Nina Snedden: Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy or Goblin?

Flashing the words ‘Flower Boy’ on screens behind him, the artist, Tyler, the Creator appears determined to embody this title. Dressed in a pair of yellow shorts, a blue printed shirt and neon pink cap, he seems to be blooming; his goofy allure evident from the boldness of his choice of attire. There is a certain warmth which radiates from the strength of his presence: zany, eccentric and unpredictable. Lounging across his vibrant stage set, with its certain dream-like quality, Tyler offers refuge from the band of drugged-up, monotonous mumble rappers which headlined Longitude 2018. The screens go black. A cluster of rainbow lights pulsate before an idyllic scene appears; a light blue sky, flecked with the palest of candy pink clouds, an assortment of large and assertive trees and him. A single flower.

Hardly the archetypal criminal… yet in the summer of 2015, whilst attempting to enter the UK for a run of festival performances, despite being in the country just 7 weeks earlier, Tyler was turned away at the border and banned from Britain for 3 to 5 years by then-Home Secretary, Theresa May. Government documents specifically cite lyrics from five songs – ‘Tron Cat’, ‘Blow’, ‘VCR’, ‘Sarah’ and ‘French’ – from Tyler’s first two projects and explain that he was banned under the terms of Home Office policy on ‘behaviours unacceptable in the UK’ – a set of guidelines formed in 2005 to try to prevent suspected terrorists from entering Britain. Tyler is said to have been banned for ‘unacceptable behaviour by making statements that foster hatred, which might lead to inter community violence in the UK’, with his albums B******, in 2009, and Goblin, in 2011, labelled in documentation justifying the ban as ‘based on the premise of adopting a mentally unstable alter ego who describes violent physical abuse, rape and murder in graphic terms which appears to glamorise this behaviour’ and seeming to encourage ‘violence and intolerance of homosexuality’. This wasn’t the first time Tyler has had trouble entering a country. In 2014, he was banned from New Zealand for posing a ‘threat to the public order and the public interest’, and in early 2015 he became the subject of a large public campaign by Australian feminist group ‘Collective Shout’, who referenced early song lyrics in an effort to ban him from entering the country, leading to Tyler’s Australian tour being derailed. Is there any truth to the claims of the supposed ‘threat’ which Tyler poses? How can two such contrasting images of the same artist co-exist?

In an interview with The Guardian in September 2015, Tyler himself admitted that much of the work in question was written when he was ‘super-young’ when ‘no one was listening’. It is undoubtedly true that Goblin, and perhaps even more so B****** (Tyler’s first mixtape), upon first listen appear a nauseating stream of gore and horror, created for the sole purpose of shocking the audience. Songs like ‘Sarah’, ‘French’ and ‘VCR/Wheels’, diabolically twisted and loaded with graphic violent references and homophobic slurs – even 10 years after their release – still don’t sit quite right with me. However, it is important to note that these two projects form part of a trilogy. The third project in Tyler’s trilogy, ‘Wolf’, is the key to understanding his early releases. A far more mature Tyler, ever the ‘walking paradox’, grapples with deeply rooted psychological problems on ‘Wolf’ set to smooth dreamy simple beats. On ‘Answer’, Tyler appears more vulnerable than ever before, addressing his estranged father and bragging about all he’s achieved without him, whilst still praying that if he ever calls his father answers. Tyler also explores the loss of his grandmother, rapping on ‘Cowboy’, ‘ain’t been this sick since brain cancer ate my granny up’, before battling issues with fame and wealth on ‘Colossus’ and ‘Cowboy’ when he raps ‘You’d think all this money would make a happy me, but I’m ‘bout as lonely as crackers that supermodels eat.’ On the penultimate track of the album, ‘Lone’, the storylines of B******, Goblin and Wolf finally come together in a therapy session, with alter ego Dr TC asking ‘So, what’s going on, Wolf? Talk to me, man…what’s on your mind?’ It then becomes clear that the graphic violent images portrayed on Tyler’s earlier projects, through the medium of alter egos, have originated from a mentally unstable mind, whilst talking to a therapist. In the video for ‘Sam (is dead)’, we see Tyler shooting himself three times, leaving three dead Tylers on the floor, representing the death of his alter egos, Ace, Tron Cat and Wolf Haley. The track title also suggests Tyler has already killed the alter ego, Sam. In this way, Tyler’s complex concept album, Wolf, explains the inner turmoil which prompted the creation of such dark alter egos on B****** and Goblin, transforming Tyler from villainous brute to misunderstood misfit; whilst the track ‘Sam (is dead)’ shows Tyler maturing and killing off his dark thoughts to allow for his future brighter albums, Cherry Bomb and Flower Boy, on which Tyler eventually transcends his darkness to emerge into the light by coming out as gay. It is clear that this beautiful, intricately constructed exploration of the complexities of the human condition was lost upon Theresa May, and many other detached listeners, as Tyler seems to reflect on the track ‘Glitter’ on his most recent album, which ends ‘we didn’t get your message, either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection.’

