human interactions and comparisons.
A boy is walking with his grandfather along the beach after a bad storm. As their walking, the boy comments about the thousands of star fish that have washed up on the shore. He asks, “where do these starfish live?” His grandfather says, “in the ocean of course.” The boy thinks about this and says to his grandfather. “What’s going to happen to them then?” His grandfather says, “don’t worry about it, this often happens after a storm. It’s just the cycle of nature, that’s all, there’s nothing we can do about it.” The boy thinks about this and says, “why can’t we help them, why can’t we put them back in the ocean?”.
This is altruism at work in young children. Children see a problem, or someone not doing well and their natural wiring for connection kicks in, it hasn’t been jaded yet. At this point the boy starts picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. “I’m going to help them granddad.” His grandfather gets upset and says to him “it’s just how it is, it’s something you will learn as you get older. It’s not going to make any difference, and as I said, it’s just how it is” With tears in his eyes, he picks up one of the starfish and looks at his grandfather and says, “It will make a big difference to this one” as he throws it back in the water.
That’s the problem with our perceptions. As we get older, it can seem overwhelming to change things we think are beyond our capacity to change, but any small action can have a huge ripple effect. Seemingly insurmountable things have been changed by small actions at the right time and attempted in a sincere way. We all have the power to make a difference, and if our intentions are right and we are in congruence with our actions, beautiful things can happen. I was thinking about this story the other day, when I took my young granddaughter to the local park.
There’s a small adventure playground, with various pieces of equipment for the children to play on, it was the school holidays, so the playground was packed. I noticed straight away how the kids took turns with everything, they were on the swings, but were aware of the other kids who were waiting. I understand it can be boring playing with kids and I’m not denying this, but it’s only a short time out of my day, so I’m going to enjoy the experience. There is a large roundabout in the middle, which was empty until my granddaughter got on. My job was to grab the various handles and pull it around to make it go faster, I quickly learned why it was empty.
The kids came from every direction, someone was making it go fast. There must have been about eight kids now all jumping up and down on the roundabout yelling “faster, faster.” I noticed all the young mums and dads looking at me, I’m sure they were wondering, how long can the old man last before we have to call an ambulance? My reprieve didn’t come from them though, one of the young boys jumped off and started pushing with me. He must have been about 8 years old. I watched the other kid’s reaction, a couple of the kids around his age joined him while the younger kids stayed on. My granddaughter got off and pushed it for a while and she is only 5 years old.
It was amazing to see the co-operation between these kids, as small as they were, they just made it happen, so it seems for young children, the desire starts with a thought, but never ends with it. Their untainted faith, combined with action, always equals results that are commensurate to them.
I remembered the story recently of the over three hundred people who came to the rescue of a humpback whale after it lay stranded on a beach in Brazil. It weighed between 10 to 15 tons, people worked around the clock with shovels and JCB diggers to form a channel so that the sea water could wash the whale back out. People were left crying and shouting for joy as the mammal was released back into the Ocean. As adults even our tainted faith can work, a thought can turn into a desire to do the seemingly impossible. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” (Mother Teresa)
There has always been a cult of celebrity but now there is also a cult “of possibility”.
The cult of celebrity is not new, but it is increasing in its scope and effect. At one time, people would simply gawk at the famous, and possibly dress like them. Now, many take their moral and political opinions from them. Fame confers authority, and the principal way of acquiring great fame is via the entertainment industry. Entertainers are the gods of our age, with de facto powers to influence our opinions. Why is it that our minds enjoy and often crave engaging with this? Is it a form of escapism, are celebrities helpful role models, or do they create an inferiority complex for all of us touched by their influence. Are those entrusted with this accolade different, or better than those existing without it? Will there ever be a “possibility” we will wake up from this intoxication and see that there’re simply human.
Fame, is accessible to anyone and those who want it, are fixated by those who are already in possession of it. Within the social media platforms, is another professional and sometimes raw phenomenon, of the “cult of possibility” Where ordinary motivated people in the media, connect with thousands of others who may not be quite so motivated. In doing this, they present themselves to the world, as authentic to the things they are doing. The difference between them and “celebrity proper” is we can imagine ourselves, being capable of attempting everything they do. This is the “cult of possibility”, where sometimes, with a small amount of effort financially, we can attempt exactly the same thing.
The “cult of possibility” gives us a more personal connection.
One of my favorite shows on television is Grand designs, a show that is based in England and sometimes in Europe, it follows and interacts with people who are building their Grand design to live in. The show is about design, but the ratings for each episode are very different. When people have an abundance of money to throw at a project, it doesn’t resonate as well with the public, as a couple who struggle building a home with their own hands, while maxing out their credit cards in the process. One of the publics favorite episodes, also the presenters, was the “Woodsman” who built his home from the trees in the forest he tended by hand, with some of his friends to help him. It showed how he struggled to create a home, and the surrounding gardens of natural beauty.
He was a smart hard working man, who resonated well with the camera. But it wasn’t the lack of money that prevented him achieving his goal. So we were are able to see the “possibility” that we may be able to achieve exactly the same thing. Also the older couple who met later in life and purchased an absolute wreck of a chateau in France, when most people would be putting their feet up, took on the challenge of their lives. If they can do it with so little money and mostly using sweat equity, there’s no reason why we can’t do this, or the “possibility” that we can. The average person loves to dream, but the dream is always more pleasant when there is a “possibility” that one day, it will come true.
