Monday, July 27, 2015

The Silly Season?

Have you noticed how, almost imperceptibly, we've slipped into The Silly Season?

The roads are quieter in the morning . . . the school-run has stopped.
People are often hard to contact . . . they're away on holiday.  
There's no daily reporting from Parliament . . . it's in recess.
To compensate for this lack, sport rises to the occasion . . .  and the news is all about golf, tennis and cricket.

But I sometimes wonder if The Silly Season isn't an inaccurate name for a time with so much potential.
Wouldn't The Pregnant Pause be more appropriate?

Just think about it for a moment.
This period of mid-summer is a pause between the vibrant thrust of spring and the slow decline of autumn.  It's pregnant because it's about to deliver all the riches of autumn . . . the harvest, the fruits, the splendour of the autumnal colouring.

In academic terms, the school year, which started last September, is about to deliver its culminating exam results.  These seeds of success will be carried forward by the students and planted in the soil of the new school year.

But how does this period relate to the rest of us?
It's undoubtably a pause, but it's also a meaningful pause . . . a time in which past ideas, good and bad, are ripening and coming to fruition.

Have you noticed how we use the term 'field' to provide the setting for all forms of human activity . . . the field of science, the field of sport, the field of medicine?
It's as though we're unconsciously acknowledging that everything we do has its natural cycle, its seed-time and its harvest.

As summer draws to a close we reap the harvest of those good and bad ideas.  Surely it's no mere coincidence that both World Wars started during his critical eight-week period?  Not only that, atomic bombs were dropped on on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second week in August, and who could forget that the Twin Towers fell to the ground on September 11th.

In the next few weeks, as we sunbathe on the beach or watch the cricket, it's worth remembering that we're simultaneously conceiving the ideas that will form next season's seeds.
Will they be fertile seeds of peace and prosperity, seeds that will germinate and flourish in the fields of the future?

Who knows.  In the field of economics we could well be in for a surprise.  Prosperity, as we perceive it, could be changing.
May I strongly recommend a recent article by Paul Mason in 'The Guardian'.
Click here to discover how our current pregnant pause could give birth to the postcapitalist era.

A Silly Season .  . . ?
No, but we can all do with some light relief . . . I don't suppose you'd happen to know the latest score at the Test Match . . . ?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Seed

A seed lie in my hand, shrivelled and lined,
Such humble home for cosmic mystery.
Yet, deep within this scrap of dust we find
The essence of a world.  Of limits free
It can extend its scope to cedar's span,
Or etch the subtle beauties of a rose.
But, analyse this seed, it yields no plan.
Where wait the colours that the artist knows?
Where lurks the scent that rides the Summer breeze?
Are they but whispers waiting on a breath
Whose potent magic activates and frees
This wrinkled granule from the dreams of death?
Know you, small seed, the seed that knows us all,
Still point of our creation and recall?

Monday, July 13, 2015


I wonder if you heard the news-item that caught my attention last week?

A scientist was being asked about the latest developments in robot technology.  They had, he told the interviewer, progressed from designing robotic pets, robots intended for children who were unable to have an animal, to an even more subtle form of artificial intelligence.

This latest achievement was a robot designed to provide care and companionship for the elderly living on their own.

Companion robots, it seemed, had been programmed to carry out tasks around the home and, even more surprisingly, to respond to any emotional needs with sympathetic blinks, nods and pats.

What, I found myself wondering, is an anxious, elderly human supposed to derive from such artificial comfort?
Is it better than nothing . . . ?
Perhaps . . . but I find the concept chilling rather than heart-warming.

Do you know what that news-item also made me think of?
It reminded me of the emoticons used so liberally on social media . . . robotic emotions designed to manipulate our feelings.

It also made me ponder on the whole question of social media.
May I share my thoughts with you?

When we go on Facebook, for instance,who is it that you and I are presenting?

Could it be that the person we're putting forward isn't necessarily the person we're inwardly feeling?
Are we, perhaps, offering a token emoticon?  A projection from the head rather than from the heart.
What we're declaring to unseen, unknown readers may be very different to what we're inwardly admitting to ourselves.
And how are the Facebook readers to know the difference?

When a group of us meet together physically, all five senses are brought into action.
It's very apparent if someone is feeling unhappy or lonely.
The tone of a person's voice will often convey a very different message to the words they're using.  Whilst another person's posture might indicate a dejection not apparent in their comments.

And what if someone is distressed and doesn't want to speak?
Isn't that a  moment for the touch of an outstretched hand . . .  not an emoticon?

Emoticons are powerful in conjuring up an emotional response, but, whilst one might symbolise laughter, what could possibly compensate for the infectious, heart-warming quality of the real thing?
Just look at this picture for a moment and, even without hearing the chuckles, I defy you not to smile in response!

Then there's something else.   Facebook, as you'll know, frequently offers participants the opportunity to register approval, or disapproval, by means of a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  Which, on the face of it, is fine.

But is life really so simple . . . so black-and-white?
Aren't there times when we might well 'like' the thing in question, but still harbour a few misgivings?  On the other hand, to register an unqualified 'dislike' would be to banish an offering that might have much to redeem it.

But, wait a moment . . .  have you noticed an irony in all this?
Here I am, carping about online communication whilst using the very same medium to express my own feelings!

I admit it . . . you're fully entitled to give me an
unqualified thumbs down!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dancing into the future . . .

Wouldn't you agree that Greece, a country that has bequeathed so much to the western world, deserves all the support and appreciation we can muster?

Then please join with me in watching a moving and highly unusual Athenian celebration.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a heralding event than a celebration.
Let me explain.

Over the past few years, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has been creating a magnificent new Cultural Centre at Delta Falirou in Athens.  The Centre aims to open in 2016, and is the Foundation's gift to the Greek state.

Designed to provide a home for the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece and a large public park, the Centre, when complete, will be a new wonder of the modern world.

But Athenians haven't had to wait until 2016 to witness what the site can produce by way of talent and ingenuity.

On the 25th June last year, under the baton of its Conductor and Artistic Director, Myron Michailidis, the Greek National Opera Orchestra gathered on the foundations of its new home to perform at sundown.

The music chosen for the occasion was 'The Planets Suite' by Gustav Holtz.

As the music swelled out over the Athens roof-tops, and the sun slowly set, ten large construction cranes, conspicuously situated on a newly-created artificial hill, proved that their creative talents weren't limited to construction.  The played a starring, artistic role.

Moving with a stately grace, they slowly 'danced' to Renato Zanell's innovative choreography.

Dancing cranes, dipping and swaying to the music, both heralded and celebrated the new Athenian Centre which, in two years' time, would be standing where they were standing.

Click here to watch them, and see how they wrap the present crisis in a protective bubble of art and music.

Is Greece capable of dancing its way out of debt into a solvent and creative future?
Watch these cranes and you won't have a moment's doubt.