Procrastinate

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I started writing this almost a week ago… 🙂

Very straightforward for Latin, I have to say, it actually means to defer. It is more specific than the current usage as it actually contains reference to “tomorrow” but otherwise perfectly understandable, if annoying.

I am not very fond of procrastination, even though I do it so well Others are even less enamoured of procrastination and have outstandingly explicit and eloquent things to say about it.

But this is an apology so I looked at what good can procrastination do. I am talking only of procrastination, not of time management difficulties. Those are not choices, procrastination is.

Let me make it clear: it is not a character flaw, it is not a difficulty, it is not an accident. It is a choice, and as such it is a consequence of a process that involves a lot of the individual, some of the system and most of the environment in which it happens.

Most people that I know of (including myself) do not procrastinate out of malice. It may be a passive (or is that passive-aggressive?) protest against circumstances we do not agree with. It may be a sign that more rest is in order so we can make better decisions. It may also be too difficult in which case it becomes again a passive way of saying it

What it can help with is timing. It’s a delaying technique but it may also be triggered by waiting for another piece of information needed to complete our knowledge. Or waiting for just the right time to do something. Or the right space in which to say something difficult.

Sometimes I am so tired that anything past breathing is way, way too much. So I procrastinate.

I don’t like it. I don’t think anyone does. But saying (and I have heard them all!) that the above are “just an excuse” is the same as saying “I don’t care why, just do it my way/the accepted way/the right way” despite what (I believe) are valid reasons.

And that makes me more, not less likely to continue to procrastinate.

Vicious circle, much?

Lately I have procrastinated sadness, if such is even possible. But I can’t let it overwhelm me during the day. And sometimes even nights are out of bounds. So I defer it. There is romance reading, pop music listening, cartoon watching – light hearted fun that nonetheless allows another hour to pass.

I can expect that much of myself, indeed. For sadness will come, and will not be denied entry.

I might as well make the decision when to open the door.

Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

Pleasure

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Latin again? 🙂 Well, yes, although English just mangled a French version of it. But oh, just the research of it was indeed its name. I have read about Hedonism, Schopenhauer, Buddhism and I have just scratched the surface of a word expressing something that is so intuitively normal that one has to wonder at the amount of paperwork that exists in order to analyze, explain, opine or otherwise debate the subject. Basic or elevated, frowned upon or exalted, pleasure has baffled many and upset even more 🙂

And isn’t it ironic that what I heard about people like Schopenhauer, while remaining true or at least truthful, comes nowhere near the begrudging agreement with some of the ideas of the man himself 🙂 Out of my comfort zone? Well, yes, I am an agnostic, compassionate, cynical humanist, of course some of those ideas take me out of my comfort zones. It is easy to call him a mysoginist when I was born so deep in my century that I have no idea about his world. Anyhoo, back to pleasure…

Besides being normal (not only in the absence of pain) pleasure is of course individual. De gustibus… and all that. And I have always enjoyed hearing about but have never practiced the list making of pleasurable things, to be taken out and explored when the road ahead of us is rough. I never practiced it because I seem to just do it. Like the baby of the zodiac that I am, I do not have to learn to be in the moment, because that is where I am 🙂

If you have been in pleasurable contact with babies and animals, then you know all about the luxurious stretching, the trusting floppiness that signals impending sleep, the silly expressions and strange positions that seem to give them an inordinate amount of pleasure. But even for me (self described as happy) it is easy to differentiate between happiness and pleasure. Different ends of the spectrum, different stage of being, different intensity and emotional involvement… really, more differences than similarities!

Bone tired and snuggling into a warm bed is so pleasant I wriggle about trying to feel it with all my body. But learning a new thing or having old things rearranged into a new scenery raises that pleasure into happiness.

A song heard for the first time and immediately liked can keep me humming for hours, even days. But a piece of music that reminds me of a friend, of times of joy, of love requited, albeit lost… ah, that is treasure indeed, and so much more than pleasure.

The little things that children do, making something with my own hands (jam, a scarf, a puzzle), a plant that was almost dead but in the spring pulls through, “these are a few of my favourite things” 🙂

But seeing the little one grow, writing a poem or cooking my own produce… these I put on the same level as those dreams I have of travelling and absorbing art and walking with a friend through rain and wind while discussing the state of the world as we know it…

I guess what I am trying to say is that pleasure can make life bearable. But for true living, it is not enough, not even nearly…

Luck

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The fun part is how new this word is 🙂 Just the word though, the concept and controversy regarding luck is millennia old.

And now for the analysis, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up 🙂

I am lucky. Very, outrageously lucky! It always appears to me that I do not control this luck, that it is somehow outside of me despite it happening to me. There is a good measure of self-fulfilling prophecy in there. I am by nature an optimist and my natural state of mind is happy. So it stands to reason (and to rationalists 😛 ) that I should feel lucky and thus influence my actual life in that direction. That’s fine, I don’t actually have a problem with this kind of self-fulfilling prophecies. And I recognize them when my intentional actions are actually part of whatever is happening in my life. Like choosing a pathway, listening to my intuition, stumbling over the right approach with a person based on many years of experience.