This sort of investigation into our humanity is a commonplace of literature and film, recurrent throughout history, so why is it that when this same topic is approached by a rapper it is immediately attacked? Although not a traditional medium, rap is still a means of expression and art, communicating to a whole new generation; an art form judged by Theresa May, based purely upon presumption and ignorance. Rap is a genre with a long history of positive influence – from the anti-drug message broadcast to millions of youths on ‘Say No Go’ by De La Soul, to the reality of inner-city poverty and crime revealed in ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash – and an even greater potential for influencing the youth of today. Yet it has long been cloaked in the negative guise of a testosterone fuelled bombast by those who do not listen to, or understand, or wish to understand the sentiments expressed in the music. If Tyler’s same concepts had been expressed through the medium of opera, traditionally perceived to be a far more ‘intellectual’ form, would he have been attacked with such fervour? Or would he have been attacked at all? ‘The Rape of Lucretia’, an opera by Benjamin Britten, in which the voice of ‘Sextus Tarquinius’, a rapist, is adopted was not only not banned, but was in fact met with praise from critics. Surely this proves the deeply unjust and snobbish mistreatment of Tyler, and more broadly of rap as an art form. Art should be provocative and controversial. It is a means of pushing boundaries and re-defining societal norms. Why should this responsibility be reserved solely for orthodox mediums? Tyler himself queried ‘Why don’t they ban authors? Writers who write these mystery books about people getting raped and sabotaged and murdered and brainwashed – why don’t they ban them?’ Marquis de Sade’s books, notorious for their misogyny, sadism and gruesome details, are still widely available for consumers. Yet Tyler was detained for a piece of art, a dissection of human nature. It is undoubtedly wrong to restrain an artist’s expression in this manner. Tyler himself reflects this, stating ‘Now freedom of art and speech are at hand.’ In our current political climate, surely there are larger threats to British peace than a young artist’s means of self-expression, discovery and acceptance?

There is a particular, inane irony that it should have been Theresa May who made this ‘moral judgement’ on behalf of the country. This is a woman who, since becoming Prime Minister, has cowered to the will of Donald Trump, proclaiming her faith in her ‘special relationship’ with a man who actively facilitates hate. If May’s desire to protect LGBTQ rights is so strong, why is it that she prances about with Trump, whose transgender military ban does anything but offer support for the community? The implications of Tyler’s homophobia appear even more comical following his own ‘coming-out’, made explicit on his recent album Flower Boy. Yet, even prior to this, these accusations were largely nonsensical, clearly coming from a place of blatant ignorance. OFWGKTA, a hip-hop collective founded in 2007 by Tyler, himself, boasts notable LGBTQ alumni, Frank Ocean and Syd, with whom Tyler has repeatedly collaborated closely and undoubtedly regards as close friends. The profound hypocrisy of Theresa May’s stance becomes clear given the fact that her own past concerning LGBTQ issues is partially marred with murk. In 2010, May’s first act as Home Secretary was to ensure that public bodies did not have to actively try to reduce inequality. Whilst just last year, May hosted Ugandan MP, Jovah Kamateeka, who hopes to pass an anti-homosexuality law in Uganda which would introduce life-long imprisonment for gay and lesbian couples. Tyler, based on deliberately provocative acts of rebellion and artistic expression from his teenage years, which, unlike those of most teens, were lived under the microscope of the media, has been identified, targeted and morphed by May into a scapegoat for societal evils which he does not, and has not ever represented. May’s eagerness to seize the opportunity to vilify a young black gay artist, who is in fact blooming into an ironic gay icon for this generation, may be evidence of her ongoing, innate discomfort with the LGBTQ community.

