Monthly Archives: June 2014

Blogging without having the answers

For a long time I was reluctant to write a blog.  Part of my fear was a fear of saying things that I’d regret, or offending people, which I guess is fairly easily understandable (though so far, 43 posts in, I’m yet to have reason to regret anything I’ve posted on here).

The other part of my fear was that in thinking about things, and expressing my views, I’d become less flexible in my thinking.  There’s a theory that when people write down their beliefs on a topic, they start to see these beliefs as something to be defended, and attacks on their ideas as attacks on themselves.  I know it is possible, and I’ve certainly seen people take this stance on social media, clinging to ideologies longer and with greater strength than they should.

But I’m pleased to say I’ve since come to the conclusion that blogging won’t turn you into someone you’re not.  Just as caring, generous people stay caring and generous when they blog, if you start off curious about the world and flexible in your thinking, blogging about your thoughts won’t ruin that.

In my case, I’ve tried to approach my blog posts as an excuse to think about issues that I care about, that I know are more complex than the simplistic sound bites that are so often thrown about.  And generally, as I’ve thought and written, I’ve spotted even more dimensions to the issues or consequences.  My thoughts are clarified through writing, but that doesn’t generally mean my conclusions become set in stone.  And far from the idea that readers get bored by complexity and want strong conclusions (generally those that the reader already holds), I’ve been grateful to see that my readers are comfortable letting me hold back from making conclusions that I’m not comfortable reaching.

So, thank you for sticking with me.  I’m sure, just as with most things in the world including life itself, it isn’t clear where I’m ending up, but I’m enjoying the opportunity to take this journey.

Book Shops

Before going on holiday, I spent a couple of hours browsing in my two favourite bookshops for books to read on holiday.  I love books and love reading, from trashy airport fiction to more literary or historical fiction, from biography and politics to business and psychology.  For some reason I’m better at getting into a book than a film, and love grappling with the ideas as well as the language.

Unfortunately I always feel guilty when I’m browsing in a book shop, as I do almost all my reading digitally. I own an old Kindle and an iPad mini, and love the fact that I have books with me wherever I go, right in my pocket.  I even have an old iPod touch so I can keep reading when I don’t have space to carry the Kindle.  And I’ve recently started downloading audio books to listen to when I walk to work.

I’m sure some would question whether I can enjoy a book so much on a device.  There are certainly aspects I miss about a paper book – the ability to lend a finished book to friends, the connection with the cover, seeing it on my bookshelf after finishing it.  But I certainly do read more digitally than I would otherwise do, and being able to sample the first 5-10% of a book before buying has significantly improved my enjoyment of the books that I buy.

My biggest regret in reading digitally, though, is that I’m not supporting the bookshops that I love so much.  This is an example where my actions are understandable, and rational at the short term, transactional level, yet I fear counterproductive to building the world that I would like to live in.

I’d be fascinated if anyone has any answers as to how we get around this?  I’d love to know a way to support bookshops without buying books.

Holiday Reflections

Apologies on the lack of a blog post for the past few weeks.  I’ve been back in Australia, catching up with friends and family, as well as attending a wedding and a christening.  I can’t always say that my holidays in Australia are relaxing, with so many people that I want to see, but I do get a lot of pleasure from this time with friends and family that I’ve known for so long.  There’s a common complaint when you go back to visit your hometown that everyone is stuck in the same groove while you’ve moved on, but in my case, it has been great to see careers filling with meaning, and growing families.  I do learn a lot from my friends’ attitudes to life and really value their influence on me.

Needless to say, I enjoyed talking with friends about many of the topics that I blog about.  But one thought kept hitting me as I talked to friends – how natural and easy the tendency is to divide the world into ’us’ and ‘them’, ascribing only good qualities to ‘us’ and only bad attributes to ‘them’.

At the moment in Australia there is a massive political divide, between those opposed to and those tolerant of the current government.  Obviously not everyone is going to agree, and people don’t weigh all values the same.  But it concerns me that far too many of those on both sides are failing to recognise any virtues in the other side or shades of grey.  The majority of those I am friends with are opposed to the government (generally for sensible reasons).  But quite often in conversation (and it is even worse on Facebook), I’d hear people comment that the government and its supporters were incapable of seeing or telling the truth, or thinking of anyone other than themselves.  To their credit, when questioned my friends are pretty quick to recognise that in fact the vast majority of government supporters do care about others, and that many issues aren’t black and white.  But it makes me suspect that there is insufficient honest and respectful talking and listening between the sides, and people are allowed to spend all their political thinking time with those on the same side.

Obviously, this situation isn’t unique to Australia, and it may just be that I’m noticing it as an outsider talking to people’s whose opinions I respect.  But one of the things I love about London is that I genuinely feel that the ‘melting pot’ extends to political views.  It would be a lot harder here for me to maintain a view that all of my political opponents are crazy or evil or that our side is always right, given how much time I spend socialising with them.

PS I really hope Australian friends of mine won’t be too offended at this post – I’m not looking to criticise anyone, particularly not the friends I respect so much – the post seeks instead to highlight a trap that we all find it too easy to fall into.