Achieving One’s Goals

I am sure from sometime during school onwards we have all set ourselves goals to achieve. I also recall from my years fund raising how the first thing we used to write was the ‘aims and objectives’ of the project, goals not there for the individual, but for the group. And in a way individual goals are also there for society not for the individual. I know, no one wants someone whose objective may be to rule as a dictator though to be fair we do get enough of those.

Personal achievements are heavily defined by our technology and our customs so in the UK people want to own their own home whilst in France this is not the main objective of many people as renting is not seen as a defeat but a respected way to live. You can usually tell the objectives that are not particularly our own as when we achieve them, we feel we are equal in our strata of society. We can have the party and invite everyone who invited us to their retirement, or their new job, or their posting abroad. We can put our car in the driveway with the latest number plate.

Its the things we do we don’t show off that really are ours. Good or bad, they are the things we take more pride in, which make us feel most at home. Because eventually adults realise it isn’t much fun doing what  everyone else expects.

And Man Created Fire

There is a great yearning inside humanity for warmth. Warmth keeps us alive, makes us feel good and cures many aches and pains. Warmth is our emotional friend. And a certain amount of artificial warmth is always beneficial whether it be a log fire or a warm hot water bottle to warm your feet. But too much warmth is our enemy, too much fire destroys what we have built. too much warmth makes us ill.

In all things as the Eastern religions tell us, balance is necessary. And this is very true but we do not even take that philosophy far enough because balancing the ‘things’ of life and our daily routine is not to balance everything. There should be balance in our thoughts. For every belief we hold we should hold the counter belief, if both are beliefs. We should learn to  understand and to not be able to understand. As the Universe of matter is mirrored by the atomic universe of particles so our beliefs are mirrored by our natures.

There is no escaping that ideas of beliefs are inventions – if they were not inventions they would not be beliefs but facts – and we have yet to learn that too much believing is harmful.

Balance what you think you know, what you don’t know and what you cannot know.

How To Argue

We are very passionate about what we ‘believe’, even more passionate about things we have never really questioned or been challenged to think about. It is one of the strengths of a good education that it forces us to assess our thoughts and brings us into discussion with people who do not accept what we accept. It isn’t compromise when you modify what you believe in the face of new ways of looking at the world, it is evolution.

I notice this a good deal at Linked-In where I sometimes step into conversations. Posters simply do not keep the strict point in the proposition or question. They range far and wide, bring in non-sequiturs, and generally try to skew the answer to fit into their view of the world, and so much argument is not about the question at all.

Close reasoning is not an easy thing, it does have to be learned, but just as we would be very uneasy to allow anyone to roam around society with a gun on them they have never be taught to use we should actually we worried about people in society who have not been taught to reason well. It isn’t teaching people what to think, but how to think. How to encompass many points of view, how to use source material, how to find out the facts and delve into the subject matter and then to resolve upon a point-of-view.

If your mind is not tuned, you will disable your whole life.

To Times Found

Every generation believes it is the first to have found love. To know what it is like to breath in and taste the modern world. But as my mother taught me long ago, everyone who has ever lived has been ‘a modern’. On the field of emotions and feelings and experiences nothing is, in fact, new just that we use different technologies to gain a  similar effect.

We can delight that mountaineers can talk to their families from high up on their climbs, but yodeling was invented centuries ago, pan pipes have been in existence for generations and both enable communication when ordinary speech would not suffice. Yes a mobile phone is different, and yet it is somewhat the same.

The feeling of finding out something new, that eureka moment, is the same across continents and eras; the freshness of new clothes is the same despite new materials or designs;  the feeling of attainment does not change whether it is a struggle to buy a trading vessel to cross a sea or a car to cross a continent. So much of what we experience has been experienced before.

That is why to dismiss reading about past generations blinds us, and limits our connectivity to who we actually are. The young boy longing to cross the Mediterranean to visit his father station in a Roman garrison in North Africa, is a longing inside every child for travel, parents and adventure. By seeing what tyranny was three thousand years ago, we can recognise it today. By knowing what moved people into nations five thousand years ago we can see it evolving in front of our eyes today.

No one can fool you, once you have learned from history what a fool is.

