The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Presence of Must

There are, in my Chambers’ Dictionary, almost six definitions of must.
These range from its use to express compulsion, necessity or obligation - right through to musk; hair powder and the verb to powder.
Of course, the latter ones are of pretty obscure usage, and yet they relate to the sense of smell, of fragrance, rather like one of the other definitions of musta smell of dampness or staleness; mustiness; mould.
Now I’ve mentioned these, in passing you might say, but the main bearing of what I want to convey here - the particular thrust of one particular must – is about the essential, the necessity, the thing that should not be missed or neglected.

Ticking Boxes

I was talking with some friends yesterday about Christmas time and we agreed that very many people go to huge amounts of effort to make it – for them, their family, friends and loved ones – as special a time as it can be.
Of course, for each and every one of us caught up in this frenzy (another kind of must as it happens), there are qualifying boxes that we have to tick. And the number that are ticked – or occasionally crossed – goes to make up our judgement of how good our Christmas is.

Now, with most of us, we tend to take whatever comes – accept things as they unfold – and yet we will all know people who are not so accepting. For them, Christmas has to be just so; Christmas has to be in line with their version for it to be deemed as good, proper or a disaster. For the extremists in this category – the zero-tolerant - any box not ticked tips the whole festive period into something equivalent to the last days of the Roman Empire, a cataclysm, a portent of doomsday.

And this is where the strong sense of MUST comes in.

At Christmas we all feel the compulsion, the need to oblige, in one or any number of the essential areas where the boxes are waiting to be ticked. Gifts, food and drink, decorations, all take pride of place; and because we all have so little time in our lives to devote to the simple things, we buy and spend to supplement that time.
Year by year this trading of time can become more and more elaborate until at some point this layering of elaboration covers over the intended simplicity. In the aftermath of the festive must, when the metaphorical falling of snow has filled in the dinted pathway of master and page, we get to judge, to sum it all up, in a January where the winter of our discontent – depending on the number of ticked or crossed boxes – can appear as stark as the great wastes of Siberia.


One of the metaphors I often use with clients is the Japanese Tea Ceremony, especially from the perspective of the tea maker. For it is in the simple, yet elaborate, devotions of the entire ceremony where the true and selfless art of the maker brings the most to both themselves and to the guests.

Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one's attention into the requisite and essential predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart.

This is where MUST, in a sense, has a real presence. With the predefined movements there are boxes to be ticked indeed, and these are a must. Yet because of the very simplicity of the process, of the entire ceremony, the must, or purpose of it, is about devotion and total absorption on the one hand and acceptance and gratitude on the other. Both of these commitments pivot around the simple ingredients of leaf and water.

The simplicity of our lives, and our Christmases, could mark the footsteps of the Tea Ceremony. The people in our lives are the leaf and the time through which we all move is the water. The musts are devotion, absorption, acceptance and gratitude. There is no power – especially of one over another – there is no possession, there is no hierarchy, there is no duty, there is no subjugation or exploitation.


Although, essentially, life is about how we devote ourselves through time, we are beset – waylaid – by the pressures of MUST.

There are the musts of society, the musts of other people, the musts we adopt and make our own, the musts of the workplace, the musts of our family, and so on. Our entire lives are filled with the pervading scent – or perhaps the heavy atmosphere – of must.
Oh I agree some of these are rules, some are duties, some are the requisites of compliance, and yet there are many that we just accept.
“This is the way we run our lives – on a cold and frosty morning!”
Curiously when we take run, like that, and add I, it makes ruin.  

So, I’d invite you to take a long look at how much mustiness you have in your life – and what manifold and all pervading aromas, scents and fragrances makes up that mustiness. You’ll know the musts I mean because some will make you recoil as if they are smelling salts, whereas others will be as delicate as that of a Damask Rose.

Are you weighed down by musts; is your life heavily crammed full of musts that serve no purpose – especially those that are light years away from devotion, absorption, acceptance and gratitude?


One of the key ingredients of Christmas, as I see it, is good fellowship. It is about people, and goodwill. It is an essential part of the real message that we are all in it together. It, of course, is life – and, from mirror neurons to the collective unconscious, we are all co-dependent minds, bodies and spirits.

