"Learning to live and living to learn"
Do you ever question the nature of your intent? I mean, do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?”
While walking in the park this morning with the wife and Lily, (the dog who must be adored), I noticed how both attacked the walk with such fervor and intention. I assume that dogs, being dogs, do not give much thought to the nature of their intention, they just do whatever comes to mind in the moment. So, I dismissed Lily’s behavior from my consideration and turned to the wife.
“Do you ever analyze the nature of your intention?”, I asked, doing my best to convey an air of quiet contemplation. Well, in retrospect, it was not the best time to raise such a question with the wife. If I were a man with a highly developed antenna for ripples in the domestic firmament, rather than the average bonehead, I would have read the behavioral indicators. I would have realized that since the wife is busier than the busiest bee at a busy convention for overworked honey gatherers, I would not have tried to distract her laser-like focus on the relentless demands of her needy clients, with such frivolous musings. She looked at me, with a distinct look of irritation, and said, “Oh, I don’t have time to think about such things”, and to hammer home her point, she followed up with, “Most people are far too busy with the demands of daily life to think about that, they just get on with it because they have to!”
Ok, point taken, lesson learned. The internal software that drives the domestic antenna has been updated.
However, I still think the question deserves consideration, at least from time to time. Let us consider the implications for a moment and in order to help us to do so, we need a frame of reference to which we can all relate. Let us consider, our (not so) poor, embattled, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Do you think that this brightest light amongst the clan of Sneaky Blunders, gives thought to such a question? I would hope that, at least from time to time, Mr. Johnson asks himself, what is his intention in being our Prime Minister. I would hope too that the answer would be that in being Prime Minister, his intention is to contribute to building a better society for all, indeed, a better world for all! I have little doubt that if pressed for an answer, the response would be something along these lines.
However, I would not be so convinced. So, I would pursue the matter a little further by asking Mr. Johnson, “if your intention is to contribute to creating a better, safer, more prosperous society for all, how then does your decision to circumvent established norms and codes of conduct do so?” I think he would probably respond in a similar fashion to how he responded yesterday in Parliament and reject the implication, without putting forward any meaningful explanation. It reminded me of the scenario that arises when your child asks you why something is so and you reply with the phrase, “it just is!" Case closed!
But I suspect, Mr. Johnson, that the real answer to the question is that in fact, there is a disconnect between your espoused intent and the reality, which has more to do with your narcissism and sense of grandiosity? Whether your decisions and behavior contribute to creating a better society for all is, if truth be told, irrelevant.
I am merely raising the question because, it seems that most people are far too distracted with doing their best to create a better society for their families, neighbors and friends to do so.
One of the most regrettable repercussions of our celebrity, googlebox-obsessed culture is the basis upon which we appoint/choose people to make decisions for the good of our society. We usually refer to such people as leaders but for me the term “leader” implies a benchmark which many of our so-called leaders fail to meet. As such, I question whether they deserve the designation.
The problem to be overcome is that so long as we continue to choose/appoint, “decision makers”, on such bases as fame, fortune, contacts, affiliations etc., we will inevitably end up with the wrong leader, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I would suggest that nowhere is this more evident than the current situation on the political stage in the UK. If you are familiar with the popular television drama titled the “Peaky Blinders”, then you will have some idea of the narrative underway.
The key learning we must take from the current melodrama, in my humble opinion, is that when choosing a leader, rather than base our decisions on who has the most prominent profile, we would be better focusing on who has the requisite competencies to meet the challenges we face. In other words, we consider the nature of the challenges first, before we look for the right leadership profile, rather than the other way around.
Now even if we follow this rather obvious heuristic, our choice may prove problematic because, together with mapping competencies to challenges, we must also consider the nature of the prospective candidate’s intent.
With this in mind, we can now turn our attention to the latest episode of the Sneaky Blunders, a small, but close-knit, cabal of decision makers who govern the country in our name. If, like me, you are concerned about the lack of integrity amongst those who hold positions of power, then you will probably have dipped into the latest goings on in the Palace of Westminster these past few days. You will, I would expect, have been appalled at the obfuscation and lack of transparency shown by senior Whitehall mandarins when questioned by parliamentary committee and you would have struggled to keep your lunch down, watching Boris Johnson’s ridiculous, oily smirk when questioned about how he financed the renovations to the apartment he likes to call his home.
