will we evolve to forget?

will we evolve to forget

Snapchat are about to launch sunglasses that capture video of what you see.

Your brain already does that.

Many of us think visually. We see ourselves in our experiences. We recall memories this way; in our “mind’s eye”. We even create imagined futures by running video or slide shows of what might happen. Our imagination is cool.

If we start replacing the need to do this because technology does it for us, might we evolve to lose the ability?

Evolution of course takes time, but there is already evidence that more people are becoming nearsighted because of recent changes in patterns of behaviour. A new paper published in the journal Ophthalmology looks at worldwide trends in myopia (nearsightedness) by doing a meta-analysis of 145 studies involving 2.1 million total participants. It predicts that by the year 2050, 4.8 billion people will be nearsighted. That’s 49.8 percent of the world’s population. The theory is that this is because of increased close work in the office, use of handheld devices and because less time is spent outdoors.

So what next? No need to visually recall our experiences; just download what we saw from our sunglasses?

Now that’s a dark thought to dim the brightness of anyone’s day.

when an institution crosses over…


It’s all about the ice hockey player from the 1960s and white writing on a red background.

Driving along highways in Canada we kept seeing exit signs alerting us to where food would be available. Some had Burger King, some Starbucks, all the usual suspects were there. But one new name, seemed ever present, at every exit. A new name to us at least. Tim Hortons. What the…?

Eventually our curiosity caused us to pull over. Turns out it’s a coffee shop selling doughnuts and stuff. To the uninitiated, think of it as McDonalds without the burgers but with a load of cakes, doughnuts, scones (or biscuits as they are known) instead. No fancy coffee; no babyccino, no macchiato here, just coffee in two roasts and a few fancy drinks like French Vanilla and White hot chocolate – both seemingly 70% sugar.

Now we arrive in Toronto and these coffee houses are as common as seagulls on a cliff top. Turns out its Canada’s favourite coffee shop. Then, I discover on the BBC website, they’re coming to the UK.  Apparently named Tim Horton after a Canadian Ice Hockey player from the 1960s who co-owned it.

Many organisations have tried to take their homegrown success abroad. Some succeed, many fail. Some fail several times, like Tesco and the USA. Institutions in one country don’t necessarily translate in another.

So how does a coffee shop become an institution? How does anything?

I guess it’s about regular use, about familiarity, about an all pervasive presence? I guess when people have known something all their lives, it then becomes an institution?

So do we have institutions in human behaviour?

Is politeness an institution for example? Or generosity? Or kindness? Or maybe directness? Honesty? Maybe some cultures and some countries have behavioural institutions that others might benefit from? Covet even? The ‘have a nice day’ one hears around here would seem to be an institution with genuine desire. But would these transfer, to another country or continent? Could they?

And maybe we as individuals have behaviours which have become our institutions? Maybe we are institutionalised? Into our learned patterns of behaviour.

boundaryless lessons from rural Canada?

How do you know you’re not cutting your neighbour’s grass?

Travelling through rural Canada I notice properties don’t have boundaries. At least not visible ones. There are no walls, fences or even shrubs to mark the limits of one property, or to mark out the boundary with another.

Maybe it’s to do with space? When you have the large amounts of land they do here, maybe the space itself removes a need for boundary? Maybe the land is forgiving, so the people become so too?

In life, we tend to create boundaries for safety; to keep out potential intruders into our personal space. Silence is one of our best employed boundaries; keeping others out. Or, we create boundaries of belonging; tribes and groups that provide safety against threat from other tribes.

Maybe it’s the very marking out of where you stop and I begin, that creates the boundary between us? Be it between groups or individuals.

Yet in relationships of all sorts, we mark out our territory, then check with the other person whether it is safe to proceed. An office door – a polite knock. A first date – holding hands. A bag on the neighbouring train seat – permission to sit down.

I wonder how it would be for us to give each other all the space these Canadian home owners do? And if we did, whether our relationships would also become boundaryless?  A land where there is space. Space to be different, space to be free, space for autonomy, space to have purpose, space for compassion and humanity? Space for each other?

disconnected histories from somewhere or elsewhere…

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I’ve been there before… or have I?

Leaving Massachusetts, travelling through New Hampshire and up into Vermont the other day, we passed some familiar places. Familiar in another land, found in an unfamiliar sequence here. Winchester, Reading, Andover, Londonderry, Manchester, Grantham, Lebanon…

So what’s in a name I wonder?