One of the sadnesses more noticeable at Christmas is isolation. In Scrooge’s visitations by the ghost of Jacob Marley, Dickens highlighted the poignancy and fear of isolation at a time of year when our musts should be examined and called to account. For the longer our list of musts, the more isolated we become.
This doesn’t mean to say that the lonely at Christmas are being punished for having too many musts in their lives, per se – but the point Charles Dickens wanted to make was that the devotion of Scrooge and Marley to riches, profit, wealth and exploitation without the acceptance and gratitude that should have accompanied their absorption, eventually came to haunt them in various ways.
Needs Must when the Devil drives or is it The Devil Needs when Must Drives.

The isolated and lonely at Christmas are also that at all the other times of the year, and yet although there is a degree of compliance in the withdrawal from human fellowship, it is invariably borne out of a fear of the world that their fellow humans have signed up to by their own creation.
One of the homeless men who joined the birthday breakfast celebration of Pope Francis recently was asked about whether this would change his being on the streets. He averred that it was his choice to be part of the homeless community, so that was not likely to change. They key word in his comment however was community – and that is still a fellowship.

New Year’s Resolutions

Many of us have things in our lives that we would happily change, dispel, remove and alter. The wish to live within a lighter and better functioning frame; the need to dispel the must of certain compulsions, cravings and addictions; the hope for more self-assurance and positivity in our lives – these are all amongst the leading topics of resolve as the old year folds itself away into the safe-keeping of our memory.
Interestingly, all these solutions are very familiar. Indeed, for some they are as familiar as the personas they occupy, as they endeavour to re-solve the problems they thought they had solved last year.

Real change comes from tackling all the musts we feel obliged to draw into our lives. We carry these obligations around with us wherever we go, each one with its own particular musty odour and fragrance.

Resolutions fall into two categories – Wants and Don’t Wants. There’s the Wants or Wanting more of something; and the Don’t Want any more of something (which is Wanting Less, or Wanting No More, of course). Behind these Wants are Musts. All the things we want more of, or less of, are linked to their own particular set of musts, their familiar obligations.
When the health and fitness desirants sign up to the gym they become obliged to follow certain musts, for their programme to be successful; likewise, to quit smoking requires another set of obligations; and even the 
journey to more self-assurance has its own particular musts.
However, as time goes on there is often a war campaign of perhaps many battles, between the old musts and the new ones. Why is it always so difficult a time, and a perennial conflict with ourselves?
Well, the Tea Ceremony seems to hold some of the answers, so let’s return to what I said earlier:

Because of the very simplicity of the process, of the entire ceremony, the must, or purpose of it, is about devotion and total absorption on the one hand and acceptance and gratitude on the other. Both of these commitments pivot around the simple ingredients of leaf and water.

Now remember the resolutions are a contract between ourselves and ourselves – and so we need to buy into both the Devotion and Absorption of the Maker, and also into the Acceptance and Gratitude of the Guest. Remember too that we are the leaf and time is the water.

Taking our New Year’s Resolutions seriously is not enough, until we understand what that serious entails. We need to be Devoted to and totally Absorbed in the process of change – AND – we need to fully Accept that change and show Gratitude to ourselves for making the effort in change. We also need to allow time for the process to work.

Sounds really simple doesn’t it?! – Not necessarily easy, however, but simple nonetheless. 

So, whatever petals of Damask Rose may be strewn on your road of resolution – take all the time you need to notice the fragrance of the new musts in your life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Words that match the pattern ...

One of the bits of our extended memory in the faculty of language is the dictionary - plus, if we are a bit of a crossword buff or geek, a thesaurus. With the arrival of computers and the interweb of course, came the super-extend dictionary facility – where we can put in wildcards to get a variety of answers and then use our brains for the rest.
Our brains are geared to pattern recognition anyway and it is this plus our connective and perceptive ability that still keeps us out in front of even the most sophisticated computers.

However, I do sometimes indulge in this post-modernist method of crossword solving – which is less absorbed fun, but more solution and, therefore, goal-oriented. This is where the credo is “I solve therefore I am.” Or, in self development terms, Attract more crossword solving abundance into your life and build your self-esteem for a bigger, brighter, bolder YOU!

