Thursday, February 24, 2005

Goodbye.

Anyone who knows me personally or who has read this blog for a while probably won't find it too much of a shock to know that I'm going to stop blogging.

After baring my soul online to all and sundry for ... how long has it been now, 10 months? ... I've decided that I've really had quite enough - as is well evidenced by the dearth of posts in the last month. For varying reasons, I just don't have the desire to continue Th'inkwell anymore.

Will I be back? I really don't think so.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.

What did it bring me? Something unbelieveably precious and a wealth of friends that I would have otherwise never met.

What did I learn? How to write unselfconsciously.

What will I be doing with my life from now on? I will be embarking on new adventures that you'll all just have to imagine.

Will I miss this? Occasionally, I think I'll see or hear something that I will be tempted to share with the world. The temptation will pass.

What is my parting pearl of wisdom? That we spend our lives choosing goals and chasing them. Sometimes they're the right goals, sometimes they're the wrong ones. Maturity is unabashedly admitting when you were wrong and changing course if needs be. Life is too brutally short and wondrously beautiful to do anything else.

Best wishes to all my regular readers for the future - may you always obtain what you desire.

M

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Politically correct

I used to hate the term 'politics'. I would decry the fact that I just 'didn't do politics' every single time someone tried to help me see that there was a smarter way to get what I wanted done done.

Age and experience seems to have somewhat mellowed me, though.

It seems that I needed to learn that ramming your head against a brick wall isn't always the way to go if you want to get to the other side of that wall. If you turn slightly, you might just find that the brick wall is finite and you can go around it. You get to your goal and you don't need stitches. Makes life just that much better.

Bit of life advice from someone at the rather sage age of 26 here :)

So when I came across this, I realised I had happened upon one of the smarter and deeper lists of wisdom around.

Well worth a look...and an application I think...to so many facets of life.

To me, it's something that I can apply to management - as I'm really not a believer in forcing people to do things. In the end, you see, you *can't* force a human being to think and that's really the most important facet of what anyone does in any job - be it manual or conceptual.

'Politics', to me then, is a somewhat redefined term. It just means getting to the end goal (a good, worthwhile, virtuous...you name it...end goal) with the full realisation that getting anything significant done in life means getting other human beings involved, engaged, motivated and incentivised to help you out. Doesn't need to be anything shady or slimy to it. Understanding human psychology, in fact, and applying that knowledge just makes the journey to that goal smoother for everyone.

*leans back in a large, black leather chair...stroking a persian cat and smoking a cigar*

Yep. That was a most satisfying thinkling.

Now, back to work.

M

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Monday, February 14, 2005

...and dances with the daffodils

I came to London in Spring, so this is my third the city. Spring in London to me will always mean daffodils - everywhere - wild in clumps of riotous yellow, defiantly beautiful in the tired greyness that is the defining colour of this metropolis.

Here and there are patches of different colours...Chelsea, where I am now, is dazzlingly white - bright new spring sunlight reflecting off freshly painted walls. Some of the outer suburbs...the terraces...seem brown from the endless rows of houses that share walls and facades and a street in seceeding monotony.

The moment one steps outside London, of course, everything is green...the lush English countryside positively invades everything man-made that is tentatively placed in it's bosom...vines and creepers and grasses waging endless wars with masonry and cement.

I love the seasons. I love seeing them. They hurry me along and remind me that another handful of months of my life have gone by. They act as an anchor to memories of a year, two years ago when the streets and the sky looked the same and my life, my frame of mind, my expectations were so different.

Spring is traditionally a time of renewal, reinvigoration and respite after the brutality of winter. This spring, I'm reminded of all the things London can give and all the things it can take away - swiftly, without feeling or favour. In that way, the city is as brutal as nature itself. It makes me realise more than ever the importance of shelter and home to us fragile humans.

M

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Universal thoughts

I've recently been attending the Dana Centre's science lectures/debates/Q&A sessions/dinners and I have to say that for the most part I'm impressed by the caliber of speakers they attract and the evident intelligence of the audience by the questions (and often challenges) posed.

So when the Dana Centre - "...a collaboration between the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science), the European Dana Alliance for the Brain and the Science Museum."

...introduces an event with:

"The human brain is the most complex structure in the universe."

You've really got to wonder why they let marketing people out of their feng-shui cubbyholes to write anything on the site and publicly make asses of themselves and the Centre. Surely no-one with any scientific training wrote this.

The. Most. Complex. Structure. In. The. Universe.

