"Learning to live and living to learn"
The other day, someone challenged me to name the one thing that, if taken away from me without notice, my day-to-day life would change beyond recognition, and not for the better. It’s the kind of question that regularly pops up on your plate of BuzzFood or in your bowl of FaceTube as you swipe your way around the netiverse.
Now, a word of caution! You must tread carefully when faced with such a challenge. Let me explain.
The first and most obvious consideration is “who is asking”. If its your mate, or colleague at work, who stops by your office for a bit of mindless chatter, then its ok, you are safe to declare that the most important item in your daily life, your one true love, is your Ipad.
My Ipad, or Paddy as I refer to him due to his Irish-American ancestry, (Designed in California but used by an Irishman), is a very special friend indeed. Our relationship is one based on mutual trust. Paddy trusts that I will keep him juiced-up and he, in return, ensures that I am, well, “juiced-up” too.
However, if the inquisitor is the wife/husband/life partner or “significant other”, (a phrase which, by the way, makes me want to hurl), then declaring your love for Paddy the Ipad is akin to stepping on a landmine. How do I know this you may wonder?
Well, if its proof you seek then I shall direct you to my dear, close friend, Javier, (pronounced “Have-ee-air”), the local florist. As I write this, Javier is probably on the phone to his travel agent, booking 2 weeks in the Seychelles, with the proceeds from my latest “faux-pas”. You see, the wife is rather upset with the amount of time and attention I give dear Paddy. When you cause such disruptions in the domestic firmament, it pays to be on good terms with someone who knows their way around a bouquet.
So next time you curl up on the couch with your iPad, spare a thought for your dearly beloved who must compete for your affections with a hand-held, digital platform interface. It really isn’t conducive to good relationship management in the home. However, if you can’t live without your digital buddy for more than 5 minutes at a stretch, then I would advise that open an account at the local florist.
The father of American literature Mark Twain is said to have proposed that the 2 most important days in your life are the day that you are born and the day that you find out why! Although we have no control over the former, the latter, on the other hand, is a life-long research project, at least for me.
Over the years, in my work as an organizational development specialist, I have noticed that those people who are happiest and confident in themselves are usually people who have a clear sense of purpose in their lives. Now, in using the term “sense of purpose”, I don’t necessarily mean they know what they want to do professionally, although for many people their work provides purpose, I mean that they regularly ask themselves the question: “What does life want from me?” And they endeavor to answer it with something of which they feel passionate about.
I don’t know about you, but I find that feeling passionate about something is like the tide that ebbs and flows upon the shore. Passion for me is like a wave machine, when the tide is in, I’m fueled and ready to go but sometimes the tide goes out and passion subsides. I mean, if this were not the case then, I probably would have burnt out a long time ago.
This is precisely why I must continually revisit the question, “What does life want from me?”
Now, at the risk of laboring the metaphor, let’s assume that the tide is out and, well, like Lily, (the dog who must be adored), on a rainy day when we are about to embark on our morning walk through the park, and I open the door and she just stands there looking up at me with a look that can best be described with the phrase, “Seriously?”, I’m just not feeling it. Passion has abandoned me. Then I must turn the question around and ask, “What does life not want from me?”
For on those occasions when, for whatever reason, my passion for life deserts me, I find it easier to answer in the negative. I can be sure that life does not want me to wallow in confusion, feel sorry for myself and lament my lack of passion. And so, I fire up the great engine of my creativity, recognize that passion rules and plough on with my project in finding my purpose in life.
As for Lily, (the dog who must be adored), when she is not feeling it, well, she is just not feeling it and tomorrow is another day.
Here in the northern hemisphere, as we bid adieu to the summer months, the dark clouds are gathering. The cobnut trees by the riverbank are starting to shed their leaves and in about 2 weeks they will begin to resemble a shadow of their former selves. Winter is on the horizon.
I don’t much care for the winter season with short days, cold, wet weather, and, oh, the “mud”. Lily, (the dog who must be adored), hates the mud too because it gets everywhere and there is little you can do about it. It won’t be long before we are shivering in our winter coats, chilled to the bone.
I took out my winter coat this morning, tried it on and, yes, it still fits me, thanks to a predominance of salad in my summer diet. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Lily who struggled into her overcoat and stood there in the hallway looking like an overcooked wiener waiting to be covered in relish and encased in a soft finger roll. As she shivered, mortified at the indignance, I thought to myself, there is nothing "hot" about this dog.
If you have ever wondered how the human species managed to survive the ravages of mother nature when dinosaurs roamed the earth, one of the key success factors was the consumption of copious quantities of natural bone broth. Even our ancient vegetarian ancestors swore by the benefits of extracting the goodness from locally sourced, organic root vegetables.