Apparently, for a political leader, the task of producing an invoice from a supplier with evidence of payment, is such a hugely complex task, that it requires focus and dedication from the country’s finest technocrats, accounting experts and doctorates in bookkeeping. Of course, if our Prime Minister, and the rest of the Sneaky Blunders, were transparent in their intent to act in the interests of the country rather than their own self-obsession, which of course they cannot do, then we would not have to put up with this melodrama, and we could focus on more pressing issues, such as coping with the disastrous path these silly people have set us on.
But, we only have ourselves to blame. We chose the wrong people for the job and, for the moment at least, we are stuck with the Sneaky Blunders.
I do not think people will ever fully grasp, or at least admit, the collective stupidity that led to that outcome of the Brexit referendum. I mean, at a fundamental level, if we accept, as indeed we must, that in the networked world, we are ever more interconnected and interdependent, it seems obvious that a strategy of disengagement is rather unwise.
Whenever I put this argument to those who voted to leave the European project, the rebuttal takes the form of a strong refutation and denial. “Britain is not disengaging”, they say with fervor. But this is not an argument. For instance, if I say to you that the earth is a globe, show you evidence of the fact with pictures from the International Space Station, and you toss the photographs aside and declare that the world is flat, and walk away, this does nothing to change the reality of the situation.
My friends who are still willing to admit that they voted to leave the European project, and I sense a growing reluctance to do so; despite the clear evidence of folly with respect to limits on our freedom, increasing costs to business and our restricted access to the global talent pool, are simply unwilling to accept they made their decision based on false information. Indeed, the growing refrain from Breiteers which resonates across the WebSphere seems to be, “this is not the Brexit we voted for”. In the popular press, the Daily Express, the rabid mouthpiece of “Perfidious Albion”, deplores the fact that UK nationals living around the EU are being treated as third country citizens. But, hello! This is what you campaigned for. Don’t you remember the chorus, “Brexit means Brexit?” You wanted it; now you have it.
It seems that the conclusions we must draw is that those who voted to leave the European Union got what they wanted but, unfortunately, they did not get it in the way they wanted it. But sad fact is that now, we all must live with the consequences.
So, I would like to thank those people who voted to leave the EU for the travel restrictions, the increased costs to business and to the cost of living in general. Thanks too for the destruction to the peace process in Northern Ireland and the reputation of the country in international relations.
I hope you are happy!
The Queen of the castle, also known as “the wife”, has warned me that I should be extra careful about what I say in my blog because people may take offence. Now, let me be very clear, I (almost) always listen to my Queen because she gives good council and, in any case, on the one occasion when I did not do so, the result cost me a small fortune in floral arrangements. Granted, the bruising to the wallet was offset by the fact that Javier, (pronounced Have-ee-air), the florist, was able to book 2 weeks in Ibiza for a well-deserved sun snack, so every cloud has a silver lining, at least for some.
But her majesty, or “madge”, if you prefer, raises a good point. If, in your correspondence, you are drawn to the satirical; if you like exaggeration, caricature, and other such literary mechanisms through which you can express your bewilderment at the behavior of your fellow “persons”, (Oops, I almost said man there), it is quite difficult to do so without somebody finding offence. Perhaps, finding offence has become a way in which we can differentiate ourselves and promote our individuality, rather like getting a Tattoo, or dying your hair orange.
I am a passionate believer in the creative power of individuality. In fact, for many years now I have dedicated my life to promoting it, since I can see how it leads to incredible innovation. One of the greatest enjoyments I have in my life is to marvel at what people can do that I could never do. For example, I listen to music and I’m blown away by the talent of the people who were involved in writing and performing it. I read a book and I recoil in wonderment at the mind who conceived it because I could never do anything like that. Such expressions of individuality are the life-blood that sustains us in our evolutionary journey.
But whilst I do not wish to offend anyone, nor inhibit anyone’s expression of individuality, I admit that sometimes, I struggle to understand other people’s attitudes and behavior. For example, the recent kerfuffle in the world of football has me completely bewildered. I mean, of all the issues, challenges, and injustices that lie before us in the world, this is what stirs people’s passions?
