I was listening to Desert Island Discs this morning and the castaway Barbara Hulanicki, of Biba fame, spoke of a memory of playing a record of Chopin with her father, selecting the needle for the record, taking the record out of its cover, placing it on the turntable…
It struck me then, that with the immediacy of music now available at the push of a button, or an iPod shuffle, often experienced alone through the world of earphones, we have sacrificed something else… shared ritual and memory.
I am old enough to remember vinyl. The consensus about the record to be played. Sitting down to listen, maybe sing along. I spent hours that way. Now everyone is plugged into their own device, listening to their own thing. I never thought I would miss vinyl, not in the beginning, in the brave new world of the Walkman and then the CD. But I do. I miss the needle lowering onto the record, the shared experience, the crackle and the bump bump bump at the end when it hits the final groove.
I do miss all that.
There’s a storm surge as I write, but there are also surges of love, for example.
At the weekend I saw a very, very small child walking down the road with what I took to be a grandparent. They stuck out because they were walking so slowly, because the child was so very small. The grandparent paced her steps to suit. It made me stop and look because it’s not what you see often, on the street. Children just starting to walk are strapped down, front-facing pushed along at buggy speed – adult pace.
Then the grandparent stopped and dropped down on to her haunches. She then produced a handkerchief and dabbed the child’s nose. I never saw such attention to detail, so much care and concern given, so much love in wiping a nose. And then they carried on walking very, very slowly down the street.
It’s those moments that make life seem real. I was thinking this week that the trees have hung onto their leaves for a long time this year. The pavement the child and grandparent and myself were walking down was thick with them. I suppose today’s surging wind and rain will account for the yellowing remainder of them, still hanging on.
I took this earlier this year in Chicago. I can’t think why I didn’t post it before now.
What with the huge Picasso sculpture a few blocks away, the Windy City really knows how to rock its public art.
I’ve tried doing Stoic week and I can conclude there is way to go before I am a real Stoic. I can do some of it, but my big stumbling block is non-attachment to outcomes, particularly in regard to those outcomes we can’t control… As the Alcoholics Anon Serenity prayer says:
I really get attached to outcomes – in fact my whole working life is about them – and it’s not always knowing the difference between those that I can control, and those that I can’t that regularly struggle with.
You see, what if, I, on my own can’t control an outcome… but if I find enough like-minded individuals and get together with them – perhaps we can. I realise I now sound like Barack Obama’s first presidential election campaign, and maybe that’s my trouble. I can’t quite see my limitations… well not at least until I’ve run into them. Head first usually. And when that happens and I am rubbing my head, then I usually repeat my other maxims for life (to myself).
And then, finally…
And then, I lie down, light a cigar and have a glass of wine. So maybe, just maybe, I too am a little Stoic round the edges. Or maybe it’s just that I’m a plain stubborn, hardhead. Who knows.
(I’ve been so busy trying to be Stoic this week, that I am quite behind on things I need to write about. First there is the Isa Muazu case and immigration to the UK in general. In true Stoic style I am waiting until my emotions settle before I embark on that post, and I am hoping the Home Secretary will be called to answer questions about his failed and inhumane deportation tomorrow in the House of Commons which may enlighten my own writing process – although I doubt it. Then there are the two films I saw this week which mixed profundity and pain with kitsch moments and conversation that don’t say the half of it – and ain’t that just about the size of real life? And finally, there was a beautiful moment of connection I witnessed this afternoon that I am determined shall not be lost to the busyness of existence and would like to reflect on here.)
Oh, and there is a new blog to be revealed as this one is now bulging at the seams.
Keep up at the back.
It's 4am and I am awake in a hotel room in Hong Kong. Gritty eyes, dry mouth, the mild, passing discomfort and weariness of travel. But this is not why I am awake.
Beside myself with rage and despair I check Twitter and Facebook for news of Isa Muazu and the campaign which is involving so many small committed groups. It's 8pm yesterday for Isa.
Police clash with early hour protest outside Heathrow detention centre over hunger-striker deportation row
Police clash with dawn siege at Heathrow migrant jail over hunger-striker deportation row
Updated Press Release – 7.20am -29 November 2013
Supporters of Nigerian hunger-striker Isa Muazu are blocking access to Harmondsworth detention centre (outside Heathrow) to stop his deportation scheduled for 8 am. A man super-glued his hand to the detention centre main gate at 4am, flanked by a crowd of 15 steely campaigners.
To bring you…
HORSES. Giant ones.
These were finished today in Scotland. I MUST go. Utterly magnificent.
As I posted yesterday, it’s Stoic Week this week and I am taking part.
I came to the project late in the day and just managed to limbo under the closing registration bar to participate. Yesterday morning I listened to the audio provided and completed the exercise. By the end of the day (which was 10 pm) it was too late to do the evening audio.
And yet… I still found the considerations from the morning useful to manage the emotions that arose during a gruelling evening at work. I know I am not involved in hard labour in the classroom, but if you enter into the teacher – learner contract with a true heart and authenticity of spirit, it is hard. Last night someone displayed a set of characteristics that have been lurking underneath for a while. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I had been royally skewered. Of course, there are those that say one thing to your face and do another in life fairly often, it’s just that I am not familiar with those kind of people in my life and that’s a blessing. So it all came as a bit of a shock, naive as I can be.
Oh well, the Stoic in me said… this event is beyond your control…
And another little voice said, ‘Let it come, let it go’. So I did. For once, the voices in my head were in total agreement. Move on.
So, I made a cup of lavender tea, which was delicious and went to bed and slept pretty well on the whole.
Tomorrow, how I coped watching a Hollywood blockbuster, certain Oscar-winning movie, in a Stoic frame of mind.
I was tempted to put an exclamation mark on that title above, but I don’t think it’s a form of punctuation the Roman Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius would have gone in for themselves (had the exclamation mark even been invented back then).
I didn’t know it was Stoic Week until I heard it on the radio this morning, but I thought it would make a change from the usual run of Novembery things. As it turns out, some of the practice of Stoicism is rooted in mindfulness, which I try to incorporate in my day anyway (although never enough as it turns out).
Anyway, if you are interested, or want to join in, the link to the University of Exeter blog is here. If you want to be part of the research, you have to take the ratings questionnaires before midnight tonight. If you don’t want to go the whole hog (and I don’t think a Stoic would) then it’s still worth a visit for some interesting ideas.
I’ll report back tomorrow *if I remember* but if I am in the spiritual state of this man, then you’ll be bound to hear more from me.