Friday, June 25, 2004


This week's Photo Friday theme is clouds...

Clouds - very often big black ones with rain falling out of them... lots of rain... are an all too common feature of the mountain landscape of the UK, so looking through old slides I was rather spoiled for choice...

These are all taken in the English Lake District. The first two are looking towards Crinkle Crags from the Langdale valley; earlier in the day those clouds had resulted in some unseasonal April snow squalls over the hill tops. The last is of Ullswater.


Okay. I appreciate that you're probably a more Advanced Being than I am, and most likely figured this one out a long time ago. Bear with me; I’m feeling a few cards short of a full deck and I still haven't quite got this time thing sussed. I don’t have an answer, just a couple of pointers, an indication that I was headed in a direction that wasn't taking me anywhere useful, and that maybe I should be looking somewhere else.

Time has been bugging me. There isn't enough of it and the amount of it that I spend on anything seems to be in inverse proportion to that thing's importance. Importance to me, that is. And yes, I know, that's a classic case of scarcity mentality, victim-hood, glass-half-empty and all that... But for better or worse that's the way I’ve been feeling. Trapping myself behind the bars of a schedule of my own making, restlessly pacing back and forth over the same worn out thought patterns, looking for a way out to the enticing but out of reach possibilities beyond. Nevertheless it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to the little rational corner of my mind that was monitoring things; surely I have a lot of choice about how I spend time? That set me thinking about choices, and a habitual desire to construct categories took hold.

These time choices seem to fall into three distinct groups. First, there’s the big life choices: how to earn a living, who to spend my life with, where to live. These are big time influencers in every way – directly or indirectly they account for sizeable chunks of time, they aren’t easy to alter if you want to adjust something, and even then changing them takes considerable time in itself. The knock-ons also account for a lot, like upkeep of a home or attending to children’s needs. There’s little scope for direct control of time spent on these activities without fundamental change to the core decisions, like changing job or moving house, or even changing partner.

Next on the list of time consumers come all the routine activities of living. Things like household chores, sleeping, washing, shopping, cooking, eating. Things that can be juggled with short term, but overall can’t be avoided long term. Not without unpleasant consequences anyway (hey, think of the time I could save by not showering…)

Finally there are elective activities. Things you do not because they have to be done, but because you want to do them for their own sake. That's both things done in bigger chunks of time - pre-planned activities which for me would be things like mountain walking - and things fitted into smaller chunks like reading, writing, engaging in dialogue, relaxing, thinking, blogging.

I’ve been finding that the first two categories have been eating all my time, with very little left for those things I want to do. So I keep circling round three states:
- frustration and angst because I want to change something but don’t know what;
- push through the immediate tasks in the hope of coming out the other side (but I never do);
- wondering whether maybe, on balance, I’d be better off believing that living without most of category 3 – the elective activities – is okay really, and so simply stop worrying about it.

Looking at those categories of time choices, I wondered how either to shift the balance by squeezing time out of one pot into another, or change the size of the pot altogether by changing the core decisions? Maybe simplify life by moving somewhere cheaper, closer to nature, getting a job that goes some way to fulfilling those personal, spiritual, needs that currently only get met through elective activities? But these aren’t decisions to be taken lightly; they affect other people in a big way too and in any case I’m not going to be able just to walk into a new job. Something along these lines may be possible, but not tomorrow. Or the day after.

So instead I tried some changes in routine, like cutting down on sleep, but that’s risky. I get very dysfunctional and cranky on anything less than 6 hours; 6 ½ hours is more like a realistic minimum, 7 is better still.

And although on days when I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself I get perilously close to convincing myself simply to abandon most of what I’m calling elective activities, the reality is that I’m not yet prepared to do that.

It crossed my mind that maybe I started looking from the wrong end of the scale. Looking at time in a macro way, starting with 24 hours and dividing it up. Looked at that way, it seems to be an obvious recipe for building in scarcity; dividing a finite resource into ever smaller pieces. But what happens if you start from the other end of the scale? Micro time? The seconds and the gaps between them?

