Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Stepping Stones

Stone Edge

a view from and of the way to Stanage Edge.


 

Map these stepping stones and you will know where you have been,

But will you ever learn from all that we have seen?

 We have quarried out our story, as our memories have grown

And marked the march of time on the boulders and the stone.


(Chorus) 

Stone Age, stone step, stone edge, stone ridge,

Footpath, footstep, footprint, footbridge.


We have chipped out meagre words to the rhythms in our head,

Pressing footprints of our journey on the pathway we still tread.

 We saw the ragged traveller with sapphire tears for eyes,

Longing for her lover whilst choking on his lies.


We have spied the wounded soldiers, weary from the war

Tramping up these rolling hills girding up for more.

We smiled at laughing children as they scrambled on the ledge,

And saw them older, weep and waver on the edge.


We heard the pack-horse whinny, heart pumping, up this slope,

Whilst her salt trader, eager, breathless, travelled on in hope. 

We have seen the joy of workers, freed at last from toil,

Become climbers pitching up to let their ropes uncoil.


The nights have fallen, like leaves and lives, too soon,

As smoke from a thousand wood-fires whispered to the moon. 

So up this rolling rover’s way, as you tread this stone age stone

Know your final step is one you take alone.


Look back down, along the winding of your way,

What marks your aftermath, what will your headstone say?

Might weeping and weariness be your final measure?

Or will your joy and hope be the memories to treasure?


(Chorus) 

Stone Age, stone step, stone edge, stone ridge,

Footpath, footstep, footprint, footbridge.


 

November 2008

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Boris Johnson’s Resignation Speech

For Number10 Media:

As requested, I’ve drafted the script for BJs press conference, we are bearing in mind if it really could get to court about parties, corruption redecoration, etc etc - it would certainly ruin any future career.  As per usual it’s in our cynical, damage limitation style, as best for him and “the party” and therefore….I’m seeing this as a winner… NB Camera Angles critical)

(Boris Johnson - Serious Face to Camera 1). 


(Me? John Pearce? Cynical? I don’t believe it….)


“Good evening..

In the light of recent events I want to make a short statement…

I was proud to be elected, with such a majority, to be your Prime Minister - to "Get Brexit done" which I did, and "Take Back Control", which I was, and we were, getting on with until the pandemic hit.  

Since then I believe, most fervently, that, although there were mistakes, as in all other countries across Europe and the world, we did the right things, at the right time, to secure the safest outcome for this country.  A country I love, and will always love. All was going well.

(Look straight into Camera 2)

But I want to be honest with you.  Recent events have made me realise that my style of leadership, together with our government’s approach to getting things done has not worked well enough, for enough people. I can see that. I understand it. I make no apologies for it.

I readily accept that I did push on, when others were saying slow down. I readily accept that I did push the limits, bend and yes, I readily accept, I broke the rules.  But I always pushed on, hard, for our Great British Union! (Deep sigh)

(Back to Camera 1)

I want you to believe me on this… I really do. I did it all for the best reasons - the greatest good for a Greatest Britain.

But, as I say, too many have lost faith in how I was trying to do what I was voted in to do.

So, in those oft-used, cliched words, I am going to spend more time with my loving family... literally.  

(Look down at hands, as though the reality is only now sinking in, and then straight to Camera 1 with resolution). 

I am going to step aside from my role as Chief Secretary to the treasury, and yes, I will be resigning as your Prime Minister. I will be informing the Queen, at the earliest opportunity.

I will do so with a full and deep intent to support a calm period of succession - in order to sustain a Conservative Government. I will be doing so in the belief that only a Conservative government can do what needs doing and… I am doing all this, for you all, with an absolutely clear conscience.  What I did and how I did it will be written about by many…some have already begun... the moving finger writes... I accept that and I fervently believe that history will ink in the evidence of the effectiveness of what I achieved....my actions... my legacy - in all the things that really matter. I believe history will settle firmly on my side, on our government’s side.  

All that is left for me to do now is.. thank those of you who never lost faith and those who waiver now…. I will no doubt see you sometime in the future…”

(He leaves, takes a long foreign holiday and comes back, in some kind of entertainment role… in a couple of years' time…


Me? John Pearce? Cynical? I don’t believe it….



