Sunday, November 29, 2009

Real True Paradise, Plain Unadorned Bliss

“As I gently arose from my brief slumber I had this sense of wonder for what the moment held—indescribable, uncontainable bliss saturated my being.”

Many chase after a drug to mimic the affect I felt the moment my powernap ended. How could it be that I, a normal everyday man, could feel so delightfully blessed? The feeling was beyond comprehension as I just sat in it—at surely the vastest point of human experience, or so it seemed.

I analysed a little further, ‘What can I attribute as the cause of this feeling of joy, accomplishment and assurance, in that moment?’ These are my reflections; I know they speak to all of us and not simply to me alone:

è I’d just been ‘re-charged’ and I felt alert and totally rejuvenated. We underrate sleep—it’s a powerful elixir for our health and wellbeing; perhaps the most powerful thing we can do is to be well-slept.

è All my work had been done; it was Friday and I had time ahead of me—time to do what I wanted to do, with few things needing doing.

è I’d achieved many of my goals over a tough three week period, and then some extra ones. I allowed myself to sink into my achievements, the essential and the desirable alike.

è The mood was easy; leisure afoot. Space and time were mine.

è I felt full of hope and my personal prospects were sound; all of my relationships had received my full service and as a result they were all going well.

Now, I’m even slightly embarrassed as to how simple and not-noteworthy these findings are. They’re not that dazzling really. But, they do describe honestly why I felt so good.

Times of bliss are so desirable we want to bottle them. We can’t always feel this way. We have to come back to earth at some point. But there’s no reason why we can’t feel in synch with life and at harmony with our souls very frequently, and certainly weekly. (This is, of course, dependant on our present contexts.)

We should learn to grow our joy hydroponically, being that we can have hybrid emotions in the spiritually peaceful quite without the stresses that threaten to steal our joy.

Why would we have it any other way if we could help it?

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Believing in Ourselves – Our Basic Right

“If you can’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else?”

Danny was your average guy, no superstar at anything really, but he had a good job with good prospects, and a cheery, sensible approach to life. When he met Donna, the daughter of a relatively wealthy real estate agent principal, and they were drawn together, he began to feel decidedly uncomfortable around more plush surroundings than he was used to.

He’d tell himself that he’d just treat her dad and family like everyone else, but no matter how much he tried he felt inadequate. He’d continually ask himself questions like, ‘What sort of future could I possibly give her? She’s had more already than I could even hope to give her… how can ever I compete with that?’

He couldn’t foresee himself providing a future where she’d be kept in the manner to which she’d become accustomed to. His uncertainties plagued him alone initially, but then they began to play out negatively in their relationship as a couple—even though his lack of affluence and ‘star quality’ wasn’t an issue to her (or her family—they just weren’t that bothered). But he was.

What Danny lacked was the ability to believe in himself; that he was good enough.

It’s the make or break of life pretty much: self-belief. We can’t even fudge it. The person with adequate self-esteem to believe in themselves stands a far better chance of actually succeeding in life on average, all things considered.

The quote at top is so true to life. If we can’t believe in ourselves hardly anyone else will—perhaps family might, and that’s good, but it’s beside the point when we’re in a world which requires us to have an adequate level of self-love, self-belief or faith in ourselves, even though anyone who ‘loves themselves’ is generally derided for doing so. We all need a healthy self-love to operate productively and lovingly in the world.

We have to be assertive with ourselves here if we lack. There’s no use hiding our lamps under a bushel. And if assertiveness is hard to muster we need to be almost aggressive to get the ball rolling. This is probably the single most important determinant in holding our own in life.

All else springs from this. It is the basic right of every human being to believe in their personal capacity to live a worthy life. And it’s as much for others as it’s for ourselves.

You might recognise the story of Danny and Donna—it’s a story that’s enacted every day over all parts of the globe. Some get through; some don’t.

No one should let a present-day poor sense of self-belief inflict that sort of havoc in their life. It is so very preventable.