May’s chequered past with LGBTQ issues – voting in 1998 against the reduction of the age of consent for homosexual acts from eighteen to sixteen to bring equality to the law affecting heterosexual and homosexual acts, voting against a Bill allowing gay couples to adopt in 2002 and remaining absent from four votes on the Gender Recognition Bill in 2004, before finally voting to introduce Civil Partnerships for LGBT couples in 2004 – suggests her act was a means of disguising her past disapproval of homosexuality. With the drastic evolution of May’s own stance, her decision to deprive an artist, who carries the possibility of creating a massive positive influence upon the youth of today, from the opportunity of sharing his own evolution with the public, is baffling. Was this evolution simply a convenient mask which May wore to fit in with David Cameron’s more ‘inclusive’ brand of Conservatism? Was her ban an act of good will or merely a quest for a tangible villain? May’s actions seem likely to have been a means of ‘proving’ her progressive thinking on LGBTQ issues to the world by banning someone who seemed to be attacking the community; an act which she undertook without bothering to take into account the whole truth behind Tyler’s body of work, and an act which, in fact, ironically ended in attacking a member of the LGBTQ community.

Was the decision to ban Tyler from the UK ultimately a reflection of an ultra-sensitive, overly-prescribed society, in which influential people keen to be seen to be doing the ‘right thing’ act on knee-jerk reactions and superficial interpretations rather than really listening to what ‘provocative’ artists are trying to say? Tyler conveys this himself, explaining, ‘It’s like the world is scared of everything. I feel like everyone is so sensitive to everything, and if they don’t like something it’s like: Oh my God, I don’t like the colour yellow – let’s get yellow banned from every country, let’s sign a petition – let’s start a hashtag to make sure this colour is never seen, because I don’t like it and I don’t understand it.’ And this is what Tyler wants to do – paint the world yellow, inspire and excite fans. From the nauseating darkness of his Goblin days, to the brightness and optimism of Flower Boy, his evolution is a potent one, reflecting the reality of the vagaries of life, and the struggle with acceptance of one’s sexuality. Who would’ve thought that the obscenity-filled works of B****** and Goblin would plant the seeds for Flower Boy to grow? Whether it be telling ‘black kids they can be who they are’ on ‘Where This Flower Blooms’ or supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement on ‘Foreword’, Tyler truly has bloomed into a role model for his fans.

2127 Words

Bibliography: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/opinion/the-power-of-repurposing-a-slur.html https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/11/09/the-n-word-an-entrenched-racial-slur-now-more-prevalent-than-ever/?utm_term=.98af2b9a0201 https://aeon.co/essays/where-does-swearing-get-its-power-and-how-should-we-use-it https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/sep/01/tyler-the-creator-comments-banned-uk-freedom-of-speech https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/d3k49y/free-tyler-the-creator-and-reject-theresa-mays-dumb-logic https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/1554954/tyler-the-creator-wolf-track-by-track-review https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/11539/why-theresa-may-s-draconian-ban-tyler-creator-entering-uk-must-be-overturned http://aldianews.com/articles/politics/national/it-increasingly-difficult-overlook-trumps-misogyny/54095 https://www.advocate.com/politics/2017/11/09/trumps-14-most-egregiously-homophobic-and-transphobic-moves https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/welcomed-to-no-10-the-ugandan-mp-who-wants-gay-people-jailed-for-life-mm6ck7hq5 https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/tyler-the-creator-flower-boy/ https://pitchfork.com/artists/29179-tyler-the-creator/ https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/17805-tyler-the-creator-wolf/ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jul/21/tyler-the-creator-flower-boy-review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlLqB2lxii4 https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/69wjvv/the-truth-behind-tyler-the-creators-wolf-trilogy https://genius.com/Grandmaster-flash-and-the-furious-five-the-message-lyrics https://www.ft.com/content/0ba1a79e-2c02-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/aug/07/the-get-down-baz-luhrmann-grandmaster-flash-hip-hop https://www.songfacts.com/facts/de-la-soul/say-no-go

Louisa Fenney: Christ

Crown of thorns, bated breath, ragged pulse.

Crown of thorns, bated breath, flowing red.