The “cult of possibility” is alive and well.
Life for many people has lost it’s sense of optimism for the future. We are wondering what’s going on, we feel uncertain as we look for inspiration where ever we can find it. Nothing has changed though, there is no quick fix or miracle cure. The Alternative lifestyle movement is as popular as it has ever been. Selling possessions and downsizing is not about money, the usual excuse we use. Now it’s the social conditioning we have to contend with, the what if’s and possible maybe’s, that we have to get past. There are a proliferation of channels on U-TUBE where “normal” people are attempting to live an alternative life. Traveling in buses, vans and RV’S some of these people, have thousands of subscribers on their lists.
The two favorites that appeal to my slow pace of life, are based on the canals in England. “Cruising the cut” and “Journey with Jono” both very well produced, great sound and picture quality. The narrow boats travel at walking pace, something I’m used to. The surrounding countryside and the hypnotic sound of the engine almost send me to sleep. I certainly know I’m relaxed anyway. These men aren’t rich, they sold their homes to follow a different lifestyle. This allows us the “possibility” that we may do this, but possibly never will. This resonates with us, we bond with them because we see ourselves doing these things through their eyes. This resonates with me, because they are “nice guys” someone you would love as your next door neighbor. They appeal to a very wide audience both young and older.
The “possibility” of owning a narrow boat.
Both of these channels have thousands of subscribers. Jono is on his narrow boat with his dog Molly, as everyone seems fascinated with dogs, Molly has a cult following of her own. My realization that this was a “cult of possibility” came when l looked at the comments left by the subscribers. They were from all around the world, watching this narrow boat on the canals in England. Many of them voicing the “possibility” that one day they would do this for themselves. Jono and David aren’t showing us a dream, but showing us a possibility. There’s a twist to their story though, for their shows to last longer and with more personal disclosures. They are being forced by their audience to expand their horizons.
They have to look for different features to keep up with demand. This is time consuming for them and I’m sure, a fine line that they are walking, between the life they want for themselves and the life that is being demanded from them. So even though they are ordinary men presenting a simple life story on a narrow boat. They are being forced by the “culture of possibility” to put more effort into living a different story than they would possibly have thought of in the beginning. Inadvertently, this could be a good thing for them, as they expand their stories to satisfy their audience and hopefully themselves.
“If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people” (Victor Cousin)
Haven’t we all at some stage in our life, wanted to experience complete ignorance to what’s going on around us, and be able to live life on our own terms. A number of years ago, I was working with a man on a building site in Perth, he lived in Golden Bay, which is an outlying suburb near the beach. A fiery debate was going on in the lunch shed. We were trying to sort out the worlds problems in our half hour break. Looking for back up, I turned to this man, whom I had never spoken to before. “What do you think, this can’t be right, surely there must be another way of looking at this problem”? “Frankly I don’t give a shit about anyone’s problems, only my own”
“It’s better than listening to you lot, going on about something that you can’t fix anyway” He had our attention now, maybe he had discovered a magic formula that we were unaware of. “Look don’t get me wrong, I know it sounds like ignorance, but it’s a conscious decision I have made. I really have no idea what you are talking about. I live on my own over the road from the ocean, I love fishing, hence the book I’m reading now. After I get home from work, I take my small boat out, usually I catch a feed of fish and I barbeque that, with herbs from my garden. I listen to some music if I feel like it, and tinker around in my shed. There always seems to be something to keep me busy, I don’t have a radio or television and I don’t read newspapers anymore”
Ignorance….”Living is easy with eyes closed” (John Lennon)
As it turned out, he had been through a bitter divorce and had lost custody of his children in the process. For him, ignorance was the answer, so knowledge outside of his world, was useless to him. He wasn’t a recluse though, as he was still operating within mainstream society every day. I had to admire him for that, but at the same time, I knew that he was in the minority, and probably, that was a good thing. Being able to say you don’t know, is better than being armed with a small amount of knowledge. Then using that knowledge in an authoritative way to create your own version of the truth, this is ignorance.
Now we have so many half truths, floating around in the chatter of the media. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know what is truth anymore, and if there is such a thing in the first place. I think we are all aware that our knowledge base is compromised, and has to be for society to function. The academic view, which I’m inclined to agree with, is that every decision we make should be a knowledge gathering exercise. Comparing and contrasting every piece of information we find, then making a decision that hopefully, is the right one. In the real world of course, this doesn’t work, as we would never get anything done. We would be constantly surrounded, with what if’s and possible maybe’s.
Ignorance….Between a rock and a hard place.
Knowledge can be paralyzing, the more we know, the harder it is to take decisive action. Nothing is as clear as it first appears, as we start seeing shades of grey everywhere. As individuals we may believe that knowledge is fixed, and there is only one way, to approach a problem or an opportunity. In doing this we adhere to dogmas, that are often outdated. We may take a flexible approach and believe, that different opinions are justified. Being willing to consider alternative perspectives, but still holding on to our desired position. We can also assess all views as equal. But still believe, that one position is clearly justified based on statutory, ethical or humanistic considerations.
My own use of the knowledge available, has often been selective to my own point of view. A tunnel vision mode, on a particular subject, taking only the knowledge that justifies my position. While rejecting the rest quickly or completely ignoring it, losing any remnants of common sense in the process. Wanting whatever it is, and somehow, I’m going to get it, no matter what the costs are. The jury is still out on the success or failure of that position. If I can write these things down now, I know that I have gained enough knowledge to realize, that it’s been a problem in the past.
