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(a rambling attempt to explain 'grumpiness')

How does a person with a reasonable amount of intelligence make their way through life? Surely it is mostly in a selfish manner – their own needs considered before others? Isn’t this survival of the fittest at work here – survival per se – survival of the self? Are we then singular entities above all else? Friendships – relationships - only useful as a means to satisfy various self-conscious needs? They being ‘needs’ of sorts therefore of a self-serving nature? Do we then exist in a bubble of our own making, merely reaching out when the desire takes us, such an act being of an avaricious nature? Is it just the person depicted in this story who is constructed in this way, his calculated actions emanating from a central core of deep-rooted narcissism, with his own self-worth deemed of greater importance than all others? Or are we all of this sort and merely pretending to be otherwise?


Jack found nearly everything damn well annoying: the news was annoying, glaringly so – the TV was annoying (especially the adverts), glaringly so – people were annoying, glaringly so. Annoyance was Jack’s constant companion. It was a very long time since he was free of its nagging presence. But, of course, this made Jack annoying too – to those who crossed his path.


Jack was not an easy man to live with. The inflicted annoyance had a complete set of standards – a full and very well established range of reactions, beginning from slightly disgruntled to outright anger. Between the two a person would find their own actions being tabulated – graded as to how annoying they were against this thoroughly ingrained annoyance scale. Did Jack have a good side? A side of him that reacted in a positive manner? Well, yes, he did, but it very rarely showed and would only do so AFTER being found fit for purpose by passing the annoyance evaluation first. In other words – Jack was a man of strict observation and woe betide should a situation or person not reach his rather lofty ideals.

Day in, day out the same old crap made its sorry way across this disgruntled man’s path. Didn’t matter if the ‘crap’ was rather beguiling, of a sort that would appeal to a less troubled person – a smile being the usual outcome from the random meeting. Crap it was all the same to this man – beguiling or no. What made Jack so easily offended? What path had he trod that shaped him with such a negative mien? A good question I think. Let’s see if we can shine some light on this; but wait a moment, maybe we are asking the wrong question here? Coming at the apparent problem from the wrong angle? What if Jack is the good guy in all of this? Could it be what ails this man should be scrutinised – should be considered lacking – and Jack’s beady eye was attuned to the societal flaws, personal misdemeanours, lowly character traits all around him?

Society has changed – the news has changed along with it – visual forms of entertainment have changed – music has changed come to that – everything has changed and in a short space of time. Jack might well be a bit of a dinosaur in regard to it all. I think everyone would agree that certain standards have taken a downward plunge, including educational standards to boot. Could it be Jack would have felt far more at home in a different era, when everything seemed to make sense? A seemingly innocuous word ‘sense’ though. Why? Because it infers stability – a common purpose – a shared purpose; but for anything to be sensible it has to be based on a set of specifications – apparently sensible ones. But here is the crux of the matter – it is far easier to assign the term ‘sensible’ to uncomplicated matters – and worryingly, ignorance also helps accredit such a label. To ‘bury your head in the sand’ is an idiom that explains this approach – as does ‘ignorance is bliss’. Could it be that Jack was simply well-informed and his deductions were bothering him on a daily basis?

I am not sure about this? Some of Jack’s behaviour might well be caused by his ‘knowledge’ of everyday vagaries – be they political or personable, but it is hardly a get out clause from civilised interaction – an excuse to bully at times. No, we are only skirting on the surface here. What are we really dealing with? But, should you look back in time – or pay attention to various people and bodies of today – there have been and are many such people as Jack. He is far from being alone in this. And we are not really dealing with something that can be considered of male exclusivity either as there are plenty of women who display the same resolve and unflagging, steely determination. What is it then? Where does the obstinance come from? Are we seeing an outward projection of Jack’s inner being, so strong as to be untamable by himself or by any other? Civilised discourse only taking place when Jack’s temper is held in check by an effort of will? Reminds me of Samurai’s of Japan’s illustrious past. Honour, hard training, intensity of being requirements of their chosen profession. Easily upset by all accounts – dangerously so. Aspects of this life could be applied to Jack maybe but certainly not the whole. We are questioning Jack’s character – which is only right and proper, but still, I don’t think we are on the right path as of yet.