Saturday, 11 December 2021

Unless You Care


A short story from Desire Lines  click to find


I wrote this short story in 1984 and was reminded of it during a discussion with a valued group of colleagues yesterday (Next Stage Radicals) so I wanted to share it, at least with them.   It goes to a sense many are having about the relative inaction of governments, not just in the UK, but around the world, who seem to be losing a moral, or ethical purpose.  They seem to pay only lip service to any real, meaningful action on the big issues but focus on personal gain and short-term headlines. What's worse, perhaps, are too many voters, who have lost any sense that they can make a difference.  Have we learned helplessness?  Have we lost the drive to care? \

Can we see where the path we are on is leading?

Unless You Care

Sometime in the future, unless you care, the sun will rise one morning with a great show of blood red.  Rivers of this dull light will flow down the grey buildings and search out the shapes of this futuristic city.  Few people will wake to greet the sunrise.  A sunrise, a thing of beauty, will not be valued, beauty does not mean much to some people even now.  Besides, the people who like looking at sunrises will have a video of one in their apartment.




The few windows in the city are high above the street level, deliberately more than a stone’s throw from vantage points, or other windows.  Most are shielded by regulation blast and radiation-proof shutters.  Large, identical, well-spaced towers, like huge gravestones, meet the eye.  Steel doors occasionally break their flat, grey, concrete surfaces.  As high up as can be reached, they are pockmarked and sprayed with primitive drawings and messages.  None are obscene because once forbidden words are now in crude and common use.  Besides, people who like plain walls and censored writings will have these in their apartments.


Dominant sounds are the whispering cackle of wind-torn plastic containers and paper rubbish.  No grass grows within the city walls; it was trodden to mud by a million footsteps and concreted over long years ago.  Even adults in this city do not know of the feel of grass underfoot.  Remembering eyes can spot giant tubs full of grit and stones, where once bushes, flowers, and saplings had been planted.  These have been uprooted and their replacements’ thin, green stems snapped so often that the city organisers ceased planting generations ago.  Green and growing things are only to be found beyond the city wall where woodlands flourish but no one ventures there, lest the strangers or unemployed, or others, should attack.  No one, in living memory, who has left the safety of the city, has returned.


A starling flies its ragged way from building to building and sings a monotonous note, it has little to mimic.  Unless you care, birds other than the selfish starling will not survive.  Besides, people who like birdsong will have tapes of birdsong in their apartment.


There are a hundred identical cities in the country and a million identical apartments in each.  A preferred standard family quartet, of male and female guardians, plus a boy and a girl inhabit all apartments.  At the appointed time computers softly bleep and switch on breakfast equipment and communal generators whirr, as power is sucked from them.  Later the central locking system loosens airtight seals and the guardians are able to slide living room doors open.  Leaving the young at home, they leave the apartments.  They merge into frightened groups but set their faces to unsmiling, to cause fear in others.  Groups are safe, single people are likely to be attacked.  No police force will help them, and unless you care, it will be against the law to intervene.


Work is done by the guardians in large, low buildings away from the apartments.  Translucent fumes spew out of tall chimneys, rippling the horizon of fresh aired, green hills far away, outside the city walls.  Besides people who like clean air have air conditioners in their apartment.


The descendents of those who had timeshares in the original walled estate now eat and live in this city.  Those who refused to contribute to the venture, over time, were deemed others, the unemployed, unemployable and undesirable.  They were put outside those first low walls.  Now the City Organisers manage, a Virtuous Triangle for each citizen – it is easier to explain than democracy and works on a simple “input for output” model.  The three elements of the Citizens’ Bond are: Food for Opportunity; Apartment for Administration and Media Access for Education.  So, citizens have a right to Food and lodging if they take the Opportunity for work and some responsibility for Administrative duties, including waste and recycling.  A family’s input of Educational responses, during the day creates an output of entertainment Media to their screens in the evening.  Thus the triangle is complete.  In one of the long low Opportunity Buildings food is processed.  It is augmented with synthetic proteins and additives and much is recycled from waste.  Administrative Police patrol the wall, their only duty.  It is easy work, for no one has tried to enter, or exit, for years. The City Administrators do not know how the others outside survive and, unless you care, no one will.  