No matter who we are or what we’ve done (or haven’t done) we are just as important as the President, Tiger Woods or Nelson Mandela, and we each have such potential which lies dormant just waiting to be unearthed.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Enlisting the Truth of Wisdom Available to Anyone

“Wisdom, real wisdom, is available to anyone who is prepared to play by Wisdom’s rules. Therein lies the sticking point and stumbling block for ninety-five percent of the population—discipline to apply it separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls.”

I have combined these two concepts previously several times, for instance, The 7 Key And Principal Values Of Wisdom Living. I find it amazing how consistently the principle of the truth in life, and therefore wisdom, plays out. Some people might be tempted to call it “Karma,” or ‘What comes around goes around,’ but the plain truth is that’s not even the half of it—the reality of wisdom, that is.

Lay people who employ what they believe as Karma swim with the tide without really capitalising on the beach-bound wave—they allow life to happen in the hope it equalises and eventually benefits them, but they don’t make the extra discretionary effort required to employ the spirituality of truth in attaining wisdom.

Let me illustrate. When we arrive at a dispute, we might let the issue flow over us, not reacting, but if we don’t take the opportunities to make good with the person (as opposed to the issue) we’re in dispute with, we lose wisdom capital for future endeavours and interactions. True wisdom, therefore, requires humility—the ability to take a short-term loss for the hope of longer term gain. It takes faith to do that consistently. And to be motivated correctly, all this requires genuine love.

This is a demonstration that we understand the truth (and therefore the wisdom) of the intrinsic value of a human being—and correspondingly, out of that, an authentic respect for their view (whether right, wrong or indifferent) pervades us.

Anyone can employ this concept of going a little further in actively pursuing the truth of wisdom; we don’t even have to be ‘spiritual,’ but by virtue of us looking for opportunities to employ wisdom truths we’ll most certainly be characterised as spiritual.

And when we start employing these principles to our lives we find out very quickly that success follows along like the sweet aroma of perfume—alluring, persuasive, commanding.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Late Appointment, Wonderful Opportunity

Most people get frustrated by others being late to their appointments, or even by being ‘stood up,’ as if being held up is something that’s a gross sin. Recently I found a beautiful silver lining to that sort of cloud, however. The setting: coffee on the harbour. That alone—even as the relatively lone figure that I cut—is a fine image in the mind; and that’s what I had before me.

As my busy, chaotic mind—swamped with exigent thought—settled rapidly into another tidier realm, a place without a place really, I gazed out over a wonderful, mind-soothing vista. It had been the first chance I’d had all day to slow down.

It was a chance to take a rest, a breather; a wonderful opportunity to take in some of the sun’s soothing, time-limiting rays, the rippling chop of the waves, the generously crisp sea breeze, the odd seagull.

A chance to dream at one moment and observe at another, my mind was in a blissful in-between place. Watching the various activities with people doing what people do, but from a safe, devolved viewpoint proved splendiferous.

I had time to yawn. With good sleep under my belt I wondered why I was yawning, but simply having the opportunity to yawn made the moment special.

Perhaps most of all this interruption had proved a pleasant blessing in disguise. It forced me to surrender my will to the time gods and made me shift my mental track.

The opportunity to re-enter the present instead of being overly concerned with the immediate past or future was a calming, soul-lifting exercise.

In another area of the world they celebrate Thanksgiving about now; I had so very many reasons to be thankful for this somewhat serendipitous adjournment. It lasted a whole ten minutes—but that’s all I needed in being reminded of the wonder in the simplest things.

And I’m led to ask; why do people not make these so-called negatives into their obvious positives? I mean, being stood up is perhaps personally embarrassing and disrespectful on the part of the other person, but it’s free time—and hey, we’re not the ones at fault. That’s enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

A key element of life capacity: we must not allow our expectations to reign over every situation. If they do, they’ll cruel us eventually. There’s nothing more inevitable.

In all life, stay open.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What Good Are Wings If You Can’t Feel the Wind on Your Face?

