the bricks and mortar of personality

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New Orleans seems a chill out, fun loving city. It’s French heritage giving it a relax and ‘take it easy’ style, which it marries with a party hard and ‘be who you are’ mentality. It’s unique, it knows it and it’s proud to be who it is.

Memphis seemed a city proud of its heritage – it’s musical and black freedom roots at its heart. Yet somehow stuck there, in its past. Desperately holding on. Maybe scared or unable to change?

Boston seemed a confident city. Wise, relaxed and fun loving. Proud of its foundations and confident of its place, yet not shouty. Not, ‘come look at me’.

Washington seemed noble. Clean, sharp dressed, well presented. DC knows its role and presents itself with dignity, as if putting on a good show for the parents. It’s not forced though, just befitting of its status.

Nashville, it seemed to me was trying to grow up. Musically the home of country, now trying to become a modern city. And in that growing up, a little confused. Like any teenager.

Chicago seemed to carry a weight. Heavy. It seemed to be trying, perhaps too hard? Architecturally a little confused. Working city, tourist city, modern city, industrial city. Its race to build taller, seeming, in contrast to Boston, to be a ‘look at me’ stance, almost like the second child.

Cities seem to have personalities, like us.

Personalities grounded in their past, like us.

And if our personality doesn’t fit our city, I guess we move on? Or rebuild ourselves?

time to turn around from a scene not seen?

Lincoln's address

Ten years ago, it would have seen a very different picture.

People congregating to admire perhaps the greatest President – the saviour of the Union. Or, maybe they would be amassing merely to gaze upon the art; the fine alabaster sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, cosseted in a columnar temple looking out to Capitol Hill.

Except now, more than half of these people are facing the wrong way. At least, facing the wrong way to look directly at the statue.

For now, unlike a decade ago, the adopted mode of recording your presence is the ‘selfie’. And so, half of the people are looking away, beaming at their mobile, posing, pointing, pulling all manner of faces. Alone, or with companions peering over an appropriately framed shoulder.

It’s an odd sight. Half looking towards, half looking away.

Maybe the ‘selfie’ posture accurately reflects the passing of time? The past appropriately behind us, looking back. As if looking in a mirror at what has gone before, whilst our bodies, and eyes, face out to the future?

There was a time we recorded photographically the thing, the place, the view. However, it seems to me that instead, in this ‘selfie’ age, what matters most is the subject in the foreground. The self. Me. I. The grinning, posing photograph taker. I am, in this moment, more significant than the history that preceded me. More relevant than the beautiful scenery behind me. More important that the place, the environment, the location.

We share these pictures to showcase first and foremost our expressions, our poses, our facial creativity, our friends, not to show off the backdrop.

I wonder what metaphor this is, for our future? Not observing the wonder around us. Instead, the preoccupation with looking at ourselves. Not deeply. Not into our soul, or our very being. But looking at our superficial, surface selves. Sharing these with others. Competing with others. Even now, we photoshop them with filters. To remove reality. To remove blemishes.

Maybe we need to face reality again? Maybe we should turn around more?

Maybe that would be a decision on the scale of those Abraham Lincoln once took?

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.

is it off?

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?

 

 

yesterday’s traditions today

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It’s Bank Holiday weekend.

Strange how we hold on to these relics of a time gone by. These customs. These traditions. Long beyond their time in a sense.

Bank Holidays have been around in current form since the late 1800s and were all associated with important religious festivals and agricultural holidays before they were enacted into law by the Victorians.  So many go back even further. May Day only became an official bank holiday in 1971, but its roots as a holiday stretch back to pre-Christian pagan festivals, and the familiar rituals of crowning of the May Queen and dancing around the Maypole made it a popular seasonal celebration in medieval England.

So why do we keep traditions?

Sure we enjoy the day off, but we don’t bring the holiday into the present context; rather, we hang on to a relevance long gone.

It is like that too with our lives more broadly.  We hold on to behaviour and thinking rituals which often served us well as children.  No longer useful as adults, we keep them still; almost shackled to the tradition.

We do this with learning too. Learning skills and ways of being which suit one role, but still practicing them in others, such as later careers we may undertake, or even in parenting, or other life roles.

Strange our love of the past.

 

 

taking for granted what we take for granted

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When I was a teenager, telephone boxes were how you communicated when outside the home. They were on every street corner. Red, glass and steel boxes that served as communication portals to friends, family, emergency services and, most importantly, they served to secure you a lift back home after a night out. Now of course they are almost non existent. Back then, I took them for granted. I couldn’t conceive of the telephone box being in my pocket.

All of us take things for granted.

Things that just are. Things we have known to be so, for so long, we simply don’t question them.

And the challenge  with noticing the things we take for granted is… well, we take them for granted.

In a sense they become invisible to us.

Looking back in time can provide clues as to things we once all took for granted. One hundred years ago, 25% of us would have been servants. Many would have taken that for granted. Telling the time required a pocket watch, subsequently a wrist watch. We carried the time with us. That was just how it was. Now, the time is everywhere in our digital world, and fewer kids wear watches. Fires were how we kept warm, now we have central heating, under floor heating.

Just 15 years ago, access to the Internet would only have been possible in certain locations with specific equipment. Now we take for granted we can access it anywhere anytime, on many devices. And when we can’t, we become frustrated. We almost take it for granted now. Soon we will.

Just living day to day, many of us take things for granted. Having a roof over our heads. Food to eat. Sleeping. Clothes. Cars. Roads. Water. Toilets. Power. The sun coming up. Language. Medicines. Microwaves. Refrigerators. Government. Peace.

Of course, taking some of these things for granted is fine, for the most part.

The question is, what do you currently take for granted that closes your mind to possibility?

What can you not see, because something you take for granted, just is? It’s there obstructing your ability to see things differently.

Don’t take for granted what you take for granted.

 

the archaeology of you

archaeology of self
What do you think of when I say archaeologist or archaeology?

My first thought is about old things, history, origins.

When I think about the archaeologist I imagine someone, dusty and dirty, on their knees, gently sweeping away at a half buried treasure, using a small hand brush and miniature tools. Occasionally they lean down to gently blow the sand or soil away; the sand or soil that has safely encased and protected the artifact for many many years, centuries even. I also imagine someone piecing together the exposed parts, rebuilding tiny fragments into a more complete whole, something that tells a story.

The art is one of care, of delicate, tender, loving practice. History is treated with the utmost respect.  The finds not treasures of intrinsic monetary worth necessarily, but often priceless in the story they reveal of humanity and community and living long since passed.

It strikes me how this applies to us and our very human being.

Our story, our reality, our truth, our purpose comprised of many small parts formed long ago in our personal history, often buried, safely locked away beneath the surface. If we embark on a journey of self exploration, either for ourselves, or as a coach say in support of another’s quest, the need for that same delicate care, that same respect for what is, that same patience to gently reveal the treasures, would seem paramount.

Just as with the dig and the unearthed pot, often revealing the parts of our human self and then assembling them can reveal something most precious – our layers of significance, our identity, our reason for being, our purpose.

If you seek to explore the archaeology of you, go slowly, blow gently.