The working day is ended by a single tone from a siren. Starlings echo this tone in their hundreds and gangs of workers go home to safety and close their doors.  Telescreens change to multi-media entertainment and the working youth are free from educational output.  Many go out and loiter in the passages and walkways to play, talk and fight under blue arc lights.  They can do no damage, except to each other and the equation is like this: stay in stay safe, go out risk hurt.  No one cares for the well-being of those who are out and, unless you care, no one will.


In the apartments guardians and remaining children watch flickering screens, listen to tapes, or thumb through picture books.  These people are not the same as us - they do seem strange.  It could be their skin lacks lustre because of the artificial light or perhaps their eyes are dull because of the viewing.  Certainly, they are different, almost as if they do not care, or even know how to care.


Slowly, the sun begins its change from yellow to red and darker to maroon, as it settles on the horizon.  This is a wonderful and uplifting contrast with the light blues of the evening sky for the one who looks.  For a few seconds, everything is soaked in red and then blackness draws in after an uncertain twilight.  The arc lights blind in a moment of brilliance and dip a warning signalling five minutes before curfew, when the last apartment door slides closed and central locking whispers the last clean air from the radiation seals.   All is silent, except for a dull rumble of radar panels, turning their slow, pirouettes of paranoia.  Each is connected to carefully preprogrammed, retaliation computers.  By midnight, all but one of the citizens is asleep.  Unless you care, she too will close her eyes.  Unless you care, she too will fall asleep.





But a girl who lives in this city lies awake and as she stares at the ceiling a slow tear wells from her eye and it is a spark of hope in the dark, sleeping city.  She is awake and she is thinking.  She is awake and she is dreaming.  She has made her decision.  She swings out of bed, dresses and, just as she had planned, she fires up her computer and programs the seal in the door. The computer registers the predictable fault she intended and she knows she has long enough to leave without a trace.  On her stealthy way to the wall, she meets no one, of course.  At last, she reaches the wall and stands on the parapet.  For a moment, she just stands on the edge, silhouetted against a rising full moon.   This is not hesitation but resolution.  She leaps into space.  


She lands uneasily, bumping and sliding down the steep incline knowing she cannot return up the mildewed slope.  Only a little shocked and bruised she rests at the foot of the imposing walls, sensing a new silence, away from electronic hums and those invisible radio and radar waves.  She stumbles across the grass with some difficulty but enjoys the bounce of its feel underfoot.




Amongst the trees at last, she slows down and breathes in deeply.  There is a scent she somehow knows all around her but she does not recognise it yet.  Unless you care she never will.  She walks on and the moonlight begins to filter through the lacework of the trees and a damp, cool breeze brushes her hair.  There is no obvious path, but remembering what she has read, she occasionally kneels and looks through the woodland foliage.  Eventually, she sees it.  It is a faint but discernable line of parted and brushed fronds.  There is some light and even warmth ahead.  She can follow where someone, or something, has gone before.  Eventually, the faint wood smoke greets her and it smells and even tastes better than she thought and could have imagined because it is all new.  She cannot understand all her new feelings but she knows they are strong and good and are the beginning of her joy.  She starts to run, harnessing the energy of excitement as she makes her way deeper into the trees.  She has only a vague idea of what she will find.  It is about hope, risk, dreams, and unrestrained joy.  This feeling she is experiencing now is better than you can imagine - even if you care, for the emotion of a new wonder can only be sensed this once.



Campfire





to be continued...




                             

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Wild swimming in turbulent seas

Waving, fishing, thriving but not drowning.


Introduction.

Hi Counsellors, Mentors, Coaches, Change Agents, Leaders, Next Stage Radicals, it’s me with my water metaphors... again. 

I’m afraid of drownings in these turbulent seas of Covid, Consumer Shortages and Climate Change. I fear the swirling C's of chaos and catastrophe. So, I need to check out my analysis and some ideas that maybe help us improve our approaches being helpers.

I often quote Jack Nicholson’s character to his counsellor in “As good as it gets”,

“Hey, I’m drowning here and all you’re doing is describing the water!”


But I've just seen the wider context for that oft quoted line. Here it is and, remember, as you watch, that we helpers are the guy in the brown check dressing gown....

https://youtu.be/Y2eKJNK00so


Seeing this clip nudged me to move on from nagging people like me ( us? ) infuriating colleagues and friends by constantly "describing the water" rather than looking to find ways to take helpful, positive action.  I'm especially concerned that people like us, charged with being the helpers, are now waving, not yet drowning. Many of us are struggling to cope too.