I think... I THINK... that’s another way of saying it’s the classic case of being less about what you do and more about the way you do it. I was making a critical assumption - that the weekday hours between 7am and 7pm were pretty much written off as far as any worthwhile activity was concerned. Those hours – my best hours – have become a tunnel into which I rush headlong, charging through without looking left or right, looking only to that little pinprick of light at the end.

So juggling time perhaps isn’t the answer. I started out here talking about directions; I said I wasn't a very Advanced Being didn't I? So I’m afraid this piece doesn’t end with an answer, or even a proposition of one. I just have a feeling – nothing more – that there’s a better approach than trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

I had to laugh at myself this morning, having written most of that last night. I managed to get up an hour early by accident. Well, a 5 looks much like a 6 on a digital clock when you’re half asleep and haven’t got your glasses on. It wasn’t until I’d finished breakfast that I noticed the kitchen clock said 5.58. Doh!!

Friday, June 18, 2004


"Do the meanings of the heart swim in in the streams of our conversation, and do they matter most when they're glimpsed through deep water, and never caught?"

- Richard Bach, from "Running from Safety"

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

What happens in organisations 

There was a time... when you could look at the world and see what was before your eyes - complexity, uncertainty, variety; a time when there were more questions than answers; when who you and I are was more important than what we do.

Always, you sought to know. But clarity is not often a feature of reality; haziness and uncertainty and boundaries that shift and spread and dissolve don't make for easy understanding; they are awkward to map onto the boxes you make to contain the functions we perform that together make up our daily business. So you built structures of clear divisions, drawing lines - I on this side, you on that; creating boxes; we agree to define and measure what passes between us. We measure and codify, we write down, we gather data, and we call it knowledge. And it's manipulation we call Management. Cost, profit, winners, losers, success, failure.

These categories and divisions and boxes - they're just models, for sure, but you needed them to perform this function you called management. You lived with them day by day, breathing them in and out; what started out modelling reality became reality. A world once characterised by questions and uncertainty became deconstructed, described, categorised, codified, and finally reconstructed. Where once curled and twisted an ephemeral wisp of inexactitude, there now stands a distinct, solid, hard-edged clarity of perception. The world of questions is now a set of answers; all answers are there to be found, and if they're not then it is surely the question that is at fault.

For a while, you lived with both, reality and the model side by side. But one day, you stepped inside your model, and were trapped as the balance altered subtly and the model became more real than the world it described.

Suppose I could turn this world of yours inside out? Suppose what you call hard information came to be understood as a mirage, or dispersed like the smoke? Suppose you could see it for what it is: a product only of your desire to capture and control; to be Master, to have certainty, believing all those things to equate to knowledge? Would you then remember the time when questions were more valuable than answers, the time when you could see the person standing before you, when you could hear what they said to you, without the frame of reference of your precious model?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


[Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the author. Any resemblance to persons alive, dead, or in any imtermediate state, is entirely coincidental. Maybe.]

"A cynic is an idealist who made the mistake of translating his ideals into expectations."
- source unknown

You become who I think you are; I become who I think I ought to be; I appear to be who you think I am. Each locked into a narrow channel of expectation; a universe of possible selves abandoned, left weak without exercise, malnourished and shrivelled without nurture.

You only have eyes for the image of the person you think you see before you; obligingly, I hide all else from you. I, too, see only the projection of the person who exists in my mind, hear only the words in my head echoing back to me.

Together, our expectations write the script and set the stage; we are characters in our own play; puppet and puppeteer both.

Who are you? Who am I? Will we ever know; each other or ourselves?

In the face of Expectation, truth flees behind a mask. All around me dance characters at a masked ball; I no more know who hides behind their masks than they know who hides behind mine. How can they, when I have forgotten myself? If, indeed, I ever knew.

