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On the resolution of balance #12:
In focusing on balance, the primary purpose in any exercise, everything that goes towards achieving it is overlooked and not enough attention is paid to the fact that achieving balance necessitates a constant and cyclical process. What is needed for balance is flow, as in a pendulum. Strangely enough, during a pendulum’s swing, looking at any part of that cycle, everything is in balance. The point I am zig-zagging towards rather clumsily is that balance is achieved by the continuation of motion. Stop at any time and the mechanism will become disjointed and collapse.
What is different now is that I have to go out and seek social interactions whereas previously every situation was crowded and busy and I had to find peace and solitude. What started as a joy developed into an absence and became almost sensory deprivation. Without other people most information that was dispersed to be absorbed by osmosis is absent. At the time, whole slices and layers, or chunks of the sensory data received by touch or smell or sound would be discarded. Most we ignored and filtered out, even expunged it from memory as if it hadn’t been received.
When I do journey out, the part of me that is exposed to society has changed. Now, as I seek companionship or ambient conversations, I appear as a smiling and friendly person, welcoming all those who pass within my orbit. This is an artificial me, a construct, the façade carefully designed, a honey trap to lure people towards me and make them want to spend time in my company. I know this artificial creature, how superficial she is, but hope that those I commune with are captured by my guile, at least enough to smile back and stop and talk.
‘You’re close. Turn at that corner,’ she said pointing across the square. ‘Take the first right and then the second left. It’s on the left-hand side of the street. Ask for Maggie and say Tracy sent you.’
To navigate through a strange town with a map is one experience; it is totally different when the only information you have is from random strangers you accost in the street. My journey was far from efficient but this method did reveal a novel human trait – the need to not disappoint overrides logic. Many provided incorrect answers rather than admit they didn’t know.
Bushwalking with a group of birdwatchers I came to recognise one well-known type of bird – the LBB, the little brown bird. This label is applied to small bird seen at a distance through binoculars as they flit in the foliage when they are too active, too hidden, their feathers brown and unremarkable, and the birdsong unrecognised. But for birdwatchers, who count and document each sighting, these anonymous birds still get a tick in the log. I spent long periods quietly waiting through the discussion until the LBB label is agreed before, as a group, we resumed our mountain trail walk.
Cherry season again – that is, cherry eating season - and with abundance comes cooking. It is time to extract from the draw in the kitchen that holds items rarely called upon, the tool that removes the pips from fresh cherries. Purchased as an investment one year, this tool is now an essential piece of equipment, at least in early summer. It has become invaluable and now needs its own name so that I can call out for it in the way a surgeon asks for a scalpel during a critical surgery. My implement deserves a name with gravitas.
I haven’t learned to wait patiently and yet I can appear calm in the process. It is my internal machinations that make the time pass tediously and this I have never learned to accept. Accepting that time must pass seems unacceptable when I need to know the outcome of an event before the next steps can be planned or taken, is a torture. I am not built to just barrel ahead regardless, prepared to backstep and correct where plans are fraughted. It is my belief in an ideal world, one that does not include corrections, that keeps me here, waiting.
The evidence of experience #32:
While browsing in a bookshop the other day I saw a cartoon about bucket lists. In this cartoon, the joke was that the lists were not of things still to do but of activities that never need to be done again. I liked this twist, not only because I am basically a cynic and someone who doesn’t run with a crowd, but because this version reveals one of the joys of getting older. With age comes the pleasure of freeing yourself from socially conditioned and ritualistic behaviours, leaving time for new and more interesting activities.
Where do I go from here? Although this sounds like that joke – if you wanted to go there, I wouldn’t start from here – I cannot be discouraged. I must plan the next major trajectory of my life. And there is the first metaphor, as if the future is vectors and angles. I’m even assuming it can be manipulated by choice. I cannot sit on the sofa watching daytime television waiting for the future to arrive under its own steam. If I am going there, I need to make an effort to steer myself in the direction I want to go.
A windfall landed today, boosting return percentages in the tracking spreadsheet I monitor diligently. I have measures to track numerate and volumetric quantitative returns, but none for my emotional or sympathetic responses. This seems to be a management flaw, although I know from past experience that I am loath to go down the path of creating a happiness index. Somehow happiness seems a by-product rather than an aspirational achievement. Too much analysis is required to determine triggering events that result in happiness. As happiness is both subjective and temporary, frequently it is recognised only when looking back at the past.
