Do good things always have to come to an end?

It’s not just good things, you know. It’s everything.

It’s okay, that’s the way the world works, and if it didn’t, then there’d be too much of everything everywhere for anything to really be.

Endings are all part of the process. If you go into something expecting the infinite then its highly likely it won’t really happen.

Just think about the absurdity of infinity is for a while. That thing about an infinite number of monkeys/typewriters/time producing the works of Shakespeare. Then think about the infinite amounts of paper, filled with everything from nonsense to nearly-Shakespeare to the script from episode 719 of Emmerdale.

Yes, you’d end up with something particular, but only as part of an infinite number of everything. Finding the Shakespeare would be an entirely impossible task, because the universe would have to be nothing but paper and ink, the output from some monkey’s typewriter, radiating outwards forever.

Forever, infinite, endless.

Not really things that we’re built for. We can’t really comprehend, which is why we tend to leave them all in the hands of faith.

Merging with the infinite has always been my favourite death euphemism, if only because it is poetic but synonymous with ‘we don’t know’.

One of the best things about endings, and the reason they’re worth it, is that it is often hard to know what comes next. An ending makes space for a step into the unknown. Once you’re done with one thing, it can be time for another. When one thing dies, it can rot back into the world and feed the next.

An ending leaves a space. It leaves threads to pick up and carry on in something new.

Because endings aren’t often really endings. One of the flipside of the ‘everything changes’ way of worlding is that one thing has a tendency to become another. It’s not just space, its different energy.

In the same way that our bodies rot into the ground, so our lives, after ending, stretch out into the people we loved and left behind. There are always traces. Our impact multiplied by our love.

So all things end, but they don’t. Good things, in particular (I hope, optimistically) have a tendency to carry on anew. A space is filled by the consequences of an ending.

Good things, are largely like all things. They seem to end more often, but I think that’s just because we pay more attention. We notice the absence of the good more than the absence of the bad. It’s a weird form of optimism, that comes out cynical.

But all things, end, with no morality in sight. The universe simply won’t accept something staying the same forever.

This is the right way to be. We must be ready for endings, for without them, we’d be drowning.

Look forward to the ends, and to what comes after.

Enjoy what you’ve got while you have, because nothing is forever.

This isn’t sad, its just life.

And that’s the end of it.

Illustration by Lucy


Every Unstruck has a word limit of 500, and this is the 500th Unstruck. For now, Unstruck is going to end here, and some new things are going to begin, possibly in slightly different places. Keep an eye on and wait for something new to show up. There may be a short wait.

Right now, I just want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has taken part in this project. From a discussion in a pub with AK about laziness and creativity, Unstruck grew into a huge part of my life. It’s kept me creative through thick and thin for almost two and a half years. I’ve never really felt like Unstruck was mine though. It’s always been something I’ve piggybacked on.

Thank you from the bottom of my everything to everyone who has taken part. To the questioners who have woken me up every morning. To the illustrators who have made magic out of some fairly tedious prose.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Unstruck, you could do a lot worse than check out some of the links on the right hand side of the page. These are some fabulous artists, making beautiful things. If you need a ridiculous brief filled, I can heartily recommend them. If you need something beautiful, they can make it happen.

As for the questionauts? Their curiosity and support has fueled the whole thing. Sparks of ideas that turn into something else. That’s what this has all been about.

Creativity, collaboration, curiosity.

Thank you for reading, thank you for taking part, thank you for making something special with us.

And that really is the end of it.

Posted in Illustrations by Lucy, Questions by Colewelle | 1 Comment

If you could invent a new orifice, what would it do and where would you put it?

I’m guessing we’re talking bodies, if only because that’s more entertaining, and stops me from saying something hippy like ‘a hole in the ground that spews peace’.

Currently all my bodily orifices do pretty cool things. The input and output of food and waste are critical, and I’d be sad without sound, smell and taste. My belly button feels like a bit of a waste (though I managed to convince myself as a child that I was at risk of turning myself inside out if I picked at it hard enough; this meant it used to be an orifice that offered an unending supply of curiosity and fear, which is impressive).

I think my mouth has the most purposes, being a handy inlet for food, drink and air, whilst being an emergency outlet for stomach contents, a device for spitting and a vent for nonsense, squeaks, moans and such. And it lets air back out again, which is pretty fucking essential.

So how versatile can I make this orifice?

I don’t want it to be too versatile, particularly if it meant I could avoid involving faeces in it anywhere. I’m happy for that orifice to stay where it is. Doing its job as efficiently as it can manage.

