which side are you on?


We place fences everywhere.

Fences between our houses. Fences delineating our gardens. Fences alongside railway lines. Fences around yards, car parks and compounds. Fences to keep the animals in, fences to keep them out. Fences around parks and ponds. Fences marking out the route the country pathway takes. Fences shaping fields and grazing land. High fences around prisons. Low fences around vegetable plots. Fences between thrusting motorway carriageways and their speeding contents. Fences on bridges. Fences at the stadium. Fences at the racetrack. Fences at the top, or bottom, of the stairs. 

Some keep us out, some keep us in. Some are to indicate the way. Some to stop us meandering off the way. Some show possession.   Some deny access. Some deny exit. Some are aesthetic, some very functional.

Which side are you on?

And what about the fences of your mind?

The fences that determine choice. The fences that set out appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. The fences that inform us we can’t or we shouldn’t. The fences that motivate and drive action or tell us inappropriate or unachievable action. The internal fences that keep us safe. The internal fences that restrict our growth and learning. The fences that allow us to see potential, the fences that blind us to reality.

Invisible fences, but often just as effective.

Which side are you on?

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will we evolve to forget?

will we evolve to forget

Snapchat are about to launch sunglasses that capture video of what you see.

Your brain already does that.

Many of us think visually. We see ourselves in our experiences. We recall memories this way; in our “mind’s eye”. We even create imagined futures by running video or slide shows of what might happen. Our imagination is cool.

If we start replacing the need to do this because technology does it for us, might we evolve to lose the ability?

Evolution of course takes time, but there is already evidence that more people are becoming nearsighted because of recent changes in patterns of behaviour. A new paper published in the journal Ophthalmology looks at worldwide trends in myopia (nearsightedness) by doing a meta-analysis of 145 studies involving 2.1 million total participants. It predicts that by the year 2050, 4.8 billion people will be nearsighted. That’s 49.8 percent of the world’s population. The theory is that this is because of increased close work in the office, use of handheld devices and because less time is spent outdoors.

So what next? No need to visually recall our experiences; just download what we saw from our sunglasses?

Now that’s a dark thought to dim the brightness of anyone’s day.

just lie down here and the pain will go away

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Why do we push ourselves even when we want to give up?

There appears to be an inner battle at play. That part feeling the pain, wanting to concede and that part that doesn’t want to be beaten, wanting to succeed.

I rode a bike yesterday, for the first time in fifteen years. Around Montreal. I guess if you’re going to start again after fifteen years there are worse places to begin. The ride took us along the Lanchine canal, followed the north bank of the St Lawrence river for six kilometres, then cut across in land, via a cute little cafe with Italian Ciabatta to die for. Once replete, we headed back along the remainder of the canal before heading to the island of Parc Jean-Drapeau where we rode our bikes around the Gilles Villeneuve F1 track before returning to our starting point. Around 50 kilometres or 30 miles.

From the moment we began the ride out to the Parc and F1 track, I knew my body had had enough. My thighs screamed stop. The sun burned down on my face and neck as we crossed the Pont de la Concorde. I was done. But the lure of saying I’d ridden around a Formula 1 race circuit kept me going.

The return journey though was another matter. My prize had been won and that part of me feeling the pain was now winning too. I dawdled back across the bridge. The slight incline up really proving hard, as my legs screamed out with every turn of the pedals. My hands were now numb too, from over gripping the handle bars as my legs struggled – somehow holding on for dear life appeased my lower limbs. The final kilometre saw me stop several times and push the bike. Even walking proved hard as my legs were like jelly and walking in a straight line seemed beyond me. My arm had developed an uncontrollable twitch and my thumb, without my say so, wriggled about like a worm in the sunshine, seeking the solace of damp and dark. But I had to return the hire bike, so the part driving me on kept going. I was also with my daughter and couldn’t let her down, so I kept going.

The battle between these parts of me was a fight to the end. “Just lie down on the grass and the pain will ease.” versus “You can’t give up now you’ve come this far. Think how good you will feel having cycled 50 kilometres on your first bike ride for fifteen years.”

And I did.

Feel good.

But tomorrow is another day… Ouch.

articulated mind traps

Observing a driver reversing an articulated lorry always gives me a sense of admiration. I notice a desire to be able to do that. It looks satisfying. I feel compelled to stand and watch.

But my brain says it’s hard.

‘I would probably struggle,’ it says. ‘It’s not as easy as it looks,’ it says. ‘Look on and marvel in the ability of these wondrous people, but it’s not for you, is it?’ it says.

Maybe it is hard, maybe it isn’t?
The point is that what my brain says, makes a big difference.

More importantly, what else does my brain say is hard?  What else do I avoid or just never get around to experiencing because my brain says it’s hard?

And … why does it do that?

What is my brain’s purpose in telling me it’s hard?  How is my own brain serving me, by telling me I will struggle to master that? By putting me off? By putting me down? By creating a limiting frame of reference?

But still I listen. Still I stand and marvel. Still I imagine.

coned off mentally

 

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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.

 

gone for good

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Trolley points. You know, places where you return a trolley and get your money back. You find them in car parks, on train stations, in airports. You’ve made use of the trolley as part of your journey. It served a purpose and now you’re done with it. So you can return it to a tidy spot and be reimbursed. It’s gone for good.

On life’s journey we collect stuff too, but there’s not usually somewhere handy to leave it when you’re done. You end up storing it in your head. Sometimes it comes back out and trips you up, or slows you down. Sometimes you try and lock it away in a ‘cupboard’ in a corner of your brain. You know you don’t need it, or want it again. It has served its purpose on your journey. But it won’t stay there; it keeps on returning. Like a runaway trolley hitting your shins.

Trolley point anyone?