I have nothing against those who enjoy a good game of footie, nor do I wish to offend anyone for whom such activity is an important source of fulfilment but, really, for a moment there, I thought we were on the brink of war. Never mind that we humans have managed to manoeuvre a drone on the planet Mars from a sedentary position in an office complex on Earth, nor the fact that our Prime Minister has just burnt through £2.6 million of our money, cash we don’t have, on some vanity project involving top of the range audio and video equipment, both instances deserving of an emotional outburst from the people albeit for different reasons, but try to change the way a bunch of overpaid prima-donnas kick a ball about the park for 90 minutes and the nation becomes apoplectic. We, and I mean, we human beings, are ridiculous at times.
There really isn’t more I can say but to stress that I mean no disrespect to those who play football, nor those who watch it. After all, Lily, (the dog who must be adored), loves chasing a ball around the park, and I enjoy watching her. I mean no disrespect to Arsenal in particular, the team for which her majesty seems to have a fondness.
Moreover, I wish no insult on Boris Johnson, nor the Johnson Jive, (also known as the “U-turn”, or “volte face”), which is becoming such an established norm, I, for one, won't be surprised if we see it on Strictly Come Dancing in the near future.
I’m merely drawing attention to the behavior which I find puzzling.
I was startled at how cold it was this morning as I set out for the park. The wife advised me to put on my winter coat, but I refused. I have already made the transition from winter to summer jacket, and, unlike our Prime Minister, I have no desire for the “volte face”. Suffering the cold is a small price to pay for integrity, in my opinion. Lily, (the dog who must be adored), is in full agreement for once, since she also refuses to wear her winter coat but that has nothing to do with integrity and more to do with the weight she has put on over the past few months. Yes, its official, Lily is “a bloater”!
After my long overdue trip to the hairdressers, (see yesterday’s post), I accrued a few extra shekels in the relationship account by dancing the Dyson shuffle and waltzing around the nest with Mr. Sheen while both the wife and Lily were out visiting clients. Unfortunately, it seems I blew the goodwill this morning by forgetting about the recycling which, as you know, is very important.
I made the mistake this morning of reading the Sunday papers with my coffee and, as usual, spiraled into a ranting session about government corruption and the much-publicized spat between William and Harry. I wouldn’t mind but I’m not much interested in either subject, at least not as much as I am, about the neighbor who keeps parking his blasted van directly outside my sodding driveway. Forget about the future economic health of the country; Ignore the rising geopolitical tensions undermining the established world order. Forget about the fact that we are hurtling headlong towards, what seems like inevitable environmental Armageddon and disregard the fact that, in all likelihood, we will see soldiers back on the streets of Belfast and Derry by end of year.
The only issue of import right now is what goes through the mind of that SOB who mounts the pavement opposite my house in that monstrosity of a van in which, by the way, no tools are left overnight. Who does he think he is, going about his life without any consideration for those who have to put up with his lack of consideration? Clearly, this individual has no idea of what constitutes acceptable behavior in a local community.
During my tirade, of which I have only provided a brief summary, omitting vocabulary of a more colorful nature for the sake of the children, the wife listened silently. She waited for the pressure release to reach conclusion before suggesting that I have a quiet chat with the neighbor in question.
Ok, it seems a reasonable approach and, being a reasonable man, ordinarily I would act on the suggestion but, the problem is, he is bigger than me.
OK, that’s it, I feel better now, I can get on with my day!
Another week beckons, but before that, there is work to be done on the cranial agenda. I was awoken by a streak of lighting which, at first, I thought was very unusual for this time of year but then I realized that it was the wife responding to the demands of the schedule. As she flew down the stairs, I’m sure I heard the words, “Ah for the love of all that is good and pure, have a heart”, coming from her Fitbit before the front door banged shut and The Modus, screeched off the drive with an urgency that would have impressed Lewis Hamilton.
Lily, (the dog who must be adored), mithered something that I interpreted as “Keep it down people, dog sleeping here!”, as I reached for the iPad to review the news headlines. I felt light-headed and then remembered, of course, yesterday, for the first time in over a year, I managed to get my hair cut.
I got up to look in the mirror. I no longer resembled an aging yeti who has decided to commit himself to the norms and values of the Rastafari; now, I just look old. My hair, which used to be a hazelnut brown has now transitioned from grey to white, a characteristic I share with Lily who has gone through a similar metamorphosis.