Ignorance is many things.
“Frankly I don’t give a shit” was my work colleagues stance, when questioned. I can see now that my tunnel vision could be considered another version of that, but it’s been helpful in many ways. I did two years of night school to gain an entrance to part time university. At the beginning of the semester, the classes at night school would start with around forty five students, but by the end, only three, or less remained. I left school at fifteen years old, so I had to relearn the basic concepts again. My tunnel vision has at times though, been detrimental to myself and the people close to me.
If there is knowledge available, we shouldn’t reject it, in fact, it’s our obligation to realize our full potential. In doing this we may be able to help move the world forward, in the best way possible. Ignorance isn’t bliss after all, it causes far more problems than it solves. I have tried to Straighten him out, but there’s only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer. ( David Sedaris)
Learning the lessons first.
Lessons are often learned by the mistakes we make, with this comes the understanding, that we’re not perfect. We come to the realization that perfection doesn’t really exist, but only the intention, of doing the best we can. Who wants to be perfect anyway? “Me” I hear you say, but then of course, perfection leaves no room for improvement does it. With every mistake we make, we discover more and more about ourselves, who we are, our limits, and our capabilities for what we can and can’t do.
This helps us to be more compassionate and tolerant with ourselves and others. This can only come from attempting things ourselves, not theorizing about the actions we may possibly take in the future. The balance is between the lessons we learn from our own experiences, and learning from the mistakes of others, so that we don’t make the same mistakes ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with having a library full of self help books and watching U-tube documentaries. Many great authors and film makers have plenty of wisdom to pass on. While planning strategizing and learning are good, they don’t produce results, only action can do that. If we are only going to theorize and never take any action, all we are doing, is having mental masturbation with ourselves.
We can’t learn to swim by reading books about swimming, we need to jump in, get wet and make mistakes… and now we are getting somewhere. Our self-esteem and confidence will only come from actions taken. Obviously this is not to be confused with jumping in feet first, with no planning at all and just expecting things to work.
Converting lessons learned into action.
A small part of my own journey has been on this web site, it hasn’t been easy, I don’t come from an academic background and I’m no computer wiz either. It’s been terribly frustrating at times, and at one point, I had the distinct feeling my brain was frying. Time and again I crashed the whole site and had to start over, but in the end I stopped thinking, launched the site and learned by my mistakes. And there were plenty of them and still are, but I took action and that’s what’s important. As long as we do the best we possibly can, then there is nothing more we can ask of ourselves.
I could have paid someone to do the whole process, but what lessons would I have learnt then? As long as we take appropriate action, we can’t help but grow into a better version of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with faking it till we make it in certain circumstances. If this is what helps us to start taking the action that otherwise, would not have happened. My experience has been to approach any situation with total honesty, if I don’t know, then I’m going to say I don’t know. Without taking this to the extreme, you will learn a lot more by playing dumb and listening carefully, than you ever will pretending you know. You might learn something from another persons perspective, that you can later use to develop your own.
Taking action with the lessons learned.
It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Action is proof to ourselves that we’re willing to do what ever it takes. A lot of the self-defeating parts of ourselves fall away when we prove through action that we are willing to keep going. God helps those who help themselves. The harder I work the luckier I become. These statements reflect an ideal that as individuals, we are better off to take action and except responsibility for ourselves. Not only do we benefit from this, but there is a knock on effect for society as well.
Inaction is harder to see in the short term.
When we take action, the costs are usually immediate and obvious. The rejection we might face, the failure we might have to accept, all of these things are painful and we are very aware of them. We can measure these costs easily in the present, but it’s very difficult to measure the costs of inaction. They’re undeniably real though, once they have had time to compound. Our life often becomes smaller, with less joy as we start to live with and through other peoples actions, resulting in bitterness and depression as we get older. It’s never to late to take action, it just seems that way to us sometimes. In the Day-to-day, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, but year after year it becomes painfully obvious that, as we look back over our life, we know there were times, when we should have taken more action.
Seeking the author of our own narrative.
Narrative psychology is a perspective within psychology concerned with the storied nature of human conduct. How we deal with experience by observing stories and listening to the stories of others. The stories and the meanings of these stories rather than logical argument. This is how people construct stories to deal with their experiences. Discontentment, is unfortunately, the default story in our consumption driven society. Even though the majority of us are aware of this, the emotional drivers that keep us in this narrative, are extremely powerful. If we interpret the events of our life within this narrative, we will never see ourselves as good enough. This makes it harder for us when we need a more logical perspective within this narrative.
Life is a progression from one event to the next, no matter how trivial those events might be. In any twenty four hour period we can move from heartbreak, to great joy and back again. Even that should be a comfort to us, as we realize that negative feelings can change very quickly. The truth is, very few of us have been taught how to create sustainable happiness, inner prosperity, or problem solving mechanisms. What’s also true, is that the skills to avoid this trap are learnable.
Learning to be the author of our own narrative.
