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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Time to grow up?

bogey changing belarus 05
Changing the bogeys - crossing the border from Russia to Belarus, Sep 2007. Photo taken from an adjoining carriage that's also jacked right up.

Listening to Branson's autobiography again today has really hit me hard.

That, and talk with my colleague George (who is rapidly becoming an entrepreneur extraordinaire) regarding several ideas for ventures here in Tokyo that is pushing me to face my fears and get on and do what I need to do.

I've come a long way I know, but I still see myself being held back by a big nagging doubt about whether I can suceed in business or not.

The balance between talk and action in my life is way out. Look at me now. I'm blogging, not acting.

Ok, so I've created a (yet to be launched) website for my venture, but I can feel myself resisting stepping forward and acting to do what's needed in the real world. I tend to do things bit by bit, avoiding looking the plan in the eye, skirting the edges. I've built websites before, I can do that. They're within my comfort zone, no matter what the content (within reason).

By going out there and interviewing people, networking in real life, actually producing something other than a website - this is outside of my comfort zone and the fear is only too apparent.

There's never been a better time for action though. I've met someone who shares my passion for my idea, and will make a great co-producer. As of today I'm hooked up with a couple of entrepreneurial networks (via Linked in), and have been invited to speak at an upcoming event for the sake of furthering my idea / carrying out research.

We have no dependents, we can afford to take risks (within reason) - without some risk nothing will change.

I spoke with *Twinkle* tonight about this strong feeling that things have to change - her reaction was one of delight. 'It's about time you grew up' - exactly what I've been thinking myself all week.

She has been concerned that Joseph would never grow up sufficiently to be a father - she's not said this before, but I'm not surprised. I identify wholly with what she is telling me. (I hope you see the irony following my privious post.

It's time I assert myself. Remain humble and eager to learn from others, but stop kowtowing to fear, and stop thinking that everyone knows better than me.

I desperately want to succeed in the business realm. I'm not motivated by money (although the need for money by those around me does motivate me to a certain extent). I'm motivated by wanting to create something amazing that makes a positive difference to others in some way, by the idea of doing what I love every day, being free to put my precious limited time towards what I consider to be the most important thing that I can put my time towards.

It really is time I grew up.




I'd like to express my thanks to my family, friends and Mumblers who have consistently expressed their belief in my ability to realise my dreams. I invite you to continue to stay tuned and see what happens here over the next 1, 3 and 5 years.

Ok. So let's do it.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I'm happy Obama will be president in a few hours from now



Wow. Kinda feeling ecstatic tonight. Been reading the news about the US election, and getting very excited.

Whilst having Obama as president doesn't necessarily mean huge changes for the better in US policy (such the entire defence budget being redirected towards peaceful solutions / humanitarian projects / environmental protection), it does give me hope.

For me, it's not the political aspect of the US elections that excites me, it's the human aspect. I admit to knowing nothing about US politics. I don't know the difference between the republicans and the democrats - I couldn't even tell you which George Bush is. That's how interested in US politics I am.

But I do know that John McCain tends to go on about the war. And he's 72. And if he dies in office, Palin would be president - how scary is that?!

So why do I want Obama to be president? For one thing, he's inspiring. Have you heard him speak? He's a fantastic motivational speaker. He knows how to tell stories. He knows how to engage with his audience. How to get them on board. How to get them laughing with him - as opposed to at him.

I'm genuinely inspired by Obama to be all that I can be. He proves that if you're a decent person, if you have passion and belief, and if you try hard enough, if you never give up, you can achieve the 'impossible', regardless of what social norms suggest.

We need people like him in the headlines.

Oh, and did you know, he's good news for tourism in Japan too?

I'm also excited by the buzz. Check out what's happening on Twitter!

(I was shocked when I saw that McCain's campaign crewhaven't updated his Twitter status for almost ten days. Mind you, he only had about 5000 followers. Incidentally, Obama, with 114,143, is the world's No.1 Twitterer in terms of followers- i wonder if he has it update his Facebook status too?)

We need a US president who knows how to update their Twitter status, and make use of the new media in general.

I'm also attracted by his efforts to not conduct negative campaigning (although I am aware that a significant proportion of his adverts have included some negativity). Positive is the way forward. Yay positivity!




