purpose

The Last of the Wrist Watches

The search on the WP app isn’t at all good but I’m pretty sure I’ve written something about how unnecessary a wrist watch is these days. Well, now the inevitable has happened and the battery powering my wrist watch has died. It’s frozen on six minutes past seven.

It’s a funny thing but when your wrist watch dies is the day you find out how often you look at it. Four times during that day; the little numskull inside my head department put in a request in for knowing the hour. The arm rises, the hand thrusts out, and simultaneously, I glance down, the eyes making contact and… it’s 7.06.

After the fourth time, moments before the end of the day, I took the useless thing off and put it away in a drawer. Throughout the next day, I looked at my bare wrist four times.

What I’m sure I wrote about previously was the two years before my 21st birthday, I never had a watch, and I did okay despite not having constant access to the correct time. I believe even humans with their dumb indoors mentality and general reluctance to commune with nature’s clues, can at least guess the hour within about 30 minutes accuracy either way. I often test myself for amusement and it works. Try it yourself!

So the upshot of this is an unintentional resolution: no more wrist watches for me.


image by James Coleman via Unsplash.com

Advertisements

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

The Upright Creator

Sue Vincent’s comment on The Name of the Cloud That Ate The Sun has me thinking about a creator and its motives.

The idea of God, the creator, of the Abrahamic faiths has Him creating us in his image. This is understandable as we readily create imaginary beings in our own image, or partly so. Intelligent alien life is usually bipedal, with limbs and a head on top with eyes and ears and a multi-functioning mouth – and many of them speak fluent English in an American accent. The popular idea of a robot is also a bipedal machine.

Given that bipeds came last in line, whether it’s creationism or evolution, what gives with all the other stuff which came before? Well, robots might be the clue. Getting the things to stand upright and walk. It’s not easy and with a lot of robotics, this is an unnecessary fancy but it doesn’t stop a lot of technicians struggling with the concept. They will succeed but more because of god than being good designers, I think.

But why would a creator be bipedal, being, as it were, out there in space and existent throughout all time? Why would it need to stand up when there is no up in which to stand?


image from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam

Questions

I am indebted to an art tutor of mine from several years ago who asked, after considering one of my worser efforts,

What is it you are trying to achieve?

This is now my $64k question and it should be applied to almost everything we do. We ought to ask it of ourselves first thing in the morning, and what harm would it do to repeat it last thing at night?

As I am about to leave my job, I was thinking about the job interviews I’ve had and the sort of questions interviewers asked me and how, if at all, this related to the job. Of course, of all those jobs I didn’t get I can’t say other than nearly all of those involved tedious questioning; my unconscious reaction to tedium may have contributed to being rejected, who knows?

The interviews that went well and resulted in acceptance usually went something like,

Is this the kind of thing you do/feel confident doing/think you can do?

What’s your hourly rate?

How soon can you start?

I don’t mean to infer that good interviews are over in less time than it takes to drink your cup of tea (actually, I learnt to decline any hot beverage offered because these things can be over embarrassingly quickly – embarrassing if you’re still sipping your scalding hot cuppa, discussing how nice the weather is looking with three guys eager to get on with their work. Always ask for a glass of water instead).

Good interviews show the human side of everyone involved, not the cynical, distrusting side,

Yes, I confess, I don’t really have a job relevant degree, the letters are phoney, I lied about having thirty years practical experience, I’m no way “computer literate”, and I absolutely loathe “teamwork”. My CV is a utter work of fiction I made up the night before emailing it over. All I have to offer is big balls and a brass neck, so tell me why wouldn’t you want to hire someone with those?

Despite presenting an accurate CV, they still want to check it out with their impudent interrogation. They doubted my honesty. Would you want a job that began like this?

I was only ever asked once the usually hackneyed question,

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

That interview actually concluded in a bit of an argument so no guesses how that went. I knew someone who was asked that question and answered, without irony and in all seriousness,

Running this company.

That has to be the perfect answer, whether you’re serious about it or not. I regret not having had a second chance to say that.

This is Life: That’s Entertainment!

When I write about Life and the Meaning/Purpose of it as being simply Procreation (as a work around to a kind of sense of continuum or immortality) and Entertainment, I don’t mean the second to be entirely of the passive sort, like couch surfing the big game, or watching a clown riding a unicycle and the fenders and doors falling off his tiny yellow and red car…not entirely.