The trip to the local hairdresser was not without trauma. It’s a homely salon, unlike the bigger venues in the local county town which are more like night clubs where, when you enter, you have to go through a 20-minute consultation, resembling a session of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, before you see a pair of scissors.
Unfortunately, the young lady who usually cuts my hair was booked solid so I was assigned to the new male recruit. A nice fellow sporting a tool-belt, and shoulder holsters which at first seemed a bit intimidating, but then I noticed that he was covered in Tattoos, (What on earth is all that about? (See post on 11/04).
On seeing me, he gasped with a look of horror on his face, told the receptionist to rearrange his next two appointments, disappeared into the back of the shop only to re-emerge carrying an array of Black & Decker power tools. I enquired as to whether it was possible to have a general anesthetic but apparently hair-dressers are not allowed to “put you under”.
I let him go to work and tried to be a brave soldier. An hour later, I was able to reconnect with my neck and ears and as I paid up, I noticed a refuse truck pull up to the back of the shop, two bruisers in high visibility jackets got out and started shoveling a mountain of grey/white hair into the back of the truck.
The hairdresser thanked me for the generous tip and said, “see you next year”, and I left as Bob Marley and Wailers’ song Exodus, blared out from the sound system.
It has been a very busy week for the whole household, particularly for the wife, whose “fitbit”, a rather curious device which is permanently fixed to the wrist like Captain Kirk’s energise interface in the series Star Trek, has been heard screaming for mercy on more than one occasion. So, it’s not surprising that we decided to get an early night. Lily, (the dog who must be adored), was very much in favour of the idea and was already prostrate on the duvet before I had finished brushing my teeth.
As with most families up and down the country on a Friday night, we launched into a heated debate as to the fundamental orientations that drive behaviour. I’m more of a Jungian myself whilst Lily is more of a Freudian, a fact evidenced by her early evening penchant for humping scatter cushions, of which the least said the better. Fortunately, the wife is somewhere in between which is good since the clash between Lily and I, can become quite heated and, thankfully, the wife’s cooler head always prevails.
Anyway, Lily mentioned that dogs have similar orientations that drive their behaviour and when I asked for an example, she immediately referred to Fabulous Finn, (see post on 13/04), as an illustration of the ideas-oriented introvert who likes nothing more than to play with theories and concepts. But more interestingly, she referred to his close associate, and sometime muse, called Rosie, as an illustration of a more action-oriented, extrovert who likes to get things done. Well, my jaw dropped, you could have knocked me out with a feather. Carl Jung, would have choked on his Butterzopf. The wife had to jump from the bed because the fitbit, which also monitors heart rate, went off like a fire alarm.
Rosie, or as the Fabster sometimes refers to her with affection, Rosita Mamacita, is a fully-charged, canine Lithium battery who is constantly on the go. According to Lily, she is carrying out research into how kinetic energy can be used to address some of the world’s energy needs. Her working hypothesis is that if she can find a way to harness the energy she generates, then she will be able to recharge all the mobile phones in the county of Donegal, where she lives. Unlike Fabulous Finn, who is of a more academic persuasion, Rosie, has a more engineering mind.
Apparently too, even when not generating kinetic energy for her research project, she loves to take control of all the gardening duties from her humans who she believes are a couple of feckless wastrels who would sit around all day gorging themselves on natural bone broth, if you let them. Moreover, her female human in particular, is always getting in the way, trying to drive a wedge between her and her male human which, quite frankly, according to Lily, Rosie thinks is somewhat pathetic. Lily told me that when she was talking to Rosie about it, Rosie raised her paw, wiggled it from side to side in a rather disparaging manner, and said, “Huh, girlfrien, (dropped “d” is intentional), she should keep her paws of my man, if she knows what’s good for her”.
Well, concerned about this potentially disturbing streak of jealousy, Lily asked the Fabster if he was aware of it, but he just shrugged he shoulders, and rather cryptically quoting the philosopher Wittgenstein, said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”, and sauntered off to find a quiet corner for some mindful meditation.
I think the lesson to be learned here is that behavior, whether human or dog, is rather complex and, in deference to the great Carl Jung, understanding our fundamental behavioral drivers, may lead us to better understanding ourselves and, who knows, perhaps we will soon find an answer to the world’s energy problems.