Should the dial be reversed by command of the sun,

Should it be held high upon the horizon,

thundering would be all that was heard,

The thundering of a whip,

The crack so distinct, so jarring against his flesh

Flesh, which was the very same to be prophesied,

Flesh that was bound to be sacred and chaste.

Now, it holds no such promise,

Now, eyes remain clouded

Now, cheeks are wet

Mutters escape the lips of those who watch,

Mockingly some stare, they snarl and yap like wild wolves as they feast their eyes upon their bloodied meal

His hands fastened with iron

His ravaged limbs twitch beneath the heat of the sky

‘ Christ, what did you die for? ‘

One beast howls from the pack,

Heads snap,

Tongues are held,

Pulses shudder.

They await their answer,

They expect an up rise, They crave the signal from their wretched messiah.

Madalena Loughlin-Gomes: The Real Death Cure?

Transhumanism: a not-so-new new-wave global movement describing itself as ‘a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form, by means of science and technology.’ This belief, which first made headlines in the 1990s, has steadily gained support ever since, and while I was initially highly sceptical, there is no doubt that those pushing the theory are on to something commercially and, just possibly, philosophically too. This is a world that I regarded as belonging to some distant future with flying cars and teleportation, but a quick Google search revealed whole businesses, bitcoin economies and ways of life revolving around the belief that humans really can – and ought to – live forever. Yet, does the vast scale of this movement make it morally correct? What justification is there for obtaining immortality other than selfishness?

What first caught my eye from the plethora of transhumanist organisations was a cryopreservation institute: ALCOR Life Extension Foundation. With just 40 years since its foundation and fewer than a dozen full-time employees, ALCOR made over $2 million in revenue in 2017 alone, making them the leading cryonics institute globally, and their CEO and transhumanist activist, Max More, a millionaire. So, what exactly is this multi-million-dollar enterprise? Cryopreservation is essentially the preservation in liquid nitrogen of people who would otherwise die due to the limitations of today’s medicine. I was quickly dragged down the rabbit hole of ALCOR’s online world of sci-fi-like inventions and possibilities. There were webpages covering areas from case-studies and cryopreservation demonstrations, to an FAQ section for ‘bio-luddites’ (non-believers in the transhumanist world).

I remember tentatively clicking on the ‘cryopreservation process’ page and being surprised to find out that it involved no freezing whatsoever, rather the replacement of blood with a solution to stop cells from bursting at sub-zero temperatures. I was more disturbed however, by the discovery that when critically ill patients are close to de-animation (i.e. death – transhumanists only refer to death in quotation marks and with a high degree of scepticism; as death loses its omnipotent connotations if you believe in immortality), there’s a ‘standby-team’ near them at all times, complete with bags for when the patient’s blood is sucked from their body, and an ice-bath to plunge them into minutes after ‘legal-death’. These various tools would surely be a harrowing sight for the patients, knowing that their literal lifeblood will be drained from their veins seconds after their heart stops beating (after all, no one dies in front of the crematorium, or in a morgue). Nevertheless, over 3600 people from all over the world have paid up to $220,000 for a lifetime membership to ALCOR for cryopreservation. The possibility of ‘resurrection’ must be an alluring concept to those with terminal illnesses, or even those who simply have enough money for membership. However, the more I thought about cryopreservation, the more questions I had. The essence of this moral dilemma boils down to one thing: a battle of science and ethics. The ever-evolving argument between ‘Can we do it?’ and ‘Should we do it?’

Trying to make sense of the ethical implications of cryopreservation is enough to make anyone’s head spin, due to almost every part being completely hypothetical. However, if we theorise that ‘reanimation’ is possible, what are the real-life implications for the patients? No expert in the world can accurately envision how waking up 200 years in the future alone, or perhaps even surrounded by their own descendants, will affect someone’s mental health. Will their memories remain intact? If not, will they really be the same person? As is it not from our memories that our sense of self – our individuality – stems from? What are their human rights? What if society has evolved so much that their level of intelligence isn’t high enough to play any real part in society? The unfortunate and frustrating truth is that no one knows, but it seems that many cryopreservation believers have accepted this. Dr Ralph Merkle (ALCOR member and Director since the 1980s) stated in a video interview quite simply that ‘Cryonics is an experiment. So far, the control group isn’t doing too well.’ A little morbid, yes, but still a solid argument that gives the argument some scientific acceptability. As for my many questions regarding what would actually happen to the patients if they are revived, I was left with no answers. It seems that transhumanists are still fighting to prove the effectiveness of the cryopreservation process but have not yet put much thought into what will happen if it actually works. However, bad mental health and unemployment aren’t the only problems that resurrecting people 200 years in the future may cause.