Background

It’s clear that, in almost all sectors, morale is very low and pressure very high.  My recent conversations with several specific colleagues, in the NHS, Civil Service, Education and Business, and then more generally, plus reading the news and social media, suggests we are in deep churn (when a surfer is under the water, unable to breathe, or know which way is up to air - when organisations are under huge pressure and unable to do the basics, let alone develop)

"I’m stuck in a rut of, overwork, tiredness and feeling somewhat disillusioned environmentally, politically and at work..." (Chair of a Council)

“On top of this...personally, I’m juggling a mid-career, mid-life crisis with heavy family and financial responsibilities too… it is affecting my health”. (Civil Servant)

In a statement of the bleeding obvious, all of us have personal issues including health, relationships, finances. Each work team has their specific needs too. On top of these will be the organisational expectations, often Government and finance determined.  And with the C's seemingly unabated, how can we helpers prepare colleagues and friends to surf these waves of rising pressures, increased needs and wants and begin to find coherent sets of issues to address?

We all know that, especially in such turbulent times, the need to develop, adapt, change and improve continues…indeed it may well need to increase, to cope with the perfect storms.  This is all predictable but is the increased helplessness, self-preservation and survival mood of colleagues, leading to a push back against the development activity we are asked to lead? Any development activity?

"Oh no...not you again…. .look we are SO BUSY... we’re only just keeping our heads above water.. .... we can't cope with all this transformational change stuff… it will just have to wait..." 
(Department Lead Consultant - normally a keen change agent - quoted by NHS Trust Improvement Director)

The real fear, shared by those I have been talking to, is that many, who were once effective advocates, leaders for change, are themselves tired out, stressed, even ill. Is this a new reality, facing those trying to implementing transformational change during tough times of churn? Are we helpers too experiencing a critical increase in learned helplessness and hopelessness ourselves?  Tell me if I am catastrophysing.   I do remember being somewhere like this before.

I remember a School Improvement colleague going into a Special Measures, so called, “Failing" School, and facing a room full of demoralised faces. He suddenly realised they were expecting, when he overheard,

“Yet, another bollocking from another prat, who has no idea of what it’s like working here, almost certainly couldn’t hack it anyway and, has obviously escaped front-line pressures years ago”

But what really irked him was being given a motivational thump on the back by the Director of Education,

“Go in and work your magic, inspire them, motivate them, like you always do!”

It was a genuine attempt to fire him up, just once more, but it had the opposite effect. But they could all leave the school site and go into what we now refer to as a normal world.  How does that feel when the "new normal" is a world of increasing Covid and Climate Emergency?

In short, I fear the weaker, those charged with rescuing are, they won't be waving but drowning and will be useless as rescuing. This calls for well judged and modified points and natures of intervention.  Our clients need by someone energy enough to DO something rather than describing the water, the dead, the drowning and the waving.


What might we do?

How do we thrive in order to “create the permitting circumstances” for change, when morale is so desperately low? The priority has to be looking for strategies to help the helpers because if they ( we? ) are tired, weak and helpless, who will be there to help the most vulnerable, those we normally lead, inspire and nurture?

A recent discussion of these fears with an international group of colleagues, all keen helpers, “The Next Stage Radicals” seemed to suggest they too saw these fears and we began to tease out some thoughts.

Some stressed the critical starting point, for many of us commissioned to seek improvement, is to remind ourselves to work from “Where they are”, as individuals and teams, rather than take on the mantle of yet another who goes in to suggest ideas or worse, “hector them about where they should be”.  We agreed that creating the right circumstances for even thinking about development and change has to be a fine balance between listening and developing an honest understanding of the specific individual and team's current conditions and, only then, seeking a realistic set of explorations about what a more desired state of affairs might look like.

So, we felt, unless we show acceptance of individual views and respect differences, we will be greeted with a wall of cynicism, distrust, even fear. Cynicism is an understandable bastion against any extra work that “feels false”, especially if it parades itself in complex terminology and, as a cynical colleague observed,  "endlessly circular diagrams".  This becomes hopeless when it comes on top of waves of cuts, an already excessive workload and staff shortages.  