Yesterday was a beautiful evening and as we walked around the village, the hint of Spring in the air was palpable. It’s almost time to say goodbye to the dark, wet, cold winter months, take a “chill-pill” and feel reborn again. I love the Springtime, it’s a time when everyone, regardless of species, is in the mood for love, or so we hope!
This set the tone for the conversation after dinner with the wife and I, and of course Lily, (the dog who must be adored), reclining on the couch, feet up on the footstool, just shooting the breeze. We got to talking about how different people are, in the way they respond to the demands of a situation and express their emotions accordingly. For instance, some people respond with calm and consideration, particularly when under pressure and then there are others who take a more authoritative approach, animating their discourse with raised tones and a facial expression that would outdo the most ardent despot. And then of course, you have a variety of degrees in between. Lily, who had been listening with intent, chipped in at this point with a story which sent shivers down my spine and, I kid you not, the wife’s teeth actually began to “gnash”.
There is a small coastal town about 30Kms north of Dublin city called Skerries which used to be a very vibrant fishing village in times gone by. Today, Skerries, or Na Sceirí, for those of you who speak the language of the Gael, is a lovely quiet town where everybody knows each other and the arrival of a casual visitor is often prone to bring the traffic on main street to a standstill. There are many hostelries in the vicinity since the wild people of Skerries like a good “knees-up” but next door to one of these libation dispensaries dwells a skittish micro-dog by the name of Lop-sided Lil.
Lop-sided Lil, or “the lobster” as she is known to those with a fishing heritage, has a fiery temperament who loves nothing more than to dispense rough justice to all who dare to “cross the line”. If you find yourself at the business-end of Lobo-Lil’s fire and fury, you may stand startled, routed to the spot, uncertain as to why you have been singled out. However, you will be left in no doubt that you have crossed the line. But be rest assured, only Lil knows where that line is drawn.
Now, apparently, on hearing this story, people usually respond with two questions. Firstly, why does this creature, with a temper hotter than hades, like to boss everyone around? The answer, it would seem, is that she has learned the behavior from her humans, both of whom, like to “lay down the law”. I’m told that they are particularly strict on the lobster when it comes to what she can and can’t do but they do so for purely for training purposes. And Lobo-Lil is a keen student in art of discipline who believes that “practice-makes-perfect”.
The second question asked is, why is this fire cracker described as “lopsided?” The answer is without doubt. It is the direct result of living next door to a pub. We can all identify, I’m sure from first hand, particularly from our days of youthful exuberance, the lopsided effects of regular overindulgence in the company of John Barleycorn, on both our attitude and behavior. In fact, it has been suggested, although nobody as yet has been able to verify the hypothesis with empirical data, that Lop-sided-Lil’s penchant for authoritarianism is but the behavioral manifestation of a hangover. We wait for confirmation.
We can only hope that with spring in the air, and the sound of birdsong all around us, that Lop-sided Lil, and those of us who bear similarities, will relax, take a chill pill, and perhaps find other avenues of excitement than to be a “bossy-boots”.
It is said that variety is the spice of life and if true, then yesterday’s ingredients transformed what would have been a ropey old stew into a taste of the Taj Mahal.
If you have been following these posts, you will know that the demands on the wife’s time and talent, make President Biden look like a casual part-time worker, on a zero-hours contract. Under severe strain in the schedule, she was called upon to survey a client’s, rather substantial, garden and asked me to assist her in holding the measuring tape. As luck would have it, at present, I have nothing on that can’t wait a day or two and so, of course, I readily agreed.
I have some previous experience in “tape holding” and although, I don’t have any formal qualifications, the wife seemed willing to take the risk. In any case, I thought that this was my opportunity to accrue some credits in the relationship account which, I figured, could be called upon in the near future should I step on any relationship landmines and find myself with the prospect of having to visit Javier, the florist, (see previous post). I should also add that Lily, (the dog who must be adored), was none too pleased to say the least, since she was to be left behind and by the look in her eyes, I knew she blamed me for that.
So, all morning, the wife surveyed, taking readings, plotting undulations, calculating lengths and widths while I moved about the garden, tape in hand, like a stealthy ninja warrior with a sense of purpose and utter loyalty and obedience to his sensei. After about three hours of back-breaking tape holding, we finished up and the wife bid a fond farewell to her clients. On the way back in the car I basked in the glory of her expressions of gratitude, to the gratifying sound of “Kerching”, as the credits began to pile up in the relationship account.