Jack or Jill – does it make any difference? Well, it might. Are men far more prone to becoming grumpy over time? Could be down to biology then? Is grumpiness similar to lashing out physically? Not all men become so though do they, but then again not all men have the same drives. Some are complete polar opposites – they think and act totally different from each other. I know this essay come story is becoming focused on men but how can I speak for women when I am not one of this exalted type – this gender? So expect everything from here on in to be of the male prerogative in the main – but not fully so. We could be talking about a universal attitude as opposed to something related to anyone or any person in particular – applicable to male and female alike. We have yet to figure it out. Still early days by my reckoning. Let’s take up this ‘biological’ slant then. Biological in what sense? As grumpiness isn’t a universal condition it is difficult to make the connection to everyone, but maybe the way Jack uses his body could be indicative of what is going on in his brain. We might have something to go on here as Jack is a bit of a fitness fanatic – a runner – something that calls for immense discipline at times. Interesting – a bond between male and female – a shared pastime is emerging here. You can only go so far with this though as most runners are not grumpy now are they. Nope, another dead-end maybe – or is it? Let's take the matter a little further …

Discipline? The word has crossed my mind a few times whilst writing this. Was Jack a disciplinarian underneath it all, capable of being a despot – a tyrant - if taken to extremes? The label of ‘control freak’ has been in the air on a number of occasions and spoken by one very discerning person in particular. Kind of makes sense to me. If a person doggedly follows something he or she considers of great importance then they are displaying self-discipline. The more rigid the doggedness the more self-discipline is called for. Are then all achievers of this sort? Finally there is some light shining on proceedings – my thought processes – this essay. How often have we heard that the greatest achievers of these times and times past have anti-social tendencies – are either sociopaths or psychopaths? Driven people with not the best social skills? Is then ‘grumpiness’, as evinced by Jack, because he expects others to display the same traits as himself? Becoming aggrieved when they don’t follow suit? Definitely elements of ‘control freak’ here, being heavily connected to self-discipline, both of which can be laid at Jack’s door. He might not be a psychopath but could well share certain aspects of their behaviour. Perhaps all driven people share the same? Are all those involved in sports psychos then – or maybe just those who excel in their chosen sporting activity? Pretty sure there is something in this as I can think of a number of sportsmen who have very short tempers. So we have self-discipline being a major feature of Jack’s make-up – maybe of all those who push themselves in a like manner. Sure as heck doesn’t account for grumpiness by and of itself. Let’s stick to Jack for now though.

I feel we have made some headway here. Discipline is invariably linked to the unraveling of the conundrum we have set ourselves – the origin of grumpiness as demonstrated by the illustrious Jack. ‘Illustrious’ might not be too lofty a title either as Jack is of interest to others – to myself anyway, so he must therefore be somewhat remarkable – if only slightly.

I seem to paint the picture that Jack is always grumpy – always weighed down with a sore head. Nah, this isn’t the case at all. Why would he judge the natural world in a like manner when it contains only that which belongs in it – the birds and the bees and the sycamore trees? No, they escape judgement. In fact they apply oil on trouble waters so to speak – a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. So then, Jack is only judgmental when it pertains to the worldly endeavours of others in the wider sense or of those who occupy the same space – within his own territory, being intruders as it were. Jack is very much his own man then – a man greatly set in his ways – transfixed you could say – or at least of strong intentions. Ah, another word has reared its head out of the blue – ‘strong’, it being representative of ‘strength’. What do we have here then – a man of moral fibre – of stalwart conviction – someone to depend on when the going gets rough? All of a sudden Jack has gone from a grumpy so and so to one concealing an hero status. I think we have to rein in this unexpected veneration a little as I feel we are getting carried away by all accounts. But, even so, there could be some truth in the matter. Only way to find out is to continue on in the same exploratory fashion - or you could say - in the same grasping at straws fashion instead.

