Reflections 25th October

What I’ve noticed.

That suddenly, it’s the end of October. That the brief summer respite of pretending the virus was going away has evaporated, we’re talking of a “digital Christmas” and that I’m sensing a variety of emotions in myself and others from a weariness on the one hand, through a form of grieving for the old normal, to an excitement about what we might build to replace that old, flawed normal.

I think we can see all the elements of the Grief Cycle – denial that anything’s really changed, anger that it’s messing us about, negotiating with ourselves and others as to how we adapt as politicians tinker and bluster through to depression as the days shorten, the clocks go back and the sense of “here we go again” arises. The final stage, acceptance, is there for some.

Late last year David Kessler, who worked with Kubler Ross on the grief cycle published a book suggesting a sixth stage – Meaning. I think that’s important.

Covid-19 looks likely to be with us for at least year before we get to the chance of any meaningful mitigation through a vaccine, or increasing “herd immunity”. That’s a long time in relation to how we live our lives. The immediate impact has been on how we work and socialise and the effect on those in the front line of caring for us, and the “knock on” effects will be interesting, including:

  • Our view of “efficiency” seems likely to change – what is efficient on a normal day makes us hugely vulnerable on an abnormal one. What is “system slack” on a normal day in the NHS saves lives on a bad one. Effectiveness carries a premium over efficiency.
  • Want versus need. Our economy has been built on emphasising “want” over “need”. Advertising and much marketing is predicated on increasing rates of marginal dissatisfaction. What your life will not be complete without evaporates a little when you can’t have it and find that life doesn’t really change much, from not getting the £3 coffee to the platinum card benefits to the gym membership easily replaced by other exercise and the host of other expensive chindogu.
  • We are faced right now with the paralyzing effect of the debt we incur on things we don’t really need on our personal freedom in conditions of adversity. Regardless of the expensive advertising, the banks are not our friend. Ever.
  • Our awareness of how easily we are disrupted has increased enormously. We will tread more warily going forward. In terms of potential disruptors, Covid-19 is small fry.

There is much talk of our need to “unlearn” old habits in order to get to grips with whatever is next. I agree with that, although find it something of a sanitised word. I think it is about letting go of what was, what we took as normal and shaped our lives. It hurts. It is a grieving process. As Kessler points out, progress may well need us to find a different sense of meaning.

If we can do that however, all will be well.

….Shaping my reflections?

People having conversations that matter.

Can you measure wisdom? Wisdom is needed now more than ever. Perhaps it’s not as ethereal as we sometimes think. Aeon Magazine. 15 min read.

The Warrior in us. We are in a time of having to make up our minds about what really matters to us. This series of twenty 6 min videos by Steven Pressfield (he of the “war of art“) on what makes a warrior is an interesting provocation.

Unlearning. It was this article on Medium that triggered my thinking above.

The Howto Academy. I’m experimenting with this platform for a few months. Interesting speakers, and varied. I’ve found previous “go to” sources getting a bit stale and conformist in these times.

A quote

“Earth may be alive: not as the ancients saw her—a sentient Goddess with a purpose and foresight—but alive like a tree. A tree that quietly exists, never moving except to sway in the wind, yet endlessly conversing with the sunlight and the soil. Using sunlight and water and nutrient minerals to grow and change. But all done so imperceptibly, that to me the old oak tree on the green is the same as it was when I was a child.”

James Lovelock

What’s on my mind.


I have found the last month or so quite challenging – a bit like being stuck in the mud wheels spinning but going nowhere. That is changing, I sense movement.

Perhaps it’s the prospect of a long winter in various degrees of lockdown, and the constant desire of the media to find someone to blame. We cannot change what has got us to here, or where we are. We are all complicit in one way and another, and whatever caused it, it’s a sunk cost.

If it is going to be a long winter, and we’re going to be stuck inside, then let’s use it to good effect. We can’t revisit these times.

There’s a quote that sits with me from Chief Oren Lyons, in “Original Instructions”, a review of indigenous wisdom that rings very true. “There is no habeas corpus in natural law. You either do, or you don’t. If you don’t, you pay. It’s quite simple.”

The farther you are away from a point of no return, the more options you have. As we move each day closer to a point of no return, we lose that day’s option. And there will come a point where we don’t have an option.There will be no more options

Chief Oren Lyons (from Original Instructions, Indigenous Teachings)

There are more opportunities to learn than we have ever had. Wonderful quality material, most of it free from a variety of sources including the best Universities. Six months of study may not give us a badge, but it can change our perspective, and traditional education badges are devaluing by the minute. It’s how we see what’s there that matters, not learning it rote. The knowledge is free, the rest is work.

I’ve spent the last seven months with a group of others meeting on Zoom for a couple of hours every week discussing what’s happening. It’s been transformational for me, and I think many of them. Open, human conversation that changes how we see things for the better. Like having a shower after listening to much of the noise various media feed us. Conversation has never been more important.

I want more of it, because we need more of it. I’m going to see how that might be done.

Have a great week.

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