My personal warning. I well remember dealing with an apoplectic staff team who had felt their "Well-being training day" had been an utter, and complete, waste of time.  Later, I was surprised by serious twitter pile-on when I suggested that well-being was far more than handing out happy bags and smiley badges and promising "one evening a week with no work to take home".  I was arguing for a genuine reappraisal of the ways work was allocated and how we could reduce workload.  Any new leader, change agent or, heaven help them, those who carry the label “consultant”, who leaps in keen, energetic and optimistic spouting about opportunity in adversity maybe deserves the silent derision and deep resentment, they get.  We all have to be uber-sensitive, emotionally alert, thoughtful.


Some maybes…. (offered in the hope they may coalesce into strategies)

FIRST, maybe counterintuitively, it might mean us soorting the pressure SYMPTOMS as a priority and leaving the longer term transformational stuff for later.  So, to start, it's going to be about ensuring that those of us still with strength, survive ourselves.  We have to regroup and stop ourselves just describing the water and wringing our hands...if only because it infuriates. We have to rethink too - we can't keep doing what we did before.  We have to set about rescuing and sustaining our strongest, closest, change-agents, those who are still waving. Yes, it will be about throwing in life-lines, life-belts - anything that floats - especially good ideas.

“I’m doing shifts on the wards to ease the pressure - because that’s what they need” (NHS Trust Improvement Director)

“I run several 4 hymn assemblies - to give staff some extra prep time” (Headteacher)

In metaphor mode it’s about pulling them out of the water, drying them off, making them warm, helping them thrive. Only when they have the strength to help others, will they be able to get on with their day job and maybe be ready to properly prepare for transformational change activities.

Extending another water metaphor, it’s not either eating a fish or learning to fish - it’s more sensible to cook them a fish meal, so they are sustained, and only then, judging when they are in a state of readiness to learn how to fish.

This reminded me of, “reading readiness” that state young children move into when the groundwork of storytelling and letter shapes has been grasped and a real desire to read drives them to read. It is impossible for them to become 
readers until they are in readiness.  It’s even more difficult to teach reading to 14 and 15 yr olds, who missed their readiness the first time around, but it can be done, we did it.  Maybe “change readiness” is the similar state we need to achieve and yes, it is likely to be most difficult with those who have been around the block a few times and are especially tired.  But we have to believe it is never impossible.  A colleague told me that flogging dead horses is not cruel, but that flogging dying horses is, so he said, "Tell them to lay off and give me some recovery space".

As we approach that point of change readiness, not a minute before, it will be about digging out, discovering and sharing practical, universal, proven approaches that will really help, and tailoring these for our local rescuers to use, in their specific settings. We all know
 that the basic skills of helping: facilitation, empowering, coaching, respecting and listening - all sharpened and honed, with emotional intelligence - help us uncover and meet individual need.  But in a crisis there is a magnetic and urgent pull to quick action - resisting quick fixes is hard but often necessary. We have to take it slow.

SECOND, as we sense our newly sustained change agents are becoming re-empowered to take over the rescuing and seeing to their colleagues, maybe they need to see us standing back a little, looking at the water and, rather than just describing it again, seeking to involve colleagues fully in identifying the CAUSES, of the symptoms that have to be addressed.

Back to the water metaphor it's now about going upstream and looking for: the causes of the flood; how to stem the flow, and maybe challenging those who threw us, and our colleagues in?  It's at this point that more sophisticated but still bespoke approaches like systems thinking, forensic financial reviews, studying psychologically informed environments and critical incident analysis may be useful.  What is certain is the urgent need for some early improvements, ideally visible, tangible, meaningful and broadcast widely.  These should go to the the heart of purpose.  We will also need to be consensual as we create solid plans to properly challenge the lack of thought manifest in the "unintended consequences" that caused the turbulence and failed to sort the causes that got us into these crisis situations. We also need to apologise, profusely and openly for any of our work that failed to help as the waters rose and promise to do better immediately.  We are all judged by what we do, nit what we say.

Conclusion

In times of great pressure, even crisis, it’s crucial we look after our people first. So, a respect for and consideration of their wants and needs “For me” is first: (keep fit; eat well; get relationships right). Then, only when we/they are ready for change, can we move on to considering wants and needs “for us”: (supporting and caring for those closest; at home and in work teams and identifying our ideas about better future conditions). Only then, if enough energy remains, can we move on to consider the expectations, hopes and requirements, “for everyone”: (in the organisation; community; society and world.)   It’s here we must feed in a realistic view of organisational and government expectations and demands.  They have to be faced. They might be finessed. They can't be ignored. But beware of raising them too soon! 

