travelling how?

travelling through life

How do you travel through life?

Do you roll, like a smooth pebble; always moving, rolling ever onwards to the sea?

Do you dance like a starling at dusk, part of the whirling, ever changing murmuration?

Do you drift like a cloud, morphing as life’s winds blow?

Do you dive like a kingfisher, arrowed and true, breaking the surface for what lies beneath?

Do you set your SatNav to avoid the tolls, so that life is trouble free and scenic?

Do you let life come to you, like the leaf of a tree, mellowing through the seasons?

Do you run like the prey, staying safe and ever alert to dangers?

Do you hunt like the predator, opportunistic and meeting your needs?

Do you melt slowly like a sugar cube, sweetening your surroundings?

Do you float on a cloud of your perpetual dreams and imagination?

Do you travel light, ready to soar on an upward current of unexpected breeze rising from life’s hot desert?

Do you speed like a train, sure of your path, keen to remain on track and to get there quickly?

Do you skate like a water boatman; surfacing all, never diving deep?

Do you build stepping stones across the fast flowing river, sure of your place as the current rushes between your feet?

Do you stay in the pack, travelling where the pack goes, hidden within?

Do you fall like a snowdrop, gently drifting in life’s beauty until you melt away?

Do you sway like tall grass, whispering to the grasses around you?

Do you shine like a sun ray; enlightening, growing and warming those you touch?

How do you travel through life?

 

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?

coned off mentally

 

image

Last week we were in London. We sat near the river. In front of us was an area of grass, taped off so that it could recover from its well worn state – presumably picnickers, sunbathers and walkers like us had rendered the grass threadbare. To the side, was an area marked off by linked metal barriers – the kind that are used for crowd control. Behind this protection were some pallets of building materials, a pile of some sort of mixed aggregate, some bags of waste and general rubbish – an adjacent building site suggested its purpose. Later we saw a newly laid concrete pathway, blocked by traffic cones, linked with tape.

Cones, barriers and tape to block areas off where we shouldn’t go. Areas that are out of bounds.

Do you think it’s like that in our heads too?

Memories marked out as ‘no go’ areas. Blocked by our unconscious mind as it considers them dangerous places, where we might get hurt; just like a building site. Our subconscious taping off parts of our personal history that need to be left to recover, like a worn out lawn; vulnerable, fragile and otherwise exposed. New experiences coned off, whilst we make sense of them, give them perspective and meaning; allowing them to set into our map of the world like newly laid concrete pathways.

 

spoiling the view

bird mess

I look out of the window near my desk on occasion to help me think.

A bird has ‘bombed’ the window .  A serious amount.

It’s been distracting me all day.  Causing me to focus not on the view outside, but instead drawing my attention to the window pane.  Somehow making me look near, rather than far. Obstructing my thinking.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere!

the last leaf on the tree

resilience strength last leaf

As Winter approaches the leaves on the trees thin daily. A tree in my garden has maybe only a hundred left.

I wonder whether I will get to witness the last leaf on the tree?

I wonder also, what makes it the last leaf on the tree? What gives it the resilience to hang on in there? What gives it its strength? The determination to stay attached to its branch? What marks that leaf out from the rest? From the masses? The thousands that have fallen?  Is it the courage to stand out, or the fear of falling that keeps it in place? Is it the position it holds in the structure of the tree? Or maybe its angle in relationship to the elements; the wind and rain that strive to dislodge it? What makes it special?

In life, what makes us persist? Hang on? What gives us grit and determination? What makes us stand out from the crowd? Unique?

 

the emergency kit

emergency kit of life
Travelling on the train the other day, I noticed a little green handle, secreted behind a glass pane, set into a grey nondescript panel. The panel was adjacent to the toilet. Next to the little glass pane was a sticker describing how to access and turn said handle after breaking the glass.

Further exploration, via a set of miniature icons next to the text instruction, showed the contents, presumably stowed behind the panel, to be the emergency kit. This kit apparently comprised a ladder, a rope, a crowbar and a saw.

Having briefly visited the notion, admittedly with some alacrity, that a secret game of Cluedo might be underway, wherein the murderer carried out the deadly act with the saw in First Class or with the crowbar in the luggage rack, I was curious about the selected equipment.

If the train was in difficulty, had broken down or worse become derailed or crashed, I struggled to understand how I, or anyone, might be minded to locate the toilet and its neighbourly panel, break the glass, turn the handle and access a saw and a rope … to what end I wondered?

My thoughts then strayed to the whole idea of an emergency kit. What might my emergency kit for life be?

My first thought was chocolate, but then I embraced the question with more serious intent. I would want a hug to be in my emergency kit – a reassuring squeeze. I would want a reminder of my sense of purpose; something to draw me back to the ‘for whom or for what’ I am here – a re-grounding in something bigger than myself. I would want a companion; someone to confide in, to share with. I would want a way to distract myself, to lose myself in my own imagination; maybe some music?

What would be in your emergency kit, behind the innocuous panel?

where has the magic gone?

#onthemoon metaphor meaning
The John Lewis Christmas advert is out. The man on the moon. Its intent is to highlight the loneliness of many old people at Christmas and to champion the concept of giving.

But the scientists, the cynics, the ‘ne’er be happies’, the journalists are already criticising the story. In the Guardian the other day, an article entitled “Who is moon Hitler?” appeared. How can a girl have a telescope that magnifies the moon so well? What is a man doing on the moon in a shack? Is he a banished criminal? How can he breathe? Balloons could not carry a gift to the moon, don’t people understand the physics?…

I wonder, have we lost the magic of metaphor? Where have the dreams gone? Does humankind not draw inspiration from the improbable any more? How do we progress without imagination? Where on our journey did we lose that childhood gift?

I have been with a number of people who, on seeing the advert, have shed a tear. Of course they have. As I was discussing here the other day, meaning making is an inherent human need and this beautiful piece of cinematic art gives us meaning. It connects us to our emotions. It reminds us of family, of loved ones, of Christmas, of being alone and of loneliness. That creates meaning for us.

John Lewis is being commercial, naturally. The advert is not entirely altruistic. But its association with Age UK is intended to highlight the number of people, particularly old people, who will feel loneliness this Christmas. A worthy human cause.

Notwithstanding the commerciality, the charitable intent and the human story though. Surely, even in a commercial, money driven world, there is space in our humanity still for hope, for imagination, for a wonder delivered through the magic of metaphor? If not, then as human beings we have fallen far.

We should look to our children, where magic and wonder still thrive. Where story and metaphor is still rich and wondrous, filled with meaning. Where experimentation and imagination fuel learning and growth. As adults we would do well to reconnect with the child in us.

Otherwise, where has the magic gone?