Certainly the Entertainment part is the greater part of it, broad and all encompassing. It is there to give Life a Sense of sustained purpose, before and after the relatively brief Procreative part. It’s as if nature first bestowed on us the Procreation part but gave us too much time to do it in, so we came up with the added value of the other part, to make Life bearable for the overthinking beings we are, although sometimes this doesn’t appear to be working as well as it should.

Entertainment is superficial. Entertainment is profound. It is simple, and intellectual and cerebral, and practical. Dexterity, creativity, imagination, philosophy and, yes, I think education, and everything really. Even in matters of Procreation, it helps enormously. So, Entertainment is everything.

Phew. Glad that’s sorted.


Now here’s Weller’s take on it, performed by the English band, The Jam…


image: “clown riding unicycle in town yoga mat” by Simon Bratt

Reena’s Exploration Challenge, #47

“The fact that humanity has to clarify that any lives matter should be concern enough.”

Ask me about the meaning – or the purpose – of life, all life, and I couldn’t say. Then ask me about the value of it and I’ll have to refer you to the first reply. An objective view would suggest that all life shares one profound thing – it doesn’t last long. In this respect, it appears to compensate for its unfortunate mortality by reproduction. And so, with this fundamental and successful work around, life goes on. Everything else is entertainment.

An intriguing idea I read about concerned the radiation fallout zone surrounding Chernobyl. Between its epicentre and the boundary beyond which most humans would fear to tread, lies a circle of land which has become a wilderness in which animal life survives. The background radiation shortens their lives considerably though of this they must be unaware, and they live free and untroubled from human threat and abuse.

Consider the dog, Man’s Best Friend. The longevity of breeds varies: a Great Dane is expected to live for eight years, a little Chihuahua for about seventeen. Most popular pet breeds will be gone within fourteen. Imagine having children with the same lifespan. If the dog was aware of its master or mistress’ extended lifespan, how in awe in might feel towards us. It would be as if a superior of ours could live beyond 500 years.

Imagine if it were reversed and the dog lived for 500 years. How comfortable would it be going to a new master or mistress, and how much would it care? And who, in the human world, would take on a dog short of its final century of life? It may be a deal-breaker and tortoises would perhaps be more popular – providing they stick their neck out of the shell long enough to attach a leash. That said, a lot of humans are prepared, after a decent period of grief, to renew their best friend with another. Life goes on.

Everything else is entertainment, but how much would anyone be prepared to pay for the ticket, front row of the stalls or back row of the balcony? Consider the flea, living on a dog’s back. It can jump the equivalent of an ordinary man jumping over the roof of his house. You’d pay to see that. The dog is not amused. Neither is the master or mistress who finds a flea on their person. The flea’s life is cut short.


Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge writing prompt, week #47

On something Bertrand Russell wrote

This the other day from Brain Pickings on something Bertrand Russell wrote,

“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls.

Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”

Exactly! This is why I can’t go to work anymore: my interests are now too wide and my specialism is just too personal. Well anyway, I’m going to make this my excuse, if ever I need one.

It’s interesting, a river as a metaphor for existence or life. Not the first time, I know, and not the last. I rather like the idea of a meander. Though with respect to work, we talk about “Career”. Then I like how Career has two meanings: a) that job thing, but also b) progressing in an uncontrolled way.

Yep, that’s been me.


Portrait by Larry Burrows

How To Grow Old by Bertrand Russell (Brain Pickings)

The Why?

Anyone who has been around little children will probably know that sometime between the ages of two and three, they get a handle on that potent single word enquiry “why?”. A typical conversation may go something like,

“Why did you make the dog get down from the sofa?”

“Because someone might want to sit there.”

“Why?”

“Because they might be tired standing up.”

“Why?”

“Because they might have been standing up for a very long time.”

“Why?”

“Maybe they had to go shopping.”

“Why?”

“To buy you spaghetti hoops, and banana yoghurt and gingerbread men!”

(A pause; a quantum of hope, but then,)

“Why?”


Then there comes a time when “Why?” mercifully goes away. Maybe they learn how infuriating ad infinitum questioning can be, how socially unacceptable it is, or maybe they just move on, accepting some things are what they are, just because. Or they think they’ve worked things out by themselves, with the little knowledge they’ve acquired. And so, onwards into adulthood, we accept the way things are before questioning “why?”.


When was the last time you felt like asking a whole string of “why?”s?

I suppose the thing that holds us back is the thought that others will think us crazy; it’s not done to question conventions or conventional “wisdoms”. Some things are done simply because they are and we are loath to upset this basic order of life. We’re safe in our boxes, clearly labelled and all pointing the right way. And woe betide any childish person who comes along asking “why?”.


