Being in the world

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

Making an impact

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!

But…

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.

Sweet dreams

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.

Fasting

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!

Things that have caught my eye

I have published a newsletter intermittently for a number of years now but the problem is – they have become increasingly intermittent!

So, I have decided to cancel the newsletter and in its place do a weekly post, every Sunday, here on my blog, of things that have caught my eye. These could be blog posts from other people, articles, Tweets or images.

I am hoping that at least some of the people who have been loyal subscribers to my newsletter will sign up to follow my blog posts, either by email or RSS, and certainly encourage everyone to pitch in on comments or contact me directly if you think of stories or news that would interest me and that I could share.

So, here are a few of the things that have caught my eye this week:

FROM ENLIGHTENMENT TO ENTANGLEMENT

I have often written about the scale of change that we are facing, in part driven by our networked technologies, and the fact that our institutions are not keeping up. This great post from my friend Harold Jarche lays out the challenges and some ideas of what to do about them.

STUDY SAYS YOUTUBE ‘ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES’ RADICALISM

In our post truth world it is all to easy to be buffeted from one extreme to another, and there is rightly a lot of concern about the place that our social media platforms play in that process. But often the stories about those platforms are themselves examples of “post truth” and push a particular angle on their roles. This research shows that, certainly in the case of YouTube, our assumptions may not always be correct.

CAN THE USAGE OF ARTICLE GENERATORS NULLIFY CONTENT WRITERS?

Artificial intelligence is another subject that I have written about in the past and again, it is easy to make assumptions about what it is and what it is capable of. What is clear is that the next wave of automation is likely to affect what have traditionally been seen as white collar, knowledge work roles – including writing. This article lists examples of where AI is already being used to create content but also goes into the reasons why it may never be as good as humans!

I am…

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.