There is a moment when … no that isn’t right. It becomes clear, but stop there because that isn’t right either. Let me try and explain it to you that it is as if you are in a dream called reality and then suddenly the true state appears and destroys the illusion. The destruction is completed in an instant, the space of a single moment, and all memory of the previous life escapes and you are left among floating wreckage, shards and fractures of memories of a past that you know now could never have existed. This evidence is false.
Our faith in dichotomies is profound and we hold them closely, both contradictions unresolved yet we can’t let either go. Reliance on categorisation gives weight to language and words, and confidence in the known and unknown, and make us shift like pendulums between opposites or swing wind vanes in shifting currents of air. No sooner has one argument gained strength and support than its opposite rises up and pushes back. We are creatures who resist certainty and stability, constantly challenging, and always questioning the truth. Maybe life exists because paradigms exist, or because of what we can see in them.
Attire, garb of all ilk and stripe; in other words, clothing is the bane of my life. Choosing what to wear takes ten minutes a day and sorting and washing, ironing and folding, about a half-hour on alternate days. Clothing doesn’t interest me, until what I wear starts to fall apart and then it becomes an all-consuming distraction and cause of anxiety. I have tried mending and extending the life of items I like, but usually fail, the result being worse than before. Yet there isn’t enough time in the world to look for and buy new clothes.
Each of us has a soft underbelly, a fatal weakness, a point of fragility we keep close and need to hide and protect in a world that is built on the myth of strength and force. Our major weakness, the single point of failure, is that we see this vulnerability as a flaw in our design, not recognising that it is the driver for our strength. Recognising frailty and weakness is a trigger for change; to mitigate the risk or collapse is the reason we adapt and modify in the moment. Managing crises, we evolve by twisting away from harm.
Convoluted crisis management has enabled us to survive but we need more in our toolbox than a hammer, a way to bully our way out of danger. We have only survived as a species by choosing appropriate strategies from a suite of options, in which force and strength are minor players. Force is most effective as a threat and can work for a long time, but a threat without teeth is meaningless. When the power of threats weakens, taking a hard line and carrying out the threatened action harms both sides and more importantly, it permanently locks in the losses.
What is the saying? For every critical action, seven acts of encouragement are needed to rebalance the scale. This is such a modern, new age fragile snowflake philosophy that it makes my teeth ache with the sweetness. Everyone needs to learn to take criticism. In fact, it is a core skill and must be learned and practised. And not all criticism is wrong, it is more often the case that praise is undeserved. Praise should be the exception and earned. It is wrong to praise someone or patting them on the head for getting by or just doing their job.
I write to you to draw your attention to statements that are designed to inspire confidence and certainty but have the exact opposite response in listeners. It does not seem logical that we would say something that has the opposite effect intended, but there are many examples. On the advice of my father, when I hear a tradesperson say - ‘no worries’ – his advice is to fear the worst. But that example is not alone, many similar statements have the same effect. Forcefully asserting that something is right or true often undermines a speaker’s credibility and re-establishes doubt.
There has been a slow rescinding of my social licence since I divested myself of the everyday rituals. Withdrawing from many social acts, I see the framework and structure within which these daily rituals play out and watch as the mass of people bend and move in their genuflection and recitations of formalities and politeness, stepping through conventions. From a distance this dance looks like mewling and grovelling with winners and losers yet, from within, another version plays out in the minds of the actors who see themselves acting as one, complicit, empathetic, sympathetic to communal laws and social bonds.
The season to be dowsed in festive joy. This year nostalgia and past-life sentiment, re-invented as memories that anyone would wish they could have had, flood through every pore of the information highway. Even shopping for essentials, I make my way through a flood of information presented as blinking and twinkling, glittered or shiny red and green objects, some shouldering faux snow sprinklings, presented in mountain-like obstacles that I navigate past to get to the milk. And then there is Bing Crosby like an earworm loudly crooning away. Six more days before it is ripped out and another theme installed.
I try to resist the temptation of invisibility, the slow fading away that allows me to let go, to not impact on the present, that helps me release my hold on the future. The attraction is counterintuitive as I have always been forward-looking. For me, the past is gone and forgotten, full of mistakes made and lessons learned and not something to dwell on. Over time this gradual retreat from reality has become a persist trend and irreversible. I am concerned about my leaving. I think it unlikely it is noticed by others. Noticing an absence takes a special skill.