As we wandered through the park this morning, the evidence of autumn all around us, I was reminded of the time I spent with an old Gaelic philosopher who lived his life in the wild, windswept reaches of the west of Ireland. On his 120th birthday, I asked him to share some of his secrets to a long life. He shifted in his chair, looked out towards the rugged coastline as the storm clouds gathered on the horizon and with a nod of affirmation said:
“The secret to a healthy, happy life, my friend, should be passed from one to another,
Consume a bowl of Carol’s broth a day, and you will be man before your mother”
So, as you brace yourself for falling temperatures and a loss of daylight hours, what you need is a regular infusion of immune-boosting bone broth from Carol’s Stock Market. Check it out and let us know what you think!
It is a beautiful morning, but a deathly pall has descended upon the domestic environment. The wife, shrouded in black, is moving from room to room in a state of shock and disbelief. The curtains are drawn shut and the sound of a passing train in the distance invades the silence like the distant cry of a wildebeest as it succumbs to the Masai huntsman on the plains of the Serengeti. Lily, (the dog who must be adored), lies motionless on the step, halfway up the stairs, her usual sanctuary when she is in the throes of depression. I stand poised, smelling salts and brandy in hand, lest the sadness proves too much for the consciousness.
“So, what has happened?”, I hear you ask, your head tilting to one side in an evident expression of empathy. I have no doubt that you ask the question with genuine concern. Perhaps you suspect that there has been a death in the family. Well, in a sense, you are right. For the source of such deep sadness in the household can be summed up in one word – “Eurovision” and the death, is the result for the United kingdom’s entry upon which a nation’s hopes of victory rested.
The wife, who strives hard to contain her Euro-fever every year is struggling to come to terms with the fact that the United kingdom’s entry scored the dreaded “Null points” in last night’s Eurovision song contest. “What on earth is wrong with the world? Why do they hate us so?”, I hear her muttering to herself as she reviews last night’s result on her iPad for the umpteenth time.
I hear rumor that there is an emergency meeting of the cabinet this morning to discuss the results. Chaired by the Prime Minster himself, I am reliably informed that the only item on the agenda is a new campaign called “EuroVexit”, whereby we will hold a referendum to take back control of the song contest. Next year, entries will be restricted to England and Wales. Scotland can submit an entry on condition it gives up all claims to independence and Northern Ireland will be allowed to submit proposals but only if they comply with European standards.
From now on, it will be known as “The British Song Context”, and anyone who utters the prefix “Euro”, in any context, will be jailed without trial, or worse still, exiled to the Falkland Islands.
WE ARE TAKING BACK MORE CONTROL……APPARENTLY!
In the corner of the universe which I call home, I have noticed a rather curious phenomenon which heralds the transition between week and weekend. Perhaps you have noticed similar memes.
I like to arise early in the morning, unlike the wife and Lily, (the dog who must be adored), who prefer to plan out the day, coffee in hand, atop the Titanium Aerocoil® Springs of the latest in mattress technology, (i.e., the bed). During the week, as I make my way to the office, the roads are clogged with commercial vans of assorted sizes, each emblazoned with such expressions of masculinity as, “Right Construction”, “Groundforce”, or my favorite, “Willow Pumps”. I often wonder who exactly Willow is and what exactly does he pump, but I digress. Mind you, the cars are no better, humungous “all-terrain” models with names like “Terminator” or “Voyager”, which I assume, were designed for those who live in the wilderness rather than the sleepy villages in the Kent countryside.
However, at weekends, the scene in the early morn is very different. On Saturday, the drivers of those fuel-injected expressions of masculinity, men of a certain age who really should know better, attire themselves in garishly colored lycra, and swap the car/van for the very latest in pedal-power. These strange looking, extremely well-fed creatures, which remind me of a Glaswegian Butcher shop window full of haggis in various stages of decomposition, fill the roads, and inhibit my attempts to reach my destination.
Do not get me wrong, I admire the intention to exercise and the dedication to environmental preservation, if only at the weekends, is to be applauded. But is it necessary to approach the two-wheeled weekend meander as if you were lining up to tackle the Pyrenees in the Tour de France?
Cycle, by all means, but you do not have to dress like a high visibility haggis to do so.
Why is it that I am always right, and everyone else is wrong? This is the question that was in my mind when I awoke this morning.
