Thursday, July 31, 2003

Work in progress 

By its very nature a blog will always be work-in-progress. This one is more so than many, in that I really need to tidy up the presentation (meaning I have to learn some HTML) and add more functionality - comments, blogroll, trackback etc etc.

But one thing at a time. First I need a new ISP, a domain name and broadband.

Until then, I'll probably be the only person reading this...

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

More notes 

Bizarre. I’ve been pretty dysfunctional at work lately. Concentration collapsed, motivation zero, ability to do the simplest task zilch. But late last night I was sitting at the keyboard (piano, not qwerty) again and the notes were flowing again. So now I have a beginning, I just have to develop it to reach the middle and end that fell out a couple of days ago.

Its curious that there seems to be some kind of see-saw relationship between artistic creativity and routine human functionality. Perhaps this reflects activity in one area of the brain having an influence over activity in another area. Is there a cause-and-effect relationship? And if so, which way? Is routine dominant and does creativity only emerge when routine is dormant? Or is it the other way around - does a surge of creativity push routine aside?

And does it matter?

If I was at the other kind of keyboard now, I’ll bet these analytical thoughts would have killed any creativity stone dead. I think I’ll just appreciate it when it comes and stop trying to explain where it comes from.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Musical connections 

Although I enjoy playing and listening to music, composition isn’t something that comes easily. Well, thats an understatement - most of the time it doesn’t come at all. But every once in a while I’ll sit at the piano, start messing around with some chords and things start to happen. The notes begin to flow, and so long as I don’t think too hard about it something evolves. Nothing very special, probably quite banal and full of musical cliches (mind you, musical cliches never did Andrew Lloyd Weber any harm), but still quite pleasing to the ear - or to my ears at any rate.

Yesterday evening was like that. I was feeling a bit low. My wife was watching Moulin Rouge on DVD, and the energy of the music got through to me and reminded me of all the times that music, and musical theatre, have found their way past my outer defences and through to touch my soul. So I sat at the piano (well, Clavinova to be precise) and played whatever was released.

For some reason though I have trouble with beginnings. Middles and endings are OK (-ish), but beginnings I have difficulty with. I haven’t figured out why yet. Maybe its easier to develop an idea than to create a truly original idea out of nowhere.

I could try and work on a beginning, but for the time being I’ll leave what was created as fragment - a little piece of feeling that fell out of a brief moment when some musical centre in my mind managed to connect directly with my fingers and bypass the usual hurdles of logic and judgement

Tides of enlightenment 

Learning isn’t a linear process - it isn’t even unidirectional. Its possible to unlearn.

Enlightenment is like the waves on the beach. As the tide comes in the waves drive up the beach then fall back. Learning is like that. Insights come in a rush, then the intensity and immediacy are diluted and awareness slips back down the beach. But the next wave comes up a little higher and doesn’t fall back as far. A little more learning has stuck.

But the tide goes out as well as in. Learning that isn’t embedded and built upon seeps away. Unless learning is constantly tested, backed up and extended it dissipates and loses its potential. The waves drop back down the beach.

My tide is rather a long way out at the moment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The (intellectually) rich get richer?? 

I was letting my mind free-wheel into the future, imagining where this brave new world of web-connectedness might take us. New, deeper, relationships; new undreamed of opportunities; an explosion of ideas. The vision was really appealing - positive, almost a new age of enlightenment - yet maybe more than a little utopian.

I also felt a hint of guilt that I have an opportunity to explore this new way of being whilst the vast majority of humanity doesn’t. A voice within says, shouldn’t I spend the time doing something to help those less fortunate? Idealistic perhaps, and hardly a novel thought, but a persistent one nonetheless.

It occurs to me that, in general, Bloggers are probably pretty near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. To be sitting posting stuff on the web, the basic physical and safety needs will presumably have already been met. Its difficult to judge about the next level, the need for love, although that level is sometimes known as the need for affiliation - to belong - and in that sense bloggers may well be satisfying that need through blogging. Moving further up through Maslow’s hierarchy, whilst some posting may be driven by a need for esteem, a lot of what is posted seems to be at the level of self-actualisation. So driving forwards towards my brave new world seemed to be taking a rich-get-richer approach, where richness equates to the level in Maslow's hierarchy.

Some more recent additions have been made to Maslow’s original model which add a further level - transcendence - which is the need to help others achieve self-actualisation. Now, given that Maslow’s theory is that you can only achieve the higher levels once the lower levels have been fulfilled, that implies that transcendence is achieved by helping others move up the hierarchy of needs.

And that, I guess, is the source of my feeling of guilt. But maybe I should take heart - if Maslow (or those who developed his ideas further) got it right, I’m only going to achieve transcendence (as they term it) once I have achieved self-actualisation. So maybe its OK to dream of the new age of enlightenment…

(A bit like Jonathan Livingston Seagull I suppose).

Monday, July 21, 2003

Real People or cardboard cut-outs? 

A friend of mine runs a company that delivers leadership and teamwork training, using the outdoors as a delivery medium. We do this in a fairly low-key, non-threatening way in order to provide both a reasonably challenging context and a leveller. I put it that way just so you don't imagine its a hard-hitting break-'em-then-make-'em approach. We're much more supportive and encouraging than that!

Anyway, I help him run courses occasionally, and last week we did a one-day intensive course for trainee doctors. I love running these courses. In part that's simply because its much more fun being outdoors than it is stuck behind a desk in an office, but mostly its because in the space of a day you can make a deeper contact at a person-to-person level than you do in a year with so many people at work.

Maybe its just the company I work for, but so much of the time people seem to forget that they are real people and just act out the role that fits the post they occupy. At work they become just cardboard cut-outs with no depth or substance. They've stopped being a person and are simply a postholder. And unconsciously adopting a "when in Rome..." approach, I find myself doing the same. Which gives rise to internal conflict - being aware, albeit dimly, that I'm being something other than that which I want to be.

Yet one of the strange things about life on the web, as has been pointed out before, is that it seems much easier here to make this kind of deep contact and bypass the superficial. Whilst face-to-face communication is beset by a history of social and cultural baggage, web based communication has no such long history and seems to be developing in a direction of greater directness, frankness and honesty (in blogs at any rate). Of course there are risks, and I really hope that the negative consequences that could arise if this openess is abused doesn't strangle so soon after birth this newly developing willingness to be congruent, to be real.

Our use of the web has the power to change the way we relate to each other, if we're prepared to make it so.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Older and growing... 

Carl Rogers is one of my heros. I came across his ideas of person-centred therapy and development a few years ago when I was made redundant and wondering want to do next. Being over that magic age of 40 at which, by all accounts, you start to get increasingly less easily employable, I was grappling with the contradictions between the positive side of the opportunity that redundancy represented, and the negative aspects of fear, uncertainty, self-doubt, being over-the-hill.

I had time to do a lot of reading, and a phrase from one of his essays stuck in my mind. Rogers had been asked to give retrospective on his life, and the title he chose was "Growing old - or older and growing?"

OK, at 48 I'm not exactly old yet. But looking around, I can see people whose character stopped growing maybe even before they were 20, their outlook fixed, their worldview unalterable, their eyes blind to any path other than the narrow channel down which they tread. I also see others who are still learning and growing into their 80s - questioning, experimenting, engaging in true dialogue.

I know which are having more fun, which are more engaged with living, which are getting more out of life and putting more back into it, and which I'd rather be.