Now, getting away from cross words slightly - these days written and auditory vituperations are two-a-penny, whereas back in the day I hadn’t been long at boarding school when someone mentioned Isaiah 36:12 and we all hurried to have a look and learn. Of course today, when I put in
 “f???ing ?h?t”
into my online dictionary – just for fun – I knew exactly where I was coming from. And yet there was still a felt moment of anticipated youth revisited, as I looked at the screen:-

Words that match the pattern ...
So, what - apart from the obvious - came up in my latter-day trip to Isaiah and the Old Testament?

Forcing Shot

Here was something familiar to me as a cricket coach! It was all beginning to fall into place! Here was an online dictionary so brilliant that it could not only serve me a variety of answers from wildcards, but could also read my Mind and know the best possible contextual language through which to present those answers personally to me!
Sport – uncanny; Cricket - brilliant!
So I followed the online link to find out what else my “extended brain” could tell me about Forcing Shot. Finding what else I might discover in knowledge terms, could be useful to me at some point further down my time line, after all!

Shock, horror!
Sadly, it seems that the world, according to Sports Definitions dotcom, is not the same as Forcing shot, apparently, is a snooker term meaning a shot that is considerably above medium pace.
No cricket mentioned at all. I felt crestfallen – and in the act of falling from my crest I got a definite sense of the way I was now feeling;   ?*@t.

Doppler Shift

In a recent rugby training session I took the players back to the basics of running, passing, catching.
Basics, in both life and sport, are always very good to revisit from time to time, because we layer up our lives in general, and our sporting lives in particular, to such a degree, to such an extent, that we fail to see the wood for the trees. Mostly we do this metaphorically and yet – as the players discovered – we can also do this physically!
One of our drills involved two players – A and B – running on the ‘outer’ side of two lines of poles. The lines of poles are about 8m width apart and the poles are spaced roughly 2m apart lengthways.  The players each run along a straight line path as shown, passing across the grid to each other – with the route of the ball as per the dotted lines.

This is a perspective and a focus exercise – where we release a pass, whilst moving, to a target that is also moving. We need to make sure the ball avoids hitting the poles, which are static.

The basics here are – how perfect can we, as players, do this - if there were no poles.
There are parallels in other parts of our lives for such a drill, such an exercise. Such as public speaking, asking someone for a date, taking a driving test – in fact, the doing of anything under pressure – where the pressure seems to be all  becoming from the poles.

After varying degrees of success and failure I paused for some player feedback. One perceptive guy wondered “why are we getting so hung up on some tubes of metal only an inch in diameter?”
This is a very good question, especially in terms of where the focus is and where the attention is being taken.
This is a classic case of where we can just get in our own way. Of course, when we do it and fail, by the ball hitting the poles, we have actually made the poles much bigger than one inch in diameter – in our Minds. We’ve made them so big, in our perception, that hitting them regularly is an easy thing to do!
So – as you read on – Don’t Think of a Black Cat!

Paradox or Secret
I want to do something that involves not doing X. And I’ll qualify X as avoiding hitting poles with the ball, in this instance. So I’m going to try and NOT hit the poles. And if I go very slowly I can get it right.
But I’m required here to go a little bit faster, there are speed demands and time constraints – so I speed up and, no matter how hard I try, I can’t help but hit the poles.
However, I’m a smart chap because I know we all get what we focus on; so if I focus on something else, just change what I’m focussing on, then all will be well. Won’t it? I just need to try and be positive. Don’t I?

Well as I see it, the secret is this:-
You need to consider HOW you are focussing rather more than on WHAT you are focussing. If you can’t see the wood for the trees, then focussing on the wood instead just changes the focal content and not the focal nature. Remember, too, that trying is all part of that focus.

Throughout the session, I would know when the players had success or failure – even with my eyes closed. In fact, I would know, especially with my eyes closed – because of their language.
When players try and fail, especially with things they THINK they should be able to do ‘properly’ – there is always auditory feedback. Occasionally there is accompanying action, but there is always feedback. They all have what I’ve come to describe as “?*@t” moments.

Now there’s an interesting statistical correlation between the level and consistency of failure and the number of “?*@t” utterances. Sometimes players will grow the vehemence of their utterances in both severity and volume. And the trouble with “?*@t” like that, is that it is never good
?*@t”; it is always bad “?*@t”.

