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.
I’m often out-spoken. It has caused me problems in the past. But I’ve never done anything like this before. I know I am not the only one reflecting these sentiments. Sometimes I challenge because I believe that is what is needed To change the system – or at least to draw attention to The main areas that could and should be improved.
I have met only a few of the people who are here. We live in a virtual world of listeners and applauders. Most online fora are self-congratulatory, ego-boosters for the author. People feel uneasy to join in if there is any dissension or (c)rudeness For fear of going against the crowd like the cheeky monkey That’ll have their legs broken so that they are eaten by the lions first!
Agent Provocateurs, Revolutionaries & Change Agents! Where are you? You can hide away in the corner Whinging & whining about the structures & systems that don’t work. Without the guts or enthusiasm to change anything – mainly because The whole darn system is so fragile, it might break anytime – and YOU don’t want to be accused of being the person who finally broke it!
Where are the innovators, the disruptors, the risk-takers? The folk who are up-ending the Establishment (with a BIG “E”)? Where are the young folk who want to bring on the change? They are in the cool start-ups, earning peanuts – for the chance Of creating something new. And one day, they’ll say: “I was there”! It’s a casino, for sure, but a lot more fun than those tied into BIG E!
Not all ideas come to fruition. You never know which ones will work. But that is not the reason to keep the ideas flowing. There is a big difference between a good idea and an idea which Has support, is properly funded and is successfully implemented. Without good ideas, you never get momentum for real change. It’s a clash between different types of people, thinking and processes.
The only action that comes from this is that the ideas keep flowing. The only leadership required is one of keeping an open mind. The only communications skills required are for active listening. Good ideas will stick and grow. Not-so-good ones will get overtaken. Presence over process. Curiosity over Knowhow and “BIG E”. Keep listening and I’ll keep posting! Give me a role and I’ll step up!
There are too many things going on. I’m stressed, RED with anger And getting over-emotional I can’t do everything! I’ve got burn-out! PLEASE HELP ME!
The future’s bright, The future’s ORANGE So they used to say! Time to get a grip! Recast my ambitions And create a new future
How best to do that? Listen to myself and others For a while. Don’t rush! GOLDEN friends who know me well And care about me: they know the answers It’s all going to be fine!
Step into the circle, the WHITE zone Take a break. Get some rest. Sleep in. Then – Move around. Walk outside. Eat more plants. Enjoy life! Life’s for living, not for stressing!
It’s time to get creative! Write out a list of all I want to do Like the colour PURPLE, What am I passionate about? Which small projects can I get underway NOW That will help me to achieve my dreams?
No point in feeling BLUE More complex things require the help of others Important things need to be negotiated So things end up as WIN-WIN Don’t rush it! There’s an underlying A collective intention that needs uncovering.
And then all becomes lined-up. All becomes clear! Time for action! GREEN light for go! Action with clarity and purpose No one can stop me now!
When faced with a challenge, some folks lark about Thinking it’s funny. I used to do that sometimes. But as I get older, I find that those that behave like this Are oft lacking some training, skill or knowledge. Perhaps even covering up some learning difficulty … Because they have not applied themselves to MASTERY.
I was reminded by this last week by my flute teacher His name is James and he has a first-class degree in Music. He’s versatile enough to play in both a symphony orchestra As well as in a jazz or blues band. Read music and improv – After years of what he calls “shedding” it (which means Long, tedious practice in the garden shed!)
James has helped me to re-learn the Art of Mastery. I’m not sure if you ever took music lessons at school My first piano teacher was very solemn and stunk of perfume She didn’t like my casual attitude to learning. I hardly ever practised one week to the next And she became more and more frustrated by me!
She taught me FACE and “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” (As well as others I can’t remember for the Bass Clef). These have been useful with the flute because All the notes you play is in the Treble Clef. Since then, I have not read music. I’ve just “larked around” But if you want to play with others, you need to read music.
What does it take to become a Master in a given field? Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that It requires 10,000 hours of practice. That’s catchy and easy to remember but completely false! It’s not the number of hours that are important. It’s about the quality of time spent practising & rehearsing.
James tells me there are two types of students. Those who want to learn to read and play in an orchestra And those who just want to play by ear. I used to be the latter, but am now re-learning the fun Of reading music for the first time. It’s a slog, but getting easier as each week goes by.
James wasn’t born when I started to learn to play the piano But I still remember my first teacher’s perfume. Yuk! James is many years younger and wiser than me, He has taught me how to learn (again) And he has three words he uses to describe the Art: DISCIPLINE, FOCUS and PRECISION.
Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!
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!
You know the feeling. When you are flowing with effortless ease. When everything is “firing on all six cylinders” And working in harmony. Plans and ideas move into place, with no friction And all things work in the way they were designed to be.
Flow isn’t just a great feeling; It’s also one of the main contributors to the success Of any great project, team or company. The dividends are great for those that design for flow. They become faster, more efficient, more successful And out-perform those around them that ignore her.
How can we work better with this mysterious thing called flow? Flow starts to move in the channel of the listener. She takes the easy route: the path of least resistance. Like a stream or river heading down to the sea. She flows around any obstacle, rock or pebble To get down to the next pool and onwards to the sea.
Flow is fragile when she appears and is hard to retain. She can vanish and nobody knows where she has gone. The strange thing in a business is that no single person Is responsible for creating or destroying her. Nor does anyone really have the overall power or responsibility To get her back when she is gone!
Without flow, everything slows. Deadlines slip and budgets bloat. People get irritable and start blaming one another. Games are played that increase the blockages Which makes flow vanish even faster. She is as mysterious and transient as the Queen Bee!
Jazz players call it “being in the groove”. Each player feels the beat Each one dancing with harmony, discord and periods of silence. In the moment. There’s no score, just a few hidden rules to be broken. Performing with no effort, she demands hours of practice. Whilst listening for the beat, flow rewards those that study her. Invisible and ephemeral, we love to play with her hidden mysteries.
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!
Listen! Stop what you are doing! What do you hear? Listen for those subtle noises That are normally drowned-out In the busyness of life.
Listen more! The chatter, the clicks, the hubbub Listen to the space between the noises They are quieter and even more silent Than the silence you started to listen to – Quieter, even, than the quietest sound!
What else lies in the space between? It is a space to meditate on The past and the future. It is the place of pure presence. Absence of anything, It holds the answer to everything!
Claude Debussy once said, “Music is the space between the notes.” The notes might dance harmoniously, But the rests dance closer to the truth. A hidden message that you can only hear If you listen to for the silence.
In conversation, there are those that compete To drown-out the silence. They do not listen They are on “permanent send”, Not yet charmed by (nor knowing of) the fact That they were given two ears and one mouth For a reason: to listen twice as hard!
Try it for a minute, then an hour, then even a day. Muted by the desire to listen more. Not just to the noise, but more importantly, To the space between the notes That play to the timeless music of glorious silence. The answer lies in the space between.