Presupposing:

* That we know of every structure, every -thing- in the universe. ( A universe, by the way, that we currently don't even have a very good idea of the size and shape of)
* That we have a classification system that can encompass all the elements of all the things in the universe and come up with a single, absolute answer.

How arrogant. How embarrassing.

Science, to my mind anyway, has always been more about the process of questioning than of answering. Answers seem to be the byproduct of active, vigorous, unrepentant and fearless questioning. It's in the field of asking 'What if?' and 'Why?' that science excels.

So any scientist that can comprehensively say that we know it all and - frankly - the most complex thing out there - in a universe we already know is filled with fascinating things like mysterious dark matter, wandering black holes, billowing dust clouds where suns are 'born', twin stars where one 'feeds' off the other in a slow and beautiful dance of death, planets with such extreme conditions that it's difficult for the human mind to -grasp- the terrain - is the squishy stuff in our skulls...worries me. Does it mean that he's satisfied to stop questioning?

Sure, the brain is amazing and complex and a minor miracle considering the fact that humans use the organ in such a unique capacity (look at our cities, community structures, interrelationships, art, science) compared to the other creatures on this planet. But really - THE most complex thing in the UNIVERSE?

Sorry, even -I- can make the judgement call here and say 'Not bloody likely'.

Or at least I hope it's not. How sad it would be to reach out to the stars and come to the conclusion - umpteen generations from now - that there was nothing more interesting, fascinating or complex out there than one of our internal organs.

M

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Is : Was : Could Be : Should Be

We humans are incredibly complex creatures when looked at as individuals - yet similar enough when looked at as an aggregated group to make some broad generalisations.

In my new MD role (ahhhhh ... yeeeessss ... NOW we understand why she's been too busy to post), I have a pretty far-ranging job spec - including ensuring that communication channels are established and working in a company. This means a lot of listening in to conversations and seeing where they're going wrong and WHY. You could say that a good part of my job is to eavesdrop - but I promise it's done for the forces of good.

Now, there was a rather interesting conversation going on a couple of days ago - it was actually during a lunch break and it wasn't really about work, but it's dynamics were such a perfect illustration of what can go really, really wrong in human interaction that I found myself thinking about it for a long time afterward.

Two people were talking about something. They didn't have opposing views on the topic, yet they almost had an argument about it. How?

Well, I have a theory and the theory comes about from a story...


:: IS

A while ago I came across a person who insisted on communicating in a completely one-dimensional way. No matter where a conversation went on any topic, he would always bring it back to how things were right now. So, for example, I would talk about the kind of political system I would like to see in Australia one day and he would keep coming back to what was in force at the time. I would talk about a business and what kind of strategy I saw for it in the future and he would keep reminding me what was in place at the moment. I would talk about the weekend, hoping for great weather - and he would look outside and comment on the current clouds - I think you all get the picture.

He couldn't actually fantasize, imagine or extrapolate to some future date and talk to me about something that wasn't concrete reality today.

He was so exceptional, so very consistently one-dimensional in his mode of communication, in fact, that I gave his mode a name ('Is'), and started to notice those times when other people did the same thing. Others (thankfully) didn't stay in just one mode, so I was able to differentiate four different modes in common conversation.


:: WAS

Some - especially those inclined toward an enjoyment of things historical - can consistently bring the conversation back to what 'was'. They have an absolute wealth of knowledge (usually detailed, including dates and names) of everything that has preceeded a certain event or time and are more than willing to share it at every opportunity. They add depth to any discussion by helping people understand what has come before to shape the reality of today.


:: COULD BE

This is the mode of thought and communication reserved for dreaming about something that isn't concrete reality now. Some people are really quite wonderful at imagining worlds, places, events and things that haven't happened and describing them in breathtaking detail. This is the mode of communication used by thinkers, philosophers, inventors and those politicians that still remember what they're paid for.


:: SHOULD BE

Moralizers are characterised by diverting to this mode of communication often. Everything comes back to what 'should be' according to their particular credo, code or belief system. I have to admit that I've been guilty of this one myself, especially when talking about philosophical or political matters.



So what happened during that lunch break that has anything to do with this? Simple - one person was in 'is' mode and the other was in 'should be'. The topic around which this conversation is centered isn't even important....the dynamic is all that matters:

Could be: You know, I was thinking - wouldn't it be wonderful if...[x]...??
Is: You can't do that.
Could be: What?
Is: You just can't, the necessary technology isn't available.
Could be: Yes, but it will be one day.
Is: But it's not available now.
Could be: Sure, I know that, but it would just be so cool...
Is: (technical reason for current impossibility)
Could be: That doesn't matter!
Is: Sure it does - it makes it impossible.