 Paradoxically, the priority often left to last is the one we all must all care about most, “for everything”: (our Earth’s climate change, its warming, melting ice-caps, depleted environment, flora and fauna,) There is a strong and growing sense of extinction around and that consciousness is depressing and weighing down colleagues who care. Some are still denying, others are rebelling, most are despairing, 

So, part of this is about 
asking ourselves and each other, “What is the point of getting the hospital, school, our business, neighbourhood, community and charity functioning better, only for it to be swept away in a hurricane, fire, or flood?  What can we do, whilst we are thinking about our immediate future? 

For too many, in 2021, the rising waters are literal and no longer metaphorical.



John Pearce October 2021

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Crack Willow Blues




On May 8th, this year, I was walking the dogs by, this, my favourite tree, a huge Crack Willow.
It was a cold, wet afternoon and I was thinking about a friend's burial.
I felt a blues brewing, so, standing by my tree I drafted "Crack Willow Blues".
But there's more to the story - see below...


Crack Willow Blues


Well I’m walking the woods the other day
Down by the stream where the willows sway
I spy my willow, the tallest there
I’ve a rope to climb it if I dare.

Cry willow, Crack Willow
Will you loose me some slack?

Then I saw an Old Man staggering round
Dragging a shadow around on the ground
And there’s an Old Woman sat by the tree
She ain’t got no shadow I can see.

Cry willow, Crack Willow,
Will you crack at my back?

I ask the Old man, “What do you see?
He turns, looks and points to me,
Holds his head and begins to cry,
“Have you seen a woman walking by?

Crying willow, Crack Willow
Will she come back?”

I said, “I’m staying my side of this rickety fence
Cos, she ain’t got no shadow
And you ain’t got no sense.
But it’s good to be thinking and it’s good to talk
I've got to go now and be on with my walk.

Cry willow, Crack Willow
I’m not coming back.”

He called, “I had two women who walk with me”
I left my first under this tree,
The other said she’d follow on
I keep on looking but I think they’re gone.

“Cry Willow, Crack Willow
Will they ever come back?”

So, I climb the fence and am looking around
I can see no shadows on that ground
Now, there ain’t no woman and there ain’t no man
And I’m left here thinking what I am.

Cry will you, Crack Willow
When will you crack?

Yeh, the Old Crack Willow began to crack
And I’m trying so hard to get me back
But I can’t get through this rickety fence
Now I ain’t got no shadow and I ain’t got no sense.

Crying willow, Crack Willow,
You cracked at my back.

So I sit a while and worry some more
When I see a shadow there on the floor.
She says, “Leafman, why're you hiding away?
I came to find you this Summer’s day!

Crying Willow, Crack willow
I just came back”

Now I see a young man walking by
I hold my head and begin to cry
Shouting, “Don’t you climb this rickety fence
Stay that side and make your sense!

Cry willow, Crack Willow
Won’t you cut him some slack”

Don’t walk in the trees and avoid the woods
They’re full of will you’s, coulds and shoulds.
Stay well clear of the rickety fence
Beware the shadow of recompense

Cry willow, Crack Willow
I’m not coming back.

John Pearce Draft II
July 6th Dawn at the kitchen table


12 bar blues in CFG - Style "What fools believe" - Tempo 95 - Memory 8




After the first Draft of "Crack Willow Blues" I wanted to take a photograph of the tree and, to do so, I needed to step back off the path. I took some photos, including the one at the top of this post, and there was a sudden, very loud, crack and the sound of something falling through the branches above. I cringed as a limb of a Cracked Willow fell behind, missing me by a a body length.

I realised I was surrounded by these huge, heavy trees and, obviously, felt vulnerable. I then realised that "my tree" had not yet cracked.

The second Draft, above, written in July, incorporated the experience

May 8th By the Crack Willow

Monday, 15 March 2021

A Musical Metaphor for discussion and argument.



Effing Metaphors

A musical metaphor for discussion and argument



Pre-amble...

Social media, The National Press and TV News is bursting with different thinking, conflicting views. Ponder on recent events: "Brexit", "Trump", "Covid Responses", "The Meghan Markle Interview" and this week-end... "How the Metropolitan Police handled "The Clapham Common Vigil" after the murder of Sarah Everard. Each struck very different chords for different people... Lots of the "argument is war" metaphor at play. Where was and is the music?