So if we ARE going to use words that match the pattern, we need to be aware of the pernicious effect our language can have upon our performance, whether that be just in practice, or in “the real thing.”

Even something simple like stubbing our toe, can elicit a number of different responses – from a simple “ouch” right up to words that match the pattern. Now, the person who always chooses the latter will focus purely on a world populated by those particular trees – the trees of “?*@t” shall we say!
His (or her) world will always be a battleground, a world of failure, a world of nothing goes right, a not very nice world where things and people are always against us.

If we want to do well and operate smoothly as we pass through the days of our life, there is a secret and simple little bit of metaphorical patterning we can apply to shape our view of the world:-

The poles will always be there, come what may. It is ourselves who can turn their size from one inch in diameter into something else. The words we use will always match a pattern. It is ourselves who choose to either play a Forcing Shot, or something else.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stepping into Santa's Shoes

At the end of last summer’s cricket season at our Club, amongst the Junior Awards I wanted to present trophies to three “Most Improved Players” for the year. As our playing members’ ages spanned 6 to 15, I decided to award them to three players of differing ages – as improvement can vary at any stage of our development.

Now the youngest recipient was actually our youngest member – a lad who has now just turned 7 – but he couldn’t make the presentations night so it was down to me to get his trophy to him somehow. Of course, no one except me had any idea that he would be getting an award, but at some stage I knew there would be ways of getting it to him, albeit away from the ‘glamour’ of ceremony!

On occasions, events and happenings take place that might seemingly be random and just occur ‘by chance’. I call these cosmic alignments, because some kind of order has been wrought out of the random chaos. It is of no concern to me why these ‘orderings’ take place, or who contrives them. There are minds much greater and far more revered than mine, who will readily postulate views as to who or what might be responsible for such things. I’m just happy to put it down to Cosmic Order, and leave it at that. It keeps the magic intact, I feel.

See Me after School

This afternoon I had the opportunity to visit one of the primary schools where I go to teach cricket for Chance to Shine in the Summer Term – ostensibly to talk about how they might want to run the cricket part of their next summer’s sporting activity, in conjunction with me.
Now the teacher I wanted to see was the father of the player I mentioned above - so I took along the little trophy to give to him to take home for his son. In terms of my plans this was a ‘two birds with one stone’ situation!

I arrived after school had officially ended, although with the run up to Christmas there was a lot of extra-curricular activity going on in various classrooms. I duly found where he was, still at work, in a room with a couple of other teachers as well. To my surprise and delight there was one young pupil in a corner - filling his time doing some painting, while waiting for his Dad to finish off work.
After our greetings I said to his Dad, “I’ve actually come for two reasons. One is to talk about next summer’s cricket and the other is to make a presentation.”

The following moments were – for me – pure gold; the icing on a coach’s cake if you like – yet the kind of icing that wouldn’t have been the same if I’d actually presented his trophy when the others were awarded some months earlier.
This was totally, but totally, unexpected for both Father and Son, and I felt like I was standing there in Santa’s shoes, fulfilling the role of Santa for both of them.

I gave the young man his trophy and shook his hand - and we all clapped. I then asked him to read out what was engraved on the trophy, which he did – and then he had to leave the room for a bit to compose himself, as he was quite overcome by the emotion of the moment. 

This was, it turns out, his first ever award of any kind – yet thoroughly deserved, and. I suspect his Dad will need to get him a trophy cabinet in years to come!

Now we can all get job satisfaction, a sense of achievement for all the stuff that we do.
It is part of what I sometimes post up as being #LoveMyJob!
However, these particular golden moments are off the satisfaction scale - and yet are nothing to do with the actual work that I do.
The simple act of giving an award to someone for what THEY have done over a season – was, for three people concerned, transformed into something truly memorable.

That is what comes about when circumstances are presented for alignments to possibly occur. The facilitation of this particular alignment required some compliance by the three people concerned, albeit unwittingly by the young lad and his Dad.