This abovementioned title is actually a quote of a dead little girl to Nicolas Cage’s character, Seth, in City of Angels (1998) starring also, of course, Meg Ryan. The context is a discussion on angels having wings, and of life after death. This quote also speaks a lot to us about life and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to more fully explore the imagery here.

There are many things that give us wings in life, beyond even Red Bull. (There is no product placement there, honestly.) But these are no good to us unless we can: 1) actually fly, or 2) experience what Pink Floyd might call, ‘suspended animation,’ i.e. the sensation of unintelligible bliss in our flying.

You might be asking, ‘What on earth is this guy talking about? Flying?’ Of course, I’m not just talking flying in reality. I’m musing on the concept of flying in life, as it pertains to the living of it.

There is a real problem in this oft-plastic world of ours; there are too many subscribers to the ‘wings theory,’ who also coincidentally never or only rarely experience the wind on their faces. There are too many people who miss life by never going onto the balcony of the spiritual, where the winds of the spirit infuse and buoy the wings, powering flight—living flight.

We bungy jump once to say we did it. ‘There! We did it! (You can leave me alone now.)’ It’s a trophy statement. Being able to say it allows us to quickly shift back into the corner of life unseen. Now, we may even be too scared to bungy jump but so long as we’re not too afraid to live an honest, authentic life, where failure is celebrated, where pain is not denied, and where grief is allowed and accepted, we’re feeling the wind on our faces.

This spiritual means to reality is the essence of life that many people baulk at plainly because it looks too hard; ‘There must be an easier, more comfortable way,’ is the sentiment. Well, there isn’t—not so long as the truth remains. Failure, pain and grief: they exist and there’s no denying it.

Denial only gets us business-class entry to hell, the spiritual place of the dead and the maimed unfortunates who refuse to be healed.

Having wings that are useful in facilitating that ‘wind on the face’ effect means we live life truly; the way it was always intended. We do not waste the precious gift.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why Do Bad Things Continue to Happen to Good People?

Cancer, car crashes producing disabling and fatal injuries, relationship breakdowns, bullying, home invasions, assaults and depression all have one unfair thing in common—they often feature bad things happening to good people; and no matter what people say or do in response to these things it means very little really in the overall analysis—it still happens whether we like it or not. The pain borne is horrendous and just doesn’t seem to make sense.

We know this and to a large extent we accept it—as much as we can, anyway. There’s little else we can do. Or so it seems.

One thing most of us don’t account for is the nature of cause and effect—this is a universal law relating to the inherent “justice” of things. One thing happens, and in turn, it then causes another directly (or indirectly) related event to occur. One event causes another event; first cause, then the effect, a.k.a. the ‘domino effect.’

So, how do we apply this theory, which works every time in practice (give or take), to something like cancer? Our bodies have the propensity to get sick—be it in a million different ways, for an equally almost-infinite amount of causes. The human genome, genetically-speaking, is flawed.

There are all sorts of theories for this from theological theories to the medical etc. Notwithstanding this, bodies get sick—from the common cold to cancer and every variation between.

This information doesn’t help us in dealing with our “issues” with why bad things continue to happen to good people, but it does help in one way.

It helps us understand the very complex nature of why bad things happen in the first place. We’re often not entirely at fault, but by virtue of being alive (simply existing) or of behaving in certain ways (some of which are patently innocuous) we are part of the problem. We often cannot help this. We’re victims of circumstance.

When bad things happen to good people—people who’ve overtly done nothing wrong—we tend to overly simplify the problem, wanting to shield the person and their close ones suffering the injustice, and we don’t want to account truthfully for the complexities of the issue at hand. However, this still doesn’t really help us much.

All we can really do is attempt to understand the complexities and then work with them the best we can. This involves the notion of curiosity and learning—a tremendously powerful mindset toward the most positive of life outcomes; in the worst of circumstances.

We must at some stage begin to understand and accept—and indeed move on from—bad things when they occur. This is not really about denying realities but it’s about approaching harsh realities courageously and humbly—i.e. truthfully.

It’s about coming to accept the harmony in the discord. This, of course, is easier said than done. The theory, however, motivates the practice—always has; always will.