The Bonds Of Thought

Since every human being every born has lived their life on this planet it should not be surprising that people’s around the world have often thought the same things. From gods to tyrants it seems there is a unity in history that crosses the continents and only breaks down when you arrive at isolated tribes with a few dozens of members.

It is interesting but I have never seen this rudimentary ‘number theory’ of the psychology of nations discussed in any depth but I am sure that the reason a tribe in Amazon is the way it is, and the tribe in Rome two thousands years ago was the way it was, has something to do with the numbers. Rome at its height was considered to have about one million inhabitants or thereabouts.

The dynamics of society certainly does change with increasing numbers and I wonder how far these dynamics are drivers for change, custom and power broking. One person feels they have a certain status when amongst ten others which disappears when amongst sixty million others. One’s influence changes when it is impossible to talk to everyone in the group face-to-face.

I wonder we are comfortable having exchanged TV for a handshake, movies for invitations to dinner, and now the Internet for travel.

When Do We Become Who We Are?

I was always amazed at my mother’s ability to sum people up when I was young. Not the least when she met my friends and would tell me how they were likely to react in certain situations. And I recall how many people see ‘character traits’ in toddlers and how people say of adults ‘oh they have always been like that.’

It seems in a world of chaos and chance human beings have some rigidity in their thinking and presence. A rigidity that we need to survive in a world where survival is necessary; but is it necessary anymore? How far do our nature’s now compromise our imaginations, which is the pathway to knowledge?

What we know, we find we only believe. How we think the world works, we discover is only one philosophy of life. A millennium of certainty can we wiped out in landslide. An ageless tradition can be shown to be deeply ignorant in one scientific experiment. An attitude and accepted habit can be unpicked in a ‘life-changing’ experience.

Yet we cling to the belief that our cultures are as fruitful and necessary as the sun rising. We reject a hundred ideas so that one can be our leading light. We are endlessly looking for principles of unity which constantly tear us as societies apart.

We even think society a good thing in and of itself. But how helpful to mother nature are they? And without mother nature all our certainties are written in water. And the character of mother nature is eternal mutation and change.

Being Someone

Putting aside the obvious challenges in not getting on with one’s relations, every one of us either goes through a phase, or has a need, to belong. Whether to a tribe, a community or a nation we like to see ourselves as part of some wider human grouping. Even artists who are the archetype outsiders, see in their very separateness from the mainstream a self-definition.

The fact of belonging probably means many things: a comfort, an affirmation that others believe what we believe, a sense of standing within a community and that greatest of all helping hands that says we are someone, we are not lost, we are not worthless.

Most of these groupings are chosen for us, because very few of us are ever able to create a nation, or a movement, or a tribe. We may make modifications but because they are chosen for us, so too are many of our attitudes because to belong you have to fit in for even in disparate societies the rule of law is a suit we all wear.

But if we are going to belong surely it makes more sense to be as inclusive as possible? If there is a strength in community surely that community should be as wide as possible?

Surely if there is truth and honesty to be found in this world, then belonging to the clan ‘human’ is more important than any other grouping.

Much more important than nations.

Village Life

Is a little different to city life.

A farmer gets up at four thirty in the morning to start their day. Most things in their life are apportioned to cost and time from feeding animals to treats for the kids. The local shop is small and opens at eight and the post office opens too though officially it opens at nine. In times of shortage regular customers have goods put back for them and the owner knows everyone by name;  if the serving ladies pass your house on their way home they can deliver, which they do anyway for the elderly.

The main road through this village is busy and five times in the last sixteen years my wall has been damaged by large lorries on the wrong road who suddenly see they cannot get through. Once by a Ministry of Defence army truck. Several two seater planes fly over in the summer and a few hot air balloons some of which end up landing in the fields I walk around. They are very colourful beasts but I imagine it is quite boring floating around all day even if it is your birthday.

When the river flooded several men were out helping break a dam to help out the houses flooded. They just appeared in that country way people do when needed without the use of mobile phones. Now they have an amateur dramatic society and the children love it.

Affairs? Divorces? Betrayal? Feminism? Chauvenism? Death? Yes. As Agatha Christie once noted, all of life is in a village. Don’t be taken in!

Enjoyment

I have heard people say ‘x takes enjoyment from the little things’ and I have begun to wonder if ‘things’ give joy, are there any that are little?

