The Difference Between Should Not Be and Is

It is my estimation that many people suffer and find it difficult to come to terms with, when things are not how they are supposed to be. People can tend to have a view of how things should be and when they aren’t it can be difficult to accept.

When someone dies young, perhaps a well-liked and popular father of two, it is a tragedy in some people’s eyes. {Why is it never an anti-social loner?}

It should not happen like that. But life is life. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Is it tragic to get cancer? No not really, it is a fact of life that some people get cancer. Yet if we frame it as a tragedy, with a bit of it is not fair sauce, does that make it any easier to handle? I doubt it. Feeling hard done by does not exactly enhance the quality of life.

I am due my first Covid PCR test in about four weeks’ time. If it is negative, I get to drink four litres of industrial grade laxative and then have a colonoscopy. If it is positive, I will develop covid symptoms and the colonoscopy will be put off until such time as I am no longer an infectious being.  If I die of Covid I won’t get a colonoscopy nor have to drink the laxative of doom. I am not entirely sure which is preferrable.

There is no should here. There are simply a few different event trajectories.

The likelihood of Covid is small given a lack of human encounters and my double vaccination. I have to take my Covid passport to the meeting with the anaesthetist in two weeks’ time. I don’t see what the fuss is all about, I have been showing proof of vaccination on and off for nearly fifty years. We had to prove we did not have tuberculosis to get let into Australia in 1970. I can still remember having the X-rays taken at Llwynypia Hospital where my grandfather later died. This hospital is now called Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda. They were excited that we were going to Australia. I foresee as the years go by that I will be visiting the hospital more regularly.

People can spend, and this is the correct word, a great deal of time bemoaning about how things should be and how things should not be.

It is the difference between supposition and reality which causes mental angst.

I can sit here this afternoon and say with a high degree of confidence that for the foreseeable future my life will be gardening, DIY, cooking and the occasional walkies. The only imminent caveat is what happens with the colonoscopy. I have no plans to try to change my circumstance any time soon. This is how it is.

I personally do not see why anyone else might have a problem with that.

There is a vague possibility that others may think that this should not be the case.

To re-sate the hypothesis then.

The difference between supposition, conditional preconception, and reality causes suffering. It is a root cause of suffering.

Are You Socially Conditioned?

Yesterday when we were buying some wine the lady on the checkout asked if we were going to drown our sorrows after Les Bleus got knocked out of a football tournament. Last night England won and a reporter at a fan zone said that the atmosphere was infectious, they meant there was an enjoyable and fun atmosphere, I heard potential super spreader event. My relative disinterest in soccer has caused a number of “awkward” social interactions. People have tried to engage me in conversation, and I say something along the lines of “wrong shaped ball”. It has partially excluded me from the “lad” culture which is so prevalent in England. People are socially conditioned to the notion that grown men kicking a spherical bag of air around a pitch is both exciting and very important.

There are vast amounts of socially conditioned aspirations and behaviours endemic in modern life, they do show variations between nations. What is “acceptable” under the unwritten dogma changes across borders, in the UK eating dogs is frowned upon for example. Getting on the housing ladder if possible is de rigueur there. Having a well looked after vehicle which is dent free is a social necessity if there are funds available. Here driving a car that is a cosmetically bashed up is fine.

Social status is import to some. If you had a professor, a lord and a labourer each alone in the jungle at night and a hungry leopard was on the prowl, would it care in any way about their status? No, they would just be meat on two feet. We are socially conditioned that this imaginary thing, status, is important and that it exists.

On one of my team development events I said that the manner of working at Imperial College was as a cold efficiency team. I.E. not all warm and lovey-dovey, not a lot of tree hugging there. A participant later complained that I was speaking badly of a former employer. I doubt anyone there would be upset at being called cold efficiency teams. They may even be flattered by the efficiency bit. The participant had been socially conditioned to not say some things. There are verbal taboos which are growing in number thanks to the tsunami of wokery.

Social conditioning is policed with the two most heinous words in the English language, should and ought.

“Tut-tut-tut you should not say things like that. You ought to be more respectful to those who have higher social status than you!”

THEY write the social conditioning dogma with language of a conditional voice. If you don’t behave as you ought, you could get yourself into trouble.

As a little experiment a while back whenever anyone asked me “how are you?” as a greeting, I told them in some detail. This conditioned them quite quickly to changing the greeting to something more suitable like Hi or Hello.

If you get cancer people are socially conditioned to feel sorry for you and many don’t like talking about it.

Social conditioning is NOT reality. It is a learned set of conditioned behavioural, emotional and mental reactions. It is Pavlovian. It is learned on mother’s knee and can be unlearned. We are conditioned to be afraid of dying. Why? It is one of the most natural things about life.

To find out how socially conditioned you are, may I suggest a little experiment?

Make an estimate of the number of times you will say should or ought in day.

Then count how many times in a day you say “should” and how many times you say “ought”.

That should keep you busy, and you ought to find it amusing!


My two least favourite words in the English language are should and ought. In my opinion they need to go!!



ever so taught

on the wheel,

of ought



always twisted

on the tongue

of maybe



away from finches

flying free

on wings



fearing the sound

of a glottal stop

and a stutter



of a soaring dove

caged now

in bamboo staves



a salve to the thirst

to be heard

above sheep



to sample the fayre

of a novelty,

quite precocious


a word

a phrase, a curd,

milked out

the teat


a drop

to end the stop

and thence

a beginning.