And that’s the thing about Santa, as he wings through the night on Eves before Christmas, delivering these goodies here and those delights there – spiriting his way into people’s lives, sometimes via chimney, sometimes not; gradually filling up with sherry and mince pies, as his trusty steeds fill up with crunchy carrots.

He is all about the Magic and the Wonder that we experience.
It isn’t about the Gift, per se, it is all about the experience.
Father and Son didn’t wish for anything today – and I was just planning to drop something off in the course of chatting about next summer. Yet in our separate ways, all three of us had a special experience.

It may be December, and I may be Old Fashioned ... but I stepped into Santa’s shoes today and it was wonderful!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dementia Diary - Stuck in a Moment

In amidst the bubbling and boiling emotional sea that can beset the voyage of any dementia carer, there can be intuitive and insightful moments. Needless to say, the depth to which we are almost submerged in that sea can mask any level of learning and discovery we may get from the insights. It is in the very nature of those things that we are coming to terms with all the time.

The Long Day
Yesterday my Dad was awake and came downstairs early and, as happens sometimes, he ‘dressed’ by putting another pair of pyjamas over the top of the ones he was wearing when he woke up! Life is easier for us both when I choose to not take an interventionist line, so I paid no attention to this double layer of nightwear. However, I did fetch his dressing gown and helped him on with that, as I knew it would afford him an extra layer of warm and protective raiment – however long he would be choosing to stay up.

As it turned out, he stayed down for probably the Longest Day Up he’d spent for months. Pottering around, reading, eating, drinking and playing a considerable amount of music on the pedal harmonium in his ‘lounge’. I’d written him out a list of Christmas songs and carols and he worked his way through it several times, and at some point he found me and proceeded to tell me all about them – and “what a good list this was that someone had done” for him! And this was another thing there was little point in labouring, i.e that the someone was me!

Loops and Exits
We are all conditioned to certain habits and behavioural loops. It is part of how we pattern up our world, make sense of it and make it work for us. Routines are just that – strategies to help things function at both a macro and a micro level. From how we brush our teeth and get dressed, to the route we take to work, to how we deal with our social interactions, eat our food etc. Patterns and routines; how B follows A and how we make our way to X, Y and bed.

My Dad was a POW for most of World War 2, and through the winter of 1944-45 he was part of many camps in Poland and the east of Germany where the inmates were moved westwards ahead of the Russian advance. This movement was not by transport, but on foot – day after day, week after week. It was known as the Long March to Freedom.

My aunt told me what happened to him one day after he’d arrived back home in England. He’d gone out one morning for a walk up into town, yet well into the afternoon time was moving on and he still hadn’t returned home. Eventually he arrived back after dark, worn out and hungry and when asked where he’d been and what he’d been doing he just said, “Walking and finding my way home.” However, after some further enquiries and discoveries it transpired that, when left to his own devices, he’d always walk on the right hand roadside pavement, and he’d always turn right at road junctions. Needless to say this accounted for his somewhat convoluted route along the suburban streets, back from his visit to the town.
He’d got into marching rhythm as he was coming home from the centre of town – and got into a loop that had been imprinted on him during the trauma of the Long March.

A Matter of Life and Death
They’d been told by the accompanying guards on the march that when they were ordered to get off the roads – because of swoops by Allied aircraft – they were to ALWAYS get off to the right. If they stayed where they were they would probably be shot by the strafing cannon fire from the aircraft, and if they went off to the LEFT they would be shot as escapees by the German guards. Apparently, some prisoners failed to obey orders and ended up being shot dead. So the imprint – and the habitual loop – went as deep as it gets. It was, quite simply, go right to stay alive.

So the time came round and he eventually made his way back upstairs to bed. But it was taking him ages to get into bed, and every time I looked in to see, or take him the promised cup of tea, he was still walking around the bedroom clearly looking for something.

He’ll often be hunting for stuff and will tell me when I ask him, but last night I got no meaningful answer to my questions. He kept looking in the bed, feeling how warm the electric blanket was and so on, and then he’d carry on the search elsewhere. Even when I invited him to take off his dressing gown and I’d hang it up, so then he could get into bed, he was still just Stuck In The Moment – as the U2 song goes!
He couldn’t get himself together as he was stuck in the moment and he couldn’t get out of it!
And then I realised he was looking for his pyjamas. He was looking for what he was wearing, but he couldn’t see the pyjamas on himself because he was wearing the dressing gown and they were hidden from view.