I’ve just spent about an hour looking at camping stoves and such like, so I’m pretty enamoured with the idea of some kind of fire breathing orifice. I’d probably locate it on a teflon belly, so that I could cook dinner whilst lying down. Although perhaps a thigh with some kind of platter extension would be more practical.

Nothing comes out of feet, does it? Maybe flames there would enable me to live my biggest ever dream, that of the double jump (to jump and jump again in the air, the fantasy of anyone who has ever played on a computer).

I’d perhaps choose something a bit more impossible. The whole third eye thing looks aesthetically pleasing (symmetry) and an orifice for receiving and emitting ideas would be great (as long as it had some intensely complicated valve system; there’s a lot of thoughts I don’t want other people to hear, and probably more I wouldn’t want to hear myself).

I could be more profit oriented and just ask for a hole in my knee that sprays out gold, but (a) this would be messy (if bling) and (b) eventually my knee would devalue the price of gold, which could create another problematic instability in the world economy; nobody wants my knee to do that.

Honestly though, my favourite orifice remains the mouth for two reasons, and I think they’re the things I’d want a new orifice to do the most. Noise making, and feeling feeling.

All those nerves, all that flexibility, that flow of air and adaptability. Pressure and sensitivity and a full range of noises.

That’s what I want from an orifice.

So give me another, so that I can harmonise.

And put it somewhere convenient for sexing.

Illustration by Emma

Posted in Illustrations by Emma, Questions by Kier | 2 Comments

Do you think Chris Brown’s music should be judged solely on its own merits? (Regarding no star reviews for recent album because of brutality against Rihanna)

There’s a lot of issues at stake here, and its really hard to peel through all of them. Critical to everything are what you think about music, economics, justice and forgiveness.

Music is something transcendental. It has a magic that can’t be explained in purely human terms. It seems like something divine and separate from this world. (I’m not saying Chris Brown’s music is like this, I honestly don’t think I’ve heard it.) It seems cruel to judge a creation on the basis of its creator. Part of me wants music to stand free of politics and reality and just be allowed to be a dreamlike trip outwards.

But then, everything is political, and it is a terrible shame that music, one of our most powerful means of communication, is increasingly apolitical and escapist. I feel guilt about music, knowing that its basically an opiate that keeps me engaged in a cycle of consumption. That transcendence is fleeing.

Because the nature of our capitalism is that the music you love is co-opted into the economic system. It’s hard to listen to music without engaging with the economic system, and giving money to someone, often the recording artist. Your money (or your attention, in the page-view economy) motivates the artist and the industry, tells it what is okay and what isn’t.

And even if you don’t pay at all, your attention and commentary becomes an advert for the music.

If you’re judging a record for a magazine or site, you are advertising it. You are asking people to give money to the artist.

So there is an ethical decision to make there. Which artists are okay to advertise or give money to?

Chris Brown has been through a legal process, has made public apologies and claims to still be friends with a person he has abused. (He has also seemed much less repentant recently on twitter).

The question boils down to ‘is that enough’ and ‘do you really know the full story’.

Having done hideous things in the past, and knowing that I am sorry to the depths of my everything, and am trying to build a new life remembering the past, and stopping it from being the future; I want there to be a system of forgiveness. I want a way to move on

But there’s something scary about a celebrity abuser. There’s something about the example being set. I don’t trust Chris Brown, assume he’s manipulated the legal system, apologised only under the advice of his PR team.

It’s impossible to know the truth, and that makes it difficult. You end up judging the appearances of the situation, exposing yourself to your prejudices. I don’t trust the rich and commercial, so I assume he’s lied.

I assume he should be punished.

Our celebrities are humans, but we’ve written their mistakes so large on the wall that they are unforgettable. Does that make them unforgivable? What does that teach the world?

I really, truly don’t know.

Do you?

Illustration by Henry

Posted in Illustrations by Henry, Questions by Kier | Leave a comment

Can you imagine an Olympic event you could realistically compete for a medal in?

Writing prevaricative five hundred word essays in response to random questions?

And even then, on the only thing I’m well practiced in, it would very much depend on the judging criteria (I’d probably do better in a sprint than an artistically judged competition, for example).

Realistically, even that would be something that other people can probably do better. Actual elite level sport (like actual elite level anything) is something you have to have put so many hours into, that it’s unlikely there’s anything competitive that I’ve done the groundwork for. Perhaps lying in bed, delaying getting up? Maybe being horrifically hungover? I used to have a fair few hours of being intensely stoned experience under my belt, but I’m out of practice now.