I'm buzzing for other reasons too. Tonight I was contacted by the editor of a pretend magazine in Australia, and asked to write another story for them. I say 'pretend' because it's only sent to about 7000 members of a penpal organisation - it's not available in the shops. Nonetheless, I love having my stories published - this will be the sixth in a series; I think I'll write about last year's trip halfway around the world in 28 days.

I've also just taken delivery of my first ever set of professionally printed postcards, thus realising a dream I have had for some 15 years. These aren't for retail purposes though - I got a batch of 60 as a trial, to see how my photos look in postcard format. Perhaps I'm biased, but I like them a lot.

Actually, I'm thrilled!

This encourages me to move forward with 'doing' something with some of my better shots. I know I'm no professional, and in fact it's no dream of mine to become a professional either. Professional photography is tough, and I think the pressures involved rob the photographer of the freedom to shoot as they please, as amateurs can.

Nonetheless, I'm thinking that perhaps these images can play an important role in helping us achieve one of our goals: the establishment of a perpetual charitable fund. I could decide that any profits derived from the sale of any of my photographic products be placed in a bank account that we set aside for such a charity.

Hhmm, I like that idea. Yeah, i like it a lot. Mmm, it feels like the missing link. This gives me a real reason to pursue my photography. Makes it into a worthy cause, over and above making me (and possibly others) happy.

I like the idea of having multiple revenue streams. This can be one that is specifically for charity, complimenting our full time incomes, our monthly Amway income, teaching work, advertising on TGW, and ad-hoc translation jobs.

Then there's ThreeSeeds too, our online publishing company. The website is all there, ready to go, but has been neglected in the face of the big changes that all three of us partners have experienced over the past few months. Must do something with that. Ha... if only I felt able to make the time for it!

Anyway, it's late, and I must sleep. Up at 7am for the first of the week's three jogs! Then work, and then I think in the evening we're being taught Moroccan style cooking by a pro chef - perhaps I can extend my repertoire so that it goes beyond Wok Bread, miso soup and banana cake!

I look forward to reading the headlines in the morning :-)

[EDIT: Ok, so I know who are Democrats and who are Republicans now. And I'm delighted to see that we now have a President Obama :-)  ]

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From the train: Nuclear Drivers and Being the Change



I'm on the train back to Sheffield. It's been a pretty easy journey, relaxing. For the first leg I was on a rail-relacement bus. I sat at the front as I often do on buses, provided they have seat-belts. Next to me was a chap in his 40s. Pretty scruffy, stinking of cigarettes.

"This bus journey is costing me £400" he said to the driver, clearly pretty pissed off. "I'm a truckie - got a load of nuclear waste to take to Germany tonight, have to be at Dover by 10pm. I'm gonna miss that ferry because of these engineering works - you have no idea how much trouble that's gonna cause. They have to make special allowances for me, have to make sure I'm on the deck - it's a nuclear load you know"

The bus driver mumbled something about the train company working to upgrade the track.

"Yeah, well, it's just not good enough. I'm gonna make sure this rail company gets all the bad press it deserves."

Well, that'll certainly help, won't it?

Things were quiet after that. Just the guy at Stockport who seemed suicidal in a manic kind of way. Thankfully he didn't jump in front of the train - just banged repeatedly on the door until it opened.

I've been reading more of the Be The Change. I tell you, if you have any dreams of starting any kind of movement or company to bring about positive change, this book is a must. It is so inspiring. You can't help but feel "Why not me?" after reading this book.

The other message that comes out of it's butterfly-adorned pages is that it is vital to follow your passion. You also need to have a laser-like focus; seek advice as widely as possible; have a plan that is set and followed, yet flexible; get a great team around you.
If you have these things, you can't fail in whatever you do.

I'm struck by what these people have achieved. They have touched the lives of billions. They are incredible - and yet at the same time they are no different from Joe Bloggs. Indeed, it's that message that is one of the loudest. These folks don't have buckets of money, they aren't nuclear physicists, they don't necessarily have any clear idea of what they want to do at the outset - but they do find their passion, and follow it.

Mind you, if I look around, I see people like that everywhere, doing amazing things (be they small or big amazing things) on a daily basis, making a difference. I bet if I interviewed a sample of my friends and acquaintances (and mumblers) I'd be able to fill a book that was just as inspiring, in its own way.