After lunch, drunk on the morning’s success, I decided to buy myself a new computer. Honestly, there are few experiences in life that release the torrents of dopamine than the idea of buying a new computer. But when it comes to executing the idea, it’s not a straight forward task. You have to do the research and choose your specs. This complex task, as I soon realized, is similar to carrying out a literature review for a PhD thesis. I had to fortify myself with several trips to the Nespresso machine.
However, with the preliminary spade-work done, I was ready to go to the store for a final, pre-purchase inspection. In my view, this is important since it’s the only way you can judge whether you feel comfortable at the prospect of staring at the beast, more or less, every day for the next 5 years or so.
Once through the doors of the shop, the first time I had visited such a cathedral in over year, I was pounced upon by a group of pasty, pimply-faced youths, dressed in black, all wearing masks. For a moment I thought I had found myself in the midst of an urban riot on the streets of Philadelphia in the aftermath of the actions of a trigger-happy “cop”. I gave the young tube, who managed to beat his compadres to the punch, the details of the computer in which I was interested. He promptly told me that they didn’t have the "said" machine in store, directed me to a store computer and guided me through the online ordering procedure, all of which I could have done myself at home.
Shopping just isn’t fun anymore and I have to wait 2 days before I can get my hands on my new computer. Never mind, for once, I’m securely on the right side of ledger in the relationship account.
This is a cautionary tale of sorts - the sad, sad story of Buster Brown, the saddest dog in Toronto town. If this tale doesn’t strum the heart-strings and cause a welling of the tear ducts, then, you must surely be a cold fish indeed.
Lily, (the dog who must be adored), told me the story as we were relaxing on the divan yesterday evening. Apparently, she heard it from a Scottish nobleman by the name of Angus McSad, who was Laird on the remote and desolate, Isle of Sad, which is located far north of the Shetlands islands, off the coast of Scotland. Angus lived alone, which is not surprising since there isn’t must to do on the island except sit around feeling sad. Sometimes, a year would go by before Angus would see another human being and when he heard the story of Buster Brown from a visitor from Ontario, I’m told he reached for the box of Kleenex, 4-ply tissues which he always carried with him and said, “Now that’s sad!”
One point of clarification which I think is worth mentioning before we continue with our story, is that Angus, who, by the way had extremely good eyesight due to the predominance of carrots in his diet which grew all around the island on account of the damp climate, was not, in any way, related to the Marquis de Sade, who, although also a nobleman, stimulated a whole different set of emotions which are worthy of consideration but we will leave that for another day.
Buster Brown used to be a happy dog because, for many years, he was the center of attention and his humans were very liberal with their affection towards him. He loved nothing more than to stretch out on the couch and have his tummy tickled for hours on end. His humans would never make a decision without first considering his needs and desires, and overtime, he got used to this state of affairs. It never occurred to him that life, for both humans and dogs, is an ever-changing rollercoaster of events which are difficult to predict and so, as with the possibility of black ice on the roads on a cold, clear winter’s night, you must always brace yourself for the unexpected.
But then, one day, another human appeared on the scene. But this human was not like the others, for he was small, lay on his back most of the time, flailing arms and legs and making the most idiotic sounds that Buster had ever heard. But this was not what caused Buster’s sadness for the source of his malaise was the effect that this diminutive had on all the other humans in the vicinity. For whenever the slobbering little articled hooved into view, the humans would lose all sense of propriety and start cooing like demented pigeons. Not only that but they were constantly passing the little tike from one to the other, as if he was the puck in a particularly exciting game of ice hockey between the Blueshirts and the Shamrocks.
As a result of the whole situation, Buster became distraught and overcome with jealousy, but what could he do? He was no longer the center of attention and was left alone to stew in his own self-pity, or so he thought.
I sincerely hope that before too long, Buster will realize, as we all must do, that the circle of life is an ever-spinning wheel which can change at any moment and without warning. Nevertheless, we must carry on as best we can, lest we end up like poor old Angus during the many cold nights on the Isle of Sad with nothing but a bunch of carrots and a box of Kleenex to keep him company.