In a world where massive population expansion is leading to completely unsustainable levels of pollution and global warming, is it really ethical to store vast numbers of people that could eventually be introduced to what will likely be an even more over-populated world than what we already live in? We are all too accustomed to the shocking statistics of over-population: over half of our forests and wetlands have vanished in the past century, all due to the population more than doubling in only four decades. If humanity will be nine billion strong by 2038, what about 200 years from now? We may even have already colonised the galaxy by then (yet another problem for the ALCOR patients – have the FAQ experts thought about how bodies floating in liquid nitrogen will fare in zero gravity?). Perhaps they will get their own planet, a sort of time-warp or possibly even a museum of Earth 200 years before they were reanimated. Whatever way it’s looked at, reanimation will surely only worsen our ongoing disaster, as if even a third of our population is cryopreserved as standard by then, then the projected figure for future populations will surely be wrong by a couple billion.

I can understand why the future of these patients and cryonics in general remains unclear. However, there remains one question that still keeps me up at night: what happens to the reanimated when they die again? Will cryopreservation be seen as the new burial? Or will we all eventually be an omnipotent consciousness, wired into a hard drive by that point? In fact, Transhumanists have dubbed this merging of human and technological intelligence the slightly ominous and Matrix-esque ‘Singularity’. The most likely option would be that if cryopreservation is successful once, it will be used again, thereby continuing the cycle of consciousness. It is at this point that cryopreservation loses all appeal for me. Who wants to be truly immortal? Real immortality isn’t even fathomable to most people, yet there are some who actively seek it, and believe it will happen in their lifetime. These are the immortalists: another worldwide network that’s just as real and, perhaps, even more mind-bending than the transhumanist organisation. The anthropologist Abou Farmiain stated that ‘Paradoxically, Immortalists believe that given the development of scientific knowledge, humans can enjoy life after death, yet it is precisely their attachment to life in this world that leads them to this faith’. There isn’t a way to ponder the ethics of cryonics without spiralling into all sorts of life-questioning dilemmas, but if the scientific basis for cryogenics is divided and uncertain, what else could we turn to for guidance when navigating the murky waters where philosophy and science collide?

For many, their guidance on the morality of cryopreservation stems from their religion, but in our largely secular society, there exists an increasing cross-over between ethics and religion. A starting point for those who follow Christianity, for example, would be that humans should not actively seek to extend their life past what it naturally should be on our finite Earth, and they should accept that death is part of life, and they are destined for peace with God in Heaven. There were many such comments in the anonymous ALCOR FAQ, with one particularly memorable reply being ‘flying is unnatural for humans, but there’s no moral opposition to planes!’. Granted, this logic was a little rough around the edges, but I could genuinely see where they were coming from. But if reanimation becomes the norm, or the Singularity is achieved, what happens to God? How will new people be born? Surely computers can’t just programme a new consciousness? Will Heaven just stop receiving souls? Are there souls in the Singularity? However, it seemed like the transhumanists were busy answering the hundreds of other bio-luddite’s queries, as I unfortunately got no response when I posed my questions to the members of the FAQ page, not even a witty comeback.

To conclude, the world of transhumanism and cryopreservation is a web of moral, ethical, philosophical, scientific, and religious dilemmas. Unfortunately, my original aim of deciding whether cryonics was morally correct or not was lost somewhere between the fifth article on the transhumanist argument as to why cryogenically reanimated cyborgs should be given citizenship rights, and my third email to the Cryonics Institute regarding my confusion to absolutely everything. Whether or not I will choose to become a member of the ALCOR community, and float around in liquid nitrogen for a few centuries in a tank full of strangers – both bodies and heads – for a chance at reanimation remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is that I’ve got a lot to think about, and many websites to scour before plunging into the ice-bath.