All of this keeps on leading me back to my new life with *Twinkle*. Just can't get her out of my head. This new partnership excites me so much. Scares me too. So much change, so much opportunity - am I going to be brave enough to step outside of my comfort zone and follow my heart? It would be far easier to just settle for something that doesn't stretch me too much, but I think long term that would be quite painful.

Ho hum.

Just pulling into Sheffield Station, must dash.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sophie Mei in the semi-final of Britain's Got Talent

Shout out to all those TV owners resident in the UK:

On Monday night at 9pm on ITV1, Sophie Mei, daughter of a good friend of mine here in Sheffield, will be one of 8 performers in the first live semi-final of Britain's Got Talent.

She's made it through to the final 40 - out of 100,000 hopefuls.

Selection for the final is based on audience votes ...so you know what to do!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Spring, Surveillance and coaching course call one

It's been a great day today. First off, it was the beginning of Warm Spring. You could feel it brewing over the weekend with the muggy rain. It's been an astonishing 72 hours, with a complete transformation of the trees in the churchyard opposite my house - just like that! Like a switch being flicked! This really makes me happy. 

After a late start following a late night studying I had a couple of classes in which I did pretty appallingly, due to not putting enough work in recently. It's ok though, I know what I need to do, and I'll do it, and everything will turn out great.

I'm about 10,000 words into my 7000 word dissertation. Actually enjoying writing that now! I think about half of what I write will end up as appendixes. Only two chapters to go.



Tonight I popped over to the university drama studio to take some publicity shots for a new play being performed by Theatre Two Point Oh, Surveillance (a CILASS funded project). It's being produced (directed? What's the difference?!) by a fellow CILASS Student Ambassador (Tom), and stars Laura whose photo I posted a few days back with that great smile of hers (and again, below, without the smile). What an amazing thing they are doing... talk about team building. After the performance I lurked backstage to edit the photos, a process that took about 45 minutes. It was fascinating, as whilst I clicked away in Lightroom I couldn't help but listen to the stage intercom, thus overhearing the team meeting. It reminded me of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, following the fortunes of a group of dedicated individuals who come together to do something incredible. There's drama and tension along the way, but the ultimate result is a great show and a wealth of character-building  experience.


Once home tonight I attended my first ever group coaching session, as run by TSI, the coaching company that I mumbled about a few weeks back (It took the form of a small group conference call). It was good. Obviously, I'm not going to (and never will) divulge any personal information about my coursemates, but just to say it's a very diverse group with some incredible people who have gone through very tough times, but are determined to change their lives for the better. It's a really positive environment, and the timing is just perfect. The coming weeks will see huge changes for me, with several important decisions needed. Having this resource to call upon will help a lot.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes for me once we get started properly next week.

I'd like to thank those of you who have contacted me with post-grad ideas. You've been tremendously helpful. Every day has seen me feeling increasingly grateful that I was not given the job I wanted. I'm not saying that that job (as CIR on the JET scheme) would not have been  a good thing - such a position offers incredible opportunities and I believe I would have been a fool to say no had I been accepted - but thinking about who I really am, and where my heart lies, well, it just doesn't fit.   

It's scary though - I'm really feeling challenged to think hard about where my passions lie, and being dared to invest in turning them into a tangible opportunity. I'm looking at taking a part-time position, enabling me to pay the rent whilst devoting a significant amount of time in starting my own business, and supporting *Twinkle* in hers. 

We'll see. The domain name is registered at least! 

Best get to bed anyway. Long day of writing tomorrow. I need to get this dissertation finished asap as I still have a tonne of stuff to conclude before my student status expires!

xxx

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Monday, April 14, 2008

My Life Purpose


One benefit of committing the story of one’s life to a blog powered by Google, hosted by some other company and then sent to you by email (and then burnt to DVD) is that when one turns 90, the chances are there will still be a copy of it somewhere. Why should that be important? I’d like to be able to look back on my life at the age of 90 and see if I can draw lines between developments in my thoughts, feelings and decisions early on in life (now) and later occurrences.

For many years, I kept *real* diaries. I have about 49 of them in a big box that will soon be sailing to Japan. They span some 15 years of my life from the age of about 12. There’s only one copy of them, and should the boat go down, they will go down too.

