Humans 2.0

Humans 2.0


a starling sitting on the edge of a bird feeder as another comes in to landWe live in an era that magnifies unhappiness. The 24-hour news cycle mines endless sources of misery and transmits them into our pockets. Social media algorithms heighten loneliness and addiction while rewarding and amplifying outrage and envy. The principle of idiocracy — that dimwits have no issue declaiming their every thought while the intelligent hesitate to contribute — brings pervasive despair as we perceive we are swimming in an ocean of stupidity. Micro-video formats, TikToks and reels, foreground the shallow and idiotic while splintering attention spans.

Don’t get me wrong. I feast on reels featuring clever dogs, mean cats, and snowboarding toddlers. But I do so chiefly as an antidote to the misery generated by the rest of modern life. And these reel fests spawn long-term unhappiness as you realise you have wasted yet another chunk of your precious existence on the consumption of fluff rather than the creation of substance.

Added to all this, the Information Age has become the Misinformation Age, where we find ourselves so awash with falsehoods (and with insufficient time to investigate their veracity) that we come to trust nothing and no one. I remember when I used to believe the Guardian and the BBC. But now, we live against a backdrop of bias, propaganda, and corruption. A culture where nuance is dead and investigative journalism on a gurney under shock paddles.

The human results of this magnified misery are all around us. Hurt people hurt people, and many of us are experiencing more than a small ladling of strangers shouting at us online or in the street. Even posting positive content can provoke fury from those whom social media is relentlessly goading (whether activists, conspiracy theorists, or those struggling with their mental health; not mutually exclusive groups).

What can a person do to make a positive contribution? In my lifetime, there has never been a more challenging time to stay emotionally afloat, yet we must make every effort to do that. I met an environmental activist the other day who is clearly a joyful being but terrified about how we might save the planet when we may only have ten or fifteen years before a catastrophic tipping point. From an existential point of view, it has never been more critical to get our shit together. Yet here we are, paralysed by anxiety and outrage, shouting at ‘the other side’ or soothing ourselves with puppy videos.

When I look at what society is going through, I see what I went through, alone, 23 years ago. A self-destructive despair and rage and nihilism. A sadness so extreme that it looks like madness. In short, a nervous breakdown.

There is a possibility of extinction at the end of it, as there was for me in 2000. But the human survival instinct is a powerful thing. And despite appearances, we are a brilliant, resourceful and inventive species, gifted like no other with the capacity to alter our destiny and change our environment for the better.

My first degree was in biology, and in my final year, one of my four specialities was Evolution Theory, studying under the genius Professor John Maynard-Smith. The fossil record shows evolution not as a steady curve but as long periods of stasis followed by rapid change in response to powerful environmental forces. Potentially catastrophic changes lead to heightened pressures where organisms must evolve or die.

This is ours. This time of chaos and ramped-up misery (which includes a significantly increased number of deaths) marks an evolutionary moment unknown to humankind since Homo Sapiens took over from the Neanderthal. The necessary shift for our species to survive is to become Human 2.0.

What does Human 2.0 look like? I remember predictions about physical appearance from my childhood: taller, long-limbed, huge-headed creatures. But what is needed in the 2020s isn’t a bodily evolution. The evolutionary pressures are (primarily) not physical but mental, emotional and social. The necessary evolution is an evolution of consciousness.

When we understand that we are all intimately and intricately connected, that we are essentially cells in the body of a single organism, we will have the means to stop the misery. The most fundamental tenets of every religion have recognised the Golden Rule: do as you would be done ny. The reason it sticks is because what we do to others, we are actually doing to ourselves. I sat on the tube a few months ago and tried this: I looked at every person in turn and saw them as my brother or sister. I looked into their blank, smiling, or suffering faces and sent love to them as if they were my closest family. There was no question that I was the chief beneficiary.

How do we fix the world? We start with ourselves. We start by curing our own unhappiness. We stop being part of humanity’s cancer and return ourselves to health by turning our attention away from the misery. The same way I recovered from my breakdown 23 years ago is how we as a society recover. Individually, instead of looking at what we lack, what makes us miserable or furious, we turn our attention to every tiny good thing we can find. Appreciate every small joy, beauty, and convenience our eyes or mind can light upon. This way, each of us becomes a little mill of happiness. By tending to ourselves, we tend to others, because the ripple effect works just as powerfully for good as for ill. Put your oxygen mask on first. And deeply, deeply, breathe.





Funeral poem


Funeral poem called Signal

A few years ago I wrote a funeral poem for general use. Grief and death are important topics for me, largely because of losing my brother many years ago. My brother was not religious. In fact my whole family were atheists. It was hard to find something suitable to read at his funeral. So many funeral poems are, I am sorry to say, just a bit clunky. The better ones are overused. I often had people asking me, as a poet, could I recommend a funeral poem. And I felt it was a surprisingly challenging task, given how much need there is for good (and not overused) funeral poems. Some funeral poems also only work in certain circumstances: they are only suitable for a spouse, but not a sister or brother. They are only suitable for an older person. What if you need a funeral poem for a child?

So I wrote this poem, deliberately, to be applicable to anyone at all. Anyone we have loved and lost, no matter what the connection. I wanted a poem that would help people to grieve, while still being a comfort in some way (at a time when there seems to be so little comfort). It incorporates my own beliefs and I hope it is a genuine help to those who have lost someone they love.

