We met twice in 2019. Lunch boxes at the Embassy. He was once a beekeeper. We had fascinating and ranging discussions, All listened into by unknown ears From a foreign country. Last time I saw him was in court After they arrested him. Now he’s in Belmarsh Prison. We pray for him every day.
As a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve decided to re-join the local writing circle. This week’s exercise is a short story in 55 words. This is my contribution
It was the turning of the 89/90 decade. I was in Berlin for New Year’s Eve. Fireworks were only allowed then To celebrate the turning of the year. I was at a party well away from the wall But had this urge to move up on up to it.
We made it just in time! A large crowd swarming Five hundred metres way up to the Brandenburger Tor. That symbolic centre of both the wall and Berlin herself. There was a determined push towards the gate Both in front and behind us, surging like a tidal wave As if the whole crowd moved with a collective psyche.
And then the fireworks began. Lighting the sky above. The dark shadow of the gate ahead, I could move Neither back, nor left, nor right, but only forwards. As more and more people joined the push Towards the tiny gap only created a few weeks before On, on, on, there was no going back.
I then realised I had no passport. My friend from Berlin Was allowed to go through with no papers, but I should not. Too late! The powerful crowd took that decision for me. We were pushed through the tiny gap and there – On the other side were two 12 ft replica cans of Coca-Cola! The American marketing machine had beaten us to it!
Illegal or not, there were no guards: it was a surge to freedom. We were discharged out onto the Unter den Linden, The boulevard of lime trees on the Eastern side of the gate. A calm peace after the hectic push and scrabble. We spent an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere Before returning back home to the Western side.
Elias Canetti, summed up in his 1960s book “Crowds and Power”: The crowd always wants to grow – it has no natural boundaries. Within the crowd there is equality. Differences … are irrelevant. The crowd loves destiny … it can never feel too dense. The crowd needs direction … and moves towards a goal. And so it was. The wall collapsed to create modern-day Europe.
Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop He was born in about 280 in Patara, Lycia Which is in modern-day Turkey His parents both died when he was young And he used his inheritance to help The poor and the sick.
There are many legends surrounding Saint Nicholas He is supposed to have saved three men Who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. He is said to have died on 6th December 343. His reputation went before him as a gift-giver As well as the protector of children and sailors.
So how does that explain where Santa Claus cames from? Well, his story as a Saint became popular in Europe Until the Reformation when Saints became unpopular. However, the Dutch kept celebrating his feast day On 6th December – children put out their shoes at night and In the morning would discover the gifts he had left for them.
In the 1700s, Dutch immigrants took the legend To the Americas where he was known as “Sint Nikolaas” Or more commonly by his nickname “Sinterklaas” There, he went through many transformations to become Known by his present-day name of Santa Claus, although The present-giving was moved to the Christmas festival.
Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1820 called “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas”. He described Santa Claus as a jolly, heavy man Who comes down the chimney to leave presents For deserving children. He also drove a sleigh pulled by Magical Reindeer flying through the sky.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the legend in 1881 Drawing Santa with a red suit trimmed with white fur. In the early 1930s, Haddon Sundblom illustrated A marketing campaign for the Coca-Cola Company. And so the kind, charitable bishop from Turkey morphed To became the jolly Christmas icon we know so well today.
Have you ever noticed When you have to decide between Two different points of view, Or two contrasting futures … The best answer is almost never found At one extreme, nor the other?
Have you ever seen leaders Giving passionate speeches about a future That requires short-term pain for long-term gain? Dividing those who can stay (on uncertain terms) Against those who will need to go to “save the ship”? All in the name of some grand plan no one understands.
Have you ever wondered if there might be a better way? We oft need reminding that you can’t follow fear. Fear doesn’t know where it’s going. It only knows where it’s not going. Through the confusion of fear, uncertainty and doubt, The spin-doctors weave a web of contradictory messages.
Why is thought-control through fear so common? The “leaders” are even more fearful of losing their positions. They oft say nothing, for fear of any negative reaction. They become angry and throw tantrums like a 3-year old child. They cannot see their way forwards through the confusion. They become tired, despondent and ill.
Apparently it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said: “The past is history. The future is a mystery, But today is a gift – which is why we call it ‘The Present’” As we move into the time of the year where we think About which gifts to exchange, have you ever thought That giving love in the present moment is all that’s needed?
“Deal” or “No-Deal?”; “Blue or Red?”; “Haves” or “Have Nots” Where can we find the best answers to all our struggles? Settle into a place of stillness and quieten the mind. Then focus on a higher purpose: centred in love, not fear; One that both excites you and is of service to future generations. You’ll find that the answer lies in the space between!
When you look back in life Have you ever noticed that Many things have happened to you Because of a set of chance coincidences? They appeared in mysterious and magical ways Which were not obvious to you at the time.
Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots Will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Do you trust your dots connecting in your future? I was in the garden one lazy afternoon when A strange cloud appeared in the sky Weaving like a numeration of starlings. A moment later a swarm of tiny dots landed Just twelve feet in front of me!
That chance landing of a swarm of bees Has taken me on a life-long journey of wonder and Study into the magical world of the honeybee. I’ve never met anyone else who experienced A swarm landing directly in front of them – But I am sure there are others, somewhere!
Steve Jobs further postulated: “Believing that the dots Will connect down the road Will give you the confidence to follow your heart Even when it leads you off the well-worn path; And that will make all the difference.”
Do you have the confidence to follow your heart Even when it leads you off the well-worn path? What surprising coincidences or dots have lined-up for you? What special places, people or natural happenings Have lined up for you in magical ways? Tell your story and please share it below!