I pretty much stopped writing my *real* diary when I met *Twinkle*, who became the one I talked to about things that mattered. As time has passed, so I’ve grown more confident about writing about my feelings here on the Internet, which has been especially useful this past year with those friends who are happy to talk about such things being some distance away. It took me a while to develop the confidence to open up, and I know that without the inner work, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only though learning to trust my heart / spirit that I can feel confident in what I write. Confident in that I am being honest with myself (as opposed to confident in my being ‘right’, a view I don’t subscribe to. How can I be ‘right’ when things have no intrinsic ‘rightness’? Don’t they only have the rightness or wrongness we as individuals choose to assign to them?).
So there’s my long-winded preamble about why I’m writing this.

Things have been happening in my life this week. Well, actually, it’s more a case of things have always been happening all my life, but I feel that now is a critical period, like some kind of climax. There’s all these things that are happening. I feel like there’s some role being shaped for me, but I have no idea what it is. I’m getting this message that I have some kind of responsibility to do something. But not just an everyday something, but a something that is going to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is.

You know there’s that quote of Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t say I can recall ever hearing it before this week, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. It was on a website I stumbled across the other day in bold letters. Then, it popped up on an audiobook I was listening too (quite the highlight actually - if you’re after self-development books give Brian Tracy a miss!), then the other night I was suddenly moved to pick a book off my shelf that had been there since January, untouched. It’s called “Be the change”, and is a product of the organisation of the same name, based in my second home town of Bristol. There on the front page is the quote by Gandhi.

Then there was the person I met in the pub the other night. Well, I say ‘met’. All I actually did was shake his hand and then talk to someone else on the other side of the table for 20 minutes, but the following day I received an email from his partner (my good friend) passing on a message for me, talking about my future. It was a reflection of the feelings I am writing about here.

Then there was that person who warned me, “Don’t hide behind *Twinkle’s* success”. Now that was a well-placed kick up the backside, and a very timely one at that. Likewise, I can’t hide behind the name of any company or government I might work for in the short term. I might want to, and no doubt I will do so at times due to my ego demanding a stroke, but it will be fatal if I subscribe to such a practice long term.

It’s not these superficial happenings that are overwhelming me though, it’s this feeling that growing inside me that I have a responsibility to use the immense fortune that I have to make a difference. I’m not talking any financial fortune, I’m talking being born in the UK in the late 20th century to loving parents who sent me to a Steiner School, and have always supported me emotionally in all that I have ever chosen to do. In having loving siblings and friends who share my positive outlook upon life and also believe that we can do great things.

Sometimes, the feeling is positively palpable. Like tonight. I had to lie down on my bed and hide under my duvet, hugging my teddy as I felt all these things happening, all this energy surrounding me (if only I could channel it into pressing the appropriate keys on my Macbook to write a dissertation on NGOs in Japan!). I’ve been reading these incredibly inspiring stories in the Be The Change book about individuals who have done the most amazing things and are changing lives. In some cases, just a few lives, and in other cases, many. There’s no fundamental difference between these people and anyone else, except that they have made a decision to make things happen, and then acted. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but that is not important when one first embarks upon a project.

So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t think the time is right to act yet as I need more clarity, and it may be a case of waiting some years before I do know. That’s not to say that I have to “wait until everything is in place” - the biggest excuse in the book that, things will never be ‘just right’! But I do know that it’s vital that I continue to study, study my passions, study others, study those things in life that present themselves to me with a label on saying “study me” (sometimes need an ultraviolet light to see the writing though).

I also know that living in accordance with what my heart tells me is right, is working. It must be almost a year now since I started that ‘experiment’, and the results in terms of being at ease with decisions made, not attaching importance to the subjective opinions of others who are acting out of a perceived necessity for defensiveness, and my ability to love others for who they, are wonderful to experience.

It’s pretty difficult for me to tell even a white lie now. Although I did the other day, first time in a very long time. I can’t remember exactly where I was. It was somewhere on campus, I remember that, and it was someone who I didn’t know too well, and they asked me an awkward question. I told them the answer they wanted to hear, and boy oh boy did I feel bad. I almost burst out laughing I was so amused by my inability to lie. If the person had known me they’d have spotted it right away, but they didn’t.

In a way I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the publishing company we are establishing is essentially a social enterprise, helping others to help themselves without heavy emphasis on profit. If my energy is directed into that, I can feel happy knowing that I am doing a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get the Jet job. If I do I know I’m going to have to use every opportunity within that to make myself a better person, in order that I can make things happen in an area where my true passions lie in the future.