Telling our story, helps us to make sense of our lives. As we begin to examine what’s happened to, and through us. Why it happened and how it happened. This often leads to having more confidence and a better understanding of self. We seek meaning in our life through multiple personal narratives, such as parenthood, love, family, friendship and leisure. It’s within each of these personal narratives that stories are formed. It’s these stories that advertently, or inadvertently change our behavior. Our inner stories can become cycles of rumination, where we can’t look at our own narrative objectively. We are always interpreting and trying to make sense of the world around us, weaving it into our own personal story.
The general rule in a story is, that often people don’t want to change, it takes something to make it happen. Comfort and order is our default position, even if we secretly want something better. Ambition can create fear, but it can also create a better narrative, as we move towards trying to achieve our goals, as a result, life no longer feels so meaningless. Suddenly, there’s a risk in our story and a question inside us, will we make it or not? Now we have a different reason to get out of bed in the morning, we have a new narrative to live for.
Our personal narrative.
Each of us is a constantly unfolding story, a character in a novel that no one else has the ability to write. How we interpret that story is extremely important, if we don’t want to end up feeling lonely, unworthy, unloved and with poor health. Obviously, we want to create a positive self narrative, with internalized good values. Having a goal is one way forward, it can change aspects of our story and rub against less positive stories. But trying to change our internal story, is possibly more important. Allowing ourselves to realize, all the positive aspects within our personal narrative, also having gratitude for the many good things we have. Which often takes a less emotional and more logical mental stance, not a “yeah I know” but more an “Ah ha, I get it” moment.
Without discomfort or an incident, we find it hard to leave our comfort zone and enter into a different story. We need to lose our job, or be forced to make a radical change of some sort. Buy a wedding ring, sell a house, have a child, or be the hero in our own Hollywood movie for a while. If a story doesn’t have negative turns, it’s not an interesting story. We don’t give up when we encounter a setback, because we know, that every good story has both positive and negative turns. If we can’t see that life is truly remarkable and exciting, we can become unwilling victims, rather than grateful participants. The trick is, to become aware that life is precious and exciting. Our lenses may need a little more polishing, as we move into this narrative.
Please leave your comments below I would love hear what you think.
Can we successfully endow nature with a legal personality, or is this another framework to create another absurd fiction. There is a well established legal and regulatory framework for protecting natural resources, benefiting the appointed guardians and armies of wealthy lawyers. The strength of this framework is, that it creates a balance between the interests of both people and the environment. While measures are already in place to protect the environment, nature needs all the protection it can get. Our consumer orientated structure of economic growth at all costs, is hardly helping. The current outlook for policies to look after nature doesn’t look very promising. Can another “out there” proposal of Legal Personality help nature more?
(A legal definition of legal personality first) The legal personality means to be capable of having legal rights and duties within a certain legal system. Such as to enter into contracts, sue, and be sued. Legal personality is a pre-requisite to legal capacity. It’s the ability of any legal person to amend rights and obligations. Legal persons are of two kinds: natural persons – people – and judicial persons – groups of people, such as corporations, which are treated by law as if they were persons. While people acquire legal personhood when they are born. Judicial persons do so when they are incorporated in accordance with law. ( Definition and translation)
A tree or a river with a legal personality.
A river has been granted the same legal rights as a person in New Zealand. Parliament has now recognized the Whanganui River on the North Island, as a living entity. Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people, one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown, this recognition allows it to be represented in court if need arises. This was in March this year and only two weeks later, the Indian state of Uttarakhand gave the Ganges river and it’s main tributary, the Yamuna river, the status of living human entities, with legal personalities. Henceforth, polluting or damaging these rivers, will be the legal equivalent to harming a person.
One week after declaring the rivers Ganges and Yamuna as legal persons. The rivers, streams, rivulets, lakes, meadows and jungles in other areas were also named as legal persons. The friends of the earth Australia, are saying that granting legal personality to the great barrier reef will have little effect on the way the reef is run. The great barrier reef authority, will still oversee everyday activities on the reef. While tourists will continue to enjoy the beauty of the reef. The main difference would be, that the trustees would have the power to enforce the reef’s rights, if these were not respected by government. The courts findings in the Indian case, noted, that past generations handed the earth to us in it’s pristine glory and we are morally bound to hand over the same earth, to future generations.
Natural resources with legal personality.
I know the initial inclination of some people is to say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality. But it’s no stranger than family trusts, companies or incorporated societies. (That’s the words of New Zealand’s treaty negotiations minister Chris Finlayson.) This recognition gives the river the same rights, as individuals in court proceedings. We recognize companies as persons, so we make contracts with them. Now we recognize a river as a person, so we don’t have to fight about who owns it. With sweeping implications for our modern system of laws, that give corporations more rights than people and nature, having very limited rights.
Our human existence depends on the health and well being of our living earth. And the existence of corporations depends on the wealth and well-being of human society. In our “hunter gatherer past” living in balance with nature was easier, and our dependence was self evident. Now we have reached and exceeded the limits of the earths capacity. Should the fact of our dependence, once again be self evident. The recognition of the river in New Zealand and a few others at this stage, represent a neat compromise in removing the fraught questions of ownership, from the picture. Instead focusing on the legal personality of the river and how best to manage it. I’m sure many other groups will be looking at this decision very closely.
Objections to legal personality.
If other legal personality cases were successful, could it result in nature competing with humans for access to resources, water, grazing, air and forestry. Shifting our relationship and undermining some human intentions to look after nature. What are the rivers liabilities to a person who’s land has been flooded? Could health and safety prosecute the river if I fell in and got sick, or it may be said the river wasn’t employing anyone to be there in the first instance? After all the river has a legal personality now, not just a natural one. Significant as the New Zealand action is, it represents a first step on the ladder. But lets hope it represents the first step of rethinking and restructuring our current systems of law regarding nature.