Do you ever wonder at the beauty all around you? At Nature’s creativity and her ability to have created YOU? Or do you simply go along in your daily life Allowing the busyness of business to dumb you down With to-do lists, email and yet more meetings That makes you question: “Is there anything more than this?”
How often do we call in the experts – who make things Far too complicated and in their own interests – Producing grand reports and missing the simplest of solutions. The physicists say that humanity was created On a knife-edge of interconnected events that were most unlikely. We wouldn’t be here if this creative force had not lined them up.
So how can we harness ourselves to this natural force of creativity? Orson Welles once said: “Others create out of experience But I create out of innocence”. Zen masters encourage us to seek New answers from a “beginner’s mind”.
By adopting a child-like inquisitiveness To everything that is around us Life suddenly takes on new meaning! Seeing the world as a baby or young child Gives us the knowledge (unlike the experts) That we don’t have all the answers.
One of my favourite jokes is that an expert Is the combination of an ex – or a “has been” With a spurt – which is a “drip under pressure”! We dress them up with titles and put letters after their name, Praising them in cathedrals to knowledge and certainty. Yet the more they think they know, the more we know they don’t!
Be inquisitive and ask… Where did that come from? And where it is going to? Create from innocence. Adopt the beginner’s mind And the world will become a better place!
With a large part of my early career spent designing and testing telecoms billing systems, one of the inexact sciences that I still find intriguing is the word: “rounding”. I remember one client making millions of extra pounds with the Finance Director requiring their new system to round-up every recorded minute as opposed to rounding them down – even though it was against the regulations.
Yet rounding errors and rounding up and down is a small part of the “art of rounding things out”. The circle is probably the most drawn, painted and elegant symbol in Art that continues to enthral us, whatever age, gender, colour or creed we are:
Rounding things out is an almost innate human need. And some are better at it than others! Indeed Belbin allocated one of his nine famous team roles to the “completer finisher” – defined as follows:
The Completer-Finisher is most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.
Strengths: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.
Allowable weaknesses: Can be inclined to worry unduly, and reluctant to delegate.
Don’t be surprised to find that: They could be accused of taking their perfectionism to extremes.
Surely a very useful person to have on any team – particularly as the team comes to the end of a task? Somehow, though, in the modern world, completer-finishers do not seem to be so highly valued. Technology firms with meteoric values and no customers just want to get on and create the next feature. Dreams and visions win over completed circles.
The recent big storms hitting North Western Europe was another reminder for me that we continue to pollute our oceans with plastic – and that we are taking very little effective action to curb the rising trend of more and more plastic being dumped daily into the ocean.
Any rising consciousness of rounding things out is increasingly drowned out by the advertising industry pushing for the convenience of fast food and throw-away packaging. “Someone else’s problem. Let me get on with my life. I’ve got too much else to worry about than where my rubbish will end up! In any case, I don’t have the space for all those extra sorting bins in my tiny flat!” Roughly the words from a forty-something London urban female I met recently. She comes from a different planet from the one I live on.
I suppose that some of my angst on this subject stems from spending a year in Berlin in 1980. If it could be fed to the pigs, it was. Otherwise, if it was rubbish, it was very carefully disposed of by folding it up or squashing it. Disposal of rubbish was very expensive because the number of landfill sites inside The Wall were scarce. Programmed about such things in my early ’20s, I suppose I have kept a consciousness that most London forty-somethings would think quite abnormal.
I’ve never particularly seen myself as having the characteristics of a completer-finisher. However, the older I get, the more concerned I am becoming over the lack of importance attached to round things out. Indeed, after a recent Circular Business Design workshop we ran, I coined a new term “Telosonance” meaning “having concern for where something might end up”. From the Greek word “Telos” meaning objective or end-result” and an ending sounding like resonance, it creates a word for something that we don’t seem to have in everyday use in the English language.
Maybe the “art of rounding things out” is a similar idea as Telosonance? Except that it is the consequential action that follows a concern or feeling that things, people or places are not lined-up to complete the disposal of the thing-in-question in an elegant way – in other words – “to round things out”.
I’m not sure the Finance Director of the dodgy telecoms company that I worked with those many years ago would have worried about any of this, but it is a subject that is close to my heart at the moment. I truly believe that we need to applaud the ways that completer-finishers think about problems. Sooner or later, we are all going to have to worry about where things end up and help find elegant ways to round-out and clear up the mess that we have made over the past 100 years.
Someone asked me what one word or phrase I would use to take me into 2018, leave behind those ideas, things and people you don’t need anymore and create something new and vibrant.
I thought for a moment and then said “I use the term “Lighten Up! quite a lot.”
It gives you the chance to drop those dead-weight ideas, as well as the things and even people who drag you down. It also gives you permission to become more conscious and, literally, “enlightened”. It is a good one, too for losing those extra few inches around the belly and becoming lighter on your feet!
The lighter you think, the lighter the world becomes. You need fewer words to connect with people. Your emails become shorter. You need fewer “heavy” conversations. You laugh more. Life becomes much more fun and interesting because you are not held back by the shadows of past traumas nor fears of the future.
And if you look into the light, you can’t see the shadows of the past anyway!
“LIghten-Up!” It works for me! Try it. It might work for you too!
Had I the power
To cast a bell that should from some grand tower,
At the first Christmas hour,
A jubilant message wide,
The forged metals should be thus allied:-
No iron Pride,
But soft Humility, and rich-veined Hope
Cleft from a sunny slope;
And there should be
And silvery Love, that knows not Doubt nor Fear,
To make the peal more clear;
And then to firmly fix the fine alloy,
There should be Joy!