Cause and effect: a science of the wisdom; a reality we cannot beat; something we can only accept—that or potentially go mad—an altogether futile outcome.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Impossible World of Work and Its Family Impacts

My life’s a mess... That’s what happens when you start doing well at work... Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. Means it’s time for a promotion.”[1]

—Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) and Nigel (Stanley Tucci) talking

in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

Let me make a confession. This conversation above spoke volumes to me when I watched this movie recently. This is because there was a time in my life where I put my work life first for the advancement of my career (and therefore also family opportunities) but it all came unstuck, and catastrophically so, when a myriad of forces came to bear unequally and communication was inept—as often as these times come. A failed marriage occurred as a result.

Of all the factors that came to bear in my situation—fairly considered now the healthy light of day has broken through six years on—it was the work/life disparity that proved the biggest stumbling block, both for direct and indirect reasons (among other indirect reasons) splintering the marriage without much real hope of recovery. I think marriages and relationships have to deal with a fair number of extraneous factors in any event; we have to be able to safely predict what they can and can’t take.

I recall having many discussions about choices for chasing the big money with other family men; if I can’t believe it for my own life then I can’t believe it will work for others’ lives either. I’m against it. It’s a foreign concept to me—an out-of-balanced approach to life where, inevitably it seems, work wins and family loses.

We have to ask whether it’s really worth it—chasing that alluring pot of gold at the end of rainbow—a rainbow I might add that seems more and more out of reach the closer we think we should be getting to it. I think when we enter this world we slowly get greedier—certainly more ambitious. We fall in love with the thought of becoming “self-sufficient.”

Yet, we make our choices in life because, poignantly, we cannot have it all ways. If we think we can have the perfect nuclear family complete with lovely home and white picket fence—and we do so by putting those critically close relationships on hold for two or three years (or even one)—then I think we’re grossly deluded. There’s a vast amount of compensation required to bring family up to that point of focus; the one lost to time away at work.

And it’s not simply about being away from home in a physical sense. Guys particularly fall for this one; when we’re home we’re expected to engage with the family through interaction, help, support and a range of other things that prove we’ve got our hearts sown into the fabric of the family.

I suppose a discussion on these issues is not complete without mentioning the word “balance.” A vast number of us struggle for balance every day. It’s not a foreign concept to anyone I suspect.

And it’s this sense of imbalance that we entertain and mull over, and negotiate with, as we strive to get ahead.

We always have to ask ourselves though, ‘What price could I inevitably be paying for allowing this imbalance in the first place?’ It could be the most important decision of our lives.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] The Internet Movie Database (IMDB), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Retrieved 18 November 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Unfortunate Dilemma and What to Do About It

Balance and passion: two eternal struggles. Mike’s your average jock, a gun on the Playstation and a bit of a lounge-lizard; he loves his sleep-ins on a weekend and he’s a dependable partner and employee. Guy’s a little different. He’s out there and passionate. He’s inclined to be so “into” things he gets addicted really easy. Diligent to a core, he’s also a bit of stress junkie. His boss loves him; he constantly exceeds expectation.

Which one is more you—Mike or Guy? Going beyond pure A-Type and B-Type Personality theory, life wires us so we’re more one side or the other of the parallel—lacking or exceeding in either life balance or passion, but not both at the same time.

It’s a sad story really for the latter person. Any self-improvement article, program or book these days is going to be heavily slanted toward the person with life balance issues if anything; not that the person effusing balance for want of passion is going to be bothered either way. He or she just exists, and they’re pretty much happy with it.

Both types of people will live with advantages over the other, as well as disadvantages. We’d bore each other to contrast the obvious facts. How can an analysis in this regard enhance our lives? That’s what we really need to know.

Bolt on Both – Balance & Passion

Too often we go for an “either / or” solution to life when patently we could as easily have a “both / and” outcome. This is one classic example.

There is no reason why we can’t be both incredibly balanced and uniquely passionate. It’s all about entertaining the concept of both in a healthy and situational tension with each other.