Thankfully, once the dressing gown was hung up, he stepped out of the loop and got into bed!
Later Was better;
His way had faltered along his stony path;
But it was just a moment and the time had passed.

Think Like A Dog

Isn’t it in the very nature of parables and intuitions that sometimes they are framed up in the oddest ways?

Now I’d like to aver at the outset, that THE world really is akin to that never ceasing and random quantum soup that Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles referred to in his famous quote.
It is all out there beyond the limits of our perceptual apparatus. And, of course, part of the way we use that apparatus is to endeavour to make sense of the world for ourselves. We apply make-up to the world because we can; because we’re worth it – as the phrase goes.

Match Preparation
One of the less than savoury elements of the home match preparations for our rugby club is to remove canine faecal matter from the field of play. Our field is a community open space and it is in the selfish nature of some – though not all – local dog owners, to use the rugby pitch as a free range dog toilet.

However, I am not here to rant at this local version of man’s inhumanity to man, but merely to frame the scene.
This particular week, our exceedingly willing ball-boy was sent out with the bucket and shovel to see what he could find. Meanwhile, I’d set up our team’s warm-up equipment at the far end of the field, and I noticed him walking around and casting his attention hither and thither.

Eventually he came down to where I was, saying, “I saw some earlier but now I can’t find it anywhere. It’s so annoying, because I know it’s there somewhere.” I had some time on my hands, so I walked back down the other end of the field with him by way of being a helpful and extra “pair of eyes” in his search for the dark (and foul-smelling) matter.
On the way I looked at him straight-faced and said, “Of course the best way to search is to think like a dog.”
As he looked at me his jaw hung slightly open as if he couldn’t quite believe what he had just heard. “Think about it,” I continued. “Part of why you haven’t been able to find it is because you’ve been thinking and looking like a human. But this is dog business, so think like a dog and you’ll find it.” A smile began to creep across his face because by now he was probably thinking I was joking. “No, seriously,” I said. “A dog doesn’t just go anywhere does it? It wanders around, and then selects the right spot. It’s a canine thing – so let’s think and look ... like a dog.”
And then, in a moment where my “weirdness” ranking in his eyes must have gone up to that of a Grand Master, we saw what he’d been looking for. It was literally seconds after he’d directed us to the general area where he thought it was. “See how easy it is when we change our thinking!” I said.


In the midst of this comedy moment, I felt a sense of cosmic magic and profound intuition. It was similar to discovering those ‘lost’ car keys or spectacles right where they had always been – there right under or at the end of our nose! It’s the same as a great detective solving the whodunit by understanding the criminal mind that perpetrated the scheme of things.

And the fascinating answer with this particular case is, quite literally, down to our thinking versus canine thinking, which gives us all the clues we ever need to know about our problems, issues, conundrums and eventual solutions. It ‘s all in our thinking!

One of my favourite TV programmes is The Dog Whisperer, where hapless owners bring their problem pooches to canine psychologist Cesar Millan. His results with the dogs are rapid, and then the fun begins as he sets about educating the owners in changing their thinking, habits and behaviour. However, the rapidity of his Whispering with the dogs is that he understands what is happening for them, from a canine perspective, and directs all his attention to making that better.
The other thing I know from all this is the impact on one particular young and impressionable human mind – because I’ve worked with enough young impressionable human minds to know that nothing I say or do ever goes unnoticed. Even though what he was originally looking for, armed with bucket and shovel, really was unnoticed!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Connect 4

I was on a train the other day and four young lads got on and came and sat across the aisle from me. I surmised they were good buddies from their casual demeanour and body language – and there were no particular leaders and followers, they were just cool and comfortable in each other’s company. I expected conversation, banter, some quips, some laughter, and a general raising of the dynamic in the part of the carriage nearest to me.

Then they all got out their mobile phones and started texting, or tweeting, or answering emails, or going on InterFace or some other Tinterweb book, or ... whatever. Essentially they had retreated inside their electronic shells like hermit crabs with super-dextrous thumbs. In world terms it is a balance of real and virtual.
Now back in the day I can remember hanging out with mates and occasionally we’d go to the cinema. One favourite morsel of fare was Westerns – and we’d all leave the cinema talking like John Wayne or walking like Robert Mitchum, shooting things with a finger pistol and blowing down the imaginary barrel.
In world terms it was a balance of real and virtual.