The anomalies created by giving a river the rights and liabilities of a living person could help. Or is this policy of legal personality logically flawed? offering little benefit to nature, risks harming people and is wide open to abuse by lawyers and vested green interest groups. Finally does it matter at all who benefits, as long as nature wins in the end.
Sobremesa “over the table”
Sobremesa is deeply rooted in Spanish-Latin American culture. The word literally means “over the table” it has no precise English translation, probably because there is no cultural equivalent. It’s leisurely time after having finished eating, but before getting up from the table. Time spent in conversation, digesting, relaxing and enjoying. Not rushing, or reserved for weekends, even weekday and business meals, have sobremesa time. After a meal in Spain, you won’t get a check until you ask for it. It would be considered rude to rush your meal, or in any way discourage, “over the table” conversation.
Sharing a meal with good friends is profoundly satisfying. Eating together is one of the oldest and most fundamental unifying human experiences. It can simultaneously connect our physical, emotional and relational needs. Often not planned, it just happens and that’s worth hanging on to, as an authentic custom. If the table is still full of wine, beer and good coffee, what better way to share our reminiscing and anecdotes. What a great idea to carry forward to our homes as well. An opportunity to talk about what’s going on in our lives, share opinions and receive that much needed human contact. Eating slowly and happily, with good conversation afterwards, improves our digestion. “A family that eats together stays together”
Sobremesa “on the trail”.
“Over the table” moments are harder to find on the trail, only because we seldom, find the “table.” The fellowship of hiking companions, easily makes up for the less formal setting. Inhaling air containing essential wood oils given off by plants. The sound of birds, cool air, green leaves, trees, wild plants and grasses coupled with a tiredness that only hard physical effort can bring. Creates a cocktail of understanding, that nature is working magic and in this place right now nothing else matters. There is a distinct feeling, that this is how life should be, an inheritance of our “hunter gather” past. Fire becomes a focal point, but often the “jet boils” come out to cook the food quickly, nothing fancy, food gobbled down, well earned after the days hike.
If nature allows all the elements to manifest, we become part of a profoundly moving experience. Sitting together in the shadows of the fire, with a belly full of good food. Tired but with just enough energy to drink coffee and enjoy “sobremesa”. Silence is everywhere the only sounds are the breeze moving through the leaves and the crackle of embers in the fire. The aroma of the coffee, blended with the subtle smells of nature, makes the conversation easy and relaxed, together, but also alone with our thoughts in the shadows. “Over the table” conversation seems to require an alertness, a connection of eyes with those around us. Silence turns to awkwardness, as we feel compelled to fill in the “gaps”
The “gaps” in the shadows are periods of contemplation, the grounding effect of nature, almost compels us to look deeper into ourselves. Minutes go by without a sound ” Man you know what, I’ve been thinking, being here in this place, having this conversation. Explain to me why I feel so alive?
Arriving in a seaside town in England, on a bank holiday weekend, the weather was perfect. That should make it memorable anyway, it was memorable, but for slightly different reasons. An Indian restaurant, it must be popular, there were lots of people looking at the menu on the window. That’s a good sign, some of them are Indian, “lets eat.” “Excuse me this is a queue” It suddenly hit me, that the same thing was happening at all the restaurants. We took our place in the queue, moving slowly along the glass frontage, the diners inside had that smug almost sneering look, they had something that we wanted. Around twenty minutes and we were in the door, “table for two” that’s us, there were three sets of diners in front, but two was the perfect combination this time.
It should have dawned on me, a queue outside and it took us twenty minutes to get in here and it’s still packed. The waiters were a cross between shepherds and prison guards. We were herded to our table with the menu, then the waiter stood guard, waiting for a decision. Not one either, three, entrée, main and desert, I thought about drinks but the thought was as far as I got. Good service, less than five minutes and the entrée, was there. Another ten minutes and the main meal was over. It was time to take a stand on the desert, but the waiter had obviously seen this before. He used a selling ploy of implied consent, before we had finished eating, the bill was placed on the table. Between him and the other potential diners waiting, what chance did we have of a sobremesa moment.
Sobremesa has traveled beyond Spanish-Latin American culture, it’s entrenched in most cultures, something we demand. The lowliest chef now, is an aspiring rock star, an artist of food. This makes us want to linger, as we compare the presentation and flavors, a flow through into another conversation. I have had many fine Indian meals in England since that time, with many “over the table” conversations. Do I know what good Indian food tastes like? (I have two Indian daughter in laws). Sobremesa “on the trail” has it all, inhaling the air, aromas of nature and silence, a relaxed state that’s hard to find anywhere else. A special place for real conversation, good food too, even if I do say so myself. Invite everyone for a nice meal…..and the first one to leave pays.
Waiting for a green light.
I just have to wait long enough, the timing always sucks, it’s never quite how it should be. The green lights will never all be green. While the universe doesn’t conspire against us, it doesn’t go out of it’s way to line up the green lights either. While waiting to quit our job, waiting to travel, waiting for love, waiting for permission, waiting for Godot maybe, who never arrives. Conditions are never perfect,”someday” is a terminal disease that will take our dreams to the grave with us. You’d think we’re never going to die, the way we cower, second guess and fret over every little action. Imagining everything is of paramount importance because we might upset some delicate balance that doesn’t exist anyway.
