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Archive for September, 2014

There’s life in the old dog yet…

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

olddog

 

You know what? I just decided the other day that I really hate the phrase “Back in the day”.

 

On a recent night out with old school friends we started, as we often do, reminiscing about the past. One of my closer friends that I’ve known for close to 3 decades started entertaining us with stories about the various shenanigans we used to get up to. He kept on starting each story the same way, using the phrase “Back in the day”

 

I’m sure you know the line and may have used it yourself… “Back in the day when we used to <fill in the blank with something you used to do when you were young> etc”.

 

I don’t know about you but every time I hear someone use that line I get a sudden jolt of anxiety. I know for many it’s just a turn of phrase but the thought that instantly goes through my mind is

 

“Today is the day! Not some time 15 years ago!”

 

Whenever I hear one of my friends use the phrase ‘back in the day’ I always feel that the silent implication is that our best years are behind us. That just because we are rapidly heading towards 40, some of us are going bald, some are going grey and some are going bald and grey that we no longer have the ability to be as engaged and connected with life as we used to.

 

I hate this implication. I also find it to be mostly untrue. So many things in life get better with age. As we gain life experience and our mind develops over time we open up the potential to appreciate layers of pleasure and meaning that we simply couldn’t see when we were young.

 

I remember the first time I went to see the film ‘Pulp Fiction’. I was 19 and I hated it. I just didn’t get it.  I’d heard all the reviews and acclaims of creative brilliance but the only thing that surprised me as I walked out of the cinema was how boring and pointless I thought it was.

 

The scenes were too long, there was too much talking and it didn’t even appear to have a coherent structure. John Travolta gets shot dead half way through the film and then miraculously appears in another scene right after it! I had absolutely no idea what the heck was going on!

 

It wasn’t until years later when I watched it for a second time that I realised the scenes weren’t meant to be shown in chronological order and the film did actually have a very deliberate and quite innovative structure. As I watched it through older and wiser eyes I suddenly appreciated the brilliance of the film. The acting, the dialogue and the quirky atmosphere Tarintino had created, it was utterly absorbing. Why on earth hadn’t I noticed it the first time around? Why hadn’t I saw and appreciated the genius?

 

The reality was the genius had always been there, it had always been a brilliant film…I just needed to age a bit to see it.

 

I don’t think we’ll ever gain a full appreciation of everything life has to offer but I’m pretty sure more layers of pleasure and meaning become available the older and wiser we get. As we become more ‘experienced’ we start to see layers of appreciation we couldn’t see through younger eyes.

 

It’s not just with films but with most things we do. If we are open and willing to look deeper then there will always be greater depths of enjoyment and fulfilment to find. There will always be more to see, learn, explore and experience, in both our current activities and the things we are yet to do.

 

If we start buying into the illusion that we are past our prime, in decay and that ‘today’ is no longer ‘our day’ though, then we start to close ourselves off to these layers. We’re on, as many pre-retirees, say ‘the run down’. We might as well pop into a pair of slippers, grab a cup of Ovaltine and start watching re-runs of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and ‘Cocoon’.

 

There will obviously come a time when our body is failing and our mind is nowhere near what it used to be but let’s not speed it up on purpose shall we?

 

That’s why I really don’t like the phrase ‘Back in the day’. Sure, it’s great to reminisce about past pleasant times and it’s wonderful to share memories with friends but I don’t think it’s particularly healthy to start believing that ‘our day’ has gone.

 

Today is the day! And now that we are a day wiser, it’s got the potential to be even better than yesterday.

 

 

All the best

Steve

 

The Drama of Scottish Independence…

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

 

Scottish-Flag-1

 

So….Scottish Independence…Don’t you just love it eh? The two words guaranteed to initiate an argument no matter where you go in the UK. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the house! Just log into Facebook and join one of the many heated cyber space debates. Nothing gets the blood pumping faster than having an internet argument with a complete and utter stranger over your computer screen.

 

Never in my life have I known such drama in Scotland, never have I seen us being pushed so much into the limelight. The whole thing has certainly captured the imagination of not just Scotland and the UK but further afield throughout the globe. What the heck is going to happen? It’s all too close to call really…One thing’s for sure, both sides are most certainly going to some unbelievable lengths to convince you to vote their way.

 

Now…Just to be clear, this is not a post asking ‘Which side you are voting for?’ and it’s not a passionate plea to try and get you to vote the way I’m going to vote.

 

What it is about is an observation regarding one of the basic psychological principles that’s being used very cleverly by both sides to influence and manipulate your vote and how you can de-sensitize yourself a little from it and make a clearer decision.

 

On one side we have ‘operation impending apocalypse’ (otherwise known as ‘the Better together’ campaign). If we vote ‘Yes’ then obviously the largest swarm of plague infested locusts ever to be known in the history of human kind will instantly descend upon Scotland and attack you and your family. All the businesses will leave, the country will instantly go into recession and we’ll experience apocalyptic doom all before breakfast of the 19th of September.

