I had a seasonal image pop in to my mind the other day, and it turned itself into a short story. I thought I’d share it here…
The people were looking around for the next distraction from their routines. On the breeze, they caught the scent of the Creature, and followed.
Earlier this year, I’d been thinking about how my sunflowers made me feel. I wrote about it and entered it into the Green Alphabet Writing Prize (a competition organised by the Flipside Festival, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth), and I found out I’d been longlisted! The idea was to take a letter of the alphabet, and write a poem or short piece of prose on an environmental theme. I chose ‘E’ for ‘Encounter’. Here it is:
[Images: floor mosaics at London’s National Gallery]
The Pope has just issued a call for a ‘revolution of tenderness’ in a surprise TED Talk. He calls on leaders to “connect [their] power with humility and tenderness”.
He goes on to say: “The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future, is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you”, and themselves as part of an “us”. We all need each other.”
For a world so supposedly interconnected, we seem to be losing the language of tenderness, and of caring. The language of love. Part of the challenge the world faces today is a crisis of caring. We are losing our ability to care — for our neighbour, and so for our world.
In the next three weeks, I’m going to these three talks at the RSA in London:
1. Creating Freedom — filmmaker Raoul Martinez will tackle “economics, philosophy, politics, criminology, psychology and environmentalism, and shows that the more we understand how the world shapes us, the more effectively we can shape our world.”
2. Together Is Better — “global bestselling author and leadership guru Simon Sinek offers inspiration and advice for finding purpose and fulfilment in life and work through our connection with others.”
3. The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives — “renowned economist Tim Harford explains that embracing chaos and mess is the only way to be truly creative, innovative and resilient.”
I feel uncomfortable saying I am a ‘feminist’, although I agree with the fundamental premise of feminism, which according to the Cambridge English dictionary is “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way.”
Of course they should be. And of course, women in many parts of the world are appallingly still seen and treated like lesser beings. Women’s rights movements need to go full throttle until equality is achieved.
But that definition doesn’t go far enough. It focuses on external equality (which is important and should be a foundation), but it doesn’t touch what’s possible. I am more than a feminist. And I don’t hate men (in fact I know some men who are more supportive of women’s opportunities than some women I know are). So what’s beyond the feminism of external equality and power suits? And who do we need in these emerging global narratives?
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be in an audience at the RSA in London, watching Krista Tippett in conversation with Elizabeth Oldfield (who is Director of the think tank Theos).
Krista Tippett is a bit of a role model of mine. She’s a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times best-selling author. In 2014, she received the National Humanities Medal from Barack Obama for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.”
Our world is speeding up.
Instant messaging. On-demand TV. Flash sales. Speed-dating. Market ‘crashes’. Productivity apps. Fast food. The acceleration of technology, coupled with our own inbuilt curiosity and bias toward convenience means that it’s easy to be drawn into this whirlwind without even realising.
How do we keep up? Should we keep up? What’s the impact of such fast living on our minds, bodies, relationships, thoughts, ambitions?
We exist in a time of discoveries, solutions and opportunities. But it’s hard to keep up. And the recent surge of engagement with practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and retreats says that something in our collective existence is trying to slow us down.
Once, I ran the Dublin marathon. It took me five hours, but I was embarrassed about that, so I said to most people that it took four. I didn’t train very hard and it was excruciating (my big toenails fell off). But I loved it.
So I’ll be watching the London marathon runners set off on Sunday, and a little bit of me will be wishing I were there (though with some more serious training under my belt…).
I recently read Richard Askwith’s exhilarating book, Running Free, and it reminded me how I love running. I’m not really sure whether it’s the idea of running I love (the fitness, the solitary strength, the time to think, the low cost, the opportunity to run through nature), or whether it’s the actual experience of running I like. Probably both. Either way, I run.