Where to begin? Let’s try this.. The last time I restarted this blog, I wiped everything that came before and sallied forth with a clean slate. At the time, it made sense, but it did rather disrespect the journey that I’d been through up until that point. This time, it’s not a restart, but a refocus and a change of course to an older direction. I’m also going to aim for a more conversational style as I feel that suits me better.
I had a conversation with a dear friend a week or two ago, in which she opined that I’d been happier when I wasn’t trying to be somebody I’m not. I was a little mystified as to what she meant and it turns out that she’d been trying to hint to me for sometime that the mindset of Philosophical Taoism suited me much better than that of Indian Buddhism. I took some time to reflect on this, and in hindsight I can see what she means. So yes, I’m publicly saying Anne was right. Which I’m sure she’ll love and will remind me about in jest. But that doesn’t mean that the time spent was wasted, good heavens no, not one bit. Using the metaphor of a watercourse (hence the name of this blog, chosen many years and various platforms ago), in order to float down to the ocean you have to travel the whole watercourse, not just bits of it. This includes meanderings, rapids and also places where the river forks briefly and you go one way and rejoin it downstream. That’s how this feels, “you had to go through there, so now you could be here”. Over time, I’ve begun to learn how to be patient with such things. Getting upset doesn’t help, just enjoy the scenery and find the lessons because you can be sure they’re there!
So, what is the new direction? Well, amongst other things there’ll be Taoism, Yoga, Free Software (and Open Source) and Steampunk. I am also working on some Steampunk fiction, which may find it’s way onto this blog. Writing frequency will be when I have something to say, every time I’ve tried to stick to a schedule it’s not gone too well. So, the schedule is going over the side and into the water.
A week or two ago I had the opportunity to travel to Yorkshire. I wasn’t there long, and the purpose and hurried nature of the trip made me think back to the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It also evoked a feeling that’s been creeping over me for quite some time, which is that we miss much of what the world has to offer by being so wrapped up in rushing around distracted.
This trip was definitely of the rushing and focussed variety and as I drove I wished that I could pull over and enjoy the Yorkshire scenery, take time to head off onto a side road and get creatively lost. Of course, I was unable to do any of these things, and I didn’t. But it reminded me of Pirsig as he mentions the fact that the real scenery is along the side roads, but also that the road less travelled is often quicker and more enjoyable due to it being less crowded. This also makes me think of social networking. I cancelled my Twitter account at the start of the year, for precisely these sort of reasons; in addition to Twitter’s increasingly aggressive use of tracking.
I am noticing much more that our world is awash in digital noise, we rush around getting to destinations, chasing distractions and sharing all of this on social networking while staring fixatedly into our mobiles and tablets. I remember a car journey last year, where I was trying to strike up a conversation with my passenger only to find that she was distracted by Twitter and Facebook, the smile on her face chilled me and made me think of a trance like state.
The culmination of all this now is a sense of wondering where all this will end. Will we continue to build a world where we rush headlong to our destinations, missing the scenery; distracted on the way and distracted when we’re there? What’s the value of a world like that? I sincerely question whether that’s a world worth building or worthy of support.
A couple of weeks ago I took a few days off work and went into Birmingham with a friend. We had a look at the German Market and went for lunch in The Cube. The lunch was at Rodizio Rico, which I’d never been to before and I highly recommend. After lunch, we took an elevator to the top floor and stepped into Marco Pierre White’s restaurant for coffee.
The views from the top floor were amazing and these views and the experience of the day in Birmingham formed the basis for a bit of mulling things over on my part. My friend doesn’t work from the office, though I do, and having her as my guide that day meant I got a small taste of a very different way of doing things. It’s not very often we’re given a chance to have this, but it’s a very valuable chance to get.
As the day went on, it was made clearer to me that there was another Birmingham there, one that I’d never encountered. I was struck by how the same street, the same restaurant, can have very different meanings to different people. What became clearer is a sense of the extent to which we live in our own bubbles. My world and that of my companion shared the same physical location, but in terms of mental experience? Maybe, not as much as you may think. She had her own unique sense of the setting, based on past experience and her own mood and personality. I, of course, had mine.
The day included the elevated view of the city centre that I’ve tried to capture in my photos. This was very striking, as this view was very new to me and threw the whole city centre into a new light. This brought home how one simple change in viewpoint makes things look very different. It also reminds me that for all the noise made over different views, the arguments are usually without good cause. We’re not arguing over the object, but over our illusions about the object. It’s odd when you think of it like that, isn’t it?
This brings to mind an old Buddhist story about three blind men and an Elephant. The one where 3 blind men are asked to examine an Elephant. One grasps the leg, the other the tail, the third the trunk. Based on these limited perceptions, they all form very different and inaccurate pictures of the creature. One thinks it’s like a tree, the other a rope, the third a snake. They then argue heatedly and none of them will budge from their views. If they’d stopped to realise that their perceptions were incomplete, that what they had was just a picture in their minds, they’d have realised that they were arguing over their illusions. These illusions are insubstantial, without form. They were arguing over nothing, in fact.
Worth considering isn’t it?