So not much has changed, has it?
Well, on the face of it – no; but here’s the thing that really flags up in the real 21st Century world ...

When Lad A and Lad C spontaneously started laughing I thought it was a moment of cosmic synchronicity – until I realised they were communicating with each other by text. Then Lad A showed Lad B his phone screen, as did Lad C to Lad D – and then they started laughing as well!

An interesting and maybe fascinating form of Connect-4.


So where is all this leading, because nothing ever stands still does it? This whole developmental train is moving in some direction isn’t it?
Is the art of communication expanding outwards, like the universe after the Big Bang – or is its diversity fading?

Will certain communication skills that we diligently encourage children to develop “into the muscle”, then atrophy in the conduit of the monotone digital interface? Will, in some bizarre Darwinian twist of selection, our tongues fall silent and our ears dissolve?
Is the train hurtling towards the buffers of some not too distant terminus; where the need to develop our sense of identity is irrelevant in comparison to the bandwith of our electronic capabilities; where no one really Minds because our brains are just sophisticated computers; where eventually the only true sense of one’s identity is encapsulated in their “Me Myself and I Phone”.

I’ve had some amazing and wonderful connections these last few weeks, with people just happy and comfortable with making meaningful conversations the “old fashioned” way. Interestingly, the topic of all things communicative and interactive gravitating towards the Insular-Virtual axis, just kept coming up.
Mobiles have already become comfort blankets for our insecurities. Public gathering and meeting places, places where people have to wait for something to happen or arrive, and other similar venues are where you can witness a lot of symptoms in action.
It starts with our hands - we have to do something with our hands – keep them occupied. Smoking a cigarette used to keep our hands busy, however nowadays it is the mobile that fits the bill. I find I do it myself when alone, waiting – I reach for the mobile, only 30 seconds after I’d put it back in my pocket.
Then there’s the self-esteem thing when no one has rung, texted or emailed for a period of time. It starts with “I wonder why not?” and ends with, “What’s wrong with me?”

Stress, anxiety, OCD, addictive behaviour, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, boredom – your friendly virtual interfaces will help you with all of the above, by the feeding of your insecurities for a seemingly miniscule fee per session.  
The “Quiet Carriage” on some of our trains seems to be a particular battleground – which is perhaps why I like to travel in them, like some kind of War Correspondent! Only last week I witnessed a near fight when a fellow traveller took exception to someone’s audible mobile ringtone. (QC passengers are requested to turn off mobiles and keep noise to a minimum as a courtesy to other rail users.) He ended up effing and blinding at the top of his voice at the perp - which was a total irony.

The danger with all interfaces is that they become reliable and familiar middlemen. Through that reliability and familiarity they become more than useful, they become indispensable.
“I don’t know how we ever did without them,” is something we’ve heard said all too often.
The danger with all middlemen is that, when everything is scaled up, the middlemen become increasingly important and increasingly powerful.
At the moment, in parts of our culture populated by people like Lads A-D, the mobile phone middleman is further up the importance scale than both the imparters and the receivers. Without the middleman people would have to talk to each other – OMG! They would have to form sentences and use tonal inflections in their voices AND act out their acronyms!
“Please help! Can somebody tell me what do I need to do to ROFL?”

There is an interesting factor about the communications middlemen and it is this. In any part of the globe you will find that for those who actually sign up to being part of the modern world, all people seem to have either one or both of these:- television; mobile phone. There can be widespread and abject poverty and no money for food – yet there they are! And how are the TVs and mobiles provided for, as I’m sure they don’t come free? Unless they are hands free of course, LOL!


Long gone are the days when the pen was mightier than the sword; now the pen is being out-muscled by the key-pad and productive sex – sorry, predictive text. And the next metamorphosis is...?

Remember this:-
Knowledge is Power – Communication is Knowledge – Power is Communication.
It is just another form of Stone – Paper – Scissors innit?!

So when all is said and done - what DO we connect for?