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Observations on worldly success

Worldly success- we all need a little- but books such as 'how to win friends and influence people', 'think big' and 'the habits of highly successful people' tend to miss the point. Simpler observation shows you only need three things- are you able to do a job in such a way as to achieve strong personal recommendation for it (notice the doing of the job is only part of this- in other words, can you convince people 'you're the man'); secondly- are you able to stage a party that people want to go to? (for whatever reason); and thirdly do you show gratitude for your good fortune?

And being able to point out the correct reasons for worldly success are no guarantee of achieving it...


where's the box?

We are routinely enjoined to 'think outside the box'.

That may be precisely the time to start thinking inside the box.

Over time, basic principles get extended and bent out of shape, very often they become the reverse of what was originally intended. Go back to those principles and ignore the excrescent growth- see where the original principles lead now.


don't think it

If you think it, you'll say it, eventually.

If you say it, you'll do it, eventually.

It may not happen over night; it may take ten years, but thoughts become words become actions, over time. If you read a man's words and they are intemperate don't be surprised by his later actions, or the actions he inspires in his followers.

So how do you NOT think it?

The old way. Put it in a box and put the box on a dusty shelf and when you find yourself going there, don't. Leave the box undisturbed. Never explain it or worry at it, just box it or even double box it and leave it alone. Malign thoughts need attention to flourish. Find other, more outward, things to do, like helping others.

And vicious thoughts, cultivated even a little, wreak all sorts of havoc as they can spread virally, almost by telepathy.

And it's worth thinking about the opposite too. What the right thoughts do.



The Seagulls

In the town the people made a living from fishing, mainly catching shell fish, but some ordinary fish too. After the fish had been hauled out and cleaned the seagulls sometimes descended for a feast but they knew to keep their distance from the alert and often short tempered fishermen. But the fisherman sometimes relied on the seagulls to lead them to the fishing grounds. A flock of gulls could often mean a shoal of fish beneath the waters.

The town grew famous for its sea air and delightful harbour and beach. Tourists came and made it wealthier. The fishing declined but still existed. The tourists loved to buy fish and chips and ice creams and over the years the number of outdoor restaurants increased. The friendly tourists wanted the sea gulls to like them. They wanted to be friendly to the world and they dropped chips and bits of food for the seagulls to eat.

The gulls did not change at first. But then the tourist numbers increased so much that one day it was possible to get more food from swooping down on chip wrappers and hapless kids with ice cream cones than from going out to sea to catch fish. On that day the first professional seagull was born, the first modern and well-adapted-to-current-life seagull. 

Very soon everything changed. Seagulls now preyed on the people. Who defended themselves with curses and thrown stones. The tourists still came and some still fed the gulls but that hardly mattered as the gulls now knew how to feed themselves. They grew more aggressive and daring by the month.

How does it end? Some believe the people will simply live indoors, give up their outdoor eating. Others believe in a mass cull of the pesky gulls…meanwhile the fishermen shrug their shoulders and head out to sea, guided by their electronic fishfinders and not their old pals the gulls…


temptations of the trickster

The trickster can be tempted and become the conman, even a criminal. Lots of traditional tales talk of redeemed highwaymen and robbers becoming top students...but the other way is also possible. Tricksters can trick their way into power and lose their sense of direction. They can be blinded by gifts and praise. A trickster who likes spartan conditions is lucky. A trickster who has a strong feeling for friends and family is not necessarily protected- even a snake loves its offspring. The only real protection a trickster has is his or her ends and means scale. When ends justify means you know you're slipping. 

It is because the trickster is so slippery that its hard to make any rules about them. Suffice it to say, to benignly keep your inner trickster in shape is incumbent on all those who would skip a little in their feet of clay...


you can't buy a lifestyle

I've written before that my wise friend Mark Antcliffe used to remark of dude foresters 'you can't buy a lifestyle'. He had observed that people buy woodland to become something like their idea of a woodsman but pretty soon it palls and they end up paying someone- like Mark- to manage it for them. They want the image not the whole reality.

People get lifestyle envy and sometimes even kick in their safe job to buy a fishing boat a la Forest Gump and go trawling for shrimp- but unlike the movie it presents a whole new set of headaches. Which isn't to say it can't be done- it's just the method is wrong. When you shift lifestyle it should be secondary to shifting mission or engaging purpose. Mucking about in the woods isn't a purpose- which is why the downside of that- maintaining woodland will quickly overwhelm. you have to be able to make what others call WORK into what you think of lightly as PLAY and that can only happen when you have a sharpened sense of mission. Otherwise stick to the day job.

A sharpened sense of mission requires sacrifice. It means that what you do is ALL you do- at least until you have created a sustaining bubble of people and activities around you, at least until you have shifted 'world'. I sometimes have taught people writing who are in the their 50s and 60s and they dream of 'making it'. Which is wholly possible- but at that age you can't muck about. Writing must be ALL you do (apart from stuff that sustains writing like a bit of yoga and some interesting conversations, a walk or two- but nothing that gets in the way). When I hear they are, in addition to the writing, playing in a skiffle band and slowly turning their garden into a miniature Heligan I know the writing project is doomed. When you change late in life you have to change sincerely- whole heartedly- otherwise the ghosts of your old life will drag you down.

A sense of mission is nothing very fancy or hard to instill. You just have to cut out all the distractions and only focus on your main thing. If you start to go a bit manic- maybe you chose the wrong thing. Maybe you chose something because of its image, the fond picture of you doing it. That's often a sign- when you want to be, say, 'an artist' more than simply painting or drawing pictures. The lifestyle should always comes second- even better if you rub a bit against it, aren't interested in telling folk your new trade. The doing is the key thing. How you will spend your time day after day even if no one recognises you as something special. And the right mission will have one or more things you are aiming at that are attainable- crazy goals are out. The right mission, for you, will energise- for sure- but it won't tip you over the edge. If it does, find something else.

You don't find passion and interest like finding a tenner lying in the gutter- you grow it. From small beginnings you cut out other things and do your main interest all the time- pretty soon you'll have a full blown mission on your hands. Make sure its worth it as you'll be skirting a slight madness the whole time...


street versus frame

There is the frame.

The art gallery.

The picture frame.

The theatre.

The book.

The photograph- yes a photo is a kind of frame.


Anything in a frame looks ‘good’. It attracts our attention. It has a sign on it saying ‘look at me’.


Lots of art in the 20thcentury played with the idea of the frame. 26 gas stations and various small fires by Ed Ruscha. Marcel Duchamp. Joseph Beuys. John Cage. Every gallery you’ve been that has a curated pile of rubbish in the corner. And it isn’t that badis it?


Then there is the street. In the 1960s the street became a place where you’d risk art that has no frame. A bare encounter. Street art. Graffiti. Mime. Street theatre. Busking. Selling fanzines. Drawing on the pavement.


Street art has no frame to fall back and be ironic about. It has to be something. It can’t be a pile of rubbish in the corner because there is plenty of that already. Street art has to get in your face a bit. It can’t be subtle, not in that way.


Somewhere between the two.