Time by Daniel Waters, Co. Sligo, Irelandused under CC-BY-2.0 https://flic.kr/p/nkc4GF
Time by Daniel Waters, Co. Sligo, Ireland used under CC-BY-2.0 https://flic.kr/p/nkc4GF
I have a blogging challenge going with Dan Slee. It’s fairly straightforward. We each have to blog every day. Or there is a forfeit.
I may have hit the forfeit on day four. Because I am staying in a delightful holiday cottage in West Wales. It has no internet connection and the mobile signal advertises itself tantalisingly as GPRS. Which feels like it should provide a connection but actually doesn’t.
So last night I wrote a blogpost and stumbled around a benighted garden waving my mobile phone in a caricature of the metropolitan visitors that are the butt of many jokes in this part of the country. But I couldn’t send it.
And this morning I couldn’t check Twitter, or read the news, or find out what my friends had been up to on Friday night.
Which is, of course, kind of liberating. And the digital detox is an established part of the chattering classes solution to the stresses and strains of modern life.
It’s also frustrating. Clearly there is stuff going on in the country and I’m not on top of it. Has the government taking a strong stand to support the role of independent judges? Maybe the Prime Minister has replaced “Brexit means Brexit” with “We don’t agree with the decision but we respect the people who make it. It is wrong to attack judges for simply doing their job because you don’t like the decision.” And America. Are they foolish enough to elect Trump (in a world where Boris Johnson is my country’s top diplomat that doesn’t seem so unlikely)?
Then again. What do I gain, as a citizen, from being tapped in to this discourse? I cannot, in any meaningful sense, influence it. I am a gawping spectator to a motorway pile up. Fascinated, concerned, terrified but removed and disconnected.
And nothing can be properly understood from the instant reaction. If we want our leaders to exercise their judgement. If we want to exercise our judgement we need to think about things. Reactive states reveal a great deal about what you feel but very little about what you think. High Court Judges are clearly not enemies of the people, though some people clearly are very cross about their decision in this case.
Digital communication technologies are great. But the ability to respond and track significant developments in real time doesn’t equate to that being helpful, desirable or useful.
I’m very much not recommending digital de-tox. But I am recommending taking time for reflection.

23:45 gamesmanship

It’s 19:28 and I haven’t written anything today. But I’m at a thing on Citizen (or Basic) income.

At 11.38 I still haven’t written anything but my views on Basic Income have shifted. It’s still any exciting idea that might have social benefits. But I don’t believe it’s a solution to more pressing issues in our society like the spiralling costs of housing and income inequality.

I am literally writing this to get something up before midnight and so not have to perform a forfeit.

Which may not be entirely within the spirit of the challenge.

But is, I submit, within the letter of the challenge.



Etymology: like a word

Black and white photograph of a man looking straight at the camera
thomas merton by cistercaminante used under CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/crTPVy

When I applied to open a bank account for my business they phoned me up to check a few things.

Which is kind of reassuring.

One of the things they wanted to check was the name of the company: The Likeaword Consultancy Ltd. The very nice and apparently experienced lady on the phone went about as close to saying…

“That’s a really stupid name”

…as I presume her employer would permit.

I’ll admit, it is an unusual company name.

People often think they can guess where it comes from. They adopt a knowing look and say…

“Clever: you’d like a word about our data I suppose”

And I nod encouragingly.

But that’s not it.

It’s a reference to a book called New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (it’s the sequel to the well received Seeds of Contemplation). He was a Trappist monk in America in the first half of the 20th century, a profoundly spiritual person who was also deeply fallible and human. He was also a great, and I mean really great, writer.

New Seeds of Contemplation is a set of things to pray about (or meditate or contemplate). It is full of concepts that seem to float just out of reach of understanding. Like the gnomic phrases we often associate with Zen Buddhism (and Thomas Merton was also very interested in Buddhist practice) their purpose is to help bend your mind around new ways of thinking about the world. I read it many years ago at the suggestion of a friend (now, in fact, a monk himself (though not a Trappist)) and I was instantly hooked. One line jumped out at me…

“God utters me like a word containing a partial memory of himself”

Sometimes I think I see what he was getting at. Mostly I don’t. Always I think that it is beautiful.

So my company name is, in some sense, a homage to Thomas Merton. I’m not sure what he’d feel about that. But I don’t think he was very in to judging people.

Every time I see the word likeaword written down (which is many times a day) I think of Thomas Merton.

I didn’t say any of this to the lady from the bank of course.

I said
“It tested well in research”

If you care about writing and haven’t yet checked out any Thomas Merton I really urge you to do so. If you aren’t of a spiritual bent maybe start with the journals. I promise you you won’t regret it.

Blogvember 1. Not recommended.

misia listening

I’ve been stuck in a writing rut for a bit. So when Dan Slee said he was going to write a post a day in November it seemed like an excellent idea to join in. We even agreed a forfeit (a fact I note he has not mentioned in his post).
So now I’m stuck in a writing rut but with added pressure.
I know what lies at the heart of this rut.
I don’t really want to write about anything else.
And all I really want to write about that is a long list of swear words.
But the world is not yet ready for my Barry Manilow cover so I have to write something.
So this is all I can offer right now.
It seems to me that we are not listening to each other.
And the reasons for this are obvious.
Lots of people are angry. Lots of people are triumphant. Lots of people are just a bit confused and worried.
People who really care about this issue recognise that very little has actually been decided yet. So we all want to do a lot of talking, persuading, arguing. I know that I don’t really want to listen to people who I believe are profoundly wrong and have voted against the interests of the country, Europe and, you know, everyone. And I’m very sure they don’t want to listen to me.
But we’re all stuck in this country together. And there are a lot of us. On both sides.
We don’t have a lot of a tradition of listening to each other in the UK. We tend to just muddle along, brushing our differences under the carpet and hoping they go away.
Which they often do.
But I don’t think these divisions will.
(And yes, I am aware of the irony in using a broadcast medium to exhort others to listen but, hey, no forfeit for me today)