We’re not as fragile or as weak as we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking. The control of modern society keeps us safe and secure, but often with negative benefits. Keeping us in the soft, protected center and away from the sharp edges, but a lot of the uplifting things in life are located on those edges. The problem is, we need to experience the edges beyond our imposed comfort zone. Fear doesn’t need to stop us, we can go willingly, step by step. If we need to pull back we can, whatever level of discomfort we reach, we can reach it deliberately. Meet it head on, on our own terms, then we can own it, making our world much bigger in all directions.
Create green lights.
We wait in anticipation for the green light, that gives us permission to go. If the light doesn’t turn green for us, does that mean we can’t move, we’re stuck. When we arrive at a big intersection in life and the traffic lights aren’t working, what then? We can’t just sit there waiting for a green light to happen, as difficult as it is,we have to get across the intersection. There is no turning back either as the traffic on all sides is building up. We have to create our own green light, with cooperation and anticipation,we carefully move through the busy intersection. For a short while we’re forced to embrace the edges, we’re not quite as fragile as we thought.
“An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stop light…..the truly wise person is colorblind”. Albert Schweitzer. To experience more of the uplifting things in life we sometimes have to stop on the green light and go on the red light. Ignoring the well defined streets of the culture we happen to be born and live in. Life isn’t designed to be lived through a filter of fake joy, fake excitement, or a hollow sense of victory. Victory over the everyday, keeps us contented. Although the real joy and excitement of our own expansion, is often closer to the edges.
Red or green lights.
Being colorblind could be part of an illusion that we can opt out of the human condition. Once we get it all figured out, everything will be fantastic. Everyday we can have moments of grace and moments of struggle. Moments of illumination and moments of darkness, moments of love and moments of isolation. We’re all in this together, it’s figuring out a way to piece together our lives and devote more time to the bigger questions. There isn’t a destination we are ever going to arrive at, where it’s awesome all the time. Living more on the edges is only a notion, we don’t have to be in that place all the time. It’s really about choosing, rather than reacting, to what and who matters in our life. While practicing cultivating these things, then we can develop our decisions and actions that ultimately, make us feel most alive.
That dog next door is howling again and I’m sitting in my yard enjoying the winter sun listening to him. Now I understand how the dog feels, pacing up and down behind the fence. I’m waiting to go into hospital to get a hernia repaired, but that’s another story, long boring and frustrating. Another month to go and I’m there, unless I get bumped off the list by a more deserving patient. Can there be one? I can’t hike or do much at the moment. I have been thinking about something that deserves a bit more attention, more than the dog and I are getting at the moment anyway. Neither of us are in the spotlight at the moment.
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here” Abraham Lincoln. This plays into what psychologists call the “spotlight effect” everybody must be caring about what I’m doing. But the fact is nobody gives a crap about what I do. The world doesn’t revolve around me. The anonymity of my tininess is extremely comforting when I feel as if everything I do, matters. We all have an innate self-awareness of our faults, mistakes and slip-ups.
In truth, other people don’t notice them nearly as much as we assume. Because there’re too busy noticing and greatly exaggerating their own flaws. What we believe to be true, regarding our public appearance is often not the case. Most of the time, people are not that interested in our appearance or performance. Each of us are the center of our own universe because we are so focused on our own behavior. It’s difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment of how much or how little our behavior is noticed by others.
Our own spotlight.
My dads brother came to Australia to live in Brisbane in the early fifties. He had been in Australia for thirteen years, when a family crisis caused him to return to the local town he was born and grew up in, until he left for Australia. According to my father, he was expecting to be welcomed back with open arms. The center of attention, telling tales of his years away and how much he had achieved. They were walking past the home of a former good friend, who happened to be working in his front garden. My uncle put his arms around this mans shoulders and gave him a hug.
My father told me the man was confused, he didn’t understand what the hug was all about. Then it became obvious, as he said “I thought I hadn’t seen you for a while, have you been working out of town” Why exactly are we so caught up in our own spotlight? We are anchored in a world of our own experiences, so we have trouble realizing, that people are absorbed in their own lives and so, are too busy to pay attention to ours.
Glare of the spotlight.
When you feel your in the full glare of the “spotlight” try not to listen to your internal cues of anxiety, sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a feeling of doom and dread. Imaging how noticeable you are to others and they’ll therefore judge you even more harshly. It’s normal to have moments of self doubt, but thanks to the “spotlight effect”, our blunders often feel more severe than they are in reality. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, it helps to be more outspoken, rather than timid. It’s really a stage performance, doubling everything from facial expressions to gestures and reactions.
The effect is one of confidence and owning your actions, rather than self-consciously communicating, with small meek gestures and actions. I’ve been aware of this for a while now and have made the effort to live a bit louder, a bit freer and say. “Who cares.”
The act of quitting.
There will always be people who dare to live on the margins of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance or social routine, preferring a more free-floating existence. With these thoughts in mind, quitting, is not giving up but moving on. Changing direction is not a complaint, but a positive choice, not a stop in one’s journey, but a step in a better direction. Quitting is never seen as the end of something, but as a vital step in beginning something new and possibly more pleasurable. A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. This is a very popular quote in motivational books and seminars, but it can be taken to an unhealthy level, getting yourself stuck in something you are completely unsuitable for.