There’s this Gladwell concept (presented in the book Outliers) that in order to become a ‘genius’ at anything, the only real requirement is to have done it for 10,000 hours. It is supposed to be inspiring, letting you know that all you actually need to do to get really, phenomenally good at something, is put in the practice. I suppose it is positive, but I just can’t help but think of how my attitude to life encourages me to potter about and do a few hours of random things here and there. Dedication is not me.

I don’t think its all it takes to actually get Olympian though. I think there’s slightly more than that to it. There’s physical weirdnesses that’s always going to be a factor. This probably means that some advantages are genetic, or at least that training has to commence (‘correctly’) from a very young age. This is more true of the deeply physical sports (gymnastics, swimming etc) than the more skill based ones (shooting, for example), but its definitely there as a thing.

To be perfect at these things, you can’t just practice, your body has to be right. Some of this can be done through training, but I’ll bet that a lot of it comes down to genetics. You have to have been randomly assigned the best body in the first place. Or at least the right body.

Look at these people. They are like machines with one purpose, bodies perfect, in a very specific way. It’s the marvel of the adaptable human body, but its also a combination of luck and training. We have sports schemes for finding the people with the unlikely genetics, and train and convince them that this weird, abstract competition is important enough to dedicate a life to.

I envy being that good at something, but I wouldn’t want to give over my life in that way. I don’t want to be obsessively dedicated to anything, really.

I complain (not an olympic sport) about my life feeling pointless, but in fact, I do still have the freedom to play at being lots of different things. I can still run, swim, dance and jump.

Not very well, but its still fun.

I’ll never be brilliant.

And that’s okay.

Illustration by Adam

Posted in Illustrations by Adam, Questions by Kier | Leave a comment

In making decisions, what weight should we give to the interests of future generations?

I’m kind of tempted to say all of it, but I’m not sure to what extent that helps with a practical decision making process. When I’m deciding which jumper to wear, its hard to quantify the impact it will have on future generations.

It’s a big fault with our society though, short termism. All of our power structures are built with too short goals in mind. Our corporations have to report quarterly, our politicians elected every four or five years, our pay packets come every month, it’s impossible to imagine christmas, let alone a time after christmas.

We start off by forgetting the impacts we have on people alive at the moment if they aren’t within eye line. It’s hard to recognise the economic weight of buying goods that have been imported, sometimes at great height, from the the other side of the world. There’s that example of bottled water, where if you actually include the transport and manufacture costs, the bottle may as well be quarter full of oil. Someone once told me that a kiwi fruit has cost its weight in carbon to get to you.

And that’s only environmental costs, abstracted away from the human costs. You just see cheap clothes, you don’t see the person who has made them, and you aren’t asked to imagine what they earn, or what their life is like.

So we don’t look at the current generation, how are we going to make people look at the future generations?

The fact is, if we were right minded about this, we’d always be working to be aware of the impact we have. Decision making needs to be made on a level where everyone who is impacted by a decision is involved in the process. This isn’t easy. The web of interactions across the world and the future are impossible to comprehend, but we need to find a way to make their weight felt.

In fact, the easiest way to do this, is to just strive towards low impact everything. Buy locally, from people you know. Don’t contribute economically to the making of ‘new things’. Try and bring as much of your infrastructure under your control as possible. Try to not leave a mark.

It’s idealistic, and probably impossible. To try and get everybody to adopt that posture would change the world fundamentally. Possibly in unpredictable ways. Without our global networks, how can we know our impacts? How can we plan to mitigate? How can we redistribute unequal wealth?

We’ve let pandora’s playthings out of the box, we can’t realistically put them back away.

But we need to think seriously, long and hard, about how we’re going to reconnect our impacts and our actions. We need to find a way of re-attaching the costs of what we do, to what we do.

We need to change the way we look at the world.

We need to find a way to see the future.

Not as a floating dream, but as something with weight.

Illustration by Jaime

Posted in Illustrations by Jaime, Questions by All Soul's General Paper | Leave a comment

Why is caffeine such a popular stimulant?

Legality? Tastiness?

Although it is another one of those addictive substances you have to learn to enjoy. I think it’s indicative of the capabilities of social mystique to sell something to us that people end up drinking booze and caffeine despite the fact that they taste like shit until you get used to them.