I offer it for anyone who would like to use it in their funeral service. There is no need to ask my permission. You can publish it in Orders of Service, no problem at all (it would be great if you can credit it to me but I won’t be policing anyone!).  There is a downloadable PDF here: 


A Word version here:




If we believe there is no afterlife

and love is shattered when the body fails,

we do ourselves a wrong: we strip our hearts

of love’s warm coat when death is blowing gales,


and wonder why we’re cold. If we believe

the soul we knew, and loved, and who loved us,

was never more than flesh and blood and bone,

their lively eye is lost, is ash and dust


and we’re alone. So ask yourself just this.

A broken radio gives out no sound,

but does the music it was tuned to, play?

And can you sense that broadcast even now?


Love is unbroken.  Mourn your loss today,

allow each moment that you need to grieve,

but listen for that signal in the air,

and know that we can choose what we believe.

Peter Farey ( 25.04.1938 – 02.02.2020)


My friend Peter Farey died early last year. This obituary was first published in the members’ newsletter of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust. I am reposting it here as an accessible tribute to a man whose loss I will always deeply feel.


Bearded man at laptopPeter Farey, the leading Marlovian researcher, has died aged 81. A cautious and diligent scholar, he was twice winner of the Annual Calvin & Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a distinguished article on Christopher Marlowe (2007, 2012).  He was founder member of the International Marlowe Shakespeare Society (IMSS).

Peter’s love of Shakespeare came directly from theatre. His stepfather was assistant director at the Old Vic, and as a boy, Peter saw (for sixpence a seat) many fine productions, including Richard Burton playing both Othello and Iago on alternate nights. Peter himself began acting as a scholarship boy at Dulwich College (founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn) and after leaving was in the first ever production of what would become the National Youth Theatre, alongside then unknowns, Simon Ward and Derek Jacobi.

After seeing Tyrone Guthrie’s Tamburlaine the Great, with Donald Wolfit as Tamburlaine, and learning that the first actor to play the part was the founder of his school, he also became “hooked” on Marlowe. As it happened, on joining the school he had been allocated to “Marlowe” house, and “whilst I acted in Shakespeare, I played rugger and cricket for Marlowe, ran for Marlowe, boxed for Marlowe, sang for Marlowe, and even acted for him, in the House Drama Competition.”

After school, Peter did National Service in the Royal Fusiliers, the Intelligence Corps, and Brixmis (officially based behind the Iron Curtain). After demob he joined BOAC, later to become British Airways, and stayed with them until taking early retirement in 1989. While at BA he specialised in management training and development, which taught him the techniques of clear thinking, problem solving and decision making that subsequently served him well as a researcher. He also gained an MA.

Peter Farey’s work first reached a wide audience in Shakespeare: New Evidence (1997) by A.D. Wraight. Knowing he had been in military intelligence, Wraight asked Peter to decode some encrypted letters she had found in Lambeth Palace archives. Peter’s son Rob was actually the one to crack the code, but subsequently Peter made a number of fascinating discoveries in the archives related to a man named Le Doux, then believed to be a possible posthumous identity for Marlowe. Shakespeare: New Evidence originally began as joint project, in which the first and third parts were written by Wraight and the second part (based on his archival research) by Peter. However, Wraight was unhappy with Peter’s criticisms about her suggested re-ordering of the Sonnets on which her argument in Part 1 depended, and he stepped away from the project. When the book was published in 1997, Peter did not receive a co-author credit. His work, though barely a word had been changed, was presented as Wraight’s.

Peter Farey’s importance to Marlovian studies is impossible to overstate, yet he published no book on the subject. As a diligent researcher who was always keen to refine his arguments, and correct them if they turned out to be mistaken, Peter preferred to present his research in online articles, both on his website and on Carlo Dinota’s blog, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, where they can still be found. As his health began to fail, he compiled all the articles he considered still relevant into the manuscript for a book, updating them where appropriate. There are plans for this book to be published posthumously. Though he became less active as his health deteriorated, he remained a supportive correspondent to other Marlovian researchers. His final work, completed in summer 2019, was an entry for the Hoffman Prize.

Peter’s curiosity – a questioning rather than a dogmatic or didactic outlook – was the cornerstone of his scholarship. His approach, which involved remaining flexible enough to change one’s mind in the face of contradictory evidence, influenced many Marlovians. Peter positively sought to test his ideas with those who opposed them. He never allowed emotion to cloud reason when engaging in debate, and as a result, won friends and admirers on all sides of the authorship question. In the early days of online debate, he was an active member of humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare, where many Stratfordian/anti-Stratfordian exchanges took place. In later years, he participated in similar (always considerate) arguments on the Oxfraudian Facebook group. He became friendly with Tom Reedy, with whom he was often in polite conflict in the Talk section of the Wikipedia page for the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and when Reedy visited the UK, they arranged a joint research trip to Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

So well-respected was he with the Stratfordian campaigners of the Oxfraud group that, on hearing of his death, they published their own tribute to him. As a testament to Peter’s brilliance in crossing divides and maintaining friendly discourse at all times – something to which we might all aspire – it seems fitting to give his opponents the last word:

“Peter Robert Farey was the leading proponent of the Marlovian authorship theory. His passing on Feb 2, 2020, at the age of 81, stilled one of the most interesting voices of Shakespeare authorship doubters. We of the Oxfraud group are saddened by his loss. Peter stood out from other advocates of alternative authorship candidates. He wrote numerous essays about Marlowe and the early modern era, many of which are on his website ( He was awarded the Hoffman Prize in 2007 and 2012, for “distinguished publication on Christopher Marlowe.” He was a member of the Oxfraud facebook group, and frequently discussed his theories with us. In comparison with other anti-Stratfordians, Peter was careful about evidence and arguments based on it. He was able to maintain a respectful discussion, and though he did not change any minds, he earned the respect and friendship of many who disagreed with him. The intellectual power of the anti-Strats is greatly diminished by his loss. He will be missed.”