If I don't get it, that’s great too as it means that there’s some other exciting path waiting for me.


So, 90-year-old Joseph, do the lines join up?

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Norwegian Wood reaches a close

I had a really enjoyable morning today. So enjoyable in fact, that I never really moved on. I'm still there, in this morning, and in Japan.

Anyone who'd seen me wouldn't have thought I was in Japan. They would have thought I was on my knees in the garden, weeding, covered in mud, getting absolutely drenched by the pouring rain. It was that kind of rain that induces surrender after just a couple of minutes. You're out there attempting to stay semi-dry, trying to make your jacket reach to your ankles, but it's no use. You're getting wetter and wetter, trousers becoming sodden, drips running down your bum, until finally you cast aside the scowl, and burst out laughing, "I couldn't get any wetter if I tried!".

I only gave my capitulation a moment's thought, briefly looking up from the wood-chip path I was clearing and across the yard to the house. I laughed with surprise at the density of the great globules of water that filled the air. A second later, and my eyes were back on the path, my hands, stained red in new leather gloves forced their way under the mat of bark and roots, prizing it from the black plastic strip below.

But as I said, I wasn't there. My weeding was almost unconscious - I was in Japan. I was in Tokyo, following the fortunes of Toru Watanabe as his partner in Kyoto, Naoko, became increasingly ill. I became emotionally involved as Reiko told the horrendous story of how she came to be hospitalised, and I was delighted and enchanted by Midori Kobayashi, a girl I felt I'd known for a long time. I was shocked when news came through of the death, and had to stop for a moment, squatting there in sadness, lost in the rain.

I don't think I've read more than 5 novels in the past 15 years. Perhaps that goes some way towards explaining why I became so involved in Murakami's Norwegian Wood . I've long shied away from it for the simple somewhat silly reason that it was popular. Now I've read it, I feel it has every right to be popular. It's wonderful.

Another reason I've not read it until now is that it's fiction.
'I don't have time for fiction, I only have time for books I can learn from'.
That's what I used to think, but recently, I've been reconsidering. If I think of the few novels that I have read in the past few years, each one takes the form of a vast collection of images, of meanings, of emotions, of relationships. Each one has played an important part in my making sense of certain changes in my life. Given me comfort, offered me advice - just as much as any friend or non-fiction book has done.

And today, listening to Reiko advising Watanabe on how to deal with his relationship dilemma, it struck me how familiar her words were. Don't take life so seriously. Trust. Believe in yourself. If you are being true to yourself, you have nothing to fear.

And Watanabe himself - what an amazing person. To have such insight and awareness at such a young age; incredible. A really likeable, genuine and trustworthy guy, one that were I that way inclined I too might well fall in love with. Meeting someone like that is truly inspiring; we need people like him.

Death appears throughout the novel, and this got me thinking again about what it means to me - you may recall that I was 'studying' death last time I was here on the Welsh Garden Project. One thing I picked up on was that no matter how expected death is, one cannot stop those intense feelings of sadness that accompany the loss of a loved one. If death occurs suddenly and unexpectedly however, the shock can be devastating, moving way beyond any normal sadness and plunging one into a black pit where everyday life ceases to matter. It's something I don't think any amount of thinking can prepare you for.

Sometimes I think about what it will be like when someone close to me dies. I imagine life without that person, and sure enough, the feeling of loss and sadness is all encompassing. I know I'll get through it, but it will be very hard.

This makes me think even more, it is so important that I am happy today, that I am grateful for all I have, that I make sure that those around me know just how much they mean to me (*Twinkle* alone has been the recipient of over 2200 of my emails since I left Japan last summer, that's about one every 2.5 hours ever since I sailed from Osaka!).

Initially, I was a bit shocked by the (multiple) graphic sex scenes. I wasn't expecting them. But then, they were described in such a matter-of-fact tone by the superb narrator, and they were such accurate descriptions of what it really is like to sleep with someone, how people behave, that they ceased to be anything out of the ordinary, and made these relationships all the more real. I didn't dwell on them though. I miss *twinkle's* warmth enough as it is.

Norwegian Wood is the second of Murakami's novels I've read, the first being the superb 'Kafka on the Shore'. I've since added 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' to My Next Listen on Audible, so I'll be able to download that in a couple of weeks. (Check out the author's official website here. (I've just kept it on in the background as I like the music!). 

