Category: India


AMDG

Milton Erikson,  a  psychiatrist, would ask patients who were experiencing depression to count chimneys.  It proved to be surprisingly successful.  First of all, it got people out of their houses (rather than sitting inside and letting negative thoughts rotate around their heads.  Secondly, when they were outside counting chimneys they lifted their heads up ensuring the maximum amount of daylight was entering their eyes.  This simple act would lift their spirits in a very effective way.  By forcing his patients to get out of their head and be more present to the environment a desolating spell had been broken.  This is exactly what happens every time we deliberately get out of our heads and engage with the present,  in the popular pseudo-Buddhist language it is a form of mindfulness. In the language of Pope Francis and Evangelium Gaudium, ‘Realities are more important than ideas’ 231-233.

Returning to the world of ideas, maybe the next step then would then be developing a mindfulness of gratitude – or ‘gratefulness’.  Start the day in gratefulness of a hot shower. For me, it is something that I am especially aware of when I come back from travelling, particularly in the developing world.  I find myself standing in a powerful hot shower in the morning, thinking about all that has gone into this working. It helps me start the day in a good mood, grateful for all that has gone right to put that in place, trying not to feel ‘entitled’ to have a hot shower when so many of the billions on the planet don’t have a luxury like this to start the day.  I think of friends I have lived with in India, Peru, the Philippines, East Africa all whose morning ablutions are very different.

When I am actually standing in the shower I think of where the water is from the Thames or the River Lee? What journey has it been on, from Teddington Weir or closer? How does it get to Tottenham in the first place?  All the infrastructure that comes into play to get clean water in my shower, all the thing that have to go right for it to be a reliable supply.  Then I think about the thermostat hidden away somewhere that constantly adjusts the temperature so that I’m not boiled like a lobster or frozen like a penguin, especially when someone else is using water in the building.  Having experienced a fair amount of showers that are alternately too hot or too cold, this feels like a blessing.  Then the electric pump that makes sure that high-pressure water comes out which is so refreshing.

It’s a simple exercise but a great way to start the day.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys (their words not mine!)  prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 40,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals  (again their words not mine….. but happy new year to all!)

Click here to see the complete report.

AMDG

About a year ago I bought a rucksack (backpack)  from one of the excellent chain of stores called Go-Camping that are popping up all over the UK.  It has been a  great bag to have, although three of the zip-handles snapped when I was in the mountains of Northern Philippines.  I took the bag along to the Edinburgh branch to be fixed this morning and was amazed when they just replaced it with a new bag on the spot, simply and quickly.  I was very impressed with their service but slightly puzzled. The best I was hoping for was that they would be able to fix them in-house and I would pick it up in a few days, or give me new zip handles to fix myself.  I asked the guy who was serving me what are you going to do with the old bag? ‘We’ll send it back to the suppliers’ he said, without batting an eyelid.  Of course the rucksack had been made in China, but excluding the zips, I think it is of very reasonable quality. Consumers in the West have experienced the drop in prices of many mass-produced goods from China. Made in China once meant cheap and bad quality, but I think the quality is getting better.  Modern China may not be a great innovator, may not respect intellectual property rights or encourage creativity and entrepreneurship but they are good copiers and getting better.

Something has been nagging at me though.  On reflection, I would have preferred to have my old bag fixed.  I remember in India having a problem with a small speaker I had bought to amplify music and one of the members of the community was competent enough and skilled enough to fix it with some screwdrivers and a bit of glue. I confessed that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to have opened it up (even though it was only cheap) and he said to me ‘Well if anything breaks in Europe you throw it away and just by a new one!’.  How right he is! I also remember being amazed in Manila when I went to a market full of guys who could fix electrical equipment and watching the skill of the guy who fixed my phone for me.  So I have come to the conclusion that our hyper-consumerism is not just wasteful but it is also de-skilling. Marx talked about the ‘alienation’ of producers (often factory workers) from what they produced because they didn’t own the means of production, a theme also picked up in the Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum. Could there be a new form of alienation of consumers in late-capitalism.  You get a great sense of satisfaction from repairing something rather than just chucking it away, however often in order to repair something you need to be provided with the tools/parts to do the job  and sometimes the training to. Nowadays domestic appliances come with forbidding labels such as ‘Disassembly voids warranty’ .  This sense of consumer alienation can be experienced by an impotent fury when confronted tamper proof seals. Now we are presented with shiny new replacement products in all their packaging whilst the old object, with its history, scuffs and stains, each one  which tells its own story is discarded.  There is something about the human soul that delights in being creative, there is something in the human vocation to be a co-creator …. however a throw-away culture stifles that.