Time out is called for I think - a recap. Jack is grumpy - OK, fair enough; Jack is disciplined at times - when it suits him to be so; Jack shows some mettle - when in the mood. ‘Mood’, a big word this one. Jack is invariably moody. Does this not share some allegiance with being selfish – even childish? Not looking good for Jack at this point as we now have moody, selfish and childish to contend with. His revered status is beginning to look a bit bruised and battered at this point. This is quite a puzzle to solve. I thought I would have had this wrapped up by now but we (‘I’- ‘we’ is fluctuating I know, but I feel the need to reach out at times) have hardly made a dent in regard to it all. The great unveiling is a long ways off it seems.

One thing is for sure – there is a lot going on in the head of Jack. What could it be? What gives him the right to pass judgement on anyone – anything? Who the hell does he think he is? To pass judgement means whatever you are appraising has to live up to expectations – expectations as formed and laid down by the law of the land – in this case the self-appointed Jack – considering himself Judge and Jury all wrapped up in one. Mmm – we have conceit here too. Blimey, Jack is a bit of a fruitcake in more ways than one – but then again, humans are not exactly straightforward organisms – they are complex, each and everyone of them. Jack is merely an imagined representative of an implied quality – an offshoot of the human conditions we all experience – and we are not attempting to explain all the conditions that afflict man either, just the grumpiness side of things. Thank goodness for that is all I can say as even this has far more connotations than at first thought.

Grumpiness cannot be something to aspire to. If I make Jack out to be ‘Mr Hero Jack’ what then am I saying – that being grumpy is an attractive personality trait? No, that can’t be right. I am beginning to doubt my own reasoning here. Have I the mental agility – ability – the wherewithal – sufficient knowledge to get to grips with the brain-teaser this fairly unremarkable man poses for me? Or is Jack far from being an ‘unremarkable man’ and is in fact a very remarkable indeed? His complexity is the crux of the issue here. As I attempt to peel back a layer or two I am finding there are many more layers underneath. I could very well be just scratching the surface of Jack’s multilayered personality! I hope not as I feel I can only probe so far without exhaustion bringing a halt to proceedings – or a bad head might ensue causing the same. I am beginning to feel like Jack needs a bash over his own head so as to be done with it. Who likes and needs a grumpy t**t around anyway? No, I can’t do that. Too abrupt an ending. I am going to dig deeper – as deep as required to clear-up this enigma – this Jack! On we go then …

Hang on a minute. Hold your horses. Could I be concentrating far too much on Jack? Grumpiness is a two way street isn’t it. How can someone be grumpy unless something or someone has upset their equilibrium – invaded their peaceful repose? Ah, we might very well have something here. Jack could be blameless! I don’t think I will hold my breath with this line of reasoning though as I think Jack will prove a fair bit of the blame does indeed lie at his feet. But, let’s run with this idea for a while. What about these violent mental prods and probes Jack seems to take a dislike to? Is he justified in being thrown off-kilter? Again, this isn’t an easy one to establish – the point of reference doesn’t really exist as Jack’s dislikes are multiple – various – of many sorts and types. Damn it, I really thought we had something there for a while, but the vagueness is off-putting. I wouldn’t know where to start. Nah, this mystery begins with Jack and will end with Jack. One way or another we have to unravel - or construct - this man’s psychological profile, or at least one or two of his obvious idiosyncrasies, so as to investigate the matter further. We are stuck with this man and this man alone – the buck stops here, with Jack. By doing so we should fully understand Jack and the grumpiness phenomena eventually – they being one and the same as far as this soliloquy is concerned.