 

I’m exaggerating obviously but the picture painted by the Better together campaign is ridiculously bleak. It’s designed pure and simple with a couple of aims in mind – To shatter the confidence you have in your own country’s ability to manage and scare the utter and absolute beejeezus out of you.

 

The Labour leader in Scotland even went as far as to say that Scottish people are to quote “not genetically programmed to make political decisions” (and she is Scottish by the way). I’m guessing that was a bit of an unfortunate slip of the tongue but it certainly shows you how far the BT campaign are willing to go to create the idea that apocalypse and evolutionary death of the Scots clearly awaits following a ‘Yes’ vote.

 

Sure there are some facts and figures thrown in for good measure and a bit of emphasis on the alleged extra powers we’ll get but their campaign has largely been all about creating the idea of massive potential future pain…All, of course, avoidable if you vote ‘No’.

 

On the other side we have ‘operation utopia’ (otherwise known as the ‘Yes’ campaign). If we are to completely believe Alex Salmond then, by voting ‘Yes’, we are well on our way to becoming some kind of cash rich, independent super power. All of Europe…no, all of the world! will bow down to our superiority, foreign countries will look on in envy at our massive cash reserves created through Oil and Gas and pretty soon we’ll become like the Nordic banking equivalent of Switzerland. We’ll live in a fairer society where we look after the sick and the elderly while at the same time dropping corporation tax and attracting the world’s most successful businesses.

 

All of this will also happen seamlessly, with no teething problems what so ever and without any kind of ‘bedding in’ period. Utopia awaits…For us, our children and our children’s children. All of this, of course, can be instantly acquired simply by voting ‘Yes’.

 

If the ‘BT’ campaign’s preferred method of influence is fear and potential pain then the ‘Yes’ campaign’s is more about potential pleasure. They have done everything they can to build a positive vision of how they imagine it might be. Sure, they have thrown a bit of potential pain in the mix as well by mentioning ‘Trident’, Tory governments and the alleged potential privatisation of the NHS but their main method of persuasion has been more about creating the idea of potential future pleasure.

 

Like the BT campaign though their vision  isn’t entirely realistic. It’s based on future predictions, elements of truth with a massive dollop of artistic license thrown in for good measure.

 

What we end up with is essentially a battle between two massively exaggerated visions – One of potential locust eaten pain and another of potential utopian pleasure.

 

On one hand we’ll have people who will vote ‘No’ because they believe the vision of impending doom (or at least bits of it) and want to move away from this potential pain and on the other hand we’ll have people who vote ‘Yes’ because they are inspired by and identify with the positive vision of pleasure and want to move towards it.

 

It’s obviously not as simple as this for everyone. Lots of people will vote ‘No’ because they feel a strong positive affinity with the union, lots of people will vote ‘Yes’ because they don’t like the Tories, many people will sit down and examine the cold facts and make as rational a decision as they possibly can and there will be many other variations in between. These things obviously have many complexities but at the heart of the methods used by of each side to influence you are the basic principles of pain and pleasure.

 

The bizarre thing is, most likely neither of the two visions are true. The truth most likely exists somewhere in between the two. I’m under no illusions that we’ll become some kind of cash rich, independent super power with low taxes but I do believe we have a lot going for us as a country and have the potential to make things better and more in-line with our cultural ideals.

 

I don’t believe for a minute many of the scenarios painted by the ‘BT’ campaign will come to fruition but I do think that, if we become independent, there WILL be big teething problems. It will most likely take quite a few years to make significant improvement and progress and there will be problems and troubles on the way.

 

No-one can predict the future but usually things fall somewhere between the two dramatic extremes. Which one it will eventually sit closer to, I guess is the real question we want to be asking ourselves.

 

So I’d suggest, if you want to de-sensitize yourself a little from the potential plague infested locusts and the mesmerizing vision of blissful utopia and make a clearer decision, then step away from the two dramatic extremes. Take a deep breath, let go of all the intense drama for a moment and make an assessment based on as much information as you can find.

 

You can still listen to your heart (in fact it’ll probably be impossible not to) but I do think this is a decision to be made with both the head and the heart and not just one or the other. Most of us know what our heart feels and the two campaigns are certainly doing their best to manipulate this but we also need to step away from the drama for a while to figure out what our head thinks.

 

When we blend both ‘head’ and ‘heart’ together that’s when we start to make decisions that are both rational and ones that fit with our personality and experience. By doing this we increase our chances of making a much more informed decision that also feels right.

 

It’s a tough one that’s for sure, but it’s important, and one that could potentially send ripples through the world.

 

All the best with it…I’ll see you on the other side!

 

All the best

 

Steve