled by my own self or that I take pleasure from telling others things that are not true. As someone who has nothing to gain from deceiving others and being a person who trusts my own mental capabilities, this is naturally deeply frustrating. It is said that if you don’t believe in them, then these things cannot harm you – but when something is physically holding onto you or crushing you or whispering in your ear (and furthermore, you are fully conscious that this is happening) it’s a bit difficult to tell yourself it’s not actually real. Sceptics tend not to have this problem; after all, a demon isn’t jumping around in front of them shouting out, “Believe in me! Believe in me!” It’s much easier not to believe in it when you can’t see it.
But here’s the thing: unless I am completely stark-raving mad and my reality is a world of fantasy, I have to say these entities are real. They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist; and – not too different from people who only show their cruel streak behind closed doors – bad entities thrive in secrecy and concealment. In today’s modern society, it is all too easy to blame everything on a mental condition. It seems like everyone’s got a mental illness these days; everyone’s got a personality disorder and everyone’s determined to believe that anything ‘out of the ordinary’ is all in the mind. Well, of course these people are mental – being told enough times that they have a mental condition is enough to make them believe it, hence they become convinced it is all in their head. Like sleep paralysis, much speculation surrounds the mental health sector, with hereditary issues, chemical imbalances and trauma being at the forefront; pills and drugs are administered to sedate the individuals so they can live relatively normal lives when they become out of control – but there is no cure and no factual causes. Just speculation which, again, many people tend to forget.
Surely we have come far enough as a civilization to recognize that ignorance is one of the most dangerous of human traits? Combined with arrogance, it is more dangerous still. History has taught us this much. Yet swarms of sceptics, many of whom have spent hours on end researching the paranormal, reading numerous books and professing to be experts on the subject despite never having experienced anything like it themselves, will say with absolutely certainty that these things are not real. They dismiss people who state otherwise or cultures that still believe in such entities, purporting them to be ‘backwards’. However, one cannot help but think that a level of hypocrisy is at work here, for surely narrow-mindedness and ignorance is about as backwards as it gets. Undoubtedly, there are cases that operate in fraud, but to classify each case as imagination’s child’s play is really quite laughable. Despite Hollywood’s and fiction’s portrayal of vampires, demons, ghosts and the like, the real versions of these creatures are an entirely different kettle of fish.
As children, we are all born with an open mind. We believe in fairies, witches, dragons, magical lands: we believe in the unbelievable. Somewhere along the line, we lose this as we get older. Modern advancement has brought with it a great deal of benefits that no one can dispute: cures for diseases, longer life and technology in all its glory. But with it has also come an unjustifiable arrogance – man believes he has the answer to everything and that there is nothing he does not know. Such pride is bemusing; after all, there are many questions in life that we could never know the answers to. Why do we die? What happens after we die? Does God exist? The truth is that we really know very little about anything, other than that anything is possible. And demons, negative entities and malevolent beings – they are entirely possible. Only when society recognizes the possibility that these things are real, that they can be dangerous and they can affect us in our daily lives (whether we see them or not) can we begin to understand them and take measures to protect ourselves. Relying solely on the concept of mental illness being the only explanation for anything outside the box will not get us very far; and it is with this notion that perhaps we can acknowledge we are not quite as advanced as we think we are.