Like writing with our opposite hand will get the right and left brain integrating better with the other opposite side, approaching balance and passion simultaneously is a key to establishing real, living wisdom.

è Plan each day with a ‘to do’ list, but make at least one item on the list a transforming activity.

è Get to appointments on time, but do so occasionally by going a slightly different way.

è If you fit further toward the passionate side, embrace more transactional problems.

è If you naturally tend toward being balanced but struggle for enthusiasm for necessary things, take a walk on the wild side at least once a week. Do something radically different.

è Engage in the things that interest you but take care to control it. Too much of anything is not good.

These exercises and the whole issue is about integration—becoming a more full and rounded person, and someone that’s not so easy to pigeonhole as being this type or that.

You are you. Our uniqueness is dependent wholly and solely on how we set ourselves apart.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Go You Good Thing!

Have you been on a good thing lately? Job applicant number one has more than enough experience, the right mix of qualifications, seems to know what’s required without even setting foot in the prospective workplace, and to boot, is very highly regarded by his or her very highly respected referees—seems a perfect fit. A good thing!

It’s like the song that grabs our attention at the start, moves through with great transition to the chorus, which then knocks us off our socks, only then to finish with a crescendo that has our lips whetted for more. We just have to hear it daily or even more often.

‘Go you good thing,’ is actually a phrase coined from the race track—the horse race track. As that gelding gallops toward the winning post boasting an ever-increasing lead, and we have money on that animal, we quite rightly howl, ‘Go you good thing,’ because horse and rider are the perfect package for the time—they look good and are good; the whole outcome is good. There’s nothing bad about it.

All things considered, good things reveal many positive features. Whether it’s value for money, a packed card, or a good combination of features, good things are pungently impressive. They have irresistible qualities.

The good thing, as far as we’re concerned, is a package of many desirable things combined. And if we’re to be ‘good things’ ourselves in any venture in life we must develop ourselves to look, feel and taste good (as persons) from every angle possible. To get there takes a humble honesty that’s gently brutal.

None of us improve in several important areas simultaneously without goading, and if we truly desire to be that good thing we’re advised to have some trusted goads about us. These come in all shapes and sizes, human and situational.

There’s nothing more assured in growing something good than putting it a warm, moist, nurturing environment.

Good things don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in a rich, challenging seedbed environment of feedback, and cogent responses to that feedback are a given.

And when they come to perform they hold up to the tests required of them; that day they always planned for.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Taking One for the Team

Some experiences of work are like a roller coaster ride. I was at a meeting one time—in fact this sort of thing has happened many times to me—where in group deliberations regarding scoring bids for a tender, there were decisions for consensus where I had to ‘take one for the team,’ i.e. I couldn’t have my way or vote because I was out-voted by the others.

In just enough time to recover my sinking sense of satisfaction, the next person had to give way to others’ opinions also so that the broader group view could be established... again, consensus was achieved. By the end of the meeting it was apparent to me that a very clear and fair ground had been reached where not one person did not accede to the team as a whole at least once.

There is an interesting dynamic that happens in teams whom work this way. The sense of taking one for the team is affirming as it recognises that each singular person is not as important—in the context of the process—as the group is.

The need to swallow the pride and release our grip on our views in the needed moment was mandatory for all, and the longer the process went the easier that got as person after person modelled the behaviour, with the very earliest examples leading the way.

There’s an ebb and flow in these types of longer meetings, and as energy levels wax and wane different people get a role in taking the lead, carrying the others along until the lead changes—all to keep the process going on track.

Most important perhaps is the need to manage egos, for egos are a destructive thing in this environment. Had even one person taken it upon themselves to buck the trend of taking one for the team, the whole concept of unity and group equality might’ve been thrown out the window. But, this is unlikely to happen where the earliest examples model the behaviour, however hard it is.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Keys to Achieving Your Goals: Stretch Targets

“If you want to lose weight, get a shorter belt.”

True story: Whilst shopping for clothes with my daughter recently we walked past the belt section as she needed one. As I’m always looking to capitalise on opportunities and I needed a new belt for my working clothes I also decided to try a few on. I got one my size and tried it on. It felt a little tight, but because it looked good I decided to get it. This ended up being a very good thing.