Forgetting is our super power. Our reality is built on assumptions. We agree on certain assumptions and thee bind us into a social cohesion, so we acknowledge the expected outcome and have similar disappointments where the assumptions fail. One assumption in the modern world, the world of computers and digital records, is that the delete action removes all trace of a record. It doesn’t and this was always a lie, a convenient mis-truth to calm noisy voices that demand their rights. We assume that storage devices have the same ability to forget as any basic human has who assumes ignorance.
A change was forced upon me recently and I resisted. Pragmatically, I knew that for a long time there had been no going back. I had been denying that life had moved on. It became harder to sustain the belief I would get my life back until I realised that acceptance can open up a different future. You can resist change for only so long before it sweeps over you and there is nothing left to fight about. The odd thing is that once you take that step and give in, you forget, as if the problem never really existed.
This is a permanent change, not an affectation, not something I can turn on and turn off at will. This time the change is going to stick. From now on I will be nicer to be around, friendlier and kinder; there will be no more criticism as you walk through the door, something you criticised me for doing all the time. You won’t know what to expect except I know you will notice and like me more. It’s going to surprise you. I am going to try to be the person you want me to be and more. Just wait.
This year seems to be arriving at the end joylessly with gritted teeth. No effort is being made to be happy as every effort goes towards surviving this trial. I have no desire to connect with friends or join with others in communal events. But this malaise goes further – I find I am wishing not only that I give up communal ways of living, those social habits and behaviours, but that everyone I know does the same also and when they don’t my judgemental inner critic rises to the surface. I don’t what this year to change me like this.
Falling behind at the end of the year and catch up feels like hard work. The words should flow but they don’t and catch and snag, refusing to flow into neat sentences filled with cogent ideas. In the past, I have blamed the lack of ideas and that seemed the cause. Today I will present a different a suggestion, that the ideas are not lacking but the mechanism to construct language is skipping, the gears are not meshing, and a formless sense, a dream-like space is growing where logic and language once held court. Around words, an idea has formed.
This is the end of a long line of sorry songs, sad stories and tearful tales. I wish it had been otherwise, but that is the way the coin tossed. I would have liked to end with joy and happiness, but sorrow is all that was pulled out of the hat and then there was nothing left. I have wrung out every ounce of what I can tell and found only pain and anguish. It is time to retire, time to stop and let silence have its way. The stories are played out and we have arrived at the end.
Language this year has surprised me but also disappointed. I came across an article about metaphor, which as those who know me know are a favourite of mine, but this article broke my heart. I love metaphor for the way language can open up new worlds by making us see things in new ways. This article was about grammatical metaphors, usually done through nominalisation (which is itself a grammatical metaphor), shrinks clauses, make language sharper and more precise, ore formal. The effect is to separate an object from its qualities so that a dense object now has density.
Life as documentary #32:
‘Count on me’ as a statement that will generate confidence works in most situations not only because we value numbers as measures of truth, for the certainty they bring, but also because the phrase has only one meaning. For a cliché, it is unusual how this phrase has retained its rock-solid meaning, one that is unwavering and unequivocal. It is also strange that we hold numbers in such high regard as numeric proficiency is low and decreasing. In days where we can easily search and find the answers to everything, numeracy has become a devalued skill.
A day of travel and vistas viewed. The same road coming and going but it seemed different with a greater number of irate and aggressive drivers on the return journey and with driving out in the morning and returning towards evening. A symmetry was felt from the scrolling out of place names, rivers and towns, directions out to the east and returning to the west, recalling places and people long forgotten. On the return, I was counting down the kilometres from Gundagai then Bookham, past Yass. A tiring but pleasant journey over grassy plains still holding a hint of green.
Young men, fair and curly haired, is one stereotype of a leader, another is the old white man everyone listens to. Somehow women don’t enter into fit the role models of leaders unless it is the wife in the kitchen or a mother changing nappies. The women could be replaced by instruction manuals, recipe books, but leadership role models cannot be learned through instructions in the same way. Political power is not something that comes about from a recipe that can be put together from what is in a store cupboard. Leadership is taken by force, not shown with compassion.
The evidence of experience #32:
Weighing risk yet again and coming up short. It has been that sort of day, that sort of year really, when nothing seems safe or reasonable. Even the sensible option which is to stay at home and hide under the covers, seems risky today. We are getting so used to high level and critical danger warnings, noting even as they are broadcast again, after listening to the many repetitions, that the risk level only rises. Yet we carry on, mindlessly obeying all instructions, willing that this invisible viral epidemic passes by but does touch us.
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