This mask has many makers; many hands have crafted and moulded, hacked and chipped it's form. Chief among them, perhaps, are my own. Some hands have worked with love for their creation, some with indifference towards it; some with enthusiasm for their work, some with derision for the result. Whether formed through caring or capriciousness, their creation remains artificial, unreal, alive only by virtue of the breath it sucks from the wearer.

Expectation sets a path from which I can no more stray than if my feet were manacled to a line that stretches it's length from horizon to horizon; birth to death. Sometimes I mourn, I grieve for the loss of who I might have been, had not Expectation dragged my soul down a path not of it's own choosing.

Be aware what you expect of others, you hold power over their very selves; beware what they expect of you, lest it come to pass.

Monday, June 07, 2004

On banana skins... 

Years ago, I read this little story in one of those anecdote slots that Reader's Digest uses to fill up the white space at the end of it's articles:

From time to time, a man would wake up in the night with flashes of inspiration; great "A-Ha!" moments of insight; truths that could change his life for ever. He'd smile to himself with pleasure at the wonder he'd discovered, then with sleepy anticipation of how next day he'd build on this new learning, he'd go back to sleep.

Of course, by morning he'd always forgotten. The insight had dissolved into nothingness. Frustrated, he resolved to keep a pen and a notebook by the bed and next time one of these nocturnal revelations occurred, he'd be ready for it and write it down. And one night, sure enough, he awoke convinced he'd uncovered a deeply significant truth. So he wrote it down, and went back to sleep sure in the knowledge that that this time his piece of wisdom would not be lost.

In the morning, as soon as he awoke, he reached eagerly for his notebook. In it were scrawled just seven words: "The skin is tougher than the banana".

And there the anecdote ended. It's easy to dismiss it as just a mildly amusing story; something we can identify with perhaps, but not holding any great significance. I wonder though... It would seem this particular "insight" was a metaphor, but for what? I'm quite convinced that there's a huge, unconscious, non-verbal part of our intelligence that remains largely inaccessible to our rational, verbal, conscious minds. This part is a lot smarter than we might think. But we're not aware of it, because it finds it difficult to communicate with the verbal part of our reasoning, whose capacity for understanding is so limited by the constraints of language.

Just to be clear, this isn't quite the same thing as intuition. I believe that intuitive understanding is simply the same processes as rational, evaluative, logical, linear, understanding, but happening invisibly, and often very rapidly, just below the level of consciousness. So we know something without knowing why or how we know.

My guess is that the insights this guy was trying to capture were messages from the non-verbal part of his intelligence. Messages that could only be heard when the verbal part of his reasoning was stilled by drowsiness or sleep. But something was lost in the translation; language proved inadequate to contain the understanding, rather like those literal translations you used to see from Japanese instruction manuals.

I suppose meditation is also intended to still the incessant babble of this noisy verbal self. I have to admit I've rarely seriously attempted meditation, and by all accounts it's a skill that has to be learned, so it's hardly surprising that occasional attempts haven't got me very far. Maybe I should try properly. I'm convinced that this non-verbal part of intelligence has some messages it's desperate to get across.

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Great Gable from Wasdale Posted by Hello

I just discovered Photo Friday via Lorianne. I may add some more words to this later, but for now, since the topic this week is Landscape which covers about 95% of the photos I take, I thought I'd get in there while I could.

Later edit: More haste less speed... I've tweaked the curves a little as the original post was slightly washed out. Plus I think "Hello" uses too much compression. Next time round I'll link back to a better version. I shouldn't be such a perfectionist...

Even Later edit: Couldn't resist tweaking a little more... this (hopefully) better quality version

is just to satisfy me that I can get a moderately decent quality image posted.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Who are you? 

It's never exactly a surprise when whiskey river comes up with something that hits you right between the eyes, and this is no exception, quoting from Yatri:

"...You sleep while thinking you are awake, even though you manage to be highly efficient at maintaining your life even while being asleep to your true surroundings.
You dream twenty-four hours a day regardless of what the real world is relaying to your senses.
Your thoughts are in perpetual motion but any openness to receive new experiences has been replaced by the closed mechanism of the mind which edits and re-edits the same past programs..."

