the personality of language, with added chocolate chips

illuminateddandelion.com

“How are you today?” seems to be the standard opening gambit here in the USA. Whether it be the local shopkeeper, Alvin at Starbucks, or the unnamed lady in magenta trying to sell me tour tickets.

I have already learned the expected response. It is, “I’m good thank you, how are you?” The ‘good’ in “I’m good…” is presumably a veiled message to Father Christmas, should he be hiding in the bushes? An overly keen attempt to get on to the right list; the list that provides a full stocking, not a sparsely filled alternative in just a few months time?

I, of course, have much to learn colloquially. I have made the apparent mistake of responding, “Cheers!” when given my purchases. I did it to the lady who served me cinnamon scone for breakfast and she looked a little bewildered. I’m told that “cheers” isn’t used in that way here.

Some words have raised importance. Some reduced. I hadn’t expected, for example, my ‘Peachy Pistachio Greek Yogurt’ to contain chocolate chips. But it does. More chocolate chips in fact than peachiness. Sure enough though, a browse of the ingredient list confirms their right to be. Odd not to mention them?

Thankfully, I am yet to be offered a “have a nice day…” as a departing command. Surely, after all, it’s my choice if I wish my day to be nice or not?

I don’t wish to knock America. Merely to point out how language use is very local. The patterns and rituals of language are different. The same words mean different things. Some words are common, some important, some tossed away like chocolate chips at a yogurt factory.

This isn’t just about geography though. Each of us has our own dialect. Favourite words or phrases for us. Words and phrases which cause a shudder, or recoil, when used freely by someone else. Or, words which draw us in, because they resonate with our own sense making and thereby connect us.

Language has personality. It takes on the persona of unique individuals. The persona of family histories. The persona of local dialects. The persona of nation states. The persona of tribes, of cultures, of religions.

We speak who we are.

is there a hole in my bucket list?

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.

 

So hard to explain…

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Feelings are so hard to explain aren’t they?

We have these sensations that arise inside our bodies, that move, that have direction, have intensity. They’re hard to interpret, yet hard to ignore. We give them labels, because that allows us to communicate, but really the label does not do justice to the complexity and depth of the feeling, or its meaning and significance to us. We cannot rationalise them, talk them away, hold a conversation with them, like we can our thoughts. Yet our feelings are somehow more pure, more real, more now.

going…

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We spend a lot of time going.

Going places.

On a bus the other day, gazing backwards out of the rear of the vehicle as it trundled up Park Lane, I noticed this. All around me were cars, buses, bikes, vans, lorries. All the occupants, driver or passenger, going. Where wasn’t clear, but they were all going. As was I. Glancing to the side there were pedestrians and cyclists on the path. Also going. An inline skater eased between these goers, also going? Peering skywards, an aeroplane could be made out, high in the clouds, going. Going further perhaps, but nonetheless going.

We are not often still.

When we’re not physically going, we’re mentally or emotionally going.

Going from here to there. There to here. Going forward, going backwards. Sometimes going sideways. Going round and around. Sometimes going, in order to go. Going to familiar places and to new places. Going to be with, going to be away from.

Or maybe we’re coming?

What’s the difference?

Are these people around me going or coming? Coming or going?

However they might describe their orientation of travel, of movement, one thing is clear. They are not still. They are not simply being. They are not just in the present. They are going, or coming, from or to. Past or future. Was, will be. Then, when.

Not… now.

 

 

you’re not…

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You’re not the mistake you made.
You’re not the failure of your most recent project.
You’re not the loss of your job.
You’re not that indulgence you should have resisted.
You’re not the disappointment at not having come first.
You’re not that missed deadline or average result.

You’re not your success, your fame, your glowing reputation, either.

You’re not the letters after your name, your job title, your exam results, your qualifications, your place in the organisational hierarchy.

You’re not your bank balance, your debt, your smart suit, that designer frock, your car, your house.

You’re not your ability, or your disability.
You’re not your weight, your muscles, your illness, that blemish.
You’re not your happiness, your sadness, your rage, your shame, your dream.

How could you be any of these, given that any of them are liable to change at any time?

Any of them.

These things are all a blink in the timeline of your life.

It’s a huge misunderstanding of what humans being are, and one that your inner critic can go wild upon. That voice can be demanding that you fix, or change, or hide, or be ashamed of these things.  Or that you hold on ever so tight to what you’ve got, for fear of losing it, and what it represents.

You are not your circumstance.

Perhaps there is a new kind of freedom you can find from knowing this? A new kind of acceptance of the transience of the world, and a new recognition of your own strength and constancy, a new discovery of your essence, your soul… a new kind of hope.

image by: GranitKrasniqi – deviantart.com

‘stuff’ solutions to ‘us’ problems

In this modern technological world it seems we love to invent solutions to problems; problems that for many years had remained somehow hidden, unnoticed, unappreciated. Someone then says, “Here’s a cool solution to a real problem.” Suddenly we all want the solution. Even though we hadn’t ever struggled with the problem.

How many of us have a computer, a laptop, a tablet, a phone, maybe a mini tablet and now also use our TV to access the internet?  I don’t recall the day I said, “What I need are six devices at my fingertips from which I can do largely the same things.” Indeed, things that twenty years earlier I couldn’t do at all and didn’t know I wanted to.

The other day I was introduced to Samsung ad wash – add more clothes part way through the wash. There was a time when we sorted the clothes, put them all in the wash and got on with life. If something had missed the wash, it waited to next time. Now we have a solution to the ‘problem’.

For many years I have had hatchback cars.  It has proved to be little trouble opening the rear door; they have always been assisted with hydraulic struts, so you simply squeeze the handle, lift slightly and the tailgate lifts open.  Closing was straightforward too.  Reach up, pull down with a little tug and the door falls, slamming shut using that age old invention called gravity.  But now, my car has an automatic boot opening and closing gizmo. I can press a button in the car, or on the key fob, and the rear tailgate lifts by itself.  When I’m ready to close it, I press another button and it silently lowers and clicks shut.

What next?

It seems we have learned as a species to direct our talents to ‘stuff’. To improving ‘stuff’. We are now approaching a time in many areas, where improving ‘stuff’ is getting harder to warrant, so we’re fabricating ‘stuff’ solutions to once only imagined ‘stuff’ problems. But we stay stuck on the treadmill that is improving ‘stuff’. We know where we are with improving ‘stuff’.  We’re good at it.  It pleases us.

Meanwhile improving ‘us’ takes the back seat. ‘Us’ problems are real. ‘Us’ problems are there in our existence as individuals and there in our interactions and relationships. ‘Us’ problems cloud our thinking. ‘Us’ problems stop us maximising our potential. Our very humanity, our happiness, our fulfilment is stifled by ‘us’ problems. Yet we seem to struggle with ‘us’ solutions to our ‘us’ problems. We’re not good at it. It scares us.

Maybe we need a ‘stuff’ solution to the ‘us’ problem?  Or is that stuff and nonsense?