 

Bibliography

1. Anon. ‘What is transhumanism?’: https://whatistranshumanism.org/#about (accessed April 2019)

2. ALCOR life extension foundation (information): https://alcor.org/ (accessed March 2019)

3. Cryonics institute: Information on membership, statistics, processes and case-studies: https://www.cryonics.org/ (accessed March 2019)

4. Dr. Merkle’s video interview for the Humanist Community in Silicon Valley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAei0a8FE18 (accessed April 2019)

5. Talal, Asad, ‘Thinking about the secular body, pain and liberal politics’ from Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 26, No 4 (November 2011) pp. 657-675 for the American Anthropological Association: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41336307 (accessed April 2019)

6. U.S. Transhumanist party ‘Transhuman Bill of Rights’ https://transhumanist-party.org/tbr-3/ (accessed April 2019)

Jude – Frances Wilson

Hello, little spaceman.

I’m right outside waiting for you with Nana and Papa. I’ve been waiting for ages and ages and ages and now you’re finally on your way. When Mummy and Daddy told me that I was going to be a big sister, I screamed and danced and cried and twirled and Daddy put me up on his shoulders and we went for dinner and I ate loads and loads of ice cream. It was the best day ever. Until now!

I promise you that I’ll be the best big sister in the whole world. I promise that I’ll share all my toys with you and I’ll play nicely and I’ll never ever let any mean kids hurt you. I’ll always look after you.

Is it nice in there? I hope it’s cosy, a little nest for you all tucked in safe, before you come into the world. I don’t remember it at all but maybe you can tell me what it’s like when you can talk. When can you talk? We can talk all day about pirates and princess and Disney films. I wonder what your favourite film will be? Maybe it will be Toy Story. That’s why we call you “spaceman”, like Buzz Lightyear, because of how you fly all around Mummy’s tummy. My favourite is Beauty and the Beast because Belle loves books and she reads lots like me. I’ll read to you, too. I have lots and lots of books in my room and when you’re big enough to read by yourself you can read them anytime you like.

We’ve painted your room already, I hope you don’t mind. It’s blue with stars and rockets, you know, because of the Buzz thing. It was Daddy’s idea. I thought it was really clever. Daddy’s the smartest man in the whole world and he knows all the best games to play. We can put lots of toys in your room when you’re big enough to know how to play. For now though, you just have teddies. I have loads of them, too. My favourite is Snowy the Polar Bear but you can have her, if you like. I think you’ll like it, little spaceman.

*

The whole world stops for a second.

*

The nurse is speaking really quietly to Nana and Papa now. I can’t quite hear what she’s saying. Nana is crying, but I think they must be happy tears. You must be here now.

Papa takes my hand and tells me you’re just visiting. He says you’re not coming home with us. I don’t understand. We have a big room and lots of toys for you. Don’t you want them? I don’t know if we’ve done something wrong or if you want a new family but I just don’t understand. Me and Mummy and Daddy would look after you better than anyone else in the world. I would be the best big sister in the whole universe.

Now I understand why Nana is crying. She was so excited to look after you. Papa says that you have a better place to go to now and that you maybe just weren’t meant to stay with us in the first place. I don’t understand.

Daddy comes out of the room. His eyes are red and his face is puffy. He looks like I do when I cry and I know something is wrong because daddies don’t cry. “Do you want to meet your little brother?”

I nod and I’m scared and it doesn’t feel like I thought it would because I thought everyone would be happy, not sad and I didn’t think I would feel like I had millions of worms squirming around my tummy and I’m so confused when Daddy holds my hand and leads me into the room.

There’s a little blue bundle cuddled up in Mummy’s arms and I know it must be you. You’re so tiny. The world must seem so big to you. Mummy’s face is grey and her eyes are blank and as I make my way over to you, she looks up at me and smiles but it doesn’t look like a real smile.

“Jude,” she says. “His name is Jude.” And she passes the tiny bundle to me.

Little Jude, you’re so small and soft. You aren’t very wiggly for a baby. In fact, you don’t wiggle at all. You’re so still. I think you must be asleep. Your little eyes are closed and your lips look like a little smiling violet. You have lots of little grey eyelashes, more than I can count to. And under your blue hat, you have little wisps of fuzzy blonde curls peeking out, just like me. Ten little fingers and toes, chubby little arms and legs and a tummy waiting to be tickled all wrapped up in a blanket, warm and safe. You look happy. You must be having a nice dream, about clouds and fairy wings and maybe I’m in it too, with Mummy and Daddy and Nana and Papa. I hold you close to my chest and I wonder if you can hear my heart beating.