But it can happen with anything. Olives are the same, and as far as I know, they have no addictive, stimulating, depressing or mythical properties.

I did manage to teach myself to love them though.

Caffeine, in all its most popular forms, is as much an act of ritual as anything else. Much like dope smoking, it seems to be as much about making it, hunting down the good stuff, talking about it, and relishing it. You can pride yourself on your rituals. The process of processing the chemical is the whole point.

It harks back to older versions of our culture. Gathering around the kettle, ritual sequence of ingredients, the stirs and clatters of spoons. Perhaps you’re dedicated enough to use a teapot or cafetiere, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter; its your own ritual, you can treat it as sacredly as you like.

But I do believe it is in our lives as a remnant of something sacred. Some innate desire for ritual magick, left behind in the form of a reassuring cup of tea, or the first cup of coffee.

Yes, there is a chemical in these drinks that helps us wake up. But I don’t think its the chemical we care about (though we have to talk about it, legitimising our addictions and rituals). We need processes in our lives that give us structure.

In an emergency, nothing helps reassure a panicky heart more than a cup of tea. Is it the caffeine, or the ritual? The shoulders drop at the mention. The sound of the words is enough, and it is only reinforced by the thrum of the kettle, the rattle of the cutlery drawer, the rush of the water and the clang of the spoon.

Take this cup, and drink from it. Know that the world is in order.

But why caffeine? Why such a huge ritual and spectacle about caffeine? Surely anything would’ve done. It could’ve been literally anything?

I think we’re aware that there’s something oddly holy about taking things into our bodies. Smoking and drinking are the only ways of doing that we can always do. You’re never too full for a drink, in theory.

It’s cheap and easy to do together as well. From vats to teapots, the ritual can scale up or down. It’s less noisome than smoking, so it suits a wider range of people.

And you need that chemical element, that alchemical reaction. Something real at the heart of it. Some practical magic.

It’s popular because of tradition. Because of ritual. And because it is ingrained.

We learn, teach and construct these things constantly.

Go on, pop the kettle on.

Illustration by Helen

Posted in Illustrations by Helen, Questions by Karen | 2 Comments

What are the essential elements of a legal system?

The legal system is the shadowy underpinning of any large society. Even where the rule of law is absurd, reckless or disproportionate there are basic principles of civilisation that need something to stand on. If we could evolve to a point where law was unnecessary, I suspect we’d be in paradise. I don’t think it is likely to happen except by some kind of miraculous planet wide telepathy, which seems like a long shot.

Jurisprudence is the only thing that allows us to walk down the street and know we aren’t likely to get shot, or have our house stolen by our return. It allows us to spend our lives living, instead of defending ourselves and what we have. Sure, there’s a spirit of co-operation that reinforces that, but there is likely to be enough people who would take advantage if there was no threat of punishment.

The law is the reification of the social contract that keeps the world in order. Not least because people can feel confident enough that they are receiving the same sort of protection as anyone else (speaking idealistically).

This feels like far too cynical a standpoint for me to take, but I can’t get past it. Even utopian communities will have to deal with disagreements.

So if we accept that there needs to be some kind of defence of some sort of rights, then we need to work out what is needed.

It’s actually quite flexible, but I think constitutes three key ingredients that must be present. Without them you haven’t got a legal system. The three parts can be constituted in ways that in no way represent our legal system though.

I see the three as ‘law’, ‘judgement’ and ‘response’.

There has to be something that holds what is acceptable. Something that notes when something unacceptable has been done. There has to be something that responds to breaches of the acceptable.

Where I am, the ‘law’ is created by parliament, the ‘judgement’ is made by a system of courts, and the ‘response’ is custody, fines or community service.

All of that is flexible. In a more small scale system, they could all be combined, a whole community could get together when one person has a complaint, decide what is the right way to proceed and what to do about it. One institution (a group meeting) constitutes all three parts, or at least the deciding of what they are. This is worryingly pliable, and probably even more corruptible and manipulable than our present kyriarchy.

We need to rebuild our version though. We need to think about how we build our law, how we make our judgements and whether we understand the right way to respond.

I think our problem is that we aren’t willing to talk about what a legal system is for. Justice is a scary word to think about it, wrapping up desires for vengeance and fairness together as one. Retribution and rehabilitation aren’t necessarily compatible.

We need to think about justice.

Illustration by Emma

Posted in Illustrations by Emma, Questions by All Soul's General Paper | Leave a comment