It's now bedtime, and although I came in from the garden some ten hours ago, somehow, a part of me in still there, hands tearing at the weeds in the wood-chip path, rain falling all around, and my head lost in Toru's vivid world so far away.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Family of East Asian Studies and the Opinion of Others

About a week ago, my case study "Making Students Matter: The Family of East Asian Studies" was published on a new section of the University web site.



Case Studies Project overview

The Case Studies project aims to create a library of examples of good practice in teaching, highlighting success stories in order that academic staff across all departments can benefit and learn from one another. In such a large organisation several departments might be faced with the same challenge (such as, 'how can we effectively teach statistics?"), with each department struggling on its own to find suitable solution. If one of those departments did then come up with some new whizzbanging wopaloobop technique, the chances are they would not be aware that other departments might also benefit from this, or, they may be hesitant to approach others and say "We've found the answer! You should do what we're doing!".

This is where the Case Studies project comes in. It seeks out examples of excellence, and actively promotes them to the wider community in order that all can benefit from the experience.

Whilst individual case studies may initially seem to be subject-specific, they often have the potential to contain valuable lessons for a wide variety of departments. As is the case, with the SEAS case!

In my study I basically discuss something that I think has played a major part in making my experience at the School of East Asian Studies such a good one. I quote:
Joseph Tame, a final-year student reading for a BA in Japanese Studies at the School of East Asian Studies, found his learning experience greatly enhanced by the department’s familial atmosphere. From first contact with the dedicated, friendly office staff, through to his final semester six years later, he was made to feel that students genuinely mattered thanks to a culture of care and respect promoted on a daily basis through the attitudes and actions of all staff and lecturers.

My article then goes on to describe in detail the little things that staff do to help promote this community atmosphere, which plays a big part in making my learning experience the fantastic thing it is.

Brown-noser

On reading that article, one of my classmates emailed me: "You know, you could be accused of being a complete sycophant". (I looked the word up in the dictionary (!) and found it to mean a yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer,suck, suck-up).

Well, yes, they are right. I could. In fact, some people already probably think of me as such. But I would say that if giving someone positive feedback for something amazing that they have done requires that one be labelled a sycophant, I would rather be labelled as such than not give that feedback.

I asked my friend, "Can you imagine what it would be like if we never received anything but negative feedback from our tutors when our homework was returned to us? Imagine how demoralising that would be!"

And yet, in a way, that's exactly the situation that many staff are in. I don't know about SEAS itself, but I do know from personal experience that in some departments there is so little positive feedback received by staff that even the slightest compliment regarding their efforts results in astonishing gushes of gratitude, with comments like "That really made my day!" "All we ever get usually is complaints!" "I just can't stop smiling!" "I'll pass it on to all staff in the department!".

So whether it's an individual, a department, or an entire organisation that has been striving to do something good for you, I feel its really important to express your gratitude. Gratitude is a motivating force, leading to a desire to continue to do well (or even better). Whilst criticism may reap short-term results, long term it can have devastating effects. I am sure that if our teachers had decided to just focus on when we got things wrong, there would be far fewer than 17 of us remaining on our course.

Finally, in response to the idea that I may be ridiculed or looked down upon in some way for highlighting the wonderful attitude of SEAS staff, I recalled the quote

"Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least" (Goethe)

...And in this case (as in many cases) what others think of me matters far less than the staff being recognised for their work. 

...And in any case, if someone was to be so cynical as to believe me to be a sycophant (or lickspittle for that matter), I think I would be something of a fool to attach any importance to their opinion.

Righty ho, on with the show.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Organic vegetables, Nelson Mandela, and your own thought processes

Ha. It's another of those nights. Those nights when I go to bed, but feel so excited about everything and nothing that I have to get up again.

Part of it's the music, I know. I'm listening to Everything But the Girl - Walking Wounded. One of the few CDs I ever owned. Bought it in Switzerland I think, Interlaken. That was before I knew any Japanese. I remember that as the CD case has a bit of Japanese on it, and it was only a few years after I'd bought it that I realised what it said (Eee bee tee jee = EBTG). It's truly wonderful how music can take you back in time to a place, to a feeling, to a state of mind. Listening to this and looking at my swiss photos sees me up that Alp in 1997. Caw, that part of the world is staggeringly beautiful. I do hope that *Twinkle* and I end up back there one day (by that I mean that I hope that that remains one of our goals).