If you are from Andover in Hampshire in the UK, I guess that particular Andover might have meaning, history, personality even. We didn’t stop, but I imagine the Andover in Massachusetts might be  very different. As indeed might the Andover we saw a sign for in New Hampshire. Andovers, born in many places, descended from one perhaps?

And if we say, “I’m from Andover,” what does that really mean? Especially if the Andover in New Hampshire was once born from the Andover in Hampshire?

Many of us get names given to us which are that of a grandparent, or great grandparent. Family names handed down.

But names are not only a throw back to the past, to a previous generation, and a remembering of someone long lost. They are also a means of handing down history to a future generation. An acknowledgement and a gift for safe keeping. A way to continue existence on into the future.

I wonder if the residents of Andover NH are even aware of the British town? Just like many of us given an old family name from a generation past; never met, never known.

History is weird like that. Gone, but desperately remembered. We somehow need the roots of a past, even when it is a past never experienced or indeed long lost to us.

It’s as if we need to be reassured we came from somewhere. And when we know what that somewhere was called, we call ourselves, today, now, the same thing. Thereby connected, thereby grounded, thereby real. We exist.

just lie down here and the pain will go away

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Why do we push ourselves even when we want to give up?

There appears to be an inner battle at play. That part feeling the pain, wanting to concede and that part that doesn’t want to be beaten, wanting to succeed.

I rode a bike yesterday, for the first time in fifteen years. Around Montreal. I guess if you’re going to start again after fifteen years there are worse places to begin. The ride took us along the Lanchine canal, followed the north bank of the St Lawrence river for six kilometres, then cut across in land, via a cute little cafe with Italian Ciabatta to die for. Once replete, we headed back along the remainder of the canal before heading to the island of Parc Jean-Drapeau where we rode our bikes around the Gilles Villeneuve F1 track before returning to our starting point. Around 50 kilometres or 30 miles.

From the moment we began the ride out to the Parc and F1 track, I knew my body had had enough. My thighs screamed stop. The sun burned down on my face and neck as we crossed the Pont de la Concorde. I was done. But the lure of saying I’d ridden around a Formula 1 race circuit kept me going.

The return journey though was another matter. My prize had been won and that part of me feeling the pain was now winning too. I dawdled back across the bridge. The slight incline up really proving hard, as my legs screamed out with every turn of the pedals. My hands were now numb too, from over gripping the handle bars as my legs struggled – somehow holding on for dear life appeased my lower limbs. The final kilometre saw me stop several times and push the bike. Even walking proved hard as my legs were like jelly and walking in a straight line seemed beyond me. My arm had developed an uncontrollable twitch and my thumb, without my say so, wriggled about like a worm in the sunshine, seeking the solace of damp and dark. But I had to return the hire bike, so the part driving me on kept going. I was also with my daughter and couldn’t let her down, so I kept going.

The battle between these parts of me was a fight to the end. “Just lie down on the grass and the pain will ease.” versus “You can’t give up now you’ve come this far. Think how good you will feel having cycled 50 kilometres on your first bike ride for fifteen years.”

And I did.

Feel good.

But tomorrow is another day… Ouch.

madness

driving to Montreal

Do you see things in clouds?

What do you see in this snap from last evening?

I see a dog, on its back, head resting on a baby rhinoceros, playing with the puppy laying on its stomach.

But now you’ve read that, maybe that’s all you can see now too?

Imagination is mad sometimes. And sometimes it is killed by a story.

‘aim long,’ she said

Minke whale feeding off Boston MA

Whale watching off Stellwagon Bank, near Boston, today.

One mammal watching another.

There was a four to five foot swell at times, and our hostess on the boat had warned us of motion sickness before we set off. ‘Aim long,’ she suggested. ‘Your fellow passengers will approve.’ A couple did indeed succumb, although I can offer no testimony to reach.

I wonder what the whales thought?

Three boats homed in on the feeding ground, each boat laden with humans, eager to see these beautiful, majestic sea beasts. Around a dozen Humpback and Minke whales homed in on the boats, eager to see the ridiculous humans, clicking their cameras, pointing in excitement and wretching into their feeding grounds.

The sea birds, flocking around the open jawed whales, hoping to snatch a fish, seemed not to be interested in watching either mammal. Both just a food source.

We watch each other too. Mammal to mammal. Human to Human.

Sometimes overtly, sometimes surreptitiously, out of the corner of an eye. Sometimes in the flesh, sometimes online. We check out looks, clothes, what’s being said. We watch family behaviour and eating habits too. And all the time we judge. Sometimes consciously, often without realising it.

I wonder if the whales judge us?

Part of me hopes they do.