Let’s face it some people ARE damn well annoying. Their actions are annoying. The words that come out of their mouths are annoying. Lots of the ‘stuff’ that annoys Jack also annoys other too. Some people are bloody inconsiderate, living in their own closed off world where they pay scant attention to any other person’s needs. This is the age of great technological breakthroughs after-all, where people cannot bear to be apart from their mobile phones for even a second. They live for likes – for smilies – for acceptance from a world inhabited by the all important text-message, soundbite or pixel - the built-in anonymity allowing them free rein to be whomever they wish to be at the expense of their own personal development – their actions to others in the real world of little interest to them - probably not one jot. Some are completely void of any social skills as a result – or chose to ignore them altogether by simply turning up the volume of their headphones. The ‘real world’ to such people is an imposition if anything – a drudgery only necessary so they can spend more time in their online made-up substitute lives. You see it on a daily basis – as did Jack when running – where people keep their eye’s down so as to avoid any eye-contact and where a friendly greeting might as well have been spoken to a brick wall as such a person is out of tune with what is going on all around them – maybe even devoid of any interest in it and choosing to blank it all off instead. They say cities are the most loneliest of places, where people literally see nothing or hear nothing beyond their own sphere of influence. For those who can’t get to grips with technology or who purposely avoid it even the suburbs could become an isolated existence – a lonely place to be. At least grumpiness is a reaction of sorts – an indication the person doing the annoying actually exists.


Loneliness? Another word to consider. ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’, is a perplexing and somewhat annoying thought-provoker. Well then, if Jack is left to his own devices – as in left well alone – does he create noise out of thin air just to satisfy his cravings? How can you be annoyed if there is nothing to be annoyed at? Is Jack an annoyance junky then? A person who goes out of their way to create an atmosphere where any slight break in protocol is rewarded with an associated adrenalin rush? There are aspects of being a ‘control freak’ here – very much so. A person would have to watch their every move – to tread on eggshells from the time they got up until the time they went to bed should they live under the same roof. We are really talking about consideration here, but with an ugly twist, in that consideration has become of such severity it has become alarmingly oppressive – consider my needs or else! Jack’s view of the world is questionable too. Does he only search for online conflict as opposed to harmony in the world – seeking out the controversial and reveling in the discord such exploration unearths – gloating in it you could say? In other words, Jack’s needs are such that the feelings he associates with being annoyed are pleasurable to him, if this supposition is in any way correct. Jack could well be one very twisted individual then. Worrying.

What then of this ‘other person’ I have alluded to? How do they cope in this rather brutal existence? A good point to raise. Depends on their footing doesn’t it – their confidence – their circumstances in relation to this self-appointed ruler. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is a modern saying in regard to online bullies, meaning to do so just encourages them – emboldens them. In other words to stand up to Jack is probably the only way to reverse the situation – to lessen his dominance. Easier said than done though. A person with a less aggressive personality would be out of their comfort zone even thinking in such terms in the first place – simply hating confrontation. There is talk such people actively seek a dominant partner to make up for their own short-comings, it being a subconscious calling, effectively handing over the reins to the dominant one so as not to think for themselves – preferring to do as they are told. If this is the case Jack’s annoyance could become quite an issue, which is a frightening prospect. What level of enforcing would satisfy Jack if one thing led to another? We are talking domestic violence here and is undoubtedly the cause of many a disturbance - the male being far too used to getting his own way – or vice versa. A simple thing as being grumpy has led us here – to physical violence in a future troubled scenario – the ripple effect. What have we taken on? This is becoming quite scary!


