the wisdom of the goats

GOATS

In our modern world there is much complexity. With that comes contradiction. An either or, pros and cons, do and don’t do.  We face everyday life with a heavy burden of choice. A weight of expectation, of responsibility. How to spend our time, our money, our energy? Lots of ‘what if?’ Lots of ‘if only?’.

I heard a story the other day which resonated with this world truth of contradiction and complexity.

The story teller, a young African boy at the time of the story. Living in a village in remote Nigeria.

The villagers kept goats. The goats served many purposes. They provided work, endeavour, a sense of purpose. They provided food. They provided milk. They were a currency of prosperity.

But the goats also ate things. Anything. Everything. They destroyed much of the fabric of the village.

The elders of the village met to discuss this complexity, this contradiction. In order to decide.

The young boy observed the elders meeting.  Their long discussion about the goats.

The elders sat and debated this contradiction. For days.

After a while, the young boy asked his father why they continued to discuss the goats. Why they were not deciding.

His father said, there is a wisdom in not deciding. A wisdom in living with the contradiction. And so there emerges another truth in the complexity.

Wise words.

why so hard to fathom?

hope

Hope.

What is it?

Like so many of life’s most important treasures, it seems almost intangible, hard to put your finger on, illusively difficult to describe. floating in the ether. Yet of immeasuable significance to us.

For when it is absent, all seems lost. Its magnitude then, monumental. Its impact, seismic.

An important element seems to be a goal. An intent. An objective. And then there needs to be choice. A sense that we can see alternatives. Pathways. When there are none, hope is lost. A will to get there seems to be the final ingredient. A desire to make the choice and a drive to work towards the aim, however difficult. We all lose sight of one of these from time to time – goal, alternatives, will. Perhaps hope is lost when they all leave us?

Why are the most important things in our human lives so hard to quantify, to describe, to grasp? Hope, belonging, love, freedom, will, happiness…

the mystery of trust

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Recent media frenzy about well known people and their financial affairs seems to carry with it a cloak of significance way beyond a few thousand pounds of tax liability.  This isn’t really about David Cameron’s tax return or Gianni Infantino’s true knowledge, this is about a deeper, more intangible thing.  A thing which carries great weight, even though we can’t see it, hear it or touch it … trust.

Trust in our institutions has been declining.  The Edelman Trust Barometer evidences this. Trust in government, organisations, leaders has in some cases recovered recently after years of decline.  Buy, as the Dutch say…

Trust arrives on foot but leaves on horseback

Hard to win, easy to lose.

Yet in much of our lives we show huge trust. We happily buy on the internet from organisations we know little about, who often have no physical presence. Sometimes we make those choices based on ratings from other consumers, who we’ve never met, will never know, without awareness for their context… yet we trust their reviews. We book rooms on AirBNB. Rooms in people’s houses. Happy to stay with a complete stranger often on the basis of a few positive comments from previous guests. All on the face of it, significant leaps of faith and dripping in this thing called trust.

In some contexts it’s so important. We like to be trusted and to show trust. Sometimes trust is so easy to gain, yet often easy to lose, and hard to re-gain.

We seek it like an elixir.
We value and covet it like gold.
It unlocks so much, like a magic key.
And we can feel so incensed, so emotive, when we feel trust has been betrayed or lost.

Strange that something so hard to define, so intangible, is so real?

standing in the crowd

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I’m fascinated by the resurgence of ripped jeans. Clearly on trend, they are everywhere. But let’s just pause for a moment. Who decided to sell us ripped clothes and when did we decide to buy them? It’s not just jeans, Converse sell scuffed up shoes, so that from new, you can have the worn out look. Some designer sneakers are available for $400 with a designer somewhere making hand made tears and marks on your particular shoes.

What next, cars which have scratches in the paintwork? Umbrellas with broken spokes? If the marketeers can persuade us, yes.

If it’s labelled fashion, it seems anything goes. But what does fashion mean?

At the high end it seems to be about breaking new ground. But for the masses, it seems to be about fitting in. About compliance. About peer pressure. Not new; ladies of the Victorian era had their wastes pinched so tight they could barely breathe, in the name of fashion.

Why do we find it so hard to buck the trend? To be individual? To do what we choose?

Or are we in fact doing what we choose?

Choosing to be the same? To fit in? To comply? To seek acceptance? To avoid judgement because others are doing the same? To hide in the crowd?

 

shower or bath today?

  

How do we choose?

Mostly, we are one or the other. Bath or shower. At some past point we chose. Selected a preference. Now we are loyal, typically. We are in the bath camp or the shower camp. A few of us may be ambidextrous, fickle, users or abusers. Employing both for different needs. Both is itself a choice.

But why?

Is our choice down to practicalities or pampering? Speed or relaxation? Morning or evening? Felt sensations or logical economies? Time to be, or time to do? Purpose or pleasure? Logistics or preference? Conscious or unconscious? Habit or variety? Selfish or selfless?

Can we learn about our other choices from something so basic, so routine?

Maybe it’s time to clean up our choice making?

 

work or play?

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I must finish my work before I can play

or

I can play anytime I like

Which of these is more you?

Often when I ask a room of people to make their choice, the room divides.

Those choosing the former, talk of not being able to enjoy their relaxation or play until the work is done. The list of jobs needs to be ticked off. Completing the work is in itself enjoyable. The play is a reward for completing the work. They sometimes mention responsibility or duty.

Those choosing the latter, talk of performing better when they have had down time, play or relaxation. They speak of choice. They describe making work into play, to increase their enjoyment.

Occasionally someone stands between the two, recognising a different stance in different circumstances, such as work or home.

I’ve never experienced someone not knowing.

I don’t recall the lesson in school where we learned this? I don’t recall the conversation with mum or dad, where they explained the pros and cons or the virtues of each approach?

It seems we just know. Somehow in life, we have learned through experience. That learning is often so well ingrained we don’t even see a possible alternative. It just is.

There are many opposites like this, not just work and play, where we have a position, a life stance. Many, I suspect, we have never been consciously taught which is best, we have just absorbed this into our existence, our way of being.

Weird eh? Enabling sometimes, disabling at other times. Strange that such life impacting choices seem invisible, out of conscious awareness. They just are.