Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three virtues

DSC01025 (975x1300)My orchid is budding this morning.

It likely doesn’t seem like a big thing, but for a ‘brown thumb’ gardener its nice when a plant responds to my clumsy TLC.  My absences, the winter cold, the radiator’s heat have all stressed the flock, but the chili has new pods, the violet is in bloom, and the vine is stretching.  The back yard herbs are recovering from the January freeze.

I set to tending and trimming, sipping coffee while reflecting, ever busy in my mind.

1- When I checked on you, I found that you have a lot of loyalty to the business and to its people.  They frowned as though that was a problem to be solved.  I held my tongue.

When I believe in an idea, a person, a course of action, then I am long-term loyal to it.  I care about circumstances and work for good outcomes, giving kindness and compassion and expecting it in return. If things go off track, I have believe in talking things through and in giving second chances.

Should we be loyal?  To what, for how long: must it be reciprocal or mutually beneficial?  The concept seems frayed.  Certainly loyalty based on mutual interest in business or nation has faded, and people are too often careless with honesty and selfish in action. 

But I still believe in personal loyalty, often to a fault.  It’s difficult for me to recognize when loyalty reaches its limits, and to understand when I need to become more dispassionate.  When I must, I still suffer remorse and regret that I didn’t do more, differently.

Maybe the investor is right, and I need to let go of some people and products.  But loyalty still matters to me: still doing the right things in times of hard change.

2- Good intentions aren’t just enough, they are everything.  This month, I feel that I will be judged by the outcomes that I achieve.  Motivation and effort are not enough: success is the only criteria.

The Shrink and Sage debated the issue, both concluding that it is better to judge ourselves by our goodness than by our accomplishments.  We should look to intentions, goals that have deep personal resonance and that bring out the best in us, rather than to the attainment of some intended end.

In this season of establishing resolutions, is it better to look to the successful completion of tasks, or to the nurturing of goodness?  Is it more important to strive for greater kindness and empathy, or to reconcile specific problems and shortcomings?

In the end, I know that my failures (should they come) may be mitigated by knowledge that my heart was in the right place, that I did what I could, and that I kept to the high road.  By holding to principles, to intentions, I avoid blaming myself for outcomes that circumstance may have dictated, or judging myself for failures that were simply beyond my capacity to fix.

3- My silence speaks volumes.  I shook my head: If a wrong is being committed, you have a duty to speak up.  Bearing silent witness sends no message; you are simply complicit.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, Ellie Wiesel said I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

I am sensitive to the danger of being too aggressive and long-winded in speech, of taking umbrage or venting irritation, of being misinformed or defensive.  An appropriate period of silence can prevent me from making mistakes or helps to soften a response.  A knowing silence can reinforce authority; a reflective one denotes respect.

But silence alone cannot right a wrong: there is no kracht van de stilte.  As King observed,  In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Back on the beaches

DSC01024 (1300x974)As anticipated, my five challenges have consumed the month of January, every hour and every day.  Progress is apparent, but I have to admit that I’m starting to get tired.  I can tell when there is more energy than thought going into my actions, when the day’s worries too easily lap over into the night’s dreams. I recognize the wary sensitivity and easy umbrage.

A break is overdue: I haven’t taken even an afternoon ramble along the beach in nearly a month.  Rightly, then, I purposefully turned my back on work and drove out to West Cliffs.

DSC00991 (1300x969) DSC00992 (1300x971)

It was a cold and windy day along the Bournemouth shore, although beautifully sunny and clear.  The Needles and Alum Bay, distant Isle of Wight, gleamed chalk-white on the horizon. 

It’s nice to have the summer crowds gone, the beaches empty. Contemplative peace and quiet.

DSC00993 (1300x964) DSC00997 (1228x1300)

As only locals would, people slept in the sun and ate ice cream as though it were July while wryly smothered in January parka’s and hoods.   Bundled couples in matching colours swayed and laughed, holding hands and squinting into the wind.   A few families carried on summer-life-as-usual in beach huts, studiously oblivious to winter.

DSC00999 (975x1300) DSC01016 (1300x948)

Bournemouth is building a new gateway to the Pier, reconnecting the river to the sea, adding decorative lighting and pavilions.  Promenade cafĂ©’s are being torn down and re-erected, though the concept pictures look exactly like the demolished buildings.  The Oceanarium is adding a Penguin Pond, appropriately.

DSC01019 (1085x1300) DSC01001 (1300x965)

The zipline was doing a lot of business, firing riders at the beach from the pier’s tower every few minutes.

DSC01007 (908x1300) DSC01008 (1026x1300)

No fishermen or surfers, swimmers or bar-b-q’s today – everyone was walking determinedly, stoically, keeping warm. 

It was all quite ordinary, quite delightful for a mile’s walk.  Worry diminished and fell away; optimism returned.

I need to remember to make more time for time off.

DSC01010 (1300x975)DSC01020 (1300x973)DSC01012 (1300x958)DSC00990 (1300x928)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday miscellany

IMG_20141228_094224‘time on the road means time to read, to think, to reflect.  Especially in winter, I’m not out wandering the streets in search of art and culture, but am more likely indoors stroking my Nexus through newspapers, books, magazines, and blogs. 

So, a selection of what’s recently caught my eye.

DSC00955 - CopyCan you fall in love in 36 questions? I’ve always believed in love, but also know that I can’t choose who loves me nor can I create romantic feelings in another.  But Dr. Arthur Aron found in experiments dating to the 70s that progressive discovery through guided conversation turns the trick.  A NYT reporter re-discovered the research and applied it.  But, on trying it out, I found the questions more disquieting than revealing.  I needed some time to reflect on most of them, and even the simple ones (Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?) felt layered.  I much prefer the 10-day challenge.


IMG_20150120_133940I know that I’m thinking deep thoughts when the predictive text can’t anticipate what I’m going to type next.  A sentence like

I trust entirely in the evident demonstration of realities not yet beheld, close to defining psychosis,  for behind both faith and delusion lies unshakable belief.  (McClean)

is beyond the reach of  SwiftKey’s statistics. 


DSC00984My, you’re looking robust, my landlady greeted me.  Brit-speak for “We’ve gained a few over Christmas, haven’t we?”.  I’m well short of 2012’s weight, well over 2013’s dramatic lows, but would like to get back to a moderate twelve stone even. Not a big stretch, but it means getting back on the horse with regular exercise and healthy eating.  I’m getting back to the Leisure Centre daily and experimenting with lighter dinners: some fresh vegetarian soups and steamed Pak Choi/salmon dishes have come out quite nicely. 



There was a lovely essay about the varieties of grieving in the NYTimes this month.  Increasingly, people I know are suffering losses as the years advance, and its important to remember that everyone has their own story and need to work through things on their own terms.


DSC00473 (1300x974)The Eagles Airie 3324 is a comfortable bar and club on the Eastside from Seattle: member only, guests welcome.  The whole concept of an FOE social club is a bit of an anachronism: common in my grandfather’s generation when service clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary united businessmen like Toastmasters or the Chamber of Commerce do today.  I dropped in for beer and burger: it was like an alternate future waiting for me if my businesses failed.  Older folks, football jackets, local gossip, and familiar faces, bonded in a clubhouse.  I don’t think that I could ever put everything aside and simply become that.