In this instance I think we are maligning Jack to some extent – going overboard as to the levels of annoyance he suffers from and of his reactions to it. Jack, you see, is aware of his annoyance. No, he doesn’t like feeling annoyed at all. He would much rather not suffer from its associated feelings; but, even so, such feelings are definitely difficult to control with their response being so primal – so instinctive. For instance, I am writing this story and Edie comes along and attempts to sit on my lap (a cat of some character) when I am battling some thought process, and poof, the thought is interrupted and gone. Surely I am bound to feel a little aggrieved here? I try my damnest never to take out my frustration on animals but a certain amount of being ‘p******d off’ should be acceptable in this situation. Only natural I suppose – well, it is, isn’t it. Same goes for Jack’s online searches – they unearth aspects of people’s behaviour he thinks are highly problematical – suspicious, even hard to believe. The world is undergoing troubles of a sort that warrants a great deal of inspection – the likes of which leads to introspection at times as Jack’s findings makes him question the very make-up of human beings - their sinister drives or devious motives being only too well apparent, including, in all likelihood, his own. Sometimes his annoyance is turned inwards with the realisation he is very much a part of the problem being a member of the human race himself, just like any other. See, there is far more to Jack than I have let on until now. Maybe it is time to show who this man is in his true light. His annoyance could be forgivable – up to a point anyway. It could well be this man’s grievances are justified, with the instigators of his troubles being the ones to blame – the wrongdoers as he sees them. Which leads me to another thought – one this time related to martial arts – you should always keep your cool …


‘If you feed the trolls they become all the more lively’, as mentioned above. This has been proven and seen to be by many who have attempted to play along with their online games and antics. Therefore, Jack, by indulging in his moods – his quarrelsome ways – his feared rantings and ravings, is doing exactly the same thing and making his behaviour all the worse for it. Well then, Jack has no-one to blame than himself in so far as his constant gloominess is concerned. Everyone has an episode of madness now and then – a change of character – a sudden rush of blood out of the blue. This is part of our nature – our make-up and is there for a reason. You can’t subdue all of your instincts else you would appear to be some sort of a robot to others. Emotions and our reactions to them are part and parcel of being human – the human condition. There is a world of difference between an occasional flare-up and being a constant grouch though. What about this link to ‘martial arts’ then? Could elements of this ancient practice, rooted in self-discipline, provide a key to calming Jack’s troubled waters?


Having tried my hand at some martial arts (many years ago) – Karate – the connection to ‘self-discipline’ mentioned above is somewhat misleading. It very much depends on what you are taught and by whom. For one thing you stand to become extremely fit, capable of causing a lot of damage to someone in a blink of an eye. If the person teaching a student this deadly skill is a bit of a headcase him or herself you could be pouring fuel on an already burning fire should the student be predisposed to violence in the first place – the fierce become all the more fierce owing to the concentration of effort on the brutal. So, no, I wouldn’t advise anyone to think martial arts will somehow or other cure an unruly person, unless the instructor (Sensai), teaches boundaries – some prefer to call this ‘spiritual development’ – or some such. But the point I am attempting to make here isn’t so much to do with the teaching or learning of the art itself but the belief that anger is your own personal enemy when it comes to combat. Bruce Lee was forever going on about this very point. One very famous saying of his was this one …

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”


From the above we can infer that becoming assertive then is the enemy of combat – it makes you vulnerable. Muhammad Ali used this to great effect. A maddened enemy forgets their training – their tactics – their mind. A ‘berserker’ was and is one such person who in times long gone was thought of as being a deadly foe for the simple reason they fought without any thought of self-defense – all out for as long as they could keep going – completely lost in their anger, hence the berserk title. There is a big difference between a skilled berserker and a mad man though. The mad man with little training leaves themselves wide open to a calculating adversary – as Muhammed Ali was. He would goad them before and during the fight. The defeat of George Foreman was a perfect example of this. George lost his mind and bashed lumps out of Muhammad Ali until he became exhausted and therefore highly vulnerable. Muhammad Ali protected himself during this onslaught to then step in and finish him off when George began to flag – the ‘rope-a-dope’ technique. What then is the relation to the art of combat and Jack? Quite simple really – Jack’s deductions were being coloured by his anger, which, because of the unreasonable quality of anger, were probably very wrong as a result, which is the one thing Jack hated above all else. A man who coverts the truth needs to remain objective at all times. Anger – grumpiness – is subjective – which is the antitheses of truth itself. In other words, Jack wasn’t doing himself any favours at all by his holier than thou attitude.