*

I watch her. I wonder if he would have known how much love for him is inside that tiny little girl.

*

The room is so quiet. Our little house is quiet, too. We live in a quiet house in a quiet street in the quiet part of town. You would like it, Jude. I don’t want to leave you here. I don’t want to leave you behind. I don’t know what will happen next. I’m scared.

*

She holds him in her arms so gently. Our little bundle of dreams and possibilities and so much love and everything in between. Everything that could have been. I don’t know what will happen next. None of us do. But for now, I watch my babies together. My golden girl, holding a little universe in her arms.

*

Time passes so quickly. The years fall away like shooting stars. I grow tall. Dad goes bald. Wrinkles introduce themselves to Mum’s face. The boys are all in primary school now. The year after you was awful, a constant sadness looming over us all. And then we learned that Gabriel was coming. We were so scared, nine months of fear and not getting our hopes up. And then he came. Then came Mark. Then Finn, then Louis. When there’s a tragedy, people speak funny around you. Delicately. Sometimes people just pretend it never happened, ignore the blip in the timeline. But you were never a blip, Jude. You were real and ours and you’re on my mind every single day. I love space and the stars and the millions of universes and sometimes I imagine that maybe in a different universe things would be different and you would still be here. I don’t really like to think of it like that though. I think everything happens for a reason, and that somewhere, out in space, you are flying around in orbit – one of the stars we see at the night. A little spaceman in disguise as the brightest star.

“Uno cappuccino, per favore!” – Honor McWilliams

It’s breakfast: a busy day awaits. You have to remember to send this to soandso, you need to tell that to other soandso. Calls need to be answered, tasks must be completed and you have to transition from activity to activity without the slightest hesitation. Your head begins to swirl as you whisk through the never ending list of ‘To Do’s’ and you seriously question whether or not you will make it to lunch without collapsing.

But then salvation comes. Sleek and round, you see it gradually emerge in the distance. A distinct aroma fills the air and in some way your racing mind comes to a halt. Gradually coming closer, you are mesmerised by the soft, white shroud. You reach out to greet your saviour at last filled with warmth, hope, serenity.

“So, who’s having the cappuccino?”

Perfectly sized yet indulgent, simple but sophisticated, the cappuccino remains a cherished emblem of post-war Italy and her so-called ‘Dolce Vita’ or ‘Sweet Life’ in cafés and restaurants throughout the globe.

At least it should. Just last year, Starbucks announced that they were beginning to phase out cappuccinos in certain branches by replacing them with the more contemporary and stylish flat white. Staff complained that cappuccinos were too onerous to make in comparison to the more efficient and succinct preparation of the flat white, given that both taste virtually the same. But since when was coffee solely about taste? Surely a drink as classic as the cappuccino should symbolise something greater than just momentary pleasure?

Peter Thomson, owner of the Coffee Hunter blog, openly gushed over the popularity of the trendy flat whites, claiming they represent a “new wave of independent, hipster-style craft coffee.” When asked about the consequent cappuccino apocalypse, he struggled to hide the disdain in his voice when he said, “The cappuccino is a relic of when the whole world aspired to drink coffee Italian style.”

Aspired?! Who says we don’t continue to dream of discovering a modest little café which serves the most ‘belissimo’ cappuccino, tucked away down a side street in the Eternal City or elsewhere in Italy? Perhaps cappuccinos are indeed remnants of simpler times yet this does not mean that they should be forgotten or neglected by your local barista and left to collect dust. They should be preserved.

The humble origins of this frothy masterpiece date back to as early as the 16th century. The Capuchin Friars, an order of the Franciscans, were widely celebrated for their incredible service to the underprivileged and destitute while adopting a lifestyle of poverty themselves. The mere image of the Friars indicated this devotion to simplicity, opting to wear brown robes with long pointed hoods. It was from this distinctive hood, known as “cuppuccio” in Italian, that the Capuchins were named. Little did these modest monks know that they were to serve as the unique inspiration for possibly the most elegant hot drink in history four centuries later.

Picture 1930’s Italy. Amidst the economic turmoil following the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the oppressive fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini,  society sought for some form of escape. A small symbol of hope. At this very time, a mixture of coffee and milk topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles began to emerge in Trieste. It became fashionable and the trend soon flourished throughout Italy. Many began to remark that the unusual light brown colour of the mixture resembled the habits of the Capuchin Friars: the early cappuccino was born.