Go read the rest...

Primary colours 

This may not have been the view in London or Hertfordshire today, but cycling home, the greens and blues were as fresh and vibrant as they were here. I was going to try and say something pseudo-clever about associations, but hey... all I really wanted was an excuse to post a nice pic :-) Posted by Hello

Nothing new under the sun? 

Although the term “Knowledge Management” may be a recent invention, Rob Paterson shows how the principle was working effectively long, long before the days of computers and databases. Perhaps, indeed, it was working a lot more effectively than today, since people rather than machines were at the heart of things.

“…Information is cold, based on a document, and contains only the narrow explicit. Personal advise is warm, based on a relationship, and contains the full tacit knowledge of the advisor. The interaction with information adds nothing to the whole. A conversation with an advisor teaches both more. Managing documents is a process of diminishing returns. Encouraging communities of interest appears to have no limit…”

“…I like the story of New Bedford in its heyday as a whaling port. It is for me the epitome of how best to set up the conditions for a true knowledge-based society. Whaling in the age of sail, as anyone who has read Moby Dick will recall, was a business that demanded many extreme skills: not the least of seamanship - being away for up to 3 years in the world's most challenging oceans. Whale hunting itself, the use of small boats, harpooning etc. Whale processing - imagine fooling around with a flensing knife? Finding whales was an art. The entire business aspects not the least chandelling and selling oil products into a global market. What was special about New Bedford?

"New Bedford today is a sad town but for well over 150 years, a very long time, it was arguably the wealthiest community in America. It had organized itself deliberately as a series of interlocking communities of practice…”

Read more of Rob’s post to find out just how this “series of interlocking communities of practice” worked…

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Would that all days could end like this... 

(Just testing posting photos via Hello...)  Posted by Hello


Is civilisation going forwards or backwards? It took a mighty long time to get going, largely I guess because our ancestors were just too darn busy with the business of staying alive to do very much else. But eventually "leisure" and "free time" appeared on the agenda, and those ancestors moved from occupying these times by picking fleas off each other to pondering the meaning of life. Well, maybe there were a few steps in between, but you get my drift. The point is, learning and development go hand-in-hand with leisure - time to play, to experiment; time to allow the mind to wander and make unexpected connections, to ask questions on whose answers survival doesn't immediately depend.

But modern life seems to be taking away this time for apparently aimless wandering of the mind and instead filling all of life with busy-ness. Do-do-do; achieve results; produce output. I've been caught up in that lately; experiencing a relentless drive for activity that seems to seize hold, enslaving the mind and killing creativity. Hence no posts here - not for want of desire, but I'd got caught up in a way of being that couldn't adapt to creativity in the limited time available between bouts of busy-ness.

Once I get wound into this way of being, it becomes near impossible to disengage. Teeth get clamped onto this distorted work ethic and wont let go. Even if I see no value in the activity; even if I could choose to do something different I get caught up in this busy-busy-busy way of being. I wonder if this is because somewhere along the line I have absorbed a notion that value and output are associated; if I produce no output, I have no value. Rational self sees the absurdity of that, yet feeling self can't escape that uncomfortable valuation.

I'm even trapped in that way of thinking right here and now; desperate to produce something to fill the space in this blog - and if I'm honest with myself, that's because doing so creates value in my own eyes and boosts self esteem.

Anyway, I'm straying from the point. It seems that cultural pressure for activity and output of tangible results is slowing considerably the pace of learning about anything other than producing more results, more output. Understanding better what it means to be human, how we fit into this amazing universe, how we relate to each other - these have all become sidelined beside the relentless drive for busy-ness.

The bottom line is that I'd like to see a world where being has as much value as doing - where people are appreciated for who they are just as much as for what they achieve. It's tempting to go further and place being above doing, but I think that may be swinging the pendulum too far the other way. Achievement still has value, but its not an exclusive deal. Who you are matters just as much as what you do.