As usual, when going through the mental gymnastics’ routine required to structure a conundrum, I mull it over on the morning walk through the park. Lily, (the dog who must be adored), was also in pensive mood as we meandered through the wet grass and so, I put the question to her. She sniffed the air, as she always does when asked for advice, a behavior I am told is quite like that adopted by the Dutch philosopher Spinoza in the 17th century when asked for his thoughts regarding the relationship between the Self and the concept of a Universal Oneness. I interpreted her mithering to mean “Ah yes, oh wise one, for even when you are wrong; you are right!”
Now, I will be the first to admit that it is not easy always being right, but this is a cross I was always destined to bear, and I do so with courage and fortitude. Furthermore, over the years I have learnt to look with empathy and understanding upon everyone else because, whilst it is not easy always being right, it must be so much more challenging to live life always being wrong.
I can only hope that other people will respond to me with similar sympathy and understanding. So next time you see me, feel free to heave a sigh of consideration as you say to yourself, or indeed to those whom you are with – “there goes that poor individual who bears the burden of always being right”.
After the wife’s birthday, which I have managed to survive for another year following a somewhat belated, yet judicious visit to Javier, (pronounced Have-ee-air), the local florist, today is the second most important date in the domestic calendar. For today, is Lily’s (the dog who must be adored), birthday. “Happy birthday your majesty!”
You will note the order of importance – date 1 (wife), date 2 (dog). When I tell you that date 3 is our wedding anniversary, I expect you will ask, “but what about you, the man of the house?”. I can see the quizzical look on your face, as you recoil with evident frown. Well, let me tell you.
For a long time now, I have accepted my position on the lower rungs of the domestic ladder, which, for those of you who may have attended a course at a reputable business school at some time in your development, resembles the famous “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.
Like Maslow and his categories of motivation, in our house there is a similar hierarchy, but not of "needs". For us, it is a hierarchy of “breeds”.
At the apex of the pyramid, sits the wife in all her splendor, looking out over her domain, Queen of all that she surveys. Of course, she is busy in her reign and stressed out because of the many demands on her time and talents, for as the immortal bard put it in his dramatization in Henry the IV, “uneasy is the head that wears the crown”.
Then below her in the hierarchy, reclines Lily, (the dog who must be adored), like the favored eunuch at the court of the Empress Cleopatra, stretched out on the duvet, mithering away in my direction because, let us face it, I am a miserable surplus to requirements in the household. Then, below her we have a various assortment of characters from the family, and others who, in Lily’s estimation, are liberal with the issuing of treats on the morning walk in the park.
It is not until you plunge deep into the basement of the pyramid, below the foundation of the hierarchy of importance will you find me, waiting for my orders as I was this morning when Lily emerged from the folds of the duvet having decided that I had wasted enough time on the couch in quiet contemplation.
Yes, I know my place in the domestic hierarchy of breeds!
Of late I have been watching a lot of “how to” tutorials on YouTube and I am amazed at what other people can do. For the past 30 years at least, I have been making my way through life thinking that I was perfect and a master at everything I do.
But, with the help of YouTube, I have come to realize that I know “diddly-squat” about anything.
For instance, before I succumbed to the ravages of age and the world of XXXL, I used to think I was a good dancer. I thought I could connect with the rhythm and, with a few light ales inside me, could execute a respectable twirl and jazz-hands in sync to the beat. But, alas, I was laboring under a misapprehension.
I am mesmerized by the dance routines on YouTube. These amateurs are executing routines that, in my day, could only be experienced under the canopy of a circus tent.
There are YouTube tutorials for absolutely everything. Just now I typed in “How to build a spaceship” and I am spoilt for choice. So, as I set about broadening my horizons further and prepare myself for interstellar travel, I challenge you, dear reader, to explore your own new frontiers and get busy learning more about yourself and others.
Spring has sprung and the evidence is all around us, at least here in my corner of the universe. The leaves have returned to the trees and the birds began their chorus precisely 4.32 am this morning.
On the way to work I noticed that my fellow humans are also emerging from lock-down like butterflies from the confines of their chrysalises, bleary-eyed, perhaps grappling with the after affects of a glass too much from the carafe the previous evening and resigned to the demands of the workday ahead.
It got me thinking, spring is the season for rebirth and renewal, shouldn’t we take this opportunity to ask the question that we all too often avoid, namely, what is it that makes you happy?
After all, life is one more day shorter than yesterday for all of us and that more precious as a result.
This morning, working away in the office, I have found it rather challenging to keep my focus. Lately, I have been thinking of the many people that have come and gone during my life and I feel a certain degree of sadness. I am not someone who is very good at keeping in touch, something which I consider as a weakness, but every now and then, I think of someone from the past who had an impact on me, and I regret that we lost touch.
So, for all those people with whom I have crossed paths, I would like to express thanks for the opportunity to have spent time together and hope that we can find connection again before too long.