Where I actually talk about luck is where my actions, while intentional in the context I made them, have far-reaching consequences that no amount of intuition would have been able to predict. Like when I took my husband’s car one day and had an accident. My husband’s car escaped unscathed, but the accident would have seriously damaged my car… which said husband was taking to the mechanic, who lifted it and discovered two bald tyres.. I don’t want to know what would have happened had those tyres exploded on the big drive we had planned for the weekend… yes, it had been my suggestion to take my car to the mechanic in preparation for the big drive, but I couldn’t have predicted the accident, now could I?

So I am lucky. I have been lucky all my life. It really doesn’t mean that I win the lottery (small prizes, yes, when I can be bothered to play – rarely. That is chance, not luck as I describe it. It also doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to me. They do, and the effects are no more and certainly no less than for anyone to whom bad things happen – that would be everyone. Some of my personality traits (optimism, happiness, also an ability to see the good in situations) make it easier for me to deal with the bad stuff. But I don’t think that has much to do with the fact that I have become accustomed to hearing at least once a week from various people about how lucky I am. I have to pay attention. That is another factor, I notice how lucky I am, I feel it and I therefore act in possibly a more confident way which in turn opens more doors and makes me aware of more opportunities. But I am no more likely than others to get that job I have been looking for. Again, that has nothing to do with the luck I am describing.

Another thing is that feeling that luck comes from outside of my control, actually from outside of me. Like a gift. So I do no subscribe to the “don’t say you’re lucky or your luck will disappear” theory. On the contrary, I often acknowledge my luck. There is maybe a bit of superstitition in there, a reversal of that theory I described above: if I don’t acknowledge my luck it will disappear. I like to think that I am courteous though, so I acknowledge gifts 🙂

Fun analysis remains so if it’s brief. I am not complaining or try to understand my luck – no interest or benefit for me. I am intersted in the limitations (ah, that lotto ticket!) and grateful for the gift. I am also aware that I need to share it with others. Perhaps one gloomy day when things go wrong from the beginning, when you get discouraged and upset at “meaningful coincidences” (Jung’s definition of “luck”) that don’t coincide, I could come and tell you that things are going to get a heck of a lot better… and, knowing me, I will be right!

PS. Little bad things, when they do happen, always come in threes… I could have a bit of fun with that analysis, eh? 🙂

Brass

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Disclaimer – this article is concerned with brass band music and if you happen to not like it please feel free to skip 🙂

I’ve spent a weekend listening to brass band music. British style. In competition, nonetheless. It left me wanting more of the same. I tried to analyze why I like it, although that type of exercise may not serve much and it won’t change anything.

Brass band is, like all music, purely individual. For someone like me, who doesn’t play any instrument (yet!) it was hard to understand at the beginning. All those instruments sounded the same (sorry, my friend!) I could feel the rhythm just because of the percussion section (sorry again!) and yet it called to something in me. So I set myself the very nice task of unravelling it. I am not there yet, but after this weekend I hope I am closer. I have, for example, very clear opinions about what I like and what I don’t. What they call test pieces I usually dislike intensely, they are long winded jumbles of discordant notes intended, as the name says it, to test the various players, with rare chunks of beauty that frustrate more than enchant. I have found two test pieces that merit more attention and I have been promised a list of others. Again, I don’t play any instruments, so I don’t even have the professional interest to hook me 🙂

I find I like orchestral pieces arranged for brass band, and also traditional folklore themes and certain marches. I am getting better at recognizing skill when I hear it. I am partial to the lower tones, although a soprano cornet solo can lift me to tears. I am getting better at recognizing instruments, although not on sight. That’s not bad for someone who used to be deaf when it came to the mellow, honeyed euphonium compared to the far clearer baritone.

Now for some notes:

The street march is pure pomp, ceremony and outrageously exhilarating entertainment!

Test pieces are great for sorting out stuff in your head, both with instruments (they get tested in turns so you can get a feel for the sound) but also personal (time to think about that friend who is working too much or the other friend going through a rough patch)

After a while you know who’s subbing in for whom and who plays in more than one band (allowing for uniform changes).

Brass players are in almost constant motion, especially when they are NOT playing, they constantly check and clean their instrument, move their mouths, turn the pages, drink water (I assume it’s water!) etc.

Mutes are funny 🙂 The way they change the sound coming out of the instruments is incredible. I have also seen beanies, towels, egg cartons and changing the position of the player in order to achieve that ellusive note.

Cornets can be substituted for violins.

Brass players can play the other instruments in the band as well.