...ad nauseum (well, actually ad finitum luncheon).

Cue slighly growly end to conversation - for no particular reason other than the two people don't see they're just coming at the same idea from two different places and with two very different needs from the conversation. 'Is' just wants a confirmation that they're right, where 'could be' wants someone to bounce ideas off and perhaps a small pat on the head for thinking of them in the first place. (And before the comments go up - this is just a cartoon-like extrapolation of the gist of this conversation - both these people are highly, highly intelligent and express themselves rather more eloquently.)

I'm not sure if I'm right - there may be a better way of dividing up modes of communiation - but I've not yet found a better tool for understanding some of the pettier, sillier arguments that people have.

In the end, I think it's healthy (and SO much more interesting) for a person to be able to smoothly and frequently switch between these modes when conversing. In fact, I do wonder if it's one of the ways to consciously become a more interesting person and a far better communicator. Certainly, understanding these modes has helped me to avoid silly disputes over - quite literally - nothing.

I realise that this isn't my usual posting fare, but it's what's taking up a lot of my thought processes once more and I'll keep sharing it in a general manner in the hope that some people find it interesting.

M



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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Proof of life

So why aren't I posting?

Well, let's just say that I'm currently redefining the term 'busy' in the English language...BUT...blogging will soon become a part of my job for one of the business projects I'm involved in so you'll all be getting a fix.

I think that the tone here will change somewhat to reflect what I'm doing more of - which is business. I encourage all of you to not to just cherry pick and skip to posts that involve me talking about how pretty flowers are - the mechanics and psychology behind business are very much parallel to other things we do in life...learning about the way things work in the world that gets you your products and services can be a valuable lesson in human psychology, organisation and politics.

Anyhow...enough of that...too abstract by far for now.

Cheers! (Yes, I've been Anglicized)

M


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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Still

A cold wind played its way across grass and ruffled taller bracken near the lake's edge. Lending it's bluster to the placid water's surface, the wind stirred a tempest, varnish-thin, that - for all it's fury - could not disturb the stillness below.

It did not touch the trees. They feigned death with the skill that comes of a lifetime's practice and nothing of this earth could wake them now from their winter's slumber.

I walked toward this tableau, across a plain of grass, gently shedding my awareness of the world of concrete and machine. Leaving it behind me like a cloak to be retrieved on my return journey.

Something ahead of me drew me forward, as it had always done. A gentle pull at my breastbone urged me, coaxed me onward. The world to all sides, the things that I could not see, falling away into insignificance - it's sights gone once they passed the periphery of my vision, it's noises ebbing away to nothing.

The lake offers me something every time I surrender to it. Contours that will not change their course in my lifetime obligingly don new cladding at the behest of each season, reminding me of the swift passage of time since I arrived here.

The changes fascinate me - a child of more tropical climes - and I greet small outcrops of trees, remembered glades and favorite curves of water as old friends - superficially different yet familiar in fundamentals - pleasingly grown since the last time we met.

What the lake and it's surrounding forest will choose to impart is never known to me beforehand. I venture there alone with no expectation beyond immediate sensory enjoyment and in this I am never dissappointed. Yet, on recollection, each visit is tinged with an emotion. A realisation or a reflection that stands out in comparison to others.

And so it was that this time it was to death that my mind turned. Not a morbid reflection or a sadness but a strangely calm acceptance of it's place in the order of things and the realisation that it can strike in one of two ways.

Suddenly, terribly and tragically - as we all have had ample proof of this Christmas period.

And it can come slowly...encroaching inevitably to engulf something we once treasured. It is this type that I was thinking of at the lake, bare trees around me, water dark and sluggish. It's the kind of death that bears down like winter, announcing it's intent for anyone willing to listen. I came to believe that when something dies in this way we should consider ourselves fortunate that there is time and opportunity to ensure nothing is unsaid and undone, that we can prepare ourselves as best as we can for the inevitable. And since it is inevitable, perhaps accept the grief with more grace than we could otherwise bear.

The sun seems to tire early in the evenings these days and I knew that to stay here for too long would quickly become dangerous. Taking one last look, I was struck by the stillness that engulfed everything around me, despite the wind. It was like the stillness of the lake - deep at the core and unmovable - but waiting for something to move it. It seemed to stretch itself out toward me and quiet me as few other things can.

I smiled as I imagined the riot of colours and growth, the movement and exuberance that spring would bring once again to this ground and it gave me the strength to wait out the winter in hope.

M


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