I’m not suggesting you become a serial quitter. Although there has to be a point where keeping on keeping on can only cause damage to your health and long term happiness. The upside of quitting is looking at the sunk cost and the opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past, it’s the time and sweat equity you’ve put into a job. Or a long term project, which makes quitting harder. Opportunity cost is about the future, it means every hour you spend on one thing, is an opportunity lost in spending that hour on something else. Something that could well make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost, if only you could quit.
Turning points often come up in our lives and there is nothing wrong with that, it can also be seen as a sign of growth. Quitting something that has been in place for a long period of time requires a test of character. Many people are able to create more personal freedom with the act of “constructive quitting’. Negotiating with their employers for special sabbaticals and long term leaves of absence. Even leaving your job in a permanent manner need not be a negative act, especially in a period where work is likely to be defined by job specialization and the fragmentation of tasks. Working a particular job with the intention of quitting is more often becoming an act of common sense, in an age of portable skills and diversified employment options.
All around the world people are quitting traditional employment and making their own way. Often turning their passion into profit while creating a more meaningful life. There’s no rehabilitation program for quitting and becoming addicted to freedom. So good luck turning back to follow someone else’s set of rules again. Freedom is possible, freedom isn’t something to be envisioned in a vaguely distant future, the future is now.
Skills and ideas.
Skills and ideas are the new currency, not certificates and titles, it’s the question of trusting yourself again. The strength that you need to quit your job, is the strength you will need, to find new opportunities. These opportunities will fulfill you more than you thought possible, there are more ways to “have a purpose” than ever before. It’s not whether you choose to change. Things are changing and it’s only a matter of how we are going to deal with them. Any get rich quick scheme is like drinking or gambling it can ruin your life. You won’t make any progress towards your goal until you give it up. There are two sides to negotiate after quitting, one is working diligently towards success in your new venture. The other is having your commitments under control before you start, preparation is the key.
Get excited about survival, learn to live on less and enjoy the process. Take that attitude into building something that other people will value enough to pay for. Your not just creating a job for yourself your working towards a more sustainable future.
Never confuse the size of your pay check with the size of your talent. Marlon Brando
Eudaimonia is a Greek word often translated as happiness, Aristotle thought that true happiness was found by leading a virtuous life and doing what was worth doing. He argued that realising human potential was the ultimate goal, existing in every individual only awaiting the proper conditions to be released and expressed. He saw these conditions as working hard, cultivating virtues and excelling at tasks that nature and circumstance brought to you. Happiness is an emotion, whereas eudaimonia is a comprehensive state of being. Happiness is created and lost in a moment, but eudaimonia takes effort to build and has staying power.
Eudaimonia doesn’t come from pleasure but hopefully leads towards it. Eudaimonic acts are generally harder to practice in the moment, benefits arrive later. They exact a cost in effort and discipline, but enhance long term excellence. Eudaimonic desires are about giving to the world and in doing that becoming a better more virtuous individual.
Eudaimonic acts must largely be cultivated intentionally going against our natural inclinations. Carving out a new mindset where our desires are lined up with eudaimonic acts most of the time. Looking for a shift of emphasis, rather than complete abstinence. What matters is that we start where we are and move in the right direction, this can be applied immediately. For each action taken throughout the day, ask yourself if your moving towards eudaimonia or towards hedonistic acts. Wants and desires naturally shift as we go through life and it’s important to except these tendencies.
Our desire for food keeps us from starving its the desire for food after we have eaten enough that causes us problems. The same applies to money when we have very little there is a need to want more. But when we have enough and keep pursuing more this can cause problems. As I’m getting older my wants are naturally less, but with entrenched habits being harder to deal with, intention is being alive to the reality I have and not denying it.
Working with unadulterated focus, to develop body, mind and spirit to their fullest potential can reap many rewards. Especially when undertaken in ones youth, it can act as a foundation that sets the rest of life on the right course. Even if we are older we can and should find ways to periodically escape from the noise and distractions of the world to find solitude and “sharpen our saw.” Whether it’s a morning hike, an evening meditation, or a solo camping trip. These solitary acts clear the mind, rejuvenate the body and leave us better prepared for life’s challenges. This helps to develop a moral compass, guided by the virtues of courage, fairness, consistency, selflessness and respect. A personal code of honor that keeps the mind pure and sharp.
“I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life. The life of toil and effort, of labor and strife. To preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph” Theodore Roosevelt
How do we find a worthwhile struggle, in a culture that doesn’t seem to have much to push against? Deciding to work hard and exercise is relatively easy to do. It could be finding the less obvious challenges. Trying to solve a problem that may not have an answer. Building something that nobody cares about yet. Or saying out loud what you believe in when your not on the side of the majority. Or doing something for no other reason than you want to, because you have trust in yourself that it’s a good idea. In our strongest moments we assume we can resist what others couldn’t, if we can get past the BS we are often fed there will be more of a chance.
Routines are tasks, chores or duties done regularly, often mechanically performed. Therefore, as most of us are creatures of habit, we develop routines which can be detrimental. So which habits are good for us? How many of them cause difficulties in our lives and the relationships with the people around us? It can difficult for older people to change routines, that have become embedded, over time. While being comfortable and set in our ways is familiar to us, we avoid fear and fearful situations. Therefore when we find comfort, there is little incentive to change.