Probably the best thing for me is the personal touch brass bands bring to sometimes quite complicated music. Smaller by far than an orchestra, limited and in a way set free by the range of instruments, with a tradition that has kept them local and linked to their communities, they also play the grand role of teaching children to carry on in the same manner. I like that 🙂

Person

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For a blog like this an article on persons seems a bit superfluous, don’t you think? And yet as I find myself musing on the things that matter to me and the relationship of each to the people I interact with I find myself trying to define humanity, you know what I mean? Or rather, describe humanity. Even more precise, describe this particular human. Which begs the question: is there a way to generalize? Is there a definition of “person” or “people” that everybody will agree with? Methinks…. Not! Especially because we are, to quote a well-known phrase, “unique, just like everybody else”.

Our definition of person depends on many variables like culture, ethnicity, era, religion etc. It seems not only impossible, but downright foolish to try and unify those as we are self-evident, like time. Except that we find exceptions (fetus, child, racially different human, non-physical beings, animals, rivers….) based on the variables described above so we are anything BUT self-evident. Or we are self evident to ourselves but not so to others and vice-versa. We are usually self-evident to our own groups but even that is not fool-proof – think children and decision making

Some general ideas: we are people when we live and behave like other people (feral children and psychopaths?), we are people because we are born so (apes and corporations?), we are people because we can make decisions (in a coma and women?)… you get the gist, for every definition, for every right granted, there are exceptions and they all sound oh so logical.

What to do, what to do?

It may be that the problem lies with the words like “definition”, with our desire for things to be clear-cut, once and for all, fixed. It may lie with our brain’s perceived inability to deal with change and uncertainty – although that is highly debatable. It has to do with the complexity of our worlds where systems and laws and policies and procedures and beliefs and biases account for more and more of our very lives.

I think it’s time for fluidity. We can both be human and grow into it. We can accept a river is important enough to count as one of us. We can continue to talk about it around the dinner table not just in obscure journals: is Puppy Dog a person? How about that gorilla or that dolphin? What makes humans human? What makes humans and non-humans persons? Are aliens persons? How about robots and clones and embryos? The key word is talk. Another key word is acceptance. My little one may not think our cat is a person, but many a people might disagree with that.

In my books relying on self-evidence is dangerous because it perpetuates ignorance. Even though I have been, am and will be, this second and forever…

Fashion

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Remember WOMAD? So do I 🙂

This article is about festival fashion, so no magazine name-dropping here please!

Anyway, as you may know, festival fashion is outrageous maximalism at its best for the most part, with huge variety within and a few notable exceptions without.

Shoes: travel or outdoors, leather, strappy, some strings and ribbons, no heel higher than orthopaedic requirements, loafers and the occasional slipper.

Exception: jandals – why? Difficult to walk in, terrible for the foot, accident prone – I like the ones with ankle support but have never managed to persuade myself that the pain between my toes is going to lead to any more comfort than my other leisure shoes.

Rest of the body – anything goes, really, long and floaty, short and tight, midi and romantic, ripped, fringed or sophisticated. Sumptuous lush fabrics, indulgent patterns and colour combinations that make your eyes water and your heart rejoice. The earth-mother velveteen/viscose/lace concoction walks right beside the high-street understated cotton and linen mix. Ball gowns and tuxedos are not uncommon. Traditional clothes from all over the world are “done” in a myriad variations. Gauzy scarves and conical straw hats are overshadowed by huge mohawks on which lizards in lurid plastic sun themselves and all that is interspersed with the flower circlets the young are wearing above their bejeweled braces.

Exceptions: jumpsuits and those beautiful fisherman pants that tie both in front and at the back. Toilet breaks being the bane of any festival (ah, the queues!), why would I want to undress totally and drag them in whatever is on the floor for this purpose?

Festival fashion has to withstand midday scorching sun, cold nights, sitting on the grass and eating on laps. And, of course, at least two or three types of dancing in close contact with many, many others. And being worn all day (backpacks with layers are common). And allowing us to take a bit of a break from usual clothes.

It’s a tall order to fill 🙂 It seems to me that there are two main characteristics. First is style. Not everyone has it, but festival fashion is a lot more forgiving for body shape than most others. Being allowed to “play” rather than conform also has the advantage of encouraging the very creativity festivals are based on.

The second characteristics of festival fashion is a no-brainer (which makes you wonder why do we not practice it more). It inspires confidence and a more natural way of moving. It makes tiredness rest easier on our bodies. Whether you are a hopping-skipping nana or a serenely gliding yogi, self-conscious youth or brash middle-aged dancer, it makes style even more suitable.

I am talking, of course, of comfort. Festival fashion is the most stylish variety of comfortable apparel ever invented by people. With the possible exception of yoga pants… of which there are not many… it just wasn’t that type of festival…

Do you know what I mean?