"Learning to live and living to learn"
People of a certain age, who may have flirted with "prog rock" back in the 1970's will recognize the term "Close to the Edge" as the title of a record by the group "Yes". It was a particular favorite of mine, even now evoking nostalgia for a simpler time when all I had to worry about was whether my Latin teacher would notice that I had forgotten to translate the 10 pages of Cicero's Pro Lege Manilia assigned, or if the young lady I had noticed at the tennis courts on Saturday would ever notice my existence.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the teacher did notice, gave me an extra 10 pages for my trouble, and if that was not punishment enough, insisted that once translated into English, I should then translate the English into French. As for the young lady, I never had any reason to think she was aware of my existence. Who knows what might have happened had she done so. As far as that was concerned, I never came anywhere close to the edge.
Anyway, I had good reason to recall that album title this morning. We ventured out early, as usual, myself and the dog, (Canis in Latin, or Chien in French - evidence that a classical education has not been wasted). Lily insisted that we take the scenic route along the river bank and I thought, well why not, its a lovely morning. As she was nosing around in the bushes, I tried to tread carefully to avoid the mud patches when all of a sudden, my feet gave way and down towards the water I slipped. I won't repeat the barrage of Latin expletives that poured forth from my lips, but suffice to say, you won't find any of them in Cicero's speeches.
So what have I learned so far today? In matters of Latin homework and dog walking along the bank of a river, its probably not a good idea to tread to close to the edge. In matters of the heart, well, I will leave that up to you.
It was still dark when I got to the office this morning; I managed to slip away without waking the dog! I was always led to believe that dogs slept with one eye open, ready to leap into action in the event of some unexpected movement. This is not the case with Lily, (the dog to which I refer - sorry, I should say, "to whom I refer"). She didn't move a muscle let alone an eyelid.
But I digress!
This morning I had the pleasure of a session with Masters students at the Audencia Business School in Nantes, France and I will have another session this afternoon. The topic - "Soft Skills for Consultants" . I'm trying out a new virtual class set-up but the technology is not behaving the way I want. I wouldn't categorize myself as a luddite but sometimes I think that technology, far from making my life easier, just "bites back" .
I have no choice but to accept that virtual classrooms are going to be the predominant mechanisms for many students in the future and I'm doing my best to embrace the change and learn. The technology didn't behave the way I wanted this morning so I will adjust, adapt, and see what happens this afternoon.
I wonder if Lily missed me when she eventually woke up to discover I wasn't there.
I awoke to the realization that my body clock and new iPhone 12 were out of sync. I took a deep breath, practiced some rudimentary mindfulness and managed to stave off the potential panic attack. On the plus side, this means that we will soon say goodbye to those muddy morning walks along the bank of the river, head down against the wind chill.
I'm not someone who likes to lie in bed late on a Sunday morning although this was not always the case. The older I get the less time I want to spend beneath the duvet. In any case, if I'm honest, its the dog who decides when I get up and 6am is the absolute deadline. Lily (the dog) insists on the first reconnaissance patrol at at 6am because that is when the enemy (the neighbor's cat) launches manoeuvres from the boundary fence along the river bank at the back of the house.
But I digress!!
I've run through the usual routine and thus far I have settled of the following 3 key learnings:
1. Cats are always up to no good in the early morning;
2. Investing in a lottery ticket for the Saturday evening Lotto is no substitute for sound financial planning;
3. Reading the Sunday newspapers is not conducive to a positive frame of mind.
Have a relaxing day and brace yourself for the week ahead.
If I get up just before 6am on a Saturday morning, I estimate I will have about an hour before I'm "bitch-slapped" by the dog and forced to move my lazy ass off the couch. I mean, how can I even contemplate relaxation of any kind when there is quality "sniffage" to be had in the local park. I suspect that there are dog-slaves across the world who begin their weekend in similar fashion.
But I digress. Saturday morning bliss is all about sitting still for an hour and thinking back over the week gone by. What did I do? How did I do it? If I had to do it again, what would I do differently? In other words, its time to process my experience and gather the learnings in preparation for the week ahead.
In my youth, I went to a reputable school and acquired a good education but I don't remember ever "learning how to learn". No teacher ever taught me how to process my experiences, draw conclusions and adjust my attitude and behaviour accordingly, as I progress. I notice too that my university students do not have this essential discipline either.
So, before your life-partner/client/customer/student/parent/disgruntled dog, or whoever holds sway over you, forces you off the couch and into action on a Saturday morning, take a moment to revel in the bliss of quiet contemplation and ask yourself:
What do I learn from the week gone by that will help me prepare for the week ahead?
Someone just wished me an enjoyable weekend. What the hell is a weekend?
According to my dear wife, a weekend is when we have to do the housework, wash clothes, go to the supermarket and do "odd jobs" around the home. I struggle to find such activities enjoyable.
Of course, we will try our best to make up for the hours we spent at the office when we should have been showering the dog with the attention she so richly deserves.
Weekends are for processing the experiences of the week gone by, for reflecting on what we did and how we did it and asking - "if I had to do that again, in the light of my experience, what would I do differently?" With conclusions drawn, we can then think about what we will do in the week ahead.
So, as Friday evening approaches, don't fool yourself into thinking you will have a day or two off. Weekends are for children on a break from school, perhaps too for the idle rich and of course, for your dog, if you have one.
As always, I began the day with an early morning stroll with my dog. Lily is a small Jack Russell Terrier who "knows what she likes and likes what she knows". If you are familiar with the breed, you will know what I mean.
As we made our way through the park, I began to obsess about our world in turmoil and the increasing ambiguity as to what the future will hold. Lily, for her part, was obsessed only with the immediate smells within "nose-range" and the rest of the world, whether in the present or future, simply didn't exist.
So I wondered, what can we learn from Lily? Perhaps the best way to manage the ambiguity we face arising from a world in turmoil is to focus on that which is within "nose-range". Focus on what you can do now to deal with the ambiguity and help those around you to do the same.
I'm helping Lily to face the challenges of the day just as she helps me to maintain perspective.