Photos by Markus Spiske and Louis Blythe on Unsplash.

The Venn of Ikigai

My thanks to Chaz Green’s Life of Chaz for introducing me to the Japanese idea of Ikigai. Please go and read his blog as I’ve just nicked this graphic from it. More on Ikigai later, but for now, who doesn’t enjoy looking at a Venn diagram?

The Venn diagram, devised by mathematician, logician and philosopher, John Venn, as part of his paper, On the Diagrammatic and Mechanical Representation of Propositions and Reasonings, in 1880, is a means of organising pictorially the complete logical relationship of sets in a finite collection.

I remember the first time this was demonstrated in maths at school, I was in awe, and still am to an extent. While it can be a useful means of considering abstracts such as the purpose of life or ikigai, I’m doubtful whether it satisfies either a logically approach or concludes a complete relationship of all things pertaining to that thing, say, being. But it is fun and, look, it’s a cool diagram every chump can follow.

What a beautiful thing, and so simple.


Ikigai: “a reason for being”

As you can see, ikigai is the central set which satisfies each of the four great notions of positive employment: what you love doing, what you’re good at doing, what the world needs people to do, and what the world will pay you to do. It appears that ikigai is all your lottery numbers coming up in a draw (probability 1:14000000) or playing professional football for your favourite team, or playing lead guitar for your favourite band (are you waiting for that call?)

Looking into it, and this is only a first impression, I feel the concept is something more passive, a reflection upon life, a sense, a snapshot, something a bit like the abstract and ineffable hygge or hiraeth. As a self-help life improvement tool, it has flaws in that it supposes everything within the diagram remains fixed as you try to move around it. This is doubtful. Take the thing you love and are good at. It may be that you love cooking for your family and have become good in the kitchen. But this would be a far cry from a restaurant chef. The stress of daily service may diminish your passion considerably. If, however, you are already a good chef, well paid, secure and there’s nothing finer you can think of, then that is ikigai. For you. For other people, maybe not.

Also, is the diagram inclusive of all things which influence positivity in life? No, it just seems to be concerned with work. What of those other passions outside of work which you need but which have no economic value? There seems no way of manoeuvring these into the central spot, ikigai. For me, I think work is a Venn diagram of its own, a little apart from life, not its centre. But then I’m a lazy sod who’s always had a lust for life.

Useless

In those few minutes between sleep and full wakefulness, sometimes strange, random thoughts emerge. I suppose they may be remnants of a passing dream though no dream can be recalled. Most mornings, for me, those random musings disappear to join the forgotten dreams once the distractions of the waking day demand our attention. Not so this morning.

My prominent thought on waking was an interview I’d watched, some ten or more years ago, with the environmentalist and magazine editor, Satish Kumar. The interview was one in a series filmed by a regional radio and podcast group, and its signature question, always coming at the end, was to ask their subject what they thought was the purpose of life.

As I remembered it, Mr. Kumar at first seemed taken aback by the question. Then he burst forth with an answer. The purpose of life is to LIVE! Everyone seemed overjoyed with this, not least Mr. Kumar.

Now what I was thinking this morning was, though it is a good answer in the context of end of interview drama, it is also quite a useless one. Useless, that is, for anyone seeking a meaningful answer to the profound question.

Now the speed of thought travels close to the speed of light, and I apologise that it travels faster than it takes to read the above, but what can I do? As quick as that, I was thinking about Haiku, the Japanese short-form poetry. The rules of haiku seem disproportionate to its length, and are quite specific and demanding. Transposed to English, and I suppose western languages in general, it takes the form of three lines comprising precisely 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. The whole poem must at least imply an momentary aspect of nature and a season.

After all these imposed complications, it may seem funny that Matsuo Bashō, the Japanese master of the form, said that Haiku is, or ought to be, useless. I’m not clear what he might have meant by this; pointless, mundane, banal, perhaps?

No time to hang about this one, only seconds away from wakefulness, racing on, my thoughts settled on an old derogatory turn of phrase, a put-down, likely picked up from an older relative,

“…neither use nor ornament”.

As someone involved in solving design problems and now being casually interested in most aspects of design, I find the words sum up what I feel is wrong with most stuff. Stuff being all that is manufactured and therefore, you would think, made for a purpose, whether that purpose was purely practical or aesthetic, or a proportion of each of those. Of course, there’s too much which satisfies neither and for those items the phrase is most apt.

At this point I decided there was no point lying in bed and got up, washed and dressed, had breakfast and then typed this up. I’m wondering whether a new post category is in order – Useless.