is an earlobe for?
is an earlobe for?
The mood of my garden has shifted. It looks like Autumn. Leaves scattered across the surface. New shoots torn from the trees by blustery winds and driving rain. Low pressure in our weather has descended. The flowers have closed. The bees buzzed off. The birds absent, sheltering, waiting for the mood to lift.
The movement of the weather systems on our planet can change the mood of our nature with ease. The elements in our earthly atmosphere; carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, mix with water vapour and dust to move and swirl at will. With that, the feeling and mood our weather generates flow across our lands with wilful abandon. Nature determines everything.
In much the same way, movement in our body systems can shift our mood. The same swirling, churning chemicals, hormones and enzymes can change the sensations we feel in our bodies. Those sensations influence and shape our feelings, our emotions and our mood. Summer can feel suddenly like winter. We can overheat. We can feel damp, drab, off colour. Twisted, shrunk, torn off… inside.
image from Berndnaut Smilde
I wonder sometimes how far away we are from the office dying?
I don’t mean my office specifically. I mean the concept and the physical manifestation.
Huge swathes of land used to hold them. Resources expended through their sustenance, upkeep and running. They form visual blots on our landscape; splatterings of glass and concrete across our towns and cities.
Millions of us still travel to the office. We walk, drive, cycle, commute. Time is lost, travelling. Pollution generated and scarce resources lost, through travelling.
When we arrive we sit in a box, or at a desk and we type and talk. We respond to emails, fill in forms, write presentations and papers. We sit in meetings, we talk in groups, we phone people. For many, the majority of the day is spent more engaged with a keyboard and display than with another human being.
Yet still we come.
Still we come to a physical building miles from where we live to sit with others who also come. Why?
Is this just a hypnotic pattern we succumbed to in past decades? A trance-like manoeuvre we replicate without thought? A pattern so ridiculous, yet so intoxicating, that we cannot see beyond it?
Many have seen the light. They work from home. Some play with the light; they work from home on Friday. Some tease the light; they come to the office, but continue working when they get home.
Some say they come for the interaction. To meet people. I wonder what future for this? The other day I heard someone say to their neighbour “I just sent you an email.” They didn’t then have the conversation. Alerting the recipient to the message seemed to suffice.
Nowadays technology either can, or is close to being able to, replicate our ability to perform all these office tasks from anywhere. Social media heralds a new way. We can already share screens, documents, hold chats, share video, see each other via Skype or Facetime. Virtual reality, an imminent reality.
So will the office die? Is the office off? Will it fade away as a construct of the 20th century, lost to the annals of history like cave dwelling or the medieval neck ruff?
Maybe we will convert them all to care homes for the elderly? Or to shelters for the homeless?
“I’m just gathering my thoughts”
A phrase we use on occasion. Gathering them, like they might be scattered, lying disconnected from each other? Like gathering the facts, assembling them into knowledge or insight.
Or gathering them like we might gather the harvest? Reap the product of our endeavours. Or gathering them like we might gather the troops? Amassing them so that they might have more power, more force.
Maybe we gather them to untangle them? Or maybe we use that phrase to describe abandoning our thoughts for a moment. Leaving them to themselves so that we might be still. Present in the moment. Not with our thoughts at all.
So much variety in our language. So much room for misinterpretation.
Art by Susan Lenz
and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
We make sense of our world. With our senses. Same word.
When we remove a sense, the sense we make is different. Developing our ability to use them all in harmony is useful. Don’t just listen, when you can feel what is being said. Don’t just see, when you can hear with your heart.
Make all the sense you can.
Top deck of a London bus.
Man comes upstairs and moves to sit next to another man in front seat. Seated man looks up at new passenger who is requesting he move his bag. Seated man looks over shoulder. Behind him there are only six other passengers on the top deck. Seated man looks incredulously at new passenger. “Really?” can be heard. New passenger, now sitting, asks already seated man, if he wants him to sit at the back? Already seated man mutters inaudible. Newly seated man shuffles closer, settles down and opens his newspaper. Already seated man stares at cheek of newly seated man like he’s trying to burn through his face with just the power of his stare.
We’re funny sometimes aren’t we? People.
The bucket list idea has been around for a few years now, popularised by the film of that name from 2007.
Essentially the notion of a list of the life experiences to have, or life achievements to attain, before you die. Before you ‘kick the bucket’. For example, ‘making this trip ticks one thing off my bucket list’.
You can even download suggested bucket lists – with places you should visit and experiences you should have whilst you still can. Someone else’s idea of what you should do, to live a rich and fulfilled life. Interesting concept.
Often these lists contain far flung places to visit or high octane adrenaline fueled experiences. Many cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Visit Machu Pichu. Skydive. Swim with dolphins. Run a marathon.
What if we lived for the moment instead? What if we identified the day to day things that bring pleasure, happiness, joy to our lives and just do more of them?
Drink tea with a biscuit to dunk. Sit in the garden. Have a bath. Walk in the woods. Bake brownies. Buy those orange shoes we covet. Listen to a thunderstorm. Hold hands. Laugh.
Too few people notice the little things they enjoy and then set out to do more of them.
It strikes me the bucket list idea has a hole in it. If we’re focused on our death and on large scale, time costly, expensive big events, then life is leaking out of the hole every day.
When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate.
And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.
When will you begin that long journey into yourself?
We all like to think we can show empathy.
We like to think we can hear someone’s narrative and ‘stand in their shoes’.
For many of us this might be true. We may have honed our awareness skills, fine tuned our listening skills, twizzled our emotional connection antennae. We are empathetic.
But are we? Really? To what extent is our ability to show empathy merely a product of our ability to find meaning and sense from our lives and relate it to another’s experience? Another person brought up in the same language, the same country or world area, the same belief system, the same society? Meaning and sense making may be intrinsically linked to our own life experience. So maybe empathy has geographic and cultural boundaries?
If you sat down with a Australian aboriginal, or with a Chinese gentleman aged 80, or a native Inuit child from the snowy north, would you be able to truly connect with the meaning in their lives? Could you read the signs in their faces? Connect with the significance in their tale? Understand their underlying value and belief systems?
Over recent years we have added emotional intelligence (EQ) to cognitive intelligence in the form of IQ. Terms we are all familiar with.
Now, cultural intelligence (CQ) is emerging as a third intelligence. Can we really be open to learning and meaning making when we meet another culture, another society, another upbringing? Or do we have to learn to do this? And without it, is empathy merely a hollow aspiration, or a distorted falsehood?