We are very wrapped up in what we as humans consider to be minor and major elements of our society and most of them have to do in some measure with our ‘standing’ when viewed by others. To me this is all wrong. It doesn’t matter if a perfume is expensive or cheaper, if you made it yourself from rose petals or someone else made it by hand..all that matters is how you enjoy it one way or another.

The little thing you see are truly priceless but we have forgotten in our anxiety to put a monetary value on everything that just because there is a lot of something, it does not devalue its true worth. That kind of thinking is very dangerous for there are those who say there are millions of people who will kiss a few of them? Acceptable risk is not an ethical decision making process.

The little things may be worthless in terms of money but they are the things that make enjoyment deeper. A fresh day, a quiet moment, a perfect hedge flower, a dry piece of grass lazily dying down, a cool glass of water on a warm day.

Enjoyment comes from being able to live through everything you touch and see, to share your being with the moments and all they contain. Yes life is difficult without money, but it  is still enriched without any of the big things.

File And Memo

The human brain is an amazing thing. Just when you think you have forgotten something it comes back to you. Just when you wish you had forgotten something is swings into your mind in full colour. And all those childhood memories that lay dormant throughout one’s career grow back with stronger ties as one ages. If age leaves one with a mind to grow anything in, that is.

One of my friend’s at school told me the reason people of a certain age think their school days were halcyon is because they have forgotten how truly rotten it all was. We were boarding school boys, paying for the highest education. Which in those days meant small class sizes and a rounded set of achievements based on an agreement between one’s parents and the teachers.

Thankfully my mother told them to leave me alone and they did not dare argue. My house master said my mother was the only person he would be reticent to argue with, and I blithely thought that was a compliment to her. Now I know she throws things when she is angry I am not so sure.

I did not like school. I did not like the way young minds were manipulated and I did not like the way sport was thrown down our throats. And if I start saying I did, will you kindly point me to this post, because my mind will start to play tricks on me at sometime and I may think I should have been President of America but for my lack of chances.

🙂

Art On Disc

Many years ago I was discussing with a painter the longevity of paintings. It was at the same time I was being introduced to the Book Arts and learning how the Book of Kells was dug out of a bog in Ireland and its illuminations still resound throughout Europe after a thousand years. And we both came to the same instant conclusion, that no piece of art anywhere in the world will last forever. That when the Earth crashes into the sun the art we know will have long since decayed.

So we contented ourselves with the idea that everything would be made into holograms and people would venture into space and have their favourite painting on their wall in electronic form, or piece of sculpture and that though original manuscripts might be dust, the teaching of music and reading would mean they could still read Hugo and play Mendelssohn.

And would that change anything? If you cannot touch a painting or a piece of sculpture do you lose something? If you can see the writing of the author but never feel the paper is something lost? Well yes something is, but whether that is important or not is a mute point as most of these things are cordoned off from the public even today.

Perhaps the truth lies in the fact that we will always know, as long as we care to remember, that all these works of art existed. Perhaps the wistfulness in only having hologramatic copies will itself be a new expression of feeling for our decedents.

Connections

Words pander to the literate. In doing this weblog I do not want it to become a kind of psychoanalysis, something to which I am not much given. Many years ago my mother told me that Ted Hughes used words as a form of therapy for some darkness within him. The reason why he is not a true poet. But in a way everything we write, do and say demonstrates our psychology even if as observers of the world our art is to imbibe the psychology of our fellow human beings and reflect it back to them with mirror-like perfection.

When I was growing up I used to have this terrible feeling that if I concentrated on someone giving a recital too much, I would become that person, and make an awful mess of things because I did not possess the skill to do what they were doing…be it talking in a foreign language or playing the piano. I was in my thirties before I learned from my mother that she also had that exact same idea when she was a teenager. There it was. Whatever synapse or connection my brain had made the thought was as much inherited as the capacity to have it.

And that is why I know sixty thousand years ago on a warm, mild day in a different Africa a man was walking with a burden on his necessarily naked shoulders when he saw a fruit tree. Apple, pear or some other known or unknown fruit. Putting down his burden he went to the tree and touched its bark with his splayed hand, watching the skin under the fingernails change colour with the pressure and stroking the bark with his thumb he felt connected,

“Thank you for your fruit, ” he said ,”I will be coming this way again and before I ate I wanted you to know my name is Daniel…”

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