My weekly Organic Vegee box from Beanies

Doesn't that fruit and veg look delicious?! I love organic vegees so much, more than any form of processed food - including Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. The taste of a fresh organic salad is, according to the interaction between my taste buds and mind, the most delicious taste there is. The taste of this pile of fruit and veg could only be surpassed by an identical box of produce that I'd grown myself. It will happen.

I had a difficult day yesterday. I was feeling troubled by Nelson Mandela's treatment having finished his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. What an incredible story. Certainly puts things into perspective. I think of his 27 years of incarceration, and of the appalling hardships endured by black South Africans under Apartheid, and then I think of complaints that I or my friends might have about noisy neighbours, our language course, or what so-and-so said... and I am reminded how spoilt we are. We have so much to be grateful for. Every single day.

Thank
.

You
.

When I reached the part of the book where he described his release I paused and paid a visit to You Tube, where I observed the same scene from outside of his body. Having just gained an insight into what had led to that moment I found it to be incredibly moving. I wiped the tears away, and bang! I was back there. Not South Africa, but our lounge, in front of the TV. It was the 11th of February 1990; I was 12 years old. ...I can vividly recall watching that live news report on the BBC. I'd heard of Nelson Mandela and Apartheid, and I remember being excited, and so happy, running around the dining room and the lounge.

It was cold outside.

Sun shines down beyond the Arts Tower

I went to give blood today. Unfortunately due to my history of epilepsy, I'm unable to be a donor until 2011, and was actually advised to never give blood. It's not that my blood poses a risk to others, it's that giving blood poses a risk to me in that it could trigger a seizure.

The nurses were very good about it - they could see I was upset. In fact, they treated me even more nicely after that, insisting that I go and sit down and have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

So, I'll just have to make do with saving people when I die instead :-) ...and keep on buying cakes all week from the Bone Marrow Society. (Bloomin' good cakes too).

I was pretty surprised by how many people were there. It was like discovering a whole hidden culture of Good Samaritans. How come I had never tried to donate blood before?



Been missing *Twinkle* a lot this week. In a way I wish I could bottle this experience, and keep it as a reminder for future years when we are 'always' together, to ensure that I don't get complacent, to ensure that I stay concious of how fortunate we are (will be) to be able to share our lives with one another.



I feel I've become more aware of our differences this year. Having so much space enables one to step back and think about how differently one sees some things. That's not a bad thing at all. I see her as my teacher, thus the more differing perspectives, the more we can both learn (I would add that I don't think that the differences would be so welcome if there was not an underlying meeting of spirit!).

I'm grateful that over the past year I have been encouraged to explore the idea that there is no right and wrong - there is only differing perceptions of 'reality'. This proves to be especially helpful in situations where social norms would normally dictate that conflict was the appropriate response. With there being no 'right' and no 'wrong' there is no impulse to convince the other that one is 'right'. One can have a completely different opinion from someone else, and yet accept that they are just as 'right' as you. After all, the 'thing', whatever it is, just is. It has no implicit meaning, it only has the meaning that we assign to it.

This way of thinking has really helped me to back down and accept *Twinkle*'s way of thinking without my pride getting in the way. I've not quite got it down to a fine art yet though - far from it! But, being aware is the first important step, and I'm glad to have taken that.

Changing the subject, this past week I've been marvelling at the brain's ability to assign meaning to things I see. I've been playing a little game whereby I look at something, and then observe my thought process as meaning is assigned. Of course normally it happens to fast that we barely notice (you look at a traffic light, and before the you know it, you know it's a traffic light!), but you can slow it down. One method is to turn the lights off so the room is pretty dim, then look around until you make out a shape. You can actually see you brain sorting through an amazingly comprehensive database of images, experiences, feelings, meanings! Absolutely amazing (and we think Google is clever...!). Another way to set yourself up for this experiment is to reduce the exposure on a bunch of photos, so the subjects are barely visible. Or, next time you meet someone whom you know you recognise but can't actually place or name, watch your brain sift through your memory bank in a bid to come up with a match of sorts.

Ahh, the pleasure of introspection!

Well, I'd best be off to bed. Up early tomorrow, and my list of things to do is almost as long as my nose :-)

Mush love xxx

p.s. I want this girl's voice.

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