Effort to change.
While small habits are easier to change, entrenched habits require effort. As a result it can take up to 20 years or more to develop a bad habit, therefore it can take a significant amount of time to unlearn. My own personal experience is, embedded routines and habits can be changed relatively quickly. Also this depends on how much attention we are willing to invest in changing them.
Getting my body in shape, was foundational, hiking started the transformation. I needed to walk as part of a rehabilitation program, starting with walking five days a week. Although this routine was random, as long as I walked for 1 to 2 hours everyday. Since passion follows engagement my health and fitness started to improve. In addition being professional, in contrast to being amateur, changing a detrimental routine or habit with a professional approach.
Research has to happen to get a broad perspective and to understand the nuances of the problem, to be resolved. Multi level changes didn’t seem to work, concentrating on one change first, mastering that change and using it as a stepping stone to the next routine change, seemed to work better for me. Various studies show that changing a routine, takes between 30 to 60 days of immersion in that new routine. That’s an arbitrary time frame and could be completely wrong, depending on the person. The magnitude of the new routine and the commitment to change are reflected in our personalities.
Game theory is one way of studying how an individual or group makes a strategic choice. The outcome is the result of a particular set of choices, pay off is the benefit associated with particular outcomes. Fitness and health are the foundations they become the game as new strategies are put in place. My walk had to have a designated time slot, 6am start, five days a week, increasing to seven. In the initial stages, the alarm clock was on the other side of the room, forcing me to get out of bed. Hiking shoes and socks were ready to go and clothes near at hand. My phone charged, loaded with I pod talks relating to performance and growth, water bottle ready, cap on and out the door.
Have I chosen the right talk to listen to this morning? that’s the only question. It’s early morning quiet and peaceful, walking around the cemetery, my thoughts turn to people who are no longer part of my life. This routine has been going on for a few years now, longer hikes and travel have been the only interruptions.
A conscious routine of staying in shape and listening to inspirational talks, meditation and other disciplines, worked for me. This has been the catalyst to change routines that were detrimental to me. Most bad routines and habits start in our head and have to be changed there. Gratitude for everything I have in my life, and the opportunity to hike in nature everyday, has helped me see things differently. Leading to new routines that have become the building blocks to change.
We are living in a world where change is inevitable, so we realize that we are living in uncertain times. So all challenges help us to grow, when we grasp this, everything can be looked at as just temporary. Unfortunately we become overwhelmed with problems, finding it hard to believe they are temporary. So we need to realize that with time, most things that seem overwhelming will get better. Furthermore negative habits and routines start in our minds, so our mind is where they need to be changed. Therefore tackling the mind body connection, is the first step in changing routines that no longer serve us.
This Lamborghini is focused on aerodynamics and stability, a racing prototype, yet fully certified for road use. A limited addition automobile, it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 355 km/h. We can never hope to attain that speed, but in many ways the human body has many common elements. The car and the human body convert energy in the form of petrol, and fuel to allow both to perform at optimum levels.
Fuel and petrol are turned into energy and extracted as waste through the human digestive tract and the car exhaust system. The Lamborghini requires special maintenance and servicing to look after to protect a substantial investment. Bodywork is buffed to keep the car shiny and pleasing to the eye, top of the range fuels are used to keep the engine in excellent condition. The proud owners car is admired and photographed by an adoring public.
It can be contrasted with the human machine, but it doesn’t come close to the most complex machine in the known universe. The human brain itself makes the most advanced computer, a toy by comparison. We have an integrated system, that can’t be fully understood or compared to a Lamborghini on a serious scientific level. We only have one body, yet many of us don’t respect or have any conception of the awesomeness of that body.
Why don’t we treat our body with the same respect we are willing to bestow on a luxury car? We treat our body like a rental car, revving it and filling up with cheap and nasty fuels. Checking under the hood, hardly ever happens but we still expect high performance every day. Our mind garden can also be full of weeds and negative thoughts implanted by friends and family and the latest gossip on social media. Or are some of us treating our mind like a luxury car, the garden weeded, tended and fed positive thoughts.
Perhaps the reason is cost and the need to maintain that investment. In contrast our bodies are free and perhaps as a result, we take them for granted. Is cost the only consideration, or is it laziness when we choose fast food, which is highly processed and contains large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. When fast food, frequently replaces nutritious food in our diet, it can lead to a variety of health problems. In general we are getting, obese and less healthy, big corporations with large marketing budgets are out to get us. Optimal health is not being considered as they sell us well packaged food and drink with little nutritional value.
Intrinsically, we know what is good fuel for our body. We hardly need to ask a health question when comparing a tub of ice cream with fresh fruit. Other comparisons may be more difficult as we work towards better health. Lets not forget where we came from. For thousands of years, we have evolved eating and drinking directly from nature. We didn’t just come from nature we are nature. Everything we do becomes us, there is nothing more important than what we eat, drink and think about.
The rare Lamborghini Verona has been recalled, auto magazine reported in March 2016. Fuel system faults could lead to fires, “particular maneuvers” could cause vapors to come in contact with hot gasses. Whether it’s cars or health, the best repair is the one you never make. The majority of men easily remember their first car, but do not remember when they last went to the doctor for a check up. Whether its a Lamborghini or a hire car we don’t own, there is one key difference, you can buy, rent or lease another car.