I have often thought we could change the aggressive metaphor - Argument is War!
Why not try, at least to reclaim, a more harmonious, "Discussion is music"
With thanks to George Lakoff, Mark Johnson and Andy Brogan *

How well do we deal with comments that are "out of tune" with our normal thinking? Do we reject them as discordant, bad notes, out of tune within our echo chamber? Or do we seek ways to find some kind of harmony by incorporating new thinking in a different key? Can those new chords work? How do we resolve discord? Isn't there a danger we find it just too easy, even joyful to sing our favourite tunes, in our favourite places, with our favourite friends, who agree with us...





Here it is... Effing Metaphors - a piano piece

It started as a giggle - a humorous composition, an improvised musical metaphor, for a reasonable discussion, in an echo chamber, between folks who are composing, their line of argumental melody. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a new comment, seems out of tune, discordant. What to do?

I wanted to explore when, and if, a bad note can become a good one. Hear what you think..



As you listen, think of a pleasant discussion, interrupted by comments that jar, out of tune, with the accepted and developing melody. Such notes can be folded back into the melody and harmonise within it... often these incorporations enhance the piece.... Sometimes, as we discuss, or improvise in discussion, or an instrumental piece, we feel the need to reject an obvious bad note... We want our music, like our discussions to be tuneful.

For the musically minded...

I play with E&F, especially, at one point, as I love how they sound discordant together, and so much better just a little apart... I wanted to test how our ears can "learn" to correct an impression. Hence the title. "Effing Metaphors".

It's easier, and more fun, to demonstrate the discussion metaphor in music, rather than words...
Remember, "Where there is discord, let us bring harmony" (OK, that's a bad example)

And the moral...

Maybe we should listen again to the discordant, and try to fold new notes into a melody of agreement and create more harmonies... (careful John, you're approaching fingers down throat time now...)

Maybe we should discuss more in an improvised jazz, frame of mind? Rather than insist on replaying the predictable, known sheet music. Maybe Jam, with others more often than singing from the same hymn-sheet.






Certainly, we'd do well to let others into our echo chambers to make music with us, not war... Do we dare knock on the doors of new echo chambers and music studios?

And... perhaps be mindful - Timing is all. Think of the times when we stood up, in the midst of the orchestra, or band, to play that wonderful solo we had in our heads.... and all there was discord, and then a slow cacophony down to silence. We sat down, withdrew, and the band played on.

Or, perhaps most importantly, it's how we react, when we see an individual, hesitating, offering to play a solo and we see our fellow instrumentalists readying themselves to play louder to drown out this new, unwanted sound.





References...

* There is a great book that had a profound impact on me, when I first read it, "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Essentially, it argues, we try and use metaphors and allegory, even stories to describe our world. There is a but.... a big but... a huge but in my head.... that the metaphors we choose delineate our thinking and mould our future behaviours. Lakoff and Johnson pointed up one metaphor, in particular - discussion, becomes argument and "Argument is war!" Accepting that we say things like:

"He attacked their weak argument"
"What you just said was indefensible"
"She demolished his argument"
"Don't take the moral high ground"
"He was shot down in flames"
"You're missing the target"
"Are you going to fight me on this?"
"That idea bombed didn't it"

I remember thinking, then, we should reframe argument as discussion and use the metaphor of music and dance - when we can.

* Andy Brogan is convenor of the "Next Stage Radicals" Facebook Group.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Virtuosi Solos For Christmas and New Year 2020/21



I was delighted when my old friend Tarquin Fothergyll-Stanley asked if he could bubble with us over
Christmas and new Year. Even better, once ensconced he asked me to record his Christmas Message for 2020.

When such a gentleman, wants to spread his generous virtuosity who can resist?
When he shines a light into our darkness, illuminating the shadows who can say, "No!"?
I give you Targuin Fothergyll-Stanley - enjoy...




After the video's success, accelerated by excess of my Christmas spirits he was thrust into a conversation with his muse.  He scribbled for hours.  Then tired and emotionally he wanted to record a New Year Lament... an expose, dire warnings about men with daft hair.  It is truly an epic poem for our times





Tarquin remains a great friend.  In many ways I will be sorry when he leaves but not in all ways...