Isn’t this the fault with the world at large now though, where acrimony decides most political responses? Amicable discussions seem to be far and few between in this day and age. Republicans VS Democrats – Tories VS Labour. Can any of them sit down and discuss things in a grown-up manner? Showing some bias here no-doubt, but those on the left (Democrats and Labour) seem to have a massive chip on their shoulder to such an extent they would vote against some proposal just for the sake of it – to ‘stir the s***’. It is quite ugly to behold. Has it always been like this? I wouldn’t have thought so. Somewhere along the line intolerance has become a virtue many now aspire to. Surely an intelligent person reflects on periods of madness – of becoming too involved – becoming too heated – becoming too out of control – as being counterproductive; where reflection, or increased learning, brings regret to the fore? Where is wisdom in all of this? The wise always look for more than one solution to a problem – to strive to see both sides to an argument. And here we are thinking the ‘old’ are nothing but a burden on society, where the young are supposed to be the seasoned, knowledgeable thinkers of the day. How crazy is that? How wrong is that? There could be more to this than at first appears though. I kind of mentioned this in a previous paragraph in that we are not all the same are we. Some are born level-headed from the get-go, never experiencing the emotive highs and lows others are constantly having to contend with. Neglecting Jack a bit here though. In what way is this line of reasoning anything to do with his plight? Kinda like this: self-discipline was mentioned early on as being an attribute of Jack owing to his love of running, but we now have a rather startling contradiction on our hands: Jack has trouble reining in his temper, which in itself is a lack of discipline. Seems there is more than one form of self-discipline then. Jack only appears to display the one whereas he would greatly benefit from this other version too – this more outwardly friendly version - the 'wise' version, but then again, wouldn’t we all – all of us of a like mind?

I could go on and on about this subject. No end to it all. I have painted a picture of Jack as a bull-headed sort of a person, but no, Jack is well aware of his shortcomings in regard to his lack of tolerance at times; but what he lacks in self restraint he makes up for in self analyses, being the type of person who questions everything under the sun, including his own state of mind at times. In other words we shall have to leave it to Jack himself to elicit his own grumpy antidote. Being grumpy is just one of a myriad of human emotions. There are so many others that can work to counteract those of a negative type – empathy being one of them. OK, he isn’t blessed with the best empathy skills, but at least they are evident – he does try to see the other side of the situation or argument. Some cannot and go through life being pig-headed, obtuse, annoying for the rest of the lives, sometimes inflicting lasting mental anguish on others along the way. No-one should put up with being bullied. A person who is continuously grumpy should be considered an outcast – just not worth bothering with. You either give them as good as you get – or worse – or you leave them to their own devices – let them rot in a way. They either come around and learn from the experience or they remain as is – a complete waste of time. Jack? He should be fine. Pretty sure a compromise will be worked out so as he won’t feel so agitated at times – and neither will his partner.

Jack might not be the most understanding of people. He might not have very many endearing qualities, but the one he does have, and it is one that he uses to great effect, is a constant desire to be accurate in his appraisals, to see all sides to an argument – to endeavour to get at the facts be they however hidden from view. In other words Jack’s own innate drive – his soul-searching – will settle the matter eventually. We could all learn a thing or two from grumpy Jack as you are undoubtedly being given a little insight into evolution at work, be it only on an intimate level. Wisdom is knocking on Jack’s door. Will he open the door and let it in? He should in time. Others though, those so afflicted in a like manner, are seemingly closed off entirely. There is no door to speak of, or it is covered in padlocks. Wisdom will not find a welcome within such heavily armoured confines. Isn’t this then why the world is in such a mess?  But it not really Jack's fault now is it ...

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