However, the coming years were no less chaotic for the Italian people- the horrors of further global conflict shattered national morale, citizens witnessed the tumultuous destruction of Mussolini’s government and the economy was in a perilous state. Just when Italy seemed to be peering into a dark abyss, a miracle occurred. The Italian Economic Miracle of 1950-60, to be precise. Not only did economy and society undergo momentous recovery, but Italian culture began to evolve with the improving times. Italians were now smiling at the sun.

This, though, was not the only miracle that occurred during this period. One equally as significant cannot be ignored: ‘The Age of Crema.’  This mass development of highly sophisticated coffee machines, capable of preparing pristine coffee to utter perfection revolutionised Italy. This single event ingrained the techniques and prestige of Italian coffee making all over the world, defining their culture and country.

Yet it was the humble cappuccino which captured the essence of revolution. These machines were especially designed to heat and steam milk, refining the original cappuccinos into the modern concoction we drink today. One half made of aromatic double espresso, the other of hot milk completed by steamed milk foam with a light dusting of chocolate. As Italian morale was rebuilt at the core of society’s new ‘Dolce Vita’, so too was the cappuccino.

Soon after its spectacular debut in Italy, the allure of cappuccinos spread throughout Western society. Europe, Australia and America all caught onto this trend in rapid succession by the early 1990’s, and it was due to the coffee craze that shops such as Starbucks were founded. While these were not meant to replicate traditional, family-run Italian cafés, they served to bring the flavour of Italy to a diversity of cultures.

Of course, as their success became unprecedented such American companies began to see the incredible gain of drinks like cappuccinos. They quickly began to neglect the precision and care Italian craftsmen dedicated to the cappuccino evolution. Thought turned to hastiness. Perfection became sloppiness. A symbol of new life was now no more than a poorly made drink. They cared little for the ‘Dolce Vita’ it epitomised.

But this casual disregard of past heritage and ‘relics’ has become increasingly common in our modern society. In our desperation to constantly evolve and move forward, we forget to find value in looking back in our fear of becoming cemented in the past. It is absolutely necessary to cling on to the most stylish and trendy thing at the current moment, yet we feel no remorse once we desire to toss it aside upon the discovery of something new. The flat white may be ‘in’ right now, but in a few years time this too will be shoved from the shelves like the cappuccino.

We must keep advancing, yes, but not to the detriment of everything that has brought us to where we stand today. We must learn to do one simple thing from time to time- pause.

When I have a cappuccino with my breakfast (never after 11am- that would be sacrilegious to Italians!) I’m able to stop for a while. Pondering over the brim of my coffee cup, I begin to feel more revived. After all, the cappuccino emerged in the wake of the very revival of the Italian people. I realise that although I’m anxious to get on with my day and complete the endless tasks that I have, I should make time appreciate my past and present. From there I can gradually evaluate the future. It is vital that we find some way to feel relaxed or comforted, and for me it’s by having a cappuccino.

The cappuccino first defined the sophistication of coffee, and it always will. Starbucks can change their menu as much as they like, but they can never re-write history. The cappuccino represents renewal, hope and happiness. It is imbedded in Italian culture and cuisine. It may not be as new as the flat white and other such trendy coffees, but they posses a timeless style that can’t be poured away down the kitchen sink, no matter how much Starbucks may try.

So have your frappuccinos, toffee lattes or caffè mochas. Pompously order your deconstructed coffees, skinny cortados and soy gibraltars. Rave about your pumpkin-spice lattes, caramel macchiatos and flat whites. I’ll stick to my cappuccino, per favore.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://www.italylogue.com/featured-articles/history-of-cappuccino-whats-in-a-name.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/where-do-we-get-cappuccino-from

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappuccino

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappuccino

http://www.laperfetto.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,print,0&cntnt01articleid=1&cntnt01showtemplate=false&cntnt01returnid=16

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/11654320/The-cappuccino-is-disappearing-Thank-God-its-horrible.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/11653608/Ciao-cappuccino-Starbucks-replaces-coffee-with-the-flat-white.html

http://www.italiaoutdoors.com/index.php/764-history-of-italy/history-modern/1300-history-republic-1950