It is hard to believe, but the last time I was up a mountain was exactly one year ago. Not only that, but it is almost as long since I last had my walking boots on. How did this happen?
A short walk down to Great Missenden yesterday with Mollie reminded me just how much I love being in the world and another walk today through Reddit Wood near us (photo above) reaffirmed this need.
I suppose an excuse might be that I’ve been getting enough “being in the world” adventures with my lorry driving over the past year but it’s not the same.
Must try harder
We are brought up to see success as having impacted other people’s lives in some way. Helped them improve, given them something they need, provided them a service. None of this is a bad thing!
We then compare ourselves to others and feel that we haven’t made enough impact. We know this partly because we haven’t been as rewarded financially. We know this because we haven’t managed to buy enough stuff.
So we aspire, we become driven, we set aside unimportant things like spending time with families or in nature in order to focus on making more impact, making more money, buying more stuff.
We then do this collectively as society. It is seen as an essential aspect of modern civilisation to be achieving progress, seeing things as wanting and needing improved, and then setting about making an impact on the world. We are encouraged to do this in our millions.
And there’s the problem. Our planet is suffering as a result of all our efforts, our industriousness, our busyness. We aspire to make an impact – but more often than not we end up leaving a stain.
Maybe it’s my age but I am less and less concerned with making an impact.
There was a time when it felt like an obligation as a Scot to get absolutely blootered on New Year’s Eve. My drinking days are long gone but I spent last night with my Mum and Dad, in their mid and late eighties, reminiscing about that other great Scottish weakness – confectionary!
Lee’s Macaroon Bars, Tunnock’s Teacakes, and our local delicacy, Strathaven Toffee (sadly no longer made) all figured in the conversation.
Nice way to see in the new year.
Last show of 2019! We start by chatting about Paolo’s other podcast, then Sacha Baron Cohen’s ADL speech and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s new Contract for the web. We move on conversing about millennials, what is right or wrong, we wonder if we would be better off without any rules and we discuss a bit about journalism and its future.
I have always been an all or nothing sort of person and over Christmas all was very much the trend so yesterday I attempted to mitigate the effect of such excess by eating nothing. My last food was my evening meal on Saturday until a couple of slices of toast this morning (Monday) for breakfast.
I do this fairly regularly and find fasting easy. It is mind over matter and once I have set my mind to it I just catch the urge to eat something, nip it in the bud, and carry on with whatever I was doing. I have in the past managed 48 hours fasting on this basis.
It feels good. You can feel your body breathing a sigh of relief and it is almost as if it gets a chance to reset itself. You realise that much of our inclination to eat is due to social conditioning. Three meals a day, meat and two veg, finish your plate, all the cultural norms that are less cast in stone than we think.
If you haven’t tried fasting I can recommend it – it literally causes the weight to drop off!
Over the years I have adopted various labels for myself. “I am a boy”, “I am a musician”, “I am a student”, “I am a studio manager”, “I am a speaker”, “I am a blogger”, and on and on. These are labels that I have chosen to adopt out of convenience. They set me up as distinct and in opposition to what I am not.
My early aversion to “I am a Rangers supporter” taught me to be particularly wary of the group identities that we can so easily slip into. “I am a Labour supporter” or “I am a Tory” being particularly potent at the moment.
But I am none of these things.
The real me that underlies all of these titles has been consistent throughout and it is none of them. I am not my body, I am not my thoughts, I am not my mind. If I can be aware of all of those things then the me that is aware is not them. All that I can say with any confidence is “I am”.
Constantly stripping things back to what you know to be true, which isn’t received wisdom or cultural conditioning, takes hard work. But it is worth it.
It reveals what you are.
And that we are is the same as everyone else.
My experience of learning to drive trucks has certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. In fact several comfort zones. Indeed on a bad day I can wonder why on earth I am putting myself through it.
But being pushed out of my comfort zones is good for me. It makes me think harder, try harder, face my demons. Doing something like this makes me realise how easy it is to become complacent, to feel safe resting on our assumptions about life and ourselves.
The trouble is that such complacency leads to living in a rut. We get stuck. Our ability to cope with the unexpected reduces. We are less able to deal with the challenges that inevitably face us throughout our lives.
It seems clear that our life is about become more turbulent in all manner of ways, from the results of the current political turmoil, to the impact on our working lives of rapidly advancing technology, to dealing with the increasing challenges of global warming.
Getting stuck in a rut is the most dangerous thing we can do. Now is the time to climb out of it.