Once I arrived home I realised (at a more conscious level) that the belt felt a touch tight and it inadvertently engaged my subconscious mind. Only later did I recognise myself easing up on food portions and saying no to the more extravagant foods. Short story: I lost enough weight to comfortably fit into the belt.

There’s quite a simple lesson in this if we dare to expand the application. (And why wouldn’t we?) It’s simply about employing a strategy of stretch targets in order to achieve what in practical terms is achievable.

Whatever is achievable can and should be tried if it’s matched with our desires. We should not be afraid of stretch targets. They might appear scary but what do we have to lose? If we have the desire to achieve a goal it will either be sufficient in order for us to achieve it or we’ll fail enough that our desires grow in proportion to the effort required.

Most people having tried diet after diet and having eventually failed many times stop goal-setting. They decide to give up trying. The point is to never give up trying in the realisation that we will fail. Failure is not really the problem.

If we’re continually goal-setting, we’re going to achieve most or even some of them. These achieved goals will help us feel great about ourselves! It makes all the failure and effort expended all worth it.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Importance of Sleep in Recovering from Grief

Consecutive journal entries from 21 and 22 October 2003:

“Work was depressing me from 1000–1230hrs so I opted to work from home (Mum and Dad’s)… Worked from Mum and Dad’s just to give myself time to handle this grief.”

It’s too easy to forget how sharp and telling the pain of grief is as the years wind on. Reflecting over my 2003 journal recently I was reminded how sudden the depths of depression, anxiety and overall grief would hit. I could’ve been right at 9.30 A.M. and by 10 A.M. an utter mess, shrieking on the inside as I escaped public notice. One day would be okay, the next an abyss. During the above period I was seriously sleep-deprived.

I was astounded when reflecting (yet not really surprised in retrospect) regarding the link between anxiety, depression, grief and a whole medley of mental and emotional ailments—and the effect of poor sleep or sleep deprivation.

It’s one thing I also discovered again recently—a poor night’s sleep meant my abilities of coping with even the slightest irritation and inconveniences were noticeably compromised.

Grief is such an insidiously horrible experience and the last thing we need to exacerbate things is suffer a lack of sleep. But so often the irony plagues us; grief causes depressed and anxious feelings which in turn cause sleep deprivation—and sleep deprivation propagates the feelings of depression and anxiety, propounding and extending the grief. It’s a vicious cycle.

The key to all, therefore, is getting enough good quality sleep. Here are some considerations to bear in mind:

è Beware ‘sleep debt’: night after night of little or no sleep puts us further behind. To recover from sleep debt requires a consistent run of healthy nights’ sleep. It might take even up to three or four weeks to fully recover the sleep debt we’ve build up.

è We must try and discipline ourselves to go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time. Routines and the basics are crucial.

è If we find ourselves waking in the wee small hours and we struggle to get back to sleep we’re better off getting up and doing some light reading in a soft lit room with a warm glass of milk. Warm, relaxing showers are good too. The trick is replicating the process of preparing for bed.

è Hope is critical. We need to engender hope as much as possible and not worry (easier said than done, I know!).

è ‘If pain persists see your doctor.’ It might be a paracetamol mantra, but it’s probably the single best piece of advice. Sleep deprivation medication, and other advice and referrals, can be a godsend.

The last thing we need when we’re battling grief and the depressed and anxious feelings ensuing from our battles is a constant seesawing of the emotions. A lack of sleep will almost certainly mean a more emotionally challenging time of it.

The biggest advantage we have in getting our sleep is we reclaim more of our right mind. As a result we’re less prone to the emotions which tend to have their way during these times as it is.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

London Calling – 1979 – What a Year for Fear!

“The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in,

Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin,

A nuclear error, but I have no fear,

Cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river.”

