life will be violent, all will be lost

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity; more than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

Charles Chaplin
(speech from the Jewish barber in The Great Dictator)

losing things

losing things

Do you lose things?

I do.  Keys are a favourite. Today I lost my phone – only for half an hour.

Sometimes I lose things that aren’t actually things.  Like losing my way, or losing interest. I seem to lose time too.  I look up and realise I seem to have lost several hours.

How do you lose something that doesn’t physically exist?

Ultimately though, these are all recoverable, or when push comes to shove, they don’t really matter. They can be replaced, recovered or simply forgotten about.  We move on.

Don’t ever lose your curiosity though. Or your sense of fun. Or your compassion for yourself. Or your sense of who you are. Or your sense of belonging. Or your sense of value, or place in this world. Or your humanity. Don’t lose yourself.

These are harder to recover from. Hold them close. Guard them devotedly.

our very public privacy

image

I invite you to imagine yourself in a large theatre, standing on a stage in front of an audience of 200 strangers. You are about to speak out, frankly, about your most private moments.

Ready to go? Happy? Begin…

No?

Oddly, public transport seems to provide a safe environment for us to do this. To share our most private moments. A train carriage, packed with 200 strangers for example.

In only the last week I have witnessed three examples whilst travelling on a train.

Maybe it’s the imagined intimacy of the one to one telephone conversation, the background hum of the train on the tracks? Maybe it’s the intensity and the emotion of the content of the exchange, taking us into ourselves?  I don’t know, but somehow these people become so absorbed by their conversation that their awareness of their audience is seemingly totally lost. They find a freedom and a frankness in front of strangers; all sense of potentially prying eyes and ears, any sense of vulnerability, of exposure, of visibility seems to desert them.

Whether it be a lady initially informing her husband she will be late and is having to stand, descending into a row about him never listening to her and a very honest view of his sister’s shortcomings; or a young woman, speaking to a (presumed) friend, recounting her night out, which culminated in her boyfriend hitting her; or a conversation face to face between two standing passengers, conducted at unnecessary volume, one initially exploring a ‘client’ emotionally falling for her (I’m sure there are ethical limits here) and culminating in a sharing of bluntly truthful views on their respective partners and their children…

Maybe we should be more cognisant of our surroundings and the words, thoughts and feelings tumbling out?

Or maybe we could benefit from such honesty, such openness, such trust in our everyday lives?

are they? really?

I received an email yesterday.

Not in itself newsworthy I grant you.  I had a few.  Too many in fact.

This one though stood out.

After the brief message it ended…
KR
Name

I had to read it several times. The KR puzzled me. Was it a mistake? An inadvertent lean on the keyboard? Some coded message perhaps? Or maybe the first two initials of the writer, with an unplanned carriage return before the rest of the name?

Then it dawned on me… kind regards.

But are they?

If I cannot be bothered to type the words, are they really kind regards? I certainly didn’t receive it that way. In fact I felt this person showed little regard for me at all with this shorthand, can’t be bothered, nod to politeness.

Even when technology is used, we surely need to pay attention to the relationship, the messages we unconsciously send, the rapport we create or don’t. Text based exchanges already lose out on conveying tone of voice, facial expression, mood, a smile. If we resort to abbreviated proxies for any attempted human connection, all is lost.

 

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…

seen and unseen, illusion and reality

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Our shadow is always with us. Always connected.

Often we cannot see it. Occasionally so faded, so feint, it cannot be detected by our human eye. Sometimes fragmented, in parts; distorted by multiple light sources.

In the right light though our shadow is clearly us. It responds to our movement, to our very being. It is an extension of us. A monochrome, two dimensional form, that adopts the contours of our surroundings.

A shadow part of our complex humanity perhaps? Intrinsically us; yet sometimes hidden, sometimes not. Impacted by our environment. By conditions. Sometimes we can see this part of ourselves, sometimes others see it when we do not, sometimes it is invisible to all. Our shadow responds to our other parts, our thoughts, actions, behaviours. Our movements and motion. Always responding.

Light and shade.  Effect and cause. Seen and unseen. Illusion and reality.

 

is society collapsing?

image

You could be forgiven for perhaps thinking so.

The ramifications of the vote a few days ago have generated some dramatic activity. Financial markets wavering, Prime Ministers resigning, political parties in disarray, arguments beginning across the channel, countries in our United Kingdom expressing a view, again, that they do not wish to be united. Yet…

I’ve just mown my grass. I’m sitting outside now with a cup of tea. My mower started, water spewed from the tap in order for me to brew my tea, the sun is shining, my neighbour said ‘hello’, a fly wants to share my biscuit, an aircraft passes overhead…

What is society?

One dictionary definition is…

the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

another…

an organised group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.

On that basis the society that is the road I live in, is fine. We are, more or less, operating as an ordered aggregate of people living in a community for a variety of purposes. A local society, I grant you, so let’s look bigger, much bigger.

As a species, we live on a planet. We have little choice really than to live together. We do so for pragmatic purposes, to breathe, to survive, to reproduce as a human race. It’s more or less organised, more or less ordered.

Much is wrong with it though. Some groups fight, for political or religious reasons. Some groups have little, others arguably too much. Some prosper, some starve. Some believe in one set of values or world order, some another. Our cultural histories are significantly different. We speak a multitude of languages. We raise our children and operate in our communities differently. We come together for a variety of reasons beyond survival. In some respects we are organised, ordered. In many we are not.

But even this massively faulty, culturally disparate, often blind society works, more or less. It does so because fundamentally human beings are social animals. We want to ge in groups, to be together, to belong. We have a deep need to connect and to be accepted. Even the terrorist suicide bomber seeks to belong. To his or her faith and to the community or society or afterlife they believe in. We live in relationship systems.

I passed a man sitting in the street on Friday. He had a dog, a blanket, a cardboard mat and was begging. This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and he was begging. I can’t rescue him, I can’t take him in or solve his problems, but I can acknowledge him. Acknowledge his existence. His humanity. So I spoke to him. I said hello and asked him how he was. Maybe I should have given him money. Maybe that would have been more important. But money is transient. Money isn’t what makes society. If anything money destroys it.

For me society has at its core, humanity. Human recognising human. Not necessarily agreeing, not necessarily believing the same things, not necessarily speaking the same language, not necessarily living in the same way, not necessarily having the same choices, past, present or future, not necessarily wanting the same things. But human beings nonetheless. It seems to me as long as we have that, society will survive. Hopefully it will blossom and grow.

Say ‘hello’ to someone today.
Maybe offer them something.
Maybe perform a random act of kindness.
Maybe say sorry.
Maybe just smile.

thinking our way out of the darkness

out of the darkness

Farmers used to think that it was in the nature of chickens to peck at one another, that they were basically loners, unsocial animals that couldn’t mingle without being nasty.

On some farms, their beaks were clipped, but this only made it more difficult for the chickens to eat – which made them hungrier, so they pecked at themselves and one another even more. Then a chicken farmer somewhere noticed something exquisitely simple that changed everything: chicken coops were dark, and the absence of light was what was causing the chickens to peck at themselves and one another. As soon as that farmer introduced a light source into his coops, his chickens stopped pecking—it was as simple as that.

People are not all that different. When we don’t know what our minds need to think well together, we are like chickens pecking around in the dark. This isn’t as far afield as it might seem. When we are communicating and thinking well together, our faces actually “light up.” When our minds don’t get enough light, our thinking breaks down and we begin to peck at one another and ourselves.

Humans can no longer afford to think in division and darkness. Collaborative intelligence is the light that is necessary for our individual and collective survival. We have no choice now but to think together.

Dawna Markova & Angie McArthur

speaking guttish


When we think, we can tangibly understand and relate to our thoughts. They have a language. Our language. It’s like a conversation. We can hear or see our thoughts. We can reason with them. Disagree with them.

When we think, we can tangibly produce outputs. Pros and cons. Information and data. Benefits and implications. Decisions. Choices.

But when our gut feel is in use, it can be harder to understand and relate to. Often we don’t know what the feeling means. There is no language. In fact we often struggle to find a language for the feeling, let alone interpret its intent for us.

So what does that mean for a decision based largely or completely on gut feel?

The flipism normative decision theory suggests making a decision based on a coin toss. Not a decision based on the toss itself, but on the feeling associated with the outcome. The theory being, if your gut really wanted the ‘heads’ outcome, you will feel positive if that’s the result and disappointed if the toss comes down ‘tails’.

But how do we know a positive feeling from a disappointed one? And what if our feeling on the outcome isn’t ‘disappointed’, but is ‘sad’, or ‘let down’ or ‘futility’ or ‘shame’… How do we interpret a sensation in our body and know precisely what it means? If the outcome our gut seeks is ‘satisfied’, do we know if the feeling is that? What if it’s ‘kind’ or ‘justified’ or ‘rewarded’ or ‘acknowledged’…?

Yet we make gut feel decisions daily. Often these are among our best decisions. The ones we accept readily without a desire to revisit, unlike some of our thinking decisions.

It seems building our language in this area might be useful? Building a way to communicate with our own bodies, helpful?

the other side of the argument

the other side

I’m finding the debate on the EU referendum a little tiresome.

The claims from each side, seem to get wilder and more outrageous. They become more fearsome too. Threat, despair, doom and gloom seems the order of the day.

In part it is the nature of ‘sides’. ‘Sides’ are the root of debate. The foundations of politics. An all or nothing mentality. I win, you lose. I’m right, you’re wrong.

It seems once you join a side, you have to defend the collective position of that ‘side’ against all the other ‘side’ might say.  Our party politics is riddled with this.  Somehow the concept of ‘side’ seems to rob these people of individual thought, ironically at the root of democracy, the very thing they seek to uphold.  Everything the ‘other side’ says is wrong. And everything I say has to support my side’s view, whether I truly believe it or not – even World War 3!  Everything.

“Really? Everything?”, is my response.

The power of ‘side’ is evident in this referendum debate.  Politicians on the same party ‘side’, are now on different ‘sides’. Colleagues once, now vitriolic opponents.

It seems to me to drive an extreme position which, for me, becomes less and less believable. Less real. I stop trusting them all. I stop wanting to listen to them all.

Surely in anything so significant and complex, there is grey? Some risks and some potential gains? Some good, some bad?  Why can these people not just provide a balanced perspective?

But ‘side’ is everywhere.

It permeates our gender, our ethnicity, our social status, our religious persuasions, our organisations, our families, our sport…

‘Side’ fuels blame, it creates blind spots, it reduces options, choices, potential. ‘Side’ underpins judgement. ‘Side’ erodes compassion, care, humanity. ‘Side’ creates gaps, divides. ‘Side’ is the bedfellow of anger and frustration. ‘Side’ is dangerous.