Just fluffing about it’s amazing the stuff you can stumble through. I Google “greatest song of all time,” and pick up the Rolling Stone Top 500 (a.k.a. RS500) and scan the songs for those I love(d). London Calling (The Clash), would you believe, comes in at number 15.[1] That blew me away! As a twelve year old fantasising about his very own rock career complete with tennis racquet air guitar, this is one of those songs I just loved to ‘play to.’

Let’s try and get a feel for this grungy punk rock dip from before its time. London Calling, is of course, a super-powered post-World War II (WWII) anthem of the covert BBC broadcasts to the occupied territories of Europe under the Nazi oppression. Its lyric matches the secretive element the tune epitomises.

The song recalls for me, someone living at a pre-Nuclear-Arms-conscious time, the advent of rock, disco and punk, pre-pop and the synthpop era that was rapidly approaching in the early to mid-eighties.

London Calling is essentially veined as the hope of the world back in those dim dark days in early WWII, pre-American involvement, but the song has a sinister undertone betraying that confidence, from a 1979-viewpoint. The ‘nuclear error’ foreshadows the growing concern of the world’s community.

Musically it is chilled with a haunting bassy rasp which is cryptic, evocative, yet ironically soothing as the imagination soaks up the driven meandering rhythm.

Lyrically it’s a song full of fear, alluding openly perhaps to WWII regarding its title and chorus, but directed otherwise at the then-present-day. It’s a song with shallow and positively derisive confidence in the political voices of the day. At its core it talks poignantly to the age of propaganda which all sides delved into—a rhetoric of the booming age of Modernism, fast entering Post-modernism.

And what do we take from the song, so far out now—a release thirty years past. The underpinning message of the song is a dazzling, overwhelming fear of an ugly, suspicious world threatening to crash down. But, like all music and art, it says different things to different people, and certainly it says more, much more, than it was perhaps intended originally to communicate.

And that’s okay. We still love it, and we’ll still love it in 2039 I suspect.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] From Wikipedia: The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. RollingStone. 2004-12-09. Retrieved by Wikipedia 2007-11-22. “15. London Calling, The Clash,”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Our Lives Are Trying to Tell Us

I have a Facebook friend who’s a fellow blogger who has coined the above title (in the second-person) as the by-line on his book.[1] As yet I have not prioritised a read of his book (which I say rather guiltily) but I believe upfront this sentence exudes a truth that should make us stand up and take note.

The biggest gap of our lives exists in those things we’re still yet to learn—to the level of making continual ongoing mistakes. The many hundreds of things we still have yet to learn hold us back from realising a potential toward the actualisation of us as persons.

The worst thing for any person, and this affects us all equally to lesser or greater extent, is to endure an ongoing failure to learn, particularly concerning the basic things in life.

Three Approaches, Two Outcomes, but Only One Opportunity for Learning

As people we tend to learn and re-learn many things, repeating our mistakes over and again—occasionally getting them right, and the effect of this is either we get frustrated or we deny our fault (i.e. the ‘two outcomes’)—there are two of three approaches here that cause us not to learn.

Denial of our fault in the learning opportunity is the obvious ‘no go’ area. If we can’t be honest with ourselves about our mistakes there’s little to no hope of learning.

Frustration has two consequents. We either get frustrated, confused and angry and we spew our anger out and over things (a negative outcome where we don’t learn) or we get frustrated as stimulus to curiosity—a sincere, pointed form of self-enquiry where we’re driven and disciplined to become aware and problem solve toward truly learning and growing from the opportunity.


So, life is characterised at its most basic with learning opportunities—the most successful people in life have the highest abilities to learn. Until we realise this is how life works—that it’s based fundamentally on the principle of learning and growing—we’ll always struggle to get anywhere truly positive and stay there.

But, the title of the article is what it’s really about. The signs are there for us. We only have to look at our lives honestly and we’ll find out exactly what God’s saying to us and calling us to learn.

Life’s number one objective is to become a skilled learner; to improvise, adapt, overcome.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Paul M. Martin, Original Faith – What Your Life is Trying to Tell You (Springfield, PA: Lucid Interface LLC, 2008). ISBN: 978-1-934611-00-5. Paul Martin’s website: